Job Hunting for the Anxious Person

One’s real life is so often the life that one does not lead

Oscar Wilde, 1882, introduction to a collection of verse.

Welcome to my blog! Here I write about whatever’s on my mind or whatever fad I’ve just gotten into.

The whole New Year thing made me think about the goals people might be setting themselves for the year; specifically career goals. If you’re an anxious person or suffer profoundly from anxiety, then sorting your career out – or even finding time to prioritise it among life’s other junk – can be daunting.
I’ve always had really, really shitty anxiety, so I completely understand and I had this same fear about a career myself, to the point that for a while I even convinced myself that I didn’t really want one. But what else was I going to do? Oh yeah, I know: have depression.

So, without further waffle, here is a short list of some things I learned after graduating university as an incredibly anxious person.

This blog assumes you’ve already got a degree and perhaps have a job already, but you haven’t found what you’re looking for yet because you’re scared. This blog also assumes you’ve identified what you enjoy and the field you’d like to work in.

To reiterate: I am no expert.

I just hope this might help somebody with anxiety, because I know how it feels. Blogs like this helped me when I was in the same position.

Start with a positive attitude; and if you don’t have one, force it.

It’s a bit like forcing yourself to laugh; eventually you start finding that, in and of itself, funny – and you start laughing for real. The fact is you’ll never start making plans if you begin with “I can’t…” – you need to start saying “I can”. Do not be your own bully and start believing in yourself; stop telling yourself lies about your self-worth. Make the decision to be positive and give yourself a break.

Imagine yourself in that role.

Who would you be, ideally? Who do you see yourself being when you aren’t bogged-down with self-doubt? Break up the elements of that person and use it to create your blueprint. All right, I’m not saying you can go from being a librarian to a trauma surgeon (this isn’t The Sims) if you do this, because that’s unrealistic. However, if you’re working in Job A but know you could be working in Job B if-only-this or if-only-that, then you absolutely can.

Being scared of something is no reason not to do it anyway, not if you honestly believe it’s something you’ll do well at. (If it isn’t, then that’s a problem – more on that later) Also: keep it simple. If you eventually want to be CEO of a retailer and you’ve never worked in a shop, then picture yourself working in sales first. Give yourself an achievable starting point and then work out what you need to do to get there. If you need experience first, then go get your foot in the door. What else do you have but time? At this stage, time is your friend!

Apply for lots and lots of jobs once you’ve chosen where to start.

Start at the beginning and don’t over-analyse it. Think about the skills you’ll gain rather than whether this is your dream job (of course it isn’t!) For example, you want to work in HR but have no experience: so you begin with administration roles. Yeah, yeah, you’ve got a degree: so what? We all know experience does all the talking. BUT, you do not have to already be perfect. You just need to demonstrate where you’ve built up your skill-set within that field. If you want to be analysing evidence for the Police with your chemistry degree, then you’d better start off doing the grunt work in a lab.

At the height of my anxiety, I became a little arrogant, actually. I thought people were just given chances to shine and I didn’t see all the baby steps (and baby jobs) they took to get there. Transferable skills will be your trump card, so start building them up.

For the anxious person, getting your “dream job” overnight would actually be ridiculously overwhelming. Try starting on a smaller scale (entry-level jobs within that field) and teach yourself that you can do this. Baby steps.

Before walking into your interview, tell yourself three things:

(1) These people are going to really like me, and I am going to really like them.
(2) I have nothing to lose. If I don’t gain a job, I gain experience.
(3) They’ve already decided I have the skills for the job; I’m just here to show them why they were right. (It’s true!)

For me, saying those things (and telling others) took the pressure off massively. I wasn’t there to be perfect or to even get the job. I was there to like them, to be likeable, to get experience, and to add colour to what they already learned about me on my CV.

Story time: Before getting the job I have now, I was invited to an interview with a children’s cancer charity in central London (gulp). I went to it on the last day of a week-long hospital stay (and I didn’t tell them this) because I was determined to try. I wanted a new job and I was f-ing well going to get one, in spite of my previously poor health. The interview was with 2 lovely women and we got on fantastically; it was like having a fun chat. Only problem was that part of the role required fundraising/finance experience, and I was honest about being low on that front.

They took an entire week to get back to me, having said it’d be a day or so. It turns out they were conflicted over 2 candidates: someone else, and me. They wrote me a long letter (which almost sounded like an apology) saying that they really liked me, but had to go with the person who had the experience in fundraising, and hoped I would consider working with them for other roles in the future. Of course, they made the right decision! They absolutely should have hired the woman with monetary experience and I hope she’s happy there.
I was so flattered by their letter that I cried and shared it with everyone I knew. I felt amazing and I didn’t even get the job!

The point is that it isn’t all doom and gloom; there are so many opportunities for learning and you’ll be so surprised about what you find.

Practice, practice, practice your interviewing skills.

The only way you’ll get over your nerves is if you normalise it. If you aren’t getting many interviews at first or feel like you’re bombing your interviews because of nerves, then contact a local organisation (Jobcentre Plus for example) and find out where you can get some roleplaying practice. It is gruelling, but your nerves will eventually subside. I know this from experience; I used to get the shakes, my throat would glue shut, and I couldn’t think straight. I practiced and now, while I still (of course) get nervous, I manage to hold my own and confidently answer questions without going blank.

Listen to what they are asking you, pause, and reply. Do not try to predict their questions and answer with a prepared script, because this will never work. It isn’t genuine and it will never give you the chance to shine just as you are. Let yourself be vulnerable and don’t try to control the interview so much. You’ll lose and they won’t get a genuine picture of all your smart, endearing qualities.
This is so, so important, especially if you work in health, social care, or charity.

