Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Selfies... If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em

Yes, love them or loathe them, ‘Selfies’ seem to be all the rage!

ME!!... new lippy (just had to pout!)
If I’d tried a little harder, I could have possibly made that opening sentence sound even more middle-aged and mumsy, however I’m trying to write this post with my ‘young’ head on and with an open mind, in the hope that at the end of it I will (like so many of you out there) learn to love, and not loathe, the Selfie.

If I’m honest, I just don’t really get it, and maybe that’s because I’m 'of a certain age'.  If it had been the done-thing when I was younger, I can just imagine my parents’ reaction to Selfie-taking and posting pics on-line for the whole world to see … it would probably have gone something like ‘stop being so vain and self-obsessed, who’s interested in what you’re doing – put the camera away and get on with enjoying your life’.  And maybe that would have been good advice!

However it cannot be denied that there are lots of people out there who are interested in what others are up to, and simply enjoy a good old nosey - admittedly, I’m no stranger to scrolling down my FB, Twitter and Instagram pages in search of new photos. Equally, there are many who seem to be unashamedly in love with yours truly, and want to share their wonderful selves in all manner of poses ranging from pouting in front of a mirror (for no apparent reason), to lying on a beach semi-naked! To me, these photos have no obvious message other than ‘look at me’ or ‘please post a comment saying how gorgeous I am!'

I don’t know why, but if these types of photos were taken by someone else, or with someone else, they would somehow seem more acceptable, and far less self-obsessive and attention seeking.  It’s the fact that an individual, whilst alone, has felt the need to take photos of themselves not doing anything particularly informative, interesting or even for the purposes of spreading a bit of humour, that I find more than a tad irritating.  Now there’s a form of Selfie I do get – the funny ones. Anyone willing to snap a shot of themselves in a particularly embarrassing or compromising situation, for the amusement of others, is okay in my book.

Even some celebs are getting hooked on snapping sneaky pics of themselves.  Heaven knows why, wouldn’t you think spending most of your life being ‘hounded’ by the paparazzi, the last thing you’d want to do whilst alone, is join the club and start taking pictures of yourself?!

Clearly there are times when only a Selfie will do, examples might include being alone at the Victoria Falls, or slap bang by yourself in the middle of the Rio Carnival (the latter being top of my bucket list).  Obviously in these situations a Selfie would be absolutely justified, nay essential!   Or, if you were to find yourself standing on the platform waiting for a train and spotted David Beckham out of the corner of your eye (a scenario taken straight from one of my dreams) – it would be a crime not to whip out your phone and grab a Selfie, with the man himself in the background.

I know that for many of us, there are just some situations or experiences that we simply want to capture, essentially for ourselves - but hey why not share them with others too.  They don’t have to be as spectacular as those mentioned above, indeed my hubby and I have taken many a Selfie when out and about just the two of us.  It’s fantastic that we can take photos of ourselves without bothering passers-by as used to be the case (in the olden days!), or (as my hubby and I have done on many a holiday, before the invention of Selfies), set the camera up on a flat surface and run like mad to get into position and pose before the photo is taken automatically in less than one minute!

Selfies aside, I’ve never been very good at remembering to take photos actually. In fact I’ve been known to lug a camera around with me all day and forget to take a single shot!  Truth is, if I’m doing something enjoyable, exciting or interesting enough to warrant taking a pic, I’m usually too busy ‘in the moment’ to even think about getting the camera out – much to my regret after the event I might add.  In recent years though, with mobile phones having such great cameras making it much more convenient to snap a photo, and the fact that I’ve taken up blogging as a hobby, I’ve really tried to make an effort on this score, and take more photos now than I’ve ever done.

Anyhow, back to the point, as part of my attempt to understand, and learn to love (even become part of) the phenomenon that is the ‘Selfie’, I spent yesterday trying it out for myself. Yes, I spent my whole, pretty mundane and ordinary day, capturing those not so special moments to share with you all.  Mostly, I felt ridiculous, and can honestly say I don’t think I will ever get what I call the true Selfie (i.e. one person, alone, taking photos of themselves for no apparent reason, except to say ‘look at me’).  However, having really thought about it, I do now understand that there is perhaps a time and a place when only the Selfie will do.  I also understand that the recent explosion in technology, allowing us to take half decent photos of ourselves (preferably with someone else and/or doing something interesting), without the need for a tripod, or roping in a stranger who doesn't know which button on the camera to press (yes, I know, showing my age again) should be seen as an absolute positive.

So, here's my day in Selfies, which I promise you, will definitely NOT be repeated!

ME!!... early morning look - no slap and a bit dark and grainy (photo's not very good quality either!)
ME!!... brushing my teeth (fascinating)

ME!!... in the garden with wet hair (and sunnies to disguise my tired eyes)
ME!!... in my room doing my hair (actually those straighteners aren't even switched on)
ME!!... in a half-hearted attempt at making pegging the washing out look like fun
ME!!... looking less than enthusiastic about cleaning the kitchen

Not what I call a true Selife (as I'm having to share the limelight here with Alfie) but... ME!!..walking the dog

ME!!... blogging, and trying to look studious

ME!!... thinking about doing some vacuuming - exciting stuff
ME!!... saying sod the vacuuming, I'll have a sneaky G&T in the garden instead
ME!!... playing my guitar (but obviously NOT playing my guitar, as I'm taking a Selfie and don't have 3 hands)

ME!!... on my retro 'blower' (bit blurry!)

