Category: Celebrations


‘Oh, Christ. I’ve got to write a blog post about this horrendous year!’

I sat down at the laptop. Brexit. Trump. Celebrity deaths. The end of the Bake Off as we know it. Where on earth do I start?

Well…actually….I’d like to focus on the positives. Not just because doing otherwise would mean typing up a mammoth post that my wrists just can’t handle, but because somewhere in the embers of 2016, amongst all the ash, are a couple of gems.

I have to keep reminding myself that, for me, it’s been an awesome year. Yes, I may have been clutching for the mojitos and chocolate and spending too much time buried in a duvet by the time Christmas hit, but we can’t let the horrors of 2016 impinge on the good stuff.

First of all, there’s my job. Alright, I’m aware this is becoming a bit of a catchphrase of mine but, I do really love my job, and 2016 was the year I was entrusted with my own class. Every morning I wake up and get to spend time with hilarious, caring and happy people. What a gift!

2016 has also fuelled my favourite hobby – theatre. I’d gone through a very dry patch where theatre was concerned, until March when I discovered some real gems at Theatre Clwyd….and the obsession with theatre tickets began. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Little Shop of Horrors, Joseph, Be My Baby, Cyrano de Bergerac, RENT….just some of the awesome shows I’ve been lucky to see this year. Then, of course, there was the big one – London. I’m still recovering from the brilliance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse and I don’t think I’ll ever get over that conversation with Freddie Fox. (I say ‘conversation’. I did a lot of nodding.) I also (accidentally) went to my first Pride festival whilst in London. A celebration of diversity, unity and love. The perfect antidote to 2016.

In September I also took the leap and joined another local theatre group, something which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. After a few nights of volunteering I was really taken aback by the warmth and friendliness of the place. I’m definitely hoping 2017 brings more of that.

We’ve also got to remember the laughs. In 2016, I nearly got my hand glued to a tortoise, watched my friend face-plant the gym floor, giggled through a very serious game of bingo with my colleagues and sang the national anthem in a rural welsh pub whilst my friend tried to flick maltesars into my mouth. Mix in being chatted up by a Cliff Richard look-a-like, some awful Karaoke and the quest for the perfect Celine Dion impression and you’ve got plenty to smile about! I know, 2016 was pretty awful in a lot of ways, but none of it can be changed now. When I look back, I’m going to try and remember that year for its laughs, its nights out, its nights in, the friends, the fun and that important turning point in my career. *raises a glass of wine* and now to 2017, a new year, let’s hope it’s a happy one…..

…….*watches EastEnders*…..

Oh for Christ’s sake.

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The big day is over for another year. All the stress and panic leading up to it has passed and it’s now time for my favourite tradition: spending Boxing Day eating chocolate and watching films.

One day I’ll write the blog about why Christmas sometimes runs the risk of being a miserable time for me, but for now, I’d rather focus on how good this year has been. The run-up didn’t top last year, but, as I sit with my wine and chocolates and wait for EastEnders, I can say it’s been….good. Here are some of my highlights.

  • Food – My favourite thing ever. I have eaten my own body weight and plan to do so until January 1st. I’ve turned the Joe Wicks book I was given upside down until the New Year. He doesn’t need to see this.
  • TV – I bloody love Christmas TV. EastEnders is always a highlight and last nights, although lacking in the traditional misery and despair in my opinion, was a festive treat. (Disclaimer: I know I keep saying this…..but if they kill off Ronnie I just do not know what I’ll do.) Doctor Who is also a traditional treat on Christmas night at Plas G and this year’s was super (and I didn’t fall asleep 15 mins before the end. Honest.) But the best thing I’ve seen this Christmas is Deadpool. I think he’s just taken the crown as my favourite superhero.
  • Family – UNUSUAL EVENT CLAXON – This year was the FIRST Christmas in memory that we had total of……ZERO arguments. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, round of applause please.
  • Children – This year has been special as it’s been the first Christmas I have spent with my own class. Those two weeks building up to Christmas were so much fun….but you can read last week’s blog for more of that.
  • And finally……GUYLIAN SHELLS. Yes, after almost 27 years of hinting (yes, I was hinting in the womb) SOMEBODY bought me a box of Guylian shells. My favourite chocolate treat. This year Z picked up on the sublte mentions and presented me with a box on Chrismtas Eve. (and by subtle mentions, I refer to the many times I have said ‘Oh look, Guylian shells. My favourite chocolate. No one ever buys them for me so if you do, I’ll love you forever. Guylian shells. Remember. Guylian. Repeat it back to me.’­ I’m such a lovely friend to have.)

