Tuesday, 31 January 2012

If Carlsberg did Birthdays... (Part 1)

With four days of celebrations and more to come, I thought I'd give you a little rundown of what I did and where, just because I'm so overwhelmed by it all, I have to share!  Seeing as we did so much I’m going to break it down in to four parts…
Thursday – the day itself!
The highlights:
  • early morning card opening with my Boy.
  • birthday bling
  • homemade macaroons
  • Biscuiteers delivery
  • afternoon tea
  • wearing red for the first time
  • beeeeeeoooooootiful gifts
  • surprise cocktails and dinner with the girls
  • table dancing!
I started off the day a bit tired and hazy after a rather late evening at work on the Wednesday, and then ridiculous train delays, so it meant all my birthday prep (nails, packing, etc) took me late in to the night. Mr G came home early from his night shift and woke me with cards and his present – some SERIOUS birthday bling!
Birthday Bling from the Boy!
The conversation went something like this
Me: is that diddy bag from you?
Mr G (in a no-sleep daze): muh
Me: that is not Mulberry handbag-shaped. That is jewellery shaped.
Mr G: yuh
Me: this is both risky and exciting…
Mr G: buh
*I unwrap the blingiest ring since the engagement bling came my way that snowy day in NYC*
Me: OMG!
Mr G: uh?
Me: I LOVE it. Totes amaze!
I then proceeded to stare at it all day in a way I expect new mothers do with their newborn child. The boy done good!
Biscuiteers arrival from Jasmine!
So anyway, I digress! I toddled off to the station, treated myself to a birthday Black Forest hot chocolate, spent the commute answering calls, texts and Facebook messages from all my buddies and then spent the rest of the day working really hard (obvs!), collecting personal packages from the mail room, including my birthday dress and a beautiful personalised Biscuiteers biscuit from my friend Jasmine, nibbling Nora's homemade macaroons, having a long chatty lunch (totes) and then enjoyed a scrummy afternoon tea with my work girls in our in-house bar and cafĂ© on Level 4 (which I refer to as “the resort” floor)…  having seen them all only a hour previously for a big lunch, it was rather indulgent to then stuff my face with dinky sandwiches (with crusts removed), scones and mini pastries, but hey, you only turn 30 once!

mmmmmmm macaroons

The girls bought me a beautiful, delicate Alex Monroe bracelet from Astley Clarke (the home of the other little blue box to get excited about). So lucky!
Afternoon tea
After tea time, and a brief return to my desk, I took myself off to the loos (Boots advert style) to get ready for my surprise night out with the School Girls.
Blue birthday box!
It was all kept top secret from me and Kim B was the chosen one, sent by Kim S to collect me from the office and deliver me to the secret location. With a red herring clue thrown in by Kim S about the lack of time “to go home to change” and so I had to get changed at work, I assumed we were heading back out of London and to somewhere near home and it was only when I clocked the Oyster come out of Kim’s pocket (we recently saved ourselves £500 by removing Zone 1 from our annual season tickets) that I realised we were to be partying in central London.
Kooky cocktails at Foundation
A quick tube hop from the Wharf to Covent Garden and we found ourselves in Foundation having pink champagne and kooky cocktails in jam jars, poured from tea pots and served with custard creams or in margarita glasses with the salt replaced with popping candy.  What made it even more surprising was that Lucy had said she was working late (a lie) and burst in with a birthday balloon, and Liz, Caroline and Kim S trekked all the way to London for the night out (Katie and Kim B already being Londonites!). We were having a great time, catching up, opening presents (SO many gorgeous presents – my girls know me so well!) and drinking our cocktails, when an announcement was made. I had to drink up. NOW!
And that was that. I went to the loo and returned to find all my bits and bobs had been packed up and we were on our way…
…to Circus!!!!!
drinks at Circus

I’d been going on and on about this restaurant and bar since I’d seen it on the last season of The Apprentice. I considered it for a work Christmas party venue (and discounted it on the basis of the potential nudity… after the previous year’s, uh, mishap!) and so was desperate to find another reason to go.
And my girls got me in!
Totes amaze.
Girls at the top table
They were so sneaky on arrival in not letting the waitress see us to our table and ushered me through to the bar where we had some more bubbly… and then they unveiled the last surprise of the night – we were on the Top Table, the table that the performers use as a stage throughout the evening. It’s so hard to get booked in on here, and when you do, it costs you an arm and a leg in cheeky set-menu costs, but somehow they managed to not only get us on there, but got us the option of the a la carte menu.
just your average entertainment - two girls and a hoop!
It. Was. Brilliant. Contortionists, girls hanging from hoops, dancing brides, fire breathers… they were great. Even better that the menu is full of Asian cuisine (my fave) and as we watched the glittery girls and guys perform their hearts out, I was stuffing my face with assorted dim sum and Thai green curry. Yummy scrummy in my tummy.
After the whole restaurant sang happy birthday (to a number of other people as well) and I’d blown out the candle on my jar-cake, of course we Essex girls were the first ones up and dancing on the table.
"all the single ladies..."
And that was where we stayed until I had to drag the Yummy Mummies (Kim S and Caroline) in to a cab to make the last train home.
I finally made it to bed at 2.30am overwhelmed and emotional at the birthday love I’d received and the effort everyone had gone to for l’il old me.
Totes emosh!
Table dancing at 30 - aging disgracefully!
Part two coming soon, plus a more detailed review of Circus in the coming weeks!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Birthday by numbers

