7 Tips For Surviving Blue Monday

Welcome to Blue Monday.  I say this ironically, of course, because it is the day when the post-Christmas gloom hits us with full force.

We’re cutting back on booze, ramping up our exercise and facing our failings head-on. Again.

Blue Monday surival tips - woman with an umbrella walking along a walkway

Yes, Blue Monday (21st January this year) is THE most depressing day of the year.

So how to survive it?  You can find my own tips here but here are some extra ideas to put the colour back into your cheeks.

7 tips for surviving Blue Monday

TIP 1: Change your perspective

Clayton John Ainger, award-winning author of The Ego’s Code says that negativity is in fact, a very natural and normal process.

“By labelling negativity as bad, we provide it with more fuel. By changing our perspective on negativity and the meaning behind it will undoubtedly have a positive effect on your life. Feeling down is not meant to hinder you, it is there to learn from, so embrace your negativity and move on”  

TIP 2: Book a winter sun break

The summer months are the most popular time for sun holidays, but there are plenty of opportunities to escape to warmer, sunnier weather during the winter months. Booking a sunny break can increase your levels of serotonin which can make you feel more calm and focused as well as making you feel more productive when you return to normal life.

TIP 3: Book a staycation

If your bank balance doesn’t allow for an extravagant holiday abroad, why not book a long weekend away instead?  A change of scene will do all the family good and just a couple of days away can leave you all refreshed for a reasonable cost.

TIP 4: Go back to bed

It is ok to admit you are having a blue day, so don’t bother trying to fight it! Once you’ve finished work for the day, transform your bedroom into a tranquil sanctuary where you can take the time and rest you need.  If your bed isn’t comfortable consider investing in some gorgeous new bedding or a new mattress.

Stephen Volkins from Big Brand Beds has this sound advice.

“Make sure it is dark and a comfortable temperature with a source of light air flow, and remove light sources like TVs and LED clocks. Take a tip from Feng Shui and make your room softly curved and coolly coloured – avoid sharp angles and dominant colour schemes in order to calm the mind and spirit for a really relaxing night’s sleep.” 

TIP 5: Identify your negative thinking triggers

What sends your thinking into a spiral of negativity? Does seeing your friends going on great nights out on Facebook make you feel inadequate? Or perhaps you have some people in your life who are negative and that brings you down. It could even be the news on the TV before bedtime that send you to bed feeling unsettled or bad. Take some time to identify your triggers and then you will be able to avoid them.

TIP 6: Put the kettle on

Tea has a range of psychological and physical health benefits that can improve your wellbeing. The humble cuppa has been used for centuries across the world to help with relaxation, improve spirituality, nourishment and healing and there are many speciality teas which contain health promoting ingredients.

TIP 7: Challenge the rut

Carla Watson and Shelley La Mancusa, authors of Getting Out of a Rut (released 24th January ) suggest that the only way to combat self-defeating behaviour is to concentrate on who and what you surround yourself with. They say:

“It is hard enough sometimes for us to get out of bed in the mornings and shower ourselves with compliments, without the aid of other people commenting on the choices you make. A supportive network of friends and family is vital to achieving inner happiness and avoid negativity.” 

So there you have it – 7 more tips to cheer you up.  What coping strategies do you have for surviving Blue Monday?

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Blue Monday Survival Tips - woman with umbrella walking under structured metal arch

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Will You Be Blue This Blue Monday?

Monday 20th January 2020 is designated “Blue Monday” – no not a celebration of the now-classic song by New Order, but the day in the year when the combination of post-Christmas debt, dreadful weather and the lapse in our New Year’s resolutions combine to make us reach a peak of misery.

The first bank holiday is weeks away. The approach of Valentines’ Day is ramping up the pressure on singletons to find true love, whilst some married couples have thrown in the towel and are headed for the divorce courts.

The seasonal fun and frolics of Christmas seem a very distant memory indeed.

The concept of “Blue Monday” was apparently coined by a travel company some years ago to push us into booking our summer holidays.  Marketing has a lot to answer for, doesn’t it! Even Santa’s distinctive red robes were invented by Coca Cola.

Still, there is certainly some truth in the idea that having something like a holiday to look forward to is a great psychological tonic.

But, let’s be honest, shall we?

