A fine day for sorting my life out

Today, two things came about which may potentially give me quite an amount of happy feelings. They’re only little things but, as they say, it’s the little things.

Numero Uno: I made the biggest effort in a long time to eat healthily, with a view to losing weight. In the last few months I have embarked on diets on a Monday, then succumbed to temptation by lunchtime. But today, I resisted – despite spending eight hours at work, surrounded by yummy food. I didn’t eat one single coffee chocolate, which is a massive achievement for someone who eats them by the handful without thinking about it. My weight has always been an issue for me (but that’s a post for another day) and recently I’ve been feeling less than confident in my generous size 12 clothes. 

While these insecure feelings have been there for some time, I haven’t quite managed to garner the willpower and motivation to stop stuffing myself with chips and chocolate. But yesterday at work I noticed that a regular customer, a woman in her thirties with children, seems to have dropped from roughly a size 14 to a size 8 in the last year or so. And she looks fantastic. I realised that if a woman with children and a full-time job can do it, then so can I. I want a size 8 figure, I want to feel confident and like I’ve achieved an incredible body through my own hard work. I’ve never been a size 8; the smallest I’ve been in recent years was when I dropped to 9st during a period of strictly controlled eating. Which didn’t last long, as one can imagine. It’s a big challenge for a ‘live to eat’ greedypants like me, but it’s by no means insurmountable. I’ve been remarkably disciplined today, although a few sneaky chips from my mother’s plate might have wormed their way into my mouth somehow. But it’s the most promising step in the right direction that I’ve taken in a long time. Before you know it, I’ll be posting Rihanna-esque bikini selfies on Instagram (I kid, I swear….).

Little Thing number two was the receipt of an email from the editor of the Fashion section of one of my university’s newspapers, telling me that she’d be delighted to have me write some fashion-themed articles for the paper. I had sent an email to the paper last Sunday, having seen a post on Facebook recruiting fashion writers. I had kind of stopped hoping that they’d reply to me by the time I got the editor’s email, and I was a tiny bit delighted with myself for going for it in the first place. Now it’s not really an achievement considering that they’ve read none of my writing, but here’s hoping that they’ll be impressed with my first article, whatever that may be. If they’re ever in doubt, I’ll just remind them that I have some great followers on WordPress (wink-wink).

If I end up writing regularly for the newspaper, I have a feeling that I’ll really enjoy it. This whole blogging lark is great; I really love writing about stuff and junk. And knowing that people like to read my ramblings is wonderfully encouraging. If my peers enjoy my articles, then that would be a fantastic achievement for me. Journalism and the media are areas that I’d consider going into when I eventually graduate from college, so what better place to start than a newspaper in wide circulation in Ireland’s largest university? There’s a nice little tidbit for the CV when I embark on the Odyssey that is the post-graduation career hunt. And if worst comes to worst and the newspaper decides that my writing isn’t for them, well I can say that I tried. And I’ll always have my blog, which I enjoy immensely.

So that was my rather uplifting day. Here’s hoping that in six month’s time, I’ll be significantly slimmer and a fledgling journalist. And still a student and a waitress as well…

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Handbags, gladrags and the Sambuca shot that was the one too many…

It’s Saturday night, I’ve finished work for the evening and we all know what that means. The weekly ‘Will I go out?’ decision has to be made. I’m currently awaiting a text/phone call/smoke signal to get the four-one-one and if all goes well, the fact that I was up at half six this morning notwithstanding, I should be in the pub by half ten tonight. So right now is that limbo time where the decision has to be made, and the pros and cons are being weighed up. And it occurred to me that a blog post on the tawdry world of an Irish girls’ night out might be of interest to some. Well, maybe.

