The story of the skinhead by the bridge

I’ve been asked for more real life stories from my past, so here’s a little one for you that’s quite funny.

I got my first proper boyfriend when I was 15. He was 16 and went to the corresponding boys’ grammar school to my girls’ grammar school. He was kind and decent and funny and smart, and we went out on-and-off for the next seven years. However, he was also a total coward and was always more concerned with appeasing people than with doing the right thing.

One day, we were standing on the Northbound platform of Pinner Station, near my home, waiting for the train that would take us to his home in Croxley Green. I was wearing sexy clothing, including a low-cut top. And, as befits a young couple in love, we were holding hands.

Suddenly, my boyfriend dropped my hand and moved away from me. I glared at him, confused. In response, he nodded almost imperceptibly to his left, where a large burly skinhead was stood a few metres away, near the bridge between the platforms, eyeing us. In the 1980s and 1990s, being a skinhead was associated with being racist.

‘I don’t want to antagonise him!’ my boyfriend whispered. ‘We’re a mixed-race couple.’

‘Oh, for the sake of fuck!’ I snapped, rolling my eyes. My parents had been a mixed-race couple, and for all his many faults, my dad would never have been that cowardly.

‘Fuck off back to Croxley if you’re going to pretend you’re not with me!’ I told my boyfriend, and walked up to the bridge between the platforms to start my journey home.

And as I passed the skinhead, he looked me up and down and winked at me.


Posted in Uncategorized

Why I’ve decided to start a business amid Brexit chaos

I love jewellery – so with the help of my wonderful Patreon supporters and super-kind Ko-Fi donors and incredible Peter Weilgony, who has generously gifted me €1,000, I have decided to start a jewellery business.

I’ve been a jewellery-making addict for more than two years, so already had thousands of beads and materials, and had learned the skills needed to design and create pieces. All I needed, really, were some pretty packaging and a website, along with a unique and memorable name.

I have many names for the eight-year-old: Lilypops, Little Pops, Littlest Popsicle, Lil Popalous and Lillabilla. So when it came to deciding on a name for the business, I chose Lillabilla as (along with the rest) it’s close to my heart.

My extremely talented best friend Graham Nunn designed the following brilliant logo for me:


I then bought the font licence and found a reasonably priced Danish packaging firm who debossed the logo onto high quality jewellery boxes in rose gold foil. I had to buy three different sizes for necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Lillabilla box.jpg

I wrote a business plan, and Graham also created an amazing spreadsheet for me, which enabled me to see exactly what all the materials cost and therefore what profit I could make from selling each piece. I decided to sell my pieces at roughly the same price points as Accessorize (£6 for earrings, £7 for bracelets and £12 for necklaces) even though they’re handmade and not mass produced. This will enable me to make roughly £2 from each piece.

Tamara bracelet 1

If I can sell five pieces an hour during the working day, I can make a decent living.

Annalise bracelet 1

Candy necklace 1


Brexit is worrying. Am I still going to be able to order packaging from Denmark, or will there be huge tariffs and lorries stuck at the border? I can find a new supplier, but at what price, and what cost to quality? Are people still going to want to buy jewellery if there’s an economic downturn? Are some of my bead suppliers going to go out of business?

I concede that Brexit may not be the ideal time to start a new venture, but in the absence of a job, it’s necessary, unless I want to start eating things people have dropped on the floor. And I’m really hoping that Brexit will never happen, which seems entirely possible right now.

People always want to know what a business’s USP is. So what makes Lillabilla different from all the other millions of jewellery businesses? Well, all the designs are entirely original and unique, but also: instead of being one-size-fits-all, each design can be personalised. You can select the length of the bracelets and necklaces, and can choose whether the earrings are clip-ons or for pierced ears.

In addition, you can choose the metal plating used in the design (silver, gold or rose gold) and there are even eight ‘name’ bracelet designs where you can specify the name you’d like on the bracelet. Oh, and I’ve decided to do themed collections for occasions, so will soon be launching a special Christmas range of earrings and bracelets using wintry colours and Christmas charms. (It’s only seven weeks away, guys!)

