Doris Does All the Wine: Bordeaux of Some Description

Following my introductory post, my lovely boyfriend obliged to my request and bought me some wine. One of the wines he bought was the one I’m about to review and the other was a bottle of white wine without a label, which I’m rather nervous about opening, if I’m being honest. I have a feeling it’s one of those chemical filled wines that will kill me upon my first sip, but I guess the life of a really bad wine reviewing service includes the possibility of death. Admittedly, he bought it on purpose, because it was £2 and a direct contrast to the Chateaux Vieux Manoir, which is apparently a Bordeaux type wine.

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I have no idea what a Bordeaux is other than the fact, I imagine, it is French and comes from the place, where I assume they grow grapes. I have only heard about it being mentioned in relatively posh settings, maybe in films? But I have never drunk it before, so I guess for my first review, this was probably a very good decision. Boyfriend is a smarty pants, who knew?

The Bordeaux cost roughly £9 and was bought from the Co-Operative down the street from us. It was bought not an offer, which I’m a little angry about, because £9 for one bottle of wine is ridiculous when you can buy two bottles for £10 from Asda (an extra bottle for a quid sounds amazing, doesn’t it?). Either way, please don’t construe this as me being ungrateful, because I am very appreciative of receiving wine all of the time. Apparently, Bordeaux can go one of two ways, sweet or dry and I think this one was very dry because it tasted like salt Ribena. I don’t think this is a bad thing, it actually reminded me a little bit of that salted caramel stuff that is very popular in confectionary items these days and at first you regard it with extreme trepidation, as though you’ve just eaten something fresh from the bowels of hell, but then afterwards you’ve found that you’ve eaten an entire box of chocolates and consumed roughly seventeen thousand calories. It was like that and I did wish that I had more once the bottle was gone. I also firmly believe that if I drank more than one bottle I’d have been pretty drunk and maybe flashed a breast or two.

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Now, food pairings with dry wines seem a bit weird. I mean, should you eat sweet things with a dry wine to counter-act the dryness and it would create a sense of euphoria that couldn’t be comprehended unless you were there, eating the foods in place of me. But, I didn’t do that. I had what has to be the most salty cuisine known to man. Because we’d had some really great news that day, we had a mini ‘beginning of the week’ celebration and decided that we would eat Chinese food that included ribs, chicken, Szechuan beef with noodles and rice and also some chips because they were free. We didn’t eat it all, before anyone suggests that I have an eating problem that fits in nicely with my drinking problem, you bunch of bastards. But it was nice, I mean, I guess it washed everything down in a flavoursome, salty kind of way and my cheeks sucked in, in a really satisfying, yet the opposite of thirst quenching kind of way. Maybe I should have eaten cupcakes.

We watched our favourite programme at the moment, which is the first season of The Blacklist and as far as inappropriately, enhanced by wine, sexually charged feelings towards people who aren’t attractive go, James Spader was receiving it in spades, which is absolutely hilariously and knee slappingly hilarious if you ask me. Also, James Spader is becoming sexy when I’m sober too, which may be a sign of alcohol poisoning, I’m just not sure.

Alas, in spite of being 13.5% the seasoned wine drinker in me was not feeling the buzz after the bottle was emptied, which I sometimes find with wine. I guess a lot of it has to do with, maybe my state of mind or the speed at which I was drinking or the fact that I drink enough wine to put an elephant to sleep and still remain standing, but that might have more to do with my Irish roots and Geordie upbringing than anything else.

I took to Twitter to find out what some of my social media pals were enjoying and Sex Blog of Sorts seemed to be indulging in Tuesday night wine, too, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Here is what she thought of hers:

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As always, if you’d like to contribute, feel free to comment or if you’d like a post of your very own like my dear pal Exhibit A who is going to be writing for Doris Does All The Wine very soon! Or whenever he fancies, it’s totally up to him!

Bottoms up, internet x

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Wine Reviews for Normal People (Title TBD)

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I read somewhere that in order to become a wine connoisseur; you have to go to a school that specialises in teaching students about notes, bouquets and food pairings, along with other very important information. I imagine, that makes you qualified to be on Saturday Morning Kitchen telling people what to throw in their gullets with their posh meal. The people I’m writing reviews for are people more akin to the type of person I am; a multiple bottle kinda girl whilst sitting in front of my television, before breaking into song at whatever Disney film has to be stuck in my head.

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I am writing these reviews for the person who likes to come home after a long, hard day and forget the day by pouring multiple large glasses and eating hula hoops, before stumbling through their hallways to bed and zonking out, waking up the next day with a distinct fog wrapped around their heads like an invisible, fluffy hat. This is how most normal people drink wine and if you don’t drink wine like this, then you have no place here. Please leave.

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There are no real rules to this wine reviewing, but I do encourage you all to join in by commenting or emailing and I’ll throw them in one of my reviews! I am going to review whenever I can be bothered, really and I can’t imagine that any of them will really be the same, but as a normal human, I don’t really know how to review wine, so if that’s what you are looking for, again, you have no place here. Please leave.

A guide I will try to follow will be as follows:

  • Label – what does it look like? Photo and a small description of why I chose it. Did it jump out from the shelf or was I intrigued by the logo or something else?
  • Price – was it a bargain or full price?
  • Store – very important, in case I, by some miracle, inspire you to buy! (If so, let me know!)
  • Colour – red or white, we don’t do rose in this house as an Italian wine Coinoisuer once told me that it is a bastardisation of red and white wine and I don’t really like upsetting Italians, bastards, or wine being disturbed unnecessarily unless I really want to slum it and offend an an entire nation (for example, if someone buys me rose wine as a gift, I will still drink it)
  • Sweet or dry? That’s important because if I’m going to tell you to buy this wine and you hate dry wine, you’ll think I’m a right bastard for not informing you first.
  • How many glasses does it take before you feel a little popped? I drink out of very lage glasses, so I can’t really do this very well, but whatever, these are my reviews and I do what the hell I want.
  • At what point do you start finding people you don’t usually find attractive on television attractive? Suggestions for ‘sexy once drunk’ television humans are more than welcome. Sex Blog of Sorts suggested Kevin McCloud.
  • Food Pairings – weekend drunk snacks like oven pizzas or takeaways with loads of grease on them being my formative choices, alongside blocks of cheap cheese, salted peanuts and potentially chocolate.
  • At what point do you start feeling overly emotional and the need to swill your wine glass, spilling contents to convey your emotions?
  • At what point do you start off on a massive speech, then go off on a tangent because you forgot what you were talking about?
  • At what point do you interrupt anyone or anything happening around you to sing loudly along to Disney songs?
  • At what point do you start feeling ridiculously horny and start showing off your cleavage?
  • At what point do you feel so proud about your cleavage do you send a picture of said cleavage to both of your parents thanking them for creating you so well? (yes, I did do that. It had a figurine of Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z wedged in between)

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These may be relatively bizarre points, but I’m trying to remember my feelings/behaviour/opinions when drunk. Feel free to comment, email or tweet me your own suggestions, send me a picture of the wine and a small anecdote as to why you’re drinking: Sorrow, loneliness, you want to trick someone into sleeping with you… Only proper reasons, you understand.

