Man, do I love me a freak shake. What’s not to like? It’s a milkshake (good), piled high with squirty cream (goooooooood), topped with any kind of candy/cake/biscuits your heart desires (yaaaaaaaaaaaaas).

I’m also a huge fan of iced coffee. So naturally, I got to thinking about how I could bring these two great things together, for a slightly more grown-up spin on the freak shake.

You know, a drink that doesn’t look like all the leftovers of a kid’s birthday party, thrown in a glass.

I had a little think about what would work nicely with coffee, and decided that Lotus Biscoff biscuits would be the obvious choice. I’m also a great lover of the flavour of banana with coffee (sounds weird, but seriously, it’s so good!), so decided to use some dried banana chips.

It seems a doughnut is almost mandatory, so I threw one of those on, as well as a ton of squirty cream, and a liberal sprinkling of crushed biscuits and banana chips. Of course, you could use whatever you want as a topping. It would be fun to play around with different combinations – you could even add a splash of Baileys if you fancy making it boozy!

The chocolate sauce I drizzled on the inside of the glass (and generously all over the top!) was Sweet Freedom vegan Choc Shot, and naturally, the iced coffee I used was Jimmy’s. They’re a fab company based just down the road from me, and I’ve been obsessed with their cute little cartons of iced coffee since I discovered them when I moved to Bournemouth.

It’s also worth noting that they’ve recently released a dairy free version, so if you wanted to make this an entirely vegan treat you could, with just a few easy tweaks. I found some delicious looking vegan alternatives to squirty cream here.

Psst – you can now also buy vegan Baileys. Just sayin’.

Bottoms up!

If you haven’t watched Queer Eye yet, do it immediately. I was a big fan of the original show, so of course I was intrigued about the Netflix reboot.

I quickly fell in love with the new Fab Five, and was surprised by how moving each episode is. It truly is a joy to watch, from start to finish. After binge-watching the whole series, I was left with a huge smile on my face and a tear in my eye (though I’ll deny this if anyone asks).

All the guys are awesome, but Antoni (the food and wine expert) was always going to be my favourite, because…well, he’s obsessed with food.

Oh, and he’s not bad to look at either.

Antoni

As well as being super sweet and a bit of a dork, he’s also the type of guy that makes you say, ‘that’s SO me!’ at least 15 times per episode. Here are just a few of the times he was relatable af.

When he showed he’s just a big ol’ romantic

http://michael-arden.tumblr.com/post/171310161843

Pretty much every time he saw a dog

http://fionapplesauce.tumblr.com/post/171734086324

When he was just a *tad* dramatic

https://tan-antoni.tumblr.com/post/171528516296/bloodycranberry-queer-eye-is-poetry

When a spectacular grilled cheese left him lost for words

http://pointedahead.tumblr.com/post/170949218712/when-your-food-finally-arrives-at-your-table-and

This is the man who declared he’s ‘never met a cheese he didn’t like’, after all…

Antoni in a cheese hat

When his face said what we were all thinking

http://michael-arden.tumblr.com/post/171054798391

I mean, really. Pickle juice?

When he confessed his love of a good bad smell

http://michael-arden.tumblr.com/post/171094168326/bonus

As my tweet below might suggest, I appreciate someone with a keen olfactory sense.

When he was just a big kid

https://bawling.tumblr.com/post/171036500348

I mean, it was  a pretty cool hat.

When he really, really loved chilli

http://extrajordinary.tumblr.com/post/171196’never met a cheese I987697/get-someone-who-feels-the-same-way-about-you-as

When he couldn’t quite handle AJ’s leather harness

http://extrajordinary.tumblr.com/post/171195824362/antoni-and-aj-in-leather-a-thrilling-saga

When he was just a big kid (part 2)

Riding a scooter

Happy birthday, Antoni!

Keep being your ridiculous self.

 

 

In case you’ve already forgotten, there was a wee bit of snow last week. On Thursday, I was sat at my desk, watching the world turn white and the traffic outside come to a complete standstill.

As we all left the office, I asked Matt how long he reckoned it would take to get home. 2 hours, he replied.

Pff, I thought – there’s no way. The traffic’s bad, but it’s not that bad.

Oh. Sweet naive Mel. How wrong you were.

17:00: Here goes. This won’t be that bad.

17:20: As I sit, still stuck in the car park, my confidence starts to waver.

17:30: Hmmm, I don’t have the most petrol. But I’ve got enough to get me home.

17:31: (I hope)

17:35: I could pull into Tesco for fuel, but at this rate it will probably add another year onto my journey.

17:40: This is getting a little bit ridiculous. In the last 40 minutes, I’ve moved about 300 metres down the road. Should I just abandon my car and walk home?