There’s a huge difference between feeling a bit down and ‘under the weather’ and truly suffering from depression, which some call the Black Dog.

Most of us, if we stop and think about it, can very quickly come up with a list of blessings, things to be grateful for, things that help us to celebrate living.

We can even, usually, come up with a list of solutions to those problems.

Spent too much?  Talk to your bank manager about your overdraft. Consider consolidating your credit.  Cut back on unnecessary expenditure.

Feeling bloated and unfit? You know what to do, don’t you?  Take more exercise, eat better. The old hoary chestnuts of advice stand the test of time, don’t they?

Some of us suffer badly from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The lack of sunlight sends us spiralling into a winter depression.

The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter and are typically most severe during December, January and February.

Symptoms may include a persistent low mood, irritability and feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day.  Sufferers may find themselves sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning.  They may also crave carbohydrates and gain weight

But there are things you can do about this, for example, light therapy.  You can buy special lightboxes which replicate the effect of sunlight on the body.  You can find more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder and light therapy here.

The cure may obviously not be as simple or as instant as buying a lightbox. I am merely saying that, sometimes, if we take matters into our own hands, we feel better.  Having some control over our problems makes us feel more empowered.

Most of us can find a way to lift ourselves out of the ‘Blue Monday Slump’.  A little time out for reflection may help.  Why not try mindful meditation?  Calming your inner voice may help you recognise what is making you feel so discontented.  It will certainly reduce your stress and improve your focus.

A long, hot, calming bath may also help perhaps with a herbal bath oil or a natural treatment such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

An early night will help.  We are all guilty of TV channel surfing when we know we should be going to bed – or, my particular downfall, playing the ‘odd’ game of Candy Crush.  One hour’s sleep before midnight is said to be worth two hours of sleep after midnight.  Lack of sleep has been proven to have very real consequences to our health and mental wellbeing.

Make sure too, that your bed is as comfortable as possible so that you get a good night’s sleep.  If your mattress is over 8 years old, the advice is to change it, but this can be done quickly and at a reasonable cost by searching for mattresses online.

It is important to recognise though, that if you feel things are really getting on top of you, or that you just cannot cope no matter what simple adjustments you make to your lifestyle, then you should talk to your GP.

There are also many organisations you can talk to, day or night, who can help you.  You can find a list of some of them here.

So, if this Blue Monday you feel your outlook is less than sunny, take the opportunity to be a little bit kinder to yourself.

And a bit kinder to others.

We never know exactly what others are feeling.  But by offering a few kind words, everyone’s day suddenly becomes a whole lot brighter.

And spring will be here before we know it.

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Tips For Making It Through ‘Dry January’

Every year I strongly consider becoming a “Dry Athlete” and giving up the booze for January. After all, Dry January is the perfect way for your body and wallet to recover from an indulgent Christmas, not to mention New Year celebrations.

By giving up your old friend alcohol for a mere 31 days, you will save a few quid, lose a few pounds, and feel more energised and refreshed in the process. But for some people, that’s not as easy as it sounds. January has five whole booze-free weekends to get through.

If, like me, you’re considering giving your liver a well-earned break, here are some very helpful tips you’ll want to try.

1. Don’t hibernate

The worst thing you can possibly do is to hole yourself up in your house and attempt to hibernate. Make it your mission to get up and make the most of your hangover-free weekends and mornings. Plan activities you would never normally get round to at times you would never usually be up.

2. Ditch cocktails for detoxing mocktails

Don’t settle for plain old tap water when you go out. Drinking mocktails is a great way to get through dry January, as you are still treating yourself to a luxurious drink, minus the calories and headache the next morning. For example, at The Arch London, you can try Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, which has zero calories and is sugar, sweetener and artificial flavour-free.

3. Know your numbers

Read it and weep. A Pina Colada cocktail with rum has 644 calories. That’s more than a Big Mac burger. A pint of lager has 180 calories – more than a small slice of chocolate cake. And a large glass of white wine is 185 calories – the equivalent of 4 fish fingers. Calculate exactly how many calories you will save by ditching the booze – odds are you’ll be shocked by how many you can save.

