A letter to my 21 year old self

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With every passing year, my dear Mum is extremely prone to beautiful, profound and heartfelt messages about how extraordinary life is while also gently reminding me that it moves incredibly fast… blink, and you might just miss it.

I have to admit, I didn’t always believe her  when I was a fresh-faced 21-year-old, I always assumed she was being sentimental. In fact, I was almost hoping she was right. I couldn’t wait to get a full-time job to support my endless supply of cosmos and wardrobe second to none (Carrie Bradshaw may or may not have influenced this particular vision)

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I wanted out of university, studying was a chore and I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be just yet. I wanted to live alone, in a city flat filled with music, somewhere I could write and pour myself a drink at 9am just because I could. I wanted to go travelling on my own and be fully independent. I wanted to feel the warm sand wedged between my toes and fresh sea salt in my hair. I wanted everything yesterday and tomorrow couldn’t come quick enough, especially when it was a Thursday night and a Bacardi breezer was cheaper than a pack of chewing gum at the local night club ‘Nightspot’ 

*Blink*

One decade later, lying in my lap in the form of a red velvet cupcake jammed with glitter candles, is the concrete, unfathomable truth. Thirty one. How did I even get here?

As I blow my glistening birthday candles out in one, swift breath, I try to recall my last decade of memories, wishing I could rewind, press play and pause at the moments I wish I could live in forever. Some years a bundle of blur, yet some moments completely vivid.

The nights out, the nights in, the hysterical highs and the rock bottom lows. The moments you are so happy you think your heart might burst then the days you think your heart might break. Moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but even now, you can still feel the hot sun beating against your face, smell the sweet coconut oil dancing through the air and taste the watermelon Daquiri on your super sunburnt lips.


All those small moments that bring you to exactly where you are right this second. Where you were always meant to be.

Just to clarify, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my 20’s.

Partying till dawn, awful matching bowl hair cuts with my best friend, fancy dress theme for any occasion, rocking an over plucked brow while also sporting a boob tube and flat pumps to go to the local gym (Yes, this is fact – what was I THINKING?) 

Life was easy, old enough to know better but young enough to not care. Life was contemplating new shoes for the next gig line up or working out how I managed to come home from that night out with more money than I went out. 

I recently read an interesting article by super model Lily Cole who wrote her younger self a letter before she was scouted. The letter was filled with pointers, words of wisdom, tough love and self-love.

After discussing this subject at great length with my friends over a bottle of gin at 3am, we laughed and nodded approvingly at the answers provided. All completley different and unsuspecting. What advice or words would you give your 21-year-old self? The answers were deep, dignified and down right hilarious. The answers we didn’t have at the time and maybe didn’t need to know.

So, I thought I would share mine with you.

This is a letter to my 21-year-old self from my 31-year-old self.

I’m watching festival crowds scramble from the rain over a pipping hot Starbucks (yes, some things NEVER change) but I do come bearing some mind-blowing news for you.

You ready?

You’re not married. You’re not a millionaire. You don’t have kids or a puppy and you don’t own a car or a Vespa for that matter. You don’t have a job in publishing, photography or at a travel magazine.

You do have the best family and friends, you do have incredible, unconditional love, you do have a cosy flat to call home and you have a job you really like for the first time, um, ever.

Now, you won’t want to change a single thing. Every choice, every path, every turn, every bump along the way has made you, well, you.

But, I want to give you this letter. Little things I want you to know, little reassurances that everything works itself out in the end. I know right now, you might not believe me and you can be incredibly self-righteous but try to listen, ok?

Ahemmmm…

1. Right now, you’re out celebrating your 21st worrying about how patchy the tan on your legs look, how many freckles you have and how you’re having a bad fringe day. STOP. You are beautiful and looks are only skin deep. Get out the bog and go dance to your favourite Arctic Monkeys song, now!

2. Learn to love YOU… know your worth, treat yourself with the respect and love you deserve. #selflove

3. It’s totally OK to put yourself first. You have to learn to say no. It sounds tough, right? You will never please everyone, it will take you years to learn this but it’s a fact.

4. Enjoy your own company, you’ll grow to love it and need it. 

5. Please, do NOT use that home hair die… that golden brown WILL, I repeat will, turn your hair full on black. Ekkkkkk. 

6. You’ll get to see the world and travel… it’s everything you imagined and more. You will learn so much about you. Write down every memory – you’ll want to remember everything!

7. Mum is (usually) always right! Try to listen – she knows what she’s talking about and has your best interests at heart.

8. As each birthday passes, you’ll realise how small you are in this huge, incredible and magically mysterious world. Make it count.

9. It’s never too early to start investing in some good skincare or actually washing your face properly after a night out! Look after your skin and your skin will look after you.

