Good Grief.

 

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“The trees are so much taller
And I feel so much smaller
The moon is twice as lonely
And the stars are half as bright”
Papa Can You Hear Me?, Barbra Streisand

If I’m ever travelling anywhere, you’ll certainly hear me coming. For I will most likely be dragging a rickety wheelie case behind me with 3 1/2 wheels. And let me tell you, it doesn’t sound pretty. It’s loud, it slides all over the place and basically has a mind of it’s own.

I should probably throw it away. But here’s the catch. I just can’t.

Dad bought it for me.

My Dad passed away two years ago and saying I’m having trouble letting go is probably fair.

But then, “letting go” isn’t a phrase I particularly like. To me, it implies an abandonment, a sudden release and that reminds me of Jack and Rose in Titanic…(“I’ll never let go,” says Rose – then promptly lets him go. Dammit, Winslet!! There was enough room on that floating door! You could’ve tried a bit harder!!)

But back to my wheelie case. It may sound corny, but to me, it has almost become a symbol for my heart. It’s always full but it is also damaged and in need of some good TLC. But while it is battered, it still functions and it’s bursting full of memories.

Needless to say, I’m very sentimental and ridiculously attached to ‘stuff’.

I still can’t bring myself to get rid of his clothes. Every time I open his cupboards (and he even had a wardrobe of jazzy dance wear and battle re-enactment clothes, that’s how much of a cool dude he was!) I can’t bear the thought of anyone else having them. I haven’t even wanted to scatter his ashes. I have become selfish with grief. Anything he touched or wrote, I want to hold in my heart. But like my little battered case, there’s just not enough room for it all.

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Flowers in Dad’s hammock. We’d sit in the garden at night with a cup of tea, watching the stars and the satellites travelling around the earth

So I’m trying to find new ways to cope. And I have found an elegant solution. My Dad was a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist so he always had fantastic pearls of wisdom to share. When I was at my lowest ebb, crying and panicking approximately every 3 minutes, we would go for a walk by the beach. He would get me to identify 3 things that I could hear, see and smell. 

And we always prioritised nature. I would tune in and focus. Soon I’d hear the seagulls squawking overhead, see the waves crashing against the shore and smell the salt in the air. And sure enough, I was OK. I could find some calm and sanity.

 

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One of our many strolls on Gorleston Beach

So that’s what I do. Everyday I actively seek out nature. And I live in London – but it helps me find solace in this crazy, concrete jungle.  I cross a bridge everyday and I seek out the cooing pigeons and the moorhens bobbing in the river. There is even a large heron (it’s going to be an extra good day if you see the heron!). It genuinely helps and every time the sun peeks through the clouds or a feather floats past, to me that’s Dad letting me know he’s watching.

Some days I still get overcome with emotion. The fact that Dad won’t be there to walk me down the aisle breaks my heart. Or if I ever have kids, he’ll never get to hold them in his arms, watch them grow, teach them kung fu or his amazing magic tricks.

But I know he’s still here. I still speak to him everyday (yes, out loud in my kitchen like a crazy person) and I can still hear his voice.

For the days when I’m REALLY bad I sing the entire Blood Brothers soundtrack (we saw it about 5 times together) and Papa Can You Hear Me? by Barbra Streisand. It’s not pretty. There’s buckets of tissues and snot and my neighbours probably either hate me or think a cat is slowly being tortured with a sandwich toaster. But it’s also cathartic.

So to anyone who has ever lost anyone special, or even just feels overwhelmed by life, have that cup of tea. Chat to your friends and allow yourself to cry. Sing loudly (and badly) at the top of your voice. It really helps. But trust me on the nature thing. It forces you to take note of all the good things around you and soon enough you’ll be able to put one foot in front of the other again.

In the meantime, listen out for the rumble on the pavement. It might just be me and my little wheelie case rattling by.

Love and stuff,

Dyson x

Ps. I love you Dad. You’ll always be my King Of Kings, Lord Of Lords. My hero. xxx

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“POP” goes the Role Model

WARNING: ***I SOUND LIKE A BITTER OLD FART IN THIS POST***

Who did you used to look up to when you were a kid? Was there a glossy poster of your favourite singer blu-tacked to your wall? (I would genuinely like to know so please feel free to confess!)

