Why doesn’t the Diet Coke man have a name?

One of my favourite things to do is overthink, and for some completely unknown reason, today it was the turn of the Diet Coke Man.

The Diet Coke Man, as a concept, is not really my kind of thing. I prefer marketing that’s subtle and clever, and although I respect The Diet Coke Man for being so unashamedly obvious and transparent in its manipulation, it’s not in my list of best marketing ploys ever (top of that list is Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, by the way. I know it’s fictional BUT STILL).

Various different men have played in the Diet Coke role over the years, and very little is known about ‘his’ (collective for convenience’s sake) identity. He is defined almost exclusively by his appearance and his love of Diet Coke (his job is pretty interchangeable; no single lifetime career for this guy).

Yet although he could have been developed into a full-blown character over the years, it’s significant that he hasn’t. In my opinion this supression of identity is a clever, deliberate choice; he doesn’t even have a name, yet everyone knows who he is and what he represents. You could argue that it’s a feminist stance; to counteract the ways in which women have been represented by men in the media.

But I think it goes a lot further than that. The second you name someone, they become a single defined entity. More importantly, they become fallible. They share the name of that guy you know from accounts who did that thing at the Christmas party. They become another average human being instead of a pedestal god who is a reminder that perfection does exist (with the help of makeup, good lighting, several thousand pounds’ worth of equipment,  a professional film crew, post-production, and a can of Diet Coke of course).

The Diet Coke man is an everyman to all women. He can be the nice guy who helps an old lady on the bus. He can be the passionate bad boy. He can be what any single woman wants him to be, and that’s a pretty powerful force.

He also creates that opportunity for fantasy without it seeming too real. He has no name, he’s not really a person, so it’s an advert to enjoy without guilt. A woman influenced by societal norms and expectations doesn’t want to be seen as being emotionally receptive to another ‘real’ man, so the Diet Coke Man is the perfect halfway house. He’s interesting enough to warrant some attention, but he’s not real enough to make a man feel threatened. And for that reason, without googling it, I’d hazard a guess that the Diet Coke Man was created by men.

Is it feminist? Is it anti-feminist? Is it attempting to fight fire with fire when it comes to gender stereotypes in the media? Is it a way to control women in a manageable way? I’m not entirely convinced it consciously goes that deep into any of these things; in fact, I’d place a bet on the fact that the concept behind the Diet Coke Man is as vapid as the advert itself: like every other piece of marketing out there, it presents an ideal. A hope. And hope is the most powerful of all human emotions.

What’s your view?

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It’s the most difficult time of the year

Black Friday deals have just finished.
I got to try Google Cardboard and the Occulus Rift.
It’s my birthday in a week.
I finish for Christmas in two weeks (actual real life HOLIDAY! Not sick days, not days spent in hospital, not days hating my life, ACTUAL holiday. Hopefully).
Everywhere is sales and presents and Christmas socials and cheerful get-togethers.

But despite a lot of good stuff just gone and a lot of good stuff coming up, I’m struggling.

I’m fighting, but I’m struggling. Ask me if I’m okay and I’ll say ‘Yes’, because it’s the easy option. Because people generally don’t want to hear ‘I don’t want to be alive’.

When I did a photography course a couple of years ago, my tutor laughed at me because I said I didn’t like photographing people. Now I just don’t like people, full stop. Not every person, but most. I’m a lot happier and more relaxed the more on my own I am. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe I’m always disappointed with other people, or maybe it’s because I’m getting used to having emotions again post coming off medication. The primary emotion mostly seems to be rage, unfortunately. And it’s a bit of a shock, because I spent the previous ten months being utterly confused whenever I witnessed anyone being angry, because I’d forgotten how to comprehend it, much less experience it myself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing having my life back. I’m nowhere near as tired, which means I can do a lot more and get a lot more done, and not leave things or fall asleep in the middle of them from sheer exhaustion.

Now I’m not tired but ragey, I’m trading those emotions back naturally by going to the gym. For the past four years I’ve had a half hour break allowance each day, and I always found it difficult, particularly in winter when I got very little natural daylight. Now I have an hour’s lunch break due to a contract change. This is what’s helping me fight, because I have something to look forward to. My gym membership expired about a year ago and I didn’t pick it back up because it had stopped making me feel good. But signing up to a different gym (downside: the equipment is pretty old. upside: it’s in an old mill with great views and atmosphere – see photo below) near to work has meant I’m much more flexible with when I can go. I can even go in my lunch break, and that way I’m not wasting time anywhere else in my day.