Here are some quick figures for you
  • 4 days of partying – and yet more to come in the next two weeks
  • 5 hours of sleep between each birthday event
  • 3 blisters on each foot from my party shoes
  • 2 big fat surprises
  • 1 transvestite contortionist
  • 2 girls hanging from a hoop
  • 7 girls dancing on a table
  • 2 dresses purchased
  • 1 dress broken and returned before even being worn
  • 8 ginormous balloons
  • 5 normal-sized balloons
  • 3 secret squirrels
  • 2 leftover cupcakes
  • 1 reconditioned amphibious military vehicle
  • 1 hidden bar
  •  7 courses of exquisite food
  • 752 photos – yet to be edited
  • 1 beautiful book full of gorgeous words (triggering countless tears and giggles)
  • 4 huge breaths for 4 different lots of candles
  • 5 birthday outfits
  • 100, or so, of the loveliest family and friends a girl could ask for!
  • 1 chuffed, spoilt, overwhelmed and completely surprised Birthday Girl!
The birthday rundown is coming soon... as soon as I repay my sleep debt!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Turning thirty

So I mentioned that I have a birthday coming up. A big one. 
Tomorrow I turn thirty.
Yay me!

And then I thought no, not yay me, but oh my I turn thirty in a matter of hours and I have so much left to do before then
And I’m not talking about party admin or outfit planning, I’m talking about life!
I have so much more to do with my life before I turn thirty… I started to panic about the fact that I don’t have a bucket list.
I never learned Japanese – is there time? Can I do that overnight with one of those audio CDs?
I haven’t bungee jumped – and now never will, after that unfortunate incident with the crocs.
I haven’t run the marathon – thank god – it sounds and looks like hell!
I haven’t started my own business – I just haven’t had the time… but who does?
I haven’t seen the Northern Lights – if I spend a fortune flying there, who can guarantee I’ll see them?
I haven’t… erm…
Well, I thought about it and there aren’t really any proper goals I set out to achieve before turning 30, just two pretty standard ones.
The first was to visit every inhabited continent. I achieved that in March. Go me.
The second, was to earn a six figure salary. Well, I set that goal in my first year of sixth form. I then interned in the marketing department at an automotive OEM in my third year of university and realised that it was an entirely unrealistic goal with my chosen career path, and one that would leave me sorely disappointed. I revised that goal to read “I shall double my starting salary (i.e. the salary from my first full time job after leaving uni) by the time I reach 30”. And again, I scraped in by the skin of my teeth this year. Also, go me!
I cut it fine with both of them. But so what. I set a goal and a time limit and I did it.
If I’m honest, I could have achieved them long ago had I made different choices over the past ten years. Had I taken a year out to go travelling, had I stayed in financial services, or been a bit more ambitious cut-throat about my career decisions.
But I didn’t and I wasn’t.
I made those decisions and I look back and I’m comfortable with everything I did. In hindsight would I have changed anything? Errrrrrrrrrrm….
And do you know why?
Because I wasn’t living my life on the basis of a list of things I wrote down and ticking them off. I’m normally a list maker – party planning, holiday packing, outfit construction, new year resolutions. But I made those two goals as a loose life plan (i.e. see the world and earn enough money, to do so in some level of comfort) and until a few months ago I hadn’t really given them much thought – they kind of just happened.
Now I’m questioning myself. Why didn’t I bother with a bucket list? Should I have been a bit more organised about my life plan?
I suppose I don’t have a bucket list because, despite planning everything else IN my life to the letter, I left the direction of my life in general, to take its own course. I think I’ve just always been satisfied, no, actually, I think the word is happy, with who I am, where I’m going, why I’m going there and with whom I am travelling! If I want to do/buy/have/experience something, I just get on with it and do it, or at least attempt to. If I don’t want to do it, there’s usually some reason why and I move on.  If I can’t do it, I may have a little tantrum and then get over it and on with something else. I didn’t say “I want to be married before I’m thirty” I said “I feel like we’re ready to get married – let’s get the hell on with it”. Yes I set him a deadline, yes I planned that wedding. To. The. Letter.  But it wasn’t because it was on a list. It was because I just wanted to do it. I haven’t ticked a load of items off a list because I don’t feel like I’ve needed to. Obviously I have down days where I covet someone else’s life/belongings/bank balance (you know, like a Chanel handbag or something), but essentially, I’m happy floating (and sometimes plodding) along in Victoria World!
I’ve seen a lot of the (actual) world, and I will spend the rest of my life exploring more of it.
I own a lovely home and we’re about to buy a new one.
I have a good job in a great company.
I am surrounded by wonderful people – my husband, my family, my friends
I drive a nice car, I have a pretty cool wardrobe, I had an amazeballs wedding, I have a great collection of shoes, we own more DVDs that your average Blockbuster. I’ve eaten high quality caviar and drunk f**k off expensive champagne. I’ve watched the sun set over seven continents and stayed up to watch it rise more times than I can count (in the usual places like an Ibizan beach and the more unusual like a hill in Sheffield). I’ve had a “lock in” with the Beefeaters at the Tower of London, partied with celebrities and been “papped” leaving a London club (they wanted the celeb – not me!). I’ve danced my heart out under the open sky in the rain and the sun. I’ve been proposed to in a snow-drifted Central Park. I’ve spoken to my friends as they felt their contractions and held a baby that’s only hours old. I’ve saved an almost-drowning child (when I was only a child myself) and I’ve stepped in to fights I’ve seen on the streets (and on a train) to protect those less able to protect themselves. I’ve been swimming with dolphins, hyperventilated whilst scuba diving and discovered a talent for windsurfing. I’ve eaten an oyster and hated it. I’ve eaten foie gras and (sorry) I liked it. I’ve donated blood and been very close to donating my bone marrow. I’ve been a bridesmaid three times, and still managed to be a bride. I’ve had my heart broken and I’ve had it fixed. I’ve been to the biggest party on Earth, and survived! I’ve been disappointed, I’ve been proud and I’ve been humbled. I’ve chosen not to dabble with Ouija boards, but have tried my luck with tarot. I’ve always been honest, and it’s often gotten me in to trouble. I learned to dance professionally, just for fun. I’ve swum a mile for the sake of a badge. I’ve turned up to the wrong exam, having done no prep, and managed to ace it, with a borrowed book and an hour of cramming on the floor in the corridor. I’ve bunked off school, I got a tattoo and (whilst plucking up the courage) got my belly button and ears pierced an unnecessary number of times! I’ve embarrassed myself more times than I care to remember.  I got drunk when I was far too young to understand what my hangover was from stolen dregs as a grown up party. I’ve learned a new language, and I’ve never used it. I’ve flunked a subject at uni (bringing my average down so I didn’t get the First I was predicted) so I could see Girls Aloud mime on a stage in Great Yarmouth. I’ve been in very serious trouble and learned from my mistake. I’ve fallen asleep under the stars, and in a toilet cubicle. I’ve partied all night, showered and gone straight to work. I’ve partied all night and I’ve slept so long that I’ve missed almost a whole weekend. I’ve never touched a cigarette nor an illegal drug, but I have broken in to the medicine cabinet, worked out the child lock and eaten a while bottle of Hariborange. I’ve fallen off a (very big) horse, and gotten straight back on. I’ve worked for some of the most well-known companies in the world, and I’ve worked as a shot girl in the grottiest clubs you’ll ever see. I have seen a dead body and I was strong. I have thrown a coin in the Trevi fountain and I will one day return.
What haven’t I done?
What do I want to do?
But I don’t need a list.
So I'll see you on the other side… It’s all downhill  still uphill to 40, or so I’ve heard!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Today, was full of them!

