Why first aid knowledge is important – you never know when you’ll need it

I’ve been trying to write other posts, but then I keep coming back to this one. I think it’s the most important thing I have to say at the moment, but it won’t be the easiest post to write.

My experience with first aid training hasn’t been good. We got the chance to do an introduction to first aid when I was at school as some kind of extra curricular activity.

It was led by an external provider who had clearly never come across a visually impaired person before. That’s fair enough. To be honest we got on fine until it came time for the test. I passed mine, both the theory and the practical parts, but he said I couldn’t get the certificate for course completion because I wouldn’t be able to safely assess an emergency situation independently.

There are definitely things it would be harder for me to do, and things that I do differently. Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to become a first aider at work because of issues around risk assessment and insurance, but certainly anyone I’ve patched up or helped in the past wasn’t bothered that I couldn’t see them. Most people are able to explain what happened and most things aren’t that serious.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have been bothered, apart from the fact that a boy in the group was given his theory test back to “have another look at it” because some of his answers were wrong and he wouldn’t pass. I hated the trainer at that point – how could he make such a fuss about my not being able to do things if he was willing to so openly let another course member cheat like that?

I didn’t pursue it. Partly because you have to choose your battles and at that time I was having bigger problems elsewhere. Also I didn’t think the certificate was worth the paper it was written on if it were so easy to get it dishonestly. Now I would be more likely to keep searching until I found an accessible alternative as I know that some visually impaired people have had really good experiences.

What I did do was get myself a book on first aid. A big thick manual that went into fa more detail than the introductory course. I read it, and in the end could be sure that I knew far more about the subject than anyone who had passed that stupid course!

First aid training has to be refreshed though, and I didn’t do that. Still, a fair bit had stayed with me and it came in useful nearly two weeks ago when I became unwell and we spent the night in A&E.

I don’t really want to talk about the details here. I’m still processing it myself and it was a big thing for me even to tell my friends about it. I don’t find it easy to be open at the best of times when something is wrong.

I feel much better now and am undergoing treatment and having some tests. Maybe I’ll write about it some time, but that time isn’t now.

The point is that I remembered what I’d read about first aid, what the problem might be, and what we should do about it. S hadn’t had any first aid training, but he’d also picked up some information from a film or tv programme and we pretty much came to the same conclusion about what the symptoms meant. We’re both pretty calm in a crisis and quickly decided to go to the hospital.

So the point of writing this is to say it’s better to have some basic knowledge in advance than to be frantically googling if something happens. You can save yourself time and stress. Even if what happens isn’t exactly like what it says in the book, you’ll have a better idea of what to do, what to look out for, and if you go to the hospital or call an ambulance, what information is going to be relevant.

The NHS has lots of useful information or you could look into the availability of courses in your area.

It’s also helpful if you can do some basic things to be ready if there’s an emergency. I wrote last year about hunting around for painkillers after my accident, and how it would have been better to have known where they were immediately. The same goes for the first aid kit – a basic one doesn’t cost very much and it’s good to have it around if you need it. Also, if you keep raiding it, replace what you’ve taken.

If there’s an emergency, you should call the emergency services, but if you spend any amount of time on your own long-term or temporarily, is there someone close by that you can call in an emergency? I have someone who has offered that I can call them any time if there’s a problem when S is away, and this has given me peace of mind.

Hopefully I won’t have to do it, but it’s reassuring to know the offer is there. I’ve dealt with floods, collapsing ceilings, and sprained knees in the middle of the night on my own before – partly because I’m stubborn, but partly because I didn’t want to bother anyone at that time. If you have the conversation in advance, you don’t have to think about who might be willing to help. Similarly, is there someone whom you could be there for in this way?

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When is it good not to approve comments on your blog?

I found a bunch of comments that I hadn’t been alerted about. They were stuck in the queue and I worked my way through them, approving and deleting. The exercise got me thinking about comments and when it’s better not to let them through. It’s not just about whether or not you like what someone has to say.

I don’t want to create an echo chamber with only people who share my views being allowed to speak. But equally, my blog isn’t a free-for-all and I do moderate all comments before they go live.

Generally I let most comments through. Most of the time people are just commenting on the posts, sharing their own experiences, asking questions, or joining in with a discussion. But here are the times when I spam or delete comments.

1. When people don’t play nicely!

Probably the most obvious one – you don’t have to agree with me, but if you start writing things that are discriminatory, offensive, or rude in some other way – why should I have that up on my site? This includes people who think that snarky comments are the same as having a discussion. Fortunately I’ve only had one or two of those in my time as a blogger on both my business and my personal blogs.

2. When people add links to sites that I don’t want to endorse

This is a tricky one. The comment may be fine, but it also includes a link to an organisation that you wouldn’t necessarily support. The waters are muddied even further if you generally support what the organisation stands for, but not how they are going about raising awareness for or promoting their cause.

It’s something you just have to decide. Delete the comment? Let the comment through, but amend it to remove the link? Let it through, but also note your concerns in a comment underneath?

The only problem with the last suggestion is that by providing a back link – a link from your site to the other site – you are giving it credibility in search engine optimisation terms, and if that’s not something you want to do, it’s best not to have the link at all.

3. When people are posting spam comments for back links

This includes companies that can’t be bothered to pay for advertising “hey I thought you’d like my product – find out more here!”, and people who just want to bring readers to their site “Great post! Check out my latest post here!” In both cases, it just feels like spam. It’s obvious what they’re doing. They aren’t really interested in what you’ve written – they just want more eyes on their products or posts which might not even have anything to do with your article. It’s rude, and most of the time I bin them! If people really want someone to engage with them, they should put a bit more thought into their comment and not spam people’s blogs. The point about back links is relevant here too.