Anyway anyway anyway, I hope your Christmas has been just as enjoyable and, like me, you’re looking forward to a brand new year. Now, I’d love to write more but I’ve got some Guylian shells that are begging for my attention and a bottle of wine which, frankly, it would be rude not to drink.

‘Where are the Angels?’ ‘There’s just no time!’ ‘Is that sheep supposed to be there?’ ‘I’m one wise man down…’ ‘COSTUMES!!!!’

Just some of the phrases you might have heard in our school over the last few weeks. This week saw the final performances of our year one & two Christmas concert and, although at times it has been stressful, we were all a bit sad to see it end. I think we can all be guilty of looking at the Christmas concert with a negative view – mainly because there really is just no time! Think about it – we’re creating a full on production in just a couple of weeks on top of our usual work load – we’re performing a miracle! But, in its defense, I believe the Christmas concert has a lot to offer.

First of all, there’s Drama!  In a lot of schools, Drama is not a priority. Understandably, in some cases, as the pressure to bring other subjects to the forefront is high, so this is a solid chance to get your children acting. Our children put their heart and soul into this concert and all their hard work certainly paid off in the end. There were some classic moments which went down well with the audience. (Including a fabulous Craig Revel Horwood inspired King Caesar!)

The Christmas Concert also gives us a great chance to promote and observe team working skills. Who stands out during rehearsal? Who provides creative suggestions? Who takes the lead during music activities? Plenty of areas to observe, especially for those working on the the FP profiles.

Finally, it’s a chance to have fun! Yes, sorting costumes and props and learning lines and wrestling over the hall timetable can be testing but the Christmas concert should always be fun and a break from the norm. It’s the chance to get festive and enjoy your time with the children. After all, for the children, this probably the happiest, most exciting time of the year so we should be promoting that (as well as indulging in a little festive cheer ourselves. When I look back at school, my sharpest memories are of this time of year because my teachers made it special. So, we must make sure we create memories for this generation too!

So, although it may bring Christmas Concert Chaos to your classroom, I believe the concert is something to be embraced. Deck the stage the fairylights, throw glitter everywhere, get the children singing it multiple keys at the same time and enjoy!

(s)Halloween

Image result for winifred sanderson gif

I used to hate Halloween. For me, Halloween is always a bit hit and miss. I either have a great time, or an awful one. But, as I child, I absolutely hated it.

I’m blaming my pre-twenties Halloween hatred on my mother. I was an uber-sensitive child with an over-active imagination (I know, who knew?!) and my mum was a mega-Halloween fan (or a sadist. I haven’t quite decided on that one.) She’d go all out for Halloween – decorating the house, getting us costumes, taking us to parties – but there was something about Halloween that I really just didn’t like. I would always have nightmares after a Halloween party. I remember going to one as a vampire once and, that night, I had a really vivid dream that people thought I was a real vampire and were trying to kill me. What frightened me the most was mum’s spooky CD. It wasn’t music – music I could always cope with – it was an SFX CD featuring heavy breathing, blood-curdling screams and manic laughter over a chainsaw. I don’t know what it was but it freaked me right out (so she continued to play it.) Even now I tend to feel a bit nauseated at spooky parties.