Kristy earrings 1

I’m quite excited. I love making jewellery and very much hope this could be a viable and profitable second career. I genuinely have no idea what the response to my jewellery designs is going to be, but that’s the great thing about life: it’s full of surprises.

So here it is: Lillabilla Personalised Jewellery! I hope you like it. Christmas is coming up, so do consider placing an order, as your wife/mum/sister might like a pretty bracelet as a Christmas gift. You can tell them it was designed and made by that girl who did the ‘probably no God’ buses.

Now that’s definitely a unique selling point.

This post has been made possible by my Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander and Jelly, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Fowler, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis and Marcus P Knight.

Please support me on Patreon.

Depression and a light in the darkness

It could have been December 2010, January 2011, February 2011. I don’t know. All the days, weeks and months blurred into one as I lay in bed crying and shaking, the baby girl inside me fluttering and kicking in my belly. I had tried desperately to get pregnant, thinking the dark forces at work that hated me and my atheist activism would at least spare my life if I were growing another life inside me. But no: now I was convinced that it would make no difference to them. I was going to die, and it would be best if I committed suicide.

I was ill, so ill, and I had been doing so well: a columnist for the Guardian, a travel writer for the Sunday Times, an author with HarperCollins. I had met and fallen for the love of my life, and was carrying his tiny baby – the daughter I had always wanted. It could all have been so beautiful, so luminous. I should have been radiant and thriving. Yet I was certain that I was going to be killed, and so I took the 10mg of antipsychotics that knocked me out for 16 hours a day, and spent the remaining eight hours on suicide forums, desperately trying to find someone who would help me end my life.

I wanted to die via the helium method, because apparently it was painless. The only problem was that, if you ripped off the mask in panic, you could end up paralysed, and that would be even worse than being dead. So it was essential that I did it properly, and that meant finding someone to help me. I started writing to a boy I’ll call Matt, a 22-year-old who was depressed and planning to kill himself the same way. He had procured most of the necessary equipment, including a helium canister.

Though we never met up, I found solace in his emails: here was someone who understood the hell I was going through. He was also incredibly kind, writing to me: ‘You sound to me like a remarkably intelligent, articulate individual who has fallen on hard times. I think there’s every possibility you will give birth to a beautiful healthy baby and that alone will inspire you to want to pass on your wisdom to your child.’ I hope I was kind to him too.

I had another friend, a girl I’d met on a pregnancy forum, whom I’ll call Sarah. She was depressed too. Our due dates were five days apart, and we were both expecting girls. ‘I want to kill myself,’ I told her. She replied: ‘Sometimes I also think my baby would be better off without me.’ She counselled me: ‘Wait until you give birth, and if you still feel like this, see a doctor.’ In the event, I would be assigned a psychiatrist after the birth, and he would give me drugs that would return me to 60% normality. But back then, I didn’t believe there was any drug that could help me. I was trapped in this state of fear and sadness for life.

Sarah was unemployed but used to work in a care home. She was blunt and funny and caring. I liked being with her, as it didn’t make me feel like a failure. Everyone else I knew was a successful and functional journalist or writer, enjoying being in the media, revelling in their regular moments in the spotlight.

I wanted to be like them again, so much. I was watching my career crumble before my eyes with every email opportunity I turned down, every television and radio show I refused to be on. I didn’t tell the producers I was scared of being killed, as I didn’t want anyone to know. I told them I was pregnant and in no fit state to appear on their show, which was true. I’d long since cancelled the Guardian video series I’d been scripting and presenting, refused to keep writing for the paper, and turned down a starring role in a Canon advertising campaign. Everything I’d worked so hard for all these years was coming to fruition, and I was too terrified to take advantage. That meant no national newspapers, no telly, no radio. The only thing I didn’t cancel was writing a short quarterly column for Scottish Humanists magazine, as I had convinced myself no one likely to harm me would read that.

