Birthday Bonanza 2017

As I’ve got older, I’ve become less and less fussed about my own birthday. Being the centre of attention isn’t my idea of fun and I’d much rather spoil other people! My idea of a great celebration is being around people I love, eating yummy things and having a giggle – this year’s birthday was just that!

OOTD

I love dressing up anyway but I thought I’d whip out my Vivien of Holloway Lana dress. There are lots of colours in this print so I can pair it with a variety of accessories – like my epic birthday pin from @darktechsupport. I added a teal Jenny cardigan to keep the chill off.

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Duck &Waffle

I love food – good food. My life basically revolves around what I want to wear and what I want to eat. I follow blogger @notsobasiclondon on IG and I trust all of her food suggestions, Duck & Waffle being on of them. My sister had already heard of the restaurant and was more than happy to come along. I have to say it was ruddy delicious, though I was most upset that I couldn’t finish my pudding because I was so full!

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Oh now I really want to go eat all of this again!

BOBBA Exhibition

Brick Lane wasn’t far from the restaurant at all and I knew that @burntrotimag had their ‘Beauty Of Being British Asian’ exhibition taking place there. Last week’s post was about my own feelings on being British Asian – you can read about it here. The exhibition itself was weirdly emotional, my sister felt the same way. It’s that feeling of not being alone, of finding common ground – it was welcoming and home-like. From the artwork, we were able to identify part of ourselves but also find differences from our own upbringing. I’m really glad I went, it was an eye-opening experience.

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Soofiya Andry
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Shaheen Kasmani

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Cahoots

My sister headed back home after we mooched about on Oxford Street. My better half and I headed to The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs off Carnaby Street – a place we stumbled upon a few years ago. It was so good to sit and chat about absolutely everything for a couple of hours. After that, we strolled around Soho and had a browse in a great comic book shop. Finally we got to Cahoots! It was pretty fabulous…

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My face says delirium, his face says mildly awkward

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So many cocktails – decisions are tricky!

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Thumbs up

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Soused

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This one tasted like a liquid fruit pastille
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Boozy garden in a glass

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My favourite – bloody fruity and zingy!

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Yeah – it was a great birthday, no doubt! A massive thank you to @darktechsupport and my sister for organising and enjoying everything with me. I loved every second of it.

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Papow Ponders 13#: Being British Asian

This post discusses race, culture, society and skin colour from my point of view. Apologies if it’s a bit all over the place! This is just one person’s thoughts and feelings – there are many voices out there to hear.

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I’ll be blunt – I don’t really know where I belong. I live in the UK as a third generation immigrant. My family are from Fiji and I know I have a great-grandfather from Uttar Pradesh. English is my first language with German as my second. I roughly understand Hindi but I can barely speak it. My family is made up of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians but I have no religion. Since moving to Berkshire, I have been the minority, being educated or working in majority-white institutions. Taking a step back from it all, I find myself feeling that I’m not enough anything to feel like I fully belong anywhere.

In these pictures, I’m wearing the only sari I’ve ever worn. It’s my mum’s and it’s a prized possession. Prior to this shoot, I’d worn the sari once before for a good friend’s wedding. Mum had to teach my better half and me how to wrap and secure everything. It took a lot of repetitive instruction for us to get it kind of right but my mum just seemed to do it perfectly in seconds. Before the photo shoot, it took my husband and I half an hour to get the sari to look somewhat OK (even then we were still umming and erring about it). All this faffing led me to question whether I should be in the sari at all – if putting it on doesn’t come naturally to me, do I deserve to wear it? The reason why I wanted to wear it in the first place is because it’s my only handed-down vintage piece and I wanted to celebrate it.

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I have not always been comfortable discussing my culture or my skin colour. You can’t hide being brown – you’re just there for everyone to see. Some people see your skin colour as a conversation starter or it becomes your only identifier – my brown/Indian/Asian person. Fifteen years ago, I would have given anything to blend in; I hated being stared at, being asked ignorant questions or being seen as just a colour. Now I still hate all those things but I do not hate who I am because of that — I take pride in myself, even when the world doesn’t make it particularly easy. Here are some of the most common questions and comments I get from people (a selection from the last three years):

  • You’re such an exotic creature
  • You’re so beautiful for an Asian girl
  • Do you go dark in the sun?
  • I bet you make amazing curries
  • How do you eat a curry with your hands? Don’t your hands get smelly?
  • You’d prefer something spicier, wouldn’t you?
  • It’s unusual to see Asian women looking like that
  • Is your partner also Indian?
  • Did you have a normal wedding or a Hindu one?
  • What language do you speak at home?