When I was interviewed for my current role, it was in front of a panel of 3 males who all worked in finance. I was scared! However, I decided to just be myself and talk about my experiences honestly. Once I got the job, I was told that others had more editorial experience than me, but they didn’t answer like I did and they didn’t have my personality. They just liked me and felt I’d fit in well (and I have!).

The point is that you matter. It isn’t all about what’s down on paper.

Listen to your instincts.

Equally, if something doesn’t feel right to you, then it probably isn’t. Sometimes it isn’t just about your nerves; sometimes you and the job just don’t fit and that’s okay. Did you have the interview and get a bad feeling about them? Did you start on the job, having been thrilled to get it, and find that you’re deeply unhappy?
Things aren’t always what we imagine them to be, and if you have to go back to the drawing board and find something else, then do it.
This is not a failure. Recognising that a role is poorly fitted to you is a skill.

Story time: I worked for my local council and one day saw an advert for a fast-track diploma to become a social worker, with the option of completing a Masters. Great! I was bored in my role and always wondered what it’d be like. I was invited to interview for 3 available places. Over 10,000 people applied nation-wide and hundreds of local people applied for those 3 roles.
I was invited to interview: great! It was a day-long 3-stage process of a group interview/discussion with adults who had grown up in care, a time roleplaying session where you “answered” a call from a distressed child in front of an examiner, and a standard interview with a panel of 3 social workers.
To my astonishment, I did really well and I was offered a place. I went to Cambridge to study for a couple of months, where we did dreaded roleplay (and a filmed roleplay exam) and the usual essays. This was not a good time for me personally; I was dating a horrible person and my health was spiraling down. I hadn’t long recovered from major surgery and I was incredibly fragile mentally; everything seemed too much for me and I felt I couldn’t give any more. Everyone else seemed to be dealing with the stresses of the course, and by the time the actual work placement began, I was hanging on by a thread. Then when I didn’t get along with my workplace mentor, it all just collapsed. The slightest criticism sent me to tears and I was having such severe migraines that I was vomiting all the time. It was horrible.

I sat and asked myself: Ashleigh, is this actually want you want? Is this really for you? Even if it was, would it be worth it with your health in such a state?

No, none of it was worth it. Sadly, I left the course, but I was instantly relieved. I was hospitalised many times in the year that followed for a week at a time (which would have forced me to leave the course anyway), so things happen for a reason. It led me to where I am.

I felt guilty that I’d taken the place of someone who potentially would have flourished where I didn’t, but I couldn’t predict that my health (mental and physical) would have nose-dived the way it did.

You have got to look after yourself. Fuck anyone who thinks that’s wrong of you. It isn’t. YOU MATTER.

Overall, my advice is to take baby steps and be kind to yourself.

You know the phrase: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
Yes, making the first leap into something new and unknown is terrifiyng, and like me, you might discover that it’s not right for you.

This is all good. It’s part of the learning experience. How dull must a person be if they never try, never fail, and never collect these experiences, both good and bad?

Sometimes the path of least-resistance only feels easier because, you know what? You’re good at it. That’s your path. That’s your thing. Don’t spend your whole life battling against who you are. You are an anxious (likely introverted, like me) person with a heart and you are not made of stone. You don’t need to work anywhere where you have to pretend to be.

Perhaps one never seems so much at one’s ease as when one has to play a part.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Snag Tights Review

Good day to you! Happy New Year and welcome to my weekly blog, where I talk about literally anything I happen to be into at the time. I put up new content every Wednesday.

The following post is not sponsored. I just really wanted to review these tights!

Featured: Raspberry Pie (no filter!!)

What I hoped for

Now, I’ve been seeing these amazing adverts for Snag Tights for a long while now, and the reason they peaked my interest is because they looked *so* inclusive. Their models looked like quirky eclectic people I’d be mates with and they were anywhere from diddy to (frankly) very large, and all shapes and sizes. Their ads included men in tights (sadly, no Robin Hood) and people in wheelchairs, on crutches, or otherwise differently abled – in other words, real people you would live and work with. Which means I could RELATE to these people and I thought: “Ah! This product must be aimed at me!”

What’s more, they all looked really, really cool in these gorgeous brightly-coloured opaque tights – every one of them. The quality did not change between sizes in the photos, and the brand purportedly prided itself on this. This was their whole selling point: everyone can wear gorgeous tights.

The ads and the website assured me that I would no longer be hoiking them up, tearing the crotch, or feeling them digging painfully into the tops of my thighs. I wouldn’t even need to wear a second pair of knickers over the top, because they wouldn’t slide down.

Well, I thought: that’s a bold claim indeed! Since childhood (and certainly in my fishnet teen years) tights had been the bane of my life for those very reasons. Tights were awful. They ripped, got twisted, laddered, and rolled down to the point of abject discomfort. So I abandoned tights and resigned myself to a life of Primani leggings, even though I wanted tights.

That is, until now…👻

What I received

“Raspberry Pie”, “Beach Bum”, and “Suffragette” (no filter, but poor lighting)

I ordered 3 pairs, judging purely by the photos on the website which were, as before, all inclusive and depicted genuine people who loved wearing these cool tights. I chose Raspberry Pie (bright pink), Beach Bum (teal), and Suffragette (purple). These were £6.99 each, but with a 3+ purchase discount, they wound up costing about £21.00 including postage (so free postage, basically). I believe I got these in an ‘E’, or whatever a size 16 was. I’ve got chunky legs, but I was confident these would fit beautifully.

The tights arrived within a few days of ordering and were packaged delightfully in vintage-style paper sweetie bags. I love these touches and felt like I was unwrapping candy. I couldn’t wait to get ’em on.

Snag Tights’ Big Day Out

My tights having a ride on the train to work (NO FILTER!)

