Wasn’t There Supposed to Be Cake?

Hey Hey Guys!!

Cake is a curious thing.

It’s something that is expected in certain situations, can have strong connotations and memories associated with it, the taste, the texture, the scent, the colour. Where you had a certain piece and how it made you feel.

Then there is cake in a general sense. It appears in certain situations; birthdays, weddings, anniversaries… funerals.

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Have you ever noticed (well, you will have, even if you don’t immediately realise it) that cake is often present to sweeten the pill in horrible situations?

mood cookies

Fancy Shmancy little Battenberg...

Fancy Shmancy little Battenberg…

Now, I’m going togeneralise here and cast the same net over certain biscuits as well as cakes. In fancy waiting rooms, there is often a sweet “treat”. You might be offered a slice of battenburgh with a beverage, or a very British, Victoria Sponge, if you are particularly fortunate (and so help you god if you mention the fact that you recognise that cheap, dry sponge and overly sweet, grainy filling as the £1 round you get from the co-op when you are absolutely desperate for a favour to take to the neighbours’ BBQ).

homemade cupcakes

homemade cupcakes

**As a wee aside, I actually hate Battenberg cake and am always bitterly disappointed to see it in a selection. Marzipan is the devil. It is always a bad omen.**

I absolutely HATE Battenberg...

I absolutely HATE Battenberg…

The thing is, there are some situations where cake is a terrible omen. Whether you are presented with a stale selection of sponges that might be the same ones you declined from your elderly neighbour, or strike gold with one of those pick ‘n mix boxes of biscuits, the result is always the same and always two-fold; the custard creams, jammy ones, cookies and anything containing chocolate are snapped up as soon as the seal is broken and the Garibaldis’ and those weird little wrinkly edged ones that taste like cardboard and aren’t quite a tea biscuit, nor a shortbread, are always left neglected. And you are in for some serious news. Generally, bad.

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See, these are the sweets and semi-sweets that are broken in places like hospitals, doctors surgeries, lawyers offices. Places where there is a 50/50 chance you were to nervous to have lunch before you went there so just swigged from the open wine bottle in the fridge, put on you best “I’m totally in control” mask and walk in there like you’re heading to the gallows. Those who run these establishments know this and it means all sort of paper work for them if they have a client pass out on them, so they try to gently pump you full of sugar.

But when I got my bad news today, it was over the phone. I was on my way back to my (soon to be vacated) flat. I was outside. So I ask you;

Wasn’t there supposed to be cake?

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SSDD

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Blame It On The Weather. No, Seriously, Blame It On The Weather #depression

Hey Hey Guys!!

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Depression is something that can change like the weather. Think I’m joking?

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a genuine illness. Not gonna lie, I’m not an expert, so I’m not sure if you would class it as a mental illness or a mood disorder, but it is classified as a varied form of depression.

So what actually is it. Well, the NHS UK website says this:

Sunlight can affect some of the brain’s chemicals and hormones. However, it’s not clear what this effect is. One theory is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls mood, appetite and sleep. These things can affect how you feel.

In people with SAD, a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals stops the hypothalamus working properly. The lack of light is thought to affect the:

  • production of the hormone melatonin

  • production of the hormone serotonin

  • body’s circadian rhythm (its internal clock, which regulates several biological processes during a 24-hour period)

It affects an estimated 2 million people in the UK, commonly affecting people between the ages of 18-30 and, like other forms of depression, is more common in women than in men. There is a lot of skepticism surrounding the condition, mainly because it can be difficult to understand how someone can feel depressed simply because of the weather. It’s one thing to say that you change your mind like the wind, another to say that you can’t face getting out of bed because it’s raining.

Symptoms include lethargy, insomnia, poor concentration, negative thoughts and mood, unwillingness to socialise, decreased libido and weight gain.

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This is what 12 million people across Europe are facing. Again, I’m not an expert, but as a sufferer, there are a few words I can impart on the subject.

There are days when the thought of having to choose one pair of socks over another seems like an insurmountable problem. Can you imagine the implications of going outside when it is anything less than radiant out there? As if were not bad enough that the world already seems like one of the blackest corners of hell; what if it’s raining as well!? The fact that the weather reflects damp, cold in your soul, preventing you from feeling the glow of all the good things in around you is just confirmation to the depressed side of your brain that there is nothing good out there to admire. That everything really is as horrible and out to get you as you suspect.