4. When people post innocuous comments with links that point to questionable sites

Most of these comments are sent straight to spam if you have a spam filter. The comments themselves usually look fine and often just say how great and educational your post was. The problem is with the rest of the form and the URL which they entered, which often leads to some dubious site that you wouldn’t want to visit. When the comment goes live, the person’s name becomes a link to that site. It doesn’t matter that the comment itself was not offensive in some way – you don’t want to be sending traffic to sites that contain malware or that are pay per click links generating income for someone else (also see point 3). In some cases it’s not even clear where the traffic will be ultimately redirected

5. When the trolls come out to play!

A troll is generally someone who starts arguments or upsets people by posting inflammatory or off-topic comments – usually to get a reaction. Often they become easier to spot, the more time you spend in online forums. Sometimes you may want to give people the benefit of the doubt because they may have a genuine question or just not know how to express themselves properly – but usually if it growls like a troll and stomps about like a troll – it probably is a troll! The best advice is to not feed the trolls – and an online troll’s favourite food is attention and other people’s time.

It is hard though. Some you can spot a mile off. But there are people who have been written off as trolls who were just struggling to know the rules appropriate for that particular social situation. I can think of times when I have had perfectly reasonable conversations with people whom others had written off as trolls – so it’s not as easy as some of the other points. I usually listen to my intuition first, but it’s not completely fool-proof.

But sadly there are some people who just want to sew negativity, stir people up against one another, or say the things that they know will get an angry or otherwise emotional reaction.

In a business sense, if you think there is a discussion to be had, it’s often better to take it out of the public arena sooner rather than later. Private messaging is always an option, as long as you feel the person isn’t just trying to get attention for the wrong reasons or waste your time.

How about you?

For those of you with blogs, what have been your experiences of deleting comments? Let us know in the comments!

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the one about 15 things that I wish people would stop doing on social media!

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New products and old favourites from the Body Shop

I guess the brand that I am most loyal to is the Body Shop. I don’t use their products exclusively, but I buy a lot of stuff from there because the products are great value, they’re kind to my skin (I’ve never had a bad reaction from anything there), I like the brand’s ethics, and the products smell amazing too.

This post is about some things from a recent online order, where I also got to spend the points I earned from recycling my old products, and some things I picked up in a Sale on Facebook. Heidi is a Body Shop at Home consultant and she has a Facebook group where the sale was held.

What I got from Heidi’s sale

The sale was stock clearance, so everyone watching the Facebook live could just say which products they wanted from the selection and buy them if they were still available.

I was happy when the Body Shop started doing sheet masks as I give myself a face mask treatment once or twice a week, and the sheet masks are so much nicer to use than the ones that you paint on. I got two of the vitamin c sheet masks, which are part of the vitamin C range for hydrated and more radiant-looking skin. These masks definitely have enough serum in them, but they are not sopping like some others where you feel that you are wasting serum. I find the Body Shop masks fit my face well (some from other brands are definitely too large, too wide, or go up too far above the eyes. However, they don’t cover the chin and lower jaw area as well as some others do.

Recently a new range of hand washes came out and I was eager to try them, especially as one was my 2nd favourite scent – pink grapefruit! The pink grapefruit hand wash smells amazing, just like the rest of the range. It leaves your hands feeling soft, and although it’s a bit more expensive than other hand washes on the market, the packaging is part of the recycling scheme, so you can earn £1 back in points when you recycle it. You can read more about the recycling scheme here. I probably wouldn’t use these all the time, but I definitely like them as a grapefruity treat!

I hadn’t had anything from the banana range for a while, so I also got a banana shower cream, which is one of the special summer edition shower creams. I like the fruity scent, but I also like the fact that it’s made from bananas that won’t sell to the food industry and presumably would otherwise have gone to waste.This shower cream smells exactly like the banana haircare products.

I don’t usually buy from the strawberry range, but I do like the fast-absorbing body yoghurts, especially in the summer, when it’s hot. So I got a pot of the strawberry body yoghurt as a change from the mango or almond milk and honey ones that I usually get. This body yoghurt is enriched with strawberry juice and almond milk and the strawberry scent really makes you think of summer.

So that’s what I got from the sale – a couple of things I liked already, a new product, and an older product that was new to me.

What I picked up from the Body Shop online

The online store is mostly accessible, although I have had problems applying vouchers using a screenreader.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that the mango range is my favourite. I had £5 to spend because I returned 5 items of recycling, so I spent them on a mango shower gel because it smells amazing!

I picked up the almond hand wash too, but it doesn’t appear to be on the site any more. If it comes back, it’s a good alternative for you if you aren’t into fruity scents as much. I like it because it has a distinctive almond scent, more so than the almond milk and honey range.

I’ve tried the eye shadow sticks before. They’re certainly easier to use than powder eye shadows. I have a couple from the Body Shop and have recommended them in the past, though now I’ve tried a few other brands, the Body Shop ones aren’t the gentlest on the eyes, and they can dry out and drag a bit. I prefer the formula to be a bit more creamy. Anyway, I’ve recently been investigating liquid eye shadows because even without being able to see what I’m doing, I can paint the liquid eye shadow on where I want it with no worries about fall-out as I’d get with a powder. So I was interested to see the metallic eye shadows, which unfortunately seem to be out of stock at the moment. Not every day will be a metallic eye shadow kind of day, but I was happy with this because it gives me another option that I can feel confident about using without worrying whether it looks ok.

I’ve already mentioned the vitamin C masks. I used something that my skin really didn’t like recently, so I picked up a couple of things from the aloe range because they’re good for soothing and hydrating skin – either because you naturally have sensitive skin, or because you had an experience like I did and justwant to sooth it after irritation.(Of course if you have skin concerns, you should seek advice yourself as this recommendation won’t be suitable for everyone). Anyway, the aloe range has helped me in the past, so I got one aloe sheet mask and one vitamin E sheet mask” because they are good for hydration.

These masks are also good in the really hot weather because they have a cooling effect as the liquid evaporates.

How about you?

