Thursday, 29 October 2015

Swimming the Channel

It's almost half way through my 8 week internship. I began the job knowing frankly, very little about European programmes and the workings of the EU in general. It was a little overwhelming because it's been a month of firsts... First 9-5 job, first multilingual job (which feels amazing) and first time applying what was mostly self-taught to a professional environment. Admittedly I was overwhelmed, but I managed to get through my first day without too many hiccups (or a hospitalisation! YAY) and almost a month in I am getting used to life in the office.

Most days I feel like I am simply playing dress-up, swiping in and playing the role of responsible adult. It all feels pretty surreal. The first week I was definitely lost, and I have never spent so much time swatting up (both in and out of the office) on EU regulations (Who knew there were so many?!) and what "our" programme does (oh and not to mention all the endless acronyms...). The team is fairly small, but its evolution fascinates me. According to the "Big Boss," the France (Channel) England programme is 2 years old, almost to the day. In its infancy he was the only one working on it, until the Programme manager joined almost a year later. Since then, the team has steadily grown, and pretty soon there'll be more than 20 of us. I say us because I feel pretty attached to it all now; after all I share in both its success and its challenges. Conversely, I also feel like I am sort of an "honorary member," because as an intern I am only there for 8 weeks. Still, I have been lucky enough this week to be a part of the office buzz; which is that our programme, operating from a little corner of the UK, with facilitators & partners across the programme area (south coast of England and North Coast of France), has been officially adopted by the European Commission (Check it out: we have our own official press release!). I feel really proud of everyone and to be a part of this. I know I for one will be tracking its progress even after I've finished my internship.

So... Cheers or Santé to the next month of being a France (Channel) England team member!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Leave My Words

I am exhausted all the time. I barely have the capacity to type. That is why this will be short. I'll try to explain: After a long break from writing I've returned to the keyboard desperate to put down something that meets my standards. But the concentration in itself is totally shot. Then you add in the inability to remember words (sometimes little ones, sometimes big ones), the constant mistyping, and the abrupt end to my normal habit of having some soft acoustic music on to inspire me (turns out the music renders concentration impossible & makes my headache go from awful to unbearable). I think where I was going with that jumbled mess, was that all these things have combined to create my inner writer's worst enemy. I read somewhere that if you can't write then read. And I have been reading plenty. When I can't seem to find the words, someone else says it so much better. Fatigue has invaded virtually every aspect of my life. And now my words. Please. It can take everything. But please not my words. They're as much a part of me as my physical body.

Saturday, 26 September 2015


The title pains me a little, but only because it is not a "real word" and thus is underlined in angry red squiggles. However, it seems the only perfect title for this post. It was coined by a great friend during a Skype session which was spent:
a) freaking out about adult life
b) trading stories about moments when adult life and/or behaviour seemed to elude us
c) wondering how we were ever allowed to become grown-ups

The word fadulting is perfect. Its roots: a hybrid of the words fake and adulting (also not a "real word") which seemed to perfectly summarise this limbo stage we both felt we were stuck in. It is a point where we have graduated university, so can no longer use the excuse "we're students," nor can we continue to reject the realities of being an adult: paying bills, earning money, holding down a job to earn said money. These horrible truths are both sad and inevitable. We had both spent 4 years (yes choose languages, you get a whole extra year of the student excuse!) being remarkably talented ostriches and somehow emerged the other side with a good degree and a talent employers wanted.

Fast forward 3 months: graduation has been and gone and here I am: about to start my third job (don't even ask) and wondering how I have got to 22 and still feel like a child playing dress up when I wear a suit. I don't feel grown-up. I don't feel ready to call myself a professional. I still feel about as lost and confused as I was at 18, as a baby-faced fresher. Yet I have held a job for a month, am starting a project that may actually have a serious impact and in the workplace people actually value me, and wanted to hire me. I pay rent on a house, (mostly) look after myself and make sure I eat and sleep enough... But I still find myself in a state of disbelief. Is this me? Most often I feel like I am role playing... I simply make myself acceptable to the adult world, when really I would like to be running around playing princesses and dragons with the other 8 year olds.

