Sponsor Becky Bedbug in December

Woohoo! It's nearly Christmas! December is my favourite month of the year and I have so much planned. It's going to be an action-packed month with festive adventures, home decorating and a whole lot of celebrating. If you want to be a part of the action, you can sponsor Becky Bedbug in December. Treat your blog to a present!

Let's look at what you get:
  • An advert in my sidebar for 30 days
  • A shoutout on Twitter
  • With some options, you'll also get a mention in a sponsor post on Becky Bedbug
Let's take a peek at the stats:
  • 1650+ on Bloglovin'
  • 1300+ on GFC
  • 4200+ on Twitter
  • 12,000+ visitors a month
Advertisements start from £6 ($10), so there's an option for all budgets. If advertising's not your thing, there are other ways you can get involved, such as sponsored posts and PR reviews. For all the information, take a look at my sponsorship page here  


Christmas Gift Guide: For the home and cards

Christmas is fast approaching now and, as always, I've barely started my Christmas shopping. I'm pretty sure I can't be the only one who's still struggling, so I'll be sharing a few Christmas gift guides over the next three weeks, each with a handy theme. This week's theme: For the home, and Christmas cards too!

Folklore Coffee Pot and mug- I Want One Of Those

This matching set are illustrated with the cutest woodland scenes by Nina Jerama, featuring adorable owls, foxes and deer. Here you can see the day scene, but there are also accompanying sets with a navy blue night scene. The enamel is practically indescructible and the coffee pot is equivalent to two mugs full- Perfect for sharing with a friend! Plus, at the moment you can get 35% off the pot, and 12% off the mug. Hooray for pre-Christmas discounts!

Luxury cards- Hallmark
When I opened these Hallmark cards, I was quite disproportionately excited. Especially with the house, as it popped right up the second it was released from the envelope. All the little windows and doors open up to create the sweetest card ever. Honestly, I might just display it on my shelves every Christmas since it's pretty enough to use as a decoration and easily folds back down. 

Personalised Christmas Cards- Made With Love
Made With Love have such a huge range of personalised Christmas cards that there is something for all tastes, whether it's glamorous, hip or modern. I'm more of a rustic traditionalist when it comes to the festive season, so these recycled cards are right up my street. I especially like the Christmoose one since I am a lover of bad puns! 

Keep your eyes peeled as I have a few more guides coming over the next few weeks including those for the beauty addict and some cute stocking fillers. 

Book review: Tampa

Tampa- Allisa Nutting
By now, you've probably noticed that I'm not one for light, fluffy fiction which is the reason you'll rarely find me write young adult or chick lit reviews. For me, I've always been more interested in books that challenge the reader's comfort levels and Tampa certainly meets this brief. Reminiscent of both Lolita and Notes on a Scandal, Nutting's debut novel follows the life of Celeste Price, a beautiful new teacher who has an unquenchable thirst for 14 year old boys. As she starts her career, she preys on one student in particular, but finds her desires lead her down a path that gets darker by the minute.

Although some people look down on it, I'm always drawn to the design of book covers and Tampa is one I find really interesting. The original edition was a pink, open buttonhole serving a rather transparent provocation. However, my edition, possibly the UK print, features a white buttonhole complete with button. This intrigued me as it's evocative of the polo shirts that commonly feature in UK school uniforms, and I wonder if that was the rationale behind the updated design.
As for the novel itself, I found Celeste a very difficult character. Not in terms of her personality- which is intentionally deluded and unlikeable- but because of the lack of any kind of realism. She is stunningly beautiful, amazing in bed, intelligent and knowing, with a perfect all-American marriage to a police officer. Although it would be very easy to say that these perfect traits are manifested only in Celeste's delusions, as is the case with Lolita's Humbert Humbert, they are frequently referred to by other characters in the novel. The ultimate effect is that Celeste, and by extension, women like her, do not exist; they are pantomime baddies found only in fiction. In reality, of course, this is not true. Some women do prey on teenagers. Wouldn't it be a lot more effective if the reader could relate to Celeste on some level, if she had some element that made her similar to all of us? This would have created a whole discussion on what turns normal women like us into sexual predators but, unfortunately, we're actually left with a two-dimensional mythical monster.