I put my brand new tights on at about 7.30am. They went on – no joke – like leggings. As easy as that – they just slipped on. They were thin and yet felt incredibly durable and stretchy, but unlike most stretchy fabrics, they did not feel even remotely too tight, or loose for that matter. The colour was freakin’ amazing – you need no filters with these tights! They look ace with a dress and DMs, which is my standard wardrobe combination on the daily, if I do say so myself.

Now granted, I don’t have an active job. I sit on my bum at my desk. However, I went from the train, over a bridge, a short walk to work, an 8 hour day, a run to my train and a walk to my car, and I didn’t have to hoik them up ONCE! Even before and after trips to the loo, they just resumed the position. No twisting, overstretching, tearing. No effort. I kept going to hoik them only to find that no hoiking was required!

These tights fit my shape seamlessly and felt like they were working with me, not against me – like these tights have your back. I’m serious here – you might have to name them, because they’re your friends.

The fabric is breathable and flexible and I never once felt hot or uncomfortable the way I do with standard tights.

I’m honestly in shock, because this never, ever happens. In my experience, tights are an irritant which get laddered and chucked within days of purchase. Snag Tights have upped the game, I’ll tell you that.

Final verdict

Applause, applause. Gold star for you, Snag Tights.

No matter where you work or how active your job is, you can absolutely where these stretchy, comfy, gorgeous tights all day long and you will be so, so comfortable.

Granted, I have only tried one pair for a day so far, but I’ll be wearing the others tomorrow and I can bet I will have the same experience.

I’m just going to say: I f-ing loved these tights and I’m not about to wear any others. Not only do I love the brand’s ethos, practice, and their look, but their product is second to none.

Seriously, do not waste your money on fast-fashion tearable, tight, itchy, awkward tights that don’t fit anymore. For £6.99 a pair, I genuinely think these are an absolute bargain, because there’s no reason these shouldn’t last ages and ages if you look after them – and even then, I get the impression these can take a battering and still look amazing. You will not even know you’re wearing these tights, but everyone else will.

Snag Tights: I love this product and you have yourself a fan. Oh, and If you find yourself in want of another model, I’m totally volunteering. 🙋‍♀️ (and how lovely to know you could, without having to be a 6 foot 6 size zero, eh?)

Best wishes,

Happy New Decade, 2020!

It’s the roaring 2020s. My god, let this be a better decade for me and for everyone. Don’t you think this planet has had enough grief for the foreseeable?

Normal service will resume next week, along with my work (and blog!) routine and what I hope will be a better year ahead. The last few years for me have been utterly disastrous, both in my personal life and my health. My new year starts off with an appointment to review some MRI results, which I’m nervous about. MRI scans are standard for me; I’ve had many, many scans. This one is to determine if a little lump near my pancreas/bowel is anything scary to worry about. Please keep me in your good thoughts and I’m sure, in some way, the universe will send me your well-wishes.

From me, I wish you a very Happy New Year and a great decade ahead. May you be happy in life and love, may your health be rosy, and may your creativity blossom like daffodils in May (and may your clichés be as strong as mine, especially).

I hope to do a lot more writing and reading this year; my Christmas book haul of children’s classics, which I wanted to catch up on, will be a fantastic start. I’ve made it my mission to read all the amazing classics that I never read as a child, because I was too busy swatting up on Jacqueline Wilson and Darren Shan, who were all the rage and deservedly so.

So Happy New Year everyone! I’ll be back next Wednesday as usual to share whatever quirky bits and bobs I want to talk about next. I never started a blog for anything other than to keep a regular hobby, and to force me to show off any creative successes.
Towards the end of 2019, I was accepted into an NHS poetry anthology by Michael Rosen and invited to their book launch, which is an amazing start. I hope this is a sign of more creative conquests to come!

Have an amazing 2020!

Merry Christmas 2019!

Have a wonderful day! I’m naturally busy today and i’m sure you are too, but I will leave you with this: The Tailor of Gloucester.

This beautiful Christmas story is a favourite from Beatrix Potter, and was a key part of my childhood. I hold this particular film close to my heart. Enjoy it – it’s a mere 30 minutes long!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Best wishes,


Christmas Angel Quilling

Welcome to my blog! I put out new posts every Wednesday about crafts, life, health, and poetry.

Right now all I care about is winding up work and have a lovely week off for Christmas. There will be booze and there will be baking and, oh god, there will be sweets.

This weekend my boyfriend and I are having our own little Christmas day (or weekend rather) and we’ll be exchanging our gifts and just having a lovely time. Then we’ll be spending Christmas day with our respective families. I insisted, actually, because we’re buying a house next year (all being well) and I’d like one more chance to be a kid before I go 50/50 on a property for the first time. It’s a scary step – but I am very excited.

Having experienced a lot of illness and hospital stays in the last few years (as well as other issues), I’ve lived with family and relied on them for a lot of support – I’ll be devastated to leave them. However, I will not be going far – no farther than drop-in distance for a cup of tea. It’s my partner who will be making a huge life-change and moving his business to be with me, so here’s hoping it all goes smoothly once we’ve started the ball rolling.

So it’s because I’ve got such a big year planned ahead that I’ll be 100% slobbing it in my jammies this year, being a big child, which is what I do best.

Angel quilling

Have you ever tried this craft? My brother introduced me to it – there seems to be hundreds of ways to quill and so many different crafts to come up with. My brother and I made some angels together, which was fiddly work at first, but it’s one of those things that becomes a lot easier once you’ve found your rhythm.

If you didn’t know: quilling is an art/craft which involves rolling, bending, or manipulating thin strips of paper into intricate designs or figures.

My first impression was that this is an amazingly economical hobby – as Fanny Cradock would say, ‘This won’t stretch your purse’.

Now there are millions of ways to do this and so many different designs, so have a look online or Youtube to find something you like. We made little finger-poppet angels, but once you have the basic figure made, you can create anything.

This isn’t a step-by-step or anything, but I just wanted to show you something cute I tried out recently. I would recommend a Youtube tutorial to get the technique down.