Monday, 23 January 2012

When can I be you?

me being the chick off the vodka menu at Revolution... or a lady bird. Either or.
I don’t really wish that I was anyone else but me, living any other life than my own, but every now and again, usually in the middle of my morning commute, I have a flicker of a fantasy and dream that I might be someone else*, some recent faves would be:
  1. The Duchess of Cambridge – well, obvs. Who wouldn’t want to have walked down that aisle in that dress on that day? And I bet even she sits there sometimes dreaming of wearing that crown
  2.  P.Middy – see above.
  3. Nigella/Kirstie (interchangeable in my head) – because they make being a domestic goddess look so fabulous and fun. In reality it is neither!
  4. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – uh, you’ve seen her, right? 
  5. Holly Willobooby – because I would love to just sit and chat on a sofa all day, with Phil, in pretty dresses, and get paid for it. Oh, and also because I would like to be besties with Fearne!
Ask me on a different day and I’m likely to give you another name, based on the book I’m reading, the magazine I’m flicking through or what I’m watching on telly.  Sometimes fantasy world is way more fun than the real world. Only sometimes though!
To counter the above I would also like to tell you about people I am glad that I’m not…
Well, firstly, the above
  1. Can you imagine the pressure? Jeez. I bet she just wants to put on a hoodie put her hair in a messy pony and pop round to her mate’s for a cuppa. Unlucky. Also, one word – Diana!
  2. The most famous “second prize” in the world.
  3. What if they just want to eat a pot noodle? Or buy a wardrobe from Ikea?
  4. Imagine trying to change careers from “gorgeous bit” to “talented actress” or “UN  Ambassador” or “political candidate”…
  5. Hmmmm – I can see no negatives here. oh... I didn't plan that one very well did I?
And a few others:    
  1. Angelina Jolie – she looks so flipping stressed out. Chill out. Eat biscuits. Get a baby sitter. Crack a god damn smile
  2. Victoria Beckham – give her a break
  3. Lady Gaga – how would I admire her if I was her (this also goes for Madonna)
  4. Gwyneth Paltrow – the most boring woman in the world? What I would do with her life if I could get my hands on it...
  5. Kate Moss – she must be flipping knackered! I bet she’s gagging for a lie down and a detox
  6. Lindsay Lohan – one word: whoops
  7. Britney Spears – I mean, no one likes getting up and going to work, but at least when I’m having a “I hate my job” day I don’t have millions of people looking at me expecting me to be something I was ten years ago
  8. Cheryl Cole – someone give that girl a hug
  9. Winona Ryder – loo. laa.
  10. Jennifer Aniston – Great body, great hair, great comic timing – great big fat ex splashed all over the papers every day with his new bird and their 25 kids. Mmmmmmmotivational!
So there you go kids. Be true to yourself, the grass isn’t always greener, be who you are and be happy in your own skin… or some other kind of motivational message. Being rich/gorgeous/famous/the future Queen isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