At the moment I’m doing a 10k routine, which consists of 5k cycling, 3k rowing and 2k cross-train(er)ing. I love that my legs burn when I walk up the stairs afterwards. It’s still early days, but it’s making a difference to my mental state so far. I’m a firm believer that there are two kinds of depression: chemical and emotional, and that I suffer with both. Things that help one don’t necessarily help the other. I imagine that at some point not too far down the line, the gym will stop helping me, but until then, at least I have it as a distraction. My brain loves me being in new environments, so even just being in a new space is helping, but that will wear off eventually.

I’m trying, and that’s about as much as I can manage right now.

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The Alice Illusion

“You’re not gonna find no magic mushrooms down there,” he said, grinning at me.

I was crouching, bent forwards, practically face-first in the grass, but I half straightened up and grinned back happily. Neither of us had a clue who the other was; at a guess, I’d say he was what I affectionately call a water gypsy. He probably thought I was a student, given that I was wearing a university hoodie.

The simple truth is this: whilst I’m holding a camera, you can say anything to me and I’ll still be happy. And magic mushrooms aren’t needed; photography is my drug. As long as you aren’t standing in the way of my shot, I’m totally oblivious.

These were all taken with my phone’s camera. And for once, I’m not apologising for that, because I’m officially in love.

Go down the rabbit hole.

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Will the real Jennifer Brown please stand up

On Sunday, a girl in her late twenties walked into a jeweller’s and bought a watch.

That would ordinarily be a pretty boring and uneventful story. If it hadn’t been a £4,500 silver Cartier watch. And she hadn’t used my name and address to do it.

The first I knew about it was on Tuesday night when I got home to a letter with my name handwritten on the front. To put things into perspective, I’d had two hours’ sleep, spent 13 hours straight in the office with no break, and had generally had a crappy and exhausting day.

I opened the envelope, and there in black and white was a three page credit agreement to the tune of £4.5k (she’d already paid a deposit, so the whole total was closer to £5k). I freaked out, and made Joe read it to check I wasn’t going mental. My first thought was that perhaps it was a scam trying to convince me to sign a direct debit agreement…but nope. It was real.

(For that additional irony factor, and because my life is periodically very ridiculous for no apparent reason, the third party finance company involved happened to be a rather large company that I sold a domain name to a while back. There’s nothing quite like having your identity stolen and then being casually informed about it accidentally with a letter featuring one of your own domain names. But anyway…).

The worst thing about the whole situation was that it was almost 10pm and there was very little we could do about it, other than google the jewellery shop (it was a local one), check the other information on the letter (all totally wrong, with the exception of my birthday, which was suspiciously close), and call the listed phone numbers. We’re crime-solving cats like that. Anyway, it didn’t get us very far; the landline number wasn’t in use and the mobile belonged to a suspicious man who apparently didn’t know anything about it. Joe even called the supermarket that the girl said she worked at (£40-50,000 on the Beauty counter? I think not), but they wouldn’t give out any information. Which is fair enough, I suppose, although I imagine that all the details were carefully honed to be untraceable anyway. Unfortunately they made one tiny mistake. I’ll get to that in a bit.

The next day – despite my total exhaustion I got very little sleep due to the anxiety – we went to the jewellery store to find out what happened. Having never been in there before, I was slightly taken aback when the door was opened for us by a snappily suited man, and we were greeted by about four staff members and a terrifyingly luxurious cream carpet. I was immediately concerned that we’d destroy that within seconds, and that perhaps something a bit smarter than hoodies and jeans was in order. (As it turned out, it’s pretty high-end and a £4k watch is amongst the cheapest they do; they go all the way up to £30k, so I guess we were lucky (?) in that respect). But as it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Everyone in there was absolutely lovely, and more than a little concerned as you can imagine. The manager immediately took all the details and called the police. Since my bank details weren’t involved, it was more a crime against the shop than anyone else.

