Grateful for Robyn

Dear Robyn

Having spent a gorgeous afternoon with you and your little family this weekend, there seems no better day to be grateful for you my love!

We first met almost nine years ago now (can you believe that?!) when you welcomed me on the first day of my new job. I still remember you in your tartan dress and beret (it was 2009); that stunning smile of yours made me feel instantly at ease. You’d got me a new notepad and written my name on the front in your curly handwriting; I knew everything was going to be okay. I didn’t know then that I’d be making a friend for life; that we’d share moments of inconsolable hysteria almost every day we worked together, that I’d get to see you grow up, watch you get married and hold your five day old daughter in my arms.

I think we realise now that those jobs weren’t exactly the pinnacle of the high powered business world, but my god did we have fun. Intelligent enough to be left to our own devices and conscientious enough to get all our work done before time, we found ourselves seeking out additional tasks to fill the hours. In weekly ‘poster meetings’ we’d use our favourite felt tips to creatively map out priorities for the week, whilst generating a realistic enough reason to sit in your office with the door closed for an hour, laughing our heads off. When not attending invented meetings together, we’d chat on MSN messenger from two feet across the room, occasionally having to retreat out the back to relieve the shoulder-shaking silent states of hysteria we had driven ourselves into. I don’t even know now what was so funny, but there always seemed to be something.

We found friendship through a mutual love of food and makeup; we’d share biscuits at our desks and go on hourly tea runs together. The highlight of the week was always ‘M&S Friday’, where we’d allow ourselves a calorific break from our usual marmite-on-toast kind of lunches, stuffing our faces with scones or egg custards or those million calorie cream-filled desserts. The bonus of our lunch breaks was that you’d ensured we always shared the 1.30 slot – so only three sleepy hours to fill when we were back at our desks with full bellies.

I would watch you reapply your makeup every lunchtime at the kitchen table – and I’ve still no idea why on earth you bothered doing that – learning about Benefit blusher and red lipstick. We’d sit on the fire escape tanning in the summer, spend our days moaning about the cold in the winter. You gave me a lift home every day – one of those days you nearly ran me over, and of course the only logical response to that incident was to nearly die laughing.

We learnt the very boring intricacies of each other’s lives, dreaded the days when one of us was on holiday, shared in the trials and tribulations of our early 20 year old existences. Eventually the time came for me, then you, to move on. Although the workplace has never been quite as hysterical since, I knew there was never any danger of us losing touch.

You’ve always been there for me when I’ve needed you most: to listen, to reason, to share in my troubles; to plot our bitter revenge on the boy who never texted me back. More than once, we met in that sad little Italian in Morden to pore over my problems with a lasagne and a limoncello. You’d never judge, never dream of telling me to buck my ideas up and get over it – you were simply there, and that means so much to me.

We made a rule that neither of us could get married until our hair covered our boobs. You reached that goal and I was beyond thrilled to see you walk down the aisle and marry Simon. Goodness me, what a beautiful bride! It was clear how much effort you’d put into the day; it was just perfect.

I remember another friend telling me how impressed she was with the regularity of our meet ups. It’s never really been an effort though has it? No matter how often we get together we’ll always have to talk at a million miles an hour to get all the important news fitted in, whether it’s what we’ve been watching on TV, what mascara we’ve been using or who’s been annoying us the most.

I can’t get over how naturally you’ve settled into being a mother: I absolutely love watching you with Mollie; she has brought such tangible joy to you and Simon and you couldn’t be more perfect with her (especially for someone who always said she didn’t like children!). I can’t wait to continue on this new journey with you, to watch Mollie grow up and into the world.

Thank you so much Robyn for being in my life; for your never ending kindness and hospitality, for your hilarious honesty and for choosing a husband who can cook. Thank you for caring about the same inconsequential things that I care about, for sending me stupid Love Island memes and for sharing in my outrage at the latest Z list celebrity gossip. I simply can’t imagine my life without you in it.