But if the sun is out…

Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-Infographic

I’m a total fire baby. I was predisposed, being a Leo (m’on the August-born troops!!) and if it is anything short of swelteringly roasty toasty, then I am inconsolably miserable. I’m talking, in tears, shaking, terrified of even the slightest baby’s breath of a draft. Lemme put this into context for you; I was in Ibiza during a heatwave and wore a cardigan. Yeah. So the fact that I live in BLOODY SCOTLAND, one of the coldest places South of the Arctic, is a hellish situation to be in. I don’t think people realise quite how many layers I wear on a daily basis. Maybe it’s a useful thing that I’m so skinny; all those layers don’t look so thick on a skelatal frame.

The past few days we have been experiencing a random heat wave and I know several people with varying forms of depression and anxiety who have (seemingly inexplicably) seen a lift in their mood. I swear, Blame It On the Weather! Being in the sun can literally feel like bands are being removed from your chest and you can breathe and in hail the sweet scent of real oxygen. Not just tolerate the stale air you’ve tasted recently.

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However you want to call it, Sunny Side Up, Everything’s Better on the Other Side, The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow, Mr Sunshine, Light of My Life, Build Me Up Buttercup, Mr Golden Sun; attribute any cheesy song lyric you like, the summary is still the same – EVERYTHING IS BETTER IN THE GODDAMN SUNSHINE!!!!!

The irritating thing, is that it has not been sunny all day. It comes and goes. The problem with this is that my mood has been going up and down as well. Literally, the sun being out one minute means I’m relatively happy, not too bad, occasionally I’ll giggle. Then it goes behind a cloud. Maybe there is a smattering of rain. And suddenly that cloud burst seems more like hell is spitting like icy shards of glass at me, determined to extinguish that ember of happiness fighting to burn hot enough to light so much as a candle. It’s exhausting.

Here is a link to treatment advice on SAD as well as some lovely handy dandy websites for mental health issues. Seriously, i have used some of them and even the info you can get online these days isn’t half bad.

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Remember though; the sun can be thought of in the same was as those middle aged women/students think of booze – if it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, it’s mid day somewhere else! The sun is always up somewhere, even if it isn’t where you are. If you are a sufferer of depression or SAD, do the daytime version of what Oscar Wilde liked to do; instead of looking at the stars, look to the sky. See the sun, love the light, feel the glow.

Mind.org

NHS treatment of SAD

Samaritans

SSDD

New Year: Make GOALS Not RESOLUTIONS!

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Hey Hey Guys!

It’s that time of hear again; everyone is coming out with the “NEW YEAR, NEW ME” bullshit that even they know isn’t true.

By making “resolutions“, we are automatically setting ourselves up for a download (1)fall. “Research“, (though how reliable research into young people failing to give up drinking, go to the gym and save enough to buy are Ferrari, are) suggests that the connotations of the word alone are enough to make our brain pre-emptively expect failure. Essentially, it’s too much pressure.

So DON’T DO IT! Chill out, adopt a better strategy instead.

SET GOALS instead!

Simple. By setting yourself a goal you are creating a context where something is a good idea, but won’t make you feel like you are breaking a promise if you don’t achieve it.

Expectation vs. Reality!

Expectation vs. Reality!

Sounds like common sense, but do your self a favour, make them small goals. Not necessarily unimportant, just, don’t make some bold statement that you’re going to own a flying pony named Beranabus! by the end of the year then act heartbroken when you’re left with nothing but a dead hamster and a broken dream.

More likely pet acquisition...

More likely pet acquisition…

Say you will do something a little more general if you are having trouble, like, take up a sport. That gives you room and time to explore and find something you really want to do, so you are more likely to stick to it. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure f you can’t make a decision right away and don’t make it something like sky-diving. Unless that’s easily accessible to you. In which case totally go for it!

Basically the trick is to keep it simple. Even something as simple as be nice can have a huge impact on your mentality and make you feel better, meaning you will have more motivation to achieve the bigger things that would otherwise have been insurmountable.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew (literally or figuratively!) Start with the little changes. They will add up and you can achieve so much by taking your time. Don’t bother with an obscenely long, ridiculous list.

In my next post I will make some suggestions as to goals you can attempt as well as some of my own 🙂 (HINT: I’m not going to be trying to become a millionaire or be fit enough to run a marathon. Though both of those would be nice. Enough money to buy my own flat. Or run for a bus maybe… 😉 )

Here's an easy one to start you off :)

Here’s an easy one to start you off 🙂

unnamedFollow me on twitter: @gemc200

SSDD

Reconnecting With the People That Matter

Hey Hey Guys!

