Grateful through gritted teeth

This Friday evening I found myself standing on the platform at Marylebone station with approximately 40 million other people, staring dismally at a board full of glaring orange cancellations. What did I do to deserve this?! Why does this always happen to me?! Why is life so darn unfair?!

In the insular bubbles of our entitled little millennial heads (I know, stereotyping millennial – such a new concept!), it’s easy to feel very wronged by the world a lot of the time. I will admit that for a second I felt like stamping my feet in the style of a two year old (not for the first time: as an actual two year old I had knelt on the stairs and banged my shins against the step until they bled, because I was so jealous of my newborn baby brother. Sorry, Greg!). Because how dare a train not be completely on time and why the hell should I have to spend my Friday night in a queue and oh my god what if I don’t get a seat when the damn thing actually arrives anyway. 

But then I found out why all the trains were cancelled in the first place. Somebody had felt so lost and alone in this world, so beyond help or solace from anyone or anything, that they had been forced to leave it. To think that anybody could get to the point where jumping in front of a train feels like the only option just breaks my heart completely. And to hear people describing that decision as ‘selfish’ or ‘thoughtless’ because it’s made them late home for dinner just makes me shudder. Did these people ever think that somebody who has chosen to end their own life might not be making 100% logical decisions?! 

So there was my reality check. On a day when a tube train full of people experienced potentially the most horrifying and terrifying moment of their lives, and on a day when somebody else just felt that they couldn’t carry on any longer, thank goodness that I was standing on that platform safe and alive. Thank goodness that I had two legs that I could very easily stand up on for the 1 hour and 40 minute journey if I couldn’t get a seat. And thank goodness that I felt loved and supported in this world. 

But it’s not always easy! What I’m really trying to say is that sometimes it’s hard to feel grateful, even though we know we should be. I was still cross that my trip home was going to be delayed and that I wasn’t going to be able to eat anything until 10pm. I was still mad that I hadn’t had time to buy a cheeky Friday can of gin and tonic for the journey, and that my phone was running out of battery. 

I hope I haven’t given the illusion with this blog that I’m some kind of sanctimonious, perfect person who walks around in a cloud of flowers and rainbows feeling grateful for the pavement and the rubbish bin and the traffic lights. The world is full of lots of things that I am very much not grateful for, from terrorism to Donald Trump to the weird condensation that forms when you put a hot piece of toast on a cold plate. And it’s all relative. In the heat of the moment we can only interpret what’s happening to us in the context of our own lives and experiences; no, a delayed train wouldn’t be an issue for somebody living in a country where running water is a luxury and public transport is unheard of, but as a Londoner who’s used to everything right here, right now, of course it is. We can’t feel bad for getting frustrated by the things that impact us, regardless of how small and irrelevant they may seem in the grand scheme of things. They’re our feelings and we can’t control what upsets us.

But it’s also important that after that initial screaming tantrum (internal, let’s hope), we take a step back and readdress the situation. On Friday, I really really tried to unclench my fists, breathe and remember that today, I didn’t get burnt in a terrorist attack, and I didn’t feel so hopeless and alone in the world that I couldn’t carry on with my life any more. It helps, I promise. 

We all know that life’s not fair, and sometimes the only thing that will help is to scream and shout and to throw something (non-dangerous) at the wall. But when it isn’t life and death, we take a step back and we move on, knowing that things could be a lot, lot worse. When I started writing this blog I hoped that it would help me to appreciate what I do have rather than focus on what I don’t. There really is something to be grateful for in every single day – even if you have to grit your teeth to find it. 

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Grateful for Being “Fine as I Am”

Whilst out for dinner with friends this week, we started talking about the dangers of being single for too long, of the potential to simply become too “fine as you are”, and thus unable to work as part of a pair when the opportunity does arise, due to said “fineness”. The more I thought about this sentiment, the more absolutely ridiculous it sounded: why on earth should being self-sufficient and confident as a single person ever be labelled as something remotely dangerous or negative? Why should we ever aspire to work at our optimum only when we are just 50% of one whole? Who really wants to be a “we” and never, even occasionally, an “I”? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Surely the one thing worse than being fine on your own, is not being fine on your own?