10. Live in the present. Stop worrying about yesterday, you can’t change it. Stop worrying about tomorrow, it’s not happened yet.

11. Soooooo… don’t put that veet for legs on your face, ok? OK? #burnmarks #redmoustache #notpretty #whytho

12. Be kind to everyone, you never know what kind of battles they are fighting.

13. Wear your brace retainer… for the love of god!

14. Don’t be afraid to speak out when you have too, even if your voice is trembling.

15. You’re sometimes a little weird. You’re sometimes a little different. Don’t ever change YOU or try to be someone else.

16. It’s totally ok to make mistakes.

17. You’ll learn so much about the world, people, cultures, politics… always stay interested and help those you can. 

18. Work hard. Keep your head down.

19. Breathe when it all gets too much. It’s OK to not be OK sometimes.

20. Keep hugging, loving and smiling.

21. Boys can be assholes, stay strong and stubborn. Enjoy being single and one day, someone will sweep you off your feet (or get you really drunk, salsa dance you into a frenzy and look at you like no-one else ever has)

Oh, and please lay off that tequila – you may or may not have alcohol poisoning for the next two days.

To the next ten….

Love always,

Ash ❤️ 

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The Great Scottish Escape

Let’s face it. Sometimes life can get pretty hectic.

If you’re lucky, you manage to find a seat on the early morning bus or train into work after scrambling desperately for a seat. It’s regularly crammed with empty crisp packets and sleepy commuters, who have their heads burried deep into an IPhone, carrying a strong, still, scoulding expression, reminiscent of their first cup of coffee that’s not fully kicked in yet.

At work, you reply to emails, answer calls, attend meetings, become ever so aware of that looming daily deadline and if you are anything like me, often contemplate running off to Ibiza, where you’ll set up a beach bar and consume daiquiris the size of your head on an oversized flamingo. Sounds super dreamy, right?


The travel home from work often feels like a zombie apocalypse, like the world is ending and everyone is trying to escape on the M8 or 22 bus. After impatiently waiting for your ride home that’s running ten minutes late, you are greeted by last nights dirty dishes and then spend an hour gazing at the fridge and wonder what you can whip up with your key ingredients – spinach and marshmallow fluff.

You wish Joe Wicks ‘Lean in 15’ would stop staring at you from the cupboard shelf with that beautiful hair and  washboard stomach while getting out a spoon for said marshmallow fluff.

Hanger 1 – You – 0.

And your social life? Ha, well – that’s another story. Dinner dates, work drinks, family catch ups, meeting friends you’ve not seen in 20 years but can’t cancel AGAIN as you’ve used all excuses while also struggling to stay on top of your group WhatsApp and striving to maintain a healthy relationship with your significant other. And BREATHE. #firstworldproblems

Not that I’m complaining, infact – quite the opposite! I love my job. I’m blessed to have an amazing group of friends and family. And my bus journey doesn’t have zombies, no. Well… not at every stop! And as IF I want to live in Ibiza and drink cocktails anyway.

Although I can’t help feeling, that every so often, when it’s been raining and the day has totally kicked my ass up and down, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with Kevin Spacey and a tub of my favourite Ben and Jerry’s. (Choc fudge brownie – obvs!)

I guess that’s just… life.

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all, right? Relax, kick back and have zero plans with zero people. Escape and go see the world. Be a hermit and stay in your pj’s for days. Not wash your hair for a week because you can. See if you can burp the alphabet after one too many ciders. No? Just… me?

With no proper time off work since February, I felt it was time to book in a chill holiday and escape the Monday to Friday 9-5. But with a pending visit to see my brothers in Australia – it would have to be somewhere that wouldn’t break the bank.

So, where could I feel at peace, have some serious down time… be surrounded by  postcard views and feel fresh air crowd my lungs?

Where could I be eaten by midges, feel the rain dribble off my just applied mascara and witness constant moody over cast skies? Scotland. Yeah, you guessed it. No where else in the world quite like it. 

While searching for the perfect staycation, I had a small mental checklist of what would be just perfect. I happened to stumble across a little gem called ‘The birds nest’ on Airbnb that happened to tick all the boxes, or ‘on paper’ was totally our type! Nestled in the farm lands of Aviemore – I pressed BOOK NOW and already had started counting down the days for our get away.

The day soon arrived! YAY.

After packing an excessive amount of all weather clothing, emptying Tesco shelves of beer, cider and essentials like strawberry laces, we set off on our adventure to our converted workshop for 3 full nights… we were SUPER excited! Maybe too excited as we ended up driving east coast towards to Aberdeen instead of North before realising we had missed a turn off. Holy crisps! It only put another hour or so onto the journey. Great. It was also approximately 20 odd degrees. That’s what you get when you think you are more savvy than the trusty satnav.