In more recent years, Halloween has become the marker for what is generally a rubbish time of year. (But I’m not ready to write that blog post yet!) Last year seemed to buck the trend, as getting dressed up and going out-out resulted in the best Halloween for years. 2016, however, has been a quieter event. Pessimistic, I know, but it seems Halloween is one of those events that always feels like it’s going to be brilliant but then fizzles out before you can say ‘trick or treat’. It never quite lives up to your expectations.

For me there are three ingredients for a decent Halloween.

  • A pumpkin. Obviously. This year I’ve gone for a witch theme.
  • A barrel of chocolate.
  • Hocus Pocus. Sod your horror movies. This will always be the ultimate Halloween film.

So, before we get ready for fireworks and *gulps* sleigh bells, I recommend opening a bumper bar of dairy milk and chilling out with the Sanderson sisters. ‘It’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus!’

 

It’s one of my favourite times of year. The sun is shining, the sunglasses are on and school is at its most relaxed. These last few days are the memory makers. It’s when we reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. For me, this next year is going to be very important, and preparations within in my new classroom are beginning (how exciting!). For the children, they are preparing to say goodbye to some of their friends for the summer, whilst year 6 prepare for a final farewell to the school. Staff members are finally beginning to wind down, envisioning the six weeks of bliss ahead and appreciating all the hard work that has happened in the last year. Some staff members are spending their last few days at school before they move on to other adventures in the future. It’s an emotional time, but one of my favourites.

I’m very lucky, you see, because I have ended up working with the best people. You might think that your colleagues are the best, but I’m sorry, they’re not, because mine are.  You’re mistaken.

I remember the moment it clicked. I’d worked in a couple of places and always got on with my colleagues but this is the first job where I actually felt like I fitted in. I was sat in the staffroom, second or third week in, when somebody brought in this massive cake and another person suggested a staff trip to see Wicked. I knew from that moment that I’d come to the right place.

Anyway anyway anyway, gushing aside, the people I work with make this time of year special. We have someone who will be retiring on Wednesday. She’s going to be sorely missed and its lovely to see the rest of the staff (and the children) making sure she understands that. From gifts, to specially written songs and odes – this week is all about celebrating achievement. The achievements of those who are saying goodbye and those who are staying.

I’m not just talking about the adults. The children are fantastic – thoughtful, generous, hilarious – we are constantly thankful for the wonderful young people we teach every day. It’s lovely to watch them relaxing with their friends and just enjoying being children (d’ya remember that?) They can be capable of the most incredible acts of kindness and this is a peak time to witness that. Watching the year 6’s realise that they’ll have moved on in just a few days is touching, but exciting when you think of the adventures they have to come.

So anyway, just a short one this week, but my message is – embrace the end of term tears! It might get a bit emosh – whether you’re sad to say goodbye, overwhelmed by acts of thoughtfulness or just bloody relieved the term is over – take stock of what you’re thankful for and enjoy it!

Today is my one year anniversary of blogging!

It all started after feeling totally frustrated following my year out of life on the PGCE. I had so many thoughts to express and lots of stories to tell and I was annoyed that I wasn’t doing the thing I loved the most – writing. I remembered the old blog account I had set up years previously but being a total commitment-aphobe I’d only managed a couple of half-arsed posts. I wrote my first post about the PGCE and I’ve managed to stick to a post per week ever since without missing one. That’s a huge achievement for me! I’m really proud of the things I’ve written and I hope people have enjoyed reading them and found some sense in my ramblings.

I like to mark occasions (it borders on the obsessive), so to do so, here are the three blog posts from the past year I am most proud of.