Sure, there are many perils of being single for too long – forgetting how to shave your legs, losing the ability to cook a balanced meal that doesn’t include fish fingers, being unable to function without sending 47,000 messages to your girls’ Whatsapp group per day (including photos of all your meals) – but being “fine” is definitely not one of them.

I certainly haven’t always been fine as I am. Emerging not entirely unscathed from a long term relationship that begun when I was just 18, I realised that I had been hiding behind the strong opinions and forceful nature of somebody else. I hadn’t had the opportunity to work out who I was, what I thought, or where I might fit in; instead, I had tried to make myself fit into somebody else’s world, without ever really questioning whether it was the right one for me. I hadn’t ever thought about saving up for a house, reading a map, planning a holiday, researching political parties – because somebody else had always done it for me.

That first year of singledom was such a transformative one for me; it was at times terrifying and scary and lonely (although now that I think about it, honestly not for very long), but it was also extremely freeing: I realised that I could wear whatever made me happy, be friends with whoever I wanted to, and do things just for me. I didn’t know that I had been living in somebody else’s shadow; that all my decisions were based upon another person rather than on my own wellbeing. I’m not trying to say that I was in any kind of emotionally abusive relationship here: I was simply young and naïve when we got together; I hadn’t allowed myself time to grow alone and at the time I didn’t think I needed to.  We are like flowers: some of us grow in the same direction and at the same speed, whilst others just grow completely differently, starting off together but ending up apart – and there’s not a lot we can do about that.

As a single person, I found that I had so much more room in my heart for all the wonderful new friends I would make; so many more things to say with no limits on my thoughts or ideas when I didn’t come as part of a pair. And I was empowered by so many of the strong women around me; both single and in relationships; women who had bought houses, started businesses, moved to new countries, dealt with great traumas – because of course you don’t have to be single to be fine on your own. I learnt that when we lift each other up, we can take on the world.

I still treasure a card given to me at the time by a friend who had been through it all before me; she didn’t need to write those lovely words, but she knew how much they would mean to me.

With the death of my mother, the past few years have not been easy. But one thing I have learnt about myself is that I’m a lot stronger than I ever knew. Yes, there are many times when having a partner beside me would have made things just that little bit more manageable, but in being forced to deal with the unimaginable on my own, I found within myself a level of resilience that I may never have discovered, had I not had to pick myself up and carry on. And of course I have never once been truly alone in this.

We must also remember that “fine” is very subjective. I’m in no way saying I’ve got it all sorted; my internal monologue is a constant stream of “calm down, Clare”, and I get anxious about walking into a pub on my own, or making a decision to get my hair cut – let alone any life choices that are actually important. But when it boils down to it, I know that I have just got to go for it, because nobody else is going to go for it in my place.

Please don’t think that this blog is some kind of ‘pro-single forever’ sermon – of course I would like more than anything to find my person; to be able to share my life and my heart with somebody else. But until that happens, I know that I can live my days to the fullest without needing the endorsement of somebody else; that I can take whatever the universe throws at me and deal with it in the best possible way (even if I still can’t read a map and still haven’t saved up for a house). Currently accepting applications from others who are “fine as they are” – surely two “fines” together make something so much more wonderful?!

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Grateful for “Yes”

As I sit on a beautiful beach in Cyprus (sorry for all the smug Instagram spam by the way), sun in my eyes, sand in my hair, umbrella above my head because it is actually too hot right now (I know, we’re never happy are we), watching my three friends happily passed out beside me, I am grateful that we were all, at some point in our lives, open to the idea of saying “yes”. 