The road to get to our humble abode was a long, winding, super dusty track passing a beautiful array of quirky homes and a small pond, with nothing but a few ducks and boats floating over the gorgeous blue reflective water. Stunning!

As we drove past, I was almost hanging out the window trying to take 100 pictures – there was so much GREEN! After driving  over a small bridge with a passing steam train and what can only be described as a 180 degree bend – we had finally MADE it!

We checked in with Emily, the lovely owner of the nest who lovingly built the cabin with her husband as a project on their farm. It was perfect. I ran up and down with excitement, I mean, I knew it was going to be amazing but WOW. Just what I was looking for, secluded Scottish countryside.


The birds nest overlooks farmland and has a stunning view of the Cairngorms in the backdrop. It’s like someone has blown up a postcard and popped it on your window ledge. The weather was (I know we all say this being typically Scottish) but actually TOO HOT!

The cows were grazing, the sheep singing, deer dancing and hens clucking. I was suddenly an extra in the sound of music! Julie Andrews eat your heart out!

The interior was decorated in a very minimalist, super cool Scandinavian style that looked so effortless. You know, when cool people just throw cool things together but if you tried it might look like someone’s broke in and stole all your furniture. Yip, hear you.

With a compact kitchen space, couple of rocking chairs and a view from the kitchen overlooking the vast fields next to a small wood burning stove that would be perfect for winter nights… think hot chocolate, toasting marshmallows with a good book. *Cameron Diaz – the holiday* type scanario.


The steep, wooden staircase lead up to the mezzanine level – which holds a gorgeous lounge area and massive bed, all carefully designed and immaculately positioned. I couldn’t believe it was all HAND MADE in someone’s spare time. I mean, I don’t have enough time to get my nails done never mind build a cool converted cabin! Mental note: Must make better use of time!


The only thing that took me by surprise was the compost toilet. Basically, no standard flush but sawdust in its place. Totally in with the ecological and environmental friendly vibe the cabin has going on! It’s definitely enough to push the boundaries of a closer than close relationship, let’s just keep it at that peeps. Also – for a hoverer, it wasn’t easy.

The sun gods answered my prayers and it was a schorcher…. 25 degrees and climbing. So, we jumped in the car and headed down towards the beach to catch some rays. A MUST do is visit Loch Morlich. I could have been in Ibiza – although in Ibiza I would have had on a bikini like most normal people, not my heavy mom jeans, heels and a yellow top that would result in bad tan lines. I was feeling SO chilled already and seeing the breathtaking scenery was making me feel happy inside.

The water was clear, the sand was warm, the smell of the burgers over a BBQ was enough to make me drool (quite literally all over Chris’ t-shirt, whoops!) Now where is that daiquiri when you need it most? 🍸

After a few hours and some seriously bad tanlines, we decided to pop up the Cairngorms to catch some views with our lunch. It was a 90 degree hill and since we were packing some extra layers, the car wasn’t just stifling – it was struggling to even get past 20 miles an hour to the top. Some lads on cycles were passing us by, I’m sure I caught one of them sniggering and asking if we needed a push. Erm, yes please!?

We got there eventually and the views were epic. Still beautiful and the sun was shining all over the mountains, glistening across the water and manovering in and out the clouds above. I had NO signal. Nothing on my iPhone. I didn’t even miss it. The scenery was so amazing I felt like all my worries were drifting off into the clouds above.

After returning back to our retreat, having a few ciders and playing a cards for a few hours, we decided to hit the road. Emily explained we can walk into town easily through a forest that should only take an hour or so. Perfect. We had our maps looked out and felt confident we knew what we were doing.

The walk was beautiful and green… I felt like I was in Canada or America, out in the wilderness with wild dear hoping around, midges eating me alive. I repeatedly asked Chris if he knew where we were going and assuming he knew the way. Emm, negative. One hour in and no sight of human life, we realised we missed a path along the way. SO US!

I must admit, there is something nice about feeling lost. Feeling a million miles away from everyone and everything. We stumbled across an old steam railway just before sunset. Looking down the tracks, I wondered where the train was going. I wondered what was at the end of the road, the final destination.

It was so quiet, it was amazing to be switched off from the world for a while.

Then… I started thinking about WHAT THE HELL was going on in Love Island… Get me to the pub. Ahh! Where’s the wifi at peeps?

The rest of our time away was filled with eating, drinking, Cairngorm brewery tours, reading and writing. I can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed and chilled. I can’t recommend it enough my friends, and even if you just need a long weekend, this is PERFECT for you.

Here are my top 5 tips for your escape in Aviemore – your must see and do’s.