1) Back to Reality: Life Post-PGCE – My first real post and one which generated some great responses. Still worthy advice for anyone considering going through Hell  – beginning a PGCE.

https://gavhayes.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/back-to-reality-life-post-pgce/

2) Closing the Curtain on WMTS – Probably the most honest piece I’ve done. WMTS closing meant so much to me and it’s still hard for me to go past the empty space where it once stood. It’s my most viewed piece to date and I received some lovely comments of support from the people of Wrexham.

https://gavhayes.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/closing-the-curtain-on-wmts/

3) Cardigan-gate: A true  Story – Proud because it’s true and it’s about something that means a lot to me. I could argue the whole gender/diversity thing for hours. But this post pretty much sums it up.

https://gavhayes.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/cardigan-gate-a-true-story/

So thanks for reading and here is to another twelve months!

 

I don’t often get to go away, so when I do I like to squeeze as many things into my break as possible and I certainly did that this weekend in London. Z and I had excitedly booked the break a few weeks ago and the countdown has been on ever since.  So, apart from the selfies, giggling, bus-singing, celebrity impressions and a near death experience at the hands of a waitress, here’s a quick run-down of what we got up to…

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse

Our journey started with spotting Joe Woolford (from Eurovision..? We only mix with the A-listers, you know) at Chester Station. It was the start of many spots. Both of us get uselessly star-struck. I become mute and frozen with fear and Z develops this faux-suave swagger and becomes a bit over familiar.

This didn’t bode well for the main event of our trip – A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse. There were two main appeals to this production which made us book our tickets a few months ago. The first was that it was a MSND, which is my favourite Shakespeare play, and secondly, it starred Freddie Fox and Maddy Hill. Well, my obsession with EastEnders obviously explains why I was interested to see Maddy but not a lot of people know about Freddie. Last year, during the run of Cucumber on Chanel 4, I had a bit of a mid-mid-life crisis. Mad busy with teacher training, I had a bit of an identity crisis when suddenly, on my TV screen, was this character that I recognised. I’ve never connected with a character so much and it made me a bit fraught to be confronted with someone I saw so much of myself in. It was bizarre and, even though I’ve bought the box set, I’m still not ready to re-watch Cucumber.  Cray-cray, right? .Anyway, mental-TV-melt-downs aside, I’d been a Freddie Fox fan ever since and I was really looking forward to the performance. The play was fantastic, possibly the best production of MSND I have ever seen. We were sat in the front row and the actors performed literally right in front of us (I had to lean back at one point to avoid being hit!). It was wonderfully intimate and a production which really grabbed the audience. There was no set, no costumes, and no lighting effects. Just seven actors and a bare stage.  Scenes were vividly described meaning the audience had to do a lot of work but it was SO effective. All the actors were incredible. I’ve got so much to say about this production I could easily write another post about it. If you’re in London this week – go and see it. To top our night off, we got to have a chat with Freddie afterwards. (Cue star-struck gawping and mumbling whilst Z takes charge of the conversation. Why didn’t I ask for a picture?!). He was very appreciative of our praise and very lovely. In the bar, we told the Director, Simon Evans, just how brilliant the play was and he humbly advised us to tell the cast. However, I wished I’d assured him that it wasn’t just the cast that was brilliant – his passion and hard work shone through so he was just as worthy of our high praise.

London Pride

The Saturday didn’t quite start as planned. I was very brave at the start of our trip. I absolutely hate the idea of the tube – being stuck underground in a crammed tin can is not my cup of tea – but I tried it for the sake of my friend. However, Saturday morning my worst fear happened. Our train stopped in a tunnel. Cue panic-stricken-G. Thankfully our stop only lasted 4 (very long, sweat-inducing) minutes but I vowed never to tube again! *shudders*

We visited King’s Cross, the Harry Potter shop and platform 9 ¾ , where we spotted our next famous face – Harriet Thorpe.

We stumbled on Pride by accident, only finding out the week before that it was even on. I’d never been to a festival like this before but I had such a great day. The atmosphere was incredible – nothing but love and enjoyment. Just what we needed. Everyone was happy! My town is no stranger to closed-mindedness, so it was fantastic to be in a place where everyone was accepted. We had an amazing view of the parade, which was so overwhelming, I cried. (Sensitive Stanley got emosh over the Orlando tribute bus – a lovely tribute.) The highlight was of course the Ab Fab float featuring many Patsy’s and Edina’s. It was lovely to see all kinds of people lining the streets – whatever religion, whatever race, whatever sexuality. We even spotted a little old (straight) couple with pride flags painted on their cheeks. Aww.