17:45: No, that would be silly. I’m sure the traffic will ease up soon.

17:55: It would appear the snow is coming down harder now. Still, I’m sure the traffic will ease up soon.

18:00: I miss my home.

18:20: Fuck, I can still see my office from here.

18:21: I no longer miss home. This car is my home now.

18:30: I’m so glad I have supplies (3 bags of Pom Bears).

18:40: I’ll just have one bag of bears. Probably should ration them out in case this is a long night.

18:41: My OCD makes me reluctant to touch the crisps, so I develop a very elegant way of pouring them into my mouth, straight out of the bag.

18:45: Bag number 2. There are now bears flying around all over the place. Perhaps my system isn’t quite as elegant as I thought.

18:55: I’ve crept forward approximately 30 feet in the last ten minutes. Despair has set in. Almost 2 hours have passed and I can still see my office in the rearview mirror.

19:00: ‘Get in my face bears!’ I cackle madly, shovelling bag number 3 into my mouth. Am slightly afraid of the hysterical edge to my voice. Cabin fever, I fear, is kicking in.

19:10: I now have no food, no water, and I’m starting to need a wee.

19:20: Shit, but for real though, what do I do if I have to wee?!

19:25: Realise I’ve spent the last 5 minutes working out how to fashion a makeshift nappy out of the half a pack of sanitary towels in my bag.

19:30: Beginning to have serious doubts about the durability of my DIY nappy.

19:32: What would Bear Grylls do?

19:45: Screw it, I’ll just wee if I have to. Seats can be cleaned, and maybe if I carefully aim the heating vents at the scene of the crime, it will dry quick enough to not become too uncomfortable. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t end up weeing myself. But I’m certain I was capable of it.)

19:55: I’ve been stuck next to a Domino’s for the last 15 minutes. Is this the universe’s way of taunting me?

20:00: I am still on the road I work on – how is this possible?!

20:05: Seriously, 3 fucking hours? To travel approximately 1 mile down the road?

20:10: Things are starting to get a bit hairy. Cars are skidding on the ice and slush, and struggling to get up the hill. Police are having the push people.

20:15: I manage, somehow, to get up the hill unaided. Feel slightly baffled that my tiny little Vauxhall Adam full of decapitated Pom Bears, fared better than the sturdier, more beefy cars in front of me. I’m also a little bit proud.

20:20: I’m now next to a pet shop. If it comes to it, I find myself wondering, which pet food would I prefer to eat?

20:25: Rabbit food would probably be the best option. It’s vegetarian and probably the least offensive in terms of taste.

20:30: Is this what it’s come to? 3 and a half hours stuck in the car and I’ve resigned myself to weeing freely and eating pet food? I’d be shocked if I wasn’t so busy feeling frustrated.

20:35: I’m also feeling slightly anxious, if I’m honest. My petrol is rapidly running down, and I’ve turned my engine off to conserve fuel. Any amusement I’ve found in the situation up until now is rapidly dissipating.

20:45: When I turn my engine back on, the ‘ice is possible’ warning sign lights up. You think you’re sooooo fucking funny, don’t you, car?

21:00: 4 hours now. Starting to seriously doubt I’ll be home before midnight.

21:05: As I realise I’m about to reach a huge hill, my stomach sinks.

21:15: Cars are really struggling to get up this hill. Shit, what happens if I genuinely can’t make it. Hopefully someone will help me, but what if they don’t? For the second time, the reality of the situation hits me and I feel panic building.

21:20: It takes a lot of sliding around (plus smacking into the kerb), but I get there, unaided. Again, I am relieved and slightly astonished.

21:21: My burning clutch smells UNHOLY. (Not a euphemism.)

21:30: With all this time stuck in the car, I learn that my theory (below), is indeed, correct. I have now heard approximately 8,000 Ed Sheeran songs.

21:45: ‘This is a really nice song,’ I think to myself. I wonder who it is.

21:47: It’s Ed Sheeran. Of course it bloody is.

22:00: This truly is one of the most ridiculous situations I’ve ever been in.

22:05: There’s literally no way anyone could come and rescue me. My only other option is to abandon ship and walk.

22:06: Ffs, it’s 2018. Why doesn’t teleportation exist?

22:07: Actually, no – I’d just settle for some sort of more effective way of dealing with snow.

22:08: No, again, scrap that. Right now I’d just settle for another bag of Pom Bears.

22:10: To think, I was actually planning to drive up to Nottingham tonight. *Laughs madly to self*

22:15: Another Ed Sheeran song.

22:20: Why did I eat all my food earlier?! I’m definitely going to need to get some kebab shop cheesy chips in my face.

22:25: What if the kebab shop is closed?! Wouldn’t that just be my luck?