When it comes to Celeste's exploits, I found them increasingly uncomfortable to read. Of course, I assume that is Nutting's intention. We shouldn't feel happy reading graphic descriptions of her encounters with young boys. However, they almost felt deliberately shocking with a complete lack of refinement. When an author tries too hard to create controversy, it shows and unfortunately I think this is the issue here.
Ultimately, Tampa- and let's briefly mention the clever use of setting being a homophone for tamper- has a strong, promising premise. It could be a real thought-provoking novel but the lack of any subtlety or realism lets it down. 


A day trip to Calais

This weekend, I headed over to France with my work's annual day trip. I hadn't been the previous years but this time I decided to go for it. As it turns out, there were some extra seats available so I was able to take Marie with me for a day of shopping, sleeping and attempting to speak French.

The coach was leaving from my workplace at 5:45, so Marie picked me up at 5am. I didn't even know that time existed on a Saturday! After a 4 hour journey, we finally arrived in Calais where we had a couple of hours to spend.

First Marie and I made a beeline for the beautiful town hall as we'd seen a huge Mickey Mouse figure and sparkling Mickey and Minnie silhouettes in the grounds. It turns out he was part of a Disney Christmas event but it wasn't starting until a week later, unfortunately!

Although I'd estimated the building to have been built in the 18th Century, it was actually constructed in 1911. The architecture was truly beautiful, especially the wonderfully ornate clocktower that could be seen for miles.

By now we were feeling thirsty so we went in search of a cafe. On the way, we passed my friend who recommended a pub she had just visited with her sister. To my delight, we were served Coke bottles with names on, so I had an awesome French name label (I was Garcon). 

After having a little rest in the pub, Marie and I decided to explore the area. It was an absolutely beautiful day with a blue sky that looked glorious against the quaint French architecture.

Having not eaten since 6:30am, we stopped off in a patisserie where I bought a pain au chocolat and communicated with the worker in only French. Having not studied French since I was in year 9 (a whopping 12 years ago!), my linguistic abilities are severely limited. However, I managed to communicate with "Bonjour. Pain au chocolat s'il vous plait" and then, when she started asking me a bunch of questions, "Parlez vous Anglais?" She just laughed (kindly!) and didn't repeat what she'd said, so it can't have been important. Then it was just a matter of "Merci! Au revoir!" I was so proud of myself! 

Hard-earned pastry in hand, we popped across the road to Parc Saint Pierre in search of somewhere to sit and snack. 

This fountain was the perfect place! Doesn't it look like something out of Beauty and the Beast? It was so peaceful and serene! 

Oh, and the pain au chocolat was glorious! 

After a couple of hours, we all boarded the coach and headed over to Cité Europe. By this point, we were pretty hungry so we headed to a pub for lunch. Since I was in France and all, I knew what I had to eat...

Yes, I ate snails! Or escargot, as they're officially known. I'd never eaten them before and had no idea that they would come out still in their shells! I was a bit confused at first with all the implements but Marie helped me out. They were delicious, with the texture of squid and a garlic sauce. Yum! 

Once we'd filled our tummies, we had a little browse around the shops. This wasn't the most exciting part of the day as the shopping centre just looks like The Oracle in Reading. It's not particularly big or cheap, and most of the shops are exactly the same as those we get in the UK: New Look, H&M, The Disney Store, Zara. However, I did make a sneaky little trip to Sephora!
It also had these beautiful Christmas decorations with an Alice in Wonderland theme, featuring animatronic rabbits and clocks everywhere. 

I eventually got home at 10pm, so it was a very long day but I had a fantastic time! 


What to expect from a counselling assessment

Earlier this week, I attended my counselling assessment to ascertain what would be the best approach to my therapy. Having never had any experience of talking therapies before, I was a little nervous as I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, it was a much less intimidating experience than I'd anticipated! Of course, this is just my experience so it may differ from that of others', but will give you an idea of what to expect.