First of all, we need to decide if we’re just ‘going out’, or if we’re going ‘out, out’. Just ‘going out’ implies that the pub will definitely feature during the night, and that we’ll swear blind that the nightclub is absolutely not happening. Pub, chipper, home to bed by two o’clock. If we’re really hellbent on just ‘going out’, we might even wear only a top, jeans and heels as an outward affirmation that tonight will be brief and casual. But going ‘out, out’ means that we fully intend to end up screeching our hearts out to Rihanna on the dancefloor of the club in between trips to the bar for shots and the smoking area for a cheeky social smoke. Nobody who goes ‘out, out’ gets home before four in the morning. And it also usually entails going ‘legs out’ i.e. wearing our shortest dresses and skirts and more than likely no tights unless it’s snowing. And at this point it should be noted that even the most determined of us who said we weren’t going ‘out, out’ will end up on that same dancefloor, after having our arm twisted into going ‘out, out’, now that we were ‘out’. And that’s when we learn that wearing jeans to a nightclub might result in a Ross in his leather pants moment when we get home.

For the purposes of this post, because it will illustrate the most extreme aspects of an Irish girls’ night out, I’ll write about the going ‘out, out’ nights. Once that decision has been made, the next step is to start the beautification process (sometimes a misnomer, but let’s not be cruel). If a girl is really organised, she’ll have slapped on her most mahogany fake tan that morning or even the night before. Fake tan is a staple for most Irish girls, due to milk bottle legs and mottled arms. I’m kind of lucky that I tan well, but if I haven’t seen the sun for a while then I won’t say no to a little helping hand from my friends at St Tropez. But I’m rarely organised and I often don’t know if I’ll be heading out until the eleventh hour, so if I’m reaching for the tan, it’ll be a bottle of Sally Hansen in medium. Sally Hansen is an Irish girl’s best friend. Orange paint in a spray can, to cover all but the most severe camogie bruises. It does make you look quite dirty the next day though. 

The current trend for night time hair is big, backcombed and beehived. What’s even better is if you can get your hands on some hair extensions, to add extra volume and ratty ends. They don’t even have to match your natural hair colour all that well, at least according to some sights I’ve seen. My hair is quite thick and curly, and the thought of backcombing it sends me into a cold sweat, I’d never get the knots out. So unless I’m going to the huge effort of straightening my mane, it’s staying loose and unruly. It’ll look fine after three glasses of wine. Same goes for my make-up. I pride myself on having some vague notion of how to do my face well, I like to buy good quality cosmetics and learn how to use them properly. The typical Irish female night time face has very dark, very smokey eyes, rings of black eyeliner, exaggerated Amy Winehouse flicks and furry-looking false eyelashes. I don’t bother with lashes but the rest is essential. Lips might be bright, they might be subtle, anything goes. Cheekbones are highly sculpted and heavily bronzed. Sure you’d never know we were anything other than Italian under that contouring. Nails are usually painted, more often during predrinks as an afterthought than as an integral part of the ‘getting ready’ process. If the toenails have been painted, we must be wearing peeptoe shoes as that is quite a lot of effort.

As for clothes, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you don’t have it, flaunt it anyway because you won’t care about your jiggly belly after the third drink. Tight and short is the way to go, because Irish girls think that Irish boys love it. And they kinda do, to be honest. Only very fashionable girls with enviable figures can get away with floaty, whimsical clothes on nights out. The rest of us tend to look like we’re hiding a food baby when we see the photos the next day. If we’re going to look fat on Facebook, we might as well look as though we weren’t ashamed of it. As for the high heels, our motto is ‘go high or go home’.

Overall, the entire dolling-up routine can take hours. Sometimes we’re still straightening our hair at predrinks or painting our nails in the taxi. It’s no wonder the lads head to the pub before us, they’ve no patience for our primping and preening.

The first stage of a night out is borne out of the recession: predrinks. Young Irish people do not have enough money to arrive at the pub in the early evening and keep drinking until closing time. In Ireland, drinking is expensive. So we pick up a cheap bottle of wine or vodka or a six pack of lager earlier that day to bring to someone’s house for a  few bevvies before we hit the town. Us girls totter around the house in our heels, veering from gossiping in the kitchen to a game of Kings in the living room to smoking in the garden to reassuring our friend upstairs that she doesn’t have cellulite and that she should go ‘legs out’. For the record, I don’t like Kings. It’s fun for like half an hour until I get pretty drunk because I was the idiot who put wine in the Kings cup and I get so distracted that I forget all the rules and end up having to drink the damn Kings cup anyway. The Kings Rules Enforcer is the bane of any predrinks; one is advised to escape them by sneaking out to the fridge and not coming back.