My first celebrity love was Kylie. I heard her on the radio, I saw her music videos and I was well and truly HOOKED. This was the ‘Locomotion’ years of the late 80’s.

I have always had the greatest of respect for the very likeable Minogue and her tiny, pert, Australian bootie.

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The 80’s. When perms were so mighty they could grow through hats.

But back to the 80’s – Even as a whipper snapper I would copy her moves and sing “I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky!!” on repeat.

Not the deepest of lyrics I’m sure even Kylie will concede.

But it was good, clean, harmless pop. And I lapped it up. I wanted to be Kylie.

Let’s dial the clock forward to present day.

Would the jury please observe and consider the pictorial evidence below:

Exhibit A: Here’s a still of young Disney alumni, Selena Gomez, singing that pop ditty, “Can’t Keep My Hands To Myself”.

Perhaps she could take up Sudoku puzzles? Or knitting?

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Exhibit B: Here’s Rihanna having foolishly tripped and entangled herself in a barbed wire fence. You silly goose, Rihanna.

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Exhibit C: Here’s Miley Cyrus demonstrating what NOT to do on a construction site. Health and safety nightmare that Cyrus. Just think of the paperwork.
At least she remembered sensible footwear.

Though I fear for her lady bits.

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I think you catch my drift. These ladies of pop are all extremely successful, well known artists. They can carry a tune and I actually really enjoy their music.

They are also excellent at writhing around like sexy salamanders. But I, personally, don’t want to see that.

Miley Cyrus is an excellent example. As the daughter of Billy Ray “Achy Breaky Heart” Cyrus, she spent a large chunk of her formative years being the ever chipper Disney creation, ‘Hannah Montana’. You can’t blame her for twerking her way out of the rigid, twee mould she’d been set in.

But all her young fans will have known her as ‘smiley Miley’. Quite the transformation!

spiceNow I always ADORED The Spice Girls. But when I look at their videos today, I’m more aware that, in the Wannabe video, not many bras were worn. And it must’ve been quite chilly in that hotel as there’s definitely a ‘nip’ in the air, if you catch my drift.

I’m looking straight at you, Baby Spice. #smugglingpeanuts

But when I was younger I didn’t notice that. I was far too busy learning their names and practising my best Girl Power stance!

YES. THAT’S ME. DESPERATE TO BE GINGER SPICE.

But I can’t help but think that children are becoming more and more ‘aware’ of sexual behaviour these days – particularly when it’s so blatantly thrust in their faces in all forms of media.

I remember seeing a friend’s little sister gawping up at a music channel while Katy Perry seductively chanted about kissing a girl and not finding the whole experience displeasing. It made me feel quite uncomfortable.

And while I enjoy the music of ‘family friendly’ Little Mix, I’m aware that their videos are becoming increasingly racy. There’s a lot of dry humping and crotch grabbing. And from any parent who’s had to endure a Little Mix concert, I’m sure the majority of the screaming audience are mostly 12 and under. And kids idolise these girls.

Children might not fully understand the sexy nature of what they’re seeing – but they can certainly mimic it.

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Little Mix. Possibly got dressed in the dark? How awkward.

I’m very pleased that these women are feeling sexually empowered and body confident -but I think there is a responsibility for the artists to know their audience. Particularly for artists like Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber and Little Mix who clearly do have a younger demographic of fans who adore them.

I co-run a theatre company that produces children’s shows. Now, while we never wish to patronise our young audiences, you’ll be relieved to hear we won’t walk on stage half naked and randomly start turning the air blue with f-words.

So why is this ok on a radio station? Sure the naughty words might be *beeped* but it implies there’s a naughty word there. And it’ll likely feature on the album (squeaky clean Little Mix are guilty of this!) And the music channels play these videos 24/7.

There has to be an awareness that young people will look up to these popular artists. And that’s a large and very precious responsibility indeed.