All my love,

Clare XXX

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Grateful for those who made the ultimate sacrifice

On Remembrance Sunday, it seems only fitting that this post should be dedicated to those who have served and continue to serve for our country.

As I stood at my hometown’s local remembrance service this morning, I was struck by the sheer volume and diversity of people out in force to pay their respects. Despite the fact that the majority of people didn’t know the words, tune or tempo to any of the hymns (myself included), or that somebody’s dog barked for the entirety of the two minutes’ silence, or that more than one young Army cadet had to be lead away by St. John Ambulance having taken a funny turn from standing out in the cold for too long – none of this mattered. What mattered was that people were there. 

You would need a heart of stone not to be struck by the poignant emotion of the Last Post or the bitterly sad words from For the Fallen. My heart explodes with admiration and pride and devastation to think of all of those who have lost their lives in service of our country – and of those who chose and continue to choose such an honourable career path. 

Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to meet lots of veterans and to gain an insight into the military community through my job. Sadly, as my role has changed I no longer have such involvement, but I’ll be forever grateful to have had the chance to know and be involved with such a special community.

Prior to starting this job, over six years ago now, I remember diligently writing out every single rank from each of the three forces into a brand new notebook, aware that I was utterly ignorant when it came to anything military related, and unsure how best to educate myself. (It turns out there was a crib sheet for rank groups and nobody expected you to know them all, ever). Like many people, I probably had some misconceptions around what working with veterans might be like. Would they all bark orders at each other or be suffering from PTSD? Would they be unfriendly and difficult to relate to? Shocker: no. And guess what? A veteran isn’t just an elderly man with Second World War medals! 

Any preconceptions were soon dispelled when I found out that my new manager, Karen and my new colleague, Lorraine had both served in the Royal Navy. Both beautiful young women with painted nails and an interest in shoes. What?! I’ll be forever in awe of how very different their roles used to be. And although the stereotypes most definitely aren’t true, I do notice an inner confidence, a certain poise and level of commitment that maybe not all of us civilians possess. 

And of course I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with lots of other veterans, serving personnel and military spouses over the years. My colleagues are genuinely some of the loveliest, most caring people you will meet – so passionate about their jobs, so committed to doing the best they possibly can for their Service leaver clients, going above and beyond to provide a service that they really, truly believe in. Not all workplaces are like this. The crazy thing is, I don’t think a lot of them even realise that they are going above and beyond: they just wouldn’t have it any other way.

In recent years, The Royal British Legion has launched ‘Rethink Remembrance’ promoting the fact that each poppy doesn’t just remember the fallen, but also shows support for our current and future veterans and Service personnel. So this week I’m grateful for everyone who has served and is currently serving in our Armed Forces: we are so lucky to have you. 

Grateful for 30

Reflecting on the past year as a 30 year old, I realised I haven’t done too badly. This year hasn’t been earth shattering, nothing majorly dramatic has changed in my life (and I’m not complaining), but it’s been full of lots of happy memories, supportive friends, moments of hilarity and special family times. During my 30th year I’ve visited five different countries, been a bridesmaid, been asked to be a bridesmaid twice more, been to three fabulous weddings, stood up and spoken in front of a room full of people, met two brand new babies (and learnt how to hold a baby without fear of dropping it), joined a gym (and actually managed to go), cooked a Christmas dinner, and made lots of new friends. 

(Things I haven’t done: bought a house, got a new job, found a boyfriend, learnt to drive – but we’re not here for the negatives on this blog are we).

So, on the eve of my 31st birthday, here are 30 things I’ve learnt during 30:

1. Buy Egyptian cotton sheets; life is too short for Ikea’s cheapest, and they’ll make you feel like a princess (but will be a bitch to iron).

2. Get your eyebrows done by a professional; your face will thank you for it later.

3. Not all friends are forever, some are just for the moment – and that’s okay.

4. Saving money is hard – but you can’t skip around in a cloud of ignorance forever.

5. You can freeze milk!

6. Canary Wharf isn’t as bad as you think it is, but you will develop a deep seated hatred of tourists when anywhere else in London.