First, the man I saw (I'm not sure if he was a therapist, nurse, some sort of administrator or something else but we'll call him the therapist for clarity) asked me to fill in the questionnaire. This was a little annoying as I'd already filled it out once at my doctor's surgery and once online following an email request before my appointment. My therapist looked at my answers, clarifying some where needed, and diagnosed me with moderate depression and severe general anxiety. I explained that I don't feel at all depressed and I'm glad I spoke up about it as he said my answers may be reflected by the anxiety rather than depression, so we could disregard that element. 

One of the sections of the questionnaire was related to phobias. After discussing my fear of using the telephone and other social situations, he also diagnosed me with social anxiety. We then discussed my experience with panic attacks, and he asked me what brought it on and how I felt before and during the episode. After talking about my feelings regarding my anxiety in different situations, and a brief history of when my issues started, it became clear that it was brought on by feelings of being overwhelmed and fear of not meeting my own expectations. Having confirmed I was a perfectionist (which is actually where my horrendous procrastination comes from, I was surprised to find out!), my therapist explained that this is probably the root of a lot of my problems.

Once we'd got a greater understanding of my conditions and the impact they have on my life, we discussed possible approaches to therapy. My therapist suggested CBT would be the best option as it would also treat my dermatillomania. He recommended stage 3, which is the more intensive treatment, and on a one-to-one basis rather than group therapy because of both my social anxiety and the complexity of my anxiety-dermatillomania combo. He asked me to set goals to work towards during my therapy and explained that the waiting list is currently about 8 weeks. He was also very accommodating towards my troubles with the phone and wrote a note so the relevant people would know to contact me by email (after saying "They'll give you a call to.... oh, wait. That's not going to work!")

The experience was a lot less scary than I'd expected and I'm really glad I've taken this next step. I'll be posting about my experience with CBT when that happens too so keep your eyes peeled.


Camera Roll

After explaining how much difficulty I was having trying to think up a name for this series, I've just settled on Camera Roll since, you know, that's where the photos have come from. I have a notoriously bad memory so I can't for the life of me remember who suggested it but thank you!

In love with my hairpiece from Annabelle's Wigs// Gorgeous faces at Gerard Way's gig
Pikachu hats!// Cuddling with Rex. 

For some reason, there are also a bunch of Halloween photos I didn't feature in the last post and I have no idea why!

Meow! I'm a cat// Atmospheric pumpkins
More cat ears// Gore central at Thorpe Park

This beautiful face I paused on while editing videos// Poppies at the Tower of London
I finally met Megan at MCM// Spraying graffiti with Emsy and Sarah

My Harry Potter graffiti// The London Eye all lit up
South Bank at night// Houses of Parliament



Kaelah has some great tree decorating tips
Stephanie's photos from her wedding party are beautiful! 
Kirsty's photos from Croatia are stunning!
Andini's post about the Woman Fashion Power exhibition is awesome.  

Other Favourites

This is the sweetest pregnancy announcement
How well do you know the words to A Whole New World? I knew them all. Whoop!
Ok, I cannot wait to ride the world's tallest rollercoaster in Orlando
Want to find out what my worst Christmas present was? 

Book review: Ian Brady and Myra Hindley- Murder on the Moors

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley by Mel Plehov
By now, I think I've reviewed enough serial killer books to stop with the "trust me, I'm not a psycho" introductions. Of all England's 26 modern serial killers (yes, I know this stuff), these are the two that I know the most about and I have read quite a lot about the case of the Moors Murders. After being horrendously disappointed by the Harold Shipman book of the same publishers, I didn't have particularly high hopes for this. The introduction certainly confirmed my fears and was one of the most terrible pieces of writing I have ever read. (Funnily enough, the worst book I've read in my life was about Myra Hindley. What is it with serial killers and terrible writing?).

There is no author attributed to this book although, judging by the horrendously inaccurate use of commas, I assume it's Mel Plehov, the writer behind the Harold Shipman book. Somehow they manage to spell Hindley in three completely different ways within the space of 3 pages and repeatedly give Ian Brady the middle name Thomas instead of his actual name Duncan. As well as the erratic use of commas, misspellings and inaccuracies, there is also the problem with completely incoherent sentence structure. Here is a genuine quote for you, copied out word for word:

The way that so much pain, which doesn't diminish over time, could in a vile way provide a continuation of the sadistic pleasure, and reminder of his actions to the one living person who knows where the remains of the victims are.