After the parade, I got to visit the Theatre Café, a place I’ve wanted to go to for years. We were lucky enough to be there during a visit from the cast of a new musical, Exposure. Neither of us were brave enough to tackle the open mic but I do highly recommend the brownies!

Our Saturday ended soggily. We’d traipsed around London – visiting all the usual landmarks (armed with selfie stick) like Big Ben, the Eye, Leicester Square, Parliament Square etc – but eventually the heavens opened and we got absolutely drenched. I’ve wanted to see Book of Mormon for a long time so we entered the ticket draw (fab idea) but that’s where our luck ran out. We left ticketless and soaked. (Also, I hate to say it, but I do feel a bit annoyed theatres can get away with charging so much for their tickets. I’m a total theatre supporter but there was no way I was paying £150 for a ticket for Book of Mormon. It’s a shame these awesome shows can’t do a bit more for their fans by lowering the price.) So, anyway, we ended up getting totally lost. The buses back to Hammersmith were diverted due to Pride so the quest to find the bus stop led us all around London (and mostly in the opposite direction to where we should have been. But we did see Kitt Harrington so all was well).  By the time we got back, we were desperate for a drink.

Shopping Sunday

After a hectic Saturday, I was in need of chilled day. We visited Holland Park (home of Edina Monsoon, darling) and the Kyoto Garden which was absolutely beautiful.  A real island of peace and tranquillity in a hectic city. We then bus hopped to Harvey Nic’s and Harrod’s where I got totally carried away collecting London-themed treats for my new classroom. Back in Hammersmith, we had dinner at Villagio (amazing carbonara) before hitting the town for a few drinks. That was the plan anyway, but we spent so much time wandering round that we got too knackered to drink and went to bed. (26, I promise. Not 66. 26.)

Monday was a rush to Euston, but we did have time to spot Matt Baker and have breakfast at Patisserie Valerie. Fabulous.

Anyway anyway anyway, a fab time was had by both. Now, back to reality….*sigh*

Behold, summer has arrived! After, surely, years of winter Britain has finally been granted a sunny weekend. Thank you, Weather Gods. We are eternally grateful.

Soaking up the sun in a beer garden yesterday, lemonade in hand, shades fixed to my face (where they will stay until mid-September), I couldn’t help but feel like a curse had been lifted. I got a bit emosh as I switched off my heating and tore away the extra blanket from the bed. This could be a dangerous move, as I’m sure winter will return by the end of the week, but for now, I’m allowing myself to get delirious at the prospect of actual summer. Summer! Here! Can you believe it?

However, as usual, it’s not all ice creams and flip-flops.  Here are the five most annoying things we will have to endure over the next few months.

5) Complaining. I know, ironic, but yes, I am complaining about complaining. Facebook has already sent me into a meltdown after just two days of warm weather my feed is littered with statuses moaning about the heat. From the same people who whinge about the cold and the rain. Now, in Wales, we rarely get a summer so to those people who are moaning that it’s too hot here’s a special message from me. ‘Shut up. It’s summer. Enjoy it.’ Thank you.

4) Topless men. Why is it that whenever the sun pops out from behind a cloud, some blokes feel the uncontrollable need to strip off? Sunday was hardly tropical yet I saw FIVE topless men wandering round. Jeez. Put it away. I worked in a petrol station for five years and one thing (of the many, many, many things) that used to send me into a ranty-rage was blokes strutting in, t-shirt carelessly slung over shoulder, after just a hint of sunshine. Have you forgotten you’re in public? Put your clothes on! In those five years, I was faced with the flabby, the buff and the downright leathery. Whatever condition your body is in, nobody wants it shoved in their face. Put. It. Away.