7. If you try and vacuum a spider off the ceiling, it will probably leap off into your face before you get there.

8. Don’t always trust Google Maps!

9. You’re stronger than you think you are.

10. The Mega Bus can actually take you to Wales for a pound – and the bus is actually quite nice!

11. Make the most of your private healthcare.

12. You’ll never ever win the Euromillions; stop wasting so much money trying. 

13. People aren’t judging you as much as you think they are.

14. You can make bircher musli yourself rather than buying it from Pret.

15. You have the ability to get up and out of the house within 15 minutes if one of your best friend’s hen dos depends on it.

16. Don’t forget to set your alarm! 

17. It’s okay to tell someone if they’ve upset you. 

18. Ceilidh isn’t pronounced see-lid.

19. Get your hair cut regularly; people really do notice.

20. Pole dancing is not your forte! 

21. You have just as much right to be here as anybody else. 

22. Nobody will ever thank you for working overtime – so if you do it, do it for yourself.

23. It’s okay if you want to watch Love Island; everybody else is secretly watching it too.

24. Don’t doubt your intelligence. 

25. You’re never going to like olives – stop trying to make yourself.

26. You’re never too old to have ice cubes pelted at you from across the street by teenagers.

27. It’s okay to prefer prosecco to champagne.

28. You may have to face the prospect of a future without Uber. Telephones still exist: you have the ability to ring a taxi. 

29. Don’t forget to floss: fillings are expensive (and your teeth are pretty important too). 

30. Nobody has a clue what they are doing; you just get better at pretending as you get older.

Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of my year: for the laughter, the support, the hugs and the memories. Here’s to 31!

Grateful for a package in the mail (even if it doesn’t fit)

Okay this couldn’t really get an more basic but sitting here thinking about what I am genuinely grateful for this week, the first thing that came to mind was ASOS. I know right? How superficial/capitalist/materialistic etc. etc. Yep: totally true, but sadly I must admit I am a total addict. This is all thanks in the main to my future sister-in-law, who first introduced me to the alien concept of spending a million pounds on clothes that you have no intention of actually keeping (the best of intentions don’t always follow through: more on that later). At the time, I thought “how indulgent”, “how millennial”, “how risky – what if you can’t send it back?!” but after the thrill of that first black and white package landing on my doorstep mere hours after I had placed my order (ASOS Premier dahling), I was hooked.

Of course there are lots of websites that offer next day delivery and free returns, but ASOS is the one, ASOS is the ULTIMATE. Whether you want a pair of Nike trainers, a bridesmaid dress, a denim pinafore (I have a friend who recently ordered about nine different options), or a dinosaur tail (yes, really), you will find it on ASOS. There is so much choice,  it’s quite possible to accidentally lose four hours just browsing through the dresses, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who happened to have the same item as me. In fact, it’s more likely that you will find yourself desperately trying to hide your jealousy when confronted with the answer “oh, it’s just from ASOS” (happens with my sister-in-law 99% of the time. Why didn’t I see those jeans on there?! How did you find that jumper?!). There’s a never-ending supply of covetable items, and hey – they can be in your sticky little hands within twenty four hours. We are living in the future, baby.

It is highly unlikely that I would walk into any high street shop and sink £150 on unnecessary clothing (I actually tried to yesterday, but then I remembered Westfield at the weekend is hell), but shut your eyes and transform the process to 11pm on a boring Monday night in your pyjamas, and before you know it: “Thank you for your order!”. I’m an absolute sucker for a bit of retail therapy: if I’m having a bad day or feeling rubbish, knowing that there’s a package of goodness winging it’s way to me is guaranteed to cheer me up. #singlelife

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Of course we should also discuss the disappointment factor. Some ASOS clothing is cheap, and some of it is weird. We’ve all been there: it looked amazing on the model, you pictured yourself marching around town like one of the women from the opening credits of The Devil Wears Prada; perhaps you’d meet your future husband wearing it… but alas, in the cold light of day, removed from it’s cellophane bag, it looks like a creased up old potato sack that you bought in the pound shop. And you are the potatoes. It’s okay, it happens. But what’s the alternative? Keeping your £150 of clothes like a guilty secret, that’s what. Not acceptable! It has to be this way, because nobody has a wardrobe (or a wallet) that big.

