Tag Archives: British

Awkward Conversations with Foreign People

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Hello, reader!  How’s the world treating you today?

One of the best things about living in England is the mutliculturalism.  (What makes it even better is that every time someone says that, Nigel Farage gets a stabbing pain behind his eye.  I have absolutely no evidence to back that up, but you never know…)  This is particularly relevant in London: did you see the re-imagined tube map showing the languages spoken in different parts of London?  Here it is.  How cool is that?!

I don’t understand why UKIP, racists and other generic twats get their knickers in such a twist about British identity.  Firstly, other nationalities have all sorts of beautiful, fascinating and useful things to teach us, as evidenced by all the purloined objects in the British Museum.  If we didn’t think that foreign stuff was cool, we wouldn’t have nicked it in the first place.  Secondly, we’ve kept all the Britishness we’ll ever need.  Seriously, we have.  There are certain British values which to this day remain undiluted, unwavering and inexplicable to people from elsewhere.  Our identity as a nation and our global reputation rest upon these unshakeable pillars of completely peculiar principles.  Here are some examples of things which we Brits are totally fine with, but which we find difficult to explain to people from other countries:

Bonfire Night
“About four hundred years ago, a bloke with a bit of a chip on his shoulder tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, so now we burn effigies of him.”
“And this is a happy time?”
“Oh, yes.  Fireworks, fairground rides, family outings.  All good fun.”
“You celebrate a four-hundred year-old terrorist attack.”
“…Well, yes.  But it’s a failed terrorist attack, if that helps.”

Queueing
“You just stand in the line?”
“You just stand in the line.”
“What if you’re in a hurry?”
“You have to wait.”
“What if you need the toilet?”
“You wait.”
“What if your feet get pins and needles?!”
“You just wait.”
“What if somebody jumps the queue?”
“Ah, well that’s different!  In that case, you TUT.”
“Yeah?”
Very loudly.  And then you carry on waiting.”

Why Tea is So Important
“It just is.”
“But why?”
“It’s traditional.  It’s English.”
“It’s Chinese, actually.”
“Yes, alright, but we like it over here, too!  It’s comforting!”
“How so?”
“Because it’s…hot?”
“So is coffee.”
“Yes, but…”
“And hot chocolate.  Hence the name, ‘hot’ chocolate.”
“Yes, but you wouldn’t find the queen serving hot chocolate to her guests at Windsor, would you?  She’d serve tea.”
“She’d serve coffee to the Americans, I think.”
“Perhaps.”
“And actually, I don’t think she’d be serving it.  I think she has staff to do that.”
“I’m not having this conversation.  Go and put the kettle on.”

Talking About the Weather
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, comment upon the weather.”
“Why?”
“Because weather is the ONLY thing that you can talk about with absolutely anyone at all, without needing any prior knowledge of them as a person.  Unlike religion, politics, current affairs, art and literature, talking about the weather doesn’t involve having an opinion or risk offending someone else.  It’s an excellent way to start or maintain a conversation with someone by purely stating empirical, uncontroversial facts. No one can argue with ‘nice day today, isn’t it?'”
“If you don’t want to talk to someone about their opinions or discuss interesting topics, why on earth are you talking to them?”
“…I have no idea.”

Sarcasm
“So you’re saying one thing, but you mean the opposite.”
“Yeah.  It’s a type of humour.”
“But why do you need it?  Why can’t you just say what you mean, like America does?”
“Oh yeah, because British people would love to be more like America.”
“Really?”
“NO.  THAT WAS SARCASM.”

So there you have it: the British identity in a nutshell.  Obviously those are all a bit silly, but you know what I mean: we’re a pretty odd bunch, and our identity as a nation isn’t going anywhere.  We are the affable, slightly strange grandfather at the global dinner table, and we’re ok with that.  We also need to be ok with other cultural identities, even if they seem strange to us.  Bearing that in mind, could somebody take Farage’s toys away and send him to his room?  No dessert for intolerant eejits, I’m afraid.

Have an amazing Tuesday!

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The Smug Spectrum

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Hello, lovely reader.  How did you sleep last night?  Me?  Oh, I had a very weird dream about trying to put on a play in the House of Lords.  David Blunkett wanted to play Oedipus.  Very odd.

Anyway, today I’d like to talk about the various degrees of smugness (smugness?  Smugosity? Smugism?  Who knows) that we come across in day to day life.  As far as I can see, there’s a sliding scale of complacency that we are willing to put up with.  It’s very telling about British society that we have so many synonyms for “smug”, which is a state that we inherently mistrust.  We need lots of words for it so that we can identify exactly what it is about someone else’s demeanour that we find offensive.