OK, maybe they didn’t sign up to be Role Models – but in reality, these are the audiences keeping them afloat.

So while I don’t necessarily want to sanitise the pop world I just think maybe keep the content a little more interesting. Keeping it all SEXY is just a little, well, reductive.

And it’s funny how you don’t see as many male pop artists writhing around on unmade beds in just their pants……….

So, ladies of pop, maybe try showing you’re so much more than just animated sex dolls. Show off you’re talent as artists. Be creative. You’re so much more than eye candy for the male gaze.

(Though I’m sure male dominated record labels probably get the final say in the ‘vision’ for how their stars are represented…)

Across the land, kids will be saving up their pocket money to buy albums (or do they just stream them now??) and concert tickets. They might be putting posters up on their walls, wanting to be JUST LIKE YOU – so just bear that in mind when you next slip into that thonged leotard.

Yeah.

(SEE? TOLD YOU I’D SOUND LIKE A BITTER OLD FART! DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU!)

Love and stuff,

Dyson X

 

 

Don’t Feed The Trolls

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“Nom! Nom! Nom!”

In the dictionary, a ‘troll‘ is referred to as an ugly creature of folklore, depicted as either a giant or a dwarf. But modern trolls no longer dwell under bridges, salivating over goats. Oh no. Today’s trolls look just like you and me – so no more ‘ugly creature’ references thank you very much!

The modern day troll might sit behind their computer sipping a latte, or tap away on their phone on the bus. So far so normal. But instead of vicious fangs or giant limbs, their weapon of choice is words. Sometimes in just a few short phrases they’re capable of disarming their victims with their toxic words and inflammatory remarks.

I had an interesting notification on Twitter last year. I was having a crappy day and absentmindedly tweeted something along the lines of “Feeling blue but the dulcet tones of Morrissey are cheering me up’. Or something. Not my finest offering to be fair.

A little notification popped up.

Why don’t you just kill yourself?”

6 little words.

I froze. Then read it again. And again. And again.

How odd. This mysterious tweeter didn’t know me or the state of my mental health but took the time to offer me some direct life advice. Ouch.

I didn’t respond and never heard from them again.

When I told my other half I was writing a blog he told me to be careful in case I got any hurtful comments from strangers online. Fortunately, at the slightly maturer age of 30, I like to think I’ve got relatively thick skin (though I regularly cry at adverts and still laugh at the word ‘bum’. Real mature, me. )

But what if you’re not that thick skinned? Children and teenagers are vulnerable to this sort of abuse on a regular basis. Sadly, with so many youngsters owning phones and iPads it’s very hard to monitor these cyberbullies. It breaks my heart every time you read of yet another school kid who has taken their own life after receiving daily online abuse. And let’s be clear, it is a form of abuse.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of Katie Price aka glamour model, ‘Jordan’ but I was impressed by her latest campaign. She’s petitioning to make online abuse a specific criminal offence. Happily the petition has already received more than the 100,000 signatures required for it to be considered for debate in parliament. I urge you to add your signature too if you can spare the 30 seconds.

Yeah, stop watching cat videos and do something useful on here!

Naturally, Katie, as a figure in the public eye, is accustomed to the barrage of abuse from the sad haters. But not content with bashing her, the anonymous cowards have been directing abuse at her son, Harvey. He is partially blind, suffers from Prader-Willi condition, autism and ADHD and is understandably distressed by the toxic messages sent to him, mocking his colour and disabilities. Really sickening stuff. Hopefully some good will come out of Katie’s campaign as more broadly, something NEEDS to happen.

People have to be accountable for their words.

Which brings me to my confession. Last year I posted what I thought was quite a funny meme. It showed the actor Tom Hardy as Batman villain, Bane in the Dark Knight Rises. Bane’s mask obscures most of his face. So I posted this:

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Hilarious, right?

The actress Kristen Stewart is best known for her roles in the Twilight series. She is often known for looking quite surly and po-faced so I thought this was quite amusing. It got quite a lot of ‘likes’.

Shortly after posting I had a message from a young girl in the US who was quick to point out that I was a “clucking huggly runt”. Or words to that effect.