The woman who served my criminal alter ego was actually in the shop when we were there, and she was more than a little freaked out. I bit back the temptation to ask more about this girl (was she hotter than me? Taller than me?), and instead focused on trying to find out exactly what proof of identity the fake me had used to buy the watch. The shop assistant first thought it was a bank statement, then a utility bill, either of which seemed odd to me unless they were very good forgeries. The bank account used wasn’t in ‘my’ name, and none of my utility bills ever leave my house in any form (that mystery still hasn’t been solved. Yet). Anyway, they asked us to give them a few minutes to find the paperwork for the order and to check their CCTV, so we took the opportunity to nip to the bank in question and tell them.

Before leaving the house, Joe had suddenly remembered that we’d had a couple of letters addressed to a French man arrive at the house that appeared to be new bank account details. We’d thought it was a bit weird but hadn’t paid too much attention (for various reasons that aren’t interesting enough to outline here). In fact, we’d made a couple of jokes about who this guy might be and even considered including him in our Cards Against Humanity set. Strangely enough, it was the same bank that was listed on the credit agreement, so we thought it couldn’t hurt to take them along just in case.

Luckily it wasn’t my bank, because otherwise I probably would have freaked out entirely, but in any case the staff seemed pretty interested in the situation and I took the opportunity to express some of my concerns: ‘I’m so relieved she bought something tasteful, I was terrified it would be something tacky, like a gold chain,’ and, ‘I bet she looks older than me’ (to which the bank guy emphatically replied, ‘I bet she does!’ Great answer). Unfortunately they couldn’t tell us much about the account – ironically for data protection – but they did confirm that the new account details matched those on the credit agreement. Clearly all those hours we spent watching every single episode of CSI were worth it. God only knows how someone managed to get a bank account set up at my address but under someone else’s name (again, hopefully we’ll find out), but looking over their shoulder it looked like the account hadn’t had much activity.

Anyway, we provided all the details again and then headed back to the jeweller’s, by which point all the staff had apparently been told about what was going on and we were greeted even more enthusiastically with ‘How are you? Do you want a drink? Tea, coffee?’ which was really nice. I did make a joke that Joe would be back in to buy my birthday and Christmas presents (it wasn’t really a joke, although it will be if he buys me a Cartier watch. At which point I’ll hit him round the head with it). They’d reviewed the CCTV and, totally unprompted, said ‘She looks nothing like you. Nothing!’ by which I can only assume that she’s tall, slim, white, blonde, well-dressed, glowing, and probably looks exactly like the kind of person who’d buy a £4.5k Cartier watch. I, on the other hand, look exactly like the kind of person who has never slept or owned a hairbrush and obviously likes cake a little too much.

I mentioned earlier that my criminal alter ego made one tiny mistake. And I’m grateful she did, because if she hadn’t, none of us would be any the wiser. When she left the shop, she forgot to take the credit agreement with her. That’s why they posted it out and what kicked the whole thing off. Apparently they don’t typically post out confirmation or another copy of the details or anything – at which point I told them they really should, especially for amounts that high. I appreciate that people buy things as presents and so on, but my agreement arrived in a handwritten unmarked envelope, so unless you have household members opening your post, it would reduce the likelihood of fraud significantly (seriously, maybe I’m in the wrong job or something).

There are still a few little loose ends to tie up, and I’ll report back if there’s any more news, but I have made a few changes as a result. I’ve removed my birthday from Facebook, signed up for alerts so if anyone uses my email addresses, bank details, name or address to sign up for something I’m immediately notified, and checked my credit report. Luckily they only did one search (for the watch), and I passed that so it’s not too bad, but it’s still very worrying.

And to anyone else thinking they might like to become the next Jennifer Brown and buy some stuff, I’d like a new kitchen and a Nikon 28-300mm lens please.

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On being an introvert

(There’s a big blog post coming up at some point with all the main catch up stuff, but just now I need to write about what’s on my mind).

What people don’t understand about me, ever, is that I’m an introvert. I’m happiest in very small groups, one-on-one or solo situations, and I have pretty low social limits.

