The Happiness Project: July 2015

Welcome, lovely ladies and gentlemen, to a brand new feature on the Escapologist’s Daughter: the Happiness Project! A little while ago, I stumbled on a website called Only Do One Thing, which gives you one tiny thing to do per day that could turn a bad day around. And I thought, why not give it a go? So, I’m going to follow their little nudges and at the end of each month, I’ll do a round up of the fun stuff that they’ve encouraged me to do.

I’m an absolute expert at turning fun things into new excuses to feel guilty and berate myself over (hence why I don’t keep a schedule for this blog), so I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t manage to do it every day. But we’ll give it a go and see how happy I can get!

Are you ready for July’s highlights?

Schedule some serious time to look at the moon.

Girl, please. Scheduling time to look at the sky is a fundamental part of my day. Whether it’s watching grey clouds bruise a blue sky, watching the sunset paint my bedroom with golden light or gazing at the moon, wondering who else is looking at it too. And yes, it does make me happy. There’s something about the enormity of the sky that makes me feel like I should relax, because we’re all so tiny in comparison anyway. In one of my favourite books (The Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks), a girl comments to her date that the size of the sky makes her feel insignificant. He points out that when compared to something of that scale, everything is insignificant, and by that logic, them being there together looking at the sky is the most important thing that has ever happened. For the record, if you say this to me, I will marry you immediately, no questions asked.

Buy flowers for someone.

I was thrilled as when this nudge came up. I know they’re silly, really. But I love getting flowers and I love giving them. So I send a lovely bunch of orchids to my best friend Ruth, who I don’t get to see much since we live on opposite sides of this island. And I bought myself a big handful of freesia for good measure.

Snip20150730_1I got my text from Ruth being delighted with her flowers and went about my day, pleased as punch with myself. And then I got home to find these waiting for me:

Snip20150730_2I texted Ruth to find out whether Niall had rumbled me. He hadn’t. And as far as I know, she doesn’t even know the Only Do One Thing site exists. Having never sent flowers to each other before, we both spontaneously sent them to each other on the same day. Spooky. But wonderful.

Make something from scratch.

This was a good one, because it was one that I totally couldn’t be bothered doing. I was hot and tired and I would much rather have sat on the sofa and rinsed a few episodes of Gossip Girl. But I didn’t.

Snip20150730_3How do you like them apple pies? It may have been significantly too hot to make pastry, but I rolled up my sleeves and did it anyway. It turns out that getting out of your own head for a while and doing something that takes a bit of time and effort is really great for soothing jangled minds. In a world where we’re constantly rushing around, even when we don’t have to, it’s kind of nice to do something that only works if you do it slowly.

Wear your best underwear, just because.

Ahem. Done. In fact, I did it twice.

Enjoy this picture of a baby camel.

babycamel-hero2You bet your ass I enjoyed this picture.

Complete this sentence: “Love is like…”

Love is like coming home.

I can’t wait to see what August has in store!

On the Razz

One of the best and worst things in my life is that I’m surrounded by people who encourage me to pursue the things I’m passionate about with absolutely zero fear and often, zero consideration of whether they’re actually a good idea.

So when I say things like “Hey, I could totally throw a blogger event for Cancer Research”, I frequently find myself standing in a basement bar in Dalston, surrounded by goody bags, helping a lovely beauty therapist set up a mobile massage chair.

The Razz for Life was on.

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I put on my party dress, laced up my converse, inked up for the Pink Army and casually took 30 goody bags on a rush hour bus in 25 degree heat. Not for the first time, I feared I might be slightly mad.

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We would be Razzing it up in the basement of the fabulous Farr’s School of Dancing in Dalston, which is every bit as cool as you would imagine a basement bar in Dalston to be.

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Of course, I couldn’t entertain a big bunch of bloggers all on my ownsome, so I enlisted help from some of the coolest cats I know.

First up was Richard from Sniffy Wiffy, a body lotion brand that I absolutely adore. I met him and his wife last year at a blogger event and have raved about them to anyone who will listen at every available opportunity since.

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Their lotions are made with just five ingredients, smell incredible and each label contains instructions on how to perform self-exams on your breasts and/or testicles (delete as appropriate). They also donate to Cancer Research UK and Ballboys every time you buy a jar. My guests barely got through the door before I was wheeling them over to the Sniffy Wiffy table and thrusting pots of Kiwi and Lime body lotion in their faces. Luckily, they all seemed to enjoy it.

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I knew that all this talk of body lotion would put my ladies in the mood for a little pampering and luckily I had the lovely Sarah from Spa by Car on hand to help me spoil them rotten.

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As well as charming the pants off us with her gorgeous South African accent, Sarah was treating us to mini manicures and amazing Lava Angels hot shell massages. Hot. Shell. Massages. I know. I was too busy running about the place like a mad person to take advantage of this, but I have it on good authority that it’s probably the best damn massage you’ll ever get. I’m totally booking one in as soon as I get paid this month.