Confident: damning with faint praise, in this country.  We say it about ourselves in job applications and we try to demonstrate it in our social interactions, but deep down we don’t believe that anyone is capable of being confident every second of the livelong day.  It’s just not natural.

Cocky: a laddish, raffish, devil-may-care word for someone who is cheekily sure of themselves.  A bit annoying, but essentially harmless.

Self-assured: sounds like a good thing, and in general it is, but for most of us it also conjures up the urge to shout “WHAT?!  How can you be self-assured?  Why aren’t you riddled with self-doubt and paranoia like the rest of us?  Weirdo.”

Vain: get your face out of the mirror, dumbass.  This one is just about having a preoccupation with one’s appearance, which is foolish but not unforgivable.

Smug: a silly-sounding word for a fairly silly state of being.  The word ‘smug’ has connotations of self-satisfaction on a long term basis, which is just unacceptable.  It also makes us think of undeserved good fortune – it is used a lot in reference to celebrities and politicians, after all – rather than genuine achievement.

Arrogant: ah, this is a tricky one.  We say that arrogance is unattractive, and we may well mean it, but there is something weirdly appealing about someone whose self-assurance has been taken to this whole new level.  This one is a bit toxic for would-be friends and lovers, so it’s probably best to avoid these people unless you’ve got very thick skin.

Conceited: arrogance mixed with extreme vanity.  Stay the heck away.

Simon Cowell: almost certainly the devil in (not very convincing) disguise.  Avoid at all costs.  

Have a lovely, Simon Cowell-free day.

Sex and the (Hammersmith and) City

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Hello, you brilliant human being!  How are things?  I can see you’ve caught the sun.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Sex and the City as much as the next twenty-something girl.  It’s funny, sometimes touching, and a few of the characters are actually quite loveable.  It’s excellent put-your-feet-up, do-we-have-any-junk-food, sod-it-let’s-have-a-duvet-day television.  Best of all, watching it with your best friend gives you ample opportunity to complain about the insane behaviour of the characters, the implausibility of the plot lines and the animal cruelty issue of Sarah Jessica Parker being forced to act.

Maybe New York is exactly like Sex and the City, and we London girls are missing out on a whole metropolitan man-fest.  I doubt it, though.  Anyway, Sex and the City just wouldn’t work on our side of the pond.  Here’s why:

1) Is It Actually Raining Men?
As far as I can tell, New York is having some kind of eligible bachelor epidemic, because the four main characters meet men all the time.  I mean they can barely get out of the front door in the morning before a charming chap with a cheeky grin comes along.  That would never work here.  Londoners are usually slightly cross-looking and in a tearing hurry; we don’t have time to stop and smile winningly at random strangers.  Also, we’re British, for God’s sake – we don’t smile at strangers.

2) “And just like that…”
Probably as a result of number 1), the main characters go through the same emotional roller-coaster in pretty much every episode: meet man, flirt, date, sleep together, discover unconquerable flaw, have internal struggle, break up with man, feel immediately ready to go back out there.  I know some Londoners do date like that, but in general our cycle seems to be much more meet man, try to flirt but end up saying something silly/embarrassing, show great surprise and glee when he gets in contact, go on dates, discover a slightly concerning flaw, think about it, carry on dating until an actual problem comes up, break up, feel sad/angry/hungry, get back out there several weeks later feeling insecure because of getting hurt and having put on weight from all the ice-cream.  Not good television, perhaps, but it’s how we do things on this side of the pond.

3) We Don’t Talk Like That
I realise that as a smart, city-slick show about a fast-paced lifestyle, it makes sense to script sharp and sassy dialogue for the main characters.  Here is my problem: London girls are totally capable of being witty and hilarious, of course, but a) not ALL THE TIME – we all have off days when all we can manage is a “nhuh?” and b) not when our friends are telling us about their emotional problems.

4) No one Would be Friends with Carrie
Which leads me neatly on to my next point – why are the other three friends with Carrie?  She is so busy trying to be funny that she never listens to her friends, and as a heroine she leads a spectacularly bad example of whining, hair-tossing and flirting in the most cringe-worthy manner.  If she were a London girl her friends would have taken her aside a long time ago and told her to stop being such a diva.  And for God’s sake, stop putting your cigarettes between your teeth, you look ridiculous.