Do you like any of these products, or have you tried anything new recently from the Body Shop? Let us know in the comments!

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New Cadbury chocolate bars – which one will win?

Cadbury had a competition in which members of the public could come up with new chocolate bar flavours. Now, three of those chocolate bar designs have become reality, but only one will make it into long-term production. Chocolate lovers everywhere are being asked to vote for their favourite one! That’s a great marketing technique to get people to buy all three, isn’t it? But we succumbed to the great marketing technique and did just that yesterday evening!

S saw the raspberry one. I then remembered reading about them and said we had to buy the coffee one too. And then there was just the orange one left – so into the basket it hopped!

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos because – well – we tucked into them last night. But I’m not one of those bloggers who only feels that they can write something when they have a picture to go with the text, so if you want to know what they look like, you can find them on the Cadbury inventor page or keep a look out for them in the shops!

This post is not sponsored – we just like chocolate!

the raspberry shortcake

Milk chocolate studded with raspberry pieces, white crisp pearls, and shortcake.

This was S’ favourite and my second favourite! I don’t usually go for raspberry things, but the zinginess of the raspberry went well with the milk chocolate, and you don’t see a lot of raspberry chocolate. In Germany it’s easy to find things like strawberry chocolate, but the UK market doesn’t seem to go for it. So I’d be happy to see more fruity chocolate around!

Simply the zest

Orange flavoured milk chocolate with caramel pieces and digestive biscuit chunks.

Love the name, not so sure about the bar. I was thinking biscuitty Terry’s chocolate orange, but no. I’m not sure I even agree with the description here, but I did copy it from the Cadbury site. It tastes to me like normal chocolate, caramel, and orange flavoured squishy bits. I thought they were raisins at first. I’m still not entirely sure what they are, but I’m not a fan. Shame really as I thought this would be my second favourite!

Choca-latte

Milk chocolate with coffee cream and digestive biscuit pieces.

Yeah ok it was a foregone conclusion! Unless they really did something to screw it up, this was going to be my favourite! Because coffee!

It’s quite rich because of the cream. I like dark chocolate with coffee, but this is not a strong coffee hit like you would get with an espresso bar. It’s meant to be latte, so creamy and milky. I like it, but couldn’t eat too much at once!

The winners

If I had to pick only one winner, it would be the coffee. However people in the UK don’t seem to like that much either – no more coffee creams in Quality Streets, which made me vary sad! I generally import my coffee chocolate from Germany!

So if the coffee bar doesn’t do so well in the votes, I hope the raspberry one wins.

What about you? Do you like fruity or coffee-flavoured chocolate? Have you tried any of these bars? If so, which one do you want to win?

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Milestones – museum of living history

Milestones – museum of living history

We’ve got another week off coming up soon and I realised I hadn’t finished telling you about one other day out that we had in June. Actually we went twice – once on a school day, when we pretty much had the place to ourselves (Kirsty’s favourite way to explore a museum), and once for their Father’s Day event (we took S’ dad – and fathers could have a free drink at the pub or free sweets at the sweet shop!)

I can tell you about what we saw, but it seems that things change all the time. So if you’re planning a visit to the museum, it’s good to check out their website and see what’s on. For example, an exhibition about life in the UK during World War II and various activities for families with children such as a street magic event are planned for this summer.

The museum is basically split into two parts – the industrial revolution in the latter part of the 19th century, and life in the 1920s.You go on self-guided tours, which I always prefer because then you can spend more time on the things that you find more interesting and you don’t have to go at the group’s pace.

Audio guides are provided. Someone with no sight would still need assistance to go round the exhibits in the right order, but the numbers ran chronologically and if you wanted to find out more about a particular topic, you were told which numbers to press. The audio guide is operated by push-buttons arranged like a telephone, so as long as I knew which number I needed, I could operate it independently. I like audio guides because they give me control of what and how much I want to hear, and my guide doesn’t end up hoarse at the end of the day!

The first thing you see is information about Taskers of Andover, a company that manufactured steam engines, farm machinery and road vehicles. You can hear one of the Tasker brothers and some of his workers telling you what life was like for them, and see some of the equipment that they produced.
This was also a time when children were part of the workforce, often poorly paid and working in dangerous conditions. This isn’t a central theme, but there are a couple of accounts of it.

The role of horses was more important in the first part of the museum and we made a point of looking out for them! They worked on the farms, pulling people around on their carts, and even helping with house moves to get people’s luggage from the house to the railway, when the furniture was being moved a long way.

Of course if you have horses, you need somewhere to buy your saddles, bridles etc, or special shoes that the horses wore when pulling the lawn mower so that they didn’t squash the grass! I didn’t even know that was a thing! You can also pop into the iron monger, or see what new hats were in fashion!

There is a house similar to the many houses that were built for factory workers, or others who worked for the big companies that were springing up. I used to live in a house like this once, so I had often thought about what life was like for the families living in them. Mine, however, did have an inside toilet and a permanent bath, rather than a tub that you filled with water in the kitchen. Whereas I lived there on my own, a couple with there 4 children were squished into the space, with very little privacy.

The two parts of the museum are separated, so it feels as though you are going forward in time to the 1920s!

The 1920s street has a different range of shops and you can visit places like the bike shop, the camera shop and the toy shop.

This was the pre-war era – within a few years, women would be taking on many tasks traditionally done by men because the men were in the army, but at this time the women’s place was still seen as firmly in the home, as demonstrated by the advertising for hoovers and ovens aimed at “the modern housewife”! Things have come a long way since then!

It’s hard to imagine how people could be wary of electrical appliances at first, preferring the gas ones because these were more familiar. But I guess people have been resistant to change for as long as there have been people!
Your ticket comes with a ration book, which can be used in the sweet shop, where you can try old fashioned sweets such as pear drops, sour apples, strawberries and cream, and a bunch of others. It’s not pick ‘n mix, so you decide for one of the sweets and get a bag of that.