* Please note that this is different to girl crushes! You can’t have a girl crush on yourself now, can you?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

This weekend I…

Got paid, but managed to refrain from spending it all! Good Victoria! I went home and…
Stuffed my face with Thai takeaway and watched telly with Mr G. It doesn’t happen often, so I was excited about it… Mr G? Well he fell asleep, so I….

Made an infestation of paper pom poms for mine and lucy’s birthday party (I don’t suppose that there is a collective noun for paper pom poms, but as they look like an infestation of alien, or deep sea, life forms, that is how I shall refer to them henceforth) until one in the morning so I was quite tired when we…
Got up early to get in seven house viewings before we…
Met the in laws for a big family lunch for Baby G’s birthday. Prosecco and fish n chips in the middle of the day – rather luxurious, but not conducive to paying much attention on…
Two more house viewings, before…
Heading back to the in law’s for more prosecco whilst Baby G and her cute mates got ready for a big girlie night out (I’m defo getting old as their heels looked so uncomfortable and they looked like they’d get a bit chilly!) while we finished off the prosecco and watched a bit of telly before…
An early night Chez Moi with my book as today I had another busy day of…
Meeting Jasmine at the Secret Garden for tea, chats, lunch and more chats, finishing just in time to…

Pop round to see Lucy about birthday plans, outfits and decorations, and have a swift cuppa, when her mummy arrived, and we made her a bit late for her birthday dinner with her in laws, so I headed home to…
Make more paper pom poms, watch Poirot, Call the Midwife, plan some outfits for my various birthday events, and the other birthday parties that follow, and have a few cups of tea whilst I wait for Mr G to come home from work…

I am SO looking forward to next week!

This Week

Last week was pretty rubbish, but I got through it.
This coming week is full of big, and poignant, dates for the world:
·         Chinese New Year  – Kung Hey Fat Choi!
·         Burn’s Night –  Gie her a haggis!
·         Australia Day – Throw another shrimp on the Barbie!  
·         Republic Day in India – get Drumming! 
·         Holocaust Memorial Day – let us never, ever, forget

In my little world, I have my own big date to celebrate.

I turn 30 on Thursday 26th January and I have lots of things to look forward to – afternoon tea with the girls at work and my school friends have a secret evening planned for me that same day. Mr G has planned a secret day out on the Friday and Saturday will see Lucy and myself get all dressed up for our joint birthday party. Then in February my Disney Princesses have requested I keep a date free in February for some kind of surprise...

I am a very lucky girl!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Sparkly rainbow socks

This week was a bit rubbish. In fact, thus far, the whole year hasn’t been great.

Various things were getting me down, and I was finding it very hard to be cheerful, but then all of a sudden this morning, and I have no idea why it happened today, I felt so much happier.
Maybe it’s because it’s pay day? Because it was finally the end of the week, or because I knew I was getting Thai takeaway for dinner? Maybe it was because I have a feeling that, of the eight houses we’re viewing tomorrow, I think one of them will be the one we buy? Maybe it was because I ate chocolate panettone for breakfast? Maybe it’s because I had an arty-crafty evening planned, because I ticked some things off my to-do list at work, and sorted out some personal admin? Maybe it’s because Blue Monday is over with and everything has to get better now. Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday next week?
Maybe it was because I wore socks covered in glittery rainbows in my Uggs en route to the station?
Who knows. Who cares. What matters is that I cheered the hell up.
And this is why.
I have LOTS to be happy about. Obviously I highlighted a few of those things in this little “looking back and looking forward” post on new year’s eve and new year’s day, but the list should run deeper than that, i.e. in to my soul… not my diary!
I know I might have my whinging and whining periods (sorry guys!), but I promise you, every night when I get in to bed I say my prayers (in a particular order, due to an OCD thing I developed as a child) and then I also say a little list of thank yous.
For example:
1.       I’m thankful for the loving, supportive people that surround me
2.       I’m thankful for my healthy, fully functioning, mind and body (most of the time)
3.       I’m thankful for the roof over my head and the food in my fridge
4.       I’m thankful for the choices that I have
5.       I’m thankful for the experiences I have had and those that are yet to come
It’s not a religious thing, not a spiritual nor a superstitious thing – though those three things figure a lot in my life, but shall remain private.
It’s just my pragmatic side.
No matter what’s going on, when I’m ranting about the glass half empty, woe is me, I’m so hard done to and life isn’t fair, I know that at the end of every day, I will sit and take stock and be realistic.
I give myself a mental slap, and then a mental cuddle.
Life doesn’t always go the way I want it to, things don’t always go to plan, people will let me down, things will upset me, things will go horribly wrong, I may cry, I may shout, I may be nasty and then feel ashamed or sad.
But at the end of the day (literally), it always turns out ok. I make sure of it.
Night night
P.s. I also purchased lots of shoes. That helps cheer me up a lot!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Blue Monday

Yesterday was Blue Monday. Apparently it's mathematically the most depressing day of the year. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't the best day for me. In fact it was pretty cr*ppy.