That's not even a sentence! How did that get published? Did anybody proofread the book?
Extract of Mel Plehov Murder on the Moors
Luckily, the rest of the book is of slightly better quality. There are still basic errors but the majority of the facts are accurate and it's not appallingly written for the most part. The chronology is bizarrely inconsistent, jumping from the pair's imprisonment, to their trial and then to Myra's death back to her time in prison.

However, my main problem with the writing is that, although we can all agree the crimes were horrific and abhorrent, the author loses sight of professional distance and ends up becoming far too emotionally involved. Phrases such as "both these people personify the word EVIL" (capitals included) and "women around the world still hate her, hate what she represents, and hate what she allowed to occur" reveal a sensationalist bias which makes it difficult to find any credibility. 
Murder on the Moors Igloo Books
For anyone who is interested in finding out more about the Moors Murders, especially Myra Hindley, I'd recommend steering well clear of this sensationalist account, seemingly published only with the motive of easy money-spinning, and instead try the far superior One of Your Own by Carol Ann Lee. 

Affiliate link has been used in this post.


Sponsor Shoutout: November

Pink Confetti
Nicola, the blogger behind Pink Confetti, is incredible. She is both a teacher and a police officer (and is very open about her career dilemmas) but has also recently undergone jaw surgery, documenting the process to help others who are going through it. It's not all hard-hitting posts on Pink Confetti, though. You can also expect lots of book reviews, beauty, fashion and trips to amazing places like Iceland. Oh, and Nicola's blog design is really cute!

Lipsticks and Lashes
Gemma, of Lipsticks and Lashes, is a superwoman! As well as juggling two jobs, she is a carer for her mum, runs a small jewellery business and still found time to blog every day in October! Whether it's an honest post about her life as a carer and the realities of every day blogging, or beauty reviews and motivational messages, Gemma always writes from the heart. I also love the cute garden-effect she gives her photos! 


#SimplyBeReal Moments

I am so excited to share this with you! A couple of weeks ago, the lovely people at Simply Be contacted me to ask if I would like to be involved in their #SimplyBeReal campaign, reflecting the fact that fashion doesn't always go to plan. Rather than moping in our embarrassment, the campaign is a way to use those real moments as a funny anecdote to share with others and Simply Be have teamed up with a number of talented illustrators to depict these moments. 

Straight away, I knew the moment that I wanted to share because it is still something that makes me laugh whenever I think about it. As you may know, I am a primary school teacher and I work very hard to develop a supportive environment in my classroom where every member- children and staff- are almost part of a family unit. We are loyal to every member of the class but also share jokes and tease each other.

One day, when I was wearing an outfit much like this one, I was working with a group on a reading activity. Most of the class were quietly reading while I listened to my group read The Enormous Crocodile. I was encouraging the children to think of words to describe the crocodile and gave them an example: "Big, fat tummy!"

From across the classroom, the most mischievous of my boys shouted "Miss! Are you talking about yourself?" After that, "chubby" became a class injoke, and when the children left my class in July, I even got cards thanking me for "being a lovely chubby teacher"! 

After sharing my real moment, Simply Be told me that they were asking Anke Weckman to illustrate it as she has a childlike quality to her drawings. I checked out her website, loved her style and couldn't wait to see the illustration. However, nothing prepared me for the most adorable illustration that was sent over. Are you ready?
Isn't it amazing! It actually looks like me and I love all the little details, like the crocodile book cover. The way she has captured the friendly, fun environment of my classroom is incredible. I absolutely love it! (And wouldn't a personalised illustration be a fantastic gift for a teacher!)

I'd love to hear all about your real moment, and don't forget to use the #SimplyBeReal hashtag to share it on social media!

I wrote this post in collaboration with Simply Be in exchange for the personalised illustration.