The amazing thing about this is that I am slowly learning: Isn't this all of us? Most of my friends (even the ones who are now married and doing even more grownup things than I can process) admit to feeling this way. That they simply "fake it" most of the time, but behind closed doors, outside of those Instagram feeds and tweets about promotions... They are just as lost as I am. As it turns out we are all just Ostriches finally being forced to emerge from the sand.

So my advice? Ok, it's actually Dory's advice; "Just keep swimming," and "fake it 'til you make it." We are all lost, but it doesn't mean we need to worry about this. I think we find our paths in our own time and on our own terms. So for now, I am attempting to enjoy the journey, love what I have and chase what I want. Oh and I can't possibly forget that I will continue to "fadult" until eventually I don't need that bloody "F" anymore.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Love We Deserve

After an incredibly depressing and annoying essay of a post (sorry about that one everyone) I was challenged to write something positive. Where my head is at right now, that is a pretty big ask. I usually like to consider myself less pessimistic but at present, when having various realities and home truths forcefully rammed home to me, I am not a bundle of joy. I didn't know what to write about: my first thought was a list of things/people/places I am grateful for. Well I dismissed that idea immediately upon realising the post would end up sarcastic, bitchy and would probably paint a rather impressive portrait of that little green monster in me. Trust me, that'd be about as much fun to read as sticking needles in your eyes.

So here is the one I settled on: Love. The kind we crave and the kind we deserve, and the kind I hope all those precious to me find. If it gets vom-worthy then feel free to stop reading, but I have attempted to make it as readable as possible. Ok I lie... It may induce vomit. My apologies.

I think we all deserve the kind of love that makes your insides flutter, your smile bigger and your eyes gleam. We deserve the kind of love that makes us see magic in the other person... And maybe even appreciate the magic in ourselves. It's the kind that makes the world better: life can be falling apart and pulling you in opposite directions, but you know in the moment you're with that person that it'll be ok, because when you have them you have all the strength you need. We deserve the kind of love that makes us want to remind the other person of the good that they can't see in themselves. It's the kind of love where that isn't hard, because in our mind all we need to do is remind them of who they are. It'd be the kind of love where they feel it too: when they remind you of who you are, you don't see everything you hate about yourself but you begin to see yourself through their eyes. It's like seeing for the first time. All the things you despise are suddenly pulled into the open, and you hate them being exposed but you realise that you are loved for EVERYTHING you are, "bad things" included. We deserve the kind of love that makes us want to be better, the kind where you want to become everything the other person sees in you. We deserve the kind of love that makes us happy. We deserve the love that is made stronger by friendship: we know the other person is crazy gorgeous, but knowing how to be best friends with them too? That's gold dust.

I like to think I am an optimist. Many friends have already found this strange, alien concept, and have made a lifelong commitment to that person. Most of you are my age, or even younger. This is something I have openly admitted to being slightly terrified of... but if you have found something as precious as the kind of love you deserve, then KEEP IT. And keep in mind how precious it is and how blessed you are. For those still searching, who have been injured in the search; please don't shut yourself off. Don't run away... I really do believe it's out there, and you deserve it. I know you do. And I really sincerely hope you find what you deserve, a love as precious as you are.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Reining in the Crazy (and Failing)

I had a whole host of posts lined up and written (shocking I know) but none that were of a publishable standard (well not in my books). So here I am sat at the screen desperate to get all my thoughts on paper from the last, well honestly? Probably the last month. Life has been mental and every time I feel like I am starting to rein in the crazy and settle something happens. Sometimes it was something small, like a bad day and everything feeling like crap, sometimes it was something a little bigger, like the hunt for a job and a house with a tight deadline so I could fulfil my wish of staying in Norfolk for another year and sometimes, as I am finding, the crazy is kind of a big deal. The latest crazy was: losing a job in the exact span of a day and a half, combined with and linked to, a trip to the doctor that turned into a week's stay in hospital and an operation, as well as a very satisfying amount of morphine and some spectacular bruises to show for it. Oh and did I mention that this has left me unable to eat properly, housebound, completely grumpy and less than grateful for my body, all in the WEEK BEFORE and DAY OF my UNIVERSITY GRADUATION CEREMONY?!