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Getting spoiled is hungry work, so I’d arranged some sweetness to tide us over. I met Polly from the Cake Diaries at the Benefit Pop Up Bar back in March and immediately fell in love with her scrumptious blog. When I first got in touch with her about the event, I suggested an idea that I thought might be a little out there, expecting her to say no. Instead, she took it and ran with it, making me doughnut kebabs instead of cupcakes, but retaining that all important message that rang out through the event:

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Look me in the eye and tell me that those are not the coolest cakes you’ve ever seen ever. I think I ate about seven sticks of these.

I’d also put out some Race for Life back signs, some glitter glue and some transfer tattoos, worrying that I was being painfully uncool by expecting people to be into arts and crafts. I went upstairs to get a drink and came back down to this:

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Everyone was totally into the arts and crafts. And I got to pass on my plentiful transfer tattoo knowledge to a non 90s kid.

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The goody bags inevitably drew everyone’s eye and after much shuffling and peeking, they were doled out, along with some fabulous raffle prizes. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the brands who donated to my goody bags, as well as the folks from Sniffy Wiffy, Spa by Car, Lava Angels and Farr’s. Their generosity meant that I was able to put on my event completely for free, meaning that every penny of donations went straight to Cancer Research UK. And my ladies got some amazing treats as well as helping out a great cause. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have undoubtedly seen my brilliant sheet mask selfies at the hands of Timeless Truth Beauty Masks. These babies aren’t just good for scaring the life out of your partner though, they pack a serious skincare punch. I love to use them to give my skin a quick pick me up if it’s looking sad. They also got some lovely samples from Inlight Organics, including the night balm, which I literally kissed for a photo in my bumper skincare post a while back. Hifas da Terra, one of the quirkiest beauty brands I’ve come across, donated a whole load of their magic serum, which utilises the healing power of mushrooms to perfect your skin. They’ll also get the chance to try out Forever Living’s Aloe skincare range, which I haven’t had the chance to sample yet. Report back, ladies, you know how I get about skincare.

But the best thing about this event wasn’t the goody bags or the doughnuts (although both were pretty damn good), it was getting to hang out with so many totally awesome people all at once. I got to see Tara and Jo, who I became friends with during the Beach Body party, I got to finally meet Hayley from Curves ‘n’ Curls in person. I got to know a whole lot of fantastic, inspiring, sunshiney women, and I really hope I get the chance to see all of them again.

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Since I threw the Razz for Life one week ago, I have had three separate run ins with cancer. Some are people that I care about dearly, some are people that I only know by association. I get defiant about cancer a lot, and most of the time it’s a real positive, passionate defiance. But in reality, cancer doesn’t care how sassy we are. We talk about bravery and strength when it comes to beating cancer, but the truth is, cancer doesn’t care about that either. Every day, cancer takes incredible, courageous, wonderful people from us, and the only thing that will stop that is research. I am so, so proud to have raised over £200 with this event. That’s 6000 microscope slides. That’s a cancer support nurse. That’s a clinical trial. And if we managed to throw a little sass its way at the same time, all the better. Cancer, I am coming to get you. And I will never, ever stop.

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If you would like to support Cancer Research UK, my donation page is still open at https://www.justgiving.com/Fiona-Longmuir/. Thanks!

Just Wear White

If you read my blog often, you’ll have seen Antonia Mariconda’s name pop up on more than one occasion. A veritable beauty guru, she has been a great inspiration, mentor and friend to me as my blog has grown. So when she announced that she was throwing a super-chic, glamorous beauty industry party, I knew I had to go along. My ticket arrived with one simple instruction: just wear white.

Having tried on and rejected approximately a million dresses that basically disappeared against my pale skin, salvation arrived in the form of this gorgeous Chi Chi London number.

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I felt prettier than Hilary Duff when that spotlight shines on her in A Cinderella story.

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That’s right, I felt give-you-four-pictures-of-my-face level sassy. Having made up my mind to go full Disney princess on this one, I paired glowy skin and fluttery eyelashes with a glossy purple lip and topped it off with Cinderella heels and earrings that would make Blair Waldorf proud.

When I got on the bus (I know, the glamour never ends with me), someone asked me if I’d lost my pumpkin, so I’m gonna chalk that up as a major success.

I arrived at the sumptuous Home House to a genuinely jaw dropping sight. The room was white, filled with glinting crystal and white roses gently dropping their petals to the floor. There was champagne everywhere. And everyone, but everyone, was wearing white. The gorgeous Nadia Roberts, who I’m sure you’ll be hearing much more about very soon, looked around and commented that she felt like she was surrounded by angels.