5) We’re a Bit Busy, Really…
One thing I really do appreciate about the concept of Sex and the City is that it spins a typical female insecurity on its head to make women laugh, i.e. it portrays women comparing men in bed rather than the other way around.  Having said that, the four main characters always manage to get the conversation back to sex, even when one of them is having a major life event, like a career crisis or getting married.  I mean, REALLY.  Talking about sex that much is just too time-consuming, too awkward and too un-British to work over here.  When would we find time to talk about the weather and public transport, for goodness’ sake?

Have a beautiful Thursday.

Here Comes the Sun

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Good morning and a very merry Monday to you, dear reader.  How was your weekend?

In the grand tradition of Brits overdoing it on the first day of sunshine, I have some very fetching sunburn on my back.  In the equally grand tradition of Brits just after the first day of sunshine, I crossly insisted that I hadn’t been in the sun for very long, and that I “shouldn’t” be this red.  That’s right.  I am so British that I subconsciously imagine a system of justice behind the weather.

Tomato-complexion aside, the sunshine has a lovely effect on lots of things.  I think that there are a few which deserve a bit more attention:

  • The most average-looking places look like movie set locations.  For example, I am not a huge fan of South London, but Kennington yesterday was a delightful sight.  After the new writing night I skidaddled down to a pub by the river for a friend’s birthday, and found my lot on a rooftop terrace.  This would have been fairly glitzy for us on a normal day, but in the sunshine it felt like an industry party in LA, darling.   (Except that we had wine and cupcakes, not champagne and cigars.  Close enough, right?)
  • You feel so much more zen.  It’s probably a combination of things: cloudless skies remind us of infinity, lying on the grass makes us feel more at one with nature and being warm in general makes us a bit sleepy.  I mean, philosophical.
  • Life becomes a window shopping trip.  This might be more for girls than guys, but I love seeing what kind of sandals, sunglasses and pretty summer dresses people turn out in when the temperature gets above 22 degrees.  Also, people are happier and more confident in their nice summer clothes, so if you really like someone’s outfit you can actually ask them where it’s from, and not get a standard “stranger danger” glare.
  • Sunglasses make everyone look amazing.  I really don’t know what it is about sunglasses, but everyone looks really, really good in them.  I have no idea of the psychology behind this (especially given that eyes are meant to be the windows to the soul and therefore pretty important in attraction, surely), but sunglasses make everyone look like rock stars.
  • Sunglasses make everyone feel better.  This one is fairly obvious given the last point: when we know we look good, we feel good.  Instant confidence from something as simple as a pair of glasses is one of the weirdest and loveliest side-effects of weather like this.  Also, sunglasses of different tints and hues give people unique perspectives: for instance, my friend Rob’s sunglasses are a brown-ish colour.  More than once yesterday we were treated to the exclamation “Everything looks like a photograph from the seventies!” I don’t know why that made Rob so happy, but it did, and who are we to judge?
  • Ice cream trucks are everywhere.  Creepy and perturbing music aside, ice cream trucks are essentially vehicles of joy, and their purpose is to deliver deliciousness to all and sundry in a given postcode area.

Have a sensational Monday.

Two Towers, No Hobbits

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Good morning, lovely reader!  Got any nice plans for your weekend?  I know for a fact that there are barbecues happening in London over the next couple of days.  Loving that weather-based optimism.

When I was writing this post I nearly called it “Real British Theatre”, but I disregarded that title for two reasons: firstly, it smacks somewhat of Nigel sodding Farage (and I have many faults, but voting for UKIP is definitely not one of them), and secondly it reminded me a little too forcefully of a university module I think I did, which was called something similar and was about theatre in the nineteenth century.  Maybe.  I think.  I don’t know, it was a very long time ago, and I wasn’t paying attention…

Yesterday I went to the Globe with one of my best buddies to see the play which, time-travel allowing, I’m pretty sure is Shakespeare’s homage to Tarantino: Titus Andronicus.  It was bloody, disturbing and impossible to stop watching.  It also had my absolute favourite characteristic of theatre: dark comedy.  It was funny at odd moments, it lightened the more blood-stained and grotesque scenes with a bit of whimsy, but most worryingly of of all, the actual subject matter and the characters’ situations made us laugh.  They also made us wince in disgust, groan in surprised nausea and sharply peg it out of the way when the actors were running around in the audience.