This week, we realised that none of us would be here, or in fact even know each other at all, were it not for our dear friend Becky. (Don’t worry, she was invited too but her 6 month old baby requires a little more attention than us 30 year olds). When people ask me where I know my friends from, I just say “London”, because when I think about it we are actually quite a random set of people who could easily never have met at all. And anybody who has lived in London will know it’s not exactly easy to find yourself a group of friends that you actually end up liking and wanting to continue being friends with well after the days of jäger bombs and Infernos and loafing around Clapham Common are over.

Had the four of us not been open to new friendships, to saying yes and stepping out of our comfort zones just a little, life could have been very different. For example:

Yes 1: Julia knew Becky first, through their mutual friend Helen, but Helen only ended up living with Becky because Julia encouraged her to move south of the river. Helen said yes, and plucked Becky from the scores of others trawling through spareroom.com. And so a friendship group was born.

Alternative Universe Yes 1: Helen never moved south of the river, and therefore never even met Becky. Becky moved in with some other randoms, who were clearly not as fun as us. They weren’t interested in going out, had never heard of Michael Kors and didn’t like prosecco. Nobody ever went to Cyprus.

Yes 2: I had known Becky at uni, but we never really established a friendship until we both became single a few years later. Becky invited me out on a girls’ night with her group of friends – including Helen and Julia – and the rest is history.

Alternative Universe Yes 2: I was too terrified to go on a girls’ night and said no, preferring to stay in with a family sized bag of Doritos watching Lost. Becky invited me out a few more times but when I kept saying no she gave up and started inviting another (definitely less fun) girl instead. I developed an obsession with re-watching the entirety of Lost all in one sitting, and as a consequence lost my job and had to move back home with my parents. I never went to Cyprus.

Yes 3: Olly knew Becky through her best friend Rosie, who happens to be Becky’s cousin. When Olly moved to London it just so happened that Helen was moving out of our shared house and we had a spare room for rent – and that’s how we came to be friends with Olly.

Alternative Universe Yes 3: Olly decided she’d rather make her own friends and said no to Becky’s offer of a room. She ended up living in a different shared house where nobody appreciated a good lasagne and no one had ever seen Grays Anatomy. With nobody to cook for and nothing to watch, Olly used her spare time to train as a Body Attack instructor. Olly never went to Cyprus.

Yes 4: Fiona knew Becky through work. When Fiona moved to London it just so happened that Becky was moving out of the flat she shared with Olly, and was seeking a roommate to replace her. Fiona said yes!

Alternative Universe Yes 4: Upon meeting Olly, Fiona decided she couldn’t live with someone with such an evangelical approach to cheese, and decided to look elsewhere. With few rooms available, she ended up living in a cupboard in her brother’s flat, moving in her imaginary friend Ru Paul for company. Fiona never went to Cyprus.

If you believe in fate, in a kind of Gwyneth-Paltrow-in-Sliding-Doors destiny, then the four of us were meant to be sitting on this beach right now, regardless of what happened before. But I have no doubt that these four little yeses were life changing ones for all us, and have helped to lead us down the paths we are on today (even if we don’t quite know what they are yet). 

Any of my friends will be quick to tell you that I’m a bit of a scaredy cat; a lot of things make me anxious and you will never ever find me saying yes to a bungee jump or signing up for a stint on Big Brother. But as Danny Wallace says in his 2008 book Yes Man, “Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said yes to something”.

Grateful for my South African Sister

Dear Tharina

On the week of your birthday, I have been thinking about how truly grateful and blessed I am to have you in my life. Little did I know when I first met you six years ago, as I was shown around the office after interviewing for a new job, that the loud South African who looked me up and down with uncertainty would become such an important part of my life. That I would get to come to work every day with one of my best friends, and that any day you weren’t in the office with me would be about 90% less fun. 