Finally around midnight, some bright-and-not-so-drunk spark reminds everyone that we need to get a taxi, like, now if we want to get into the nightclub. So the ‘girlies’, as we shall henceforth shall be known, pile into a taxi and head into town, shouting at the poor driver to ‘put on some tunes’. Most drivers astutely stick on Beat FM so we can bop around in the taxi, ignoring general taxi etiquette.

By the time we reach the nightclub, after a woozy trip to the ATM to withdraw far more money than we ought to, we are ‘well on it’ (as they say). We hand over ten euro to the lady at the door of the club, pester the bouncer for a wrist stamp that might disappear sometime around next Thursday, and head straight for the toilet. Because everyone knows that’s where the gossip is to be found, and our bladders are really struggling at this point. Irish girls’ nights out have taught me the importance of stuffing my handbag with toilet paper during the first toilet trip, because there is no guarantee that there’ll be any left later.

Next stop is the bar, where we will try to haggle with the barman on the price of Jagerbombs and wince through a Sambuca shot. A friend of mine is known to purchase two Jagerbombs and a shot of Tequila, knock them all back within seconds and move on. A true tank of a lady. The less wealthy among us will take a vodka and white lemonade with us to the smoking area for a slurred chat with someone we went to school with and the single ladies will attempt to reel in a man by asking for a lighter and engaging in some form of conversation. It’s not sophisticated but I have seen it work.

Sooner or later, the battle cry will come; ‘OH MY GOD, I LOVE THIS SONG’ and the girlies will be dragged back to the dancefloor to shake our thang to Avicii or something. We’re dancing like we’re fucking Shakira, because we are fucking Shakira. My most fun nights have been the ones where I haven’t wanted to leave the dancefloor. If the DJ puts on some classic nineties pop songs, I actually can’t contain myself.

The night will continue on in this toilet-smoking-bar-dancefloor loop, interspersed with cringey photographs with wet floor signs and some guy’s hat (when was I talking to him?). More shots will be drunk and more secrets will be let slip over a Marlborough Light. Eventually the cues to leave start to appear; you’ve found your friend weeping in the bathroom over that guy she slept with two years ago, or you’ve been targeted by the 2am desperadoes. I never get hit on before 2am; hence I must be rather unattractive by drunk Irish man standards. I’m cut up about it, naturally.

Despite all promises and best intentions, we’re lucky to leave the club with everyone we arrived with, if we manage to leave with any of them at all. Onwards to the chipper, once we surrender the five inch heels so we have a hope of walking there without spraining an ankle. I’ve often done that walk barefoot, in the rain. Classy. 

If we saw a video the next day of ourselves in the chipper, we’d swear off it for life. Munching chips, garlic mayonnaise smeared on cheeks, melted cheese on dresses…it’s not a pretty picture. But all we want after the club is a good feed, right? Right. Once we’ve left the chipper, it’s onwards to the taxi rank. By this stage, I for one am certainly cranky and longing for my bed. Taxi rank queue skippers are my worst enemy at four o’clock on a Sunday morning. But eventually, a saviour in a Toyota Corolla agrees to drive me home for a fiver and I snooze in the backseat for five minutes. If I’m staying with my boyfriend, I let him handle the transaction as I’m already in the early stages of sleep by now.

Getting into the house involves quite a level of stealthiness to avoid waking everyone else up. But I’m not all that stealthy when I’m sober so someone will inevitably hear me rummaging for Panadol in the medicine cabinet. But it’s all okay because I’m home, I’m in bed, and I can worry about taking my dress off in the morning. Well, that and the photographs that will appear on Facebook the next day….

Roots

Several of my friends have lived in the same house for their entire lives. Some of their parents even grew up in said houses. My boyfriend’s home has been in the family for decades, and may someday fall into his hands. People have roots, somewhere to say that they were born and raised; next door to Granny and Grandad and down the road from an assortment of cousins. Then there is my family.

