Monday, 28 February 2011

When did 1992 become retro?

We bought a car. I'm in love already. How could you not be, when the hand winding windows and the non-central locking remind you of being a teenager and the cassette player lets you listen to *genuine* 90s cassettes. Never did grunge sound so good but on the rear speaker-ed sound system and the actual key means you can both go surfing at the same time. [we haven't yet had time to do that with the new auto, but AUX's little zapper meant we either had to surf in tandem or entrust the keys to the National Trust car park man]. Plus you can listen to the radio when parked with the engine off with the window down. And then turn it off and wind it up and get out all without having to start the engine again. And did I mention we get to listen to all our 90s cassettes again. I knew there was a reason we never threw anything away... It's also only got 4 gears. Never again do I have to wonder, driving along the country lanes of Exmoor, whether I should be in 4th or 5th. No choice now. I told you it was love :)

(and when Husband pulled up he to collect me after work, he had to lean over to unlock the passenger door. I may be turning 30 next birthday, but I will forever more feel 17 and that "just off to a gig with my musician boyfriend*" excitement when my man has to lean over to unlock the passenger door for me - even if we are then driving to Taunton for him to get on the train)

*true story. he was a bassist.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Comic Relief

I know that some of you were slightly dubious about my sponsored posts but every now and then I am e-mailed about a cause which I feel does deserve the exposure.

In this instance, British Airways have teamed up with Comic Relief for a year long campaign called Flying Start to raise money to help transform the lives of disadvantaged children in the UK and around the world. They are kick starting the campaign with a headlining grabbing world record breaking comedy stunt on 12 March.




Dara O'Briain, Jack Whitehall and Jon Richardson will be teaming up with BA, Guinness World Records and will be setting the record for the 'Highest Stand-Up Comedy Gig in the World'.

The campaign will then continue for the rest of the year and BA customers will be invited to donate to Comic Relief. I personally come across children who have found themselves, at no fault of their own, in circumstances ranging from less than ideal to down right traumatic and will be pleased to support Comic Relief.

BA are also running a competition for 'audience' seats on this flight on 12th March - after all, is it really stand up comedy if there's no-one there to watch it? To be in with a chance of being one of 75 lucky people flying over the UK to enjoy two-and-a-half hours of stand-up for charity – including champagne and refreshments – fans can text 'Fly1' to 70300 or visit www.facebook.com/britishairways to enter the competition. Full terms and conditions are available from the Facebook page.

Whilst flying isn't really my thing by choice (I will take a plane if I have to, but I'd rather go to a gig on the ground) I will donate some of the fee for this post to Comic Relief.


Flying Start British Airways  Comic Relief  comedy  35000 feet


This is a Sponsored Post

 

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Teal and mustard






Photo by Toast

I love this combination of colours - it probably comes as no surprise that teal is one of my favourite colours. Last night I went to a Fashion Show*. Bearing in mind I live in a small village near a slightly larger town, I was really going along to support the charity. But, talented girl that I am, I can spend money anywhere and so I ended up buying a teal dress. Which would go perfectly with mustard. Only I am blonde, and don't own much (anything?) in mustard. Anyone got any ideas for me?


Photo of me, by me (obv) and please excuse the poor quality and poor lighting. And the fact you can see my pants drying on the rack. It was intended as a quick snap to e-mail to facebook (by popular demand I hasten to add - people wanted evidence that there was fashion to be had where I live) but I though, what the hell.


Photo of Tulips and weird pom pom flowers by me

These are the only mustard coloured items I am aware of in the house at the moment. I think they would look fab in a wedding bouquet. I am not sure that a bouquet is the right look for my teal dress though...

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* I tried to take some photos of the show but the models didn't pause for long enough and the lighting was terrible. The average age of the audience was definitely old enough to be my mother and the announcer had some strange ideas about "what all the magazines are doing" but, among the vast swathes of what can only be described as shit, were, occasional nice pieces. Like my teal dress. And the polka dot blouse with pussy bow that I am wearing today.