I’d never even heard anyone speak Afrikaans before I met you, was baffled by this alien language and how you were so well-spoken and fluent in English too. I’ve loved learning more about your home country, laughing with you about the many differences between our cultures, attempting to read Afrikaans or translate a phrase that’s simply untranslatable. We laugh SO much. You fill my day with smiles, whether you intend to or not (no, chiropody is not pronounced “Cairo-poddy”, and no, your words do not fall on “death ears”, and no, “my nose are itchy’ does not make sense unless you have a secret second nose you lunatic).​

But despite our differences (and yes, there are many!), we have developed such a close friendship over the years, a friendship that is unlike any other that I have. We’ve spent more time together than I could possibly count, know the intricate – and extremely boring – details of each other’s lives, and can communicate with the tiniest flicker of the eyelid or twitch of the mouth: we know what the other is thinking before we’ve even had the conversation. You’ve stood up for me on so many occasions, given me the advice I needed to hear (even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time), made sure I did what I needed to do. 

You care about others so, so much. You take on other people’s problems as if they were your own and do anything you possibly can to try and solve them or offer comfort: even if it means getting up at 5am to cook a meal or running around town to deliver a package. You’re one of the most selfless and kind people I’ve ever met; you absolutely love helping others. You’ve called the doctors for me, you’ve booked trains for me, you’ve travelled an hour out of your way just to keep me company on the tube. You always tell me that if you didn’t genuinely want to do something, you wouldn’t make the offer in the first place. And that’s you all over: straight up, saying exactly what you mean (occasionally to your detriment, hey!). 

During the worst time of my life, you were there for me unconditionally. You cried with me, you made sure I ate lunch, you put me on the train when I needed to get home urgently. You posted Haribo to my house, you sent countless thoughtful messages, you bought a birthday present for my Mum even though you had never met her. And you used some of your precious prayers on me and my family, which means so much more to me than you know. 

I’ve leant on your shoulder many times, and you know you can always lean on mine. My heart breaks for you when yet another friend moves back to SA; I can’t imagine how tough it must be to live so many hours from home. But I’m also so proud of how you’ve carved out a life for yourself in London. How I wish I could be as passionate about a hobby as you are about cycling; the amount of love you have for it makes me so happy, and I’m constantly impressed by how you strive to make it more and more a part of your life, with your own club and even sponsorship. 

I see how you’re the glue between your friends: cooking big dinners in your favourite Le Creuset pot, organising intrepid activities (SO sorry I was busy on the day of stand up paddle boarding), always on hand to babysit or help out at church. I so appreciate being invited to your gatherings, quite enjoy being the token English girl even if I can’t understand what’s going on half the time. 

You are so much more than a friend to me. We bicker like sisters: nobody else will tell me if they hate my new shoes or that my hair looks a mess, and I wouldn’t dream of being half as rude to any of my other friends as I am to you. But then I don’t have any other friends who would suck on the bone of a lamb shank in the middle of a restaurant do I?! It’s okay, I know it’s in your blood. 

And in honour of your birthday, here are ten more things I’ve learnt about Afrikaans:

1. Time is a fluid concept. Now doesn’t mean now, it means I’ll do it perhaps some time in the next day or so, if you’re lucky. If you want something doing actually right now, you mean now now. There’s just now as well – perhaps not as soon as now now, but sooner than now. 

2. A nartjie is an orange, but it’s also a satsuma, a clementine or a mandarin. 

3. However you think it’s pronounced, it probably isn’t.

4. Banana is a savoury food item.

5. There’s only one jam, and it’s apricot. You can have it in a sponge pudding or with a curry. Cheese and jam is a logical combo.

6. Anyone older than you is an Auntie or an Uncle, but don’t call your friend who’s five years older than you an Auntie; she’ll get really offended.

7. “Fatcakes” is the name of an actual dish. And they’re absolutely delicious. But I guarantee you will not be able to move after eating two. 