To make angels or little figures, you will need:

– Thin strips of paper from an A4 sheet (around 5mm) in desired colours
– PVA glue
– Quilling needle
– Scissors

The body of these angels is made up of a small cone of quilled papers, about the size of a large thimble (to pop over your fingers!). You’ll need to glue about 8 strips end-to-end, allow to dry, and then coil together into a standard wheel with the quilling needle. Glue the end to the wheel to prevent it unravelling. Next, you need to gently push it in from the middle and keep going until it forms a cone shape. Do this very gently indeed – if you slip-up then the wheel will unravel and you’ll have to start again.

Once you have the shape down, smear a small amount of pva glue inside it, covering it all, and leave it to dry in its shape.

Using the same technique as above, you’re going to make two wheels of 5 strips and push them out gently, just until you’ve made two little domes. Glue the inside of these, leave to dry, and then you can glue them together – now you have a little globe for a head.

These are just one strip of paper each, but be careful: small and fiddly = easy to fluff up. Push these tiny wheels out into little cones for the arms, glue inside, and leave.

Once all these are dry, you now have your basic figures. You can make these into anything now – a little santa, elves, angels – little devils, even. Fairys? Why not.

I think Quilling usually results in angels and fairies purely because people can make such beautiful wing designs.

For simple wings, make one larger wheel and four smaller ones. Before gluing the end of your strip down to the body of the wheel, let it unravel a little – you’ll see the strips separating. Before it goes too far (and once it is the desired size), pinch it between your thumb and forefinger and glue it in shape – this will make a tear-drop shape. One large teardrop + three smaller teardrops = one very cute wing.
8 tear drops in total will make a nice, small set of pretty wings – but you can make these as big and elaborate as you like. You can also look up the different spiral techniques and find some really intricate ideas if that’s your thing.

Me? I keep it simple.
Glue these pieces gently together, allow to dry, and then glue in between any bits you might have missed. Once dry, you can glue these to the body of your angel – try to use glue that’s been out for 15 mins or so so that it’s tackier and easier to mount wings onto and keep them in place without slipping off while they dry.

Glue on your head and arms and you are good to go! All your angel needs is a wig and maybe a halo. You can fashion a hair-do by quilling just the tips of the strips to make flicky-hair (as pictured) or coil a wheel to make a bun, but there will be much more exciting ideas online – play around and see what you can come up with.

Once you get in the swing of things, you can make some adorable paper figures which, once dry, are actually quite sturdy – and even better, if you make them the way I’ve detailed above, you can pop them on your fingers and make ’em dance.

Cute idea, huh?

As Neil Buchanan would say: why don’t you try it out for yourself?

This is a great craft to do with kids, but again, very fiddly – for little ones, maybe make the bodies first and then let them decorate and play.

My next blog will be due on Christmas day – I’m not sure what I’ll be posting yet, but I promise it’ll be festive, so please subscribe if you’d like to see more from me. I put out new blogs every Wednesday.

Best wishes,

Chocolate Yule Log in an Hour

Welcome back! I put out new blogs every Wednesday.

Continuing our Christmas crafting (or baking!) seeing as it ’tis the season, I give you: the lazygirl chocolate yule log.
I just made that up, but it works.

My boyfriend and I desperately wanted to bake something last Sunday evening, but only the little express stores were open and it was raining, so we dug about in the cupboards, hoping that we’d had ingredients for yule log. And we did! The only thing we were worried about missing was a bar of chocolate, and lo and behold, he found some vegan chocolate he’d bought to try ages ago, having never bothered to eat it. Happy days!

We decided to make chocolate buttercream rather than ganache, and it worked out lovely. We spliced two recipes together: one for sponge, and one for the buttercream.

This was so quick to make that you could definitely do this in an hour if you have all your ingredients ready. The only delay is the cooling, but with such a thin sponge, it took hardly any time at all (and you can of course shove it in the freezer for 10 minutes – trust me, it gets the job done)

You will need:


  • 100g chocolate
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 400g icing sugar (and more to dust)
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp milk


Combine your ingredients with a spatula and whip with an electric whisk if you have one, before transferring it into a 33cm x 23cm dish lined with grease proof paper. This will create an inch thick rectangle of sponge. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes.

(Mary Berry’s recipe states 8-10 mins, but it wasn’t nearly done for me and needed double the time)

No butter! This mostly-egg recipe ensures that the sponge is flexible enough to roll over and yet strong enough not to crumble apart. All very clever.

Once it’s cooked, let it cool for a few minutes. Turn the cake out onto another sheet of grease proof paper and peel off the backing. Next, score a line 2.5cm in, lengthways, along one long edge of the cake. Use this to fold it over on itself in a swiss-roll shape. Pull the grease proof paper over with the first roll and let it roll inside. This will help you unfurl it later when you want to add the filling.

Leave it to cool in this rolled shape.

Next, make your icing. Start with gently combining your softened butter with the icing sugar. Add in your cocoa powder. Melt the chocolate in your preferred manner (in a bowl within a pan of boiling water, or in the microwave at 20 sec intervals) and add this to the mix, folding it all in together. The mix will start feeling a bit stiff and claggy – use the milk to smooth it out and give it some moisture.

Once your cake is cooled, you can unfurl it and start smoothing liberal amounts of buttercream inside it, coating the lot, before rolling it back up again and pasting buttercream on top. You can use a fork to create streaks like bark, add holly, whatever you like – me? I was happy to dust it with icing sugar and eat the thing.

So there you have it! The world’s laziest yule log.

Quick, easy, and definitely yummy – we scoffed this while watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

You could make this Vegan by using egg replacer/oil, vegan chocolate, vegan milk, and vegan butter – though if you’re vegan, you’ll have all this down already and won’t need me to advise you.