I’ll post my first review as soon as possible and Brain, I know you’re reading this, so if you’d like to fetch home some wine following my helpful wine guide, I would appreciate it and also be very grateful that you’re actively supporting my blogging pursuits. I will take no wine as a signal that you don’t love or support me. See you soon!

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Chapter Eight: Body Confidence and Me

Growing up, I had absolutely no issues with my image whatsoever; when my dad told me that Prince had written Most Beautiful Girl in the World about me, it was simply a given that he was absolutely and unwaveringly correct, so my incessant swaying whenever the song came on, purely made sense. I was thanking Prince through the method of sway-dance for writing a pretty accurate song about me. Every day, my parents would grab me in their arms, hug me and tell me that I was beautiful, something I accepted willingly – I guess I was really beautiful! I had no other means of comparing myself to anyone and I didn’t think of ever doing so and I don’t think that anyone ever compared themselves to me, it was just something that wasn’t done in the nineties, I guess; we spent more time playing games and deciding which Spice Girl we were, rather than worrying about who’s body was better than the rest. Truthfully, it took me a very, very long time to develop any form of body issues and think that it was my later teens that triggered the insecurities I cling onto now.

I was a teenager in the early 2000s and I’m not sure if something happened during this time that resulted in an entire generation of young girls suddenly loathing themselves, or if body confidence issues have been a popular bone of contention for every girl of every generation since the beginning and we were simply receiving the baton from those before us, but to me, it just feels like body confidence is a very modern issue affecting women these days and that my generation were truly the first to feel the bitter sting of self-doubt and loathing. I’m not sure about anyone else, but to me it felt like almost an immediate thing; one day I was simply me: a girl who wore clothes and did things with her time, wore shoes and sometimes wore a ponytail in her hair, and then all of a sudden, I felt that I was too tall, that my breasts were deformed; I felt dorky and plump, dreadfully awkward in my own too pale skin. I’m not sure where this idea came from, because I had gotten through the early part of my teenaged years quite easily and back then I had been covered in spots and my skin was greasier than a takeaway pizza, my limbs growing longer than the rest of me… I had no issues then. I still thought that I was simply a human, existing in society, maybe not the most beautiful girl in the world, because I found out that my dad liked to extend the truth a lot (like, who knew that dads didn’t give birth to boys?!), but I didn’t feel monumentally grotesque or anything else of the sort.

Growing up, role models were never really my thing and I never felt that I wanted to model my appearance on anyone in particular. There aren’t really many women from my childhood that I remember being obsessed with, other than potentially The Spice Girls as a collective and Ethel from The Worst Witch, who just so happens to play the bad witch making the protagonists life hell, but she wore really fierce boots and was top of her class at everything, a total teachers pet and I loved her. If you haven’t seen the film, you can find it all on Youtube and below is a picture of my favourite character from the movie:

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In spite of all this, I didn’t emulate anyone in particular and this adoration of Ethel the bitchy witch didn’t extend further than asking my mam if I could have boots like hers for school… And I did:

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The same could indeed be said of my earlier teenage years; most of my heroes were male musicians from the punk scene or in some cases, incredibly pale, long haired, piercy blue eyes Finnish metal gods. I did love the screen sirens of times foregone, such as Doris Day, but not in the sense that I looked at my body and thought that I needed to change it, or that it was inadequate in some way. I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment, but it began to fester within me, I guess, when I started watching The OC. At the time, I’m pretty certain it was a cultural phenomenon and everyone was affected by it and loved it; I was so in love with Seth Cohen that I genuinely typed, Curly haired Jewish boys in Newcastle, into Google and hoped I would find him staring back at me with comic book t-shirts and great taste in music. When Anna was introduced, she could have been, arguably, the first person I ever wanted to emulate as a teenager. She was so cool and adorable; I cut my hair off to look just like her and for the first time, I began reading comics and fell in love with Betty White. All I really managed to do was look like a pixie boy and prove to people that I was a weirdo obsessed with old people, but she still embodied a lot of the characteristics I recognised in myself as a teenager at the time; I was quirky and wise beyond my years, or at least I thought so and her wardrobe was enviable to the point I began dressing like her too, much to the chagrin of my poor mother who had no idea what the fuck I was trying to accomplish.

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For me, I think college was the first step towards me becoming the big ball of insecurity and anxiety I am today. When I started college, my parents offered to buy me new clothes and whilst I was incredibly grateful for their offer, I really regret the entire day, even now. It’s one of those memories that burns in my subconscious like a perpetual, horrific flame intent on ruining my life. You see, my dad insisted on coming with me that day and he hates shopping. My dad insisted on coming shopping with someone who loved the likes of Topshop and complained at everything in there. I can’t remember where I shopped in the end, but I dragged him around the shops for far too long, until he and my mam began to tell me what college was really like, so I had a better grasp on what kind of fashion ensembles to purchase. Turns out my parents were remembering their college years in the eighties as though they had gone to college in America in the sixties and what I ended buying made me look like the perpetually bare foot, long haired, bearded, hand-held drum playing marijuana expert; I was basically dressed in a Jesus t-shirt and khaki green combat trousers that my parents insisted were super-duper cool and that’s why they weren’t in Topshop, but at the back of a shop AND ON SALE. I also ended up buying a turquoise blue golf inspired jumper with other golf related colours on, which I wore ON TOP OF a shirt with FLARED jeans. I am so ashamed to admit that, until I started my first day of college, I thought I looked okay.