I was officially the Chief Grumpus. But you know what? A onsie, a cuddle, a cuppa, a Toffee Crisp, a chat, a hot water bottle and some sleep made it all better. Mostly.

Sleep and love make it all better. Oh, and a onsie!

Do you want to hear the best bit?

If that was the most depressing day of the year, things can only get better from now on, right?

I am determined to cheer my ar*e up from now on in...

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Team GB

I saved some bunting for all my Red, White and Blue parties!
I don’t go in for sport. I don’t get how people can get so worked up about a bunch of over-paid, under-educated dudes in coloured shirts running around on a pitch chasing a ball. Is it worth getting upset over? Is it really worth fighting over? I suppose that’s just football. I despise football, footballers, and anything to do with the sport with the deepest of passions. Sorry, but I can’t help it.
But I don’t get other sport, either to be honest. I’ve never been in to outdoor pursuits, I much prefer to be indoors. If I’m outdoors it tends to be for shopping, sunbathing or partying. Watching people run around on a muddy field in the wind and rain? Well – I did it twice, and that was that! My father remarked how it truly must have been love!
At school I faked asthma attacks, hid down alleyways and in toilets and gave long, forthright speeches about how PE should be cancelled and we should be taught worthwhile subjects like languages and grammar and comprehension in it’s place. They usually resulted in me doing those things, on my own, in my head of year’s office.
What they did instead of teaching us “worthwhile” subjects, was to push two periods together, march us all out on to a field (in PE knickers, hockey socks and polo shirts… really? REALLY?), made us wait in a queue for our turn with the shot put or to make an attempt at the long jump, and then we’d head back inside. That was in the summer months.
In the winter we had delights such as cross country (I ran quite a good time the first time, as it was bloody freezing and I wanted to get back inside. After that they tried to make me join the running club. Quick thinking on my part and a well timed asthma attack [fake] and they left me alone) and “team sports”. Well this would include delights such as “football skills”. I distinctly remember one lesson where our teacher, who shall remain nameless, put me on a week of detentions because I wouldn’t lie down in the mud so that I could learn how to “fall” when I “dived” for an attempt at the goal. She was trying to show us how we should hit the ground knee-hip-shoulder-arm so as to avoid injury.
My point that we would better avoid injury if we didn’t bother diving at all, and in fact if we went back inside, didn’t seem to go down too well.
We then learned about “headers”. Where, I kid you not, we lined up and she walked along the line with a wet, muddy football and threw it at each one of our faces. So we knew exactly where we should be aiming to connect with the ball. Obvs. I pointed out that this was irrelevant for me, as I wouldn’t be attempting to go near the ball with my feet, let alone my head. She persisted, on the basis that it was an integral part of the curriculum. She did not react well when I requested to see it (the curriculum) before she hit me in the face with a football. She also did not react well when I told her that if it (the football) came within one metre of my face I would be calling the police, the school governors and my mother (in that order) and naming her in a GBH accusation.
I never learned how to head a ball.
I did learn where the head of PE’s office was.
And where to take my lines at the end of my detention.
Anyway, I digress. I’ve never been bothered about sport. The most excited I get is when Wimbledon’s on, but that’s because of the food, outfits, Cliff Richard, the elitism (“oh, we’re on Centre, where are you sitting?”) and celeb spotting, sometimes Royalty spotting. But the Olympics… well that’s a whole different story.
All of a sudden I’m glued to the TV.
But it’s not for the sport. It’s for the sUPport. The way the whole nation, for a 14 day period stops fighting with each other and griping about the country and we stand together and cheer! Cheer for normal people doing something they love.
And that makes my heart swell with pride. I pride I reserve for when I really love my country. It doesn’t happen often (royal weddings, armistice day, the Olympics, the Proms) but when it does I cry like a baby. Pride in the sportsperson who’s doing it, not for £14 million a week, but for the love of the game, the glory of the win and the spirit of the nation. Pride in the team around them and, ultimately, a pride in the country we’re all cheering for.  That commentary, when Kelly Holmes was running for gold? (didn’t the commentator got a slapped wrist for losing his cool and cheering her on…?) I remember sitting in front of the telly with my whole family, screaming for her to win. In that second, there was nothing that would ever be more important than her body crossing the line first. And when she did, I cried. In fact, remembering it now I’m welling up. I suppose, I can kind of see why people might get that excited about sport all the time. Maybe.
Let’s not start talking about the medal montages at the end of the games. I think my keyboard might short circuit if I cry much more…
So anyway, I’m excited about the fact that this year’s Olympics will be hosted by London, one of the greatest cities in the world, in my humble opinion, and in a stadium that happens to be 30 minutes from my house. And that, my friends is why I’ve gone a bit red, white and blue mad!

Patriotic snacks from my Royal Wedding party
The Olympic flame is coming through my town, so I’ll be there to wave and cheer as it goes by, I’m thinking about a party for that, a party for the opening ceremony, a party for the closing ceremony, oh and a MAHusive party for Queenie’s Diamond Jubilee. I know it’s not sport related, but it’s red white and blue related, and in my book, that means a party!

