A Guide To Cervical Cancer Prevention

I don’t think anyone admires Winnie the Pooh’s confidence to casually strut around without pants on until they’ve had to do the shuffly, little foxtrot across the doctor’s office for their annual smear (sorry, I know, it’s up there with ‘moist’, isn’t it?).

This edition of my ‘A Guide To’ series is dedicated to Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. I know it brings a deep shame that we’ve skipped our schmear appointments for years but now that I’ve had several of them, I feel obliged to encourage all my womxn readers to go get their bits and boobs checked!

So if you’re feeling a bit insecure, unsure and a smol bag of nerves, fear not! Aunty Bridge is here to tell you all about it and offer some practical-ish advice to help get your appointment sorted. If you’re not a womxn reading this, bravo! Keep these tips in mind for all your cervix-owner friends… wonderful, I’ve made it sound like a Honda.

Read Up on HPV and Cervical Screening

Get informed. If you’re in the UK (or outside for that matter), the NHS is a great resource with lots of starter-pack info about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and what to expect at your cervical screening.

If you’re more stats-inclined, I recommend the World Health Organization’s site for a more in-depth overview.

Basically HPV is super common, and most of us (men, women, everyone) will have (had) HPV at some point in their life and for the most part it’s all grand, BUT, as there’s usually no symptoms, this is why we have to go for our wee checksies to make sure everything is hunky-dory. 

Maybe you’ve already had your HPV vaccinations (good stuff, docs are always delighted to hear that), but it’s still important that you book your test.

Registering and Booking Your Test 

I’m the youngest of my friends so I’d heard all about the invitation letter when you turn 21 (in Scotland), summoning you for your check up. Of course we all did our best to ignore the existence of HPV and avoid the summons, and given that tampons, periods, pubic hair, masturbation and all things vaginal are massive taboos, I’m not surprised the letter made us all a bit squeamish.

All the info you need to book your test will be in this letter – probably with a hot pink pamphlet for extra reading – but if you, like me, did your best to avoid the letter, you can still reach out to your local GP and proudly demand a test and they’ll get it sorted for you.

If you happen to live near a sexual health clinic, give them a bell too – you might be able to get an appointment quicker, or it might just be more convenient for you.

You should also be mindful to book the test for a non-menstrual day (2 days before or after should be grand).

In Germany, it’s a little different – they have specialist doctors for everything. As a foreigner over here I haven’t received the letter, but conveniently I had to register with a gynaecologist for the pill and part of the new patient registration is the schmear test – it’s much more superior over here. Maybe I should write a comparison? 

Ready, Steady, Go

Now that you’ve set a date in your calendar (congrats), and it’s nearing your appointment, the nerves might be creeping in and I’m not surprised. Here are some things I find quite helpful to minimise risk of embarrassment and/or awkwardness and make the occasion less daunting: 

  • If you’re nervous or worried about any pain or discomfort, talk to the nurse/doctor about it – you can tell them to stop if it doesn’t feel right. They can organise a follow up discussion and find what works for you. Talk to your friends too, talk to yer ma, everyone has different experiences.
  • If you’re worried about what it looks like down there, have a look yourself! Get all up in there with a handheld mirror, ring-lights, head-torches, whatever you need, and see what the doctor sees. If you think it needs a new hairdo, some moisturiser, whatever it is… awesome, go attend to it! Remember, the doctor has seen literally all kinds of shapes and sizes before, so whether you’re a tidy box or a ham sandwich, it’s all normal, just you do you! …Lest you eat a ham sandwich ever again. 
  • Wear your best knickers – or your worst, they’re gonna be off anyway. Although in the event the nurse goes a bit overboard with the lube, you might want to consider an older pair of pants, like your best period pants. You can also just pop to the loo afterwards and tidy up, or bring a bucket and a mop, it’s no biggie. 
  • Back to clothing, if you don’t fancy that odd draught when you’re Winnie-the-Poohing around the doc’s office with your cute bum hanging out, try opting for a skirt, dress, kilt, or a long T-shirt to keep some modesty. 
  • And you know, womxn fart, and make other involuntary sounds, that’s also a thing – especially when your legs are akimbo and you’re a bit nervous, it happens! If you’re worried though, maybe go easy on the cheese and beans the day before, be smart – plan ahead. Although for other involuntary sounds, sorry I don’t really have any advice for you there – might as well be confident with it I guess.

