Tag Archives: sleep

Forget it, Jake. It’s Edinburgh.

Happy Sunday!  Shall we have a roast?  I’ll do the spuds if you don’t mind chopping the other veg.  Ok?  Great.

Today I would like to tell you, fabulous reader of mine, about mental health at the Fringe.  If living in London can be compared with being in a bad relationship, doing the Edinburgh Fringe is like having an affair with the Marquis de Sade.

It’s incredible.  The noise, the people, the flyers, the weather: everything about this festival conspires to give you a complete sensory overload.  The Fringe is very good at casually sauntering up to you and nicking the things you hold most dear, like time with loved ones, decent sleep and a sense of reality.  And yet we love it.

I really do love it, by the way. I know I sound a bit overwhelmed (blame the lack of sleep), but this is my favourite time of year.  It’s something that my cast and I have been working towards for about seven months, and we are determined to enjoy the hell out of it.

The thing about doing the Fringe a few years in a row is that you can usually track your progress.  For lots of people this is in terms of their career: my gorgeous comedian friend Laura Lexx has posters EVERYWHERE this year, which is good because she has an excellent face and an even better show – but personally I’ve noticed more progress in terms of my mental health.

Looking after yourself in Edinburgh should be very simple: eat well, get enough sleep, drink water, exercise, try not to stack it on the cobbled streets.  These all sound very straightforward, and hopefully they are also rules which we apply to our general lives.  But trying to preserve your sanity at the Fringe is akin to balancing a sea lion on a chopstick, so it’s important to learn lessons early and stick to them.  Here are a few of mine:

  1. Exercise.  I’ve been to the gym most mornings since we got here, and at the Fringe most people choose to walk everywhere rather than worry too much about buses.  I cannot tell you how much of a difference it makes to get a few endorphins going through your system before you tackle flyering on the Royal Mile.  (Plus, if you time it right, you might get to overhear some excellent conversations in the changing room at the gym.  The other day I was in there when a group of old ladies had just come out of an aerobics class, and the lewd comments they were making about their male instructor were beautiful to hear.)
  2. Sleep.  I’ve only had one “oh my God when did it become 5am and why is the sun up?” night since I got here, which is definitely for the best.  Last year I wasn’t so much burning the candle at both ends as setting fire to the candle factory, and I can already feel the difference this year.  It’s always tempting to stay out for one more drink or a bit more chat, but the same lovely people you’re talking to will be here tomorrow.  Go to bed.
  3. Eyes and ears.  There’s a weird phenomenon at this festival called “Fringe eyes”, which is when you’re talking to someone and they start to look past you, just in case someone famous or influential is in the vicinity.  It is the rudest and most irritating thing in the world, and people who do it are to be politely moved away from.  In the same way, if you’re talking to someone about their show, you know that this spiel is rehearsed and has been said a thousand times.  Ask questions about the rehearsal process, or where the idea came from.  Listen to the answers.  Treating flyerers and performers like human beings is weirdly rare up here, and they’ll remember you for it.

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    My producer Kate Goodfellow with one of our lovely posters. We were on our way home from the gym, actually. That’s fitting.
  4. Passing Ships.  You will see lots of people you know here: ex-colleagues, very old friends, intimidatingly famous people and that girl who was in that show last year with thingummy-jig, what’s her name again?  Amy?  Alice?  Something like that.  Can’t remember.  Text whatshisname and ask him.  It can be frustrating to only see these people in passing, but the trick is to realise that the month is intense for everybody, and most of us are perpetually late for a show.  Don’t take it personally if your oldest friend is a bit difficult to get hold of, or the person you’re madly in love with is never at the same bars as you.  A month is a decent amount of time to catch up, network, flirt and generally converse.
  5. Treat yourself.  Your mind, body and emotional well-being can take an absolute hammering at the Fringe.  Be nice to yourself.  You’re working hard and you deserve to be proud of your work.  Make the most of your time off, see some shows that interest you and for the love of all that’s good and holy make sure you do something that has nothing to do with the Fringe.  Edinburgh has a lot to offer; climb a hill, jump in the sea, visit the Royal Botanic Gardens and go to the zoo.  The Fringe is only one tiny aspect of an incredible city.  (My main non-Fringe activity is going to be getting a tattoo with my friend next week, but by all means you can go for something less extreme.)