4. Plan a holiday

Planning a holiday is the perfect way to motivate yourself during dry January. Putting all the money you’ve saved on booze into a ‘holiday piggy bank’ will be a visible inspiration to keep going, along with your shrinking waistline of course. Win, win.

5. Recruit a partner in crime

Your driathlon will be about a million times easier if you have a least one of your friends on board the good ship sensible. You’ll have a sober partner in crime to go out with and look suitably smug while your other friends are being drunken idiots around you.

6. Get drunk on love

Replace visiting your old friend alcohol with seeing real actual people that you care about. Arrange to go and see that old friend you’ve been meaning to visit, visit your parents, or make time for your partner. Booking a romantic city break is the perfect idea as it takes you away for a weekend of relaxation, and no pressure to go to the pub with your friends.

Glass being filled with white wine

7. Try a new type of exercise

Taking up a new exercise for the month will boost your levels of serotonin plus giving you something else to focus on. Try a ‘Ravercise’ classes – think daytime clubbing without the booze – for your dancing hit while staying firmly on the wagon.

8. Think positive

Don’t picture your month of sobriety as something negative. Think of it as something great you are achieving purely for yourself. Rather than focusing on denying yourself alcohol, envision your success and how happy you will be at the end of the month when you have reached your goal.

9. Tell Everyone

By telling everyone you are never drinking ever again (well, for January) will increase your chances of success. Why? Because your feelings of shame will be increased by about 98% if your friends or family catch you clutching a sneaky gin & tonic when you shouldn’t be.

10. Cut back, don’t cut out

If all else fails, simply cut back on your alcohol intake and set yourself an achievable goal per week. This will be much easier to sustain and will certainly alleviate any January blues. There are also plenty of other ways to put goodness into your body, by upping your intake of fruit and vegetables, drinking more water, and taking supplements such as Milk Thistle which protect the liver from alcohol damage and premature ageing by helping to regenerate liver cells.

Will you be signing up for “Dry January” this year?

The ONE Thing That Will Definitely Scupper Your New Year’s Resolutions

How are you doing so far?  If you’re like me, you’ll have written a list of New Year’s resolutions that is about the same length and complexity as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Heck, short of wearing a hair shirt this year, you will be perfect dammit!

You will have sleek thighs, a spotless house and the inner calm of the Dalai Lama. No more excess consumption of sugar, carbs, things in packets or boxes, shouting at the kids, thinking anything vaguely ‘toxic’.  You get the drift.

Days will be filled with endless random acts of kindness.  You are going to be soooo good, every time a butterfly flaps its wings, the lakes of positive karma you are generating are going to make a yak smile in Nepal.

Except.  Except….

I can guarantee that there will be a flaw in your cunning plan to be nicer than Mary Berry whilst combining the intellectual vivacity of a young Germaine Greer with the mysterious allure of Claudia Winkelman’s fringe.

If you are not doing it for YOU – you’re on a high road to nowhere.

Yes, if you have added a resolution to your list to make someone else happy at the cost of your own bank balance, peace of mind and happiness, it’s all going to go pear-shaped pretty early on.

How many of us join gyms because our partners helpfully ‘suggest’ we’d look better if we lost a few pounds?

How many of us decide to read mind-numbing pseudo-scientific tomes and dreary best-sellers in an effort to make ourselves more interesting.

It’s about as sensible as learning all the 64 words for ‘the’ in Russian language when the nearest you’ll get to Moscow is a bottle of vodka.

There are, indisputably, resolutions we should undertake for the benefit of our health – drinking less, eating better, exercising more, but if we are doing any of these to seek someone else’s approval, now is not the time.

I think our motivation to make serious, long-lasting changes can take a real knock if we fail with our resolution at the first hurdle.  Better to wait until we are ready – at a time not dictated by the turn of the year, the addition of another digit to the man-made records of time.  Man-made – there’s the rub, to quote Shakespeare. Is anyone keeping a track of the change of years in the rest of our galaxy (apart from astronomers)?  No? Exactly.

You know, if you find yourself designing your life with the sole intention of pleasing others, the best New Year’s Resolution you could make, if you can’t quite kick the habit, is to please yourself.

If we are happy in ourselves, don’t you find that a lot of petty problems fall away? We don’t worry about the extra pounds, our weird laugh, our inability to read a wine-list or, in Ieuan’s case, a habit of adding strawberry jam to his chicken goujons.