Speaking to new people or going to new places always gets my shoulders up as it’s when these kind of things are usually said. There are so many other things to discuss than old stereotypes around a person’s skin colour. I have also been called a coconut/Oreo/Malteser (insinuating a person is white on the inside but brown on the outside) by friends and family members. It’s not a nice thing to have that said to you. It just adds to the feeling of not belonging – you’re not white enough and you’re not brown enough either, an imposter in your own skin.

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I have a few questions myself:

  • Who decides who does and does not belong?
  • Have I appropriated my own culture?
  • What does it take to be accepted?
  • Who decides if I am enough?
  • What authority do I have to speak on these issues?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t have the answer to any of these questions. This post has been as close as I can get to putting my ideas out without writing a bunch of word vomit. It’s not easy to write about this stuff but I feel it’s worth discussing these issues, especially in the world we live in today.

Moving on from this, I hope to write more about these issues – sometimes thinking aloud is just what you need.

Thanks to the insanely talented Lars (Made In Eighty) for these wonderful images and to Laine (lainebeautyfx) for the brilliant hair and make-up wizardry. You guys did such a great job!

Retro Festival 2017 In Photos

Two years ago, Flo first experienced Retrofest and she loved it. Last year, @darktechsupport and I went too – you can read about it here. After a short but very full-on holiday, we had our day tickets ready for a day of fun (neither of us had quite recovered from our trip though). In this post, I’ll go through my outfit first then look at the day in photos.

OOTD

My dress is from Voodoo Vixen – loved its pockets,  buttons and neckline details. Even though this was only my second time wearing the dress, one of the pocket buttons AND and top button came off during the day. Luckily, I had my Vivien of Holloway Jenny cardigan to cover me up and keep me warm. My ‘Pink Ladies’ brooch from Small Victories Handmade complimented my outfit perfectly.

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Retrofest

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Flo looking stunning as always
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Charmaine and the adorable Archie

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The fashion show begins

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The lovely Fay with her buddy – great rolls!

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All in all a relaxing and lovely day. I loved the ever-present chilled atmosphere of the festival and, of course, all the dogs! Thanks again to my better half for these gorgeous shots – you really captured the day.

 

Papow Ponders #12: My Anxiety Journey

I have previously touched on my issues with anxiety in my Papow Ponders series. You can read about them here: Papow Ponders #8 and Papow Ponders #10.

When I went to The British Belles’ meet-up last week, I flapped around talking to different people. After a while, I got chatting to the lovely Marge. She asked me how I got to this point as it can be quite daunting being in a room full of people. I told her my story and I felt like maybe I should share it with others

Before going through everything, I really need to emphasise that this is one person’s dealings with anxiety. Everyone is different and everyone handles anxiety in different ways. This is personal to me. I am going to do my best to be as succinct as possible!

Manifestation

My anxiety shows itself in various forms – both mental and physical. Over the years, some of these have changed; some I don’t have any more and some are constant. Some of my mental manifestations have been with me since I was a child but I’d say 2009 was around the time when my anxiety really started to show itself more prominently. These are just a few of the ways my anxiety has manifested itself.

Mental

  • I imagine how everyone I love will die
  • I wonder if I will somehow cause their deaths
  • I worry about losing my job
  • I worry about my health
  • I worry that everyone hates me
  • I worry that people will think I’m insane
  • I become paranoid and feel like I’m being watched, talked about or followed
  • I imagine the worst case scenarios for everything
  • I panic about needing the toilet and not being able to find one
  • I fear being late
  • I over-plan
  • I obsess over small details
  • I look for ‘signs’ that things will go one way or another
  • I engage in routine and ritual obsessively

Physical

  • White patches on my skin that came and went of their own accord
  • Chest pains for which no cause was found
  • Hyperventilating
  • IBS
  • Dry scalp
  • Spots
  • Sleeplessness
  • Over-eating
  • Palpitations
  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness
  • Fidgeting

When I experience bouts of anxiety, I either completely shut down, become flustered and panicky or I try to power through. Looking back on my anxious behaviours, I can safely say that I become a nightmare to be around.

Seeking Help

Admitting there’s something wrong and finding help can be a big and scary step – but for me, it was the best thing I could have done.

My Doctor: I’ve been seeing the same doctor since 2011. I’d not really considered my mental health so I looked down all the physical health routes to begin with. I got my thyroid level checked and sorted, monitored blood sugars and did as much as we could with the other physical symptoms of my anxiety. My doctor is incredibly lovely and understanding so looking at my mental health was actually his suggestion. Around May 2016, he encouraged me to be honest in my questionnaires and assessments, then he gave me options for what we could do. I really don’t know what I’d do without him. Like most people, I go through the NHS for all my healthcare needs and I have been lucky to find someone so understanding (especially as GPs are so over-worked). I didn’t like being told that there was something wrong in my head; I knew there wasn’t going to be a quick fix and I worried about what other people would think of me. I was given the choice of Talking Therapies, medication or being signed off – I was given time to think about what I wanted to do. Even after my referral to Talking Therapies, my doctor’s been there every step of the way, which has been such a help to me.