3) Early Birds. Can someone tell the birds that just because the sun is up does not mean they can chirp as loudly as they can until everyone is awake? If I wanted to be up at 5am, I’d have set my alarm. Oh and also, on the same note, if you feel the need to get the lawnmower out at 8am on a Sunday morning, you’re a dick.

2) Being constantly sweaty. You wake up – sweaty. You have your breakfast – sweaty. You go in the shower – not too sweaty. You get out, feeling lovely and clean but before you have even finished drying off – sweaty. In the end you give up and resort to only showering in the dead of night.

1) and my number one gripe goes to – hay fever. The most annoying thing in the world, yes? Your whole summer is ruled by your nose. You pop antihistamines like sweets in desperate attempts to stop your throat from itching. In the morning, your voice could be mistaken for that of one of Marge Simpson’s sisters.  You develop the need to cough at the most inappropriate times. You come dangerously close to clawing your own eyes out and the inability to breathe due to excess snot is almost too much to handle. You find yourself wishing away the summer, clinging on to cooling thoughts of winter when your sinuses will be relieved, the coughing will stop and your nose will return to its usual colour……And then you get a cold.

Totally infuriating but this is the price we have to pay in order for a bit of sun. So, let’s take a deep breath, embrace these annoyances (don’t embrace the sweaty topless men though *shudders*), overdose on Piriton and fire up the BBQ.

HAPPY SUMMER, EVERYONE!

 

 

 Brace yourself…the ‘New Year, New Me’ posts are coming.

You know I have a difficult relationship with social media. I use it every day, yet sometimes I absolutely despise it. The way people use it makes me so cross. One of my major gripes is people who create this perfect online persona – ‘Everything is great, we all love each other. Life couldn’t be more perfect’ – when in reality we all know he’s having an affair and the child is the spawn of Satan.

Anyway, another thing that bugs me is the annual ‘New Year, New Me’ status. We’re about to be inundated with them. People vaguely alluding to some crisis they’ve had recently and vowing to reap revenge or make a dramatic change in 2016. ‘2016 is going to be my year’, ‘No more Mr Nice Guy in 2016’. Oh please! Stop! Very often it’s the usual offenders posting the same promises every year.

I’ve been thinking about this and for one terrifying moment over the weekend I almost made the same the promise. I know. Madness! Reflecting on 2015, I thought about the good, the bad and the stressful of the last 12 months. After a bumpy start, 2015 turned out to be very rewarding – I became a teacher, moved into my own place, got reconnected with some amazing friends and made plenty of new ones. On the whole, a success. I’d have never predicted how kind the year could be last December. So it goes to show we don’t know what we’re going to get given, all we can do is make the most of each moment. However, this was the year of the PGCE, therefore I spent a lot of nights reading/writing/planning/preparing and my social life did suffer. So I do hope that in 2016 I can make more time for my friends and general social-ness.

2015 started with a bit of crisis. After a sickly Christmas, I rushed into the year a tired, anxious, frustrated mess. In January I turned 25 and I had a bit of mid-mid-life crisis (fingers crossed for 100). I began to question my life choices and sank into a low funk that I couldn’t dig myself out of.  It didn’t help that my family started to make hints about ‘settling down’ and (goodness me) ‘Growing up!’. It appeared that as I was close to securing what they saw as ‘a good job’, the next steps would be to ‘go out, find a girl and have children’. For Christ’s sake. *Takes a deep breath*. Those close to me know that this is not my cup of tea at all and I have my own opinions on marriage and children (which is another blog post you can look forward to!). How could I expect someone to attach themselves to me when I was feeling like I didn’t really know myself? One family member even told me that now I was ‘older’ I needed to wear more neutral colours – ‘the plainer, the better, at your age’. I questioned everything from friends to lifestyle choices to underwear (yes, I know, ask no further questions) and I realised I didn’t know who I was. In February, I accidentally discovered a secret that changed my circle of friends (sorry, now I’m doing it! Alluding to a secret! Please, forgive! I promise it’s relevant) and when I returned home as a fully-trained teacher I felt very much like I was building my life from scratch. In November, I moved home which kick started a chain of events that has led to me ending the year very differently to how it started. At the moment, I’m happy, confident and determined to have lots of fun in 2016.

