A while back I talked about how mental illness and therapy are portrayed in various TV shows.

I found this a really interesting post to write and since then, I’ve been particularly impressed by how mental health has been explored in two particular shows. Spoilers ahead – though I’m talking about season 5 of Suits and Star Trek TNG, so I wouldn’t worry too much!

Suits

This may sound strange, but when Harvey started having panic attacks at the start of season 5, I was thrilled. It was great to see a strong, confident man experiencing severe bouts of anxiety, rather than the tired, predictable portrayals I’m used to seeing (Big Bang Theory’s Stuart, I’m looking at you). I think this helps to drive home the point that mental illness can happen to anyone – regardless of wealth, success or any other factors – and remind people that outward appearances can be deceiving.

Harvey Specter having a panic attack

Harvey up until this point had been portrayed as a stoic character who, it could be argued, is not very in touch with his emotions. Problems in his personal life began to take a toll on him however, and his panic attacks frightened him so much that he started seeing a psychiatrist.

In these sessions with Dr Agard, we see him resisting her efforts to help him, as he struggles to be honest with her. She starts to dig a bit deeper and it becomes clear that his current problems stem from much larger, more deep-rooted issues. I’m only a few episodes into the season, but I’m excited to see how this story line develops.

What I liked…

  • Harvey’s honesty with Mike when he tells him he’s having a panic attack.
  • Straight after, when Mike asks if Harvey’s alright, rather than brushing it off, Harvey admits he’s not.
  • The realistic way the panic attacks are portrayed, showing the overwhelming physical symptoms: racing heart, sweating, vomiting. I thought these scenes were very well done.
  • The fact that Dr Agard insists Harvey talks to her, refusing to simply prescribe him medication. One thing I’ve learned is that talking therapies and medication go hand-in-hand, and I’m glad this is being explored on the show.
  • The balance between Harvey being vulnerable, while also still being his usual self. Though I suspect he may continue to unravel and I’m interested to see where the show takes him, at the moment I like that he’s struggling, while still being high-functioning. It’s a realistic portrayal of what many people go through each day, and the way the anxiety is slowly creeping its way into his life and affecting his work as he tries to keep afloat is very relatable.
  • The way it showed that therapy isn’t an instant fix. My heart sank when Harvey triumphantly threw his medication away, because I thought the writers were just using the panic attacks as a one-off dramatic device. I’m so glad the therapist didn’t just say a few magic words and instantly ‘fix’ him. It’s much more realistic that he didn’t experience an immediate breakthrough and again, I’m excited to see how his experiences continue to develop his character.

…and what I didn’t

  • The ‘mind-reading therapist’ trope. When Dr Agard told him, ‘I had you pegged from the moment you walked in’ I have to admit I rolled my eyes slightly.
  • Dr Agard’s openness with Harvey. Some of what she divulges to him and the poker game they have later on didn’t really ring true to me, but then again, I’m not a psychiatrist, so who knows?
  • This hasn’t happened yet, so it’s possibly unfair to put it in the dislikes column, but I have a feeling they will end up dating and I really hope they don’t.

The verdict

I’m a big fan of Suits and absolutely love Harvey as a character, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how he continues to try and overcome his anxiety. I sincerely hope he doesn’t just end up in a relationship with Donna (or Dr Agard!) and that’s the end of his panic attacks. I’m so sick of the ‘love fixes everything, even mental illness’ rubbish we see so much in films and TV shows.

Very important scientific side-note:

Would you just look at him? *Inserts a million heart eyes emojis*

Harvey Specter GIF

Star Trek: The Next Generation

I’ve been a huge fan of Star Trek since I was a kid. Everyone knows it’s always been ahead of its time in many ways, but I’ve started to notice recently that it was also ahead of its time in the way it tackled ‘difficult’ subjects like suicide and grief, while normalising the idea of seeing a counsellor.