Why the John Lewis Christmas advert made me cry

Monty the Penguin flew onto my laptop screen about 20 minutes ago and Twitter is alight with photos of him. However, I'm choosing to publish this about 2 weeks after the premiere of the advert as I don't want to spoil it for anyone. By now, everybody in the English-speaking world (and then some) must have seen it so let's talk about Why the John Lewis Christmas advert made me cry.
Let me start by saying I have a long history with John Lewis adverts, beginning with 2011's The Long Wait. That video touched me so much that I still watch it on YouTube and it still makes me cry every single time. I even downloaded that version of the song for my Christmas playlist. 2012's The Journey also made me cry, but only the first couple of times. It was a sweet advert but had nothing on its predecessor. Then came The Bear and the Hare in 2013, which I could not stand. It felt contrived and formulaic: I could imagine business people in a meeting room with a Powerpoint titled "How can we make them cry? Tears= Sales". Needless to say, I wasn't expecting great things this year.

And then came Monty the Penguin. Since I have the above mentioned history with John Lewis ads, I thought it would be funny to record my reaction Gogglebox-style for my weekly vlog. I was certainly not anticipating reacting the way I did.

The advert opens with a little boy and his pet penguin, Monty. Monty goes everywhere with him and helps the boy out. Cute! It kind of reminded me of Fluffy, who is my pet, only not actually real. Fluffy is a cuddly toy but he's real to me. This opening to the advert was sweet because, although I've never had a real pet (unless you count Nibbles the hamster who I never saw and then died on Christmas Eve when I was 12), I could kind of relate to it in terms of Fluffy. Then it felt like the advert sidetracked a little. Monty was looking for love and there was no longer that cute boy-and-pet dynamic going on. Of course, the boy, being a fantastic pet-owner, bought a lady penguin for Monty, at which point it is revealed that Monty and his girlfriend are not real penguins at all: They're stuffed toys. Cue heaving sobs.

Ok, so the particularly astute will pretty much have worked out why this affected me so much but I want to go into greater detail about Fluffy and why he's so important to me.

I received Fluffy as a Christmas present from my Auntie Sylvia when I was 8 (Oh look, a Christmas present. Notice the parallels). As a child, I had a pretty rough time. Don't worry, I won't be going all X Factor on you, but I was an anxious, socially awkward child who found it difficult to communicate with other children. This continued into my teens and beyond. Throughout my school years, I rarely went out with other children and would instead spend my free time holed up in my room. I found it impossible to share my problems and gained a reputation for being perpetually bright and cheerful when, actually, that couldn't have been farther from the truth. With nobody to turn to, I spoke to Fluffy. He listened to my problems without judgement and gave me advice. Of course, being a stuffed toy, the advice wasn't really from him, but from a part of my subconscious that I couldn't access alone. It needed the distance of coming from "someone else" for me to pick up on it. Fluffy was the personification of my limbic system- providing me with measured emotions, behaviour and motivation. I needed an outlet for these as I didn't trust them from myself.

When my life turned upside down at 16, I retreated further into my solitude. Fluffy soaked up my tears, he was an indestructible stress ball I could squeeze, he was always at my side. By this point, I was more than old enough to have lost the belief that may, just maybe, he does come alive when I'm asleep, but I could appreciate that he was symbolic of a constant in my life. Everything was changing but Fluffy was there. He was the sounding board for my troubles. There was so much inside me that I couldn't tell anybody, so many destructive emotions bottling up inside, but letting them out with Fluffy as my counsellor minimised their impact.

In 2008, I met Rich and he made a surprise visit to my student accommodation in Winchester. I hurriedly stuffed Fluffy down the side of the bed, ashamed and embarrassed to be 19 years old and still sleeping next to a teddy. Rich found him, chuckled and said "Who have we got here then?". Like the perpetually patient, understanding man he is, he completely took Fluffy on board and never once judged me.