This is mostly down to the freedom I’ve been granted since moving out. I can do anything I want now and I feel like I’ve finally started to express myself. When I lived with my parents, I couldn’t start the morning with a yoga session, have last minute gatherings of friends, burn incense in the bathroom or play music into the night because it disturbed the people I lived with (and I’m sure they’d have something to say if I slipped into down dog over breakfast). For the first time, I can be myself and I’m looking forward to exploring that more in the New Year. So what I’m saying is not ‘New Year, New Me’, but ‘New Year, MORE me.’ I want to be able to get to know this person I’ve carried around for 26 years. I want to express myself, try new things and live. Exist.

So here’s to a happy, healthy 2016. I’m not promising to stamp on all my enemies, see the world or anything dramatic. I just want to enjoy the good times and make the most of living. And if it doesn’t work out….well….there is always next year.

 

Merry Stress-mas!

Christmas! It’s everywhere. In the shops…on the streets….in our homes!

I bloody love Christmas, and have done since I was a child, but as I’ve got older I have suffered annually from Christmas-angst. It’s only recently that I’ve noticed just how stressful the holidays are. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect Christmas and I am a serial offender of this crime.

For the last three years I’ve vowed to have a stress-free Christmas and it NEVER happens. Each year I push myself to the verge of an anxious breakdown, sometimes literally making myself ill, just over Christmas. And I know plenty of people who are exactly the same. What is wrong with us?

In the grand scheme of things – it’s one day. One day! But for weeks prior to the 25th I catch myself worrying about everything. Buying the perfect presents, getting the right wrapping paper. Do I have enough nibbles? What if friends come round? Do my decorations look perfect? Is everywhere clean?! Am I getting a cold?!

I worry so much about the slightest thing ruining that run up to Christmas that, nine times out of ten, I’m ill through bolstering my own stress levels. But I can’t seem to break the cycle. This year I was adamant I would have a perfect Christmas in my new home. I was doing everything I could to remain calm but this weekend those first embers of anxiety have started crackling and I can only put it down stress-mas. (Don’t worry, I ate loads of chocolate and drank some questionable vodka.)

Why is it we get so obsessed with making this one day perfect?  I know people who have gone so far as to get new windows and doors for their whole house before Christmas when it wasn’t really necessary. Why do we have to have everything perfect? We spend our time preaching to the children that the importance of Christmas isn’t the aesthetics and the material things, it’s being with your loved ones and being thankful. Then we get totally freaked out because the baubles on the tree aren’t scattered correctly and M&S don’t have the right stuffing.

Of course, the stress isn’t always brought on by oneself. A big chunk of my Christmas-chaos comes from arguing family members and guilt from unsatisfied (and VERY divorced) parents. Hats off to those who actually manage to split themselves in two over the Christmas period – I’ve yet to perfect this, so have opted to label this year a ‘Friendy Christmas’ rather than a family one. I love my family but, just like everyone else, they drive me up the wall. So for this year, let all of us children of divorce raise a big middle finger to parental guilt and enjoy the season for ourselves. Just for this year. Let’s not stress about what time we get to dad’s and whether mum will find out we spent half an hour extra with him. Let’s just go with the flow, open our gifts and get back home to the brandy bottle as soon as possible. (And I’ll feel so much better knowing I’m not the only one!)

For a happy Christmas, we need to keep things simple. Be with those who make you smile. Do what makes you happy. And calm down.

So whether your Christmas is chilled and stress-free or a total bloody nightmare…Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.