If you want a drink, you can also go to the pub, which sells alcohol as well as a range of soft or hot drinks.

If you’re interested in old vehicles, you can find them in both parts of the museum. Among other things there is a Victorian tram, a steam-powered fire engine, and a selection of restored vehicles made at the Thornicroft factory, which produced steam-powered lorries and vans.

In terms of refreshments, we ate their both days in the café. The staff are really friendly there and there’s a good selection of lunch options. I knew a lot of the old songs that were playing because my grandparents used to sing or play them. I think they would have enjoyed the museum too.

We didn’t actually buy anything from the gift shop, but there are plenty of souvenirs in there if you want to have a look around.

There are plenty of things to see in the museum, whether you’re interested in the shops, the vehicles, or just what life was like for people. I’d definitely say it’s worth a visit, and as it seems new things are added regularly, keeping an eye out for any special events or exhibitions that might interest you.

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Trying out new products in July

I’ve collected together another 15 products to tell you about. I’m doing these less regularly now and not featuring repeat products. There’s less make-up now too as I don’t get through it as quickly as the skin care. But I still enjoy trying out new things, so here are 15 more!
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them!

Burt’s Bees

I like Burt’s Bees as a brand. I like the ethos behind it and the products. I wanted a new micellar water and saw that Burt’s Bees do one too, so I picked it up when I was doing my grocery shop.
The Burt’s Bees micellar water has a slightly stronger scent than I’m used to – a kind of honey scent. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a problem for me at first, but I grew to like it, and the product is good and gentle, so I’d get it again.

Gatineau

The next couple of things were from my FeelUnique Pick ‘n Mix samples. I might do another post about these, but basically you can get 5 samples and you just pay the £3.95 P&P. Then you get a voucher back for the £3.95 to spend on your next shop. Conditions apply, only once per month.
Anyway, I really like Gatineau Products, but they’re super expensive. I think that generally they’re worth it, especially the serums, but I can’t justify that price all the time. So I picked up a couple of samples.
There was the advanced rejuvenating cream which I’ve actually before, and liked. It’s aimed at the over 40s, but never mind – I’m not far off!
The second sample was the exfoliating mask – I have to be honest and say I didn’t leave it to set for long enough, so possibly didn’t get the best results. Always read the instructions! Essentially it’s an exfoliator, and anything that does this without grains or horrid micro beads is good in my book, though I’d have to give this another go to say what I really think of it. Having said that, I’m not a big fan of lavender in face products, and the scent of it was quite strong.

Jason

I really wanted to like this Mango shower gel, partly because I had 900 ml of it to use up, but mainly because I’ve heard good things about the brand – and of course it’s mango! There was nothing wrong with it, but the mango scent just didn’t smell like mangos to me – it was like mangos mixed with something else. It did the job, but I think I’ve tried so many mango products that I’m just really fussy now!

L’Occitane

This is an old favourite – I already knew that I liked the Verbena shower gel. I think I got this mini in the M&S advent calendar last year. I was going to save it up for my travel bag, but then decided to use it at home. Anyone who likes a fresh lemon scent will enjoy this.
I used up a perfume from this brand too – a mini from the advent calendar I believe – but as I couldn’t find it again on the site, I haven’t linked it.

Lush

We popped into Lush on our week off and I picked up a few bubble bars that I hadn’t tried before.
The love token bubble bar says “thank you” on it in raised letters. I get very excited about raised letters because I can read them – even when it’s random messages like “pull here” or “do not drink”. Anyway, thank you is a much better message and this bar smells of pine, ginger and clove. It’s sold out at the moment – I think it’s mainly a Valentine’s Day thing, but you could gift it any time you want to thank someone.
Blue skies and fluffy white clouds is one of the bigger bars, so you can snap it in half and get two baths out of it. It makes your bath smell of frankincense and patchouli – not scents I’ve tried before, but it was definitely relaxing.
French Kiss is lavender and rosemary, with coconut oil to moisturise your skin. Lavender on the face is not fine, but in the bath water is actually quite relaxing, particularly at the end of a long day.
I enjoyed all of these bubble bars and always choose the bars over the bath bombs because then you get the lovely scents and don’t have to add extra bubbles. A lot of these bars also contain oils or butters for that bit of extra moisture. It was a blog reader who introduced me to these, so thank you Becky!

Nuxe

I was introduced to Nuxe at Christmas when I got a gift set, so I was interested to see this body milk come up on the sample service. Now I can only find it on the European site though and it appears to be sold out there. I liked the product, but I probably wouldn’t go and chase it down if it weren’t readily available. It smelled good and absorbed quickly, but the sample wasn’t huge, so I’d have to test it some more to give a full review.

Origins

I tried a moisturiser from this brand last year and then decided to get a set of minis to try out some of their other more popular products. I finished a travel size of the drink up mask with avocado, which is a leave-on overnight mask that smells amazingly fruity and leaves your skin feeling great afterwards. Not the cheapest mask around, and I’m not sure how the Swiss glacier water helps, but I think it’s worth it as a treat once in a while!
There was also a mini of the spot cream. This stings like crazy, but it works. Maybe not the best if you have really sensitive skin, but if you want a blemish gone quickly, it does the job!

Sanctuary Spa

My mum introduced me to the Sanctuary spa body soufflé, which is lighter than a body butter and comes in a really big tub. It even lasted me a while, and I’m really generous with it! It feels quite thin and at first you don’t think it will do much, but it does actually keep your skin feeling soft and is good for any dry areas. And it contains mango oil, so what’s not to love?

Superdrug

Unlike the Vitamin E serum from this range, which is really quite thick like a cream, the vitamin C booster is more like what you would think of when using a serum. It’s got a little pipette that almost reaches to the bottom. It smells fresh and fruity, and sits well under moisturiser and make-up. It claims to leave skin softer and brighter. This is a budget range, but you could do a lot worse and I’ve had much more expensive serums that didn’t do as good a job as this. I don’t usually tend to shop in Superdrug, but I think these products are good value for money.