What I liked…

  • The fact the Enterprise not only had a ship’s counsellor, but that she was an integral part of the bridge crew and a close confidant of the captain. It’s a shame this wasn’t a role that the other Star Trek franchises had.
  • The episode ‘Hero Worship’, in which a young boy attempts to avoid confronting the grief of losing his parents by ‘becoming’ an android and mimicking Data’s mannerisms. With Troi’s guidance, Data forms a strong bond with the child and helps him work through his feelings slowly rather than avoiding them.
  • The episodes following Picard’s assimilation into the Borg collective, as he tries to cope with his trauma and readjust to life back on the Enterprise.
  • The episode where Troi has to help her mother uncover repressed memories of the child she lost. This is all done very symbolically, with Troi delving into her mother’s Betazoid psyche to try and understand the self-preservation mechanisms her mind has put in place. Look out for a very young Kirsten Dunst!
  • Troi as a character. I always admired her integrity, compassion and empathic abilities.
  • Voyager also had a couple of great episodes, my favourite being ‘Extreme Risk’. After finding out all her Maquis friends are dead, B’Elanna starts to deal with her grief in unhealthy ways, such as taking part in extreme holodeck programs with the safety controls off.

…and what I didn’t

  • Nothing! Unless there are any episodes I’ve forgotten about (please comment if so!), as far as I’m concerned, any episodes that dealt with mental health, grief or suicide did so cleverly and sensitively.

Side-notes:

  • Deanna had the most incredible curls and was very much the envy of my frizzy-haired nine year old self.
  • I adore both of these kick-ass ladies and their friendship.

Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher

And a cheeky but very special mention to…Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I could (and probably will) fill an entire blog post with reasons I adore this show – go and watch it, now! It’s funny, relatable and moving in equal measures, and I promise you will fall in love with Rebecca Bunch.

Rebecca Bunch

If you want to watch any of the shows I’ve mentioned, they’re all available on Netflix. You’re welcome.

“From the start I knew I wanted to make it amazing” 

Carpenter Simon Clissold talks about how he helped make Pause Cat Café a perfect kitty sanctuary.

When Simon first saw the café it was nothing but a “shell of bricks” and he knew it was going to be a mammoth job. As well as standard renovation, there was a lot of work to be done structurally, in order to meet the health and safety regulations around keeping animals in areas where food is served.

A former boat-builder and owner of Scallywags, a local floor restoration company, Simon has a passion for working with reclaimed wood. He got creative with leftover timber and always aimed to get the most out of his materials. He is most proud of the café’s fascia, which he crafted out of old floorboards. Rather than using expensive cedar wood – the original plan – the reclaimed wood cost him just £150.

Simon standing outside Pause Cat Cafe

He used a mixture of wood he had in stock, donated materials and old furniture. The cute little kitty doors were actually made from regular doors!

Little wooden cat door

Simon came highly recommended to Jaya and though he admits the work was very stressful at times, he says he thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some very long days – up to 18 hours! –including one particularly memorable one.

“I ended up falling asleep at about 2 in the morning and didn’t wake up until people started coming in at 9am,” Simon laughs. “So I got up and pretended I’d just arrived as well!”

“I wanted the cats to be able to get around the whole café without having to touch the floor.”

Perhaps the café’s most striking feature is the incredible maze of bridges, walkways and stair cases for the cats to get around on.  A lot of thought went into their design and Simon wanted them to be neat and symmetrical. “I like the contrast of the disorder of the reclaimed wood and the order of the clean designs,” he explains. “The whole look is very organic; all the shelves support one another and it almost looks as if they are growing out of each other.”

The cat bridge The cafe interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon used a lot of wooden dowels as supports, which he bought for £1, and even got creative with a rolling pin, which he used to support the spiral staircase.

Rolling pin staircase support

A lot of work went into the back of house areas as well, including individual bedrooms for each of the cats.

Petrus' bedroom

The cat flap to each bedroom is activated by its cat’s own microchip.

While he admits he’s more of a dog person, Simon has grown to love the cats. “They all have very different personalities – that’s something I didn’t know about them at first.” He even very kindly named one of the cats, Petrus.

Petrus

“Petrus was the name of my grandmother’s dog, so I like that it has a family connection. I’ve named a boat Petrus as well.”