Naturally I was shocked at this message but it also made me stop in my tracks.

Technically I’d not been very nice about the actress Kristen Stewart. Sure, I’m not her biggest fan and she’s a Hollywood star so unlikely to stumble across my post.

But it had reached one of her fans. A young fan who probably adored Kristen Stewart and the Twilight series. And I had just upset her by being quite rude about someone she clearly loves.

Doesn’t that make me a bit of a troll?

Have a scroll through Twitter or Facebook and you’ll quickly see just how nasty we can all be sometimes. We insult Donald Trump and we scornfully laugh at Kim Kardashian. We pour venom on Theresa May and we slag off whoever is annoying us at work.

Sure, a lot of these people deserve the remarks they’re getting (I’m looking extra hard at you, Mr Trump!) – but in this day and age where we’re bombarded with news of nuclear threats, stabbings and acid attacks, can’t we all just try and be a little bit nicer?

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’.

I call BULL SHIT. Words hurt like hell and often leave deeper marks than a cut or a bruise. So let’s start being a little kinder, shall we? A little less bitchy. Shut down all the vitriolic remarks and – it may be old school – but speak as you’d like to be spoken to.

Write an angry letter then throw it away. Don’t let it seep into cyberspace. That’s bad karma, y’all.

Right, I’m off to watch all the Twilight films. Got to love those vampires. And Kristen Stewart who is *particularly* talented in them….

Love and stuff,

Dyson x

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You’re So Vain

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“Let me take a selfie”

What do you see when you look in the mirror? I imagine most of you will hone in on your spotty chins, your frown lines or the bags under your eyes. If you’re reading this I’m not getting personal and offensive – I bet good money that you focus on your flaws. And you’re all GORGEOUS by the way! Apart from you with the nose. You should really get that looked at…

Ever heard the phrase, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’? The perception of beauty is subjective. In other words, what appeals to me might not appeal to you. For instance, I can appreciate that pretty boys like Orlando Bloom or Channing Tatum are universally considered ‘attractive’, but they just don’t do it for me. At all. Give me Jeremy Paxman or Quentin Tarantino any day!

I know. I have issues. I’ll take it up with my therapist.

But coming back to the subject of self image. If I look in the mirror the first thing I notice are my crow’s feet. Those cheeky little branch-like lines on my face. They’re etched around my under eye area like shameful unwanted graffiti that just won’t budge. I am embarrassed by them. And I’m only 30.

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This shame I feel is my own terrible vanity. It’s my personal niggle that others (hopefully) don’t dwell on when they meet me. So what do I do? Well, it’s simple. I buy all the eye creams and make-up that the multi-million pound beauty industry tells me I need.

Every single day we’re bombarded with images of thin, beautiful people in TV adverts, in magazines, on billboards. You literally can’t escape them! Sexy models touching their dewy skin while they pout with their luscious pillow lips, gazing at us coquettishly through extended lashes. Perfect bodies that tell us if we use their products we might dare to dream of being that gorgeous BECAUSE WE’RE WORTH IT, RIGHT? Wrong. Probably.

I mean, sure, a spritz of some perfume might make me smell like patchouli with delicate undertones of avocados and musk…but it isn’t going to make David Gandy appear and make sweet love to me on a tiny boat, like in the adverts. Believe me.*

*I wrote to his agent and ‘apparently’ he’s too busy. Whatever.

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David Gandy in a tiny boat in tiny pants

It feels to me as if we’re being told we’re not quite good enough. By seeing all these Photoshopped, long legged goddesses and muscly hunks on a daily basis, it distorts reality and makes us think that that’s the ‘norm’. So we head to the gym, we wear anti-ageing creams, we buy new clothes, we take selfies to keep reminding us of what we look like, then we filter them. All in a bid to fit in and look good. Ooh! Someone’s at the door! It’s our old friend, Vanity.

Instagram and Snapchat allow us to enhance our shots and add cute little dog ears to our selfies. We can edit and make our eyes bigger or look more tanned.  Just like all those gorgeous celebrities. The celebrities that are PAID to look good and have teams of people around them making sure they look perfect. We can look pretty too!