The Body Shop

We couldn’t have an empties post without at least one product from here! I don’t often do repeats, but I did want to mention the vitamin C skin reviver. It’s the only thing I buy now as a primer and I love it for making a smooth base for make-up. Sometimes I even use it on non-make-up days as well.

Yes to

This is not a recommendation! I ended up throwing out my grapefruit snapstick because my skin hated it and I had breakouts and big red blotches after using it. I would still use the Yes To hair products or shower gels, but I’m reluctant to try anything else on my face as this is the second bad reaction I’ve had. The first one was to the cucumber sheet mask.
I like the concept – a mask in stick form, but I was thinking it would be a creamy formula like a satin lipstick or a cream blush stick. It wasn’t, and I didn’t like the way it dragged across the skin. That’s why I just cut my losses and threw it out.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

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5 ways I’m kinder to myself now that I’m in my 30s

I don’t think something spectacular happens when you hit your 30s. I remember waking up on the morning of my 30th birthday thinking “I will never ever do this again” after one two many red wines (I’m sure hang-overs get worse when you reach the magic number!), but really it’s just the same as making the transition into any other year of your life. Having said that, I can think of some changes I’ve made since leaving my 20s, and here are five that are for the better.

1. Getting enough sleep

This is more to do with living with a partner I guess. If S goes away on a business trip, I tend to stay up till all hours finishing some task for work, studying, watching Netflix in bed… I’ve never been someone that needs a lot of sleep, but I think I have a better routine than when I was in my 20s.

Back when I lived in London, I was the first to suggest going out after work, and especially as I lived so far from the office, one of the last to make it home. I never thought anything of staying out till the last train and still making it back to my desk on time the next day, running on coffee and very little else.

Then there was the time when I was trying to do a full-time job and set up my own business. The thing that always had to go was sleep. There weren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I wanted to do, so I just made my days longer and cut out on the sleep!

If I got chatting to someone interesting online – no problem! I’d stay up all night and the next day I’d just have more coffee!

I can do these things now in my late 30s, but they catch up with me a lot quicker and I don’t honestly know how I kept up that kind of thing, often doing it more than once a week and then crashing at weekends!

I’ve always had a pretty flexible relationship with boundaries, especially if I’ve convinced myself that I can do something. I guess now I’ve just realised that just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Also I don’t have anything to prove.

Part of the problem in my 20s was that I wasn’t massively happy at work. It was a way to bring in the money to pay the bills and holidays, but I struggled to feel fulfilled, so looked for this elsewhere in my studies or voluntary work – which all happened at some time in the middle of the night! Yes, I’m a night owl, and it’s so easy to fall into those patterns.

Having no 3-hour commute also helps now. I can cook at a reasonable time and don’t have to fight to get my evening back because half of it has been eaten away by time on the train.

2. Saying no to things I don’t want to do

It’s not like I’m the world’s biggest people-pleaser! If I didn’t want to do something, I’d do all I could to avoid it – from the age of about 3!

But I think in the past there were times when I said “yes” to things because I thought I should be able to do them.

I refused to let the fact that I don’t drive stand in my way, so I’d agree to go to something with 2 train changes and a trek into some completely unknown part of town – because I wasn’t going to admit defeat. Now I just think “screw it! That’s more hassle than it’s worth and I’ll spend more time travelling than I will at the event! It’s not worth my effort!”

There were times when I didn’t want to admit that I don’t enjoy really loud places with big crowds – so I’d just go because I had convinced myself that I should be able to deal with it. Now, I can do it if I really have a reason to, but quality is better than quantity, so I’m more choosy about what I commit to. And far from being left out or having less things to do, my natural tendency to get involved in a lot of things means I still have plenty of options.

3. Having a better skincare routine

From the age of about 10 I had one of those plastic storage baskets filled with toiletries, perfume, moisturisers etc. It’s hardly surprising that the interest continued on into adulthood.

It’s not like I never bothered in my 20s, or that I went to bed every night in my make-up. But since starting the blog, I’ve learned a lot more about the products on offer, what my skin likes, and what you need for a good skincare routine. I think, apart from those few hormonal days when it feels like your skin hates you, I am reaping the benefits of this now.

4. Throwing out the shoes that I can’t walk in

It started off as an act of defiance. I was told that, as someone with a visual impairment, I should buy sensible sturdy shoes! So the first chance I got, I bought the highest, most painful heels I could find, and insisted on walking in them! Not all the time, but any time I was going out somewhere. I also kept a pair at work – because even I drew the line at running for the tube in heels.

I wasn’t bad at it either – yay for high pain tolerance threshold. The biggest problem was that my guide dog couldn’t understand why I suddenly wanted to walk more slowly.

To be fair, I didn’t have any shoe-related accidents as some of my sighted friends did. They did make life harder though – I remember on my 30th birthday celebration just taking them off and walking back to a friend’s flat in my tights because I was done with the shoes!

Of course I’ll get some nice ones for the wedding and I do need some new ones anyway, but I’m past the point of needing to prove that I can do something just because someone once told me not to! A true sign of growing up perhaps?!

5. Accepting help

This is still work in progress, but at least I’m getting better at it. I didn’t have any problems asking for practical help from my friends – like the time when I thought I had a mouse (I didn’t) and the time when the toilet cistern fell apart. But when it comes to anything involving emotions or generally not being ok, I’m usually the one who leaves it till the worst has passed and the solution has been found before I tell anyone that there was even a problem.

Relationship break-up? No problem! Wait a month or so before telling anyone so nobody sees you in bits!

The best way I can describe it is using a quote from a book I read – “it isn’t that I always try to keep things from people – it just didn’t occur to me to share”. I was too busy trying to fix things and overlooked the fact that I maybe didn’t have to do it all on my own.