 “It satisfies my creative side.”

Simon’s passion project is carving beautiful end-grain chopping boards, which he plans to sell online very soon. He has a range of designs, his favourite being this Escher inspired “3D” chopping board.

Escher chopping board

He also carved and generously donated one to Pause, featuring a beautiful dark wood inlay of the café’s logo.

Pause Cat Cafe logo chopping board

He’s done such a fantastic job that I think we can forgive him for being a dog person!

You can find Simon’s work here – www.scallywagsfloors.co.uk – and buy his chopping boards here: www.geekmagnifique.co.uk/shop.

Before I start, I’d like to stress that I am in no way a finance expert and that entering into a financial agreement is a big decision that must be considered carefully. This post is purely to share the things I learned during the process and how I found the whole experience.

Choosing my car

I’d never bought a brand new car before, so I have to admit when I walked into Eden Vauxhall the first time, I was pretty excited.

I initially wanted a Vauxhall Corsa, for a few different reasons:

  • I’ve driven a few in the past (as hire cars) and I always found them comfortable and nice to drive
  • Friends of ours recently bought their car from Eden and had a really good experience
  • From the research I did I found that Vauxhall did some good 0% finance deals (more on that later)

In the end I went for a Vauxhall Adam Energised, which is smaller and a bit funkier than the Corsa.

Image of me with my new car

Me with Magnus!

Dave and I used to share one car, which worked fine when I walked or got the train to work. However, when I got my new job I realised I would need to drive, hence the need for a second car.

Our other car is quite big and where we’re moving to is a bit tight on parking, so it actually made sense to get a smaller car. I do sometimes miss having 5 doors, but on the whole I’m really happy with my new little car. It’s cheap to run, looks cute and gets me where I need to go – plus it has something called City Mode, which is AMAZING for parking in tight spaces.

Was it scary going car shopping?

Not at all! The staff at Eden were so friendly and I always felt very well taken care of. The showroom was spacious, modern and very comfortable, so while I had to do a wee bit of waiting around, I was able to do so on comfy sofas, with plenty of magazines and all the free coffee I could drink!

Jennie, the saleswoman that helped me, was lovely – very warm, helpful and professional, without being too pushy or sales-y.

She answered all my questions, talked me through the features and benefits of the car and took me on a test drive so I could get a feel for it.

Is car finance confusing?

It was a bit at first, but I made sure I did lots of research as I wanted to go in knowing what sort of deal I was looking for. I think this was a good idea as it helped me feel more prepared and sound like I knew roughly what I was talking about! Obviously you can ask questions and they’ll be more than happy to explain things, but it’s nice to have a basic understanding going in.

Can you explain a bit about car finance?

There are various different ways to finance your purchase, but the two main terms you’ll hear being thrown around are PCP and HP. Both are summed up very briefly below:

Personal Contract Purchase (PCP)

  • Flexible terms, low monthly payments (instalments only cover the partial cost of your car)
  • Low deposit required
  • At the end of your agreement you will need to pay a large chunk (or balloon payment) for the car to be yours
  • If you aren’t bothered about owning the car you can return it to the dealership or part exchange the car on a new finance agreement
  • Mileage restrictions apply, with penalties for exceeding them. You will also be penalised for damage to the car (beyond general wear and tear)
  • This type of finance is best suited to people who aren’t bothered about owning the car at the end. So, if you’re the type of person who likes swapping cars and having a brand-new one every few years, this could be a good option for you
  • You’ll hear the term ‘Guaranteed Future Value’ – more on this here

Hire Purchase (HP)

  • Once you’ve made your final payment you will own the car
  • Rather than smaller monthly payments followed by a large balloon payment at the end, your agreement will be made up of larger fixed monthly payments
  • You can vary the size of your deposit. The more you’re able to put down, the smaller your monthly payments will be

What about interest rates?

Interest (APR) rates vary and it is possible to find 0% interest deals, which is what I did. Quite simply this means my monthly payments are worked out as follows:

[Retail price of car + any extras (I’ll come to this later) – deposit] % by the number of months my contract runs for (48, in case you were wondering)

And that’s it, no interest is added on.