Once you’re feeling your best self, chuck on some Lizzo, Cardi or Doja and head off to your appointment with confidence and pride that you’re doing this and looking after yourself. How long have you been putting this off for? Doesn’t matter, you’re doing it now, good for you!

Remember to Breathe

Now, It’s probably strange that when I’m in the big, comfy chair with my legs in the stirrups, I think of Ross Geller…

Aright, hear me out, hear me out. There’s an episode of Friends where Ross and his ex-wife’s partner, Susan, attend a ‘Lamaze Class’ (or anti-natal class) together. Ross is sat on the floor, acting as the mum-to-be, and the teacher says ‘alright, mommies, take a nice, deep, cleansing breath… now, imagine your vagina is opening like a flower’. Pretty sound advice really, it does help.

It’s okay if you’re in the chair/on the bed and still a little nervous. Ask the nurse/doc to explain what happens, what sensations to expect, etc. They’ll also 100% pick up on the fact you’re tense and give you some time to settle and relax – maybe the vajayjay grimaces or something, but they always know. Just take a moment to do your Ross Geller breathing. Try it, thank me later.

Regular Check-Ups 

So you’ve done it! Your first schmear, proud of you! Now we have to make a good habit out of it and stick to our check ups regularly. 

In Germany they recommend booking your check up once a year; the UK currently recommends once every 3-5 years (depending on age). It may be the German in me but I think it’s just good sense to go once a year. 

It’s pretty difficult to examine your cervix at home in between check-ups, but you can still look after your breasts as you please! I’m always copping a feel (in the shower, in bed, at work… always). I’m not paranoid or on the constant lookout for lumps or anything; the point of checking your breasts regularly is just to familiarise yourself with them and understand how they should normally look and feel – so if in future there’s a change in shape or texture or maybe that lumpy bit feels more tender, you’ll know when to talk about it to your doctor.

(Plus I just really like my boobs).

Recommending to Others

An important (yet unspoken) part of the check up is making sure others go for theirs too. Leave a review for the practice (yes, really) and tell your friends about it, write a blog, go bananas!

If one of your friends has concerns about it, talk to them, share your experience – or better yet, help them book the appointment. Even if they just want to talk to the doctor/ nurse to find out more, that’s already a huge step and you helped do that!

You might find that despite doing everything right, it just wasn’t a good experience, and that’s unlucky. Don’t lose hope though – if you have a bad hairdresser, you leave a crap review find a better one and it’s the same with gynaecologists. If you live in Germany and are blessed with bountiful Frauenarzts, you might want to register at a new practice, but if you’re in the UK at your local GP, you could always ask for a different nurse, it’s all good.

[REMINDER] This doesn’t just apply to other womxn and the smear test; remind the men-folks to check themselves regularly and encourage them to book their prostate exam too. 

So off you pop, go call up your doctors or book online – your cervix needs you! You are strong, you are confident and you are taking excellent care of yourself!

Once again here is the link to the NHS with all the info you need (if you’re UK based).

If you’re in Germany and looking for a Frauenarzt (gynaecologist), honestly I just went on Maps and searched Frauenarzt nearby – pick one with good reviews though, your body is a temple.

A Guide to a Greener Office

Ahead of the UK’s Energy Saving Week (18-24th January 2021), here’s a list of my pet peeves ways to make your work environment a little greener.

Turn-Offs are the new Turn-On

Do you remember all the adverts to turn off home appliances, instead of leaving them on standby? They used to inundate us, reminding us to switch off our devices and save electricity (and money) – that beady, red light was the stuff of nightmares.

We got into a homely habit of switching everything off at the wall and we should bring this habit to the workplace. For sure we’re all excited to run away at 5 o’clock but we need to be mindful of that little standby light before we head home – especially in the lockdown when a). we might not be in the office for another several days, and b). if we’re at home, this contributes to our own electricity bills – households waste £227M a year from leaving appliances on standby – no wonder yer parents got mad eh!

Speaking of parents… I grew up in the South of Scotland where electricity and women’s rights barely exist. When it got cold we were told to put our jumpers on, so we did, and we were grand! The idea of ‘warm clothes’ seems to be lost these days, but basically if your home or office is a little chilly, you can put these extra layers on instead of turning the radiator up to max and it helps reduce energy – amazing!