But isn’t that just deceptive? You’re essentially presenting a fake image of yourself to the public – but when you don’t actually look like the airbrushed picture you’re promoting you’ll inevitably end up feeling bad about yourself, won’t you? Sounds unhealthy to me.

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This is the real me. Unfiltered. And such a lady.

I just read a report that said in 2015, the beauty industry was worth £17 billion to the UK economy. Now I’m not great at maths but even I know that’s quite a lot. Of course we all want to feel and look good but blimey, that’s an expensive hobby.

Do you know what I’m scared of? Beauty counters. You know the ones. They reek of 500 different scents and are run by what look like incredibly judgemental, perma-tanned ladies who look ready to inhale both your confidence and your soul.

I recently braved one of these places as I wanted to try some new make-up. I can either do no make-up or over the top stage make-up. Haven’t quite mastered that middle ground yet. While there I was made to feel bad for my lack of make-up experience (“so you don’t do contouring??”) and my eyebrows. The scary lady said they’re wrong and drag my face down. Needless to say my bank account took a walloping that day. I was shamed into not feeling like a very good woman. And like a vain sheep I bought all the crap they were peddling. Baaa.

Another classic moment that springs to mind is when I had some threading done (if you don’t know what that is, it’s a method of hair removal where a magic lady does some sort of mysterious, twisting wizardry with cotton thread. It’s clearly one of the Dark Arts and hurts like a bitch). There was that fantastic moment where I asked for my eyebrows to be done. The lady looked at me and said “…and your upper lip and chin too, yeah?” Ouch.

I’M ASHAMED THAT I’M BASICALLY CHEWBACCA.

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This is me BEFORE the hair removal

In summary, it makes me sad that we’re made to feel inadequate. We all have something to offer and maybe we don’t all look like Angelina Jolie – but I’m Ok with that. Way too much emphasis is put on the value of beauty, particularly for women but increasingly for men too. As if that’s the only currency that matters. Well, that’s just nonsense. We are worth SO much more than that.

My partner hates when I cake myself in make-up and says he prefers the natural me. And what a huge compliment that is. But that means I need to be comfortable in my own skin with all it’s delicious imperfections. Which takes confidence. It’s a work in progress but I’m getting there. And as for those crow’s feet? They’re only there because I smile all the time and I grew up in Cyprus where I’d spend my days happily squinting in the glorious sun. So really, they mark my good times.

It’s worth remembering that looks are fleeting. I would rather be remembered for my dazzling wit, my undeniable charm – and my modesty. So stop filtering all those photos, people! You look lovely just the way you are. Embrace the skin you’re in.

But you might just want to cover up that spot.

Love and stuff,

Dyson x

The awkward “Hello!”

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“Say hello to my little friend!”

So. Hello there.

I’ve wanted to write a blog for a million years. As an only child, with an ego the size of Mexico, I figured that people would desperately want to read my musings. In my head, people would hastily click on my page, hungrily read my frankly hilarious words and generally wish they were as cool as me. Yup. Only child.

But then I had ‘the realisation’. The bump back to reality. NOBODY CARES. That selfie you perfected which makes your eyes look like a Disney Princess and your chin look less manly? Doesn’t matter. The hideous train journey you had at rush hour this morning? Yawn. That really great photo of you and your mates eating burritos and sipping cocktails back in 2007 you just HAVE to reshare? Nobody wants to see that.

And yet we’re all doing it. “Look at me! Look at me!” should be the tagline for today. We all desperately seem to want validation. Whether we’re conscious of this or not, every time we post anything, whether it be our views on Donald Trump, pictures of our adorable children, or thoughts on that delicious ham sandwich we’ve just enjoyed, we’re putting something out into the cyberverse (yeah, I’m not entirely sure that’s a word but I like it). This is content which we ACTIVELY WANT people to see. If we didn’t, we’d just write a nice little note in our private diary which said ‘lovely ice cream in the park today’. Whether you want to admit it, we crave the ‘likes’ that tell us that we are (delete as applicable) pretty/clever/interesting/funny/witty/popular/shaggable.