Mental health problems have reached out to both of us in our 6 years together and sometimes it was difficult to communicate with each other as a result of these. I didn't want to tell Rich I was angry with him, for example, so Fluffy would be. Or perhaps Rich was worried about me but didn't want to concern me, so he would say Fluffy is worried. Much like when I was a child, Fluffy became an invaluable tool to share those difficult feelings. Even today, sometimes Fluffy will suddenly become sulky with Rich because I haven't got my own way! (I'm a sulker) 

Fluffy became our relationship mascot. Much like the boy in the advert, we'd buy him little token gifts. Sometimes Fluffy would buy a present for one or the other of us. Fluffy will occasionally leave notes out, since it's much nicer to come home to a note saying "Hello! Can you please clean the bath because my little paws won't reach? From Fluffy" than a passive-aggressive Post It Note! When we got married he, and his later-adopted little brother George, were ringbearers. Over the years- he will be 18 this Christmas- he has aged. His paws and ears are threadbare, he's turned grey and the insanely fluffy fur that gave him his name is now flat and matted. Just like Monty at the end of the advert, Fluffy is pretty bedraggled. But then my dad always said "If teddies get dirty, it shows they've been having fun".

For me, Fluffy is more than just a teddy. He was a beacon of hope in my childhood, a counsellor and supporter. As I moved into my difficult teen years, he provided a sense of security as a constant in my life and now, as a married 26 year old, he reminds me of what I went through to get here and reminds me that, together, we can take on anything. And that is why the John Lewis advert made me cry.

If you're interested in the psychology of adults with teddy bears, I really recommend reading up about Grayson Perry and his rather famous teddy, Alan Measles. When he began speaking publicly about his relationship with Alan Measles, I suddenly felt a little less weird! Here are two particulary clear examples, from The Radio Times and York Mix.


#GiffGaffSnaps Photography Walk with Best LDN Walks

London is my favourite city in the whole world. Ok, I haven't been to all of them but it's definitely the best I've experienced. I feel so privileged to live near such a beautiful, magical city with so many photographical landmarks. So when Joe Blogs Blogger Network invited me to the #GiffGaffSnaps photography walk, I was super excited! 
Over 60 bloggers met at Waterloo making up a herd of snappers led by the very lovely, very funny Charlotte of Best LDN Walks (who seriously do the most interesting London tours around!). GiffGaff, our hosts of the evening, were represented by Phil who was on hand to help us with any of our photography queries (you can read the GiffGaff blog post about the evening here) as we set off to snap some of London's most hashtagged locations. 

On arrival, I met up with Katy and we soon found Erica, Laura and Emsy. After a little while, Sarah turned up too and it was lovely to see her again. There were so many bloggers that I follow that I didn't even get to meet all of them, but it felt amazing to be a part of such a huge blogging cloud drifting around Westminster! 

Our tour started on Waterloo Bridge, the longest bridge in London, which was built by women during WWII and is coated in a special material so it cleans itself. We then moved down to Southbank and walked past Southbank Skatepark, through the Christmas market to the London Eye. 

On arrival at the London Eye, we took a left and were led to Leake Street, the only place in London where you can graffiti legally. The history of street art in this tunnel started when Banksy created a piece on a billboard next to the opening declaring it as an authorised graffiti zone. People took this seriously and started contributing their own street art. In the end, Banksy bought the tunnel so that it could be used as a legal place to create street art.

Charlotte had brought along cans of spray paint so we could all have a go at contributing to the walls. This was my highlight of the walk, but it turns out I'm not destined to be a street artist! Just spraying the paint was much harder than I was anticipating! Nevertheless, I managed to create my Harry Potter-inspired masterpiece. (Thanks Emsy for the suggestion!)

Once everybody had daubed the walls, we set back off over Westminster Bridge and past the Houses of Parliament. On the corner of Whitehall, Sarah and I accepted a challenge to see how many bloggers could squeeze into a phone box. We managed four, although I probably took up the majority of the space! 

We headed down Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square, which is where the tour ended. I learned that Nelson was pickled in rum after his death and we all got the opportunity to stand on a plaque that marks the exact centre of London before heading our separate ways.

I had such a fun evening. It was wonderful meeting so many people and I learned so much. Huge thanks to Joe Blogs, Best LDN Walks and GiffGaff for such a fantastic time! 

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