That, combined with the fact that people always came to me with their problems. Somehow they just kind of expected me to be strong and coping with everything. I didn’t like to shatter the illusion! By the time we were done with the other person’s problems, I had no energy left to talk about mine.

Also, I’m not particularly emotional in front of others. That doesn’t mean I don’t have emotions, but I’d rather cry on my own somewhere than have to listen to people trying their best to help but somehow missing the point because they assumed everything was somehow connected with my visual impairment. Blind girls have the same kind of boringly normal problems too – just like anyone else their age!

If I’m angry, the whole world can know about it. If I’m sad, you may well miss it unless you know what to look for.

That isn’t good though, and living with S has taught me that you need to let other people in sometimes. Just because there have been times in the past when I felt pretty much alone with getting problems fixed, it doesn’t always have to be like that. Sometimes there are people there who would be more than happy to help if I’d let them.

Even last year when I had the accident at home in the middle of the night, I could and should have told people sooner. I had countless offers of help – the first message came within about a minute of my blog post about the whole stupid experience. There are people who want to help me, but I have to be willing to let them.

So yeah, still working on that one, but when you compare now with 10 years ago, I am getting better at it.

So how about you?

In what ways are you kinder to yourself than you were 10 years ago? Let us know in the comments.

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We got engaged!

I knew about the picnic. I knew we were going to Watership Down for a walk. It had been in the diary for a while. What I didn’t know was that S was planning to propose to me there!

Last Saturday morning started like any other, apart from the fact that S disappeared to the shops in the morning. Not that unusual really, but normally we would have gone on route. I didn’t think any more of it though.

The night before we’d been out for dinner to celebrate our 4.5 year anniversary. Ok it’s not common to celebrate half years, but when you start dating on the shortest day of the year, it makes sense to celebrate on the longest one as well! Easy anniversary to remember!

Anyway we set out in the car and drove to Watership Down. I haven’t seen the series on Netflix, but I did read the book, both as a child and an adult, and was looking forward to see whether we could spot any rabbits up there!

We walked for a while until we came to a nice spot at the top of the hill, far away from all other people and sounds of traffic. This would be a good place to have our picnic.

I was a little surprised that S wanted to go for a walk – that’s usually something I would suggest – but I thought he just wanted to do something nice for me. And after all, if you’re going for a picnic, nobody wants to have it in the car park or on the side of the road.

As I was sorting out the picnic blanket, S stopped me and said we’d had a stow-away. I was thinking maybe something grim that was attached to the blanket in the bag – a slug perhaps? A snail? But no! It was a cuddly owlbear (a creature from dungeons and dragons with the head of an owl and the body of a bear).

It was designed to be a dice holder, but this particular owlbear was bearing a note that S had hand-written in Braille. Actually the owlbear was going to deliver the ring too, but the box was too big to fit in his zip-up tummy where normally the dice would go, so the next thing was that S handed me the ring and asked me to marry him! I said “yes!!!”

Actually I didn’t say very much for a while – for once I was lost for words – but at least I got the main answer right and said yes!

He had been planning this for a while. It had taken time to find my ring, which is tactile and in the shape of an owl sitting on a branch. The stone is the main part of his body, and you can also feel his face and ears. Perfect for an owl-lover and I also love the tactile design.

I also love all the thought that went into it – finding somewhere in the middle of nature to do it, because he knew I would like that. Writing the note in Braille, although he doesn’t actually know Braille and had to look up how to do it on the internet. Finding my owl ring.

We did then have our picnic, although to be honest I was more excited than hungry!! The sun was shining and it was a lovely day for a picnic – so of course we had to at least eat the Colin caterpillars before they melted!

It was then time to tell the families! We sent a picture of my hand wearing the ring and the view of Watership Down. My mum understood the significance – other people took a bit longer!

So – I left my boyfriend on Watership Down and came back with my fiancé! The very next day I started my wedding planning spreadsheet – it’s quite impressive and already has over 10 sheets, partially filled out, and ready for new ideas as I get them! It’s not going to be a big wedding, but I love a good project to organise!

Planning the wedding

I’m not going to document everything here, at least not in advance, but I am planning a new wedding section on the blog to talk about the experience of planning everything, and the big day itself.

It’s different for everyone. I know as a blind bride-to-be I’ll have some extra considerations that other people don’t. A lot of the advertising in this area is very much image based, so I’ll need good descriptions. I will need help with some things, particularly around colours, but I have very definite ideas about others!

So from time to time I plan to share parts of the journey here on the blog.

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25 lessons from 2.5 years of Unseen Beauty

I can’t believe I’ve had this blog for two and a half years now! From what started as an idea buzzing around my head whilst I was supposed to be relaxing in the bath, it’s been an interesting journey and I am really glad that I now have this little corner of the internet for writing. Writing is quite a big part of my job, but I really wanted to do something that would get me away from thinking about work for a while – which is basically how Unseen Beauty came about.

Here are 25 things that I have learned since setting up the site in January 2017.

1. As time goes on, you’ll change what you want to write about

At the beginning I thought it would just be a beauty and skincare blog, but I found this too narrow a niche, and also some of the people who read my articles couldn’t care less about that! Also, there are so many beauty and skincare blogs out there. What makes people stand out is when they bring something new and different to the table. So I still have my product posts about once a month, but Unseen Beauty has become more than that.

2. Sometimes it’s surprising what people want to read

It’s that thing – you never know which posts people will like. You can spend ages with your finger hovering over “publish” thinking “shall I just bin this?” and then when you finally click the button because the indecision is getting too much, you find that people really relate. Or, you can spend ages on a piece of content that you’re really proud of, and barely anyone reads it! You just never know until you send the posts out into the world!

I’m never going to be the kind of blogger that bears her heart and soul to the world, but I have found that the posts where I share a bit more honestly are the ones that people respond to. I think there’s a lot of generic content out there, so people want something a bit different.