Travel is exciting. But it has a down side.

my parents and I

my parents and I in Barcelona

It’s been 4 months since I saw one of my best friends. Since I came home just over 2 weeks ago I have tried my best to get back in touch with all the people I’ve missed most since I left, which hasn’t been easy given, you know, people having lives and all that.

And one of my lovely ladies has been particularly elusive given that she works every hour of the day and never takes a break. But today, we had a wee lunch date! As soppy as it might sound, but when i say that 4 foot 10 little lady walking towards me, I really felt happy. I have felt this way another three times since I landed back in Scotland. The first time was when I saw my parents coming towards me as I waited in the airport lounge. Granted, my grin was likely to have been marred somewhat by the frigid air blowing in from outside, but the sentiment was the same.

The second time was when the knock, knock, knocking on my door, a week after I got home, announced the arrival of two of my other best friends. I was dressed in all my glamour, bobbin’ robin pyjama bottoms, no make-up and messy bun, of course. 😉 When you see friends like that, you cannot fake the grin that pastes itself on your face, nor the rosy glow that flushes your cheeks.

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The third was when my best friend at uni and I caught up. The first thing I did was laugh at how much I missed her Northern accent and, other when she broke the news that her radio show was being cut (R.I.P Fred McCauley show!!!!!) I didn’t stop laughing til I realised I wouldn’t be getting another hug from her til after the New year! Noooooooooo!! (Love you Lambie 😛 )

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So when I saw said friend today, it was much the same feeling. I knew she has been working hard, knew her beloved dog had been sick, yet here she was, with me, and it was lovely.

Super thoughtful Christmas present!

Super thoughtful Christmas present!

Ew, whipped cream... dat Carrot Cake though!

Ew, whipped cream… dat Carrot Cake though!

Present exchanges and several hours of gabbing and puppy adoration later (her dog was sick but is back being a bundle of joy again! This coming from someone who hates dogs…) and we both had other places to be. Life is a pain sometimes.

But seeing her today made me realise something. That is me, now. I have seen everyone I care most about since my return home. I have reconnected with the people who have stayed in touch with me, despite the ocean of distance that separated us for so many months. Just in time for the new year.

I hope that this is a sign. I hope that this is a symbol that these are the people I am going to travel into 2015 with, hand in metaphorical hand, no matter whether we bring in the bells on Hogmanay together or apart. I’m not really one for the whole, new year, new me, business, but I’m hoping that it’s going to be a new year, same people to share it with, kind of deal.

I have made so many new friends this past few months and I hope that I will encounter many of them again in the future. But I have also missed the connection I have with those I left at home. I have been with my best friends since I was 5. They are a stirling group of gals and I wouldn’t replace them for the world.

We have seen each other through the elated highs and most proud successes. We have stressed over every exam and bitched about every teacher. We got drunk together for the first time and held back hair when the times that came after went a little too far. Boys had no secrets and every outfit for first dates was a group decision.

They held my hand when I literally thought I was going to die and we have no secrets. I want to share the rest of my life with them because they have saved me and brought me back from the brink when I was on the verge of my sanity. It’s a bigamist marriage, of sorts. Each one of them is a gem and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

20140812_195430 greer jill and gemma jill and greer

Love you ladies.

SSDD

Studying in Barcelona – Part 1 – ANTICIPATION

SO I spent the past couple of months studying in BARCELONA – y’know, just casually, no big 😉

And I thought I would share my experiences here. I haven’t got a set number so I’m just going to be posting them as they come to me. This first one was actually published on the wonderful site of Soapbox Press, who kindly let me write a few articles about my travels. So here it is, the first post about my adventures in Spain – ENJOY!

Also, check out Soapbox Press! 😀 http://soapboxpress.co.uk/

This was 5 minutes from my flat. For real

This was 5 minutes from my flat. For real

Growing up and growing old come with a myriad of choices and expectations. And I  am going to be delivering you with a series of articles about how some of these choices have affected me.

Towards the end of high school you have to decide when to leave school; whether to go to University or college or just to get a job and work your way up; if you go on to further education, where and to study what; if you should move out; if that thing with that guy was just a party thing or if he’s actually the one… the new responsibilities are endless and the choices you make now can affect your entire life.

I am in my 3rd year of a Multimedia Journalism course at Glasgow Caledonian University. I decided to take a deviation of the academic route by going to University (the “academic” thing) but doing a degree that would allow me to be be creative as well as learn (the “artistic” route).

Since I was 15 years old, I was determined that I would make it to University. I had always been a hard worker and my grades were good. But I knew that the competition for a subject such as journalism was fierce, so I got my hand into as much freelance and work experience as I could and when crunch time came – I made the cut! From 800 applicants, I was one of the lucky 36 to be accepted.