When my daughter’s aunt (her father’s sister), a journalist, sent me an opportunity saying ‘You should do this’, I immediately moved to turn it down. It was a photo shoot in Mother & Baby magazine, accompanying an article where I would thank a pregnant friend for being there for me during my pregnancy. We would both receive £100. It occurred to me that I could thank Sarah for helping me with my dark thoughts, though I would have to downplay those as basic anxiety. It might also mollify my daughter’s father, another journalist, who kept insisting that I should carry on with journalism. I worried about it for hours: were the people who wanted to kill me really likely to read Mother & Baby? I called Sarah and suggested it to her. She was incredibly excited: “Oh my God babe, would we have to pose naked?!” She wanted to do it, and I didn’t want to let her down – or my sister-in-law. So, for the first and only time in my pregnancy, I said yes to an opportunity.

And then immediately regretted it. What the fuck was I doing? There were people out there who wanted to end my life, and I was playing into their hands. I shouldn’t even be leaving the house. I burst into tears. The phone interview for the magazine was a nightmare: I affected an upbeat tone, my voice wobbling, and talked blandly about my anxiety, saying nothing of interest. I was choosing my words so carefully, desperate not to attract more attention than necessary. I can’t even remember what I said, and never saw the magazine when it came out.

The day of the photo shoot rolled around – was it February 2011? I don’t know. Sarah was so excited. I was incredibly anxious and tearful, completely regretting my decision to appear in the magazine. We got a taxi to the location of the shoot, a pretty Victorian house in Central London. It was a hive of activity, with makeup artists buzzing around lots of pregnant women. I sat still and said nothing, lost in my desperate thoughts. I knew women were chatting about their pregnancies, making friends with each other, swapping due dates and telephone numbers. I watched them silently, thinking: I wish I could enjoy my pregnancy. It’s meant to be the most beautiful thing in the world. I had to end my first pregnancy when my ex-boyfriend violently attacked me. Now, with my second, I’m too ill to work, too ill to take any notice of my baby, too ill to engage with or relate to anyone who doesn’t have depression.

I only have one solitary photo of me when I was pregnant. It is the photo in Mother & Baby magazine, which they sent to me on CD. My mouth is smiling, but my eyes aren’t: I look tense and worried. Sarah’s arm is around me, mine is around her. I don’t want to be there. I am miles away, thinking of myself with a helium mask on, drifting into oblivion. I am wishing more than anything that there were a button I could press to take me from alive to dead. I would press that button in a heartbeat.

Age 30

Anyone who saw the piece in Mother & Baby might have thought I was a happy pregnant woman with a touch of anxiety. In fact, I spent my pregnancy dying inside. My relationship with my daughter’s father had long since fallen apart. We were technically together, but he didn’t want to be with me anymore, and I can hardly blame him. I was in the throes of mental illness, and it’s impossible to have a normal relationship with someone who thinks MI5 or the government are trying to kill them.

I wanted to write this piece for Mental Health Awareness Week, to illustrate that you never know what people are going through. As far as most people were concerned, I was just taking it easy during my pregnancy and having a rest. In fact, I was actively suicidal for the whole nine months. Depressives can be very good at hiding our true feelings. As Ian Maclaren said, ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’

I never met up with Matt. He sent his last email saying: ‘If I drop off the radar then please just assume the obvious.’  Years later, I would write to him and thank him for being a light in my darkest hour. He never wrote back.


This post has been made possible by my Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

Please support me on Patreon.

Notes for my future boyfriend

I’m not sure about romantic love anymore. So many men professed to love me when I was skinny and beautiful, and when I was fat and plain they were nowhere to be found! So please be aware that I’m sceptical. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and companionship and kindness and closeness.

I have a wonderful daughter who is the best thing in my life. I will always place her before you, and I’d expect you to understand that and to place your kids before me, if you have them. My daughter Lily will always have my heart. In my experience, you probably won’t.

I’ve been through a lot of things in relationships that mean I don’t trust men easily anymore: domestic violence during pregnancy, emotional abuse, rape, sexual assault – and, on a much lesser scale, my best friend of 20 years calling off our engagement after three days when he got cold feet, after telling me to post the happy news on Facebook. I know now that you don’t truly know someone until you’ve lived with them and have been through tough times together.

All the same, I’d love to meet someone to share my life with. Life is meant to be shared.

My good points: I’m funny, witty and entertaining, though this particular blog comes across as earnest and guarded, because that’s how I’m feeling this morning. I’m reasonably smart and can give you a run for your money at chess, backgammon and Scrabble. I’m politically liberal, though open to different points of view. I’m a good listener and a good talker. I’m open and honest and laugh a lot. I’m a fun party host, an enthusiastic cook and an adventurous lover.