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I’ve written before about feeling like an outsider, and this fabulous occasion unfortunately also bore witness to one of the most utterly mortifying moments of my life. At the very front of the room was a wall of photographers, snapping the guests as they entered. Having grabbed the girls I knew and established that we all looked completely excellent, we decided to go get a photograph taken. We strutted up in front of the photographers, struck our best poses and…nothing. Not a thing except muffled silence and bored gazes. Not even one sympathy click to make us feel better. We must have stood there, smiles frozen on our faces for about 15 seconds before it started to dawn on us that no one was going to take our picture. It was like all your worst high-school nightmares come true. Grabbing a glass of champagne and satisfying myself with visions of someday taking Pretty Woman-esque revenge (You remember when you wouldn’t take my picture? Big mistake. Huge.), we fell about laughing and decided to take our own. Because sometimes this world is like climbing a ladder, and while we might have been nobodies in the room, we were still in the room. And I know that some day, we’re going to be the somebodies.

*hair flick, sashay*

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Fortunately, this was the only blip in a truly wonderful night. After hitting the bar to soothe our bruised egos, we hit the dancefloor and soon after, the photobooth.

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We had a few quick words of thanks from the inspiring Tulsi, representing the Katie Piper Foundation, which was the beneficiary of the night’s fundraising. This was followed by the most upmarket raffle I’ve ever seen and a quickfire auction, which raised about £5000 in the space of ten minutes. We danced the night away, but as the clock struck midnight, I started to consider taking on another Cinderella trait…she might have had to act as a servant, but at least the girl got to take off her party shoes.

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As with everything that Antonia does, the White Party was a glittering success, sparkling with elegance, style and fun. What started as a throwaway comment on her Facebook grew into something truly special. And I’m sure she’s already plotting next year’s encore.

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Me and the woman herself.

The Body Monologue

Family, you might want to skip this one. 
Some musings on the ways that ownership of my body has been taken from me. Best read aloud.
TW: Sexual assault.

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When I was fourteen, a boy in my class took hold of my wrists and kissed my neck.
No one had touched that part of me before.
I felt his mouth hot on my skin, my tiny wrists fluttering like birds under his fingers.
It reminded me of a game Dad and I used to play.
Except I knew my Dad would never hurt me.
In seconds, it was over. And he broke away. And laughed.
I laughed too. But I didn’t feel like laughing.

When I was fifteen, the girls in the high school changing room
With their women’s bodies and their sharp, sullen tongues
Would pull at my bra straps and tug at the buttons on my shirt
Exposing my chest to the laughter of the room.
I’d turn away to hid my shame
Hot tears falling on my traitorous child’s body.

When I was sixteen, the weight of my age and all that it meant felt heavy.
I let a boy feed me chocolates. I’d pose and preen and twist my body.
Flicking my frizzy teenage fringe.
Squirming to escape the echoes of
“You’re such a good friend”
And
“No wonder the guys don’t look twice”
The message was clear:
Your body is a show for them
And you’re doing it wrong.

When I was seventeen, I met a boy.
A boy who would show me what my body could do.
A boy who would touch and kiss and love, but never presume to possess.
Who held my hands instead of my wrists.

When I was eighteen, I was walking home one night. It was Hallowe’en.
I was dressed as Cinderella.
A homeless man, crushed against a dark shop front, grabbed hold of me and pulled me to the ground.
As I felt the bite of the pavement on my knees
And his fingers circle my wrists,
I wondered, why do people touch me like this?

When I was nineteen, a boy pinned me to the wall
And tugged up my skirt
The music in the club pounded in my head as I felt his fingers climb.
I was drunk.
My skirt barely skimmed my thighs.
I was alone,
Waiting for my boyfriend to return from the bathroom.

When I was twenty, I felt tears sting my eyes
As a stranger spat that I probably spent my life in the gym
For a body that no man would ever want to touch.
Over and over
Your body is not for you to enjoy.
You’re doing it wrong.

When I was twenty-one, a man requested that I wrap my legs around his head
As I walked for a train at eleven-thirty in the morning.
When I politely declined, he suggested that
If I didn’t want to be treated like a whore,
I shouldn’t dress like one.
I should hide away my body
To keep it safe.

When I was twenty-two, I moved to London
With its cloudy, bustling streets
And the dusty tube
I stood in rush hour with the other commuters,
Pumping like blood through the veins of the city,
When someone pressed against me.
Everyone was pressed against me, but not like this.
I stood frozen with fear and shame,
Feeling his flesh against my flesh
Back and forth
Until my stop.

At twenty-three, I took a photograph in my bikini
In front of an advert that once again screamed
YOUR BODY IS NOT FOR YOU
YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
A silly, wild, empowering stunt.
People asked, what does your boyfriend have to say?
Do you think guys find stick insects sexy?
Are you so desperate for validation that you need to get your tits out?
You have to hide your body away
To keep it safe.
It’s not for you.
You’re doing it wrong.