3. If you set out with the idea that it’s not about the photos, the right people will come

On my work blog I wasn’t that bothered. It’s an educational blog, and people come for the educational content.

In the whole lifestyle arena, photos have a more important role. Instagram invaded the blogosphere and suddenly much higher importance was placed on the photos – which is an issue when you’re blind and can’t take them yourself.

Blogging has always been about the words though, and I didn’t want that to be taken from me. So I was just honest about it. If I’m talking about a place or a product, I’ll try and get someone to take a picture. If I don’t manage it, you get the article without. Blogmas is enough work anyway without stressing out over images, so you may just get my stock Christmas photo.

And you know what? On the whole, people are fine with that. My articles tend to be on the longer side, and people come because they want something to read.

I’m grateful to S and my mum for helping me out, and I know the photos add value. But it makes me sad when I read that people don’t want to publish posts because they don’t have the right photos.

4. Blogmas is a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun too

I’ve done it twice now and will probably be doing it again this year! Posting every day in December until Christmas Eve, coming up with the content, and not reusing ideas is challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. Readers who engaged with the posts kept me going, and it’s also good to be part of the community of people who are doing it as well so you can see what content they are creating and encourage them too.

5. You’ll meet some cool people through blogging

Yes, there’s drama if you choose to get involved in it, but generally I steer clear of it and it stays away from me. I’ve found the blogging community to be really friendly and had some great conversations with people, either via the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or privately.

6. Ideas will come at the weirdest times!

In the bath, when out running, in the middle of the night … Never when I’m at my laptop ready to write them down!

7. It’s ok to take a break

Having a plan and a schedule is good, but sometimes if you’re running on empty, the best thing to do is take a break. Give yourself space to think about other things. Then the ideas will come again.

If you try to force it or churn out posts when you really don’t feel like it, you’ll lose the sense of enjoyment, and a hobby blog is supposed to be fun!

8. Blogging is about community

It’s not all about only communicating with your own readers. You can make some great contacts through interacting with others and also discover new blogs by seeing who comments on things that you find interesting. You may well have things in common with them. Apart from that, community = the chance to do interviews or guest posts – and perhaps my favourite, swap boxes!

Also, knowing that my genuine recommendations have helped someone else feels good too.

9. Things change and you have to come up with new plans

When I was reading my notes, I couldn’t remember why I wrote this at first, but it was in relation to WordPress. Sometimes the platform changes. Horrid new editors are forced upon you that are inaccessible for blind people. You have to come up with a solution or give up. I didn’t want to give up, so yay for plugins that disable the new editor!

10. The internet can be a mean place, but it’s often not as bad as you think

I was really anxious about posting some of my content because I know some of my opinions are unpopular. Not with the people I know, but particularly when criticising the disability community or things that challenge the accepted way of thinking – they can bring out the trolls! It’s not that I particularly care what some troll on the internet thinks, but things can spiral out of hand quickly and it takes time and energy to manage. Fortunately I haven’t had to … yet!

11.The stats will never tell the whole story

I look at them. My number-crunching brain likes them. They are useful. But particularly when it comes to people who don’t have their own blogs, they may just read and won’t give you any idea of what impact your words had. That’s ok! We don’t all do the comment, like or share thing. That’s ok! It often amazes me how people come out with things that they can only know because they’ve been reading my blog – and I had no idea they were!

12. If you get bored with a topic, stop writing about it

I got bored doing some of the product posts, so I reduced them. People will know if your heart isn’t in something!

13. There is so much blogger junk mail

Every… single …week! Offers of high quality content directly related to my audience. People who love my blog about parenting, even though I’ve never written a parenting post in my life! People who think my audience would just love to see their infographic. Because blind people just love infographics – the clue’s in the name! Ugh!

14. Collaborations are fun

Whether that’s the swap box or the posts I did collecting views on a topic – involving others in a non-spammy way is a different way to create content and get to know other people at the same time.

15. Readers can be so kind

From comments that say “I know where you’re coming from” to those who regularly support the blog. From people who look out for things I might want to feature, to others who say the kindest things. Then there was the reader gift of new products to try that nearly made me cry because it was such a lovely thing to do!

16. You might think you’re the only one, but often many people can relate

I’m thinking about some of my opinion pieces now, and the things I don’t usually talk about…sensory difficulties, the disability-related challenges that we don’t talk about. Someone somewhere knows how it feels and might even be happy if you put it into words!

17.Blogger events aren’t actually that scary!

Admittedly I haven’t been to many, and I still think I’d find some of them a bit pretentious or be mistaken for someone’s mum, but there are low-key ones out there where it’s just everyday people writing blogs, rather than going after that perfect Instagram-worthy life that only really exists in people’s heads!

18. Beauty box fatigue is a thing

So I cancelled them all at the end of December and only restarted one in June. I’m up for looking at new and different things, but if there’s a lot of repetition and things you don’t really need, it’s not really a bargain!

19. Broken links are a pain!

I now have a plugin to tell me about them, but often shops will just pull a product and then you have a broken link. Or people will delete their site, meaning that any links to it from comments or linked posts will just lead to nowhere. This is not a great user experience for anyone wanting to visit those pages, but broken links are bad for your SEO too, so it is worth fixing them – even though it’s a boring task.

You probably aren’t surprised that I have a massive spreadsheet for logging them all!

20. This is not my job

And I’m happy about that! I have 2 businesses. I think some people put themselves under a lot of stress to monetise their blog, which sometimes leads to collaborations that look a little out of place or endorsing products that they normally wouldn’t. I’m not judging because we all need to get the bills paid, but this not being my main job means I can turn things down without measuring everything as a business opportunity. However, if I do make some money through the blog, it’s a bonus.