Monday, 21 February 2011

LFW - Things which have caught my attention (1)



Every morning I get up and leave the house within about 10 minutes of getting out of bed. Rare is the morning I look in the mirror til I get to work and I often have hair like that seen on the catwalk at Clements Ribeiro. (I wish my work clothes were more interesting to match). Pleasing to know that for once I am on trend, hair wise.

[sad not to be in London any more and missing out on all the LFW and LFWeekend goings on. But every year the interactive coverage gets better and better. I watched the Burberry show live through Liberty London Girl and have been flicking through all the shows on Style.com and their app on my iphone.]

Thursday, 17 February 2011

9 years

It was our 9th anniversary this month. 9 years since Husband and I met in a nightclub in our old university town. 9 years since our first date. We celebrated with fish and chips and a bottle of champagne. The same meal we ate when we got engaged. Same champagne producer. Same champagne that we had at our wedding.

Valentines Day, well, that was our 8th Valentines Day. The first time around, we'd only known each other a week. Which was *way* to early to be doing things like celebrating V-day. We met on a Thursday (identifiable only because we know what nightclub we met on therefore we knew what day of the week it was and each club had a different student night) during an evening which I can only remember in snap shots. We met over a cigarette. Romantic. (I wanted one, asked a friend for one I spotted on the dance floor, Husband offered me one of his). Those were the days when you could and did smoke in clubs and thinking about it now, it just seems so disgusting that I though nothing of dropping the butt on the floor. We danced. Kissed. Outside afterwards he offered me his jumper. It was grey. Fuzzy. He was wearing a white shirt. I was wearing a black lace top with jeans that didn't fit and wedge heeled sandals. I didn't want the night to end, so we went back to mine. Talked. Slept. The next morning. [Ok, afternoon, who am I kidding] we sat on my stairs as he rolled a cigarette and put his number into my phone. A pink sparkly nokia to match my Rancid band hoody.  . Oh yes, and the eye liner. Those were the days. His jeans had the inside seams cut, he was wearing brown boat shoes. I hated his name. But not him. A few days later, he texted. Can it really have been a few days, I can't imagine how I didn't call him. I remember the text. He called me honey. I danced around my room. He invited me to his for supper.

Which, working out the days, must have been 9 years this Tuesday or Wednesday. History doesn't relate if it was the Friday or the Saturday. But I remember the meal. Chicken stir fry, with wine and proper coffee afterwards. I'm not sure what impressed me the most - the fact he could cook or the fact he made proper coffee. I was so nervous I found it hard to eat. But we started talking and we haven't stopped since. It was perfect. I can't believe that was 9 years ago.

This year I ate alone on Valentine's Day. Our first though, he asked our friends that he lived with to go out. We'd been together a year, just celebrated my 21st birthday. I wore 'nice' underwear and boots. Made a real effort (looking back I can't believe what I was thinking - but all shoes in the early 2000s were hideous. Not just mine). I got a taxi. He cooked me supper - I can't remember what. I gave him a card. He didn't. Much like this year. A few weeks later we went to Paris. Drank red wine in cheap restaurants and ate steak and sat for 4 hours, confusing the waiter by ordering tea between courses. Smoked cigarettes and drank coffee in cafes. Drank cocktails full of sparklers.Went to galleries. Walked and talked. We're going back to Paris in April. Where we will take up smoking again, and sit for hours in cafes, talking and walking. We'll be together for almost 2 weeks and I can. not. wait.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Spring wardrobe wish list

(Skirt by Hush, shoes by Topshop, bag by Marc by Marc Jacobs via Net a Porter)

It may be pissing with rain outside but I am already planning my spring wardrobe. Mainly little additions to go with my core staples from last spring/summer of stripy tops and brown leather belts mixed with blue blazers, blue cardigans and an assortment of grey jumpers. I bought these shoes last week and the skirt today. It calls itself khaki although it doesn't look like it in the pictures, so only time will tell if it looks ok. Sadly the Marc Jacobs bag is more of a wish list item, although if I get my bonus in April, maybe a reality... (don't worry Husband, if you're reading this, if I get the bonus, I'll save it, not blow it on handbags)