Whether you’re at the Fringe or not, have a smashing day.  I’ll start peeling the potatoes.

10 Mind-Changes Every Twenty-Something Girl Has On A Daily Basis

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Hello and happy Friday, you stunning creature!  I hope that this week has been particularly good to you.

A couple of days ago, I saw this post about 31 thoughts all girls in their twenties have on a daily basis.  I completely agree with practically everything on this list – especially numbers 9 and 28 – but I think that there’s also a lot of mind-changing to be taken into account.

We are constantly exposed to new information and opinions, courtesy of things like the internet and the people in our lives.  We are also of an age when our youthful ideas are battling for house room in our heads with the slowly-creeping increase of grown-up sensibilities, so our thoughts tend to pinball around a bit.  Bearing these facts in mind, here is a list of before and after thoughts that a lot of girls in their twenties have on a daily basis:

Before – Those trousers are hideous.  Who on earth would buy them?
After – Ah.  So apparently those trousers are actually in fashion this season.  Shit, I should get some.

Before – I’m young and spritely and living the dream!  Long-term health issues are still decades away!
After – I’ve had that pain in my side for over a week now.  I must be dying.

Before – I have GOT to stop spending money.
After – Ooh, ASOS are having a sale…

Before – I can still go clubbing, right?  Right.
After – I have never felt so old.  I cannot believe that people born in 1996 are allowed to drink now.

Before – I am never drinking ever, ever again.
After – I NEED WINE.

Before – It is totally fine to eat cereal for dinner, play on swings at the park and watch kids’ television shows.  TOTALLY.  FINE.
After – Dear God, I need to start thinking about getting a mortgage.  And a pension.  Crap.  Do I need life insurance yet?

Before – I’m a serious grown-up and as such I will decorate my home with tasteful, mature items.
After –  FAIRY LIGHTS!

Before – I’m so proud of my friends.  We’ve all grown up and achieved so much.
After – Wow, we haven’t changed AT ALL since we were nineteen.  That’s a bit worrying.

Before – I will cook a nutritious, inexpensive yet delightfully inventive three-course meal for this dinner party.  Check me out, I’m hosting a dinner party!
After – Sod that.  Chicken nuggets and chips for everyone.

Before – From now on, I will go the gym every day, get eight hours of sleep every night and be nice to people I don’t like.
After – Yeah, but…cheese and bitching.

Have a glorious weekend.

“I’m Not Crying, It’s Just Been Raining On My Face”

Good morning, you stunning human being!  Did you have a good weekend?

Despite our best intentions and keenest hopes, we often find that life is more like an extreme sport than a walk in the park.  We can have a perfectly logical daily routine, an absolutely sensible diet and sleeping pattern, an eminently sensible wardrobe and a fairly rational outlook.  It doesn’t mean diddly: life is just going to do whatever the heck it feels like.

Inevitably, this leads to some great highs and some debilitating lows.  When the lows hit, sometimes we need to cry.  A lot of us dislike crying because it feels like a failure to cope (or even just an aesthetically displeasing transformation of our features), but it’s a necessary part of life.  Some of us cry more often than others, but it does happen to all of us, and that’s absolutely fine.  Here are a few ways to accept our inevitable face-leaks:

Separate the Symptoms
Sometimes we cry because of one specifically sad thing, but a lot of the time it’s because there are several contributory factors.  For example, I freely admit that when I’m overtired I tend to cry at the drop of a hat (or cafetière, most likely).  If you feel the need to have a bit of a sniffle, think about why that might be: did you drink a lot of alcohol last night?  Have you been sleeping properly?  When was the last time you ate something?  The purpose behind this is not to undermine your own feelings, but to recognise that the impulse to cry can be alleviated a bit by identifying and resolving the physical factors, which are often much easier to fix than emotional ones.

Forget Where You’re From
I don’t mean to stereotype, but I think one of the reasons that a lot of us struggle with crying is because we think it contradicts who we are: if we’re British, for example, we’re supposed to have a stiff upper lip.  Quite a few guys I know don’t like crying because they think it makes them seem unmanly, and several of my friends (male and female) think that by crying in front of people we are undermining years of establishing ourselves as “strong” or “good at coping”.  Sod that.  You’re a human being and you have tear glands.  Give yourself a break.