22:35: *’Perfect’, by Ed Sheeran plays* – Ed, mate, come on. Now you’re just trolling me.

22:40: I’ve had to undo my trousers to relieve unnecessary pressure on my bladder.

22:50: I have arrived at the kebab shop. I can’t quite believe I’ve finally made it. My head feels fuzzy and my bottom is completely numb.

22:51: I step out of the car and two things happen simultaneously. 1) I almost slip over on some ice, and 2) I realise my trousers are still hanging open.

As I stumble, I imagine myself splayed out on the ground outside the kebab shop, legs akimbo, with my trousers round my ankles.

And really, after everything I went through to get home in one piece, that would just be fucking typical, wouldn’t it?

 

 

 

 

I’m aware this post is going to make me look like the saltiest girl in all the land, but I’ve had this on my chest for such a long time and I just need to vent.

Let’s talk about Twitter beef, shall we?

I’m not going to name names, and if you know who was involved with this, please, please don’t tweet them. That’s not what this is about.

A long time ago now, someone tweeted about the book South of Forgiveness, written by Thordis Elva in collaboration with Tom Stranger – the man who raped her.

The tweet was one of outrage, but after I read up on what Elva was doing, I actually found it commendable, and very much worthwhile. So, I queried why the person felt this way. Why did they not think this could be a positive thing? I was politely, if a bit abruptly, told they didn’t want to engage with me. Fair enough.

That night, I wrote a think piece defending the forgiveness project. You can read it here.

The following day, I tweeted the person back, asking respectfully for their opinion on it. I even said, no pressure, if you really don’t want to.

Perhaps this was a mistake. They did say they didn’t want to discuss the issue, but I thought my tweet was innocent enough. I also assumed that if they tweeted about it in the first place, they’d be open for a discussion on it.

I honestly didn’t think I’d done anything offensive, and I genuinely wanted to hear this person’s opinion, as I respected them.

What followed was a furious DM accusing me of harassing them and forcing them to comment publicly on something they didn’t want to discuss. I was confused – had I not said I honestly didn’t mind if they didn’t reply? They claimed I was being aggressive. If anything, I thought messaging me privately was the hostile move, but I was completely ready to apologise for my error in judgement.

I began writing a sincere reply, when suddenly I was blocked. Shit. So this person thought I was attacking them, told me as much, then blocked me before I could even respond.

I was mortified. I hadn’t meant for any of this to happen, and now I had no way of making amends.

Then, I did something I probably shouldn’t have done: I got angry. I sent a shitty subtweet calling them out (not by name though). I was shaking by this point, I felt so upset.

I was swiftly unblocked and DM’d again. More accusations of harassment. This time I was able to reply, but by now things had spiralled.

I noticed they’d tweeted something that was clearly about me, followed by another tweet saying they didn’t have time for ‘rape apologists’. I felt like I was going to be sick. Is this really what they thought of me?

That was when I decided to text some of my friends. I was hurt, angry and shocked.

My friends reassured me that my piece didn’t come across like that at all. But the person hadn’t read my post, so they wouldn’t know that.

Soon after, things got a bit out of hand. Some of my friends sent angry subtweets. I didn’t ask for that, but we were all fuming and got caught up in the heat of the moment, as you might in an IRL fight.

In the end, everything cooled off, and though we were no longer following each other, we’d reached a sort of truce.

I’ve since disagreed with them about other things. Was I bitter? Maybe. I was quickly blocked again.

Since that big old dish of Twitter beef, I’ve seen that person talk about being bullied for ‘telling it like it is’. I’ve seen them denounce entire groups of people, warning others against their problematic nature.

I’ve had their followers call me a bully and accuse me of being hostile. I believe my behaviour was once branded ‘disgusting’.

But I’ve also had people privately DM me their support, telling me that they’d also been on the receiving end of this sort of disproportionate aggression.

‘Telling it like it is’ is absolutely fine. I’m outspoken in my own way, but if challenged, I will always respond and try to see the other person’s point of view. I know I’m not obligated to do so (and am not suggesting anyone ever is), but I feel that if I’m sharing my thoughts on a public platform, I should be comfortable enough to discuss them in the first place. It’s not comfortable having people disagree with you, but you know what? Many times, I’ve had my mind changed, or at the very least seen things in a less black and white way.

Challenging opinions politely, isn’t bullying. Asking someone to engage in a conversation, isn’t bullying.

Yes, I probably didn’t handle things as well as I could have done on that day, and I deeply regret that the whole thing got as ugly as it did.

But did I deserve to be accused of the things I was? Definitely not.

Don’t be afraid to challenge and ask questions. Most people will happily share their point of view with you and won’t see your question as a personal attack.

We need to keep it nice, though. I’ll put my hand up and say I’ve said things I regret online, and I apologise for that.

