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Towards the start of 2020, as the first lockdown loomed on the horizon, my mind did its usual thing and melded into a wad of worry. It was heavy, saturated and impossible to wring out while my overlapping responsibilities piled higher and higher.

It was at this moment that I started a journal to document the the very early days of COVID-19 reaching our shores and capture the moment our lives instantly swivelled.

The journal is still a work in progress, but one day I’ll get it printed and give it to my children. …

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Here is a generic image of a comet to accompany this article

When people ask me what my favourite film is, my response always surprises them: Deep Impact.

Why would a seemingly-run-of-the-mill 1990s disaster movie top anyone’s list ahead of so many other cinematic classics?

Because, I tell them, Deep Impact isn’t a film about a disaster. It’s a film about humanity. It’s an understated and underrated exploration of the unwavering love that parents have for their children, which happens to be told via the lens of an impending apocalyptic disaster.

But when the film was released in 1998, it had a rival meteor-based movie to compete with: Armageddon, which was released in cinemas just weeks later. …

When I moved from a Labour stronghold to a Tory safe seat I was wary. I should’ve seen it as an opportunity.

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When blue starts to fade, you get something more interesting.

I’d lived in London for almost exactly a decade before my partner and I decided it was time to venture a bit further out. Needing to be within commuting distance of the capital for our jobs, yet with no mutual family connections pulling us to one particular area, we had the freedom — and enormous privilege — to choose somewhere completely new to us.

We finally found an area that felt like a good fit for our expanding family and budget: nice houses, decent state schools to choose from, lots of green spaces nearby, plenty of community amenities and a reasonable train journey into London. Job done. Except for the enormous downside: the area was one of the bluest Tory constituencies around. So much so that even the most blustering Conservative candidate couldn’t fail to win each time a general election came around. …

The ‘super-competent female’ trope is undermining feminism

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“I know that for a fact!”

Fellow UK-based parents may well recognise this irritating catchphrase from the popular CBeebies show, ‘Peter Rabbit’.

It’s the line uttered each episode by Peter’s token female pal, Lily, when she inevitably gets adventurous Peter and bumbling Benjamin out of their latest brush with the oven thanks to her quick-thinking and superior knowledge. Constantly retrieving useful items from her (pink…) “just in case pocket”, Lily’s ability to plan and problem solve is often the key to the bunnies’ success — and survival.

However, unlike Peter and Benjamin, Lily wasn’t an original character in Beatrix Potter’s original children’s books. Instead, the progressively-minded production team chose to introduce her in order to strike a better gender balance in their interpretation of the author’s classic stories. …

How to spot — and resist — digital misdirection

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This image will make sense if you read on.

What did you feel when you heard about this (1)?

Or when you saw this (2)?

Or tried to get your head around this (3)?

I can tell you how I felt: outraged. And, in all these instances, I felt compelled to share my outrage on social media. And I did.

Never has the world felt like such a complex, less calm place. Many of us are riddled with pandemic-induced anxiety. The world feels more tribal than ever before. A virus has us all in a stranglehold, but the grip of political polarisation is even stronger. Many people appear to exist within a vortex of perpetual fury, panic or fear as a result of things we read or see online. …

The night before Jo Cox was brutally murdered in her constituency I couldn’t sleep. My uncharacteristic insomnia was in no small part because I was in the midst of an incredibly tough week looking after my poorly one-year-old whilst also struggling with illness myself. But it was also because thoughts of the forthcoming EU referendum were swirling around my mind.

Until that night I really hadn’t given the referendum much thought — I would vote Remain and that would be that. But, having finally engaged my brain about it properly for the first time, I suddenly realised just how real the possibility of leaving the European Union actually was. I could sense an irreversible shift in our society was about to take place and felt incredibly uneasy about what could happen over the coming weeks and months. …

I opted for a c-section in 2018 after an incredibly traumatic natural birth in 2015. Here’s what I learned having chosen to embark on this positive path…

NICE guidelines advise that women have the right to ask for an elective c-section, even if there is no medical need for one.

Even so, getting one on the NHS might be hard

If there are no clear medical reasons for a planned c-section, getting a consultant to agree to your request could prove to be difficult on the NHS. Indeed, research by the Birthrights charity reveals that it’s something of a postcode lottery. My own journey to securing a c-section was much harder than I would have liked, despite having been given the green light in writing by a consultant at my previous hospital. In fact, the NHS trust where I ended up having my baby explicitly informs women in their pregnancy notes that their policy is to not agree to elective c-section requests. After some difficult conversations, my consultants eventually agreed to my request due to my previous trauma. …

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We would be knackered for sure. But we would be so happy. Just the three of us, back home. We’d show him each room in turn, spending longer in his little bedroom which we’d decorated in all the colours in the world. I’d sit with him on the nursing chair and drink in every millimetre of him. We’d cuddle on the sofa, bleary eyed, but filled with love. We’d put on a film and, despite not really watching it, forever associate it with the birth of our son, with the blue of his eyes, with the crinkles of his skin.

At some point our parents would arrive and there would be a flurry of activity, advice and photography. …

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First cuddles: 2015 / 2018 — worlds apart

“So, no more children then,” remarked my husband, sat across from my hospital bed on the high dependency unit. “I guess not.” was about the most I could muster in response, as oxygen flowed into my nasal passage from a tube and cannulas sprouted from each hand. These were practically the first words we said to each other after our first child’s birth back in 2015.

I’d recently woken up from a general anaesthetic following emergency surgery to stem a life-threatening bleed. Our new baby was doing well, but he was being looked after by my parents in some distant room in the hospital. I was delirious with fear and terrified of falling asleep. …

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Me in 2009, fully embracing Twitter at ‘Twestival’…

Ten years ago I wrote a little review of the decade on my (horribly-formatted) blog. I used my blog a bit like a journal, documenting my life in London having landed there with a heartbroken bump back in 2007.

That blog is long-since abandoned, but I thought I owed it to myself to follow-up on that life update by summarising the latest decade. So here are ten things I’ve learned since then…

1. Love really does strike when (and where) you least expect it

The noughties were not kind on my heart. I seemed to go on an endless procession of dates that led nowhere. I got asked out via Twitter, Facebook, Google Chat and, even one hilarious time, Scrabulous. I got to know some great people, but things never clicked into place. I also got ghosted more times than I care to remember, although no one called it ‘ghosting’ back then. …


Hayley J Dunlop

Mother, writer, overthinker. I write about all sorts of things and I’m usually tired. She / her.

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