My bad points: I’m not that learned and probably don’t read enough, because I didn’t listen at school and spend most of my time writing these days. I don’t know certain things you’d expect someone my age to know. I’m probably way too open. I sleep a lot. I’m quite a jealous person, though it’s something I’m working on. I bear grudges – my best friend says my grudge bank could buy out Goldman Sachs. I struggle with anxiety, have occasional depressive days and am a compulsive eater. I swear way too fucking much.

I don’t have family except for Lily. Don’t question it. If you walked a mile in my shoes, your feet would fall off by the end.

Because I’m often playful, you will probably think you can take the piss out of me or take advantage of me and I won’t care. Wrong. I will probably never forgive you.

I make beautiful jewellery and love the process of creating lovely things and putting them out into the world. My jewellery doesn’t make any money yet. I hope that one day this will change.

I’m wary of telling you what I want from you, because I don’t want you to mould yourself to my expectations to please me. I’d rather you show me exactly who you are.

That said, kindness, respect and honesty go a very long way. Oh, and a dash of humour, though I haven’t quite managed that here.

If you enjoyed this post, please buy me a one-off coffee:

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos. If you fancy receiving these each week, please support me on Patreon.

Much love to you all.



Posted in Uncategorized

Why my daily blog is going weekly

Sorry to all you lovely regular readers, but this blog is now going weekly because my life is insane (in a good way) at the moment. To give you an example, on just one afternoon this week, my schedule goes:

2pm: Job interview for great job I really want (fingers, toes and eyes crossed)

3.30pm: Meet the very funny Jon Holmes and record his comedy podcast The The One Show Show (which may well jeopardise my chances of ever being on The One Show again)

6pm: Watch my daughter’s drama school play Beauty and the Beast (she’s a bit grumpy as she wanted to play Belle but has the tiny part of Bookseller. At least she’s not the Beast!)

7.15pm: Dinner with friend I haven’t caught up with properly for over ten years (I’m cooking)

Other things I’m doing this week: interviewing the wonderful Richard Osman and Emma Gannon (separately) for my next book How to Live to 100; genning up for job interview and having hair and eyebrows done and laying clothes out and ironing them (of course); pitching a load more Daily Mash stories; ferrying my daughter back and forth to drama school (four whole hours of travelling per day!); making my daughter’s packed lunches plus breakfasts and dinners; shopping for dinner with friend; watching three episodes of The One Show in preparation for Jon’s podcast; going to Slimming World; etc etc.

So pulling blog posts from my overloaded brain and typing them up is quite tricky with all that going on. But I have really enjoyed these seven weeks of blogging daily. Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll check in here once a week from now on.

Ariane flower.JPG

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

My house: before and after

In the spirit of yesterday’s blog post, I like to look on the bright side. I’m a glass-half-full type of person, providing the glass is full of chocolate milk and not urine. Occasionally I get a bit ‘Woe is me, I’m so unemployed and fat and divorced and past it and skint and single and Brexit’s around the corner and I’m turning 40 next year!’ Then I have to remind myself that I have a wonderful daughter and great friends and a book deal – and also a lovely newly-renovated house.

I’d love to be an interior designer. Home design is my absolute favourite hobby – I could happily walk around Dwell, Habitat and Heals for hours, and always go to Grand Designs Live and the Ideal Home Show – though I think that in terms of a career, interior design is probably up there with writing when it comes to job insecurity. So I’ve had to make do with doing up my own home to the best of my abilities.

I live in a three-bedroom house on the Essex border, which I bought after selling my tiny flat in North London. I don’t think I’ll ever sell it, even though I’m currently living on less than £500 a month, as we’re so happy here. Plus Lily’s dad has had his home on the market for a year and it hasn’t sold – apparently this is common thanks to Brexit.

My house was horrible when I bought it. It was dark and dirty with a hideous 1980s kitchen, and zero effort had been put into any of the rooms. I went into debt doing it up, but it was worth it because I absolutely love it now.