1. Visit the Cairngorm brewery for a tour and LOTS of beer tasting afterwards. Malkie (who calls himself Malkie the Alkie) is absolutely brilliant and is also a stand up comedian. Best £5 you’ll spend… do NOT take the car!

2. Eat breakfast at The Mountian Cafe, grab a full breakfast and a slice of homemade cake, the selection is UNREAL. You are SO welcome.

3. Visit Loch Morlich and go kayaking, we totally would have if a certian someone didn’t get sea sick. The beach is beautiful. You can always pack a picnic and a few beers.

4. Stay at ‘The Birds Nest‘ in Aviemore, I think the pictures say it all. Make sure you have a car and walk into town is around an hour. Fresh eggs provided and THE comfiest bed.

5. Walk up the Cairngorms and see Scotland in all its beautiful-ness! If you pack rubbish shoes like me… you can always pop on the train up to the top to the cafe for a quick drink before heading back down.

Hope you enjoy the recommendations and if anyone could bring me home a big slice of red velvet – I would love you forever.

It’s pretty nice to sometimes just take some time out of everyday LIFE. Switch off, recharge those batteries, take a step back and realise that life is actually pretty…  extraordinary.

Ash ❤️

Not for the faint hearted

What makes your blood turn cold? Is there anything that makes you want to curl up in bed and never leave? Even if it means missing out on that drama filled episode of Love Island? 🙈 (I know, serious stuff, right?)

I get the fear when I look at my vastly declining bank account on the 20th of the month (I should have shares in Zara – like, for real!)

I get the fear when I am hungover AF and its 8pm on a Sunday night. I’m questioning the meaning of life over a dominoes and would rather stick needles in my eyes than go to work on Monday.

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I get the fear when I’m running around like a headless chicken, which is pretty much every day. I met my neighbour for the first time last week… he was laughing just a little too hard at me, breathing out my behind, red faced and slightly sweaty after just making the number 22. ‘Your the girl who’s always running for the bus.’ Seemingly infamous around these parts. 

We all have things we hate doing, feel like we would rather run a mile than face up too. Facing your fears – we hear that a lot right? Easier said than done, my friends, easier said than done.

I read something recently about the legend that is Will Smith, overcoming his fear of jumping out a plane at 14,000 ft to possible sudden death (also known as Skydiving!)

He spoke about how on the other side of fear, is the best life you can live. It’s a YouTube video if anyone is feeling inspired… the man would have you jumping out without a parachute he’s that convincing! 

For my 30th last year, my brother Ross who lives in Australia and his lovely other half Debbie bought me a skydive that expires in 4 weeks. I mean… a bag or pair of shoes would’ve sufficed. Who else would want to throw me out a plane for my birthday? 😜

Naturally, you google, don’t you? NEVER google kids. Got the cold? Your leg needs amputated. How many calories are in an Indian take away? Death! How safe is sky diving for females…? You get the picture. Skydiving granny loses teeth? Death from laughing! 😂 Good old Google.

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But seriously, when was the last time you felt exhilarated and stepped outside that warm, cosy little comfort zone? When was the last time you thought ‘I actually DID it!’

I honestly couldn’t remember mine. Maybe starting a blog? Doing 6am exercise class while shouting about unicorns and hugging strangers? Does getting a skinny latte with no syrup count?

Maybe it’s going on a first date? Recording a Facebook live? Speaking your mind?

I get the fear trying to tell my hairdresser she made me look more like a member of Hanson than that Taylor Swift number I was hoping for… mmm please stop! Da da daaaaaa. 😳

Funny, isn’t it? We spend so long worrying, obsessing, scared stupid about overcoming something, saying something, or worry what people might think of us. Wasting sleepless nights over the inevitable… when we know we HAVE to do it. 

When my boss asked me to say a few words at our work annual summer conference with over 100 people attending – I happily agreed. I was SUPER delighted. What a great opportunity! I was calling Chris, feeling super chuffed to even be asked. It was a huge deal for me. 

That night, on the 22 bus home, my self doubt crept in like a thief in the night, an old nemesis tapping me on the shoulder. Hello public speaking, it’s been a while.

What I would say, who would all be there. What. Have. I. FREAKIN. Done? I can’t. I can. What’s even happening? My mind was shutting down and telling me to run and never look back! 

Public speaking is something I am sure will resonate fear with many people and I guess that it’s definitely a huge human commonality… and nice to know I’m not the only one who has the fear of collapsing with nerves. 

One of my biggest limelight moments was circa 1990, where I managed to have a nativity play called off and then postponed while playing a donkey in Bethlehem.

Nerves got to me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I desperately needed the toilet and was too scared and nervous to ask anyone as I was on stage. I was hot under the heavy, long face mask and wired head of hay as hair. The sea of faces staring at me as my line was fast approaching. What will I do? 