Monday, 14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day


Well, the lack of car did have a single silver lining. We were in London for the weekend which ordinarily would have meant that I would have got the train back on my own. We had to start looking for cars this morning though, so Husband and I took a train back together last night, ate Chinese food and opened our presents to each other (I gave him the card in the photo above, he gave me a vintage French dictionary so I can start practising for our anniversary trip to Paris) and this morning we drank coffee in bed together before getting the bus into the town where I work to look at a car. (which was crap). So we ate lunch in the sunshine before I went to work and he got a bus to London for the week.

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(photo on card of us on our honeymoon in Cornwall, card from Moonpig)

Friday, 11 February 2011

The cost of weddings

For some reason, the topic of weddings and relationship breakdown has been in the press a lot recently. I happened to see an article in the Guardian, the sub-title of which encouraged me to read on. "My big, fat DIY wedding" shouted the headline. "The average cost of a wedding in the UK today is £21,000. Keen crafter Momtaz Begum-Hossain set out to spend nothing. How did she fare?" continued the sub-title.

Given that the article was about costs, I was expecting Ms Begum-Hossain to have spent way less than the £12,000 she revealed that she and her husband spent in total on their wedding. £12,000 doesn't sound like "spending nothing". I agree it's far less than the £21k that is supposedly the average cost of a wedding in the UK, but it's still not really "spending nothing". I also think that the £21k average figure is skewed upwards by a small number of extremely expensive weddings - I think all of the people's weddings I have been to in my life will have come in at under £20k and I suspect a lot of them substantially less. £12,000 the article stated, was the top of Ms Begum-Hossain and her husband's budget. As someone who has got married and writes about weddings and has an engaged sister, the costs of weddings do interest me. But what this article really said to me was you still have to spend a lot to have a nice wedding. Which just shouldn't be the case.

Consider the breakdown of the budget: Venue: £5,500, Catering: £3,500, Entertainment: £1,000, Drinks: £600, Decorations: £300, Extras: £200, Dress: £200, Groom's outfit: £90, Wedding cake: £100, Flowers: £0, Transport: £0, Wedding ring: £0 = Total: £11,490


Whichever way you look at that budget, I think it's misleading. It doesn't include photography (yet there are photographs - they say a friend donated the expertise of videography so perhaps that included photography) or invitations and even allowing for her making her headpiece and shrug herself, £200 is a very small figure to include all extras including her shoes.

They also spent almost £10k out of their £12,000 total on the venue and the food/drink. No matter how much your total figure is, that seems a disproportionate percentage. What it really says to me is, we had a £20k wedding but only paid just over half of the actual costs because we have a bunch of really talented friends. Which is awesome, but not much help to the readers who don't have friends who can use their professional talents in such fashion but who do want inspiration on keeping their costs low.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is a right or wrong way to get married. And a budget is personal to the couple - what one couple thinks is a fortune may be a pittance to another. I just think that articles which proclaim to show and inspire people to do DIT/hand crafted wedding for the sake of spending the least amount possible should be less misleading.

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I've also read quite a few articles this week on relationship breakdowns and dealing with divorce. Without giving away too much about myself, I deal with these issues during my working day, and a lot of the people I see say that they had wished they had done things differently with hindsight. Which, of course, there are things that you can do differently if you do wish to protect your assets in the event of divorce or death or separation. These are conversations I have had with Husband, the higher wage earner without a student bank loan to repay. I question whether, should we buy a house, whether we should have a deed of trust in place, so he recovers the same percentage as he put in. When facing the question about what car (or rather, how much) to buy, I found myself saying "well, it's going to be mainly your money paying for it, you should have more of a decision on the cost". To which he always responds, "we're married. It's no longer your debt and my money. It's a collective team effort now and we make the decision based on our needs".