My father was born in Rosslare, Co. Wexford in 1960. His father was a Wexford native but his mother hailed from West Cork, and seemingly resented living in Wexford. At the age of nineteen, Dad upped sticks to work in Dublin (Dalkey, no less) before hopping on the ferry to England. Working his way up and around a hotel chain, he eventually met my mother, a seventeen year-old receptionist from Sheffield. Her parents and her parents’ parents were all from Sheffield too, with the notable exception of my grandmother’s father; an Irish philanderer no less.

Having won my mother over with his cheesy wit, my father married her and they landed back in Ireland to make a home. After a brief stay with my aunt in Dublin, they moved to Shannon, Co. Clare while my father worked in a hotel there. And in 1991, in a Limerick hospital, I made an appearance in the world.

Having left the county of my birth within two days, I spent the first eighteen months of my life in Shannon town. We lived in a housing estate up a big hill, where I once stamped my brand-new white shoes into a fresh pile of dog poop. On a nostalgic visit back to Shannon last year, I realised that I have very vague memories of that estate but my family insisted that I couldn’t have, seeing as I was barely two years old when we moved house. But I remember it, even if nobody believes me…

Then in 1993, my father accepted a job in Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan and the three of us trudged north to a place where the rain seemed to be a chronic presence. When we lived in Cavan town, I gave my parents their first major panic attack when, weeks before Christmas, I pulled a ceramic plate on top of my head. My dad nearly crashed his car rushing to the hospital to find his two year old daughter sitting up in bed, with a bit of glue on her scalp and a smile on her face. Not a bother on me.

The next year, my squally baby sister was born and we moved to a quaint little cottage in Ballyconnell to be closer to Dad’s job. And by ‘quaint’ I mean inadequately insulated and single glazed. It was cold and I do remember having mice on a few occasions. But it was big and a bit higgledy-piggledy and just plain lovely, especially during the great heatwave of 1995.

I started school in Ballyconnell, in a tiny school where junior and senior infants shared a classroom and we all learned the alphabet through Letterland. Letterland was brilliant, especially for a bookworm-in-training like me. I had my first proper birthday party that year, inviting people from my class over to my house to play with things. Except I got a bit put out by everyone messing up my things and I think I was a bit relieved when everyone went home. I was having enough trouble keeping my infant sister away from my Barbies as it was.

In April 1997, my parents broke the news that we would be moving house again. I think they expected me to be a bit upset seeing as I’d just gotten settled into school in Cavan. But I didn’t really mind. There were always loads of worms in the yard in the Cavan school anyway. But on the last day of school before the Easter holidays our class had a party and the principal, Mr McGowan, got me to stand up and tell everyone where I was moving to. So I stood up and told everyone that I didn’t know where I was going to live, because I’d forgotten the name. Oh, well.

As it happened, Tullamore Co. Offaly was the next stop on the extended family road trip around Ireland. We moved down on a really sunny day and spent the evening sharing one solitary stool in the living room of our latest house because the moving trucks got lost somewhere along the way. A spiffing start.

The next day my five year-old self decided to ingratiate myself with the neighbours by strolling into their back garden and chatting away to them. That was how I met my oldest friend Róisín; for some reason she was unperturbed by my unsolicited presence in her garden and anyway, she needed a bridesmaid for her impending nuptials to Jack from across the road. She even wore my nightie for the wedding.

After two and a half years in that estate, for reasons of which I’m still unsure, my parents decided to move us to a little house right beside the hotel that my dad worked in. As in the house backed onto the hotel’s yard. I used to cycle around that yard until my parents decided I’d probably end up falling on broken glass or something. For the first time, I had my own room and naturally it was painted pink. it also had three outside walls, so my abiding memory of that house is being freezing cold. My sister had a Teletubby desk and stool; the height of sophistication for a four year old, I’ll have you know.

Then when I was ten, it turned out that my parents had been building a house elsewhere in Tullamore. A ‘for good’ house. For me, this meant months of being driven to a building site several nights a week after school to see the progress on, like, light fixtures or something. So by the time the house was actually ready to move into, the novelty had worn off significantly (especially seeing as it was finished four months behind schedule). We moved in three days before Christmas, and as such, I have strong associations between this house and that time of year. Which is quite lovely really.