A huge part of picking your University id working out if the options it offers are right for you. What services and opportunities will it provide to get you where you want to be, and if you are not sure yet (as so few 16-20 year olds do) then what can they suggest to you that might help guide you onto a path.

What attracted me to GCU was the chance to travel abroad in the third year. And, after five years hard graft, I am headed to Barcelona!

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. The process has not quite been everything I dreamed it would be.

My fanciful teenage mind had romanticised the whole process. Over the years of anticipating this event, I had not thought about the landmine of paperwork, red tape regarding funding, ‘I’s to be dotted, ‘t’s to be crossed, meetings and consultations to be had, more e-mails than the internet can surely handle, sent across two countries and endless arguing with faceless officials who’s job seems purely to put up as many road blocks as possible. Whew! It’s exhausting even to think about.

But as of Tuesday 9th of September, I am off to Barcelona. The flat is booked, the room mates and I are ready to move in and, on Friday 5th of September – I am still not packed. But I will be, when the time comes.

To conclude this first piece, my main comments are these.

It has been a long, hard road to get to this stage. I have had to work extremely hard to get to this point, overcoming personal struggles as well as fighting off competition to be able to get here. It will be fun, right?

I certainly hope so, because seeing as this is my first time with responsibility for my own place, and I have to live with two boys for the next four months, I am terrified!

SSDD

Post Christmas – How Ya Feeling??

So how y’all doing?

The festive season is struggling to maintain purchase as the madness sinks in and people reaslise they have to stop being merry soon and return to their general humdrum lives. After the psychotic ravaging of stores that miraculously have re-filled their shelves with wares for the Boxing Day/that-odd-nameless-time-between-Christmas-and-New-Year sales, we are left bereft, despite our many fresh items.

We have less booze, less money, less yummy food, less presents, less visitors, less days off, less lie ins… Generally just less of all those rare goodies we allow ourselves to indulge in excessively at this time of year.

On the other hand we get more of a lot of things.

We get more work, more time out of the warm house and in the cold outdoors, more time spent travelling, more bitchy co-workers, more worries over money, more micro-meals, more stress coffee, more… General crap. And crap that is only crap because you experience it every day, not because it is particularly bad, just that we tolerate it so often that we come to not really care all that much about it. Like work. Most people can’t be bothered half the time. Uni/college. Too tiring when there are warm beds and XBOX in existence. Travelling. Instead of being a peaceful time of reflection it becomes a place of rampant road rage and body odour, if you are not fortunate enough to be part of a carpool. Reality bites back, soon.

We are alright til January. It is acceptable to pull the “aw, Ok, since it’s Christmas” excuse for being just that little bit decadent but only because we have that all important big part-ay coming up known as New Year (sure to be a messy one if you live in Scotland).

Now, while this started off on a bit of a bum note, I like to be a little unpredictable when I write these posts, so here’s me pulling the old switcheroo on you.

I don’t care that we are metaphorically going from a time of excess to a time of… normal? (because I live in the commercialised Western society so we are always living in a time of plenty and there are too many people who already live in excess) I don’t care that I am going to have less money, less free time and more stress. I don’t even mind the thought of my three hour round trips to Uni every day starting again – the bus may smell bad but I always like the journey and I like Uni. I can’t do anything on the journey so it’s a great place for a little downtime.

Sometimes the world of boundless bounty (not the chocolates… though I suppose sometimes the chocolates. At this time of year, certainly. Those little tiny ones. Who actually eats Bounty’s except at Christmas anyway? Who eats chocolates that size at any other time of year? Alas, tis a pondering for another day) is a little too much. Too much of a good thing, and all that. Then again…

I have just had a few of the best days of my life.

Those of you who have followed these interweb pages for a while will know that I used to  detest Christmas. Loath it. Hated it with a passion that would make hell piss itself with shame at its own feeble flame as it pales in comparison to the passion in my rage. But all that has changed this year. It was AWESOME!!

I know that is hardly the most eloquent of ways to phrase it but it is the truth and I am still young enough to get away with such pithy sayings.adored every second!

Last year I did not really have a Christmas. It was one of the worst days of my life and I will never forget it. However, I cannot regret, now, that it happened. Because, had I not, I may not have fully appreciated the marvelous affair that has been the Clark family Christmas, 2013. These shall forever be hallowed days to me.

And these feelings of peculiar warmth have nothing to do with the fact that I have spent a great deal of time in the last wee while drinking excessive, yet not altogether socially unacceptable volumes, of fermented, brewed and distilled liquid, all with the intent of slowly pickling my liver as well as warming the cockles of my heart. Oh no, it is all to do with my family. And the fact that we were all at home. Together. Having Christmas. For the first time ever. And I meant, ever.