The actors had two metal towers on wheels to propel themselves around the groundling pit, and they used them spectacularly.  It still amazes me that something so un-British – barging through crowds of people, for heaven’s sake, and actually shouting at them to move, how very rude, I shall write to The Times – is such an integral part of the audience’s experience at the Globe.  The Globe is a beacon of British history and culture, and it attracts people from all over the – well, the globe, I suppose.  Ahem.

The un-British barging in a very British theatre is important, because it makes the story so immediate for the spectators (which is, after all, why they went to the Globe in the first place).  It made us feel genuinely at risk from the seething anger, the all-too-real swords and the fake blood being sprayed everywhere.  It was amazing.

The best things about this country are way beyond what politicians have to say about immigration or the Europe issue.  The best things about this country are the things that people gave us hundreds of years ago, and that we still enjoy today.  This country is about Winston Churchill’s determination, Charles Darwin’s curiosity and William Shakespeare’s imagination.

This country is about standing in the middle of an open air theatre and feeling things that audiences have felt about the same story for four hundred and twenty years.  That’s called a communal experience by the way, Mr. Farage, and the whole flipping point of it is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from.

Have an amazing Saturday.  (Not you, UKIP.)

Face Value

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Hello, and a very happy May Day to you!  Did you know that 1st May used to be considered the first day of summer?  Yeah.  Apparently that’s why the summer solstice (25th June) is known as midsummer, even though we all know that it will still be cold and rainy at that point.  Ah well.

Also, this day always makes me think of an episode of Red Dwarf when two of the main characters get marooned and are discussing the distress signal:

Rimmer: I wonder why they call it ‘May Day’.
Lister: Eh?
Rimmer: The distress call.  I wonder why it’s May Day…it’s only a bank holiday.  Why not Shrove Tuesday or Ascension Sunday?

I digress before I’ve even begun.  ANYWAY, one of the slightly surprising side-effects of writing a blog has been my friends’ reactions to it.  If I’m being ambiguous about certain situations or what have you (mainly due to respect for others, privacy and suchlike), my friends tend to ask “was that post about such-and-such?” or “were you talking about so-and-so?”  Sometimes the answer is yes, but to be honest I’m not sure that it matters.  If it’s really important I’ll talk to my friends about it in real life, anyway.  We’re supposed to be going to the pub in about five hours, after all.  Plus it’s your round.

This is something that lots of people (not just girls, before you think I’m stereotyping) find difficult: accepting a statement at face value and not trying to find hidden meaning.  I am terrible for this, so please excuse the blatant hypocrisy.  (I’ll make it up to you with biscuits.  D’you like chocolate digestives?)  I over-think like it’s going out of fashion, so I am constantly asking in wretched tones “but what does that MEAN?”, and trying to determine people’s exact feelings about life, the universe and everything based on sentences as simple as “I’ll see you later”.  I’m a lot better than I used to be about this, but I think a lot of us are constantly dissatisfied with transparency and longing to find some obscure meaning in a bit of opacity.

Why do we do that?  Is it because we are genuinely convinced that every sentence spoken or written has an ulterior motive, a deeper meaning or a secretive subtext?  We do it with everything: text messages from the person we’re enamoured with, oddly formal emails from colleagues, passive-aggressive messages from friends with whom we’ve sort of fallen out.  Why can’t we accept things for what they are, and trust that what people say to us is usually what they mean to say?

I’ll tell you why: because we’re British.  We hardly ever say what we mean out of a neurotic fear of seeming impolite.  This is the nation that can make “sorry” sound like anything from a sincere apology to a vicious death threat, for crying out loud.  So I have a challenge for you, lovely people of this United Kingdom: cry God for Harry, England and St. George, and try to be a bit more open with people.  If you want to be able to take statements at face value then you have to start with the man (or lady) in the mirror.  Michael Jackson would be proper chuffed.

Have the kind of Thursday that would make an excellent movie

The Great British Nightmares

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Good morning and happy Saturday!  I hope that you drank in moderation last night, and if you didn’t, that your house mate/partner/unexpected guest has some painkillers for you.

As comedian Bill Bailey said in his show Part Troll, it’s very difficult to describe being British to someone who’s not from these blessed isles.  He came up with a pretty accurate description, though:

“We have strong prevailing south westerly winds, um…52% of our days are overcast, so as a nation we’re infused with a wistful melancholy…but we remain a relentlessly chipper population, prone to mild eccentricity, binge drinking and casual violence.”