So finally my family settled down and for the first time, my sister and I would hear the words ‘When you get this house…’. We made firm friends with the other kids in the estate and spent the evenings freewheeling hands-free down the hill on bikes and doing ‘slam dunks’ on trampolines. And yes, several injuries and the odd concussion were sustained.  This house has seen First Holy Communions, Confirmations, Debs and more. The intention was for it to see graduations, weddings and grandchildren.

Then a little thing called the economic crisis happened and my parents decided to try to sell up and buy a smaller house mortgage-free somewhere else. ‘Somewhere else’ initially meant somewhere more rural in Offaly but gradually came to mean anywhere else in the country. We have no family ties in Offaly and my mother, being firmly convinced that Dad will drop dead of a heart attack sometime in the next ten years, would prefer to live out the rest of her life somewhere like Wexford, where there are more family ties and, well, quality of life. Offaly is something of a dump whereas Wexford is significantly more pleasant.

So once again, my parents have the wanderlust, although the fact that our house has been for sale for the last couple of years with little interest is kind of a stumbling block. Then last year, my father lost his job and we were in freefall for a while. Another link to this town was gone, and Mum started eyeing up houses in Wexford with increasing regularity. Dad got work in Limerick and then Cavan (can we see a pattern yet?) and is only home every couple of nights so there is even more of an impetus to leave Offaly.

So that’s my family’s journey around Ireland, until the present. But three years ago I first began venturing to the Big Smoke for college, and inhabited various dwellings along the way. First stop was Trinity College Halls, where I met various interesting characters and first learned the value of storage space and wireless internet. Then I discovered that I hated Trinity, so after Christmas I wandered home with my tail between my legs to do some soul-searching.

Next up the following September was UCD’s on-campus accommodation, where I lived with a rather odd Cavan girl, a Swiss girl cheating on her boyfriend with a French guy, and a Chilean girl with impossibly noisy friends and a habit of asking me to proof-read things just as I was on the way home for the weekend. I swore off campus after that year. So then I rented privately last year in a very luxurious apartment (with the best shower ever), but that experience was soured by some very dubious business with a vanishing deposit…(not my fault, I hasten to add).

My most recent renting experience has been a bit of nightmare because I have yet to find a home in Dublin, and college resumes in a couple of weeks. Crapsticks. For the first time in my life, my nomadic tendencies have been halted. Before this, there has always been somewhere else to go. Now, I’m looking at the unsavourable reality of a daily commute to college. Wah.

I guess that’s the sad part about not having roots anywhere, a home town. That feeling of having nowhere to go. Having to uproot yourself eventually, knowing that there is no point in getting comfortable where you are because, all of a sudden, you may have to leave again. My parents thought that Offaly would be where they would retire, but the reality of life in a recession has changed their long term plans. I guess if you don’t plan, you won’t end up disappointed? I’m not sure if that’s where I was going when I first started writing this but here we are.

But on the upside, I’ve met many people and had lots of nice experiences on my travels around Ireland. You really can get to know a country by living in its less stylish or urban places. I’ve learned how to pack my life into a car, and furniture varnish is one of my favourite smells, as I smelled it so much during my childhood. Even though my family seems to have no roots, maybe it’s us ourselves that are the roots. We could be living anywhere in the country (or the world) in five years’ time but somehow we might all manage to stay there for a little bit longer this time.

Autumn

Image

First of all, the above photo, shamelessly lifted from Google Images, cannot fail to sum up why autumn is the best time of year. September is a riot of burnished, rustic oranges, reds and purples, with flurries of yellow as leaves trickle from the trees (and get stuck to your windshield). It’s rich and warm, with the palpable feeling of change in the seasons. And I love it.

The primary reason for my love of autumn is the fact that my birthday is in October; the 16th to be exact. It’s slap-bang in the middle of the season, and the beginning of autumn is kind of a herald for my birthday; when the nights start to draw in, my birthday can’t be far away. And everyone loves their birthday. My sister’s birthday is the 28th of October so it’s always been a celebratory month in our house; autumn brings a lovely sense of happiness for our family. The only downside to my birthday being in October was that I could never have a bouncy castle. But I suspect that this was just an excuse for my mother not to go to the hassle of having thirty six year-olds wreak havoc in the back garden. The date of my birthday is also exactly ten weeks until Christmas Day, so October is a nice little reminder that Christmas is just around the corner. And that can only be a good thing.