I’m all of the above though, right? Right?

Slipping on my Freudian spectacles and reclining back in a leather armchair, perhaps we need to look back in time to our childhoods. As I may have already mentioned, I’m an only child. My parents separated when I was very young so I have hideous separation anxiety, I’m an insecure, emotional yoyo and I have an exhausting need for everyone to like me. Everyone. And clearly you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea………………………Ah, tea.

*has brief tea break*

Now where was I? At school I wasn’t a pretty child. I hadn’t quite been beaten with the Ugly Stick but I had big ears (which I’m still very attached to), plain old mousey hair and I went to an international school in Cyprus. And I’m so lazy I never learnt how to speak Cypriot fluently which often meant I’d be left out of playground conversations. Damn.

I’m not sporty so I was usually picked last for teams (I often get a stitch walking to the fridge to be honest). As a child, this is the kind of upsetting stuff that sticks with you – are you feeling little pangs of sympathy for me yet? Or perhaps you were in the same boat? Oh and boys never fancied me. I was the British oddball who aspired to be Mr Bean and was severely lacking in the breast department. Double damn (and certainly not DD).

However, I’ve always loved making people laugh. I also love performing. My saving grace was the annual school play. At school I could be The Little Mermaid, Zazu in The Lion King or Toad Of Toad Hall. The lights would be on me and I could just slip into being whoever my latest exciting character was. AND there’s applause! Talk about the ultimate ego massage! I’m now a professional actress and co-run a theatre company. Go figure.

Off stage is often less fun. My Mum used to say ‘you think too much’ as at home I would frequently just cry and cry and cry, for no reason at all. Being completely frank, warts and all, I’ve always had issues with depression and that’s why laughter is my tonic. It’s the petrol in my tank that keeps my engine running. The line ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’ is often what gets me through the day. As does social media.

Those who know me best are always sad when they see I’ve uploaded yet another self indulgent selfie. Because they know that’s often when I’m feeling low. It’s the addictive shot in the arm, the little self confidence boost that reassuringly means EVERYONE THINKS I’M OK. I’ve made a conscious effort to try and limit the time I spend online as I feel it sucking me in as I absent-mindedly scroll through people’s lives. For anyone who is struggling at work, struggling financially or just generally struggling, why torture yourself looking at seemingly perfect people having perfect lives on their perfect holidays with their perfect families? I bet most of us all have some kind of shit going on. Remember, everything we put out there is how we wish to market ourselves to the world. It’s not always real. You might be single, unable to conceive, in a dead end job, going through a divorce or just plain lonely. Seeing all these different people having an AMAZING TIME on a daily basis just feels unhealthy and wrong to me.

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“Look how great my life is! And my bum!”

I don’t really have an answer to all this but I’m inclined to embrace the whole ‘Digital Detox’ movement. Go for a walk. People watch. Laugh at how people look like brain dead zombies when they’re engrossed in their phones. Read that book you’ve been meaning to – I can always tell when I’ve been online too much as my concentration levels are well and truly f*cked. I can barely finish a page. I rarely finish reading blogs as I’m so easily bored (not convinced many of you will have read this far to be honest!)

I saw a hideous thing on ‘catfishing’ the other day which gave me chills. It’s essentially when people pretend to be someone they’re not online. They steal people identities, their family photos and holiday snaps and parade as you (check out the documentary Catfish. It’s very compelling!) It suddenly makes you realise how much we all overshare – family birthdays, wedding photos, children’s first days at school. Then imagine some pervert in his pants scrolling through those pictures. OK, they may not be perverts and they’re probably fully dressed but you get my point. It’s damn creepy.

So, online friends. From now on I won’t be telling you everything. I might drip feed you the odd selfie or amusing anecdote from a train but I’d rather keep my private life just that. Private. If you’d like to see more of me drop me a text and we’ll go for tea and cake – and I’ll try not to Instragram it.

(Though promise you’ll all ‘like’ my next profile pic? Deal?)

Love and stuff,

Dyson x