Dramatic. Melodramatic. That's me and how I am often described. However, at present I feel I am not exaggerating. The last few weeks have been filled with so much drama and whether it's the lack of food, exhaustion from the pain and frustration of being mentally ok but physically rather crippled, and weak... I feel completely angry with a lot of things. But right now? I am angry that I was too unwell to appreciate the day that was meant to be exciting, special, and filled with lots of photos of myself and my wonderful course-mates. Instead I decided to honour a motto I tend to live by: Never look as crap as you feel. And good god did I succeed! I put on the beautiful dress I ordered in the sale, did a full face of makeup and looked more well than I had in weeks. I'd even venture to declare that I looked good. But I was in tears before the ceremony even started. I was placed in my row, but it was less than 10 minutes before I made a speedy exit. I saw the concerned looks of my coursemates, how could they know after all? Many assumed it was a panic attack. For once, no, I felt horribly nauseous and instead of remembering the moment on that stage and savouring the fact that this was only going to happen once and I had earned the right to a pretentious gown and stupid cap, I was instead chanting in my head:
"Just breathe, in and out, in and out. Ok now sip some water, but not too much. Being sick is not an option." I blamed the breakfast I needed to give me some energy. I hated everything in those moments and that hour was one of the longest of my life. The same goes for the walk across the stage. That was the longest walk of my life, plus instead of looking at the Chancellor as I shook her hand, I am pretty sure I looked through her just like I did everyone, as I tried to find my feet and keep them planted.

I saw friends, hugged them, congratulated them, all the while still wishing I could be at home in bed, but knowing that I needed to be at my graduation, to be with them because if I wasn't I'd only look back with regret. I am in photos, my family were with me, I have my certificate and after feeling how I felt, it means more now than it ever has.

I am pretty certain that following this post I will get messages asking why I never said anything about my "adventures" in hospital, or why I didn't announce it until now. I didn't because I had no idea how hard it would be to fend off. I thought (as per usual) I'd just, you know, soldier through. That's what strong people do right? But right now I don't feel very strong. I just feel tired. Plus when faced with the pity, those "Are you ok?" questions, the concern, I will pretty much be guaranteed to crumble into a puddle of tears and emotion or turn purple with rage or green with envy. Basically, I am unpredictable and emotional and NOT in a positive way at all. I like to keep my mess to myself usually, but on this occasion I wanted to fill you in and let you know why I have been a little AWOL recently.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Mental Illness and the Church