Secondly, there really is no feeling like the ‘back to school’ feeling, and it never fails to give me little butterflies in my stomach. Going back to school was so exciting; getting to know your new teacher, seeing who was in your new class, buying new stationary, even shaking up that lunchbox routine. As geeky as it sounds, I loved going into school on my first day back in my new skirt and jumper and discovering the new, more advanced work that was in store for us. I’d nearly wet myself over the new English books like. And since I’ve started college, that back to school feeling hasn’t diminished one bit. You really can’t beat the anticipation of starting new modules and catching up with everyone after the summer. Even though I use a laptop in college, I’m strongly considering buying brand new refill pads and biros so I can experience the ‘new copies and pens’ euphoria again. Even though I’ve probably forgotten how to write since the summer exams…

I will point out that I like summer; us Irish people are in sore need of Vitamin D because of our long winters. A nice few weeks of summer do wonders for the mood of the country; although some Irish people need to learn to dress for the body they have and not the body they want when the sun comes out. But by the end of August, I’ve grown tired of not being able to sleep in due to ultra-bright mornings, and my body is not one which ought to be displayed in hotpants and crop tops. I relish the first sign of a nip in the air, which I felt today as I walked home from work and was just blissful. The evenings start to draw in and there truly is no lovelier smell than the first waft of a turf fire. Which, by the way, is something which is lost on anyone living anywhere outside of rural Ireland.

I couldn’t contain my excitement when I noticed A/W clothing starting to trickle into the shops last week. Even Penneys had me in a tizzy with their gorgeous knitted leggings in maroon, navy, pine green and other autumnal shades for criminally good prices. I live mostly in maroon, navy, gray, black and green; autumn is my palette. Dark skinny jeans, study brown lace-up boots and chunky cardigans are my uniform and autumn facilitates it best. Finding a new winter coat is also a lovely autumn moment; it’s worth the investment as you’ll probably be sleeping in it come Christmas if my parents let the oil run out again.

Hallowe’en is the one little blot on my adoration for autumn. It’s not fun and it generally revolves around alcohol and injuring dogs with fireworks. The former I enjoy, the latter being a special kind of asshattery. People don’t even try to do costume parties properly; it’s like the part of Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan realises that Hallowe’en is basically an excuse for hot girls to get drunk in public in their lingerie. I’m not a hot girl so I’m somewhat excluded from the revelry in that regard. The fun tends to wear off Hallowe’en costumes when, suddenly, a Pound Shop mask and a bin liner don’t cut the mustard anymore. I did always like monkey nuts though, I must stock up when the shops start stocking them again.

Nevertheless, autumn is just wonderful. My birthday and Christmas are the perfect bookends to a season which also includes my sister’s birthday and that of my boyfriend. Nothing too exceptional happens the rest of the year, but September through to December are all go-go-go for me, and I love it. And it’s nice to be able to drink hot chocolate without breaking out in a sweat because it’s 25° outside. So all in all, autumn is wonderful and I can’t wait to get into the thick of it. 

Worms…everywhere…

Nothing opens a can of worms like a doctor’s visit.

About six weeks ago I started to experience stomach problems, the kind where you’re curled up on the couch wondering what the hell you’ve eaten in the last few hours to induce such discomfort. And knowing deep down that it probably had something to do with the Dominos pizza and three bottles of Miller that you’ve just polished off. This went on for a couple of weeks; long enough that it couldn’t have been food poisoning and I knew it wasn’t hormone-related.

So off I went to my GP with €50 in my purse and a mild stomach ache. My GP, a kind lady I have to say, recommended blood tests and a possible endoscopy given that half of my family, including my sister, have coeliac disease. Gluten is like Kryptonite to our family, so it seems. I’m not so good with anything to do with bloodletting (I’ve been asked to stop trying to donate blood as I just can’t get my shit together when I stand up afterwards) and the idea of a tiny camera being inched down my throat is equally unnerving, so neither of these options sounded appealing but I made the appointment for a blood test nonetheless.