The trouble is, sometimes you do have one of those golden, once-in-a-lifetime situations; you’ve tried it all on, you’ve sent selfies to your friends, and EVERYTHING looks great. The other trouble is, that’s how I ended up with a black chiffon dress with a minute waist and a split right up to the thigh. Not too much cause to wear that in my daily commute-to-work-and-come-home kind of life. But it seemed too good to send back (and my Dad didn’t like it, which was an automatic obstinate child trigger) and it has languished at the bottom of my wardrobe ever since.

We all know online spending isn’t real: it’s too quick and simple, you don’t see the cash, and nobody asks you if you’d like a 5p carrier bag. But sometimes enough is enough and things have to go back. Self control, people!  But also, YOLO. I say if you want it, order it (told you I’m a total sucker): by the process of natural selection I’m sure only half of it will really look like you wanted it to anyway.

For Hazel, for being the best kind of bad influence. 

P.S. I’m not sponsored by ASOS. If only!

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Grateful for the Brave

It’s a club I hope very much never to be part of, but over the past couple of weeks it has been impossible to ignore the scores of #MeToo posts written in response to the ongoing Harvey Weinstein scandal. From the celebrities who were directly abused, assaulted or worse by the vile pig Weinstein himself, to the countless other women across the world who have shared their own stories on social media and beyond: it does not make for pleasant reading, but it is important. And whilst – thank god – this is not a narrative I feel particularly qualified to be a part of, I am extremely grateful for the brave women who have come forward to share their own experiences, to revisit a time of horror, terror, pain and fear, to upturn memories long boxed away at the back of the mind, simply to say “this cannot go on”.

I feel like this is big; that something might actually change here. Maybe I’m being totally naive, but I feel like the world might actually be sitting up and realising that something just isn’t quite right, that in 2017 no just means no and that’s the end of it. In 2017 the President of the United States is also Donald Trump, and he’s currently trying to restrict access to birth control, so there’s a very good chance I am just being super naive here. But the conversation continues, and that has got to be a good thing.

Women are, physically, the weaker sex, and the idea that we are constantly in danger from physically stronger male predators is so ingrained within all of our psyches that we don’t even question it. Of course you shouldn’t walk home on your own late at night in case you get attacked; obviously you wouldn’t go out drinking alone in case somebody took advantage of you; clearly you must be careful not to give anybody the wrong idea. My god, I won’t even go on the top deck of the bus on my own for fear of who might be up there. I wonder how many men feel like that?

The worst thing is, we just expect it. We expect to feel small and vulnerable and scared. We’ve all walked past a building site with our eyes fixed to the floor, praying not to be heckled; we’ve all felt someone get a little too close as they’ve passed us in a bar, that possessive waist-grab made without a second thought; we’ve all made fleeting eye contact with somebody on the tube and instantly regretted it. It’s just the way it is; boys will be boys, right?

Naomi Alderman’s novel The Power turned this notion on its head, and whilst the storytelling was (in my opinion) rather questionable, the idea that our gender stereotypes all stem from the fact that men are physically stronger and more able to overpower the opposite sex in order to enforce their opinions, beliefs and ideals makes total sense. Imagine if it didn’t have to be this way?

I must also say right here that I mean absolutely nothing against anyone who has chosen not to share a story. We’ve seen it in recent TV dramatisations such as Liar and Appletree Yard, and my heart twists to know that countless women see it in real life too: reporting a sexual assault is only the beginning. It’s embarrassing enough to go to the doctors and talk to a stranger about any weird little thing that’s going on in your body, without the added fear that you may not be believed, without knowing that you will have to relive the trauma of an already horrifying situation, without questioning whether the length of your skirt or the number of drinks you’d had meant that it was partially your fault. Online statistics suggest that only around 15% of victims report a sexual assault, and that well under 10% of assaults result in a conviction. It is easy to see why the idea of simply trying to brush it under the carpet and move on is often more appealing.