I love that quotation, but I think that there’s another way to describe Britain – or rather, what it’s like to be British – to someone from a foreign land.  Predictably, I have chosen a method that allows me to provide you, dear reader, with a top ten list.  Here are the ten worst nightmares of British people:

1) How was your trip?

Particularly in London, people walk with purpose, direction and whenever possible, the speed with which to overtake the tourists just in front.  It is devastating, therefore, to massively stack it in the middle of a public place.  Sod’s law dictates that this will happen when you are walking past a group of threatening-looking youths, wearing supposedly flattering high heels or in a tube station during rush hour.

2) Stand clear of the closing doors

Speaking of the tube, it’s a wonderful feeling when you manage to squeeze into a crowded carriage on your commute, and if you’re the last one in there’s an Indiana Jones, just-in-the-nick-of-time element to your euphoria.  But this joy is short-lived if and when you discover that your errant coat/bag/scarf is the reason that the TFL guy on the platform keeps shouting “Stand CLEAR of the CLOSING DOORS, please!”

3) London is not your Oyster

Another London-based issue, and again this relates most strongly to the havoc of rush hour: being the person who queues up for ages to get to the ticket barrier, only to discover that your Oyster card simply does not want to play ball.  You definitely topped it up this morning, so what’s its problem?  “Seek assistance”, indeed.  I will try, but I have to apologetically shuffle back through this crowd of cross commuters waiting to use the barrier first!

4) Turn around (every now and then I drop my drink)

Assuming that you manage to navigate your way through the streets and train networks, you might make your way to a pub to see some friends and enjoy a nice, cold drink.  On a weekend night in particular, the inevitable queueing process at a bar is arduous (but it will not defeat you – you’re British after all, and you know how this works).  So once you’ve finally got your drink in hand, the next task is simply to turn away from the bar, carry your drink through the crowd of soon-to-be-sozzled people and find your table.  Easier said than done.  One errant elbow from an inattentive stranger and your pint/wine glass/soda and lime can go hurtling onto the floor.  Back of the queue.

5) Decaf soya latte with sugar free hazelnut syrup, thanks

The beverage-related nightmare doesn’t end there: as a nation we are globally renowned for our love of hot beverages, and it’s always alarming when you come across somebody who doesn’t drink tea or coffee.  (Honestly, it gives me the heebie jeebies just typing those words.)  Worse than that is to be a coffee or tea lover, but to be very particular about how you take your drink.  We live in a world where syrups, soya milk and cinnamon topping (why?) are available in coffee shops all over the country, but if you’re at someone’s house and they offer you a hot drink, it’s excruciating to have to say “er…do you have any brown sugar?”, or make a similarly difficult request.  I come up against this embarrassing situation quite often, because I’m allergic to dairy stuff and I don’t like black coffee.  It’s not  really my fault, but I’m English, ergo I am embarrassed by being honest about my preferences.

6) Well, gosh, I suppose, um…well, yes, actually, I do think you’re rather…I mean to say I think you’re very…no, silly me, forget I said anything

Being honest in general is not something that this country is good at.  We love a good moan as much as the next nation (by the way that’s not a dig at France, who are technically the next nation), but when it comes to being open and frank we are petrified.  I had coffee with a friend yesterday who advised me to be honest with someone about my feelings – Christ, can you imagine?!  One shudders at the very thought.  Getting a British person to be communicative on an emotional level is like teaching Keira Knightley how to act.  It really should be done at some point, but heaven knows how difficult and painful it would be.

7) The sneezing spree

Speaking of painful, sneezing several times in a row (for NO APPARENT REASON) is horrendously embarrassing, and it provokes most people to adopt a furious, baffled “what on earth is wrong with my sinuses?!” expression, in order to demonstrate to their companions that this is a completely unintentional display of violent noise.  The same applies to coughing fits, even if you’re ill and you’ve forewarned people of the fact.

8) Please leave a message after the person you’re calling has scrambled around in their bag, desperately trying to turn their phone off

Making any unintentional noise in public is excruciating to a British person.  Last night I genuinely had a nightmare that this happened to me: I had forgotten to turn my phone off, and someone called me in the middle of a theatre performance.  I go to the theatre most weeks and my memory for small tasks is terrible, so this event is a very real possibility, but only a British woman would wake up in terror at four in the morning because she subconsciously imagined her phone ringing during a production of A Streetcar Named Desire.  Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were playing Blanche and Stella, as I recall.  Sterling performances.

9) Shall we dance?