So…extras?

I added on floor mats (they weren’t included), GAP Insurance (I would recommend having this – more info here, and exterior paint and alloy protection. There were other options, such as upholstery protection, that I decided not to go for. Don’t worry – when you come to buy, the dealer will run through all your options and their benefits.

What next?

If you’re planning to buy a car and either don’t wish to purchase from a private seller or don’t have the funds to buy outright, you’ll want to start exploring finance options. The points I’ve mentioned here are very brief, but Creditplus* have a mine of information on the various types.

What I have learned though, is that buying a new car needn’t be scary or overwhelming. It’s a big purchase, but there is plenty of advice available to help you make the right choice. I’m really happy with my new car and had a great experience with the team at Eden.

I should say as well that I went for a brand new car because of the various perks that come with doing that, but finance is available on used and even classic cars, so your options aren’t limited!

*Disclaimer: Creditplus is my employer but all thoughts and opinions are my own and I received no additional financial incentive for writing this post.

 

I’d wanted to visit the Lush Spa for absolutely ages, so Dave very kindly treated me to a massage for my birthday. I love firm, deep-tissue massages, so he chose one for me called The Good Hour.

According to Lush’s website, 

“A firm pair of hands rings out tension in time to the music, stretching and straightening you on the tide. Sea shanties fill the air, low and haunting before a gentle crescendo, always tempered by the steady pressure of your therapist’s hands grounding your body.”

Sounded good to me!

When I arrived, my massage therapist, the lovely Jo, ran me through the different products she was going to be using and let me choose the scents I liked. She also let me pick a bath bomb which I dropped in a jug of water to create mood-setting mist – so cool!


The room looked amazing and I loved the nautical theme, though I must admit I was a little unsure about the idea of 70 minutes of sea shanties. I ended up loving the music though – so much so that I’m planning to get the CD for whenever I have a pamper night at home. It’s certainly more interesting than the standard spa music you’d usually expect. The massage complemented the music perfectly and Jo’s hands moved in time, adjusting the pressure to match the lulls and climaxes of the songs.

It was quite intensive and focused on specific areas of tension, which for me was my neck and shoulders. Jo worked out the knots by applying pressure with her fingers and holding them there, before releasing quickly. I’ll admit, this was slightly painful, but I could feel it having an effect almost straight away.

The whole massage was wonderful, it felt very rhythmic and suited the music perfectly. I felt like she really worked me, kneading out my knots and stretching my muscles. Afterwards I felt like I was in a trance, my limbs felt like jelly and every single muscle in my body felt relaxed. A blissful experience!

The verdict

If you’re a fan of deep-tissue massage and have areas of tension you’d like worked on, then this is quite possibly the treatment for you. I’ve had quite a few different massages but this was by far my favourite, in part because of the wonderful atmosphere of the Lush Spa. I loved the way the whole treatment was more of an experience designed to appeal to all the senses, and the nautical theme, with the mist and sea shanties, was so well done. With every other massage I’ve had in the past, as soon as it finished that was it, but at the Lush Spa I was led to a lovely lounge area afterwards for some refreshments, which I thought was a great touch. The theme carried over to this part too, with biscuits and tea spiked with a little drop of ‘ship’s rum’!

Very generously, I was also given a massage bar to take home. Jo was great, very knowledgeable and friendly, and from start to finish I felt extremely well looked after. Plus, it was nice to have the shop next door to browse afterwards.

Oh, and one last note – the spa had the NICEST bathroom I’ve ever used, filled with loads of lovely Lush products to use. What more could you want, right?

 

You need to buy a good carpet spray!

We learned very quickly when we got Marty that ‘litter-trained’ doesn’t mean you won’t find the occasional surprise in the corner! Make sure you have some good carpet spray designed for pet messes (we used this one) and keep an eye on your kitten. If they start scratching a corner of the carpet, quickly pick them up and put them in their litter box. Eventually the accidents will stop, don’t worry!