On my first day, the entire college was awash with really attractive, well dressed individuals. Women who looked as though they’d been up for hours perfecting their hair and picking out all the right accessories to go with their skinny jeans, heeled boots and cinched at the waist by massive belt style tops. I wore pink trainers with cherries on them, flares and the dork ensemble that made me look less like Anna from The OC and more like my parents had banished me from our Amish camp because they heard me listen to rock music one time. I was mortified. Even more so when I saw that there were people wearing the band t-shirts I so desperately wanted to wear, with skinny jeans, Converse and studs. I owned pink Converse! I could totally fit in! All day, I internally cursed my stupid parents for having such an influence over my fashion choices, because of their free admission that I had shit taste in clothes. Now, I realise that we were partaking in the eternal struggle between teenager and parent and that, for the first time in history, parents won and I allowed myself to be controlled by their ridiculously misplaced love. Arseholes!

Eventually, I found my own style and wore a lot of brightly coloured tank tops with t-shirts underneath, a lot of black and I eventually started buying my own accessories that made me look like I was trying to perform an African wedding ceremony on a daily basis, but it still makes me think back with abject horror at how bad I looked, but I still had no real issue with my body. Just my fashion choices… Sorry, MY PARENTS FASHION CHOICES. I then developed a distinctively 60s style, but a better one that seemed to be because of my burgeoning obsession with Ms Edie Sedgwick, out came the dramatic eyes and the big old earrings… Gone was the dorky girl who listened to her stupid parents!

The first time I ever felt horrible about how I looked, I was going into Newcastle for a night out with my sisters and one of my nurse friends. I was wearing grey shorts with black tights and a black top that fastened at the top of my neck, for some reason, with a black cardigan (I always wear cardigans!) my hair was tied up and my makeup consisted of the white eyeshadow with black eyeliner as I was going through my Edie Sedgwick phase and bright red lips. I remember standing in front of my mirror looking at my ‘then’ ridiculously flat stomach, before turning my attention to my round, seemingly pert derriere and thinking I’M A FUCKING WHALE I HATE MYSELF. I cried my make-up off and made it clear to my sister and mother that I didn’t want to go. Unfortunately, my sister really did want to go, so I had no choice. So along I went, in the clothes that I hated, my make-up reapplied and I sipped a few cocktails. Eventually, we decided to go dancing and went to a bar I haven’t been in since. On our way out, something hit me on the top of the head and when my sister turned around to see blood pouring down my face like I’d just stepped off the Carrie set, she began pushing and screaming to get me to safety. Someone had dropped a glass bottle on me from upstairs and burst my skull open, as far as I was aware. I knew I didn’t want to go out.

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Now, admittedly, when I don’t feel that I look okay and have anxious feelings about leaving the comfort of my home, I think back to that night and realise that it was karma. I did look fat, I did look hideous and I should never have left the house. A broken head was my punishment.

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My Life Soundtrack [Part One]

Everyone has that one particularly defining moment within their lifetime, when music suddenly begins to make sense. When it finally went beyond the point of listening to music, enjoying music and maybe dancing to music because everyone else was; at some point in everyone’s life, music truly begins to resonate and becomes more than just a song. And, as life progresses, they will reach more moments in life where a song can encapsulate a feeling, or a moment or become the defining shape of a memory. Music is one of life’s biggest passions, or at least it definitely is for me, which is why I’ve decided to share it on the blog today!

If you took a look at any of my Spotify playlists, or took a journey through the extensive collection my iPod has to offer, you’ll soon realise that my taste in music could potentially be described as eclectic. It can go from being something relatively cool, to something so uncool that it would make mental health professionals question my sanity. I’m unashamed of my music tastes, regardless, but do air caution as to when I play the stuff that I secretly love. If I’m home alone, the blinds remain closed and my earphones remain permanently in my ears and I spend the day listening to music of varying genre, so I can bounce around the flat, singing at the top of my voice, with no one witnessing my horrendousness but me (and maybe the neighbours who hear me sing). Sober me has a relatively awesome taste in music, but drunk me becomes a bit of a lunatic and eventually, at some point in any evening, I will hijack any playlist with the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack and scream along. That’s just who I am!

I’m not going to write a blog specifically about the songs that I like, because we could be on for hours and all that would do is show you how bloody ridiculous it is watching me make a playlist. These are the songs that I can pinpoint to a specific point in my history and remember why I love it so much; it can be triggered by a memory, an event, a feeling or even a person and then suddenly that song is all about those feelings. With the exception of a few songs, none of mine are inspired by people other than my best friends and times we’ve had together, but there are a few songs that remind me of Brain, which he amazingly thought to put into a soundtrack of his own by finding a bespoke company that creates custom made vinyl music – it took him a long time and a lot of effort and money, but on my birthday I received songs that encapsulated our entire relationship. On Valentine’s Day we listened to this vinyl whilst cooking and we kept laughing at the fact that we remembered the first time we heard each song and which specific memory we had in mind; they were all pretty much matching, which is pretty much the dorkiest thing you can imagine, but I also find it pretty important.

The Rolling Stones – Like a Rolling Stone

Long before my obsession with Bob Dylan began, an obsession with Mick Jagger began festering in my tiny mind. I can’t remember how old I was when I first heard this song, however, I do remember the exact moment I first heard it and when it became more. It was the early nineties and we’d only just had SKY TV installed, back when it wasn’t the extensive crap-fest of horrendously bad TV shows and adverts it is now. My parents listened to a lot of VH1 and I remember sitting in our living room one afternoon when the intro to the song began playing. It wasn’t an epiphany style moment that made me realise I love The Stones or anything, but it was a moment that I’m taken back to every time I hear the song. I think the fact that my parents both loved it at the time, too, makes a big difference.

Mike and the Mechanics – Looking Back, Over My Shoulder

This song is without a doubt the song of our family. When my sister and I were little, we would make up dances to everything that we liked and whenever my dad took this cassette out of the case and placed it in the cassette player, we would sing our little heads off and, very literally, look back over our shoulders whenever the chorus plays. It has been a firm favourite in every family playlist we’ve created and now, whenever we descend upon my parents house for the evening, my dad puts this on for us all to sing along to.