Here’s the old kitchen. The dangling bare light bulb is testament to how little care has been put into the house. You can buy a £3 lampshade from eBay! See also: the mismatched and badly hung wall units and brackets. Just so ugly.

Kitchen - before (4)

This is the old kitchen at its best, furnished and tidied up for the estate agent photos.

Kitchen wide view

Et voila! The kitchen now, with engineered oak flooring, white gloss units, oak worktops, three pendant lights over the glass John Lewis dining table and six matching gel chairs, also from John Lewis. I replaced the floral crimson blinds with lime green blinds and the ancient tiles with white Metro brick tiles (I did the tiling myself!)

Kitchen - now.JPG

Here’s the old bathroom, complete with fetching ‘shell’ basin, dolphin picture on the bath tiles and mould around the basin pedestal:

Bathroom (before) (2).JPG

Bathroom - before (1)

Bathroom pedestal - before.JPG

And here’s the new bathroom! It’s millennial pink and rose gold. I asked my ex-husband to spray the counter top and bamboo bath mat rose gold, and also bought a rose gold shower caddy and accessories, including cotton wool holders and a toilet brush. The white Metro brick tiles make a reappearance here.

Bathroom - new.jpg

Bathroom - new (basin).jpg

I can’t show you the previous downstairs shower room, as it didn’t exist! Here’s the estate agent photo of what the room used to look like:

Living room lower

I halved this space to make a shower room, and gave it the same millennial pink and rose gold colour scheme as the upstairs bathroom.

Shower room.jpg

Shower room sink

I turned the other half into a little office for myself. It’s wonderfully light and airy, though I may have gone slightly overboard with the rose gold theme!


Here’s the old reception room, which I separated into two rooms with a wall.

Living room

And here’s the new living room, which used half the reception room’s space.

Living room (new).jpg

Here’s my old bedroom when I moved in:

Front bedroom - before.JPG

Here’s the estate agent photo of it before the renovation.

Front bedroom.jpg

Here’s the new bedroom. I had it replastered and painted (in Dulux Jasmine White, my favourite shade, which I’ve used all over the house) and had recessed halogen spotlights replace the pendant lights. I experimented with pops of bright and pastel colours, and I think it worked out well.

Front bedroom (new) (1).jpg

Front bedroom (new).jpg

Here’s the estate agent photo of the old back bedroom.

Back bedroom

I did this bedroom up in a more neutral and conventional style, as I was renting it out until recently.

Back bedroom (1).jpg

My favourite touch is a 3 x 3 grid of push-door modern white gloss wall cupboards. They provide storage while blending perfectly into the decor.

Back bedroom (3)

Back bedroom (4)

When I was earning a lot in my last role, I also renovated the garden. Here’s the old estate agent photo.


And here’s the garden now.

Garden (new).jpg

My favourite design challenge recently though has been my daughter’s little room. She wanted her My Little Pony bedroom (which she decorated herself) replaced with a Harry Potter theme. I pretended I wasn’t going to do it, and then designed the transformation and had it done while my daughter was at her dad’s for Christmas. Her face was a picture!

Here’s her dark and unappealing little room when we first moved into the house.

Middle bedroom - before

Here’s the rather more glossy furnished estate agent photo.

Lily's room

Here’s the pink and girly My Little Pony room which Lily loved at the time.

Lily MLP bedroom (1).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (2).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (3).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (4).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (5).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (6).jpg

And here’s her new Harry Potter bedroom, in a black, white and gold colour palette!

Lily's new room (1).JPG

Lily's room (2).jpg

Lily's new room (3).JPG

It’s just so much more grown up and stylish, and she loves it.

Lily new room - happy.jpg


Day 42

Me: 12st 5.4lbs (total loss in 42 days: 8.8lbs)

Trust me, this yo-yoing is as frustrating for me as it is for you.

John: 14st 5.75lbs (total loss in 42 days: 1.75lbs)

John is the consummate self-promoter.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

The secret to success (well, some thoughts anyway…)

I once heard an anecdote from a famous literary agent’s assistant that made me laugh:

‘Every author wants a publishing deal. The authors who are critically acclaimed want to be commercially successful, and the authors who are commercially successful want to be critically acclaimed.