I knelt down and pretended to tie my hooves (aka – my new Clarks magic steps buckle shoes… anyone else remember them?) Everyone was looking directly at me but my line failed to escape my mouth. 

Before I knew it, one of the wise men started pointing and shouting his mum over for help while telling me that I had been in an ‘accident.’ I don’t think he knew my name… so before I was whisked off stage, the last thing I heard was along the lines of ‘The donkey made a mess!’ 

I recall trying to pass my nerves as apple juice, praying my sharp 4 year old antics would buy me an out of the stables card… but I was busted. The play was cancelled and my pride was battered. Damn wise men! The incident stayed with me for long, long time… my Mum likes to remind me every so often, you know, for the banter. 

After a couple of restless and exciting  nights with lots of practise, the day had arrived, it was summer conference o’clock.

*Must use toilet before*

I wore my best professional ‘I’m an adult’ dress, woke up extra early to have a coffee and even brushed my hair for the occasion. I was first up on stage, introducing our chairman and kicking off the day.

I had read over my notes 1000 times, it was hardly a novel . It was like I had the memory of a gold fish. My brain was frozen over. Need wine. Large wine. Straw. Help.

The room started to swell with people arriving, so did my fat fingers! It was like that panic you get when you can’t get a ring off in Topshop and you think you might have to surgically saw it off or send for fairy liquid… the panic is real, right? As I tried to lift my glass of water my hands trembled ever so slightly. 

‘Knock em dead’ my boss whispered to me. It was time.

I quickly shoved a piece of rather large shortbread in my mouth (great delaying tactic) and had my last gulp of water. Why did EVERYONE have to come today? They all came to see me pass out and die on the spot, obviously. 

I made my way up to the stage, the voices from the tables were quieting and all eyes were turning towards me. The microphone taunting me… 

Negative thoughts started to swarm my head and I could feel that self-doubt creeping in. Why am I doing this to myself? It’s self-sabotage! My leg started to tremble ever so slightly, but I drew a deep breath and tried to think of everyone naked. Then had to quickly revert. Cancel that! Abort mission! I work with these people! Ok, focus. You can do this. 

‘Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for coming along to today’s annual summer conference…’

And just like that – I was done! Pow pow pow! I survived! No one died, I got a few laughs and the more I spoke, the more I wanted to stay up there! I was so proud of myself I wanted to pat myself on the back. If I didn’t look a little weird then I possibly would have.

I had a few smiles and nods as I returned to my seat. I shoved my remaining short bread in my mouth and text Mum quickly.

‘Mum, made it out alive! No fainting or projectile vomiting, now eating shortbread and mentally conjuring up ways to become a world famous speaker. See you soon.’

I spent so much time fearing something I actually ended up loving. The fact that I pushed myself outside my normal comfort zone made me feel well…. pretty amazing!


I guess that by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, you have that ‘I actually did it!’ attitude and it feels amazing, like you are on a high. As Will Smith said, the best life we can live is on the other side of fear. 

What scares you the most?

So jump out that plane at 14,000 ft, go on a random blind date with a stranger, run a marathon for the first time, book a holiday all on your own… quit your 9 – 5 day job and travel the world! Start everything over if you’re not happy. 

I guess it really comes down to this. Find your own worth from within and not from what others think of you. Worrying about tomorrow is wasting your today. Always believe you can, even when your fear is irrational, because you will. And no matter how big the fear is, you, my friend are bigger than it. Anyway… wouldn’t you regret the things you didn’t do in life the most? 

Half the fun is in trying and making hilarious, forever stories along the way… and if all goes wrong? 

There’s always Love Island, a bottle of wine and another day to slay! ❤️

Ash x

*** MIC DROP ***

Beyonce "The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour" - Los Angeles

 

Move over, January blues

Munro completed  from bucket list 2014. Cairngorms.

Munro completed from bucket list 2014.

January. Here again, are we? Where did you come from? And what did you do to the jolly old me I knew just a few weeks ago?

I know I’m not the only one out there who has inevitably drained the Prosecco pool dry, consumed every last chocolate crumb and shovelled every last existing morsel of cheese and crackers down my face until I needed to nap just to recover from the daily strains of eating my body weight. But boy, how GOOD was it at the time? And now, it’s officially back to reality. What do you mean I need to go a day without a Baileys on ice?

