An Early Christmas Miracle

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Those of you who have never heard me speak might not know that I’m from what I fondly refer to as a shitty little town. That shitty little town was the making of me, giving me a sharp, dark sense of humour, a deep appreciation for how lucky I am and an accent, the hard edges of which no number of years in Edinburgh or London will completely smooth over.

It’s also a town that is ravaged and gutted by poverty. At the end of August, the area I grew up in was named as the most deprived area in Scotland, again. Paisley is a funny little place, years of rich culture and history barely managing to peep through an ever thicker tapestry of neglect. There are towns like this scattered all through the UK, ignored and belittled by the government, shut off and punished for the unforgivable crime of being working class. We’re lucky that the formidable Mhairi Black was elected our local MP and has spent her time in parliament shining a light on the effects of government policy on the people of my town. Change needs to happen and I couldn’t have picked a better person to fight for it than a stubborn wee Paisley lassie.

But change can be slow. And while change is happening, real people are suffering. The people of my town aren’t cute political stories or examples to be sneered at. They’re people, and they’re hurting. And so, while one of us fights for change in Westminster, the rest of us stubborn wee Paisley lassies have to step up. Enter the amazing Jodie Campbell. I went to high school with Jodie and even back then, while I was practicing snogging my pillow and insisting that I preferred being friends with boys because there was “like, so much less drama”, Jodie was making a difference. Every time I spoke to her, she was cooking up a new scheme to help someone who needed it. She is an absolute angel.

Last year, she hosted a Christmas dinner. She fed almost 200 people who were put forward by homeless charities, local food banks and housing associations and who otherwise would have been spending Christmas alone. Christmas can be an especially hard time of year for vulnerable or lonely people and I’m sure that if any of you have ever struggled, you know that the value of a kind word, a bit of company and a hot meal simply can’t be overestimated. It can literally save lives.

And this year, she’s doing it all over again! I know, I know, I hate bloggers who start talking about Christmas in October too. But organising something this big means that she needs money in advance. Please, if you have anything to spare, think about helping someone have a wonderful Christmas. I have over 4000 followers on Twitter. If every one of you donated a pound, we could make such a huge, incredible difference. Forgo a morning coffee and donate £3. Take packed lunches to work for a week and donate £10. Instead of buying that new dress, donate £20 and treat someone to a hot meal. I’m not a good enough writer to tell you how close to my heart this is, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that I’m tearing up a little. Okay fine, I’m tearing up a lot.

If you donate, you will officially become a member of the #stubbornpaisleylassie club, which I have just made up, so that in itself is reason enough to do it. I will also send a Christmas card to everyone who donates, so be sure to give me a wave over on Twitter if you decide to make a donation. There’s nothing more Christmassy than magic. And there’s nothing more magical in this world than kindness.

What To Do When a Cold is Kicking Your Ass

As many of you know, I work in a university admissions office, because nobody is yet willing to pay me for bingeing Netflix and being sarcastic on the internet. Come October, that means one thing: Freshers flu. A combination of working too much during enrolment period, dealing with thousands of germy Freshers, handling passports from all over the world and hotdesking in a draughty tent means that as soon as October hits, my entire office is taken down by a vicious strain of the lurgy.

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The change of season seems to see a lot of people getting ill. Whether it’s getting caught in a rainstorm wearing flip flops, being sneezed on on the tube or your kids bringing it home from school, it’s somewhat inevitable that everyone ends up poorly round this time. Here’s how to deal:

The Spa Day

I am significantly too poor to go for an actual spa day – although if you’re not, you should totally do that. But nothing soothes shivery, achy bones like a scalding hot shower. Splash a little Olbas oil onto your shower tiles and crank the temperature up. This creates a lovely little steam room in your shower and can help you get a glorious amount of junk out of your nose. I know, I know, I’m irresistible.

While we’re on the subject of pampering yourself, buy actual soft tissues with that nice balsam stuff. If you use toilet roll or *shudder* kitchen roll, you’re just going to scratch all the skin off your nose and make yourself miserable. You are awesome. You deserve luxury tissues.

Leaking liquid constantly out of your face has a nasty habit of drying everything else out, so stick a nice moisturiser and a lip balm in your handbag/pocket/desk drawer. Being ill is rubbish enough without your face crumbling and falling off, which will totally happen if you don’t moisturise.

The Tea

Full disclosure, I have no idea whether this tea actually helps get rid of a cold. But it always makes me feel better. Honey is great on a scratchy throat and the combination of steam and spices helps clear groggy heads and blocked noses. Cut a lemon into quarters and squeeze the juice from one quarter into a mug. Drop the squeezed quarter into the mug – this helps get more lemony goodness and also makes me feel fancy. Grate about a teaspoon of ginger into mug and fill with hot water. Sprinkle over a little turmeric and stir in a few teaspoons of honey. Enjoy.

The Soup

This soup is the greatest. I have yet to find a better cure for a runny nose, a drizzly evening or a shitty day than this creamy, carby, spicy bowl of goodness. Stick an onion, a couple of handfuls of mushrooms and two or three red chillies into a pot with about 500ml of stock and a big tablespoon of lazy lemongrass. Throw whatever other veg you have in the fridge in there as well. Carrots and peppers are particularly good. After that’s been bubbling away for a little while, add half a can of coconut milk, two tablespoons of fish sauce and a decent chunk of grated ginger. Let that simmer for ten minutes or so and then whizz it up in your blender. Squeeze in the juice of one lime, stir in a dollop of chilli sauce and add a packet of noodles. Cook your noodles in a separate pot first or it’ll make your soup taste weird. Next time you’re feeling rubbish, try this soup. I promise it’ll change your life.

Last but not least, just take care of yourself. Wrap up warm, wear really comfy socks, get lots of sleep. Most of the time, colds are as much about tiredness as they are about actual illness, so take your foot off the pedal a little. Drag your duvet through to the sofa and watch TV all evening. Eat delicious, comforting food. Say no to plans you don’t feel like making. And remember to wash your bedsheets once you’re feeling better.