21. People sending out phishing emails seem to love bloggers

Your site, that you don’t host with us, will be taken down if you don’t give us your credit card details immediately! Your email address, which also wasn’t set up through us, is about to be deleted! Oh no! Give us your money quickly!

22. People don’t just read Blogmas content in December – who knew?

I think it’s because it’s linked – so someone reading a doggy post might also read dog-related Blogmas content. It just makes me smile to see those pages getting views in June!

23. You can use your blog to do good and support charities

I’ve done posts with two wolf sanctuaries, two donkey sanctuaries, and a couple with Dog’s Trust. I know that as a result, a couple of new sponsorships have been set up and that makes me really happy. I’ve found too that charities are happy about the publicity and willing to help with information requests.

24. You can reach people all over the world

Location data isn’t always accurate – people aren’t always where they claim to be – but it can give you a good idea of where your readers are. Most of mine are in the UK, but I sometimes scroll through the list of countries and am interested to see how many readers are based in other parts of the world.

25. I still have ideas!

Yes, there’s a spreadsheet for that too! I haven’t run out of ideas after 2.5 years and I still have plenty more.

Finally I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has read, commented, supported me, or contributed in some other way to the first 2.5 years of Unseen Beauty. You’re amazing!

I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey!

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Trip to the Vyne – a National Trust property

It was the last day of our week off and we had been working through my list of places to visit. We decided to go to the Vyne, a former Tudor country house and grade I listed building owned by the National Trust in Hampshire.

It was a good day for it – the weather stayed dry for our entire visit, which I was particularly happy about because the Vyne is situated in spacious grounds with gardens and woodland, and you can do a number of walks.

We began by taking a look around the grounds . We even ventured into the children’s play area because there were some carved wooden creatures and insects that S wanted to show me. They were really cool, but I had to handle with care because of the bird poo! Still, I thought it was a nice feature to have in the play area, and blind people rely on tactile representations to know what small creatures and insects look like,. You can’t really touch a butterfly without hurting it.

As we arrived around lunchtime, we decided to have lunch before venturing into the house and doing our walk. The café area was quite full, so we decided to go outside and munch our sausage rolls on the picnic tables there!

We don’t have a National Trust card at the moment, but if you are likely to go back multiple times or visit other National Trust properties, it will save you money in the long-term. Disabled people can take someone with them for free. I hate the word carer and wish we could be like the more progressive countries who call them assistants or companions, rather than this archaic term, but the free ticket is definitely helpful. I would struggle to enjoy a trip to a property like this without an assistant to read information and help me get around. (This is a general comment about the term that is used everywhere, and not directed specifically at the National Trust)

If you don’t have a card, the price of your ticket depends on whether you want to go round the house as well. We did, so that was our next stop.

Your ticket for the house has a 30-minute window, during which you need to enter the house. However there is no restriction in terms of how long you can spend in there.

The house tours are self-guided, but there are plenty of volunteers around in the various rooms who are happy to give you further information or ask questions. We mainly read the information from the displays, which gave you an insight into what it was like living in the house, and the work that went into the recent restoration project. There was also an insect trail for children, which told you about the different insects that liked to munch on the wood or other items that the trust wants to preserve.

The house was built by William Sandys, who later became Henry VIII’s chamberlain, and throughout its lifetime, it had famous visitors such as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1535, Elizabeth I, and Jane Austen. Later it became a safe place for World War II evacuees.

The Vyne used to be much larger – it’s still big now, but the building is about 1/3 of its original size. I can’t imagine how much it must have taken to heat it in winter or to keep it clean!

The Vyne remained the property of the Sandys family until it was sold in the 17th century to Chaloner Chute, a barrister and speaker of the House of Commons, whose family owned it until the 20th century. They were responsible for downsizing it, but also for improving the access routes – something that had been complained about in historical documents. The Vyne was given to the National Trust in 1956.

On entering the house, there was a tactile model, which made it much easier for me to imagine the shape of the building and how the building as a whole looks.

Apart from this, as blind people go, I’m not particularly tactile when going around exhibitions. If there is a cool tactile thing, such as the statue of a horse that S found, I will touch it. But I can’t say how much can be touched otherwise, because we didn’t really ask about that and I don’t randomly touch walls and things as we’re going round!

I think the biggest surprise for me was the lay-out of the house and the way that a lot of the rooms were connected by doors, rather than all coming off a main hallway. The main bedroom had a couple of doors into it, which I’d find really disconcerting!

If you want to see how you would have looked in Victorian costumes, there are a number of items of clothing to try on. Not sure I like the image of me in a maid’s bonnet, but there was a dress that I rather liked!

It was clear from the information about the roof restoration project just how much work and how many people had been involved – sometimes taking parts of the roof apart, brick by brick, labelling the bricks so that they could be put back in exactly the right place, and then putting everything back together once the restoration work was finished. The house was fully reopened in 2018 – some parts could not be accessed during the restoration project because of the ongoing work. The project cost 5.4 million pounds.

Conservationists were also involved in a book cataloguing project, logging and restoring books from the 2500 book collection from the old library. The books can only be stored in rooms whose floors will support the substantial weight!

We didn’t buy any, but if you’re interested in second-hand books, there’s a second-hand book shop in the house, as well as the main shop on site for souvenirs or local products.

Even though there were a fair few people walking around the house, once we’d finished our tour and gone into the woods, we hardly saw anyone. Actually I think this was my favourite part, just walking around and enjoying the nature. There were a number of designated trails, depending on how long you wanted your walk to be, and there is information about the trees so that you can do bark rubbings. I didn’t, but perhaps this is something we can go back and do later.

We didn’t see any deer, but apparently they live in the woods. There were plenty of birds though, and ducks on the river. There is a clearly defined path and it was really peaceful walking around through the trees. There are also social projects, which empower people by providing them with new skills, whilst at the same time helping with the conservation work outside.

Have you been to the Vyne? Do you have a favourite National Trust property? Let me know in the comments!

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