This week we have seen many people question the victims, squealing ‘But why didn’t you say something at the time?’ as if it were as simple as reporting your handbag stolen. There may be multiple reasons, and they belong to nobody but the victim. I don’t think any of us can know how we will act in the face of a trauma, and I don’t think it is anybody’s place to presume they would do the “right thing” themselves. I recently witnessed an extremely mild crime on a train, which resulted in my texting the police to report it. I was asked to make myself known to police at the station, but just the mere thought of approaching the group of officers filled me with such a trembling fear that I couldn’t do it, and scurried straight past them. Absolutely inconsequential, but it made me realise how utterly useless I would be in the face of a true crime; that even the idea of speaking to a police officer had made me so anxious.

The conclusion of the ITV drama Liar this week seemed ridiculously timely in the face of the ongoing revelations about Weinstein. Whilst I think a lot of us felt rather short-changed by the final scenes, the series certainly served as an important reminder that not all rapists look like “rapists”. Not all sexual predators look like a fat, sweaty, disgusting hog in a bathrobe. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one duped by Ioan Gruffudd’s good looks and soft Welsh accent in the first episode. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought that Laura had perhaps just had a bit too much to drink and remembered incorrectly. The series definitely made me sit up and question some of my perceptions, and sadly I’m sure that Laura’s distress in the hands of the police – who dropped the case because they were unlikely to get a conviction – was more than a little close to home for many.

My heart breaks for anybody – male or female – who has been through the trauma of sexual assault, but this week, I’m grateful that there is a narrative. I’m grateful that these issues are being spoken about and raising difficult questions, that so many people are standing up to fight. Because it’s 2017 and something needs to change.

 

Grateful for a collection of words on a page

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. Some of my earliest memories are of borrowing Enid Blyton books from the ‘library’ at my grandparents’ house: a bookshelf especially for us grandchildren, crammed with magical tales of The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, The Faraway Tree and The Twins at St. Clare’s: well-thumbed pages rich with nostalgia (and with that dusty, musty smell all old books seem to adopt), the same stories that had been devoured years earlier by my father and aunties. I couldn’t get enough of these sepia-tinted worlds; worlds in which children would pack up their sandwiches and run off for an adventure in the woods, where food always tasted better outside, and where everything was always alright in the end.

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My parents would often read to me before bed, and unlike my brother, who would be asleep less than halfway down the first page, I would always beg for just one more chapter – I remember being ill one night and my Dad picking up The Island of Adventure to take my mind off it, despite the fact that it was dark outside and way past my bedtime. What a treat! Reading has always been my favourite escape.

I would however be lying if I said that having discovered the wide criticism of Blyton’s work as an adult hasn’t tainted my love of these magical stories somewhat. It is hard to read any of the originals now without picking up on the themes of racism, sexism and elitism that led to her works being banned from more public libraries than any other author (thanks, Wikipedia!) – and re-reading one of the stories this Christmas with my cousins, it was also hard not to laugh at how horrifyingly racist the depictions of her non-white characters actually were, and how ridiculously and idealistically middle-class everything seemed.

I can safely say that these descriptions have in no way or shape informed my own opinions of the world, but perhaps I’m just lucky that they also didn’t match the values of my own parents. Maybe if I had not been a white, middle-class child myself, I might have questioned why the black characters were always depicted as mean and frightening, or why Georgina was considered boyish because she didn’t have long hair, or why it was always the female characters that had to make the picnic, whilst the boys went off to save the world.

Sadly, I don’t think I would give these books to my own children (if I have any) – and that makes me incredibly sad, because they genuinely brought so much joy to my own childhood. Although Blyton was also often criticised for being too simplistic, her stories sparked my imagination no end. I loved being transported to these different worlds, whether boarding schools or enchanted forests, haunted houses or distant islands – but they are no longer stories for our time. I merely took Blyton’s words at face-value, enjoyed them for what they were and looked no further. The English Literature student in me shudders; never again. We expect more from our literature these days; we have a responsibility to ensure that the words we give to our children only broaden minds, rather than close them. JK Rowling created a world so vivid, so rich and so layered, that it appealed to adults and children alike – and if I compare the two authors… well, there really is no comparison.