The most accurate way to describe it is this: it’s like I have a social meter, and once it’s full, I need to be on my own. I’m fairly sure this is true for everyone to some degree, but for me it’s very pronounced. For the vast majority of the time, I’m a talkative, interested, socially relaxed kind of person. I’m the person making funny comments and asking completely inappropriate questions, usually because I’m bored or because I find people fascinating. I require constant entertainment, and if there’s none available, I will be it. That’s all genuine. But when it gets too much – and it may be in minutes if I’m finding the situation stressful, or months if things are relatively peaceful – I want to escape.


A few months ago I moved from being within a busy (but fairly quiet) team to being more on my own. I was also more physically on my own because of not being part of a team or having people sitting near me. For about thirty seconds it was pure bliss. Then the interruptions started happening. ‘Oh, are you okay on your own?’ ‘How come you’re sitting here now?’ and so on and so forth. In some ways it was really nice; I didn’t get people stopping by my desk very often before. But then it got to the stage where I was getting interrupted by people coming to chat to me nearly constantly. My interruptions would get interrupted, and this was just real life, never mind the Facebook messages, the Skype messages, the Google+ messages, the tweets to two accounts, the Facebook comments and posts and emails and everything else, both from coworkers (friends) and customers. So I started working later hours in an attempt to get stuff done.

After the company handyman started a conversation with me about the electrics across the three buildings at 8pm one night, a twenty minute monologue which concluded with him saying, ‘Why are you working late? I like working late though, because there are no interruptions’, I just gave up. Politely telling people I just needed to get on with some stuff got me nowhere, because they still needed to tell me about their latest game, or their haircut, or their argument with their boyfriend, or their awesome bit of code, or what’s for lunch, or find out what I’ve been up to. I tried being polite. And then I tried putting earphones in. And then I tried actively glaring at people (they cheerfully replied, ‘I’ll come and harrass you in a few minutes, then!’).


And I’m not going to lie, I swung between feeling horrendously guilty, slightly stressed, and totally joyful for a while, depending on what else was happening in my world. (In fact, the head developer got a LOT of me raging about all my problems, and to give him credit, he took it well and came back for more several times).

I love feeling wanted, and I love people feeling the needs to come and tell me stuff, but at the same time, there’s a limit. I can count on one hand the number of people here who have a good work-life balance, and my specific ‘balance’ is made even more challenging by the fact that a lot of my personal stuff and work stuff crossover and have minimal boundaries. Sometimes there’s just too much noise, and it’s nearly impossible for me to explain that yes, I know you need me to give feedback on the work you’ve just done, but try telling that to the other six people who all insist on communicating with me omgrightthissecond in addition to me trying to do about three written tasks simultaneously…

…aaand deep breath.

Even after five years of this, in my head I’m still ‘geek who likes to sit in front of a computer or behind a camera’, but that clashes with how other people see me. Being social is always a conscious effort. I’m always confused when people expect me to be mean or an airhead because they assume I was the ‘popular’ girl at school. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I have just the same geekiness, insecurities and worries that they do – if not more – just in a different chassis ;) If I have a talent for anything, it’s appreciating people exactly how they are, and naturally discovering something to like in everyone.

For the large part, things have calmed down a bit now. This is partly due to the fact that I now have a desk buddy, which generally stops people physically coming to talk to me; as I sit in the corner, he’s effectively a barrier ;) I’ve also stepped back from social media quite a bit, mostly due to the fact that I’m currently obsessed with Fantasy Life and interior decorating…an unlikely combination, but a very satisfying one (I’m sure part of the reason for that is that it’s almost exclusively people-free).


I’m also conscious that it’s rapidly becoming winter, which is the worst and most dangerous time of year for me. I’m less fragile than I usually am at this time of year, but I’m also potentially more unpredictable than usual (more on that later), and it doesn’t help that someone can say one thing to me and it can flip a switch in my brain. I’m a messy introverted time-bomb, and I’m used to the idea that anyone can trigger me at any time. I’m even progressing really far with recovering from all these little metaphorical stab wounds really quickly. I seem to have developed a sense where I can step back and look at things objectively(ish) and analyse other people’s actions, my reactions, and which bits are reasonable in a constructive way. In a calm state that miraculously co-exists with my extremely emotional state.