We can learn a lot from our kids.  They embrace the moment and are glorious in their individuality – right up until a helpful adult suggests a few ‘changes’ they might like to make.  You can see where it all starts, can’t you?

So, this New Year’s Day, I hope you’ll junk the resolution list and instead write a list of things to do just for you.

And if they’re weird, odd or laugh-out-loud peculiar – good.

Trust me, the Galaxy Time Police are probably having today off too.

Happy New Year!

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Will You Let Your Kids Stay Up To See In The New Year?

New year’s eve. Now, this is something that tends to polarise parents.  There are the “it’s only one night and they can sleep in tomorrow” crowd and the “you have to be joking, keeping them up that late is abuse” crowd. Do you let your kids stay up to see in the new year?

Will you let your kids stay up to see in the new year? New year's eve fireworks

I tend to fall in between the two camps.  Having seen the effect of lack of sleep on my two though, I’m not entirely sure that keeping them up to see in something which has very little meaning at that age makes a whole heap of sense.  To be honest, I’m pretty grumpy myself if I stay up much past 11 pm.

We recently took our two to see the fabulous Mary Poppins at Wales Millennium Centre and because we were slow to book, as usual, we could only get tickets for an evening performance.

The kids had an ‘enforced nap’ early afternoon much to their chagrin but it did mean that they were brighter and I think enjoyed the show more.  There were other kids there but quite a few had fallen asleep in their parents’ arms.  Sweet, but a waste of a quite expensive ticket.

Do kids really want to be partying with a house full of tipsy (or worse) adults?  Actually, I suppose it’s no different on Christmas Day really, is it?

It’s probably fine if you’re not doing anything on new year’s day but if you are going visiting with a hangover and unruly, knackered kids it’s not going to be much fun is it? Either for you or your hosts.

Perhaps the solution is to have a mini New Year’s Eve celebration before the kids go to bed. A special story and a snuggle to plan all the lovely adventures they can have next year? There’s no reason why you can’t all sing “Auld Lang Syne” before they go to bed, is there?

Will you let your kids stay up to see in the new year? Baby girl in a pink tutu sleeping on a white sheeted bed

I would far rather start the New Year off in a relatively calm and peaceful fashion rather than with the sounds of morning to night bickering, tears and door slamming  (the joys of living with a tween).

So I asked my fellow parenting bloggers what they did and, as usual, they had some brilliant advice to offer.

Sally: I let mine stay up until midnight once they reached about 10. Now they are 15 and 13, they stay up a little later than that. We have an afternoon nap on New Year’s Eve, and then a quiet day and an early night on 1st Jan! www.sallyakins.com

Lauren: I’m taking mine to a kid-friendly rave where everyone celebrates midnight at 6 pm. Home and in bed by 8 pm none the wiser! They’re 1 and 3. belledubrighton.co.uk

Katie: My daughter has additional needs and cannot cope with disruption or lack of sleep so we have a fake midnight much earlier in the evening, with the previous year’s Big Ben fireworks on TV! Much easier than an overtired grotty child to start the year! www.livinglifeourway.com

Amy: We don’t even stay up to welcome the new year in anymore, my pair are 5 and 8. If we did the 5-year-old wouldn’t last past bedtime (8 pm) and the 8-year-old would outlast us all. I swear she doesn’t need sleep. www.epsandamy.co.uk

Charlotte: Our son is almost 5 and he stays up, he has insane amounts of stamina and if we are all staying in we might as well see in the new year together. (You can find Charlotte’s post about just this topic here at The Mummy Toolbox.)

Cathryn: My children are 7, 5 and 2 and so far have not stayed up until midnight. We get together with other families with young children and bring the celebrations forward a few hours – start about 4 pm, food and drinks about 5 pm, party games and then we go outside about 7 pm and all sing Auld Lang Syne then. We also then usually watch the Sydney celebrations on YouTube or record it from earlier in the day, as they are obviously ahead of us. The kids usually last until about 9 pm and the other families head home then. www.cardiffmummysays.com.