ME!!... enjoying a cuppa (everyone can relate to this one, right?)

ME!!... Touching up my powder (spending the day at home or not, a girl can't risk being shiny - you never know who might call round!)

ME!!.. Reading a book (going for the studious look again, but this time in my room just to mix things up a bit)
ME!!... Absolutely sick to the back teeth of taking SELFIES!!!

What's your 'take' on Selfies?

Monday, 21 July 2014

TheTrue Price of a "Good" Tan

What's the real cost of being bronzed to perfection?

So, it’s that time of year again when, if you’re lucky, you’ll be shopping for bikinis and sunglasses and looking forward to chilling out on a beautiful beach or pool-side, returning home in a week or two with that fabulous tan... but at what cost?! 

We all know how good that feels, we’ve worked hard all year round, dealt with the stresses and strains of everyday life... and we fully deserve more than a little R&R!  Lying on a sun lounger, head in a good book with the beautiful sun burning down on our skin... bliss! 

There’s no denying that a bit of a tan makes us look and feel great.  Our limbs look more slender and toned, and our skin has a ‘healthy’ glow, indeed everyone tells us how ‘well’ we look, in turn making us feel fantastic.  And the downside to beautifully bronzed skin?... well, if we’re not careful, and I mean ever so careful, some of the more negative effects of that fabulous tan may well stay with us way beyond the summer season!

On the one hand I feel this post may be a little patronising, I mean who these days doesn’t know about the massive risks of over-doing it in the sun?! Yet on the other hand, the evident naivety and ignorance of some people around sun-safety never ceases to amaze me. “Oh I never wear a sunscreen in this country, only when I’m abroad’”, "I only ever wear factor 6 or 8, well I don’t want to stop the sun getting through altogether do I?’, “I just apply once in the morning, it’s such a nuisance to have to re-apply, that stuff leaves me feeling all sticky and I’ve got better things to do on holiday”, or ... “I’m gonna go have a few sunbeds before my holidays, it’ll get my tan on its way”  Aaagghrrr!!

Despite extensive research, resulting in lots of sensible advice on a range of preventative measures, and an endless choice of really great ‘fake’ options, people continue to take unnecessary risks.  In the short-term, over-doing it in the sun will lead to de-hydration, sun-stroke, sore skin, blisters and horrendously ugly skin-shedding (attractive!).  In the longer term, too much sun will without a doubt lead to leather-like, prematurely aged skin, and can potentially, if you’re really unlucky, lead to much more sinister complications!

As someone who used to, in my younger years, carelessly allow the sun to abuse my skin with its rays (indeed I’d positively encourage the frying of my flesh by applying oil based sun ‘screens’),  I even used to partake in the activity of having the odd sunbed (a method of tanning I now strongly believe should be illegal), and having had four moles removed (almost certainly as a result of sun damage), I feel I am somewhat qualified to write this post, and to say DON’T DO IT!

I do get it, I know having a tan makes us feel great.  It makes us look great too, that is until we reach a certain age and realise that (apart from going under the knife) there is no way we’re going to reverse the effect of that sun damage on our skin – you can spot a forty plus lady who’s enjoyed a little too much sun-bathing over the years a mile off (crinkly cleavage, vertical cheek wrinkles?!)

So why risk it? Aside from the moles, I’m hoping that I ‘saw the light’ just in time – around my mid thirties – and began to take much greater care in the sun, if I hadn’t, my skin may well have started to resemble the hide of an elephant by now!

Of course, when it comes to burning, the darker your natural skin the less at risk you are (although you're by no means immune) - however the ageing effect of the sun on your skin doesn’t discriminate – you dark skinned ladies are as much at risk of premature wrinkles as the rest of us.

There are so many great ‘fakes’ out there – I know, many of you say I’m useless with fake tans, they go all streaky - but if you exfoliate, moisturise and apply carefully (not in a 5 minute rush), you can obtain some really convincing results.  My favourites are Xen-Tan Lotion (although this one’s a bit pricey). A more affordable option but still with great results is St Moriz Lotion – (use a tanning mitt so you don’t end up with orange hand palms!)  Of course, there are the gradual tanners too – the moisturisers with a hint of tan, which are great but just take a bit of building up (I like the Garnier one). And, I guess it has to be acknowledged, that with pretty much all fake tans comes ‘the smell’ – unavoidable I think ladies, however the Xen-Tan and St Moriz mentioned above, are not too bad at all.

If you need something instant, I would highly recommend Soap & Glory’s ‘Glow Getter’.  This spray on, wash off option also has a bit of coverage and is like a foundation for your legs (great if you have a few skin imperfections you like to conceal) - Rimmel do a really good instant too.