The last day of the calendar year arrives at my door step rapidly, much like an unwanted Topshop bill that I peer at, scared as hell, through the small gaps in my fingers, as if I were about to watch a horror film unfold in front of me (let’s be honest, it is pretty terrifying when you see the price of your beautiful new dress has been dramatically slashed in sale… now THAT will haunt you at night people!) Truth is, I’ve never been a big NY fan. In fact, if I had my way, I would ensure that under ‘Anti-Climax’ in the old Cambridge Dictionary, it would read ‘New Year’s Eve.’ I could count on one hand the times I actually remembered my night, additionally the times I didn’t hysterically cry during/before/after for no apparent reason at all. I always associate it with goodbyes, never easy and emotionally draining. It’s like a short lived friendship, one that will ultimately define you and test you through thick and thin. Memories, holidays, laughs, tears, new experiences, special occasions, birthday’s, increased dosages of anti-wrinkle cream, then it just all suddenly evaporates, leaving nothing but distant memory behind. Poof – it’s gone. All down to three little words. Wait, come back, wasn’t there things we were supposed to do before you left 2014?! I’m sure you promised you would teach me how to knit… wait, come back!

Any year, no matter how utter crap or brilliant it turned out to be, will hold some sort of place in your heart, because we remember our experiences by year, don’t we? All the best and worst memories are highlighted with a neon pink marker, so they can be vividly recalled as often, or little as necessary. A year is made up of 365 days, but the moments you remember will stand the test of time. ‘Remember 2013?’ I would say to my friends. The year we were single, lived in Edinburgh, drinking cocktails for breakfast, finally going to Ibiza and grabbing every opportunity to go out and dance our much smaller butts off? Oh, those were the days girls…’ Now, I’m lucky if I last till 1am without having my Pj’s on and cup of tea in hand. What have you done to me, time?

Whether you like to admit it or not, everyone starts a ‘New Year, New Me’ idealistic plan for the month ahead and for a short while, have the best intentions imaginable. You begin to ponder on the year yet to come and the year passed. You can’t help but wonder what this new, shiny, untouched 12 months could potentially have in store and that absolutely anything is possible.

The turning of a new page can be pretty unnerving. I guess I have just started to appreciate going into the unknown and seeing it as an opportunity to make it your own, rather than wish it was summer already and that every Monday was a Friday (especially as the big 3-0 is getting ready to take me hostage me next year) It’s like an imaginary slate that you get once a year to (almost) erase every bad day at work you had, every piece of Dominoes pizza you ever consumed, those drunk texts that left you banging your head against the wall while engulfed in unadulterated embarrassment.

I like looking back and seeing how I’ve grown and what I’ve achieved during the year. As the saying goes, you really do live and learn, more often than not, the hard way. Often, I tend to find myself in situations that I want the ground to swallow me up; over thinking the situation for weeks on end, cringing in bed at the very thought of what happened wishing the recipient of my blunder has now forgotten and erased it from their memory. Then, as time passes, you slowly start to laugh as it wasn’t really that big of a deal, was it? You realise that what happened, well, it’s really just a small ripple on the perpetual surface of the sea, because you grow from it… and to be frank, there’s usually a lot bigger fish to fry.

I try to recall my ‘resolutions’ from last year. Nope, whatever they were I didn’t stick to them. As if. Who really wants to drink less and eat more lettuce anyway? I did, however make a bucket list. Making a list of things I wanted to do instead of the things I shouldn’t seemed much more plausible. Blogging was one of them. Tick. Bag a few Munro’s. Done. Participate in a 5k race. POW! Learn the ukulele. Em, does one song count? Duet with Beyonce. Not so much.

It’s that time again to appreciate what you have done and what you can do this year. It’s quite exciting not knowing exactly what lies ahead, who knows what’s round the corner. I guess you are the only person who can choose to make it happen. 2015, I’m fully embracing you. I’ve decided to take an 8 weeks creative writing course to meet new people and to expand my experiences. I’ve booked a trip to Dubai, somewhere I’ve never been before. I would love to see the Northern lights in Iceland, InterRail through Europe, sky dive, learn how to surf and actually be able to stand up, become a backgammon champion, knit myself a scarf… to name a few. I’ve decided to see and do as much as I can because years can come and years can go, but it’s what you do with them that really counts in the end. I think January should be a time where you decide what’s yours for the taking, who and what you want to be. Maybe you had a bad year and this is your time, maybe you had the best year ever and the best is yet to come.

As morbid as this may sound, my lovely Uncle Scott, who is a current funeral director, tells me all the time that life is short (and believe me, he should know) and that people often say what they wished they had done as opposed to regretting anything they did. I guess it’s something I keep at the back of my mind every day. Instead of feeling blue this January and thinking about the things you shouldn’t be doing, think about the things that you should. Put down the finished book of 2014 and open that brand new chapter of 2015. The pen is in your hand, ready to start on this new, untouched, unwritten page. It’s just up to you how you want it to end. It’s YOUR story, make it the best, most interesting read you possibly can.

So… what’s on your bucket list?

No waiting dating

Speed dating: Rate or hate?