Melly: Mine are 11, 10, 7 and 3. I put them to bed with the threat if they don’t go to bed nicely I won’t wake them for midnight. At ten to midnight, I wake them and they go back to bed around 12.30. Works fine. If they sleep in a bit I don’t mind. www.bridgefamilyabridged.com.

Amanda at Ginger-Mum.Com says: My two boys are 10 & 4 (5 in Feb) and they have strict bedtimes most of the year. However, as we always go to a family party with all of our local friends with kids, we go for dinner then they stay up as long as they can last. If the younger one is tired my husband takes him back home early but he loves it and the excitement of partying with their friends carries them both through. The key thus far has been him having a sleep in the car earlier in the day as we are out and about but this won’t last much longer. We have a lovely lie in the next day followed by a brisk walk and a huge lunch. Works for us!

I think I’m going to have to be more creative and get the party going a bit earlier in the day!

How do you celebrate the New Year with your little ones? Will you let your kids stay up to see in the new year?

Whatever you do this new year’s eve, I hope you enjoy it – and have a peaceful new year’s day!

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Will Your Life Be Better With These 50 “Pearls of Wisdom”?

As we approach New Year I’m sure we’ll read many articles about how to improve our life – whether by reinventing ourselves into the person we think we’d like to be, or by adopting life hacks.

Flowers and postcard saying adventure awaits

I love a good list and this one was put together by the Skipton Building Society whose researchers asked 1000 people aged over 65 and in retirement to pass on their advice to the younger generations.

As you might expect, being sensible with money is a dominant theme!  For example, “don’t go into business with family, avoid lending money you’re likely to need back and never let the sun set on an argument with friends”.

Here’s what else the survey discovered:

“Among the basic financial common-sense advice such as pay off debts rather than spending money on luxury items and try to pay off your mortgage as early as you can, are nuggets such as save the long working hours until the children fly the nest, and spend quality time with grandparents as they won’t be there forever.

Retirees also cite the importance of doing something every day that makes you happy, and trying not to worry about what other people think.

All great advice and easier said than done but the point is we have the luxury of time to at least try some of these.

The over-65s can look back on mistakes they have made and opportunities they’ve missed during the first two thirds of their life, and try to encourage their children and grandchildren to follow a different path.

When it comes to finances, retirees are brimming with useful tips for youngsters – such as plan for retirement rather than burying your head in the sand.

‘Spend some, save some’ is also advice commonly passed down by people over the age of 65 – with many feeling you should holiday as much as you can, while you can.

Retirees are quick to suggest people should start saving at a young age, and recommend people don’t lend money they may need back.

In relationships, elderly respondents believe you should marry someone who makes you laugh, and make sure you stick by old friends even when making new.

Those in retirement also say you should never rely on just one or two close friends – create a network of many, and when it comes to keeping friendships, never go into business together.

Never give relationship advice as you’ll always be wrong, keeping a happy wife means having a happy life and continue having date nights after having children are also top relationship tips.

The top 50 Pearls of Wisdom also includes some practical guidance for those who haven’t yet reached retirement – such as always trust your gut feeling, always lose gracefully and be persistent.

Retirees also recommend flossing regularly as dental problems are awful, make friends with the local residents and only pack what you can carry yourself.  I can second that one!

Pursuing hobbies and interests outside of work, trying to secure a job which you enjoy and treating yourself once in a while are also things retirees have learned are important over the years.

Older generations are also keen for people to ensure their children know the value of money, and also encourage them to teach their children how to budget from an early age.

The study shows 51 per cent of retirees polled do have some regrets about their working years – of these, 19 per cent wish they’d worked fewer hours and four in 10 wish they’d made more of an effort to pursue their dreams.

A further three in 10 people wished they’d created a better work life balance, while 45 per cent would have put more of their earnings aside into savings if they could turn back time.

Now in retirement, 17 per cent are struggling with money, while 28 per cent say their health is their biggest concern.

More than half of retirees look at younger members of their own family now and wish they would start taking their family more seriously.”