Come on Team GB, let’s show the world how it’s done. If those NYE fireworks were anything to go by, it’s going to be amazeballs.
I want to hear that national anthem a LOT this summer, and I want to hear no British-Bashing for a whole three months, please.
Hats and flags at the ready…
... and some booze!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Self promotion: Istanbul

Check me out on Florence Finds this week reviewing Istanbul as a holiday destination: http://www.florencefinds.com/destination-guide-istanbul/

Yay me!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Stamp collecting

So the last few years have seen me complete my goal of Visiting Every (inhabited*) Continent Before I’m Thirty, take a honeymoon, book a few holidays we (shouldn’t have) spent all our savings on, attended a few destination weddings and hen dos and coerce my darling husband to take me on, or at least not tell me off for booking, a rather large number of weekend breaks.
I’m not going to lie, one of the main reasons I get up and go to work every morning is so that I can earn enough money to see the world and experience its wonders. There are other reasons as well (and no, not just so I can buy Chanel handbags) but that is pretty high up the list of motivators!

Growing up with a rather internationally focussed family I was lucky to holiday abroad a lot as a child, and to spend a lot of time, not just in hotels and holiday resorts but also in family homes in residential towns and really life and breath the local culture. I started a “top five” list of places I was desperate to visit when I was at school, when I was probably about 13 or 14 (I date my school memories based on the form room I was in at the time). I think this is why the list I came up with included Moscow, Cairo, New Orleans, New York and Ghana.
I think you can safely say that I was heavily influenced by the TV and Film I watched at the time (Poirot: Cairo, Dr Zhivago: Moscow, Friends: New York) and the literature I managed to get my hands on (one of my fave books from childhood, Great Comfort: Ghana , Interview with the Vampire: New Orleans).
Have I managed to visit those places?
Not all of them. Cairo and New York got ticked off quite quickly (New York repeatedly so) , Moscow is being a bit evasive – I keep meaning to go, but other places keep popping up. New Orleans is the same. I almost booked to go to Mardi Gras last year en route to Rio Carnival but sadly I’m not a millionaire, nor have I perfected the art of teleportation and time travel, and so I had to be realistic. Ghana, well, that one keeps dropping further down the list as I find more and more places to drag Mr G along to.
I have however been lucky enough to visit a number of other exotic places in the meantime, South East Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Australia, North and South America, northern and southern Africa, the Middle East, the north, south, east and west of Europe and a few tropical islands here and there. I’m really pleased with some of my stamps. My current fave is the Mauritian Dodo. Too cute!
Shall I tell you what I haven’t done?
Travel around my own country.
Until 2007 I had never been further north in the UK than Yorkshire. That year was the first of two trips I made to Scotland, both to Edinburgh. I turn 30 in just under three weeks and I’ve still never been to Ireland nor Wales – and I have family living in both! I am ashamed of myself.  I did swing by Cornwall once for a girl’s holiday when we were 15/16, but I don’t recall much from that trip, I popped in to Brighton for a night and to visit one of my Power Puff Girls in Sheffield at uni, again, the details are a bit hazy, a few hen dos in Bath and Cambridge get me a few more ticks and I went to the Cotswolds in July last year for a gorgeous wedding. But that’s it. I’ve never been to Oxford (unless you count Bicester shopping village?), Manchester, Liverpool (a European Capital of Culture, no less), Newcastle, Birmingham. I’ve never seen Stonehenge, Cheddar Gorge, the Angel of the North, Fountains Abbey.
Shameful really isn’t it? I’ve spent time and money exploring the world and yet know nothing about my own country’s geography. I suppose I could justify it by saying that I spend a lot of time in London – one of the greatest cities in the world. Or maybe I’m just being lazy?
Nothing demonstrates my complete lack of domestic geography better than some puzzles we have at my parents’ to play with over Christmas. They’re wooden jigsaws of various places with country/state/county borders denoting the shape of the pieces.

Now, I looked at the one of the world and I put it together in less than three minutes. Easy peasy. The states of the USA? Probably less than seven minutes.
The counties of the UK?
Well, it blows my mind that the other day on CBB (I don’t watch it, but I caught a round up with that chick that’s married to that drummer**, the other day), Kirk from TOWIE couldn’t pin point where Las Vegas was on a map of the world. And he’d BEEN there. He’d been on a plane, booked some flights, arranged visas/ESTAs. Surely he must have had some idea? Nope! I think he stuck it up in Siberia or something!
Well that was me with the counties of the UK puzzle. Hours I tell you. Literally hours. Like, an episode of Dr Who, and two Harry Potter films (we do lots of pyjama snuggling in front of Christmas DVDs in my parents’ house on Boxing Day) and I was still going. I’m so stubborn so I refused help for a long time but in the end I completed it with a few clues on motorways and the rest by shape-and-hole trial and error.
And that is one of the reasons I included Number 10 on my list of resolutions for this year: to travel more, including within the UK.
To that end, in addition to my trips to Ireland (for a wedding) and to the USA’s west coast (roooooooooad triiiiip) and hopefully a little trip in the late summer, to spend all Mr G’s hard-earned Olympic overtime cash, I vow to visit at least two new places that don’t require a passport. I’ll put my hands up now and admit I won’t be doing any of the nature stuff: Britain’s wonderful  beaches, the Lake District, the New Forest, the Peak District (where are these places?! Are they near each other?), but I’m going to focus on the cities. I’m a city girl – I need shops, cocktail bars, boutique hotels… Any suggestions?
Answers (topically) on a postcard please…
* I caveat the goal with “inhabited” as my aunt maintains that I haven’t completed the goal unless I visit Antarctica. As the standard of boutique accommodation are not quite, erm, up to the level I would expect for the £8,500 it would cost (yes I have looked in to it. No I won’t be going for a while yet) I’m choosing to leave this one out of the “goal” and just claim that I completed it.