Bob Dylan – I Want You

I knew who Dylan was before I’d really listened to his music, but this was during a time where I was desperately obsessed with Andy Warhol, his factory and his super star, Edie Sedgwick. I was besotted with this entire decade and the fashion of the 1960s to the point where I would wear shapeless dresses with contrasting peter pan collars and wore nothing but dramatic black eye make up with flicks and a perpetual red pout. I began buying Edie Sedgwick inspired, enormous chandelier earrings and contemplated cutting my hair off and dying it blonde. Not much has really changed, because every time I see her beautiful little face, I want do to it all over again. As a result, I was looking online and happened upon an article that coincided with a piece I read about Edie and Bob Dylan being together at some point in the sixties. This article suggested that Dylan wrote Blonde on Blonde about Edie, so I decided to download it and see if it was true. This song in particular is supposed to capture the moment when Dylan met Warhol and I became obsessed with it. I’m a total sucker for gossip, but I’m an even bigger sucker for songs about people and to this day, every time I think about it, I remember sitting in my bedroom wearing ridiculously enormous chandelier earrings, red pout pursed and heavily eyeliner’d eyes squinting, trying to decipher Dylan’s poetry. Not much has changed, except the earrings, except now it means so much more because Brain is obsessed with him too. One of the first things my parents said about him was to express their surprise that he liked Dylan too. My mam said, WHAT? You’ve got to be kidding! But you LOVE Dylan! 

The Weepies – World Spins Madly On

This song is potentially one of my favourite songs of all time and whilst I can’t remember, really, what made me love it so much, I do remember that when I was going through a really tough time, I would listen to this song and I’d feel a sense of clarity that other songs didn’t make me feel. I guess because, in spite of the lyrics, the music and the singing is beautiful and relatively uplifting. Either way, it’s still one of my favourite songs, except again, the meaning has changed.

A Fine Frenzy – Ashes and Wine

For a very long time, I wanted to learn the piano and write songs, not necessarily to sing to people, but just because I liked the idea of being a musician. I had loads of friends who did exactly the same thing, so they were inspirational to me. Turns out, I didn’t really have the patience to learn the piano and I’m rubbish at writing songs, so that fell through. I had red hair at the time and was pretty obsessed with looking up pictures of women with red hair for style inspiration and this is how I found A Fine Frenzy. At the time, I was going through a really shitty time. I was in a ridiculously toxic relationship that made me miserable on a daily basis, but wasn’t brave enough to end things, because at this point in time, I wasn’t really smart enough to realise that my self-worth meant more than a relationship (turns out it would take me another four years to realise this permanently!) it’s such a silly thing to say, but this song made me wish that I was in a situation like this; it made me wish that I was so in love with someone that if someone didn’t love me anymore, that I would love them so much that I would want to fight for the relationship. Sounds a little fucked up, but I guess because I was in such a horrendous place, relationship wise, I guess I wanted more. Passion, maybe. Or even just to be loved, I guess? I’m not sure, but this song reminds me of wanting to be in love and wanting to feel passionate about someone other than Mick Jagger, maybe!

Michelle Branch – Everywhere

This song reminds me of being a teenager and spending endless amounts of time downloading music and making CDs for me to take into my bedroom and listen to on repeat. I think throughout my teenage years, I’d make a new CD every single day, because my music tastes would change so rapidly. I remember I went through a stage where I only wanted to listen to music written and performed by women and decided to look up a lot of new artists that I’d never heard of and whilst I discovered the likes of Sleater Kinney and other riot girl bands, I also discovered this song and whilst I’ve never heard anything else she’s written, I fell for this song immediately and would bounce around my room, singing at the top of my voice, presumably hoping I would be discovered by a music exec just wandering through the countryside one day. Ha.

Liz Phair – Why Can’t I?

This was also discovered during my obsession with female artists, but also because of the 13 Going on 30 soundtrack, a film I was obsessed with when I was a kid. I also put this song on one of the millions of CDs I made and I remember whenever I listened to it, I would make up these really ridiculously dramatic concepts of me falling in love with someone. As you can probably tell by now, a lot of my music tastes evolved due to my sheer adoration for romance. I am a total and utter cliché, and I fucking love it.

The Distillers – Young, Crazed Peeling

My obsession with Brody Dalle begun when I first saw this video during my early years watching PRock, because my mother didn’t want us watching any of the mainstream channels like MTV because, as she said, it was full of misogynist rhetoric that would encourage us to feel like we needed to take our clothes off and loosen our morals in order to get a man, which is something we should NEVER do. But punk music that encouraged us to become raging feminists was something she was fully supportive of. My obsession with Brody developed to the point where my entire bedroom wall was covered in pictures of her. One time my mam asked me if I still fancied boys and I’m assuming she was wishing that I would maybe take my clothes off and loosen my morals to ascertain my heterosexuality, but those are things she’d never say…

Okay, well, I’m bored now so I’ve decided to stop. I might post more, which is why I’ve called it Part One. Maybe I should have structured it better and included the genre surfing I’ve done over the years, but then again, maybe I will just do what I want and you’ll enjoy it, because I tell you too. Have a good day!

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The Passage by Justin Cronin

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It’s not often that I choose to read books more than once. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) and The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger) are three of my favourite books of all time. I am a sucker for classic literature, presumably given my academic pursuits and natural adoration of English Literature from being a very young age and each of these books are dog eared and beaten, in some cases there are pages slightly torn and weathered from constant, perpetual use. Modern literature doesn’t grab me in the same way and although I’ve read books more than once it hasn’t been because they’ve gripped me and made me feel the same way the aforementioned have, it’s because they’ve been simple and easy, frothy and lighthearted enough to allow me to while away the day sipping tea, wrapped in a blanket – they soothe the mind, rather than challenge it or excite it. However, The Passage by Justin Cronin contradicts my sensibilities somewhat, in the sense that it too is dog eared, weathered and remains the only modern book that I have ever read more than nine times. This current read through, actually, makes it my tenth. Suffice it to say The Passage is the greatest novel written within my entire lifetime and I don’t use those words lightly.

The novel was handed to me not too long after its original release in 2010 and the person who loaned me the novel said that it was the greatest thing they’d ever read and urged me to start reading immediately. When someone tells me things like this, I usually roll my eyes at the sheer melodrama and shove the book somewhere in my increasing ‘to be read’ pile and get around to it when I can be bothered, but, for some reason, I decided to read this one straight away. At the time, most of my reading was done on the commute to and from work/university, so it was slipped into my bag and I decided it would be read on my next hour long journey… After reading the first page, I was hooked: It was one of those novels that instantly held my attention and filled my sensibilities regarding literature with intense promise. This is going to be good, I remember thinking and it soon became the book that I would spend my evenings reading until my eyes became heavy with sleep and I awoke, book still in hand the next day. In short, it was my favourite book.