Speed dating: Rate or hate?

In my mind, when someone utters the taboo words ‘speed dating’ I tend to envisage a very formal bar, laden with cocktails and canapés, filled with men and women who have turned up straight from work with pristine shirts and immaculate hair, coyly trying to suss each other out from across the room. It might even be in New York, it’s an American thang after all isn’t it? I’m familiar with the usual dating forums such as internet websites, blind dates, meeting people in candlelit wine bars… even the odd ad placed in the lonely hearts section of the Metro. But speed dating? I tend to think of myself as being a very open minded person and meeting new people is something I love to do when given the chance. So naturally, when my good friend Pippa asked me if I would like to give it a whirl in Edinburgh at a lovely pub called the Priory, my reaction was simultaneously one of pure excitement additionally one of complete and utter FEAR.

My accumulation of dates so far have been all kinds of weird and wonderful. Mostly weird, actually. I don’t claim to be a dating expert by any means but when you find yourself planning ‘that call’ or convincing your best friend to casually swing by in utter hysterics or even think about climbing out the toilet window… it’s just not happening. On the other hand, there’s the great dates. The ones you find yourself frantically messaging friends while in the loo with a reassuring ‘It’s going really well, we are getting on like a house on fire… no, you don’t need to pretend you’ve been arrested and no, he’s actually not a psychopath… With speed dating, I was certainly hoping for the latter.

Speed dating is basically knowing what you like and what you don’t within 3 short minutes (or longer depending on the circumstances) It’s about finding an instant attraction, about finding something in common you both can ever-so-quickly chat about. Could this be the beauty of it? You would know straight up instead of having to endure a long socially awkward night drinking doubles with someone you barely know? The eternal optimist in me thought I might even meet my future husband, surely there must be one DiCaprio lookalike in there somewhere? No matter where you are or who it’s with, that initial excitement is usually there, sometimes you never know how one quick drink or an unexpected dinner can change your world. Whether you have been a relationship for one month, one year or one hell-of-a-lot longer, you will always remember your first date… and whether you like it or not, that memory will be ingrained into the deepest darkest corners of your mind. Just like the time at primary school when you thought that prostitute meant protestant, landing your 8 year-old girlfriends some seriously bad playground rep. Or was that just me?

While having lunch in Glasgow recently, my mum casually mentioned that she would pay for my dating subscription if I wanted to, you know, ever look into it. Smooth mum, real smooth. I laughed it off – trying hard not to keel over and choke on my oh so tasty Bakewell tart. She then continued on to say something about making a ‘pen friend’ and telling me that I should keep options open. Really? I put down my coffee mid-hysteria, wiped the sawdust pastry remains from my face and broke the ‘big news’ that I actually had 15 dates lined up so there was no need to worry… I just failed to mention that they were all in the one night, lasting only a few minutes and that I had no idea who the hell they were with.

That night, I started getting a bit nervous…what to wear, one bottle of wine before or two, have some questions lined up or wing it? I skimmed over the guideline material that you are given for the event and was surprised to see some ‘core rules’ outlined for the night. I’ll admit, I was pretty miffed to see that I couldn’t eat food during the speed dates (olive, anyone?) turn up intoxicated, wear trainers or be late. I thought a first date was about being yourself? Hmmm. Plan B then…

I met the girls before we went to the main even itself for a quick natter and a bit of ‘date’ courage. I had been off work the week previous and had been bed bound with the lurgy, so was leaping with excitement that I was actually getting to speak to someone who wasn’t my dog, siri or the post man. I went for a casual smart look, a black crepe/sheer top combo, leather skirt, tights, accessorized with a statement necklace and to top it all off perfectly, a beaming red runny nose – nice. After we exchanged stories of our day, we decided we better not break rule number one (as much as I would have loved to be the speed dating rebel) and we headed towards the pub in the pouring rain. 

The Priory is an endearing little pub on Morrison street, lovely staff and perfect for post work drinks. As soon as we stepped in, we headed straight to the bar and try suss out ‘the situation.’ I was smiling a lot. At pretty much everyone who looked in my direction trying to see if there was any given exchange. I might have looked like I was some kind of crazy friendly lunatic. We headed downstairs and appeared  the first people to arrive at the scene. We were greeted by a lovely man called Peter, who was probably in his mid 40’s and was so welcoming, I instantly felt like he was a long-lost uncle. Peter explained to us that we would be numbered and matched with corresponding tables, we were given a name badge, pencil and a score card and told that each round would last approximately 3 minutes each. Jen, Pippa and myself sat huddled together at a booth, nervously eyeing up the incoming crowds. Everyone was chatting, laughing and already mingling, I was half expecting to watch a train crash so I was pleasantly surprised. I almost forgot what I was doing there until the bell rang… ‘Can you please find your table to commence the speed dating please!’ Peter yelled. AGHHHHHH, shit shitty shit. I started to feel my heart beat that little bit faster, just like when you go for an interview – except I wasn’t even sure what the job description entailed yet. ‘Wanted: accomplice to an axe murderer, one position currently available – apply within for an immediate start.’