Which is what I say to my clients when they ruminate how they could have behaved differently. If you enter marriage expecting divorce, it can't be the best starting point. Yes, I think you should discuss things and yes, protect certain pre-marital assets if the circumstances are strong enough to warrant it, but in the ordinary run of things, I would hope that whatever the situation in the future, one is able to treat their spouse with enough respect to make a decision regarding the assets that allows both parties to live the best possible independent lives.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

On being married ( and arguing about chores)

Back when Husband was a boyfriend and we were at university, we lived in separate houses. He lived with a load of our male friends and the house was a tip. It wasn't the greatest of houses, chosen more for its size and location than for it's features (like, say, hot water in the kitchen). 5 university students who drink and play computer games far more than they did work made a lot of mess. There was never any loo roll. I soon brought over a bag of the essentials and kept it there for the nights I stayed there. Sometimes I look back and can't believe I ever stepped into the shower, or ate food given the state of the kitchen. But cleaning and chores were low on the list of anyones priorities when there was partying to be done and drinking to be occupied with. Every so often though, I would be the girlfriend everyone loved by tackling all the washing up. All of it. Using kettles to fill the washing up bowl, over and over. Not because I loved washing up (I don't. I hate it). But making Husband and my friends happy, that meant more. Husband never seemed to do any laundry either, saving it all up for a trip to the laundrette occasionally. So, once or twice a term, I would offer for him to bring his washing to mine in a taxi and in return for him cooking me supper, I would do his washing. Not to ingratiate myself to him but because it was a trade - something he hated doing in return for something I hated doing. Plus it made him happy to have clean clothes, and me happy because he was happy. Plus I got to eat something other than soup, which my body appreciated.

(In halls in the first year, we had a laundry room. I would do a load maybe every other week - they were industrial size machines - and I would frequently run into a girl from my corridor. She was dating another lad in halls and every week she did his washing in addition to hers. I was outraged that she would behave, in my eyes, like she was his mother or cleaner. I never saw him doing anything in return for her - although of course, maybe he was just great in bed - and it seemed to the uneducated eye like she was buying her part in the relationship by making herself indispensable. I swore I would never behave in such a fashion).

Some while later, we moved into together in London. I don't remember having a specific conversation about chores and cleaning but it roughly seemed to break down into him doing the cooking, food shopping and washing up and me doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, changing the bed sheets and making sure we don't run out of practical items such as loo roll, toothpaste, light bulbs, bin bags, cleaning materials and so on. The cleaning and tidying of the other rooms (ha. bedroom and sitting room) were a joint enterprise. Which mainly were only cleaned or tidied when guests were coming round. It worked because we seemed to have the same standards of tidiness and because we were in the same place all 7 days of the week.

Since living in Somerset though, we live a much different life. The house is *ours* but I am the only one who lives in it full time. He has another place up in London that he rents. I have more clutter than he does and when he comes back, he tells me he can see what I have been up to all week by the placement of cups, handbags, books and where I last left the laptop. Maybe because he's away all week, he seems to me to be more obsessed about tidiness than he was before. In fact, pretty much the only thing we argue about is the housework.

Obviously with Husband away Mon - Thurs, if I want to eat, I have to cook for myself, and ideally wash it up too. When Husband comes back on Thursday night, it is abundantly clear that it is my mess that is lying around, that I have become more messy while he has become much more interested in the place being tidy, who hates it that things are left all over. He wouldn't mind just clearing them up, he tells me, if it wasn't that I shout at him for moving things or moan about the house being untidy.

I've been thinking about it quite a lot, actually, the give and take in marriage. I have been thinking that whilst I say I clean the bathroom and change the sheets, maybe I only do that once every two weeks. Obviously, I clean the loo more than that, but if I'm being totally honest, I maybe even go three weeks before I do those things. After all, most of the time, it's just me. I do washing every week still and try to remember to clean up after myself - usually by doing it all at midnight on Weds before he comes back - but I probably don't average at 50% of the housework. How is that 8 years ago I would wash 4 weeks worth of dishes for 5 male friends because I wanted to make them happy when now I can't keep the house clutter free when I know how much it stresses my husband?