I hope you enjoyed that tasty little treat! See you next time – I put new blogs up every Wednesday about crafts, hobbies, writing, health – my life, really.

How to Make a Christmas Wreath (easy)

Welcome back to my blog! I put up new posts every Wednesday.

As it’s officially CHRISTMAS SEASON WAHOOOOOO! I thought I’d talk about a lovely wreath-making workshop I went to. Me and some of the girls from work had a great time making these wreaths (and I’m pleased to say the prosecco was flowing) so I’d definitely recommend an evening like this if you have one going locally.

These were made at a local florist near work. We paid £40 each and the space, materials, tutor, and bubbly were all supplied – you just had to bring yourself!

So here we go – I’m about to clumsily pass on the wisdom.

I’m going to call these the wrap-and-go wreaths, because that’s literally how it’s done – you just wrap the thing and go.

I say these are “easy”, but they’re easy once you’ve got your materials and wreath ring ordered in, and once you’ve wired your decorations – these bits were done for us. I have wired leaves etc before for my autumn candle holder craft here, but I have to say I was grateful not to have to do it again, as it’s fiddly.

This method is only for the metal ring methods – if you’re using an oasis ring, that won’t work here because the wrapping technique would simply crush the oasis into dust.


1 metal wreath ring
Damp moss/vines/twigs/fur (for the base)
Blue spruce/fir branches
Sprigs of holly
Bay leaf branches
Small garden secateurs
Copper wire or florist’s wire

Cinnamon sticks
Pine cones
Dried oranges

These were all purchased via the florist’s supplier, so I would imagine you’d need to order these in via either your local florist, garden center, or online. This is the hardest part, because I’ve never bought sprigs of blue fir and holly online – have you?!

You can of course use dried or artificial foliage if you wanted. Oh, and I’m told that decorations such as dried oranges and cinnamon can be bought at Poundland, of all places, as well as Amazon – so look around.


We began with pre-mossed wreath frames, but you’ll need to make your base. Tie your twine to the frame in a simple knot and stuff the moss in the frame and wrap it as you go. If you click the wreath frame link above, the Hobbeycraft website actually shows you some pictures of this method. Pack the moss in thick so you have something spongey for everything else to rest against. Tie it off when you’re done.

Once you’ve created a solid frame to build on, you can begin building the body of your wreath.

Tie twine to the outside edge of your frame and knot it (as you did before). Next, gather together a bunch of your supplies – take a big sprig of fir, bay leaf branch, and holly branch, and hold them together in a bunch so they layer up. You’re going to manipulate these around the shape of the wreath frame in one go – not layer by layer, branch by branch. If they’re too long or need trimming, then use your secateurs to adjust them.

This was the best part, actually, because I was expecting to have to wire up each individual sprig and place it in the frame – nope, not the case. You are literally going to grab the foliage and wrap it together as one lot in a binding process.

Start binding your bunches

Place your bunch of bay, fir, and holly roughly where you want them to start (I went round clockwise) and then start wrapping the twine around it. I don’t mean in a blanket-stitch type method – we’re talking two wraps round per bunch here – don’t worry about it feeling loose because you can pull it tight at the end. Weave the twine between the leaves and secure it against the frame – remember you can tidy this up later. If you can hide the twine, great – if you can’t, then oh well, that’s part of the rustic design, right?

Once you’re done, pull it tight, and move on to the next bunch – you want to layer this under the previous one and go around in the same direction. Do this until you come full circle and you will have a basic wreath of fir, bay, and holly! Tie off your twine and tweak away at the leaves until you’re happy with how it all lays together.

You can use big bunches, thin bunches, whatever – it’s your wreath. The thicker the foliage, the bigger and more impressive the wreath.

If you want more holly on top or want to add any accents, you can do this by tying on more twine and going around the frame the opposite way (anti-clockwise) to keep it symmetrical, or until you are happy that you’ve filled any gaps.

Now you have a basic green wreath – you’re halfway there!

Now you can decorate with your cinnamon, pine cones, and dried oranges – which all smell amazing, by the way. You will need to wire these. Get yourself some copper wire or florist’s wire and twist it neatly around your decorations, leaving a long ‘tail’ of wire at the end. You can see the cinnamon is wired in mine – you can wrap the wire around in a loop like that, or you can wire just around the bottom. What’s important is the tail, because that’s your hook.

I chose to place mine in neat bunches of three and clustered them together (see pics), but you can do yours your own way. You can also use whatever decorations you prefer – we used natural accents, but you could have baubles and ribbons if you wanted.

Simply thread the tail of the wire through your foliage and out the other side of your frame. Turn the tail in on itself and tuck it back up and through the frame and foliage again. They should be hooked on securely but not so tightly that they have no wobble-room.

Your final touch is to add a bow – these can go at the top, bottom, side of your wreath – wherever! It’s yours!

I used a glittery hessian material and wrapped it in a bow around the bottom half of my wreath, leaving the tails to dangle.

And there you have it – you have created a wreath.

Are you as surprised as I am about how simple the process was? I mean you literally just tie on your twine, wrap it around the big layers of fir, bay, and holly, tie it off and bam – it’s all on there. Easy. No fiddly wiring of each individual sprig for hours on end! You just wrap and go.

The great thing about wreaths and their materials is that it’s very difficult to go wrong. Providing you wrap them around the frame in the same direction, the wild and full nature of wreath design lends itself beautifully to hiding any clumsiness or mistakes.


Once you’ve learned this simple wrapping method, you can make all kinds of wreaths of all different sizes – get creative and see what you come up with!

I hope you enjoyed that. If you’d like to see more, please subscribe – I put out new content every Wednesday.

Best wishes,

My poems ‘Only The Cleaner’ and ‘In This Room’ to appear in NHS These Are The Hands with Michael Rosen

The NHS anthology named after this 60th anniversary poem by Michael Rosen will be available in March 2020

Well! It seems I have more good news on the poetry front!

