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Letter to myself at 16

July 22, 2010 6 comments
Mel aged 16, astride a pantomime horse

Me aged 16, astride a pantomime horse on school non-uniform day

Having come across a few mentions of what you’d say to your younger self – from Ellyn Spraggins (only the Americans have names like this and don’t have to laugh when they say them) to a blog post by a friend of mine who’s now a Conservative politician (of all things!) James Cleverly, and it got me thinking about what I’d say to myself at 16 if I had the glorious chance of benefiting from hindsight.

It is a bit narcissistic and self indulgent of course, but quite therapeutic.

What would you write?

Dear Mel

Firstly, stop obsessing with that boy at school. Yes one day you’ll snog him, but it won’t lead to everlasting joy and you’ll waste far too much of your time thinking about him that just isn’t worth it (and miss spending time with a couple of really nice potential boyfriends as a result).

Secondly, you are NOT fat. You are curvy, yes, and your boobs are far too big which makes you feel self conscious (and believe it or not, other people jealous) but if you carry on sticking your fingers down your throat, yo-yo dieting and being needlessly worried about what you look like doing exercise, you’ll create such an unhealthy attitude to food and activity that it’ll become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Go back to dancing lessons, treat food as fuel and try not to think about it so much.

Despite this you are about to enter the time of your life when you are at your most popular with the opposite sex. Enjoy it, but don’t shag them all: crap sex really isn’t worth it.

I almost don’t want to tell you in advance, but I think it may help to be prepared for the fact that in two years mum will leave dad for someone she meets at Open University. It’ll be devastating at the time, and you’ll feel like the carpet’s been pulled out from under your feet, but I promise that it will get better over time. Once you have experienced a long term relationship yourself you’ll understand how rarely decisions are as black and white as they may seem at first. You will also eventually realise that 20 years of marriage is still a success, and be glad that your formative years were all spent within a lovely bubble of security.

While you’re at University (which you will *love*) you need to make a decision about where you want your future to go – is it music, or is it marketing. Whichever one you choose, you need to put everything into it, instead of “making do” at both, in case singing doesn’t work out and you have to have a profession to fall back on.

I now know that the people who do best financially at anything are the ones who love it, and would do it anyway for free. If you really want to sing for a living, then go for it – go to piano or guitar lessons so you can accompany yourself, learn how to read and write music, and give it a proper shot. Glorified karaoke is *not* particularly creatively satisfying, and you may wish you’d given it your all so at least you would have known what would have happened – even if you didn’t succeed.

For Pete’s sake, PLEASE do some revision before your finals.

You will never move back to Leeds, but you’ll be glad you’re a Yorkshire girl. You will end up living in London, finally married to a man who you knew immediately was the right one, and eventually with a daughter who you fall head over heels with. In the meantime don’t get down on yourself about not finding the right bloke – he is there, and you will one day gladly forget what it was like to be out there looking.

You will also still be very close to many of the friends that you have right now – with a few notable lovely additions. Treasure them, they will see you through a lot.

You will reach a place where you’re happy to not be rich and famous; your family and friends will give you a massive amount of joy and love, and the only things you’ll regret are the things you didn’t do.

So do them.

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Tuesday is the new Friday

July 6, 2010 2 comments

I write whilst waiting for my bottle of dww (dry white wine for the uninitiated) and large bottle of sparkling water to arrive at the table, and pondering on the events that led to Tuesdays being my favourite night of the week.

5 years ago I was in my 12th year of living and working in London, and had realised that working in the online media industry, with it’s attendant parties and indulgences was not doing my health any good. Add to this the long drawn out and painful death of our best man, Clive, from bowel cancer (a family tendency, it now seems, but exacerbated by a diet consisting almost exclusively of steak and lager) and it was obvious that I too was on a one way route to health destruction.

Given that I have the self control of a very persuadable gnat, I knew that I’d never stop drinking or eating as much without some kind of excuse, so through a series of tenuous and not very financially astute reasons, I came to the answer- a Vespa ET4, 125cc.

With visions of slim Italian girls in Capri pants, touches of Motown cool and the promise of free parking and no congestion charge, the deal was done.
Interest free credit – check
35 mins to work (compared to an hour on the train) – check
£70/month payments (less than travelcard) – check

Apart from all the above reasons, I also had a cunning plan- if I was driving the scooter, I couldn’t drink! Therefore, I would stop going out, “for one drink” and rolling in singing show tunes at midnight after a £50 cab ride home. Saving money, my health and probably my marriage at the same time.

Bonus.

It worked for a while (subject to a few “sod the scooter I’ll pick it up tomorrow”s ), only became a real handicap when I got pregnant (now there’s an excuse if you’re looking for one) and suddenly realised that the bravado of “they’re all arseholes” could easily mean that my unborn child died and a whole world of fear was unleashed.

Fear of death for someone else’s sake is a great leveller for health and safety.

Fast forward two years and being a mum of a toddler continues to be the best way to stop yourself drinking too much. Quite apart from the fact that facing a loud and energetic 2 year old with a hangover is a huge disincentive, there’s also the logistics of going out in town, when there’s a nursery pick up to do and/or babysitting to organise.

Happily a compromise is possible because both Jules and I are working 4 days a week, and on his day with Eleanor (Tuesdays) I take full advantage of not having to do nursery pick up by quaffing far too much wine with the lovely Anya, and occasional others. Once a week is perfect – I feel like I’m still having an active social life, can stumble around my old Soho/Covent Garden haunts but still have the rest of the week to (apparently) be healthy.

You can guarantee that Wednesday mornings are always my worst time of the week though. Serves me right.