8. Some words mean two things. A backie (sp?) is a lunchbox, but also a truck.

9. One carb per meal is simply not enough. 

10. Vegetarians?! LOL.

I really hope I get to come and see your world one day; I never tire of hearing about it despite how endlessly confusing and nonsensical it is. I know you think mine is just as weird sometimes, but could you ever live without your beloved ginger biscuits now?! 

Gelukkige verjaarsdag my friend, and thank you so much for being in my life; I genuinely don’t know how I would have got through the past few years without you. 

Grateful for Barcelona

Another week, and another Sunday reflecting on more than one horrifying terrorist attack on our European doorsteps. I wonder whether I’ll look back on these grateful blogs in years to come and feel shocked at how the theme of terrorism threaded itself throughout my musings across the year; not a box ticked and time to move on, but a constant and very real worry that moves in ebbs and flows, from severe to critical and back again. Always there, poised to blacken the brightest day with the unthinkable. 

The days of terrorist attacks being confined to some faraway land where ‘it couldn’t possibly happen here’ are long gone. For my lifetime, the threat of terror is closer to home than ever before. We exist in a world where news travels faster, where images are less censored and where grainy mobile phone footage shows us the gritty reality of these dark days. We find ourselves subconsciously participating in twisted competitions of “I was there last week”, “I ate in that restaurant”, “It could have been me.” Why do we think like this? Does it bear any relevance? Perhaps we are trying to remind ourselves how lucky we are. We all know by now that terrorism is not selective in its victims. As I write this, a BBC News Alert confirms one of the Barcelona victims as a seven year old British boy. 

I can completely understand the people who are undoubtedly changing holiday plans, making new arrangements or cancelling flights right now. But it is so important that we don’t become so fearful of our towns and cities that we lose our relationships with them. Today I am grateful for the beautiful city that is Barcelona, and for the wonderful memories that it has given me.

I first visited the city for a long weekend with my Mum about ten years ago. I must admit that Mum and I weren’t the most intrepid of travellers: after what seemed like hours trundling around the baking hot streets searching for our hotel, we both passed out in its air conditioned loveliness (way beyond siesta time) only making it outside for a quick pizza, whilst vowing not to tell Dad that we had gone all the way to Spain and eaten Italian food. 

We made up for it during the rest of our trip: paella and tapas on Las Ramblas (overpriced for us tourists but worth it for the atmosphere alone), delicious baked Monkfish in an off-the-beaten-track restaurant recommended by our guide book (it was 2007 after all), freshly squeezed juices and exotic fruit salads from La Boqueria. We drank beers in a beachside cafe, shopped in H&M when a strong Pound was more than just a pipe dream, found the beach’s one lone palm tree to shade Mum’s fair skin whilst I sunbathed. We walked up and down Las Ramblas: found out that you can’t photograph the human statues unless you pay them, looked on in horror at the cages of birds for sale on the roadside, squealed at the displays of raw meat in the market. I have such happy memories of that trip with Mum: our photographs bleached with bright sunlight, our stories back home filled with vibrancy and colour. 

When I returned to Barcelona in 2015, the world was a very different place. I had lost my darling Mum just a few months earlier and my dear friend Becky took me away for the weekend as a birthday surprise. I’ll always be so touched by the kindness and generosity of that gift; the chance to get out of London and focus my mind elsewhere. For a moment I felt a touch of anxiety: would the city bring back memories that would fill me with sadness? Of course not; why should it? I surround myself with reminders of Mum every day, and Barcelona only held good ones for me. A time when we were happy and carefree, the best of friends enjoying our lives. 

And of course my trip with Becky gave me new memories too. More paella, more tapas (when in Spain…), more getting lost; accidentally ordering a huge breakfast complete with churros and hot chocolate (and managing to eat it all anyway), eating dinner unfashionably early (i.e. pre-10pm) and ordering way too much food; wearing every single item of our clothing, having been grossly ambitious about the weather forecast in November. 