And then today, I read Meg's post and decided perhaps we need to sit down and actually list and identify all of the chores and housework and cleaning. Including the stuff which maybe isn't on anyone's mental list but definitely needs doing (like when I wash my face etc in the morning and I look at the patch of mould on the wall and think I really must get around to bending down, getting the mould spray, moving those bottles and wiping the wall. Which would probably take all of 15 mins, but it needs a time when I can leave the window open to air it, so I haven't got round to it yet.) And re-evaluate. Who says that what worked in London, still does? And then share out all the jobs evenly - or maybe slanted more to me as I'm there more of the time. I am also hoping that we can agree to not nag the other person about their half. I will try and tidy up more if he will agree to not come in and immediately start tidying up after me. Which annoys me so much we end up shouting at each other. Give and take. Give and take.

I might send him this post too. Maybe we can discuss it over e-mail so we don't shout...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

On country living



Can you believe it's a year since we left London and moved to Somerset? A entire 12 months has come and gone and we are still here. Still enjoying it. If we had been giving it a year I wouldn't be ready to move on yet.

That said, I have learnt a few things about country living. From the basics such as weather appropriate coat and boots (I have a tweed coat which is waterproof and warm but isn't a raincoat with all important decent pockets and Timberland boots which look good but have proper treads to cope with our road which is actually a country lane) and carrying a torch, to the importance of getting to know neighbours and becoming part of the community, I feel a lot more at home here than I ever did in London.

If you're going to live in the countryside, you have to be organised. The shops do close at 5.30pm in the weekdays and most of the village shops are only open on Saturday mornings. There is one place you can buy milk up til 10pm every day of the week but only if they haven't run out. It is a 45 minute drive to the nearest clothing shops or cinema - outings are less spontaneous than they were in London. Oil and wood run out. In London, the worst that would happen was that you would get a large bill. Here, if you run out of oil you don't have any heating or hot water. You might be able to get a next day delivery but more likely than not, you won't. (Did I mention that none of the village gets gas?)

A car is pretty essential. We've been making it work this week without one, but it's hard. The buses are infrequent and inconveniently spaced. The last one back to the village leaves at 5.30pm. Taxis are expensive but it pays to get to know the company in the village. Just make sure you don't run out of fuel - petrol stations up on the moor are few and far between and such that there are, are extremely expensive. And closed, outside of normal hours.

Cottages are cold. Pyjamas are essential (I recommend Hush's by the way. Warm but still attractive) as are slippers/alpaca socks/Ugg boots. A slightly different wardrobe too, than a city one. I wear a lot of black to work but outside, black looks extremely harsh. I wear a lot more grey than I did before. More muted I guess. I haven't worn my sequinned vintage 80s roller girl top down here, or my sequinned leggings. There is less call for going out shoes too, or at least for me. I save those for my trips back to London.

Internet shopping has become my best friend. Literally everything (almost) that you could want, you can buy online and they will deliver. Although not to the house. No courier company can ever find it, despite it having a postcode and them having satnav. Still, clothes, books, shoes, shampoo, toiletries and even 2 coffee cups have been delivered to me over the reception desk at work.

What it lacks in shopping though it more than makes up for it when you can walk out of the front door, down the lane, to the beach. Or turn the other way, up the bridle path and up onto the moor. When you can watch birds in the garden, birds of prey over ancient woodland just metres from the garden, when you see deer on your drive home and often follow a badger or rabbits up the road from the village. When the air is clean and fresh and has a slight taint of salt to the taste and rain to the feel. When you lie in bed and all you can hear is the river running in the garden, and the dawn chorus sounds in the morning. The brightness of the stars and being aware of the cycle of the moon - I know when it's a full moon because I don't need a torch to get from the car to the front gate and I can see dimly in the bedroom once the lights have been turned off.