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The Passage is a post-apocalyptic-cum-vampire novel that, in my opinion, entirely reinvents the concepts behind a traditional vampire novel. The usual clichés writers use in abundance when writing their version of a vampire story are gone; there are no shimmering romantic heroes, or melodramatic teenagd hormones running rampant throughout the pages of Cronin’s epic. Instead, The Passage takes on an almost clinically scientific approach, giving the original concepts behind the vampire novel an intensely realistic re-imagination, making it far more thrilling and far scarier than the routes writers usually take when tackling the traditional vampire concepts; this is not your run of the mill Transylvanian vampire novel, this is something else entirely. Something better.

I think part of the reason behind why I love this novel so much is that it cannot truly be explained without giving away the entire plot and to give away the entire plot without reading the novel really doesn’t to dthe novel justice. Without reading the simplistic, yet entirely intricate language and imperative detail would be disastrous; this novel needs to be experienced first-hand, word for word. Cronin uses his blatant expertise to create a concept that is, essentially, so brilliantly basic that it stands out as one of the most important novels I’ve ever read; it’s like, everything you’ve wanted to read before, but better in every sense of the word. His characters are written so perfectly, that you feel you could reach into the pages of the novel, take them out and they’d be just as amazing as you’d imagined. It’s a novel of almost cinematic brilliance, which makes no sense until you’ve actually read the novel.

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Admittedly, if I didn’t know that this was going to be a trilogy, I may have felt disappointed; a lot of things were left unanswered and had I not read The Twelve and be highly anticipating the third and final novel, I would have felt cheated and the magic, so to speak, of the novel would have dissipated somewhat. It would not have been the first time that I’d read a novel with so much promise, only to be left bitterly disappointed and sad by the end. However, if you go into the novel knowing  that it’s the first of an epic trilogy, then your mind is put at ease and you can enjoy the not knowing with the promise that eventually all of your assumptions and hopes for the novel’s conclusion be answered, or at least reinvented in a far better manner than you could do yourself.

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In short, I found the novel awe-inspiring and absolutely astounding. I am reading it for the tenth time, but each time it feels like the first. Only better. I really to urge you to read it.

Buy the novel here.

Visit Justin’s Website here.

Buy the second instalment here.

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A Different Shade of Grey:

Today sees the release of Fifty Shades of Grey in our cinemas and with it, comes the controversy and the heady, dizzy frenzy surrounding the novel and subsequent movie will hopefully begin to subside… There will be an undoubted rush of women bellowing for all to hear that on-screen Christian Grey is as much of a romantic hero as his character in the novel, of which most will know my opinion! I recently wrote an article over on Femtellectual that explains why he isn’t anything of the sort and why women shouldn’t let Christian Grey anywhere near their sex lives, but even I have to admit, with all of my judgements and peeling a part of the novel to reveal the less than savoury centre, that EL James and her violently domineering romantic hero has changed the manner in which we view sex and relationships exponentially.

Back in 2011, when the novel was released, I am sure I’m not the only person who reluctantly experienced, first-hand, what it was like to come face to face with a woman who had read the novel. Out of the woodwork crawled many dishevelled women who were positively tickled pink by the contents of the novel and the ‘activities’ carried out by Grey in his ‘Red Room of Pain’, many with comments articulating their desire for their own Christian Grey. It’s no secret that sexual confidence soared within so many women that I know in my real life, including family and friends, and, as much as I have nothing good to say about the novel, or the domestic abuse within the storyline, I can get on board with the sexual confidence that ensued following James’ terrible, terrible writing.

I’m not afraid to admit that I was ashamed that so many of my family and friends read the novel and got excited over the concept of Christian Grey and I was especially embarrassed when my mother and sister seemingly jumped on the bandwagon. Because they’re my family, I saved them the diatribe reserved for other folk and I let them get on, but I realised later on, especially when my mother began reading them, that her enjoyment had nothing to do with her supporting the abuse or believing that it didn’t exist, or even finding it romantic. For my mother in particular, she was positively aghast, but not necessarily in a bad way, that things like this went on, not only within the confines of the novel, but in real life too. Apparently, when she was reading the novel, she meandered into my sister’s bedroom, book in one hand, reading glasses in the other and with a presumably adorably furrowed brow said, “can I ask you to Google something for me? I don’t know what anal beads are…” turns out my sister didn’t either, so they both discovered anal beads in all of their glory and my sweet mama vowed never to ask her youngest daughter any sex related questions ever again, instead choosing to either Google them herself, or ask me. I’ve always been renowned for my cavalier attitude towards sex and all that it entails, so I think my mother felt emboldened and happy to discuss things she’d never discussed before. When we went shopping, she would slide into Ann Summers and giggle at all of the ‘sexy’ clothes and even wandered so far as the vibrators and turned pink in the cheeks as I switched them all on and told her about the merits of certain movements and how it pleasures the female, much to her amusement/horror/surprise! Yet, whipping, flogging and sex toys inserted into anus’ didn’t seem like her cup of tea but, “those jiggly ball things” that Christian uses on Ana seemed to intrigue her a great deal. When she found out I own a pair and she laughed so hard that tea came out of her nose, “Really?!” she screamed, “what are they like?!”

***

One of my best friends got in contact with me this week to discuss Fifty Shades of Grey and asked if I was going to be going to see it or if I would like to have a girly night in my flat and we’d watch it together with wine, provided she could get either her partner or her mother to babysit (not us, a baby!). I informed her that I wasn’t all that supportive of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie and sent her the link to the article I mentioned earlier and her response was surprisingly different to most women. Promising anonymity, she allowed me to quote her:

I understand where you’re coming from with this, right, but ever since we’ve been young, you’ve been SO sexually confident. You’ve talked about sex toys like they’re your best friends and you’ve been so cavalier with your attitudes; what you like and what you don’t. I’ve never had that. I never understood where you got your confidence from, to be honest. But, after I read Fifty Shades I began thinking differently. As much as you were a lot of the inspiration behind my desire to be more sexually confident, a lot of the content in the book helped me begin to explore that with [her partner].