** I’m getting soooooo old!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Diamonds AREN'T a girl's best friend

Girls are.

Today I read Grazia magazine for the first time in ages. For the last few months I’ve been ploughing through the Song of Ice and Fire series on my daily commutes, and so there hasn’t been much time for magazines. But my god I missed them. Those books are deeeeeeeeeeeeeepressing. I’m on book four of seven (though the third book is split in to two parts, so really I’ve read five!) and my word, they need to lighten up and stop killing, maiming and raping and just chill the hell out. I have book-completion OCD so I’m going to have to finish the series before HBO over sexualises them and slaps them all over Sky Atlantic but I’m allowing myself a little break whilst I wait for the paperback version of book five. It has to be a pretty special book for me to carry a hardback, THAT big around.

Anyway, back to Grazia. I was reading a story about a girl who, in reference to Angelina’s confession that she had no female friends, also admitted that she had no friends.

This news did not shock me.  

To start, of COURSE Angelina has no girlie friends. Every female on the planet is scared that she’ll lure their HABs in to her sex-nest with vials of blood and keep them there forever, so most sane women steer well clear (well done Vanessa!). Secondly, she’s doesn’t strike me as the “pop round for a cuppa and a gossip” kinda gal. I mean, she has like twenty kids or something, as if she has time, she’s ripped (clearly not enough Jaffa Cake dunking*) and probably spends 22 hours a day in the gym/avoiding food and she lives in houses all over the world, depending on what she’s filming. Of course she doesn’t do Victoria Beckham/Eva Longoria-style girlie nights in!

But, back to the journalist. Where the Angelina story didn’t even make me blink, the journalist’s story saddened me. She, at her own admission, sounded so lonely. Granted, she said her husband was her best mate, as he well should be in my humble opinion. As is mine, God love him. But as I sat there on the train home, I thought about how much time I spend alone, due to Mr G’s work. How many events, parties, big occasions I have to go to on my own due to his anti-social shift patterns. If I didn’t have my friends (and also my, and his, family) I would be a very lonely girl. There’s always someone around for a girlie night in, a girlie night out or to take his place at a big event. That is why I’m unlikely to ever move far from my current hometown – I don’t cope well with solitude and loneliness, and especially not without my best girls. 

Hens. The memories. I heart.
 Because of my own reliance on my girlfriends, I spent most of my twenties being suspicious of girls that didn't have close female friends. As I embark upon my thirties I feel sorry for them. I speak about my friends on here a lot. And that’s because I couldn’t imagine my life without them. I know I'm not alone in having this tight circle of girlfriends - books and articles are written about sisterhood, songs sung about girl power and sticking with your girls, TV programmes and films are made about groups of girls and how they live their lives with each other. Girls and their friendships will always be a much-covered subject, and part of my everyday life. Part of my every waking moment. This is not a unique scenario, but to me, my friends are the best ever, and so I shall tell you about them, in fact, about us below.

There’s the group of eight girls from school that I would call my Besties, and within that group, close partnerships have formed and ever-evolving sub-groups are created depending on our current life scenarios – motherhood, travelling, city life. We've come a long way together, we’re as close as family, sometimes bickering like family as well. But try and break us from the outside and we’re like dogs (no b!tch comments please), loyal to the very, very end, no matter what has gone before. We regroup and come back fighting - for each other. We may have become friends before we even hit our teens, when our lives were all very similar, but now, amongst us there are marrieds, co-habitees and sexy singletons, career girls, stay at home mums, working mums, homebodies and perpetual travellers. Those that are a bit more grown up and settled and those that are slightly less so, but I think I can speak for us all when I say that we wouldn’t be without each other, and we certainly wouldn’t be who we are, where we are or with the people that we are, without each other. We boost each other, nuture each other, look after each other and support each other.*

Old School
There’s also another little group of three of us, also my Besties. We were thrown together by a number of chance meetings, and on reflection we can’t believe it took us so long to meet, with all the chances and crossed-path opportunities there were. We are, again, a super-close little group, at similar stages in our lives and we are never very far from one another, physically or mentally. I joke about us being Disney Princesses or the Powder Puff Girls from Nickelodeon – a blond, a redhead and a brunette (me), it’s like we were born to be a set. People are wrong when they say Three’s a Crowd. I agree with Andy Warhol. Three’s a party! Add in both their rather lovely sisters (I’m so lucky I get two lots of two-for-one) and that’s a full blown rave! Everyone who meets them at my parties comments on how I should hire them out as a comedy double act. Well I shan’t they’re mine. All mine!