Of course, that fake tan is not a sun screen, so your additional high factor screen is still an absolute must if you're out in the sun (I always use at least a factor 30, 50 if it’s really hot) – super cool sunnies and a pretty sun hat are a really good idea too!

There’s loads of information and advice out there but, if you’re still not convinced it’s sensible to go easy in the sun, here are just two useful links you might want to check out:

Stay safe, stay beautiful!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

What a Difference Ten Years Make!

This year is quite a milestone for me in many ways,
and lately, I’ve been doing an awful lot of reflective thinking.

Between 2002 and 2004 my life was quite literally turned upside down, or at least it felt that way at the time.  During those two years my first marriage took a turn for the worst and ended in divorce, I moved house twice, changed jobs twice, began a relationship with my present husband, which outside influences were to make extremely difficult for many years to come, and I lost my dad who died suddenly of a heart-attack aged 70.  I was a single mum of two and an emotional wreck!  My confidence took a real dive and I seriously doubted whether or not I could ever pick myself up from the events of the past few years.

I think most people who knew me through these times would be surprised to hear all this.  I hid it well, and coped... on the surface!  I sorted a new home for myself and my children, successfully applied for and held down a full-time job, painted my slap on each day and faced the world with a smile, it was only those closest to me who knew differently.

Anyhow, the reason for this post is not to dwell on those bad times, but to acknowledge and reflect on how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown as a person, and how good life is feeling right now, 10 years on.  I also hope that any readers who are going through, or have been through similar events, will be able to relate to the post, and perhaps be encouraged that things can get better, given time.

I know many people face tough times, in one way or another, and mine may seem trivial in comparison to some.  However for me the events described above were life-shattering at the time and have had a profound effect on my life this past 10 years and also on the person I have become.

It has been a difficult and emotional 10-12 years for me, with many changes in circumstances, relationships and lifestyle to come to terms with, and it is only this past 12 months or so that I have really turned a corner – that’s not to say I don’t still have some way to go – the 10 year anniversary of my dad’s death this summer set me back a little, a reaction I really hadn't anticipated, I still can’t quite believe he’s gone!

This time last year, unhappy in my work, no prospects of promotion and feeling undervalued (and underpaid!), I decided, after 8 years with the same employer, to explore pastures new.  Turns out to be one of the best decisions I ever made!  My new job is not perfect by any means (is any job?) but I love it anyway, and have recently been promoted way beyond any hopes I may have had 12 months ago – so glad I went for it!

My children, despite being from a ‘broken home’ (something I have felt guilty about since their dad and I split), have turned out to be exemplary young adults, of whom I am so proud I could burst. They seem to be completely unaffected by their parents' divorce, and in fact at times see it as a total positive  (double Christmas and birthday pressies, HUGE extended family and support network etc, etc,) - Seeing what well rounded, adjusted, confident and capable young adults they've become warms my heart, and I am proud beyond belief.

Despite many difficulties, including disapproval and lack of acceptance from some around us, my present husband and I have a strong and happy, albeit sometimes turbulent (we prefer to call it passionate!) marriage.

I have managed and coped with difficult situations, as well as negative, judgemental attitudes over the past 10 years that I never in a million years thought I would have to manage and cope with, and there were times when I quite literally thought I couldn’t cope any longer!

What I didn’t realise at the time was that these events and situations would make me stronger, wiser and ultimately more appreciative of what I have in life now – that is a loving husband, wonderful children, an inspirational 83 years young mum, a cosy comfortable home, a job that I enjoy, creative hobbies including steel pan playing and blogging, a sweet natured cat, a grumpy but loveable dog, and a knowledge that I can cope... with pretty much anything.

I realise that at a mere 46 years of age, life probably has way more challenges and difficulties ahead than I have been through already.  However, I take comfort in the fact that I have lived and learned, and that I feel prepared (and in fact excited) at what life has in store for the future, good and bad – bring it on!

I would also like to add that in addition to all the above, I have, over the past 10 years or so, had great difficulty in coming to terms with my ageing face and body!  Call me vain, but the onslaught of silver hair, beginnings of bingo wings and the appearance of fine lines have caused me almost as much distress as did my divorce all those years ago (that is not to trivialise divorce, but to express the significant effect of ageing on my well-being – wow, that really does sound vain doesn’t it?!)  ;-)

But seriously, what I'm trying to say is that whilst these things did (not so long ago) fill me with horror, the 'more mature me' is something (or someone) else I have actually come to terms with and, dare I say it, am learning to love! Don't get me wrong, I will always try to make an effort to keep healthy and look after myself, but I have accepted that I am what I am, and no longer feel the need to try and achieve a Cheryl-Cole-like body, heaven knows that would involve waaay too much effort and pain!

I realise this post sounds very middle aged, and is a little more deep than my usual blog posts, but realising exactly what you've learned through experience (good and bad) and accepting yourself for who you are today (not what you were in the past) is a real revelation.  As I say, I’ve reached a bit of a milestone this year and I guess I just felt the need to share!

Thanks for reading!