Find you tribe. Love them hard.

Over the years I’ve had some phenomenal friends. I’ve also had some pretty rubbish ones. I’ve told you about my soul sister, Lucy, before. Now I want to tell you about my girls, in the spirit of International Women’s Day. Because they all lift me up and make me a better me and they are remarkable women.

When I moved up North, whilst I knew I didn’t know anybody, I never really appreciated how hard it would be to make friends. I made friendships at work but they were friendships of convenience. I met people who were so welcoming and introduced me to their friends. But they’d all be friends for years and it’s tough to forge a friendship with people who have such a long existing bond. However hard they try to make you feel welcome, you’ll probably still feel an outsider. I made some great friends “for now”, but we drifted apart as our lives drifted on. Then I made some friends where the friendship became too intense. With the demands of my job and having to travel all over the UK for work, it’s difficult for me to have friendships where you’re constantly in contact. Once I’d met Dave, juggling friends, work and him became too much, and my friendships suffered as a consequence.

High maintenance friendships are not my thing. I don’t mind not seeing my friends for a few weeks and then having LOADS to talk about when we do see each other.

Jayne is my longest standing Northern friend and we met via Twitter. Back in 2012, she asked if anyone wanted to go to the “Guide Dog Convention” with her, or maybe I asked it (it’s not really a convention but it’s what I now fondly refer to it as! It’s actually an open day at the Guide Dog Centre in Atherton, where I used to live). Whichever way it happened, one of us responded to the other and off we went. And our friendship has blossomed ever since!

Jayne and I at Gin Festival 2017

Jayne is ace. She’s a single mum to 13 year old Olivia, and I cannot even begin to imagine how tough that must be. On top of that she’s a Nurse. And Wonderwoman. Ok, I made that last bit up but she may as well be. She’s run a marathon, something I can only ever wish to do, and she’s the most kind hearted soul I’ve ever met.

I met Clare through Jayne for the first time in 2014, at the Magic Weekend. For those unfamiliar, it’s a weekend where all the rugby teams in Super League play a match at the same venue, over two days. It’s a fab day out and you get to meet loads of ace people (and some not so ace. I once met this Leeds fan that latched herself onto me all day and she was just awful!)

I already followed Clare on Twitter but didn’t really have much to do with her. I was intimidated by her perfect eyeliner and opinions. I’m pretty sure she thought I was just like them idiots from TOWIE. We spoke a bit that day, but I was there with Dave and his family so spent most of my time with them. She wasn’t as scary as I first thought though, but beyond that, nothing really changed in our interactions with one another.

That was until November, Clare messaged Jayne asking if she and I wanted to go to the Gin Festival in March. My response was along the lines of “yeah, why not. I don’t like gin but I’m up for a day out!” By this point, much as I loved Dave, I wanted and probably needed a solid group of female friends. I envied people who had such a close circle of friends.

Gin Festival, which I’ll tell you about in another blog very soon, was the day I met Clare’s sister, Louise. Louise is my inspiration. She was recovering from a brain tumour at the time and seemed to me quite shy. But all I could see was this unbelievable survivor. Louise is one of my most favourite people ever. She just doesn’t care. She doesn’t care what people think. Nothing seems to phase her. She’s forever tagging me in memes on Facebook and Instagram that are along the lines of that message. It’s slowly sinking in!

Jayne, Lou, Clare and Me at our first Gin Festival in 2015

We had a fab day at the Gin Festival and I felt that I’d found some friends, as well as a new found love for gin. In 2016, we went again although this time, Clare’s friend Jaye came with us, as well as Louise’s best friend, Helen. They joined us on what was soon to become our annual outing.

On the 24th September 2016, we went to a beer and prosecco festival in our home town of Wigan. The reason this date sticks in my mind so much is that it was the day before my 30th birthday, which was coincidence rather than a planned celebration for my birthday. We were having a brilliant time, and by this point, a friendship had really started to form, but we didn’t really see much of each other outside of gin related activities. I don’t think that we had dome anything but get drunk together! I even referred to them all as my “gin girls!” On this day, Yamit was to become one further “gin girl”. A little bit tipsy from all the prosecco (I was turning 30! I could do what I wanted!) I proclaimed my love to all of them and told them that even though I’d considered them the girls I drank gin with, I felt that they were my real friends. They were so much more than just company for the gin festival.

I’d found “my girls”.

Helen, Lou, Jayne, Clare and Me – Wigan Beer Festival

I don’t know if the others felt it, but my drunken statement seemed to shift something in our friendship at that point. Clare and I in particular have grown really close, and I’d definitely say that she’s my closest friend these days. I sometimes liken my friendship with her, to like what blokes have. You know, where they hurl abuse at each other all the time?

I mean, the day I went blind, I text her telling her “I’m not being melodramatic or anything, but I’m going blind in my left eye.” She responded in the way that only she could, with “too much w*nking.” She did eventually follow it up with “are you ok?”

Friends like her are exactly what I need in my life, especially right now. She posted on her instagram today, saying that I always have a smile on my face, no matter how tough life gets. But it’s my girls, and in particular her, that help that. They don’t let me feel sorry for myself. And despite all the good natured abuse, I know that they care.. We all do.