Focusing on myself isn’t something I’m used to (although this blog would have you think otherwise). I get extremely stressed out if I have the impression that the people I’m with aren’t happy. I have a completely unrealistic expectation that everything should be perfect all the time. And a lot of the lengths I go to in order to satisfy both those things is, quite frankly, ridiculous. I am the girl who has put your socks in the airing cupboard so they’ll be warm when you put them on. I’m the girl who listened to you complain that you felt trapped & wanted to change your life and then bought you a travel book to bring your dream a bit closer. I am the girl who buys you doughnuts when you’re sad, who drinks the alcohol she doesn’t like because she knows you went to the effort to buy it, who covers for you when you make a mistake even if it adds an hour to her day, who has already done a million little things for you that you haven’t even realised. But that’s okay; she doesn’t expect anything back.

Sometimes I’d just love for someone to give me a little more credit for the things I deal with in the position I’m in, but then I think, I don’t need that recognition from other people. I can be proud of myself, because I’m the person who understands exactly how far I’ve come and what I’ve been dealing with. I have finally got to the part where I accept that I feel things more extremely than other people, that my brain is wired a different way, and I don’t often act as people expect. Or even as I expect. I think acceptance and management are the most important aspects of that, and as I’m learning to manage situations better, I’m also being less hard on myself. It’s made an unbelievable difference. In stressful situations where I could easily break down and cry, I’m surrounded by people who are there for me and help me see the funny side, and that’s more important than anything.


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The third F

From fourteen to fifteen, I did GCSE psychology. This was the first time I studied the “fight or flight” response in any depth. To keep things simple, they only described it on a basic level, but at the back of my mind now is a third F – “freeze”.

To me, freeze is the emotional shutdown stage. You carry on doing what you’re supposed to do (until you can’t any more or something changes), but as minimally as possible. Fundamentally, you’re subconsciously reacting by not reacting, if that makes sense. You shut down, you’re on autopilot. None of what you do, say or think matters to you.

You don’t feel, because freezing is protective. Freezing helps stop you from hurting any more and helps stop your brain and mind having to deal with anything else on top of what is already overwhelming to the point of dysfunction. It’s a dreamlike state that would be dangerous if it weren’t so exhausting because you’re running on the fewest resources possible. It’s the final step before just giving up and stopping to sit down in the street permanently, like a toy train that stops when the batteries run out.

(Vaguely unrelated luminarium photo; the rest are on Flickr).

Conversely, freezing is also the most relaxed state. There’s no panicking, racing heart, anxiety or adrenaline. In that sense it’s much more of an evolved human reaction or mechanism, as opposed to a primal one. There’s no immediate threat to life; but there is physical and mental recognition that resources need to be conserved. Preparation for future healing needs to take place.

One thing it does actively do is strip you of your humanity, which is both a good and a bad thing. Most people who meet me don’t realise I’m an introvert at heart, and I frequently feel awkward around people. I like my space and my freedom. I get impatient easily. I like to be able to get totally absorbed in what I’m doing. I like to write out my emotions to deal with them. I don’t want to be frozen, but when it happens it’s something of a relief because it’s so hard when your thinking and ideas and musings are never-ending, even asleep.

This blog post was brought to you by accidentally unmedicated Jenni and her current favourite song.

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Thinking big

I’m often criticised for making things overly complicated, and that’s because I default to thinking big. It’s actually one of my more optimistic traits: that anything you can think of must somehow be possible if you fit it into the right context with the right resources. Having said that, many of my ideas are easily entire businesses in themselves. When they need to be shrunk down to fit a website or marketing campaign, and then there’s still oceans of work and resources needed and it has to be scaled back again, there’s often an ‘oops’ moment where I feel a bit sheepish.

The plus side is that once that stage is reached (often with some help!), is that I get to do stuff that no one in the industry has ever done before. And that’s pretty exciting. One of my favourite feelings in the world is when something that only I could see in my head suddenly appears in real life, brought together by designers and/or developers, when just a few minutes or hours or days or weeks ago, it didn’t exist. And I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do that.