Choose Wisely
Crying can be embarrassing, impractical and downright irritating (especially if you don’t have any tissues to hand).  One thing that we can control is our audience.  If you’re the kind of person who needs to be by themselves to cry, so be it.  As long as you actually do make time to have a good wail, then go for your life.  But if you know that you’d be better off with a friend by your side, don’t feel bad about that.  It might not feel like your finest moment, but letting your friends look after you when you’re sad is actually a really lovely thing to do.  They don’t want you to be upset, obviously – but if you are going to be upset, it’s a privilege and a sign of how much you trust them when you let loved ones help you.

Join the Greats
Everyone you love, respect and admire has cried at some point.  Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Mother Teresa all cried.  Heck, even the amazing Liam Neeson has been known to shed a tear.  Don’t feel bad about being a crier – you’re in excellent company.

Find Something Funny
Even though it sounds unlikely, there are all sorts of ways to make yourself laugh when you want to cry.  For example, my siblings and I tend to pull out this classic Friends line:

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This song is also excellent for making someone giggle when they’re crying.  Making yourself (or someone you love) laugh whilst weeping is brilliant.  It may not solve the underlying problem, but it’s good to remind yourself that stuff is still funny.

Have a gorgeous Monday.

Welcome to the Hotel Elstree

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Hello, dear reader!  How’s your weekend treating you so far?

I’m sorry I didn’t get around to writing a blog yesterday.  Although there was a lot of waiting around at the television studio, I was kept busy chatting to the other contestants, trying desperately to revise my weaker subjects (especially geography) and consuming free coffee.

Unsurprisingly, Ash and I are not allowed to say very much about our experience of filming Pointless, but I can tell you that we had a lot of fun and the production team, presenters and fellow contestants were all very nice to us.  The aspect of the experience that I am allowed to tell you about (and will be focusing on in today’s blog) is our stay in a nearby hotel the night before filming.

As an actor who has been on a national tour, Ash has stayed in some very good, odd and awful hotels across the country.  When I was working at UK Theatre and doing talks around the country I had my own fair share of bizarre accommodation experiences, but we both very much enjoyed our sojourn in one of the well-known hotels run by a company whose name rhymes with Shmemier Bin.  Even though we’ve been house mates for just over seven months, it was a decidedly new experience for us as a pair.  Here are some of the aspects of our stay which made it a bit different from our usual evenings:

  • Sharing a double bed: we’ve shared a bed many times before, but on this occasion we were in an unfamiliar room.  This meant that when she rolled over and accidentally hit me in the middle of the night, Ash woke up a bit, freaked out that there was someone else there, and hit me again.  Not out of rage or fear, just confusion.  I think as soon as she heard me say “ouch” she worked out who I was and where we were, and happily fell back asleep.  I stayed awake being cross for a few minutes.
  • Having a picnic: Ash and I met at the hotel with a lot of snacks to share, including some cheese biscuits that my lovely mum had made (and which Ash ate a surprising number of, given that she’d just been out for a slap-up meal with her dad).  Again, as house mates we have spent many an evening sitting on our sofa working our way through an unseemly amount of food, but in a new place it felt like a special treat.  If either of us had been to boarding school, it probably would have reminded us of midnight feasts in the dorms.
  • Having yet more food: I cannot extol highly enough the virtues of a breakfast that you’ve not had to cook for yourself.  A glorious buffet of eggs, bacon, sausages, etc. made our 6am start much more manageable, and again, the free coffee went down a treat.
  • Behind closed doors: since there were other contestants in need of overnight accommodation and the rooms had all been booked at the same time by the BBC production team, it shouldn’t have surprised me to discover that the rooms along our corridor were all occupied by people in the same sort of excited/nervous mood as us.  Having said that, walking past a row of closed doors and hearing various voices chanting the periodic table, the kings and queens of England and the capital cities of the world did freak me out a little bit.  This was especially disconcerting given that our main form of revision was gazing vacantly at a map of the world and watching an episode of Dara O’Briain’s School of Hard Sums.
  • Unfamiliar faces: I have never had to try and sleep in a room with a large picture of Lenny Henry’s face on the table, and having done it once, I hope that it will never happen again.  Ironically, this image was being used to promote the hotel’s reputation for guests always having a good night’s sleep, but I can tell you now that nothing is less conducive to proper rest than the image at the top of this blog post.  No offence to Lenny, but at home Ash and I have pictures of our friends and loved ones around us, not famous people trying to kip.

Have a stupendously joyful Saturday.