My Family: My family (my mum, sister and husband) have been incredibly supportive throughout everything. I know not everyone has that. If I need anything, I know they’ll be there and I know they’ll take me seriously. My mum’s been a nurse and a midwife, she’s seen a lot and been through a lot so it’s a comfort to me having someone around who understands. My sister and I have the ability to communicate without words and she gets me – she’ll happily be there with a hug, food or something to watch when I need it. My husband’s a rock. He knows me through and through and he deals with A LOT from me. Again, I know that supportive families aren’t always easy to come by and I am fortunate to have my clan.

My Workplace: I shared what was going on with my previous school and they were really encouraging. They gave me time to go to appointments and gave me extra time to visit my new school (I am prone to bouts of anxiety during periods of change). In September, I started at my new school and passed on information about my anxiety. My move’s been so positive and the school continues to work with me on my anxiety.

My Friends: When I spoke about my anxiety with my friends, I felt a lot of love. I also found that I was not alone, that more people suffer from anxiety than I thought. As I started talking about my issues, I didn’t feel so strange. Now that I know that there are more people to talk to, I hope people feel comfortable to talk to me too.

Time is definitely something to consider. I’d been dealing with symptoms of anxiety since 2009 but didn’t get treatment until 2016. I wish I had considered my mental health earlier but sometimes it takes other people to point it out to you.

To get through the other side and start living with my anxiety, I feel that all of these people were integral. Some sufferers might need a lot less and others might need much more to support them – whatever works.

Tools & Coping Mechanisms

Anxiety to me is a lot like the weather. You can have weeks of sunshine and suddenly a rain cloud appears over you. Sometimes, you can see a storm coming across the distance which you can prepare for and sometimes, the weather changes in a flash and you’re left in a downpour without an umbrella. Although I am in a positive place at the moment, I can still have days when I have terrible bouts of anxiety. To help me, I have a few coping mechanisms I use.

Preparation: If I feel prepared, I am much less likely to feel stressed. Packing bags the night before, going through checklists and researching new places help to calm my mind. To some, it would seem overkill but it enables me to breathe and answers some of the questions my head constantly asks. I book tables, I message everyone for definite confirmations, I look up locations, read reviews and check travel. It can be exhausting but if I don’t do it, I really panic. My other half is so understanding of this and is happy to listen and go through the motions.

Downtime: As much as possible, I work some form of downtime into each day – especially when I’ve been mega-sociable or out of my comfort zone. A cup of tea, reading a book, watching an episode of Drag Race or slumping on my sofa are all ways I relax. When I don’t get enough downtime, I can get quite irritable and frustrated. I know it sounds like I’m a spoilt brat but it helps me to function better.

Nature: When I took my A-levels, my German teacher told me to walk in nature whenever I felt stressed – I totally understand why. For me, it helps me to get away from the rest of the world. I listen to the birds, the breeze and my footsteps – it helps to empty my head.

Reading/Research: Personally, I’ve found that reading more abut anxiety has helped me massively. I’ve been able to identify patterns or behaviours and I’ve also found coping methods that work for me.

Gratitude Diary: When I was at my lowest, I started a diary of three good things that happened each day. I did it religiously for five months solid. I have a tendency when I’m anxious to say how terrible and pointless everything is so the diary helped me to get out of that train of thought. I’m not doing it currently but I know it’s something I can go back to if I need it.

Meeting People: A strange support tool for someone who worries about what people think of her, I know. Through blogging, I’ve found others who also suffer from anxiety and I’ve arranged quite a few one-to-one meet-ups with them. I find that it helps me to know people better and it’s much less intimidating than a big meet-up – it’s much easier to deal with and I know I’m not alone.

Moving On

I can measure the improvement in my anxiety  through The British Belles’ meet-ups:

2015 – I didn’t go because I was scared of being laughed at or ignored.

2016 – I attended, staying very close to my better half and bestie.

2017 – I attended, talking to friends and strangers – my better half even had to ask where I was!

Like I said though, it’s like the weather and it is ever-changing. Before last Saturday’s meet-up, we were at the venue forty-five minutes early and I spent nearly half an hour working out where to sit, checking my make-up and asking Nick if everything was OK. I know my anxiety will always be hovering around in my head but over time it is playing less of role in my life and I hope that continues.

If you’re going through the motions with anxiety currently, know that you’re not alone. Some might have it more severely and some less so but how you are feeling in yourself is important. Feel free to ask questions or share your own experiences – the more we talk, the more we breakdown the stigma around mental health.