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When I started my English degree in 2005, somebody told me that I would never read a book the same way again – and they were absolutely right. I learnt to read critically, to subconsciously identify themes, subtext, social commentary. And it was fun! If I thought Enid Blyton could transport me to a new world, I was nowhere near ready for modules on Post-Colonial Women’s Writing or Modernity, Crisis and Narrative Fiction; for works by Margaret Atwood, Arundhati Roy, Yevgeny Zamyatin or Djuana Barnes (Jo – that one’s for you). My degree opened my mind to so many more possibilities, collections of words that I had yet to read, words that had the power to create such emotion, passion and genuine feeling. I still sometimes have to stop myself from underlining a phrase or making a note in the margin.

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Films are fantastic, but they can’t give you the depth of character that a book can. I’m in awe of anyone who can craft a character, a made up person, that the reader genuinely cares about. I felt almost bereft at the end of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch; having travelled with the central character, Theo through many years of his life, through great emotional turmoil and trauma, I just wasn’t ready to leave him at the end of the book. And in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale – now wonderfully captured in the new TV series – how desperately we hope that Offred is travelling to safety at the end of the novel, how passionately we care about her, having been inside her head for hundreds of pages. I loved the TV series, but I’m sure part of that love came from knowing the book beforehand, having an even greater insight into the characters than was played out on screen.

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And before you think I’m all highbrow, miss ‘high and mighty I only read high quality literature’, I love a good trashy thriller too. Who wasn’t on the edge of their seats for the final pages of Gone Girl?! Reading is subjective – we all have our preferences, and I love that. There’s no requirement to stick to one genre, or to only read Man Booker Prize nominees, or to like everything your friends like. It’s good to mix it up! I even read a terrifying book called The Game a few years ago: no, not a horror story, but an insight into the slimy, is-this-even-serious world of the ‘pickup artist’; an allegedly true story in which a seemingly unattractive man is able to sleep his way around America thanks to a series of tricks and strategies to dupe women into finding him attractive. Yuck! Whilst this didn’t quite dash all my hopes of ever finding Prince Charming, it was certainly illuminating – and hey, that’s the power of the written word.

About a year ago, I met the then-two year old twins of my boss; I hadn’t even got into the room before one of them had brought me a book and plonked himself down next to me, right there in the hallway, so excited was he to get straight into the story. It was just lovely! And recently, I had the pleasure of reading a bedtime story to my friends’ six month old daughter. Even at that tiny age, it was clear to see she was transfixed by the pictures (and of course my outstanding dramatic performance!). It’s so important that we step away from the screen and look at some words every now and then (or stay on the screen if you’ve got a Kindle – no judgement here), and the younger the better.

I can’t understand it when I meet people who tell me ‘I don’t read’. I just don’t get it! I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t read as much as I’d like to – of course scrolling through Facebook or watching X Factor is sometimes simply the easier option, but why would you want to limit yourself like that?

Grateful for Olly and FiFi

Dear Girls 

I feel like I’ve been soppy-grateful for a lot of people recently, but honestly, what is this life if not for the people you choose to have in it? So this weekend, apologies girls but you’re getting a joint one, because that’s what you get for having your birthdays a week apart.

As mentioned in a previous post, our friendship is one that arose out of coincidental circumstances – essentially, you were both moving to London and desperate to find somewhere to live, and I happened to be connected to both of those living situations. I can’t believe how quickly our friendships have grown – to the point where not a day goes by without approx. 1 million Whatsapp messages flying around between our group of four (not forgetting you, Julia): moaning about our journeys to work, moaning about work, moaning about what we have to do after work… thank goodness we all like moaning just as much as each other.