Not everything ends up exactly how I’d like, but that’s okay. Other companies and professionals and plenty of others copy my work (with varying success), but that’s okay too. It means more to me, because I’ve spent hours thinking over every angle and every reason to determine whether to make this decision or that decision, and why. They don’t have that insight. They see what they think is a good piece of content, or useful tool, or successful strategy. But they don’t have the insider information that makes it all work. The secret sauce and hidden extras that are all internal, and very often stop something from being simply mediocre, and turn it into something genuinely successful. It also encourages me to think differently: how can I do something that’s harder to copy? How can I do something that has secret aspects to it that aren’t visible to the naked eye?

I like things to be perfect. I like things to be interesting. I hate – and resent – doing anything I don’t enjoy. And that might be very Generation Y of me, but I’m lucky in that I enjoy 99.9% of what I do. And the 0.1% of the time I don’t, it’s more likely to be a frustration I have…that I need a colour that doesn’t exist, or there literally isn’t code that exists that will let me do what I want.

Yeah…that sounds pretty crazy. Welcome to my world, please mind the bunnies.

The problem is that I can’t turn my brain off. And when you start thinking about everything in the world from every single angle, and there’s always a nagging voice in your head competing with a doubtful one and dozens of others, it gets very overwhelming very quickly. I would love to be able to switch my brain off naturally, rather than having to recognise what’s happening through all the noise and then end up having to think more about a healthy way to calm down and relax according to the given situation and the tools available to me.

The question is, would I change it permanently? Probably not.

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Little things that make me happy

Every morning, without fail, I’m in a rush to get to work. It may be because I’ve been doing chores, my pills make it hard to wake up in the morning (torture, because I’m very sensitive to the seasons generally and like to wake up early in summer), or because I’m tired from the night before. But regardless, you can rest assured I’m rushing the 15-20 minute walk to work. I grab my stuff, head down to the canal, and see all the regular people walking past in the opposite direction. The middle aged guy who always reads his newspaper and is oblivious to every other human being. The guy who looks like a cross between two of my coworkers and is always on his phone. The boat people who are cooking bacon and toasting bread and enjoying the sunshine. The people with the dogs.

I notice the regulars, and I look out for them purely because I know how late (or, more rarely, on time) I am by where on my route I am when I pass them. A fleeting glance, a twinge of jealousy that they’re so leisurely, and then my brain goes back to, ‘What am I doing today? Who do I need to email? What did I need to finish?’

Until I get to the point where I see this boat:


And yes, it may be a bit quaint, or cheesy, but it completely serves its purpose. I instantly slow down, take a deep breath, and become more mindful. That way I don’t miss the mama (papa?) moorhen passing food to its squeaky young. I notice how relaxing the ripples of water are when the light dances off them. I hear the sounds of people and nature co-existing, even in the city. And even though I haven’t yet eaten breakfast and I definitely haven’t had time to do yoga on my decking as planned, I feel calmer and more inclined to think about the things that make me happy, like…

Cuddles. Halo is one of the cuddliest cats ever, and will cuddle anything that’s left out, including blankets, TV remotes, and feet.


Survival against all odds. I’ve blogged before about all my plant failures, but this bad boy has survived a winter of frost and lived to tell the tale. In ‘Jenni’s plant’ years, he’s about 512.


Pretty things. Like shoes, and experimentation of who I present to the outside world. Pretty deep for a bit of fabric, no?


Making geeky cupcakes. Because I now have an edible printer, and I’m a massive geek who loves cake.


Photography. Because last night, when I was taking these photos, I was completely absorbed and joyful. The only thing I was thinking about was how I’m never happier than when I’m behind a camera.


Focusing on the successes and happy things, however small, reminds me how lucky I am. Being happy doesn’t need to mean ridiculous overachieving, carrying on to the point of exhaustion, or thinking so far ahead or behind that you don’t enjoy the present. I’m still learning to do that and reminding myself to do that, but I’m getting there.

What are your happy things right now?

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That whole self-exploration thing

I’d love to say I’m easing myself slowly back into my life.

But I’ve always been an extremist, and I doubt that’s ever going to change. This four (and a half, yay for annual leave) day weekend I did ALL THE THINGS with ALL THE PEOPLE and it was fantastic. I’m exhausted, and in my overdraft, but it was completely worth it :)

Friday afternoon was the Creative Quarter’s first birthday picnic. Considering the weather was all over the place at the weekend, we were lucky that it was sunny for that! I got a chance to catch up with a couple of people, and found myself confirming to speak at at least one event (potentially three), so that’s scary but exciting. I’ve already been roped into doing a talk at Google in London in September, so this’ll be good practice. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while, but my anxiety has always held me back. I just need a more positive attitude towards it and a lot of planning, and it’ll be fine. It’s too good an opportunity to turn down.