I have felt compelled to write about this for a while now. After spending almost a year wandering, lost and aimless on a path which let’s face it was pretty lonely at times, I finally came back to a place where I could accept God. Accept? You ask? But you’re a Christian; you have been since you were 16. Yes. That is exactly what you may think. But this past 12 months have been difficult in ways I never expected or imagined. I spent nearly every single day fighting a battle of wills that I always felt (and sometimes still feel) on the brink of losing. In the lowest moments I cried out to Jesus. I wept, shouted, even whispered my desperate prayers for help. What I was met with, by the God, who “hears every single prayer” was Nothing with a capital N. I was met with deafening silence and it angered me. I was surrounded by people telling me that even as a “good Christian” it is always us who turn away first, and it is us, imperfect broken humans, who reject God long before he rejects us. When we hear his voice again, it is because we have been “shutting ourselves off” from it, drowning it out in any and every way possible because “sometimes listening to his truth is harder than rejecting his voice.”  You may have noticed at this point the obscene number of quotation marks and I am sure as you read this, it is in the voice of someone who has been embittered and hurt by the God, or the religion who is supposed to carry us in our darkest hour. I would also now like to highlight 4 words in the previous sentence: “the God or the religion.” It would seem I cannot determine who is at fault here and it is very important that I make the distinction now between the two, for they are almost polar opposites in their description.  God: He is a perfect loving being who, though sometimes inexplicable and incomprehensible, has great plans for every single one of his people. He hears every single prayer and values every member of his precious flock.
Religion: on the outside this defines what Christianity is as a whole, but it is also made up of people. People who are broken, imperfect and often misguided. This is important because it means that even guided by God, and his spirit. People make mistakes. They say things, which aren’t always helpful. And one of the things I think the church doesn’t handle particularly well, are those who are afflicted with mental illnesses: Illnesses which destroy the soul and even in the medical field and wider society are not properly understood. They are often just as devastating as severe physical illness, and wreak havoc on people’s lives. This last year has been an immensely difficult journey of learning how to live with one such illness: depression and anxiety. For so long I was afraid of these words. I was afraid of what they meant, afraid of what they’d do to me should people know I am “ill.” I was afraid of what this meant in the church. Before I used to happily listen to teachings about “prayer being the answer to all things.” While I don’t doubt this is true, I also sat through preachers berating medication and explaining to a large audience of people that Jesus was a far more effective healer than any form of anti depressant ever could be. What I disagreed with, was not this statement in itself, but the implications of it. It stigmatised anti depressants, and physical medication, which I have needed just to survive. It was increasing my dosage, which helped me to go from sleepless nights and crazy mood swings, with the odd anxiety attack in between that helped my head get to a place where I could process life. It was the beginning of a long difficult road to recovery. By no means is it the entire answer, but to imply that they lack power and are simply a “worldly” solution to depression is both naïve and outrageous. Pastors have a huge power and influence over people and to be spreading a message like that shows a lack of experience and a lack of understanding of mental illness. I sincerely hope they never have to go through that agony, but I also want people to be better educated. Christianity is not a backward, bigoted religion with only ignorant members as its body. God is amazing. Jesus IS the saviour. But telling people antidepressants aren’t the best solution simply encourages the world to see religion as backwards and ignorant. Is this what we need? No. There are enough opinions about mental illness floating around, and enough stigma and judgement to those who suffer, and though I hoped never to be writing this article because I had experienced so much love and care from my churches, I find myself needing to speak out because I can’t bear the idea of people being afraid to talk about it for fear of stigma. What we need is love. We should be able to be in church and surrounded by love when we’re at our most broken. It should not be a case of waiting until we feel we are starting to fall back together to return.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Keep calm and... Nope Panic.

How can one person fall to pieces so fast? I had it together, I'd been sleeping properly for the first time in months, I was going to (most) of my lectures, I was more or less up to date on my seminar work, and for the first time all year I began to feel like I was coming out of the other side. I had started going back to church, I was consistently exercising again, and even though I was really anxious about the final assessments I'd have to hand in, things really seemed to be going great. I was even excited to be going out for my friend's birthday: He'd come to Norwich especially and I was looking forward to it being just like 2nd year all over again: no worries, just a night out with good friends and a large quantity of alcohol. I opted for an outfit I'd not felt brave enough or thin enough to wear in a long time... in fact since the end of the summer I think it was. A long sleeved cropped tee with my skater skirt and tights (always the tights). I knew I was pretty much on display, but for the first time in a long time, I felt like I should be, that I could be, without feeling like I'd need to find the nearest muddy pen to roll in or ocean to go back to. People told me I looked slimmer, that my make up looked perfect and that I had this "glow," this kind of intangible change.
"What is it? So, Helen, are you going to tell me what is different?" "What's your secret to being slimmer? I need to know because I want to be too..." The questions and compliments kept on coming and I didn't know what to say or how to respond. I think it can be a bit of a mood killer to say openly and plainly "For the first time in a long while I don't want to walk into moving traffic." Plus, truthfully I didn't know what was different. Maybe it was the fact I am less apologetic about myself and who I am. Maybe it was the fact that I was actually beginning to believe in the "me" that I have attempted to create for years. I like her: she is confident in herself, unapologetic for her personality and more than just a little bit flirtatious. That night was fun. I was content and comfortable with the people I love and felt a little more settled in my own skin. You'd think, then, that this would be the perfect set up to a first date scenario I had lined up for the next day... Confident, flirtatious and comfortable. It couldn't be anything but a recipe for success. Right? WRONG.