I have never had a Christmas at home, just with my parents, and that is something I have always craved. As has my mum, which, means that since we were spending it at home, she has been in an infinitely better mood of late. Actually we all have. There has been an unfamiliar buzz of general merriment colouring my life in the run up to Christmas. I have been a busy little fritter and filled my time by whole-heartedly flinging myself into the spirit of the event. I’ve never really partaken so I wasn’t really sure what to do. But the fact that I was bouncing around like a workshop elf on crack seemed to help everything run smoothly. Go with the snow-flow,  I thought, see where you end up. Following my celebratory savvy, I reckon.

My life this December has been a blur of bows and bells, elves and electric lightstinsel, tassels and tell-tales signs the Great British weather is taking a turn for the terrible.

I won’t go into details, but will instead allow you to fill in the blanks of your own accord. I don’t mind how you envisage the three of us, but here is a guideline.

Image three people sitting down to a fantastic spread that we are all not quite sure how we managed to produce. Imagine us elated and confused at the fortune of our own situation. Listen to the sound of clinking glasses, popping crackers and belly laughing. Feel the warmth of the oven and the heating blowing a rosy glow onto your skin. Smell everything from booze to parsnips and turkey and perfume. Feel full, spiritually and physically and emotionally. Cover everything in soft lights and glitter. Now imagine a slight haze over the whole image as we have all had a little bit to drink

Merry Christmas.

Boyf opening prezzies on Christmas Eve

Boyf opening prezzies on Christmas Eve

Homemade table decoration

Homemade table decoration

homemade table decoration

homemade table decoration

homemade table decoration

homemade table decoration

me and Percy

me and Percy

Gizmo is drunk after his Christmas dinner and some wine... food baby??

Gizmo is drunk after his Christmas dinner and some wine… food baby??

pretty candles

pretty candles

Percy

Percy

SSDD

Quote

“The Perfect Ch…

“The Perfect Christmas Moment Cannot Be Created; It Happens When You Least Expect IT. Let It Happen…”

This is something I am taking to heart.

For the past, oh, I dunno, maybe 14 or 15 years, I have absolutely hated Christmas. Every year my disdain for the entire ordeal intensifies, with reason upon reason layering on top of each other until I got to the point where I would routinely say how much I wished I could go to sleep on the last day of November and wake-up in the New Year.

I don’t want to ruin anyone’s joyful spirit at this time of year… so I won’t!

Because this year is different!

This year I am all about the festive spirit! The holiday joys, the buzz of getting prepared, celebrating and spending time doing ridiculously family orientated things that you would never ordinarily do with people you normally can’t stand purely because it is that time of year.

For the first time in years I am actually so looking forward to Christmas Day. I have been making my own decorations, preparing the house with a plethora of homemade decorations and nick-nacks oozing glitter.

My tree is FABULOUS, a confectionery coloured contraption covered from fairy lit base to tinsel topped tip, in decorations that have to be about a decade old – and I wouldn’t change a thing. His name is Percy.

Every year we indulge in the one Christmas tradition I have always, always loved. Even at my deepest levels of BAH-HUMBUG, decorating the tree has always been my absolute favourite thing to do at Christmas and the only thing I actually participate in full-heartedly. Mum and I basically fling decorations at the poor plastic tree until there is very little of the trees actually colour visible, stringing swathes of tinsel, lines of lights and bundles of baubles at it in a dangerously haphazard manner. I then balance precariously on the arm of the couch and bestow that highest of honour on top – the sparkly purple star!

All this while dad sits despondently in the farthest away corner of the living room, sulking at how dis-organised we are making the tree and trying to give precise directions as to which individual bauble should go on which specific branch. Mum and I pointedly ignore him and wind him up by flinging things at the tree with renewed fervour. Usually the result is dad yelling things like a lion that’s been slapped in the arse with a burning branch, but mum and I find that hilarious and use it as an excuse to wrap him in tinsel. Poor man. He really deserves more organised little helpers. Maybe he can ask the real Santa for some for Christmas next year or trade is back in the post Christmas sales.

There is one key reason I’m so happy for a change this year. For th first time in living memory I am getting to have Christmas at home. I have never been able to spend it at home and I’ve always wanted to know what that was like. There are lots of other reasons, but honestly, I think I’ll keep those to myself. For now, I think I will just bask in the cold, freezing glory that is mulled wine fueled Christmas.

SSDD