‘Every author is desperate to win an award. And those authors who win an award are most miserable of all, for they see the award as an albatross around their necks and fear nothing they ever do will scale those heights again.’

(Basically, every author is miserable!)

People definitely compare themselves upwards. None of these authors were thinking ‘It’s so great I have an agent!’ They were taking that for granted and wishing they were more successful. So there’s definitely something to be said for being extremely grateful for where you are now in life, rather than always striving for more.

Ariane Flowers.jpg

But if I had any advice for achieving your goals, it would be along the following lines:

Work out what you want to achieve. You can’t aim for a target you haven’t set. I know many people who want to lose weight, but that’s such a nebulous goal that it doesn’t focus the mind. In contrast, a goal to lose 4 stone is specific and measurable, and you know when you’ve achieved it.

Figure out the steps between you and your goal. Break it down into manageable chunks. For instance, today I weigh 12st 4.2lbs. To get down to 8 stone, I need to lose more than 4 stone, but right now I’m aiming for a ‘Club 10’ target of 12st 2.5lbs, which means I’ll have lost a tenth of my body weight since joining Slimming World. (SW is good like this – it rewards you at least every 7lbs.)

Recognise that you’ll fail before you succeed (especially true of weight loss). You’ll take two steps forward, one step back. If we’re talking creativity, everyone gets rejected at times; everyone has to produce more than will ever be published or used. Just think of all the many drafts of novels. Remember Samuel Beckett’s quote: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’

Keep going. You’ll fall down, but make sure to keep getting up and attempting to succeed. You’ll be amazed by how many people fall by the wayside. The person who succeeds is often the last (wo)man standing. There have been so many times when I’ve thought, ‘Fuck it, maybe I’ll just stay fat!’ but I also know that won’t make me happy. So keep your goal in mind when things get tough.

You never know when your luck will turn – when you’ll come to the attention of a gatekeeper who could change your life, or just get an exciting opportunity. Last week, I was headhunted for a role. It wasn’t right for me, but at least that person now knows I exist.

I also got invited to debate Brexit on Good Morning Britain. They went with another guest in the end, but I wasn’t expecting the invitation, and the randomness of it cheered me up. (Though I was also slightly relieved at being stood down to be honest – pretty sure Twitter would have been unusable for me for about two days afterwards thanks to angry Brexiteers!)

Writers: remember to preface harsh feedback with ‘in my opinion’. I’ve been told before by a literary agent that I can’t write. It floored me; I had to remind myself I’ve written endless columns for the Guardian, and lots for the Spectator and the Sunday Times. That knowledge helped to reframe this person’s opinion as ‘in my opinion, you can’t write’. And, in less polite terms: fuck ’em. Feedback should be constructive, and that wasn’t. Metaphorically kick them in the fanny and move on.

People who aren’t gatekeepers will also be shitty about your achievements. Look at the comments section of any comedy article. You’ll find ‘This isn’t funny’; ‘That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back’; ‘I can’t believe [publication] pays for this crap.’ That’s cool: you got paid and credited and you aren’t the person wasting your life leaving negative comments. Put it down to jealousy and don’t let it bother you. The publication wouldn’t have run the article if they didn’t like it.

Realise that you have to adapt to life’s changes. The Guardian stopped running me regularly in 2010; it hurt as it was the paper I grew up reading, and I still love it. I’d write for it again in a heartbeat, but if not, other publications are available. I also really enjoy writing for the Daily Mash and writing books for Little, Brown.

Sometimes things change because of you, not your employer. I realised I wasn’t enjoying writing for television in late 2007, and made the leap to journalism after six years of telly. I used to love going into the BBC and being the youngest person in writers’ rooms, but now I go into the BBC as an occasional commentator and am sometimes the oldest person on the panel, and that’s OK too. Life changes and you have to change with it rather than be depressed by it.

Oh, and lastly: never self-deprecate! As someone wiser than me once said, ‘People accept the value you place upon yourself’. Keep telling people you’re rubbish and they’ll eventually believe you.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Ariane face


Day 41

Me: 12st 4.2lbs (total loss in 41 days: 10lbs)

I need to keep going.

John: 14st 4.75lbs (total loss in 41 days: 2.75lbs)

John’s doing well again!

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)