I woke up in the morning, tired but excited and ready. I couldn't wait to meet this person. We'd got a lot in common, had been texting pretty much all the time... and I was so happy. I had a good feeling about it. I agreed to lunch because I thought I'd be fine. I did a face mask (which did a surprisingly good job of hiding my 4 hours sleep), applied my make up and fixed my hair. I looked in the mirror, and far from what I normally feel (disdain mixed with resignation), I actually felt pretty. I felt ready. I felt really optimistic. I was nervous too, but honestly, mainly I was happy. I  was happy because I thought today would be the time when he liked me too... When I wouldn't disappoint.

After nearly missing the bus, I got into the city early. By this point I felt a little anxious and a little queasy. So I thought diving into a shop for some water would be a sensible plan and then I could use the opportunity to calm myself and be the composed person I was before I left the house. Alas, this was not the way the afternoon would pan out... Fast forward half an hour and I was a shaking, sweating, crying mess on the floor trying not to lose feeling in her arms, and struggling to even eat a single mouthful of bread without wanting to throw it straight back up, being talked down from my panic by a total stranger in a back corridor of Pret, whilst waiting for my housemate to come and rescue me. This was not something I thought I'd want to share with the world (the Twitter-sphere, and Facebook) but it made me realise just how much pressure I was putting on myself to live up to an image I wasn't all together sure I could maintain, or even try to be. And it definitely wasn't a subject I wanted to explain on a first date: Yeah you have never met me, you expect me to be this pretty, witty, confident girl and SURPRISE... I have anxiety and had a panic attack. I mean it's true I couldn't keep this hidden forever, but on the first date. REALLY? It's so annoying, and do you know what scares me most about this? The fact that I am worried he'll judge me in exactly the way I saw myself in that moment: pathetic. A liar. That all the confidence was a lie. It doesn't matter how many people tell you that a panic attack isn't weak, or that it happens to the best of us, I still find myself sat here wishing the afternoon had gone differently, and hating my body for betraying my anxiety in such a public and humiliating way.

One thing I realised though is that FEAR IS NOT THE WINNER. I left the house. I am still standing after one of the most terrifying experiences to date. I also realised that I would never leave the house if I expected people to judge me in the same way I do... I need to learn to be a little kinder to myself and little more gentle with my feelings. But most importantly: One bad day doesn't invalidate your progress. I felt like I had fallen to pieces again. And yes, in that instant, I definitely had, but it doesn't mean I have gone backwards, or that my progress is invalid. It simply means the road is long and there will always be bad days. It is being alive at the end of those days that is actually the most visible display of strength. It is being able to raise a tiny smile, or even being able to breathe when life is at its toughest that means the most, and speaks the highest of our characters. So next time it happens, I don't plan to berate myself for weakness, but to be gentle and kind to myself, and love the strength that's got me this far.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

(Not so) New Me

Sometimes we overthink. For some of us that sometimes is always. I am one of those people. And I try to fight it. I try to look at things for what they are, and try to take my friends' advice of "just go with it" but that it is so much easier said than done. I wanted to be one of those crazy, impulsive spontaneous people but it never quite works out that way. I should just accept that I am a total contradiction in terms and probably a psychologist's worst nightmare/dream patient, depending on how you choose to see it. I am trying to make a change, I made a big hoo-hah about the new me at the start of term, but as it would turn out new me is remarkably similar to the old me, except I think it is likely she is a bitch. And quite frankly I want to scratch mark 1, and move on to New Me mark 2: who will be virtually identical to old me. She will be kind, confident and self aware. She won't be bitter or petty, but sweet and forgiving. Basically, new me is an impossible illusion and I shouldn't be trying to attain the impossible. It'll only end in tears. Not like it hasn't already. Stupid stupid things. Stupid life.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