Lemons = magic

Cats hate the smell of lemon, so it’s a great, chemical-free way of discouraging them from chewing things they shouldn’t. Marty was obsessed with eating cables, so we used a cloth to wipe some diluted lemon juice on them. We also sprayed a little bit on the carpet where he was weeing and it seemed to put him off.

Kittens come with fleas

I didn’t know this before, but kittens very often have fleas. When you take your kitten for their first vet’s appointment they’ll be treated for fleas (it’s important not to buy flea treatment from a pet shop as very often these will be unsuitable for kittens), but you should also comb them regularly to keep an eye on the situation. There are treatments available for your home (Acclaim is very effective), but your vet will advise.

There are SO MANY TYPES OF CAT LITTER

For something that’s designed to be pooped on, there really is a surprising amount of choice, not to mention some ridiculously fancy options.

The two main types are clumping and non-clumping. I personally prefer clumping as it means as soon as the litter becomes wet it forms an easy to remove clump. There are all sorts of other types, including scented – I wouldn’t bother, it makes little difference – and even a natural one made from puffed corn that’s designed to be flushable. Side note, the corn litter smells weirdly delicious (not something you should be able to say about something that, again, is designed to be pooped on).

The best one we’ve found so far is Cat’s Best ÖkoPlus. Its consistency makes it super easy to scoop, plus it doesn’t turn into a sticky ball of clay. As well as cleaning the tray out regularly, you may want to grab a bottle of litter freshener because man, these little cuties can sure whip up one heck of a stink.

You will hoover A LOT

For some reason kittens like to fling litter EVERYWHERE. Sometimes it just gets stuck to their paws, but I swear when we’re not around, they do some sort of litter dance to summon their cat gods or something. Guys, I don’t know, but it’s such an unreasonable amount of litter that I have to believe they’re doing it deliberately. Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you’ll find a tiny nugget of poop mixed in with your floor confetti. Cute.

Pet shops are awesome

I’m not ashamed to admit I love going to the pet shop. I spend ages looking at all the cute products and fancy foods, and I can never resist picking up a few treats for my little rapscallions. Also, the staff are a mine of knowledge so I know I can always ask for advice.

If you sign up for a Pets at Home VIP card you get some great discount vouchers, plus your mail comes addressed to you and your pet – so cute!

Getting a second cat is tricky but doable 

After we’d had Marty for a couple of months, we decided that we wanted to get him a little friend. We would come home from work and Marty would be bouncing off the walls. He’s such a friendly, loving kitten that we were fairly certain he’d appreciate having a friend to keep him company.

We did loads of research and asked a lot of people before we made the decision to welcome little Plum to the family. It was hard at first – they fought constantly and had to be kept separate for the first couple of weeks. We purposely got Plum while Marty was still very young, as the consensus seems to be that it’s the easiest way to make the transition as smooth as possible.

We knew cats are very territorial and that Marty would take a little time to adjust, but they were incapable of spending any time together without biting and hissing at each other. I was starting to worry we’d made a mistake. We followed the advice the vet gave us and introduced them to each other slowly. Eventually they got used to each other and now they are absolutely adorable together.

When Plum came back from the vet’s the other day, Marty ran straight over to make sure he was alright. He’s always washing him and they spend most of the day snuggling each other. In turn, Plum seems to copy Marty, looking to him when he’s figuring out how to do things. They really seem to love each other and it melts my heart.

You don’t need to spend loads on toys

Marty and Plum have a few toys, but more often than not they will choose to play with pen lids, tissue and um…cotton buds. They love this cute little bee though!

Neither of them are particularly fussed about their scratching post (£25 well spent!), though they do use it as a napping perch.

What they do love however, is cardboard scratch mats. We got a small one to see if they liked it and it was such a hit that I also picked up a bigger, fish-shaped one from Tiger for around £5 (we have affectionately named him Scratchy Fish Face). So, when it comes to something for scratching, save yourself a few quid and just grab one of these.

They’re a handful…

They climb on every surface, try to eat things off your plate and kill your plants, headphones and your Nintendo Wii (yes, really).

…but they are so worth it.

I mean, how can you not love them?