Disney Princesses through the ages - and dressing up box!

Then there’s a little group of ladies I like to call my Luvvies or the Tea Bags. Some of the Luvvies are are closer to my mother’s age than mine (one, even, is older than my mum), but I formed some strong friendship bonds with them during my nine-year stint working together at a tea shop (hence the name the Tea Bags!) and quite frankly I have so much fun giggling, gossiping and gobbling cake and cocktails with these ladies over the years that I also couldn’t imagine living my life without them. They are wise, offer a different perspective on things to my friends that are closer to my age, and never fail to cheer me up. 

The Luvvies
 Along the way I’ve acquired other girlfriends too in various walks of life, particularly at work. I’m not going to name names, but you know who you are. Someone wise once said to me “you don’t go to work to make friends, you go to work to get your head down and get on with it”. She’s normally right, but not always. I would say I’ve made some lovely girlfriends in the workplace. We spend more time in the office than we do at home, and it’s not always nice, so having wonderful colleagues to help and support you through it, makes all the difference - that's how they become true friends. Friends from home will be equally supportive but having someone who knows, who understands the exact circumstances and the context of your issue makes a big difference. So you can’t help but bond more closely with the people sharing it with you. I wouldn’t change those dark days for anything – out of those dark days came wonderful friendships. No matter where in the world my colleagues and ex-colleagues are, you are with me every day that I sit at my computer (not just in my inbox!) helping me through daily working life.  

My two-for-ones

Add to the above, that each of my girlfriends comes complete with her own little family that has welcomed me in, whether it’s their siblings, children, partners, or their own extended friendship groups, they have in turn become friends of mine too. The fact that we’re tied together, means we’re tied to each other’s families too. And I love it. I grew up with these girls, and continue to grow with them, and so their families are as much a part of my life as they are, as my family is to them.

the boys.

I’m not going to mention the boys. I love ‘em, but this is about my girls. However, I will thank the boys (most of whom I’ve been mates with longer than I’ve been with  Mr G), as, along with the boys come the WAGs, and, though we may not have known each other for yonks, like my own girlfriends, within this little group I have not only a wonderful support network for when the boys just send us over the edge, but again made some lovely friends for life. It’s not unusual to find other WAGs that I can bond with – our boys are besties, so it makes sense that they’re with girls that get along independently. I’m not going to lie, things haven’t always run smoothly, but every day that we grow as a group, we grow as friends. 

The WAGs on tour - but two beautiful faces are missing :-(

Some special ladies that are technically family and even god-family, well, you're also friends. Special kinds of friends. The rest, I've acquired them along the way, they can always walk away... you and I come as a package and you're stuck with me forever, thanks to blood and vows to a higher power! I've never had sisters, but i've had friends that are as close as sisters. Now I have a little collection of "sisters" (and you Jo - I count you in there too!) that I love like friends!

Three of the four "god-sisters" :-)
Other friends I've made along the way at university, primary school, dance school, through family, on holidays, even as a result of my wedding - they are all important to me too, but probably hard to classify in to groups and I'd be here all night typing about them, but you get the picture!


family also count as friends :-)

But this isn’t just about times of support and help (that would be a bit selfish - and besides, I like to think that I give my support and assistance back in equal measures), but about times of celebrations. The birthdays, the hen dos, the weddings, the baby showers, the mad rush to the hospital when babies arrive, when we christen those babies and celebrate their birthdays… those wonderful special occasions wouldn’t have been anywhere near as magical without my girls to share them with.

As I learn to do things (mortgages, careers, marriage, maybe children) my girlfriends are doing them with me and are helping me along. As I encounter problems they're encountering them with me. They're a ready-made support network.
There's always someone who can help, both emotionally and practically. Within my group of closest girlfriends there are designers, artists, architects, singers, lawyers, hairdressers, accountants, stylists. No matter what my issue, question, problem there's always someone to assist.
I feel sorry for the girl in Grazia because my world wouldn’t be a world without my friends. They are the glue that holds my life together.
I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat it from my earlier post:

"Thank you to my friends, just for being amazing. You water me when I need to grow, you applaud me when I succeed, you hold me when I need to cry and you bandage me when I need to heal. Hallmark isn't wrong when it says that Friends are the family you choose for yourself"
(Me, 1st September 2011)

Will we always be friends? I think so, and I damn well hope so. Some of us have come and gone, and eventually returned, some of us have stayed firmly put, but in the end we always end up together. Maybe our geographical proximity will mean that we can’t walk away from each other? I'm sure I'll keep making new friends as well, as I start a family, change jobs, travel the world. Either way, no matter where in the world we are, nor what reason we are there, home is where my family and my friends reside. And I know my girls feel the same way. And if I'm honest I think we always will.
Home is where the heart is, and my friends and family live there too!

Journo from Grazia – if you’re ever in my ‘hood, swing by and we’ll go out for a drink.


* and we all said as much in a special book I made for Kim's 30th birthday: http://www.blurb.com/user/store/vikihalo
N.B. If your face is missing - don't take offence, I just couldn't find appropriate photos. But you're here in my head, and my heart, where it matters...