But without a doubt, my highlight was our visit to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous and perhaps controversial masterpiece (George Orwell called it “one of the most hideous buildings in the world”). I’m not a person who usually goes remotely mad for architecture – we very nearly turned around when we saw the hour-long queue – but I’m so glad we didn’t. The church is absolutely breathtaking and I was completely taken aback by the beauty of the stained glass and the feeling of quiet serenity as soon as we stepped inside. Although the church is Roman Catholic, I was also struck by the literature that explained how the space is not solely for one religious denomination; that it is a place of peace and spirituality that can be enjoyed by all, transcending religion and belief. (I doubt that this was Gaudi’s original sentiment, but how all-the-more wonderful that as times have changed, so too has the building’s ideology). It is honestly so beautiful and I’m only sad I didn’t take Mum there on our first trip too.

In this devastating week for Spain, I am remembering all the things I love about Barcelona. It’s so key that we don’t take out our feelings towards these heinous terrorists on a wonderful city; that we turn our backs on the darkness and look for the light. If you haven’t already been, go! Eat the croquettes, drink the Cava, find that restaurant and order way too much. Walk along the beach, get lost in the streets, and take photos of the statues (after you’ve tipped them, of course). Thank you for the memories, Barcelona. 

Grateful for Julia

This weekend we are celebrating the birthday of my dear friend Julia, and today I am grateful for having had her in my life for the past five years. It seems so much longer than that! 

Julia, such a lot has changed since we first met in early 2012, introduced by our mutual friend Becky on a night out in Clapham. My first impressions were that you were switched on, career-minded and confident, talking about your new job with a passion that I have seen grow and grow over the years. (And a passion it must be! You give your heart and soul to your work and despite the ridiculous hours, I see how much it gives back to you too, how much you care about delivering above and beyond and gaining the respect of those around you). 

We became part of the same friendship group – travelled to New York, went out, got new ear piercings together, ate at delicious restaurants (you’re such a foodie, even if you are the unluckiest orderer I have ever met – the steak is so often underdone; the bun is so often burnt – but you’re always so diplomatic about it!). I learnt more about you: you’re Scottish (who knew!), you’re thoughtful and kind, always looking for a way to solve the problems of others; you love spinning and have the killer calves to show it; you’re pragmatic and level headed, never bitchy or irrational; you like a drink but always know when to stop. You passed on your love of good red wine to me (how I adore our casual Friday nights in or out with a Malbec), and your love of the cinema: we both have a passion for broadening our minds, learning new things through the worlds of film and TV. 

Little did I know after our first meeting that we would wind up living together: that you would become the person to place a pair of wet knickers (in lieu of a flannel) over my sweating brow after a few too many jäger bombs; that you would be the one to run me a bath and help me and my giant sprained ankle hop into it; that we would inadvertently end up holidaying at a romantic couples resort together, potentially mistaken for Mrs and Mrs Rankin more than once. Or that you would be there for me during the worst time of my life, supporting me at my Mum’s funeral and far beyond: the one to send me flowers to work on the anniversary of her death, to be so careful and concerned about my feelings in any circumstance that might be challenging for me. 

I’ve learnt so much from you Julia: you’re the friend who will remind me to stand up for myself, to go after what I want and to have confidence in my decisions. You’re the queen of the pep talk, rooting for me at work and sending me encouraging texts to ask how it all went; reminding me to stay strong and not text that boy back. You have a perpetual feeling of inadequacy in your own job, but I know that you are far, far from it (like, ridiculously far!). You’re a perfectionist in all that you do, unable to give any less than one hundred percent regardless of how long it takes or how early you have to wake up – and it shows in your ongoing success. 

I love our Sunday evening debriefs: a chance to catch up on the highs and lows of the preceding week, to get into a new BBC drama or scream over a ridiculous Netflix documentary together. I think we both get so much out of these chats: each of us talking at a hundred miles an hour, a decompression zone enabling us to offload our problems and stresses, to step out of work mode and relax. I’d go mad if I didn’t have someone to talk things through with Jules. 