Strawberries and free cake were on the menu…


My friend Hannah came to visit for the weekend, so we just went shopping after the picnic and then chilled out at mine.

On Saturday, we pretended to be proper adults and went to B & Q to get plants. Plants are one of my worst things; despite four very able green-fingered parents between us, Joe and I kill plants constantly. It’s more a case of replacing them when they’re dead than anything else. We did have some success at growing fruit and veg a couple of years ago though, so I bought some more strawberry plants. They’re all still alive 4 days later, so I think I’m on to a winner here ;) The guy at the checkout also confessed to killing a cactus, which made me feel a lot better about killing 4 spider plants (winning by losing, yay).

We dropped the plants off at my house and then dashed out in the rain to the local cake decorating shop, which was doing a demo of cake lace. Cake lace is amazing and I keep meaning to invest in all the stuff, but I just haven’t had the money or space to store it. They’d mentioned something about free cake on Facebook (second day of free cake – yay), but when we got there we found a whole host of party food and drinks. They even had non-alcoholic wine, which was suprisingly nice. And their usual fabulous cakes on display:


I was very restrained and only bought a couple of cheap things – a box of mushrooms for the Mario Kart themed cupcakes I’m making soon, and a star stencil I’ve wanted for ages but couldn’t justify buying (£15.99 for a small sheet of thin plastic?!). I found a couple with ripped packaging in the clearance bit and picked up one for £5; still expensive, but a lot more reasonable.
And there was a free goody bag:


After that we dashed back home to pick up the car and drive to Derby, where we were picking up one of my work friends to go to the theatre. We saw a local production of Avenue Q, featuring one of our other friends, and it was funny and sweet and endearing in equal measures. Super blurry photo because my phone camera didn’t have a chance to focus before the lights went down, but it’s kind of arty:


Then after that we had a delicious meal at an Italian place (4 main meals between the three of us because we decided to get a whole pizza as a side!) and then it was time to drive back home and collapse on the sofa.

On Sunday we ended up going shopping in town again. I feel a bit shallow because for the first time in years I’m more obsessed with clothes than anything else (normally it’s photography stuff, computer games and books), but it’s all part of finding (or re-finding?) myself. I was always very fixed on who I was and what I liked, but at the beginning of the year, when I lost myself, that all changed. I’m still figuring out what I actually like (rather than what people tell me I should like), and I try to pick out at least one thing I would never normally wear to see what it looks like. There’s been some hilarious moments as a result, but I’ve been slowly moving away from my usual jeans, Skechers and t-shirts combos. I’ve also been buying a lot more in the way of skirts and dresses, in the hope that the weather will get good enough again to wear them. I feel like a different person, and whilst I’m still fully working out who that person is, I like her and understand her a lot more than the crazy girl from the past year. So maybe it’s not as shallow as I first thought. Also, everyone needs two pairs of Marvel pyjamas, right?


After shopping, we’d planned to go to the luminarium (a gorgeous light display thing), but the queue was crazily long and so we sat by the lake and had a mini-picnic in the sun instead.


Then we went home with the intention of crashing, but my housemate had a load of our friends over, so we ended up sorting the plants, gaming, chatting and generally just having a laugh.

On Monday we got the train to Sheffield for a day of even more shopping (books instead of clothes this time!) and lunch and a coffee with two of our old college friends, which was fab. Then we got the train back and went straight to the luminarium.

Me trying to remember how to use my camera:


It was fantastic, and definitely worth doing…I’ll upload my photos to Flickr when I get a chance.

Phew! Back to reality today, and I have a lot to catch up on! Even though I felt massively overwhelmed as soon as I sat down at my desk this morning, I’m concentrating on one task at a time and ploughing though. I’ve made a mega list of things, and they’ll take as long as they take. I just feel so much happier having done lots of stuff with people I care about a lot, and not overthinking or worrying for a change. I’m definitely building up a good foundation; I still have a long way to go, but overall it’s looking positive :)

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