(Wannabe) Wild Child

I am crazy and excitable and can be full of energy, but I don't think I can describe myself as being particularly spontaneous or wild. Those just aren't two words I cope well with. For me the fact that I can decide to have a fringe one day is about as crazy as I get (yeah I know living on the edge right?!) and sometimes my sartorial choices are a little out there, but when it comes to crazy trips and last minute get aways I do not excel... I am the kind of person who would say "Yes, I'd love to do something spontaneous... how's next Friday?" In other words, I love the idea, but then when the reality of the unplanned and the unknown begins to dawn on me it doesn't take much for my mind to run a mock with what ifs, and numerous negative scenarios fill my little head. I guess that is what happens if you have anxiety issues.

I think that is why I have a kind of fascination with my friends whose lives are like that, the ones who just pack a bag and say "Right, see you soon!" I would love to be one of those care free, live in the moment people, but I am not. I am learning to be less controlling and more impulsive, but it is one small step at a time. I have just reached a point where I am tired: tired of fear holding me back, tired of feeling like nothing I do is good enough, and most of all I am tired of making excuses. It is never too late to change, or to take charge.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Keep Walking

 I used to be ashamed of the word feminism. I, like many others saw it as a dirty word, reserved for man haters and tough, aggressive women, who believed themselves not just equal, but superior to men. It was a word that I did not what wanted to be associated with. But as I have grown up and have learned (and I am still learning) to live in the big wide world, I have realised the importance of its principals and true values. Not the desire to achieve superiority over men, but the desire for true equality. I am lucky enough to have grown up in a society where the gender gap is significantly smaller than it used to be, and still is in many other places around the world.  However, as always there is progress to be made and what better place to start than in our own back garden? As a man, how would you feel if every time you left your house you found yourself double checking your keys were easily accessible, in case of attack, or wondered if you’d be catcalled and how many times? How many times when you go out do you wonder if the drunken people you walk past are threats to your safety? Or even the sober walks to and from uni or work? I walk almost everywhere, and each and every day I am faced with the same threats, just because I am a woman. Many think that we are catcalled or harassed in the street due to how we dress.  Let me stop you right there: I have been catcalled on numerous walks from uni, wearing jeans and a puffa jacket with a scarf and hat. It is scary and it is NOT a complement. One powerful response I had when talking about this issue with a male friend was him asking, “What do you do?” I looked at him and just said “I keep walking.” He was shocked at this, and then asked why I didn’t say something. It is simple: You never know what their response will be, and if the catcall is anything to go by, aggressive is a good guess. Thus it’s safer to just keep walking. Right now, in the comfort of my own home I can sit at this keyboard and say that this is NOT OKAY, but in reality? Silence is safer. THIS SHOULD NOT BE THE CASE. There are entire sermons/dress codes/blogs and magazines, which preach a message of assault being partially our fault. They constantly say that if we dressed more modestly, and covered up more, or were less promiscuous then we’d attract less attention to ourselves. We are taught that beauty and sexuality are desirable, but only if they appear not to be tipped to any extreme: too modest and we are considered frigid and fat or ugly, but too loose, and we are considered easy, worthless. It’s a game, which is impossible to win. We are taught not to have (or at least not to show) the same desires and sexual appetites as men and that being intelligent and powerful in the workplace means we won’t find lasting love and happiness. It is nearly always a case of one or the other. Have I listed enough reasons why we need feminism yet? Why men don’t get their sexual history questioned in rape cases? Yet, as has been the case for centuries, a simple bad reputation can break a woman’s case. THIS IS NOT RIGHT.  We assume that the woman has a part to play, that it is always her fault. Well let me stop you: IT IS NEVER HER FAULT.  This is me standing up, saying we need feminism, and I am a feminist.