No, I am not ready to trade this in just yet. Although I think I've still got a lot to learn about country living.

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Photo by me of my Hush pyjamas.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

RIP AUX



It is a sad day in our house. AUX, our lovely trusty SAAB died. Husband and I were extremely fond of old AUX. He was the car we left for our honeymoon in, our first car, the first thing we properly owned together. We knew he was old. But we had hoped he would live on for a while yet. Things weren't right on Saturday. The oil light kept trying to come on. By Saturday afternoon we had left to drive the 4 hours to visit Husband's Granny. But AUX could make it no further. His oil light came on and stayed on. We poured in 4 litres of oil. To no avail. The engine started sounding funny. We pulled over at a layby and called the recovery services. They came and after checking the enormous piece of half roasted lamb that was in the boot would be ok, we watched the rescue man tow him backwards onto the truck. On Monday they came back and towed him to the nearest garage. By 3.30pm they had pronounced him DNR. Husband tried not to be too sad as he emptied AUX of his myriad possessions. We had a courtesy car for 24 hours whilst we tried to decide where he should have his final resting place. He will most likely be sold for parts by the garage, who will give us £150. The courtesy car is like driving a mini bus (which surprised me given that it is a Pergeout 307). I now will have to rely on the 8am bus and a series of taxis and begged lifts back to the village until we can buy a new car. RIP AUX. You will be missed.

(photos by family members of us leaving for our honeymoon. For obvious reasons I had not shared them before. I guess it doesn't matter now.)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Yurting in the South West

One of the duties of a bridesmaid generally seems to involve hen party organising of some sort. It is a path to tread (and I mean no offence whatsoever to either A or T who might read this!) which involves a great deal of guess work, a decent amount of research, a juggling of diaries of a fair number of people - some of which you might know and some of which you definitely don't - which may include different ages/stages of life and wealth and a limited window. But when the bride-to-be turns up, has a wonderful weekend with her closest friends and everyone enjoys themselves, it makes the organising well worth it.

hen party 6

{Images by hen party guests; food, crockery and decorations by Iced}

My biggest advice in the earliest stages of planning is communication. Make sure the researcher and the bride-to-be are on the same page in terms of a basic outline. I spent time researching yurts today and fell in love with the idea of a glamping, yurting, meadow based hen party. Turns out bride-to-be saw it more of a cottage on the beach type affair. Sounds wonderful, I just misread it. Communication people. Always remember the communication. But in the interests of my research being useful to someone, I thought I'd post what I found.

So I can get on with researching coastal cottages. Unless anyone has any recommendations?
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Somerset


The Yurt Retreat - photo via Go Glamping

The Yurt Retreat - this is a new-ish venture from brother's Andrew and Paul and sounds lovely. Andrew was especially helpful when I spoke to him over the telephone. 4 yurts sleeping 4 people surrounding a communal kitchen/lounge/shower area. Based within driving distance of the Jurassic Coast as well as The Wild Garlic restaurant and the River Cottage Canteen. (Crewkerne)

Cornwall

Photos by either Botelet or me

Botelet Smaller yurts of 2 so less good for hen parties per se but I couldn't leave these from the list as this is where we spent our honeymoon (Herodsfoot, Liskeard)

Cornish Tipi Holidays  A village of different sized tipis. I personally of 2 different hen parties which have taken place here, both sounded lots of fun. (St Kew, Nr Wadebridge, Cornwall)

Pencuke Farm Yurts 3 yurts looking over meadowland to the North Atlantic with a guest barn with communal kitchen etc (St Gennys, Bude)


Cornish Yurt Holidays via Go Glamping

Yurt Works (Cornish Yurt Holidays) 2 yurts in more separate fields (St Breward, Bodmin)

North Wales

Cae Wennol Yurts 2 yurts, billed as a real retreat (Hen Efail, Conwy)

I also found surf shacks, lots of lovely campsites and vans, so if you want to know, let me know.