  • The monitor uses 33% of a PC’s energy – leaving it on overnight is equal to laser printing 500+ pages.
  • Leaving your photocopier on overnight wastes enough energy to make 30 cups of tea.
  • A small department can save over £1,000 each year by ensuring that lights are not left on overnight.
  • Turning off unneeded lights could remove 171 kg (376 lb) of CO2 emissions per year.
  • It would take a tree more than a year to absorb the CO2 emitted by one fan left on overnight over the summer.
Facts and Figures taken from a University of Cambridge study

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

I think (I hope) we’re all quite good at doing this at home, but somehow in the office it all goes to pot.

My company offered a free lunch once a week and I can’t even fathom the amount of waste: foods, plastics and cardboard all chucked into the same non-biodegradable plastic bin liner… y’know, the food wasn’t even that good. If your company offers a similar programme, try and find a way to encourage separation of rubbish and proper recycling. We stopped the free lunches due to the lockdown but I’m hoping we keep it off the schedule.

I’ll admit, I am terribly lazy at making my own packed lunches, so when I do go to office, I usually end up buying something from the shop, FOR SHAME. I’m working on it though, trying to do the whole ‘make your lunch the night before’ thing, and even if working remotely has been a huge help in reducing my packaging waste, I know I can still do better.

Aside from the lunchtime and schnacktime waste, you can also reduce general office waste: only print documents where necessary; switch to fonts that use less ink; recycle paper; offer reusable coffee mugs; buy recycled stationery… the list is endless!

  • Switching from Arial to Century Gothic or Ryman Eco uses up to 33% less ink.

Build a Green Team

I recently joined an ‘Employee Resource Group’ (ERG) focussed on the environment and sustainability. This is a great way to get things done together and meet new people from all parts of the company. If you’re interested in starting something like this, try speaking with your manager and/or HR team to help get the message out there – you may find there already is one!

As a team you could suss out what energy tariff your company uses and persuade the important folks to switch to a greener alternative. You could also work on improving systems in the workplace, such as proper recycling or finding sustainable suppliers… there’s so much you could do!

If you are proposing changes, make sure you also present the monetary value to minimise resistance. Pulling the money card will probably help sway the important folks’ decision (hopefully in your favour).


Of course the best way to make your office greener is obviously to introduce luscious, green plants!

Note: If you and your colleagues are working from home, please don’t forget about the plants.

Apparently my good friends at NASA have done a study and found quite a few different plants that are more effective at purifying and detoxing than others.

If you’re interested in more ways to be greener, I can recommend Jen Gale’s ‘The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide‘ which is chock-full of ideas for work, home and all parts of life.

Now, there’s no such thing as a ‘friendly reminder’, despite what your colleagues may say, so please note this passive-aggressive nudge to turn down the radiators, switch off your monitors, unplug your chargers, turn off the lights (including meeting rooms, kitchens and toilets), separate your rubbish, recycle, build a team, switch tariffs and buy a snake plant. I know it seems like a lot of work, and sometimes it really is, so thank you for being considerate and mindful and always striving to do better. Namaste.

A Guide to Saving Money

Point of view: You’re my online banking app and you’re once again waking up to my thumbs podging all over the screen as I pour over balances and transactions like Thorin and the Arkenstone… 

I suppose I have caught the Dragon Fever during the lockdown but I think money has always fascinated me. I can’t say I’ve ever had a lot of it but I remember spending many a Saturday afternoon tipping out my piggy bank and inspecting all the dross change for hours on end… I’m not much of a Royalist but I liked to group up the 1p and 2p coins by their portrait of the Queen… ah, what a total loser.

Early on in the lockdown, I started to hear rumours of strange, mythical people in their mid-20s getting ready to snap up property with all the money they’ve been saving – I thought that was just a thing you started in your 30s. My ‘savings’ was a childhood piggy bank I brought to Berlin, full of British coppers, how embarrassing.

After that slap in the face, realising that people my age are actually responsible with their money, I decided to see how much I could save during the lockdown.

Honestly, I didn’t expect much because I didn’t really do much pre-lockdown: I wasn’t in Berghain every weekend (lol, imagine); and I’ve never taken advantage of the Burgermeister nearby, so I just assumed all my money was going on weekly food-shops and bills and I just didn’t earn enough to save. Boy, was I wrong! Not to toot my own horn or do the unGerman thing and discuss wages and money (God forbid), but I’m impressed with how much I’ve saved in the space of 9 months. I reckon by May 2021 I’d have the right amount to put down a deposit if I wanted to (on a small house I mean – what city folks would call a ‘shed’).