This week, I am grateful for you Julia, for the positive impact you have made over such a tempestuous period of my life. Thank you for everything: for reserving judgement when I eat five different carbs for my dinner, for humouring my ridiculous Love Island obsession, for looking after me with another accidental hangover. Thank you for thinking about me and taking the time to care. Thank you for all the hugs, the dinners, the chats and the texts: for all the advice, the pep talks and the “how are you doing?”s. Happy Birthday Julia, and thank you for being there.

Grateful for girl time

This Sunday evening, as I sit in a darkened room recovering from a weekend of pole dancing, bottomless brunch, butlers in the buff and copious cocktails, I am grateful for some good old fashioned girl time. No, this wasn’t just a standard Saturday in the life of such a crazy-cool, 30 year old London gal about town as me: it was of course a Hen Party, for my beautiful ballerina friend Georgie. The girl who sent me a Facebook friend request after meeting me once, and who has blessed my life with her infectious laugh, mental hair, and ridiculously positive outlook ever since. 

When Georgie enters a room, usually followed by a cloud of pink glitter, a trail of sparkles and a couple of rose gold unicorns, you cannot help but smile. And this weekend certainly included a lot of smiling. G, I thought your face might crack at one point from all the non-stop, ear-to-ear, Cheshire Cat style beaming. What an absolute pleasure to be even one percent responsible for such pure happiness! The weekend was a perfect way for us to celebrate the impending marriage of our friend Georgie: with lots of laughter, food, drinks and the opportunity for the dancers amongst us to consider a new career path and ponder whether erecting a pole in the front room could be a feasible possibility. (Side note: not me. Anybody who has seen my arms in real life may be unsurprised to hear that they weren’t exactly great at supporting my body weight on a pole. Happy spectator here!).

I’m very lucky to have a solid group of girl friends in London, but as we grow older and grow up, as the lucky ones marry and have children, it’s only natural that we see each other less often. Gone are the days of spending every Saturday night in Chelsea, casually chucking away £100 on cocktails and taxis like there would never be a time when we might want to spend our money on something more concrete (because one too many mojitos are certainly the only reason I haven’t bought a house yet); gone are the days of dancing until 2am with a giant swollen sprained ankle (okay, that only happened once), of taking photos with the barmen and of cheeky Big Macs on the way home. So a Hen Party provides a wonderful guilt-free excuse for us all to get together and pretend we’re 24 again, for just one weekend; to be self-indulgent and loud (not too loud; we weren’t that kind of Hen Party), to laugh and to dance and remember why we’re such good friends in the first place. 

There’s nothing like a weekend with your girl friends to help you forget the stresses of work, the responsibilities of everyday life, and the unfounded worries of how your daily commute might be affected by the upgrade at Waterloo station this August. And sure, 572 bottles of prosecco probably help with that too. 

I’m so lucky to have friends that I can both laugh my head off with and talk to at length about some of life’s most mundane topics; friends with whom I can share my deepest worries and fears, and also discuss the vitally important intricacies of this year’s Love Island (yes, it’s still a thing; who’s still together outside the house? Which brand of protein powder will they promote on Instagram next?!). 

And let’s not forget the added bonus that Hen Parties always bring: the chance to meet friends and family of the bride-to-be; to make new friends and learn about different lives, to hear embarrassing childhood stories from the cousins and to see different sides of your friend from her work and home life. I love the fact that, having attended the Hen Party, you will always have more friends at the wedding. Us girls have to stick together! 

It’s not exactly profound I know (give me a break guys, we can’t be profound all the time), but I am truly grateful to have spent this weekend with both old friends and new, to have had the opportunity to check out of real life, and to have some good old-fashioned fun. Roll on the wedding Georgie, can’t wait for the first dance!