Admittedly, I was pretty shocked when I read her response, especially given my attitude towards the novel. I know and I do respect that people will have differing opinions and mostly, I just let people believe what they want to believe, but I have to say that it did surprise me that someone could feel so emboldened by Fifty Shades of Grey and that was one of the reasons behind one of my dearest friends exploring her sex life in a definitely more kinky detail.

My friends are, obviously, not the only people who have been affected by the novel, whether good or bad and it’s clear to see that EL James has inspired a surge within many factors of the sex industry. The sex toy industry for example, has positively boomed since Fifty Shades was released in 2011 and EL James has managed to bag herself a specific Fifty Shades inspired sex toy range that fans of the book/movie can purchase for their own sex play, which is available at LoveHoney and has proven extremely popular since it was first available online. There was obviously an existing BDSM inspired market, but with the popularity of the book and undoubtedly the novel, this has increased dramatically, and as much as I am firmly against the empire that EL James has created for herself, on the back of a book that undoubtedly promotes domestic abuse, but I can’t say that I’m unhappy that there are more and more women out there who have decided to positively and safely (presumably) explore a kinkier element to their sex lives.

It does extend beyond the bedroom, though, and I think due to attitudes towards online dating mellowing, I think a lot more freedom has been allowed for people to discuss their sexual preferences openly as part of the (for want of a better word) courting process, if you will. When I was single, I spoke to a lot of different men and used the likes of online dating to, at the very least, get my confidence (read: MOJO) back with regards to communicating with the opposite sex. Whilst I didn’t do it for very long, it did seem that every man I spoke to basically inferred elements of sex that they were into pretty much immediately. One man informed me, without any preamble, that he would like to see me hog died and insert sex toys into very specific orifices because that’s the kind of thing he was into… (three dots included) and whilst I didn’t respond to this person, it did seem to me that sex was the only thing that was on the table to this person and other people I spoke to as an immediate introduction to myself and presumably other women. In the past, where this might have been taboo to mention, or you might not have discovered until later on in the relationship, exploring kink and being open about one’s sexual proclivities has become a cultural norm and I do think the soaring popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey has something do with it; sensibilities have changed and, again, as much as I’m against the novel, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Talking about sex is, I feel, wildly important within relationships because everyone should be open and honest about their preferences and their boundaries; whilst having discussions within two sentences that reveal one’s sexual appetites is potentially a little full on, it’s still a good sign of confidences and shedding the ‘taboo’ moniker of sexual intercourse – everyone does it, but not everyone talks about it and Fifty Shades has helped that. Dating sites such as Plenty of Fish have even begun including specific sections of their website dedicated to people who like the novel and the ability to be able to specifically search for a dating site that caters to your needs has never been easier. Following the popularity of the novel, areas of the market have opened up and BDSM has become a popular, relatively normative sexual practice, with sites such as 50shadesofgreydating.com that allows you to sign up to the ‘luxury BDSM dating site’ for free and allows you to explore your inner dominant or submissive side by finding your Ana or Christian…Red room included! It’s refreshing to see that a kinky lifestyle is not only available, but widely promoted online and that people are exploring potentially dormant desires to be dominant or submissive in the bedroom by reaching out to like-minded individuals. It would be intruiging to find out whether these sites operate under the full safety of written contracts and promotion of safe words and loving/supportive after care for all involved, but even so, if two consenting adults actively go into a situation knowing full facts about BDSM, then I guess it’s up to the individuals to ascertain their boundaries, rather than the company, but it would still be interesting to find out.

It just goes to show that whether you love it or loathe it, Fifty Shades of Grey has had an impact on our sex lives and the manner we conduct our relationships in significant ways, and, whilst I am still fundamentally against the concepts of the novel and the promotion of domestic abuse within the poorly written pages, I am hoping that the movie depicts the relationship in a more consensual, loving manner that better represents the BDSM community, allowing for people who are potentially experiencing Fifty Shades of Grey to explore their potentially dormant proclivities in a more positive and safe manner.

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Rear Windowing The Neighbours:

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The view from my flat… Missing the river, of course! 🙂

Not many of you may know that I live in a block of flats. They’re not a block of flats in the traditional sense; it’s three stories high and boasts six flats in total, including mine. Mine is ground floor and the patio doors boast a truly phenomenal view, to the point where I like to sit in the rocking chairs outside in the summer and watch the river idle by. Where I live is really quiet, idyllic and peaceful and I love it. I’m not the type of person who craves drama or intrigue, I like to keep myself to myself and living somewhere that is as quiet as my flat is truly amazing.

Even though I live in a block of flats, I very rarely see my neighbours. I sometimes see the family who live above with their tiny little girl who as of late has been screaming for hours on end, breaking her little heart over something that is troubling her. I see the man who lives with his partner opposite who ignores me all the time and sometimes drives in and out of the estate for no reason, before standing outside and smoking for ages. I am also pretty obsessed with the old lady who lives at the very top of the building; I’m not sure if she’s in a same sex relationship with the lady I see around often, but either way, I think she’s the type of person who likes to get drunk on gin and tell inappropriately filthy jokes, which basically makes her my soul mate and I long to pluck up the courage to ask her or happen to accidently drop a bottle of Hendrick’s one night as she wanders past, hoping to strike up a conversation that allows her to be my best friend forever more. There’s another couple that I don’t really know much about; I’ve said hello to them both separately and I very rarely see them… until recently. Recently, dear readers, Brain and I have developed a Rear Window situation, which basically means I am the Grace Kelly in the situation and he is the wheelchair bound James Stewart… we are obsessed with one of our neighbours.

Clearly I am Grace Kelly, look at the glass of wine, man!

Clearly I am Grace Kelly, look at the glass of wine, man!

They’re a young couple like Brain and myself, which means I have often thought about them and wondered what they’re like. I do this with people who are in relationships, because relationship dynamics intrigue me to no end; I like to wonder if all couples are the same and if their concept of love is the same as mine, for example. Like, I wonder if couples behind closed doors spend as much time cuddling on the sofa, or if they like to cook together or if they chase each other round playing stupid games like Brain and I do. I’m obsessed with the closeness that couples share and if it feels the same. This sounds entirely mental, I totally appreciate that, but either way, I have wondered about this couple.