So if you too would like to buy a garden shed, here’s my finest advice to help save your schmoney:

Review your Spending

Knowing where your money goes will give you an idea of how much you can save and where to make cuts. Especially in a pandemic where we’re mostly paying by card, it should be easy to track each transaction on your online app. Your bank may already have options to categorise each transaction, for example ‘groceries, shopping, family’ etc, and create a chart for you, but you can also manually create a spreadsheet or draw up a list and look at it that way. 

Learn to Budget

I love a good budget – it’s also a hilarious autocorrect of my name. There are many different rules of thumb that can help control your spending, for example: your rent should be about 30% of your wage; keep aside 10% of your wage for retirement; if you’re buying a car, check the 20-4-10 concept. For general budgeting, there’s the popular 50-30-20 rule: ‘50% Needs’ (Rent, Bills, Food etc), ‘30% Wants’ (gym, Netflix, travel etc) and ‘20% Savings’ (retirement, rainy days, loan repayment etc).

During the pandemic a lot of ‘Wants’ in the 50-30-20 rule are not fulfilled: gym memberships; travel; bars & restaurants, to name a few. These are all things that can be recategorised into Savings. Personally, I save over 30% of my wages – I know, I lead a very quiet life… but now I can buy a shed, so.

Set up a Realistic and Exciting Goal

Once you’ve reviewed your spending and calculated how much enters/ exits your account, you’ll be able to set up a realistic goal. Whether you want to stick to saving 20%, or more or less, you can now work out what this monthly/annual figure looks like. I’d also make your goal something you’re really passionate about, or a challenge, as you’re more likely to make the contributions. Maybe you want to save £100 a month, or £5,000 by the end of the year, find what works for you – maybe even set a few goals, go wild! …but not too wild.

Create Space 

Maybe you still have your childhood piggy bank, but most online banks will have ‘pockets’ or ‘spaces’ where you can set aside this money. This feature has genuinely revolutionised my budgeting and savings. Depending on your account plan you may be able to create a few for different things: savings, food, new car, bills. Each month you can drop money into the space – or you might be able to set up an automatic transfer each month from your main account to your space… but then you don’t get to enjoy the precious feeling of handling pretendy, digital money and swooping it around your spaces.

As a rule (to control all the savings fun), you should Save First before you spend. So when your money comes in, allocate the amounts to each space to block it off for the month ahead. It kinda sucks watching your main account balance dwindle so quickly but it’s the overall balance that counts. For example, I put 240€ a month (4 x 60€/week) into my ‘Food’ space and use it to reimburse my grocery shopping after each trip to the supermarket.

Note: Some banks will let you set up outgoing payments directly from the space, whereas others can only debit from your main account and then reimburse from a space , so make sure you have the right amount of money in the right place for any upcoming debits.

Use ‘Round Up’ Feature

These days ‘Round Up’ doesn’t just mean a beautiful garden lawn without weeds (but that kind of Roundup would go nicely in my new shed); it also describes the process of saving up the little pennies. Now, given that I used to spend my Saturdays counting coppers, I really should have cottoned on to this sooner because it’s genius! People can save up hundreds without even noticing – pure joy! This feature automatically rounds up spending each time you use your card and pings the spare change into a space. If you spend £3.49 on some questionable wine, your little bank will round it up to £4.00 and put the spare £0.51 into a little space… and that sometimes helps you regret the wine a little less. 

Buy Sustainably 

Yes, here she goes, off on the eco spraff, BUT, you will absolutely cut spending and save loads if you are more conscious and mindful of what you buy. Do you really need it? How often will you use it? Does it spark joy? Can I repair the one I already have? These are all questions to ask when you’re feeling that retail therapy itch.

This section should be a guide on its own and luckily Tara Button, founder of Buy Me Once, has already written an excellent guide (and book) to be more considerate and reduce impulse buys. Maybe you’re a ‘Treater Imp’ and celebrate every occasion with a purchase; if so, try adding it to your basket and going back 24h later when you’re less excited. I used to be a (rather unfortunately named) ‘Faddy Imp’ who gets into a hobby, buys all the stuff and then gets bored after two weeks days, so to limit my spending I should shop second-hand OR give up hobbies altogether and become a sad, little blobfish. Spoiler, it’s the latter…

Well, actually, does saving count as a hobby? The amount of time I spend checking my accounts, I think it should be considered as one. Feel free to join me in this extremely safe and boring hobby – I look forward to next year when we can all compare sheds, or whatever it is you’re working towards. Happy saving!