But all jokes aside, that group is so much more than a forum for complaining about our first world problems: it’s a support network, somewhere we can go for advice, a confidence boost, a sympathetic ear or a fist-pump emoji (if time is short: we are millennials you know). Of course this Whatsapp group is not the extent of our friendship: it is born of our need to know exactly what we are all doing/eating/thinking at any given moment. That’s true friendship right?! (Or perhaps we just need more hobbies).

Fiona, I was surprised to notice that you didn’t have the curly red hair I had imagined when I first met you (is that some kind of awful Liverpool stereotype? If so, I apologise). But everything else I had heard about you was true: that you were a lovely girl, a great laugh and so easy to get along with. We became friends almost instantly, and very soon our little Streatham group of four was formed. 

I’m so happy you came into my life at that time: you constantly show me new ways of looking at things – never confrontational, always mature and mindful of others’ feelings, you’re so open minded and measured in your way of approaching things. You’ve taught me that it’s okay to take the time to think things through, but you’ll take no crap from anyone (Fitness First, lower your weapons), and I love it when you get all ‘lawyer’ on people.

I’ll always admire your bravery: moving to London, starting a new job, throwing yourself into a new group of friends – and then taking the huge step of buying a home, whilst tackling a far from easy time at work. We all know it was tough for you, but you showed (and continue to show) such strength of character and professionalism throughout. How could we do anything but love you?! Your Muttley laugh cheers up the dullest of days and your kindness and generosity is always so appreciated. 

And I know I always have you in my corner: whether it’s to introduce me to an excellent new Netflix series (hello Rupaul’s Drag Race: can I get an Amen up in here?!), share eyebrow tips, or (literally) run away from teenage Hoodies pelting ice at us on the Streatham High Road. I didn’t know I would gain a new best friend last year, but I’m so happy I did.  

Olly, my fellow clumsy sister, your confidence and your poise constantly inspire me. Watching you flag down a bus recently, I realised that even the way you do that completely irrelevant task is so full of self-assurance: I would have limply fluttered my hand out, inexplicably embarrassed, but you thrust your arm into the air, knowing your rights as a bus-riding customer, an independent woman in a modern world. This is a ridiculous example, I’m aware, but to me it also illustrates how you do everything in your life: with passion, self-confidence and commitment.

I’m so proud of the way you’ve carved out a life for yourself in your new home, despite the rocky road that lead to your moving in date: putting yourself out there to make new friends (both human and four-legged) and making your flat so beautiful and homely. You have such a flair for interior design, and I am so jealous& You love hosting, sharing your great talent for cooking and looking after others (I can’t say I’ve ever stayed at another friends’ house after a drunken night out and been run a Jo Malone bath the next morning; as you would say, ‘dreamy’!).

You are the most organised person in history when it comes to planning events: making birthdays, baby showers and hen parties extra special, for the friends who you love so dearly. You will go so far out of your way to ensure plans are executed perfectly and everybody has a brilliant time, still managing to squeeze in a packed schedule of social engagements and work commitments, your trusty Filofax always bursting with notes and appointments (and carpet samples!). You’re such a caring person, always keen to think of solutions to the problems of others. 

You’re always there to give me a word of encouragement, to help me stand up for myself and reach for the stars. I’m in awe when I hear about your achievements at work: presenting to rooms full of people without a hint of nerves, dreaming up creative ideas and fun ways to engage with people. I wish I had half your confidence: please never stop pushing me, never stop encouraging me to step past my stupid anxieties – I appreciate it so, so much. 

I’ll honestly treasure the memories of our holiday to Cyprus this year: whilst not the most cultured or crazy of trips, I think to have an entire week without one snappy word or sigh of frustration – and instead to have one literally full of laugher – is huge testament to our friendship, and long may it continue. You girls make me laugh so much: I know that whatever we are doing we’ll have a good time. 

Thank you Olly and Fi, for being such important women and role models in my life: you constantly inspire me, both professionally and personally. Happy birthday my loves – I’m so grateful to know you.

All my love,

Clare XXX