As a bunch of girls group of women, we’re diverse, but we’re also so similar. We have so much going on in our lives that we don’t have lots of time for each other, but that works for us. We respect that. We all enjoy working and have careers that keep us busy. Jayne and Louise are both bringing up their own two amazing women as well. The one thing I do know though, is that if I called any of them needing their support they would be their instantly, without question.

Me, Yamit, Clare, Lou and Helen at Lou’s 30th

It may have taken me 30 years to find them (which was the best birthday present ever by the way!), but finding friends like these was well worth the wait, and I honestly can’t see them ever NOT being around.

Find your tribe. Love them hard.

The worst tracksuit I’ve ever seen!

I was a late starter with boys. It wasn’t for lack of interest on my part. It was more a lack of interest in me.

My first boyfriend, Vince, was at 18. We’d been really close friends for ages, but I did that thing where I fell for him. He had all sorts of issues with his ex-girlfriend though. She was awful to him, and all I could think of, was how much better I could have treated him. We did eventually get together but we weren’t really seeing each other for more than about 4 or 5 months.

I don’t really remember things ending with us. It just must have done. To this day, I think of him fondly. A couple of years ago in fact, I had a missed call from him. I called him back, and it turned out he’d just “bum dialled” me but we had a good catch-up all the same.

When I was 20 I met my first “long-term” boyfriend if you can call him that. I was with him for 18 months but it wasn’t the healthiest relationship and not one I remember as fondly. I was oblivious to how bad it was though, and only truly understand what a bad relationship I was in as I’ve grown older.

Whilst still living down South, I had one further boyfriend, who quite frankly treated me like shit. I’m still not sure whether he ever cheated on me, but on the basis that he’s now married to the person that I suspected he cheated with, it’s difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Since that boyfriend, there was a string of dates, some that went on for more than 1 date, and others that didn’t. Then there were the ones that never actually materialised…

When I moved up North, I signed up to Plenty of Fish. Tinder wasn’t even a thing then. Imagine that. A time before people swiped right! To this day, I wish I’d written a blog whilst I was doing the online dating thing. I met some absolute horrors!

One that particularly sticks in my mind is the Fireman from Wythenshawe who saw it appropriate to turn up to our date at the Trafford Centre absolutely pissed out of his head. How I even remained as long as the 90 minutes that I did will forever remain a mystery!

I met some really lovely guys actually, but so often, when meeting them face to face the chemistry that had been there via all means of messaging, just wasn’t there. There came a point when I realised that the constant building of a relationship online, and then feeling no spark when meeting them was actually more soul destroying than being single.

When Dave messaged me I’d all but given up on online dating, and remained on dating sites with absolutely zero intention of pursuing anything.

Dave’s first message to me was:

“What’s the chances of a girl like me getting with a guy like you?”

Which of course is a quote from Dumb and Dumber. It wasn’t that that got me though, since I didn’t even notice it. It was the picture of him and one of the players for Wigan Warriors (my Rugby League team which is a story for another day)!

I screenshot his picture and sent it to my best friend at the time. She responded telling me she knew him, I thought she was joking about knowing the player, but she said “no I actually know HIM!”

With some encouragement, I went against my “no dates” policy and messaged Dave back and had arranged a date for within a week.

Dave booked us tickets to GoApe. This was a bit different to the usual dates I arranged. I favoured a chilled out coffee somewhere in the afternoon. That always felt like a safe bet. No pressure to pull out all the stops and look like a complete knock-out and pretty low risk for all cost wise. Plus, if you can make small talk and get on over a coffee, you’re half way there!

One of our earlier dates – both of us dressed appropriately on this one!

I had no idea what to wear. I knew what GoApe was, but as it was the first time I was meeting Dave, I wanted to make an impression. And an impression I made all right, in my completely inappropriate chinos and leather jacket. Having said that, he may have been dressed appropriately but he was wearing the worst track suit I’d ever seen on anyone in all my life! I know you’re not meant to judge a book by it’s cover but  I didn’t hold much hope for him based on his dress sense (actually, as it turns out he has awesome dress sense but that tracksuit was SO deceiving! He’s never worn it since)

We had a fab first date, but I wasn’t sure on whether there was a spark or not. So a few days later, I went on my planned trip down to see my Mum and Dad in Essex which gave me time to think about what I wanted.

I text him throughout my break down with my parents, so even though I wasn’t sure, I was still keeping in touch with him which must have said something. I remember texting him on my train journey home asking for the phone number of a local taxi firm so I’d be able to get home from the station. He came and picked me up.

The next night, to say thanks I cooked him a meal and baked him a cake (I was really into baking at the time). Clearly it’s true that the way to a man’s heart is through his belly, because from that point on, the rest was history.

I fell for Dave really quickly. A fact that he regularly likes to remind me of. He on the other hand took a little longer, finally telling me he loved me after about three months and spending a weekend with my parents who were visiting.

And do you know what I did? I laughed at him! I’d already told him how I felt probably a month earlier, and it had been so long since I’d heard anyone say them words to me, I honestly had no idea how else to react!

Five years on, and honestly, no-one has ever made me as happy as Dave does. He’s not perfect, but he is so perfect for me. Dave doesn’t read anything (especially instructions) and is hopeless with technology, whereas I am not. I lose my head in a crisis, but Dave’s the guy you need. It’s such a cliche, but we really do complete each other.

This picture will ALWAYS be my favourite picture of us. Me laughing and him trying not to pretty much sums us up!