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Christmas Miracle

I have friends who are expecting a christmassy post, filled with festive love, cheer and reflections on 2014. Initially that is what I wanted this post to be, one filled with the excitement and hopes which go so well with the traditional Christmas season. That was how December began, I was so excited about Christmas. My advent calendar arrived on the 1st (as a surprise from the parents) and I had already started my Christmas shopping, I was ahead of the game and finally feeling in control. I would be at home with my family, in front of the tree trading gifts and sharing in the joys of family. I was beyond excited. I didn't want my cynicism to get in the way of such a happy time of year. You could say I had too many expectations, and maybe in some ways I did. What hit me first was the exhaustion. I've been home for a while now, and I knew I'd crash, but I didn't realise it'd be so hard to recover from. On Christmas day, we were going round to family friends for drinks. Knowing that it'd be a fairly large group, some of whom would be total strangers to me just sent me into a silent tail spin. I felt pretty determined to go but in the morning I couldn't face it. The walls felt too close and the house felt too small. I had to get out, escape. Once everyone left, I wrapped up and took the dog for a walk. The weather was perfect: crisp and cool but the sky was virtually cloudless and the seafront looked like something from a postcard. As I walked I had time to think. I saw families, couples and people alone. I wondered what their stories were, what had brought them here on Christmas day. I know for me it was escape. I had no idea what drew me to the sea side when normally I like to run up to be up on the hills, above it all. But there I was, on Christmas morning I found myself staring out to sea and people watching with my dog. To me, it felt perfect. It was what I needed. Then the dog (I should probably name her now) Tilly, started causing chaos; running up to other dogs, people and I was worried I'd be shouted at. Then, she ran over to a man sat on a bench at the edge of the promenade. He had his head between his hands, and looked really sad. I didn't know what do, and to a point couldn't do anything, much less approach him. But over she ran, and he looked up, and started stroking her. We smiled at each other and I continued the walk, we caught up again later and he thanked me (well more my dog) for making his christmas. I smiled and marvelled at how a little affection from a tiny scruffy little terrier could make someone so happy. I thought that'd be the end of it, but it wouldn't be a Rambaut family christmas without Tilly causing some sort of chaos. As she stopped to sniff around an old ice cream kiosk I hovered nearby, knowing she'd just stay put if she thought I'd gone too far. Suddenly, she is charging across a car park, and heading straight for the main road. I am tearing after her, praying she doesn't manage to get hit by a car, and desperately trying to catch her. She reached the other side of the road and headed into the park... As it turns out she was heading straight for the man on the bench from earlier. The second she got to him, she stopped, shortly followed by me, who was flustered, annoyed and scared to death for my dog since she likes to run into roads. We put her on her lead and the man offered to walk with me a while. Since I decided that she wasn't going to move unless this happened, we started talking. As it would turn out the man had a friend who he used to regularly run along the seafront with and they always stopped at that bench for a cigarette. He and his friend were soldiers, and in his words:
"We went to fight, I came back and he didn't. We promised we'd carry on this ritual even without the other." I felt myself welling up slightly, since it turns out that this was the man's first Christmas without his friend there. And all because of my dog being a loon, he had someone to talk to, and I got to experience a Christmas miracle.

I think what I am trying to say (in a very long winded soppy way) is that NO ONE IS INSIGNIFICANT. NO ONE IS ORDINARY. I was anonymous, walking my dog on a sunny morning and my decision changed the course of someone's christmas day (or more accurately my dog's decision). It is so easy to fall into believing that you are insignificant or ordinary, and incapable of big things. Well it isn't true. Humans are amazing. And I think each one of us is an extraordinary creation even if we don't see it. Happy (belated) Christmas.