Date number one. I arrived slightly flustered at the candle lit table, trying to carry my coat, glass of wine and scorecard. I was attempting to be elegant and graceful but in true Ash style, was more the equivalent of a bull in a china shop… who was maybe a little tipsy on excitement. Dan was from Aberdeen and was an engineer, blonde with a nice warm smile. He had been travelling, so we were talking about that for most of the time which was actually really nice as we got to compare notes on Cambodia and Laos. He was really easy to chat with and we had a few laughs but I found myself being easily distracted as I overheard Jen prodding her date for more India tips and Pippa explaining what a lumber-sexual was… it was extremely hard to keep a straight face at that point. I was surprised when the bell sounded as I almost felt like I barely got to touch the surface but after a firm handshake, I sat back in my chair, waiting for Dan to move on to the next table. A few seconds passed I started feeling a little awkward. Why was he not moving, did he maybe not hear the bell? We stared blankly at each other for maybe a few seconds then he politely laughed and whispered ‘Em, I think it’s you guys that have to move tables.’ Ahhh, I see. I overcompensated by laughing far too hard at myself before swiftly moving towards table number two, armed and ready with my doddled scorecard and red face to boot.

The next few dates went pretty fast from there, after the initial one, I felt more confident and I was actually quite enjoying the random chats. The questions asked were pretty standard. Hi, how are you? What do you look for in a partner? What’s your favourite animal? Do you like to be big spoon or little? One guy spoke about weights for three minutes. THREE minutes. What? I almost fell asleep in my wine glass, sorry Trev, the fact you can press 40 kilos means NOTHING to me. I might have forgotten to mention there were 5 men to 11 women. The maths equalled a lot of girls sitting in a booth together talking about dating in general. Some had past success, some had horror stories, some were cynical and others just hopeful. Truth be told, it was like a scene from Sex and The City, just with no Aidan or cosmopolitan in sight. The girls were lovely, really sweet and we actually had a proper hoot in that booth which was very unexpected. Before we knew it, we were all swapping numbers and organising a night out, whether or not it actually goes ahead is another thing but the thought was there… how often do you go to a bar and make new friends, 11 to be precise?

After my last date with risqué Robert, the final bell sounded. Robert was a nice guy, banker, just moved to town, sounded like he was living a life of complete luxury and was looking for someone to whisk away that wasn’t his mother. I was telling him all about my new camera and that I had been thinking about taking up some photography lessons. He proposed we went out the following night for a walk around Edinburgh taking some night snaps of the city which was sweet… equally prettttty creepy at the same time. We left it at that and I made my way over to the girls to catch up. No one was really sure what to do when we finished so when one of the guys mentioned grabbing a drink, I pretty much jumped at the chance. We pushed some tables together and awkwardly sat down. Some people disappeared to the bar and failed to return but the majority were there and keen for a quick drink. We were an unlikely bunch. But that’s what I kinda loved about it. We all agreed it was a good experience, we got a free drink from it and a laugh if anything else. Personally, I think it takes a lot of balls and not a lot of people would dare come along with friends never mind alone. I had respect for those who had, big time. We had a chat at the table about day to day topics and everyone seemed deep in conversation, but before I knew it, it was after 10pm and we decided to call it a night. I could feel my lurgy cough re-surfacing and Dan was getting the brunt of it, I’m sure wine was almost coming out of my nose at one point. Maybe not my ‘coolest’ moment. So, saying goodbye to our new-found friends, we crept off into the night, exchanging notes, laughing hard at some of our chats and generally thinking we might end up like alcoholic cat ladies together, but that we would actually be pretty happy with that.

So, none of us actually found a match. But we did find nice people, unexpected laughs, a new experience and that there’s a whole lot of single people happily ready to put themselves out there. Being a hopeless romantic at heart, I always like not knowing what or who is round the corner – that’s the exciting part, it’s all still to come I guess. Speed dating for me just opened up my eyes to meeting new people and that it’s good to try something out with the norm. Sure, it would be nice to have come across a DiCaprio, but if you don’t try you don’t get, right? Who knows if you will find a perfect match within a 3 minute time frame, but it’s a bloody good place to start. The girls and I went to meet new people and that we did. It’s a total mixed bag, you won’t know what you’re in for until you turn up. Go in with an open mind and no expectations. What do you have to lose? Apart from 20 bucks, a few hours of your spare time and your sobriety, of course.