TWO of my poems will be appearing in an NHS anthology by Fair Acre Press, called ‘These Are the Hands’, with a foreword by Michael Rosen (up top!). This will be published widely in book shops around the UK and online, and all proceeds will be going to NHS Charities Together.

The book will be published in 2020, and I have been invited to the snazzy book launch at The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in London. Eek!

I thought today’s blog post could be all about how I got involved:

I happened to be scrolling Twitter – which is a platform I never used until recently – when I found a post from The Bigger Picture, talking about an exciting anthology by the same editors and press who brought us the #MeToo anthology with the Jess Philips MP foreword, called ‘These Are the Hands’.

Well, I bloody-well know that poem, I thought – that’s Michael Rosen!

And yes, there he was – one of the judges for this new anthology competition. Regardless of the outcome, I absolutely knew I wanted to enter something – anything – just to be a part of things.

As it happens, the anthology called for people who were either currently working or had worked for the NHS for contribute poems – thus making up the body of the book, with NHS employees all working together for one common goal – just as they do in real life – with the caterers and cleaners being as crucial as the nurses and the consultants.

In my final year of uni and for some time after, I did in fact work as a Domestic Assistant at Southend University hospital – it’s still one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done, and I loved it.

Let me tell you a bit about the poems

So during my lunch break at work, I got scribbling in my special notebook (the one with the butterflies) and came up with two very different poems.

One is a slightly-rhyming poem called ‘Only the Cleaner’, which focuses on the idle chit-chat and avoidance of the obvious when interacting with patients – the idea being that they could talk to me because, unlike anyone else, I wasn’t there to administer any scary treatment. I was just there to change the bins and chat and pretend they aren’t dying, which sometimes they were.

The other is a more serious piece called ‘In this Room’, which is about the time I cleaned The Butterfly Suite at Southend University hospital, which is a room where women go when they’re very sadly losing the baby. This poem takes you full-circle, describing how I tried to imagine the woman who had been in that room and what she was going through, only to be in her shoes 9 years later.

I can tell you, I was gobsmacked to find they wanted to use both – I’m surprised, but certainly not complaining!

Since my time working at the NHS, I have been a patient more times than I can count (seriously, I lost count of my hospital stays) and I have relied on them to save my life. I’ve also, sadly, relied on them to take care of another life I lost. These are difficult truths, but they are my truths, and I have the NHS and its wonderful staff to thank for the fact that I got through those times safely.

So that’s why I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this; not just because I’m a big fan of Michael Rosen (as a poet and as a person, honestly), but because I’m an enormous fan of the NHS. It needs to be protected at all costs. While surely one anthology can’t solve all its problems, this can go towards the solution in some small way – and besides, didn’t a certain young woman once say that ‘one book and one pen can change the world’?

I can’t wait to share the finished book with you all.

P.S If this teaches you nothing, let it teach you this: have a go at writing some poetry! I always thought I was hopeless at poetry but, in spite of that, I always enjoyed writing it – and that’s all that matters. Art should be for the enjoyment of art first and foremost and, you never know, you might get the bonus of seeing it out there one day!

If you enjoyed this blog post, please subscribe – I put up a new post every Wednesday.

Best wishes,

2017, artery lines in the ICU – I was the only conscious patient!

My Top 6 Retro Documentaries

Welcome (back!) to my blog. I put out new content every Wednesday.

Today I wanted to showcase some of my favourite documentaries and give you a little bit of information about them; the hope being that I’ll spread the joy of them to a new audience, even if it’s an audience of 1.

I’ve long been a fan of documentaries, any and all kinds – I love getting stuck into a good Storyville or Louis Theroux, Ben Fogle Lives in the Wild, feature documentaries on TV, crime or lifestyle documentaries on Netflix, the extensive bin over at BBC iplayer, whatever. Just gimme the information. I especially love documentaries which focus on the inner struggles of every day people; the micro instead of the macro. I’d take Queen Mimi over a documentary about the ice caps, for instance, because it’s person-centered. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t care about the ice-caps; it’s just my tastes are more internal or introspective.
I suppose one simple way of describing it is to simply admit that i’m nosey.

Netflix has been amazing in spreading the joy of the documentary over the last few years, and I’ve seen some amazing things on there myself.

However, today I’d rather highlight some of my favourite documentaries from deeper into the past, before reality TV was common place. Why? Because the past is fascinating. I find myself endlessly nostalgic about a time I never grew up in, and I can’t explain why. I get a special hankering for anything set in post-war London of the 60s and 70s, when times were rapidly changing.

I hope some of the following peek your interests and that you learn a little about me and my tastes along the way. I’ve even included a special bonus mention at the end – as it’s nearly Christmas! – so keep reading.

I’ve included links to all the films mentioned (either BBC or Youtube) in their titles.

The Family, 1974

1. The Family

This is my go-to when I want the comfort of family life and reality TV while I get my retro fix. ‘The Family’, AKA the Wilkins’, were an ordinary ‘working class’ family from Reading, who volunteered to be part of a fly-on-the-wall documentary in 1974 – the very first of its kind in the UK.

Margaret Wilkins (pictured far left) is a bossy-yet-fair matriarch who runs the green grocers downstairs while her chaotic family live in the flat above. They were a particularly interesting subject matter because they broke the mold in myriad ways. For instance, Margaret and her husband split briefly after marital problems and Margaret became pregnant by another man, the result of which was little Christopher. Her husband raised him as his own.

Then there’s Gary, married at just 16 with a little baby in the house, and elder daughter Marian who is living with her fiancé out of wedlock – not to mention youngest daughter Heather, 15, who has a black boyfriend. Between them they cover just about every taboo and, even in the 70s when times were changing, this program ruffled the feathers of many a hair-netted biddy.