  1. Pay your bills and stay out of debt
  2. Pay off debts rather than spending money on luxury items
  3. Pay off your mortgage as early as you can
  4. Plan for retirement rather than burying your head in the sand
  5. Teach your own children how to budget from an early age
  6. Be kind
  7. Spend some, save some
  8. Teach your children the value of money
  9. Pursue hobbies and interests outside of work
  10. It’s okay to need help
  11. Don’t make decisions when you’re angry
  12. Treat yourself once in a while
  13. Spend more time with the children before they leave home
  14. Don’t complain about getting older: not everybody gets the privilege
  15. Start saving at a young age
  16. Manners maketh man
  17. Do something every day that makes you happy
  18. Try to not worry about what other think
  19. Travel / go on more holidays while you can afford it
  20. The most important person in your life is the person who agreed to share their life with you – treat them as such
  21. Neither a borrower nor a lender be
  22. Never lend money that you need back
  23. Make new friends but stick by the old ones
  24. Always trust your gut feeling
  25. Marry someone who makes you laugh
  26. Always lose gracefully
  27. Take criticism constructively
  28. Spend quality time with your grandparents as they won’t be there forever
  29. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up
  30. Make sure you get a job doing what you love
  31. Always sleep on a big decision
  32. Get to know your neighbours
  33. To thine own self be true
  34. Never let the sun set on an argument with friends
  35. Start thinking about your retirement before your boss does
  36. Never go into business with family or friends
  37. Happy wife = happy life
  38. Don’t work long hours, save it for when the children have left home
  39. Nothing worth doing comes easy
  40. Only pack what you can carry yourself
  41. Be persistent
  42. Do what you can to live close to your grandchildren
  43. Floss regularly, dental problems are awful
  44. Always avoid inconveniencing others
  45. Never give up what you want most for something you want now
  46. Don’t rely on one or two close friends, create a network of many
  47. Never give relationship advice – you’ll always be wrong
  48. Continue date nights with your partner after having children
  49. Never make someone a priority who only makes you an option
  50. Clean less

So there you have it.  Do any of these resonate with you?  Personally number 37 is a bit of a favourite and I’ve never had any trouble with number 50!


I guess the main takeaway from this which we should all remember is simply “life is shorter than you think”.

It’s January – Rage, Rage Against The Dying Of The Fairy Lights

Are you missing Christmas as much as I am? It is dark, dank and rain-spattered outside. January is here with all its gloom and unspoken chastisement for finishing a huge box of Thorntons and being compelled to finish all the mince pies currently reaching their suspiciously short ‘use by’ date.

The Hobbis Family Christmas Tree 2014 - Christmas Decorations - motherdistracted.co.uk
Christmas 2014 – where did it go?

The school run (I walk, the kids run) is an opportunity to study the various shades of grey the sky can muster up and to marvel at the chocolate brown muddiness of the local brook, swollen with heavy rainfall.

Is there anything sadder than passing houses which were previously aglow with fairy lights and are now shrouded in darkness?

Some poor souls haven’t even taken their Christmas trees down – generally, the people who put their trees up as soon as the last firework has gone off at 1 am on November 6th and annoyed all the neighbourhood dogs.

I am really missing the Christmas tree and the twinkly glow of the fairy lights, the heavenly sound of Carols from Kings and candlelight in every room downstairs.

It’s no wonder we’re all watching Broadchurch to cheer ourselves up a bit and considering blowing the budget on a trip to Barbados.

Incidentally, why do holiday companies this year think it’s hilarious to make their slogans sound like swearing?  Will your holiday be totally ‘beachin’?’ Is your holiday ‘booking’ fabulous?

Because we all love to sit in Thomas Cooks swearing like troopers, don’t we?  Is that the level of sophistication the Brit abroad is considered to have?  On second thoughts, it’s probably best if we don’t answer that one. I’m not even sure if you can still sit in Thomas Cooks.

Some of us have become “Dry Athletes“, some are eschewing sugar and some are relying on hypnosis to make eating chocolate seem as appealing as a week trying to sort out Tesco’s accounting problems.

We can take comfort in the fact that there are a group of highly dysfunctional people, troubled and entertaining to various degrees who think nothing of baring their innermost souls for all to comment and tsk tsk about.

No, I’m not talking about Prime Minister’s Question Time but that paeon to quality television that is Celebrity Big Brother.

In the name of psychological research (cough), I may have to watch the launch night programme I accidentally recorded whilst drinking my Baileys before it goes “off”.

I’m not sure what the cure for missing Christmas is but I suspect it’s the return of the sun.