They are both young, they’re both pale and they’re both very polite, prim and I think quite proper. She is very quiet and I haven’t really spoken to her and he only says hello in passing, so I haven’t managed to strike up a friendship with them yet, to be able to outright ask them what I am dying to ask them. So instead, I have to spy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t shimmy up the side of the building and Spiderman my way along until I can spy in their windows, and I don’t hang out in front of their door waiting or anything, it’s not that bad. Really, my spying is entirely accidental and I think that’s what makes the situation worse.

You see, every evening if I or Brain leave the house, or if we go out to our family’s house and return later on at night, or whatever, this couple are sitting in their car. The engine is running, the lights are on and they don’t do anything. They just sit there. And I am foaming about it.

Last night, we went out quite early because it was my dad’s birthday and we had gifts to take him, so we left at about six o clock and didn’t return until about half ten. When we left the house and I helped Brain put my dad’s presents in the car, the male human from this car couple was standing outside of the car putting his coat on. We exchanged pleasantries, as we always do and Brain and I got in the car. Immediately, as we do, we wondered out loud what they were doing sitting in the car, again. I mentioned that it was pretty weird and put it out of my mind, opting to bother Brain in the car by pushing all of the pushable buttons in the car and laughing wickedly as he clicks them all off, cursing me and calling me a nightmare, then we drove off, not to think of it again.

We had a lovely  night with my parents and after watching the Newcastle match, we came home. We got home at about half past ten and when I stepped out of the car, I realised that the couple were still in the car!! WHY, WHY ARE THEY IN THE CAR!!!!! I immediately started grinning, as I do when I’m excited and nervous and desperate to tell Brain some gossip and as soon as we got in the flat, we began wondering aloud what the fuck they could possibly be doing STILL SAT IN THE CAR. I’ve never known couples who do this, especially when they have a flat of their own to go into and do whatever it is they want to do. So I’m at a loss and I am so excited for night time to fall so I can watch them again…

Why are they in the car?

What are they doing?

Are they planning a murder?

Are they playing Mexican music loudly to mask the sound of them arguing?

What the fuck are they doing in the car?!

Stay tuned, because I will eventually find out. Until next time, Grace Kelly OUT!

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Blogging Celebrations Ensue:

Because my blog’s birthday was a little lacking in posts and fun things, I decided that I would make it a week-long celebration. As someone who was actually born on Christmas Eve, I am a definite supporter of week-long birthday bashes! In celebration of my blog’s first year, I would like to write about some bloggers that have inspired me even if our blogs are within different spectrums. I’m not sure I really have a niche for my blog yet, I say ‘lifestyle’ but I guess it’s a ‘write whatever comes to mind’ style blog instead. Today I’ve decided to write about my friends, Amy from Cocktails in Teacups and Rachel from Happy Little Syllables. Both girls are two people I consider very close friends and who helped me more than they could possibly know last year, so what better way to thank them by shamelessly plugging their blogs and saying great things about them?

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I love Amy, she is one of life’s very rare treats and never fails to put a smile on my face. She writes at Cocktails in Teacups about fashion, beauty and her life that she shares with her practically perfect in every way daughter, Little Miss. I first met her very recently when we met up in Newcastle with Sian and Rachel for the day and I had a blast. She is an amazing woman who has had her fair share of struggles, but has weathered those storms and come out stronger and happier than ever. I love reading her blog because she has this effortless charm about her, that is probably as a result of her Disney infatuation, which I guess would make anyone bubbly and sweet, but I think Amy encapsulates the essence of Disney in a way that basically makes her a princess. I love her a lot and I know that she’s had a tough time lately, so I just wanted to give back to her what she gave to me, by shamelessly plugging her blog and her friendship. She’s a sweetheart and I think people like Amy deserve to be told all of the time.

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On paper, Rachel and I shouldn’t get on. She’s from Sunderland and I’m from Newcastle and tradition dictates that we should not be pals, but, like Romeo and Juliet and like Allie and Noah from The Notebook, we weathered those storms and became fast friends. We didn’t have sex or kill ourselves, either, so I guess that’s one thing that makes us infinitely better than the aforementioned play/book/films. Rachel and I met via Twitter, which is always the way, and formed a fast friendship through our love of wine, terrible banter and Absolutely Fabulous. She’s another person who helped me through a really dark time and I hope that I’ve been there for her in the same way. Rachel is suffers from a chronic illness, but as anyone who will know her, knows that she won’t let that stop her from doing all the things she wants to do. Late last year she started Femtellectual and asked me to write for her and having watched the site go from strength to strength and feature some of the most amazing blogging talents that the blogging world has to offer, it’s an even bigger privilege to be one of Rachel’s friends.

So, there you go, two of my lady loves that have inspired me both in terms of blogging and in terms of friendship. I’ve never really been one for female friendships, but with the help of these two, I’ve rediscovered what it’s like to be a part of a group that are loving, supportive and undoubtedly hilarious. Lots of love to you both. xx

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Woman to Woman: Labour Uses Giant Vagina to Win Votes

There are a lot of women taking to social media and blogs lately to discuss their increasing concern regarding female representation within British politics. A lot of us are metaphorically scratching our heads and wondering which party to align ourselves with in order to feel properly represented and others, myself included, feel so overwhelmingly disenchanted by the overt lack of female representation within politics that we are considering abstaining from voting altogether. According to those in the know, roughly nine million women refrained from voting during the last general election, the majority of those being of the younger population. It bodes the question, why does politics insist on not representing half of the population? Apparently, Labour have the answer and it looks like it comes in the form of a giant vagina on wheels.

Perhaps this isn’t the most important thing to take issue with, and I may be the only person who feels this way, but I feel that the bus is hugely patronising and, if I’m honest, quite offensive. Whilst I imagine that the thought process behind the bus was well intentioned, I feel that it creates far more issues towards women like me who were disenfranchised with British politics to begin with. A giant pink bus, I feel, only further alienates me from the voting process and a lot of it does, admittedly, have to do with the colour. Harman has openly argued that the colour is the most appropriate representation of their aims with regards to recruiting female voters, but I can’t help thinking that it is entirely counterproductive and creates a more specific and gaping gender gap than the one that already exists. To me, it feels that Labour are insinuating that female voters are different from regular voters.