As a piece of social commentary on cramped accommodations and the council housing system (Gary and his wife attempt to get re-housed) of 70s Britain, this has a lot to offer. But it’s also wholesome viewing of what were a funny, loving, and interesting bunch of people all under one roof. This show never fails to intrigue me and you’ll find its characters endlessly fascinating – especially when a row breaks out.
Expect chain-smoking, cramped teas around a Formica kitchen table, a wailing opening theme song, and a wall of twittering budgerigars.

The 7 Up series 1964 – present

2. The 7-Up Series

Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.”

Beginning in 1964, a documentary filmmaker captures the lives of children from a multitude of backgrounds and checks in with them every seven years for the entirety of their lives. This ground-breaking social experiment continues to be updated even today, and I can tell you I’m glued to the TV every time a new installment comes out. The theory behind this experiment, as the quote above suggests, is that by the time a child reaches the age of seven, you can accurately predict the person they will become when they grow up. Their ideals, personality, and place in society have been etched in stone by the age of seven.
Or at least, the filmmakers invite you to make your own mind up on that one.
You might be skeptical, but what has startled me is that, honestly, they were almost right about that.
Though these children started out endearingly optimistic little things, with age comes wisdom and, tragically, self-awareness: these kids with big dreams start learning where they belong in the world. Some of them reach those dreams. Some of them get half-way there. Some take other paths and find successes where they least expected. And some seemed doomed to a life of lonely wandering, asking themselves – what’s it all about?

I’m referring to a particular participant there: Neil. Neil is an adorable little boy who can’t decide if he wants to be an astronaut or a bus driver. By the time he’s 21, he’s dropped out of Durham university and is squatting in derelict houses and sheds by the time he’s 30. Eventually he finds his feet in politics and the church, however still preoccupied and frankly depressed as the meaning of life eludes him. I was happy to see in the latest episode that he had become a lay preacher, because I hope that has given purpose and meaning to his life and enriched him sufficiently that he finds happiness.

This is a fascinating social experiment, a piece of social commentary (much like The Family), and also a joy to watch these children grow up.

Comic Roots: Kenneth Williams 1983

3. Comic Roots: Kenneth Williams

Whether you’re already a fan of Kenneth Williams or not, you will be by the end of this short 30-minute reflection on this comic’s life. He begins at the flat where he lived with his mother (where he dropped plant-pots on the heads of passers-by) and takes us to his local pub, ‘The Boot’, the barbers, the green grocers, and his old school. He regales us with comedic tales of his first acting role in The Rose and the Ring, a school play, and recounts tails of some hilarious characters from his youth. My favourite is the tale of when the family had a row at his aunt’s funeral, when somebody brought a wreath in the style of ‘the gates of heaven ajar’, which apparently stepped on a lot of toes.

There’s nothing that this man couldn’t have you in stitches about, and there’s nothing his nasal flamboyance couldn’t make entertaining. Learn all about old London town and relive Kenneth’s youth as he takes you on a stroll down memory lane.

As a fan of Kenneth Williams, I loved this documentary – it’s short and sweet, but you’ll learn so much about him and about London from by-gone days. Even better, if you’re a fan: read his diaries, which he kept faithfully throughout his entire life.
See also: Going Places – again, Kenneth Williams (and even starts the same way, at his childhood flat), but filmed in 1975 and sadly about a fraction as interesting.

‘F’ for Fake by Orson Welles 1973

4. ‘F’ for Fake

Described as a ‘free flow’ documentary, this one can be odd to follow at times and yet always entertaining. I’m a big Orson Welles fan and loved following his career , from the Mercury Theatre to Citizen Kane to Lady from Shanghai to later-life gems like this one. I particularly love how a man born in 1915 could create something as racy and avant-garde as The Other Side of the Wind, which was recently released after crowd-funding (which I contributed to) and 30-odd years of argument over copyright. His experimental nature meant Orson was forever pulling something wild out the bag; sometimes, even, a little white rabbit.
This documentary surrounds the infamous fakers Elmyr de Hory and Clifford Irving; one an art forger and the other a forger of a Howard Hughes autobiography. The stories unravel between shots of Orson with his entourage, ordering plates of oysters and gorging on exotic foods – it’s like he’s dining on the experience with us. The mystery is built with scenes of Orson performing magic tricks and, towards the end, he even plays a little trick on you, the audience. Have a watch and see if you realise when. Features re-enactments from his long-term partner Oja Kodar.

I love this documentary as an Orson fan more than anything; I can (and often do) literally listen to the guy for hours. Check out Around the World with Orson Welles for some early documentaries of his – no joke, this guy wastes about 15 minutes talking about a cake in one of them, and it’s still interesting.

‘To the World’s End’ BBC 1985

5. To the World’s End

This is pure joy from 1985, and one I only discovered this week but simply could not leave from the list. We the audience follow the number 31 bus from Camden Town to The World’s End pub, Chelsea, and drop in on the characters who live along the way. You get a distinct feeling of the old world meeting a new modern era. We meet everyone from an elderly Irish woman who tells us how she threw her antibiotics down the toilet in favour of a bottle of whiskey, to a little girl who dresses like a business woman and is 7-going-on-50. This doc literally takes you on a fascinating journey from one end of London to another, and by the end of it you’ll feel like you’ve made a lot of new friends.

A House in Bayswater by Ken Russell 1960

6. A House in Bayswater

My absolute favourite. So real, yet so avant-garde – this early Ken Russell documentary explores each floor of a shared house, introducing us to the characters who live there and their dreams and aspirations. The idea was to celebrate the house and its inhabitants before the place was knocked down; however, do a little research and you will find that the house in Bayswater (now an abode for only the sickeningly-wealthy) is still standing. Ken Russell actually lived in this house at one point, but in this film he introduces us to the middle-classies on the top floors: a fashion photographer and an artist, comparing them with the working class couple living humbly downstairs, and the bizarre yet endearing landlady who gives tots of sherry in receipt of rent.
My favourite character (apart from the eccentric landlady who is just genius, and who actually appears in other Russel works) is definitely young knock-kneed Anne, pictured above, performing the little moth dance for her tutor (who incidentally was trained by the prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, namesake of the dessert!)

Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas 1975

Bonus: Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas
And finally, not a documentary but included just for fun: a bit of Fanny Cradock. I seriously love watching the absolute messes she dishes up, marveling at how anybody thought her creations looked even mildly appetising – and this is in the days of hotdogs in aspic. The first episode is “Royal Mincemeat”, and my god doe she make mincemeat – and between two wobbly sheets of omelette, would you believe. Best of all are the bizarre outfits and the increasingly manic look in her eyes; Fanny is not a woman you’d want to cross. Ah, the 70s.
Enjoy this fine piece of retro cooking over your Tofurkey and, as the saying goes: “May all your Yorkshires turn out like Fanny’s!

I hope you enjoyed that little glimpse into my tastes in television – like everything else in my life, I prefer it retro.

The BBC archive is an absolute treasure-trove of London documentaries especially; if you’re an enthusiast of the best city in the world (IMO) then get stuck in.

Best wishes,

How to Make a Pine Cone Christmas Tree

& other stories.
Welcome (back) to my blog! I put out new posts every Wednesday.

I thought I would lighten the mood a little with some crafts this week. I’m one of those very impatient people who loves to do crafts but doesn’t much fancy anything too taxing or time-consuming; not unless it’s something I intend to take up as a hobby.

If you’re like me and like to have a quick fix when it comes to popular new crafts, then you’ll like this one: a Christmas tree made out of a pine cone.

But first

I told you I’d showcase my Mookychick poem to you, didn’t I?

Click here to read my poem, ‘Weight’, on the Mookychick website!

Well here it is! I’m very proud to see it on the front page. I hope you enjoy my poem and, if you click my author profile, that you enjoy my photo too. I could’ve just used a photo of my face, but I thought ‘Nah – let’s use the one with the squirrel’.

But back to pine cone Christmas trees!

You must have seen these going around Facebook and the like. I’m sure people have been making these for years and years, but crafts go in fads and currently this one seems quite popular.

Not only do they look extremely cute and adorable and Christmassy, but they looked pretty easy to do – so I gave it a go.

And, like most things that look easy, this was actually a little more fiddly and time-consuming than I bargained for. If you want to make an impressive, intricate, painstakingly painted and detailed piece of art then you’ll need a good magnifying glass, tweezers, and a lot of time to dedicate to the ~ finesse ~ that you’ll ultimately want to achieve.

Or, you could be like me and just chuck something together, see what works, and have fun with it.

You can make these absolutely any way you want and with whatever decorations you want – that’s the cool part. You can make several of these and no two should look the same. You could make mini pine cone trees for all occasions!

Tools I used

Hot glue gun
1 x fabulous pine cone (try to find a tree shape – mine was a bit narrow)
Florist wire
Crepe paper
Red meshy fabric stuff
Li’l baubles (I snipped them off a length of Christmas tree beads)
An angel for the top (a Christmas tree decoration cut in half)


First I washed any residue off my pine cone and dried it thoroughly. You might want to do this a day or two before you start crafting, because I think this has an effect on how well the glue sticks to it.

(If you are painting your pine cone, do this first before putting it on the base for obvious reasons!)

Next I got started on my base. I cut a small thick square of oasis and wrapped this with red crepe paper. I glued it down with superglue (this will stick more to you than anything else – beware!) in a parcel-fashion. After that I wrapped around my red mesh, which looked to me like a nice rustic touch to give it a bit of warmth, and glued that down too.

Now you have a base, you need to wire your cone. I used florist’s wire, but I would recommend a thicker piece of wire (maybe jewelry wire or copper wire), because mine bent and was too soft. I wired my cone by weaving or wrapping it around the spines at the base and forming four hooks of bent wire. I used these to stab into the base and keep the cone sturdy. The flexibility of the wire came in handy here because it allows you to make adjustments.

In the future, I would likely buy some mini plant pots to make a sturdier bed for the oasis, but this method works just fine.

You may find it hard to get the wire through your crepe paper or fabric, so think about that when you choose your materials. I personally just stabbed and prayed.
I wrapped some crepe paper around the base to hide the join, and hey-presto.

Now you have a cute base with your pine cone on top! It’s time to decorate.

I first began the dull and arduous process of superglueing each tiny bead onto each spine of my pine cone. Not only did I have to hold it firmly in place for ages, but the things were sticking to my fingers more than anything else.

I switched to my hot glue gun and oh baby, all that changed! The cooling of the glue once applied happens so quickly that you can start dotting on your beads here, there, and everywhere, and they’ll be set in 10 seconds. I very much recommend using a glue gun for speed and ease of use.

I turned my cone upside down to apply these, but ideally you would probably balance them on the tip of each spine. I could not be bothered with this – I’m all about the instant fun with these projects.

At this point you will realise how stringy the glue from a glue-gun can be, and it’ll look like you have cobwebs all over your tree. Never fear, for these come off easily – and if you were making a Halloween pine cone tree, these stringy bits could actually look really awesome.

Lastly, I cut a decorative angel in half and glued them to the top.

There we have it! A very simplistic pine cone Christmas tree. I think even the simplest designs look very sweet indeed and would make a great crafting project with your kids – just be very careful with the glue gun, because these get very hot.

With lots of time, effort, and imagination, you could make some incredible looking decorations out of pine cone Christmas trees.

I hope you enjoyed that.

If you’d like to see more of my crafting attempts or book recommendations or musings on health-related topics, then please subscribe. I put out new content every Wednesday.

Best wishes,