You’re walking along.  Someone is walking in the opposite direction.  You’re on a collision course.  Panic stations: you edge left, and they move to their right.  You go the other way, and so do they.  CRISIS.  Instead of apologising and running across the road in blind terror, I think that we should all use the opportunity to have an impromptu boogie.  The next time this happens, take the other person’s hands and launch into a spirited impersonation of the ballroom dancing scene in The King and I.

10) Always take the weather with you

Last but not least, that great and faithful ally of awkward conversations: the British weather.  In this instance, it can create a nightmare scenario by simply changing halfway through the day.  When a gloriously sunny morning fools you into thinking that an umbrella won’t be necessary and then a downpour strikes as you leave the office; when a brisk morning leads you to don a jumper, only to find that the day has become a record-breaking scorcher by lunchtime; when the weather forecasters scoff in the face of a possible snowstorm, and within an hour of you leaving home the world looks like a Christmas card.  This is why many British people carry sun cream, an umbrella and gloves with them at all times.  (I’m not joking.  You should see my hand bag.)  Better to be overloaded with stuff than to let the weather lull you into a false sense of security.

Have a stupendously wonderful day, everyone.

February Sucks (But You’re Pretty Awesome)

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Good evening, lovely reader!  I hope that Tuesday has been kind to you.

I hate to sound like a downtrodden farmer’s wife from an awful film, but it’s been a long and difficult winter.  2014 has not started well for lots of people I love.  Having repeatedly insisted to one another that this WILL be our year, I think a lot of us are starting to lose momentum.  We’re nearly two months in, and so far 2014 is a mixed bag to say the least.

On top of the terrifying news about floods, sink holes and that horrible woman torturing people in Russia, we are all living with personal fears and issues.  There are money worries, love life crises and all sorts of other concerns dominating my friends’ mental landscapes, and I personally spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what on earth my hair thinks it’s doing.

Two million people in the UK suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a type of depression linked to the seasons and specifically to sunlight.  You can get sunlight-imitating light bulbs and take other small steps to help yourself with the disorder, but there’s no doubt about it this time of year is very hard for people with SAD.

So, to sum up: the world is going to hell on a Boris bike and our own lives are not so great, either.  February sucks.  The British thing to do would be to grumble about it (quietly), and just keep going.  In a fit of non-patriotic activity, I have decided against that tactic.  I want this month to be a really good one, not just the usual post-Christmas “there’s nothing to look forward to” malaise.  So here is what I’m going to do about it, and I hope that other people who are struggling with this month can find similar things to cheer themselves up.

1) Eat something delicious for breakfast

It would be nice to eat something delicious for every meal, obviously, but breakfast is the most important meal because it sets up your metabolism for the day ahead.  You don’t want to get half way through your busy morning of being an awesome human being and run out of energy, do you?  Making yourself a great breakfast is good for you emotionally as well as physically, too: treating yourself to your favourite cereal (or whatever you fancy) puts you in a good mood right from the off.

2) Talk to an old friend

A text, a phone call, a coffee: however it happens, make sure it does happen.  Making a small effort to reconnect with someone that you care about but don’t see/speak to regularly is a really nice way to keep your chin up during this time of year.  You get friend points, you get to catch up with someone you love, and you have an opportunity to escape your day-to-day life and laugh with a friend.  People appreciate the gesture, and coffee is always good.

3) Do something selfless

This is a fairly common piece of advice, but it really does work.  Doing something selfless, no matter how small or inconsequential it might seem to be, is always good.  After all, we have no way of knowing how far reaching one selfless action’s effects will be.  Plus, you can be secretly smug about it.  Secretly, mind.  Don’t go bragging or you’ll lose the cosmic brownie points.

4) Tick something off the bucket list

Everyone has things that they absolutely have to have achieved before they die.  They are things that you want to do, you have wanted to do for a long time, and which say a lot about who you are and what matters most to you.  Do one of them.  Seriously, why not?  Why not use this meagre month to achieve something that would genuinely make you happy?  Carpe every diem.

5) Say nice things to people

Compliment people.  It sounds a bit weird as an instruction.  I’m sure you are a perfectly lovely person who gives compliments already, but think about it: if you find something to compliment about every person you speak to on a regular basis, such as your colleagues and house mates, you are training yourself to look at your day-to-day life in a positive light.  Plus, people love receiving compliments.  Even if you don’t like the person, give it a go.  You can do that, can’t you?  Yeah you can.  ‘Cause you’re awesome.