Then, two days later, my tonsils decided that it was a perfect time for them to become inflamed and covered in white spots. So that put the kibosh on the bloods as long as I was taking antibiotics. Ironically, I had lots of socialising to do that week – the one time I actually got to interact with humans and I couldn’t drink. Marvelous. The strange thing about getting tonsillitis was that, for a couple of weeks afterwards, my stomach issues actually seemed to resolve themselves. Fan-bleedin’-tastic, I thought to myself. I’m cured! Well, somehow.

Ha. My boyfriend and I then took a trip to Wexford for a few days and the mysterious stomach gremlin reared its crampy head again. My euphoria at feeling well again was swiftly dashed, and himself got to revel in his ‘I told you so’ moment (to be fair, he had told me so).  But there was little I could do about it as I was leaving for Spain with my family that weekend.

Spain was, in a nutshell, just lovely – the weather, the beach, the food, the sangria, my awesome suntan. But the week was slightly marred by that constant feeling that my intestines were in a vice. And as we all well know, being in a foreign country can have an undesirable effect upon one’s digestive health – strange food and water, overindulgence and a lack of sleep do not a happy tummy make.

So once we got home, I made an appointment for a blood test as soon as possible. The next morning, I was lying on a couch in the doctor’s surgery with my arm in a tourniquet, being distracted by questions about college while vial after vial was filled with my red stuff. Thankfully I didn’t make a tit of myself by passing out afterwards, but I did have to carry my own blood (and that of an elderly lady) in the car to the hospital to leave it in that little fridge to be sent off to the labs. Because a GP surgery with numerous doctors, locums, nurses and receptionists can’t do this themselves. But anyway.

My mother is a nurse in that same hospital and has some unofficial privileges, one of which being able to find out blood test results the next day. So she rang me last night, and it turns out that I’ve opened an almighty can of worms by getting things checked out.

It transpires that I have a supreme trifecta of issues: anaemia, alkaline phosphatase deficiency and slightly high cholesterol. And no, I don’t really know what the second thing is either. All I can gather is that it means an inability to absorb some nutrients and minerals. Essentially, the good stuff that I eat isn’t benefitting my body and the bad stuff I eat is affecting me too much. Great. 

My coeliac disease results aren’t back yet, but in light of the crappy stuff above, it’s likely that I have it. A coeliac person who isn’t eating a gluten free diet can’t absorb enough vitamins and minerals from their food as the gluten prevents their small intestine from working properly. Or at least that’s my very simplistic take on it. I’m not very scientifically-minded, as you might have already guessed.

So I got answers, but the fun is only really starting now. I’ve spent some of today googling foods that are good for raising iron levels, and foods which help lower cholesterol. And apparently these three conditions don’t compliment each other at all. Liver is a great source of iron, but it’s also bad for cholesterol levels. Eggs are also an anaemic’s friend, but not when your cholesterol is high. And on top of all that, I need to avoid gluten. Such a shame that wholegrains are chock-full of iron, then.

There are other things I can do, such as exercise and iron supplements – neither prospect I exactly relish. In a show of solidarity, James brought me to Tesco to stock up on salad things for lunch – a big move for the eternal carnivore. He didn’t eat his salad, but I appreciated the effort. And yes, there was plenty of spinach in the salad. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to need a new wardrobe come November as I’m going to drop a serious amount of weight if I maintain to this new ‘lifestyle’. Not that it would do any harm, but I’m going to be broke as it is trying to keep myself in red meat, almonds and oily fish.

But my afternoon of research did yield some more pleasant results. My two favourite foodstuffs, chocolate and wine, are somewhat allowed. Good quality dark chocolate is rich in iron and one unit of alcohol a day has been said to lower the risk of heart disease. Sweet.

When I first made an appointment with my GP, I never expected that I’d end up having to make so many changes to my diet. The anaemia was definitely a surprise. But it will do me no harm at all to clean up my act a little, and I might even lose a few pounds in the process. It’s be nice not to be so tired all the time either. But when my willpower is sorely tested at 3am this coming bank holiday Sunday, I may need to be dragged away from the chipper.