In essence, Labour have single-handedly landed themselves a specific ‘niche’ target in the form of half of the population by highlighting concepts within their political aim that seemingly only affect women. Harman stated to the Telepgraph that: “I don’t think it’s at all patronising to recognise that women have got different patterns of their working lives, there’s different patterns in families between what women do and what men do. That is to recognise the reality and to say public policy needs to address that.” Which, if anything, just goes to prove how out of touch with reality that Harman and Labour truly are: To suggest that child care, equal pay and domestic violence are female specific issues is only further highlighting the massive misrepresentation of women within our country. This Labour voting tactic that is supposed to appeal to women on a higher level than their adversaries, only further seems to represent the over-arching patriarchal ideologies within our political voting system that disenchanted over nine million voters during the last general election; these issues are not gender specific issues that need to be addressed by women – these are overwhelming issues that have been apparent within our country for decades without being acknowledged by men within government bodies and personally, I find that it is these men that need targeting and not this ‘niche’ (and by niche, I mean that tiny proportion of women that represent half of the country. If you can’t detect my sarcasm, then read it again).

As far as political tactics go, I find this one to be the most offensive. An attempt to reengage female voters is a fantastic idea, but the truth is, reengagement of a disenfranchised body of women that represents over nine million people (perhaps increasing, I’m not sure) by driving around in a vagina bus is only highlighting that the government, whether they be elected or not, have no idea how to appropriately represent women, because they keep seeing us as women specifically. We are voters and the issues that are at the forefront of the woman to woman vagina bus campaign are incredibly important, but we’re not the people Labour need to be targeting. We know that equal pay is a horrendous issue within our country and we know that we are at a financial disadvantage when we perform the same job as men; it’s men and business owners and people like David Cameron whose blatant refusal to acknowledge this wage gap is the issue. The sheer cost of child care isn’t something that only affects mummy, it’s a cost that effects the whole family, meaning daddy needs to acknowledge and support child care reforms too. Domestic violence is an issue that affects both men and women, not only as victims, but as perpetrators too – in short, these are not female specific issues that that is where Harman and her merry band of idiots has gone wrong.

Instead of a vagina bus that highlights gender stereotypes (because all women resonate with and respond positively to a fluffy pink, girly bus!), surely in order to reengage female voters, specifically young female voters, is to highlight the inaccuracies, hypocrisies and blatant lack of gender equality within political systems. Passing things off as ‘female issues’ is only further representative of women not being taken seriously within politics. It highlights the gaping chasm that is gender equality within our country and only further emphasises that issues such as equal pay, child care and domestic violence aren’t taken seriously at all by governing bodies. I get the theory behind Labour’s vagina bus, I really do, but I feel that the only real goal it has achieved today is to further slam another nail in the Labour coffin: They are not only out of touch with their traditions and roots, they are out of touch with half of their voting population too and the main lesson I’ve learned today is that a vote for labour is a vote for the demise of common sense.

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Valentine’s Day Romance Tips

Valentine’s day, regardless of relationships status, causes internal woes within the mind grapes of so many people. Admittedly, this most romantic of days was created with women in mind. Let’s face it, masculine men don’t appreciate red and pink hearts, greetings cards and/or balloons, so if you’re reading this and wondering how you can be romantic on Valentine’s Day, you probably own a dick and are terrified of having it unsexed on Valentine’s Day by being less romantic than your lady friend deserves. So, here I have compiled a small list of sure fire ways to get your dick sucked on Valentine’s Day. You’re welcome!

Before I begin, I should probably make it abundantly clear: This list was compiled with independence and maturity in mind. If you don’t have your own place and in spite of having a full time job and a butt load of savings in the bank still live with your mother, then you should probably leave right now. Nothing screams ‘I breastfed until I was fifteen!’ like a man who thinks it’s okay to take a Valentine, or someone he wants to fuck, to his childhood bedroom whilst his mam sleeps down the hall. I mean, what’s wrong with you?

With this in mind, let’s continue to the list:

Décor:

Women love a wonderfully decorated room. If you look on Pinterest, there are so many pins and images dedicated to soft lighting, candles, fluffy pillows etc. that the entire concept is becoming a little tiresome; it’s white noise and doesn’t really scream romance any more. Plus, if you’re living in a masculine space it’s pretty hard to get fairy lights and candles inside without someone accusing you of being gay, which is definitely NOT what you want someone you want to stick your dick in to feel like. So, I have the best solution: Balloons. Specifically, balloons that allow you to share what’s in your heart, but you’re too afraid to say:

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Love Bites Balloons, Firebox, £5.99

My favourite is the one that says ‘LET’S FUCK’ because it encapsulates the true essence of Valentine’s Day, in my opinion.

Entertainment:

Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day is awkward for an abundance of reasons. The expectation of sex is pretty much the only reason you’ve gone to all of that effort with the balloons and the anticipation of having sex may be too much for your Valentine to comprehend, without distracting themselves with some light hearted entertainment, such as the following:

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The Big Book Of Penises 3D, Firebox, £24.99

This book comes with 3D glasses so that your Valentine can be fully acquainted with a variety of penis shapes and sizes, so that when your penis is out on the table (please not literally), there won’t be any nasty or unwelcome surprises.

Hors d’Oeuvres:

I’m going to assume that, if you’re inviting your Valentine to your pad, you’ll be cooking, because let’s face it, who wants to openly admit that the only reason you’re inviting them to yours is because your house mate is out and you haven’t been laid in ages. So, under the guise of appearing romantic, you’ll cook. If you want to impress her even more, you will have some hors d’oeuvres for her to have a nibble on and, courtesy of Firebox, you’ll need to look no further!

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Edible Anus, Firebox, £6.99

The tagline is ‘eat out this Valentine’s Day’, which is, really, all you need to know.

Gifts:

The ultimate goal for any girl on Valentine’s Day is receiving gifts. If she tells you otherwise she’s lying, because she doesn’t want to seem like a bitch, but if you know women as well as I do, women are all lying bitches and only say they don’t want presents so that they can call you out for being shit and cause a really big argument on what is supposed to be a really romantic day. So don’t let her get one over on you this Valentine’s Day! Give her a gift that she’ll enjoy. Like crabs! Or Syphillis! Or The Clap!

STDS

Giant STDs, Firebox, £8.99

If you follow my guide to romance on Valentine’s, I can guarantee you that by the end of the night, the only seat you will need in your house is your face. You’re welcome, internet.

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