The accusations got ugly that day and I guess I’m not really over what happened. That said, this person was later subjected to real, vicious bullying, and I spoke up about it; I don’t condone vile insults or trolls.

But I also don’t condone being called a bully or rape apologist for simply trying to suggest there may be another way to look at something.

For the record, I stand by what I wrote, and anyone who’d actually give my piece the time might realise that I’m not quite as heinous as they thought.

I’ve had numerous other discussions with many other people, about various ‘controversial’ topics, and found that the response to my questions has always been rudeness, followed by a swift unfollow or block.

Feel free to stay in your echo chamber and pretend that people are ‘attacking’ you just because you ‘tell it like it is’. I’m sure many will continue to applaud you.

It’s perfectly fine to have strong opinions, but if you respond to those opinions being challenged with anger, condescension or simply telling someone to ‘educate themselves’, perhaps you need to have a think about why you’re being so defensive.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that Friends is now on Netflix.

You will probably have also noticed the numerous angry think pieces about how the show is ‘problematic’ (ugh, I hate that word), and the endless lists ranking the characters from best to worst (like we didn’t all decide our favourites twenty years ago).

However, this little gem, in particular, incensed me.

Firstly, the guy who wrote it seriously needs to lighten up. He describes the characters as ‘quite terrible people’, before going on to ask, ‘could they be anymore [sic] “first world problems”’?

Yes, he’s right; they’re all white, heterosexual and cisgender. Yes, some of them do come from ‘incredible privilege’ – I won’t argue that. Obviously, there are many jokes that don’t quite sit right with audiences today; this is true of a lot of shows in the 90’s, but I’m not going to use the ‘product of its time’ argument here. I’m also not going to list all the things the show did right, though there are many.

But to argue that they’re terrible people is, to me, slightly ridiculous.

They make questionable decisions, tease each other and yes, sometimes make inappropriate jokes. But if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, isn’t that what all groups of friends are like?

While I can’t deny his points about their socio-economic status, I do think this ‘first world problems’ rubbish and whining about ‘privilege’ stuff is just…well, it’s a load of crap to be honest.

The show is about a group of twenty-somethings, struggling to make their way in New York City. We see them go on disastrous job interviews, have money problems, endure break-ups and become single parents. Rachel goes from a broke waitress to a successful, independent career woman. Over several seasons, we see Monica work hard, pay her dues and become a head chef at a prestigious restaurant. Joey is a struggling actor and Chandler is stuck in a dead-end job he hates. At one point, the issue of money is not only brought up, but threatens to divide the friends.

Do all these things sound relatable? Yes – that’s because they are.

Suggesting that Friends tackles trivial issues (or ‘first world problems’) kind of misses the point of what the show was trying to achieve. Let’s stop trying to make out that Friends was trying to be ground-breaking. It was light entertainment about a group of ordinary people; crucially, it was designed to be relatable.

At the same time, it still did a fair job of challenging gender stereotypes, promoting LGBT rights (as much as you can argue the characters were ‘homophobic’, let’s not forget that two women get married, raise a child and have a happy, loving marriage – not something that happened in a lot of shows in the mid-90’s) and had plenty of serious storylines – Monica and Chandler’s infertility, for example.

Can’t we all just enjoy Friends as what it is – a snapshot of life in 90’s America, as shown by six regular people?

As for Monica being the worst character? Well, I disagree there too. The author says this can’t come as too much of a surprise, given that Monica is controlling and obsessive. Am I the only person who sees that she was also generous, kind-hearted and loving? Let’s also not get started on calling ‘obsessive’ a flaw (ugh). It’s funny, because I see lots of people criticising the other characters for mocking Monica’s ‘OCD’, yet these same people supposedly hate her for being obsessive. Hmmm.

Oh, and what is this guy’s beef with Monica losing weight because of a man? Sadly, she won’t have been the first person to do this, and I fail to understand why this makes her a bad person (also, great job on shifting the focus away from Chandler, who made the rude comment in the first place). If anything, it just makes her more – you guessed it, I’m going to say it again – relatable.

The bottom line is, Friends is supposed to be light entertainment. Sure, some of the jokes miss the mark now, but again, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, haven’t we all made jokes that were slightly questionable?

On the show, problematic opinions were challenged, and the characters ultimately grew over time – as we all do in real life.

Is this what makes us so uncomfortable, knowing that at one time or another, we’ve probably all made a tasteless joke, or laughed at something we shouldn’t have? Is it that Friends reminds us that we’ve all had problematic misconceptions of our own?

If the characters on Friends had been perfectly nice to each other all the time, not had problematic opinions or made inappropriate jokes, would the show have been as relatable as it was?

I would argue probably not.