A Woman’s Right to Choose

Lifestyle, Opinion

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We all remember the Sex and the City episode don’t we? Carrie is made to remove her silver jeweled Manolo’s at a party so that she doesn’t tread in any nasty street germs that could infect the children waltzing about in this Upper East Side perfectly styled townhouse (So obvious they have kids, duh). The episode rolls on and Carrie is torn between wondering whether she should have the 1950s housewife life with the husband that works late with his twenty-something secretary, two children in coordinating outfits and a dog, most likely a golden retriever. Or, does she go against the strain? Should she feel guilty for spending $465 on a pair of shoes and not a week’s worth of Peppa Pig novelty toys? I’m assuming Peppa Pig was about in 2003. It does seem like she’s always been somewhere, lurking in the shadows, ready at any moment to hypnotize toddlers and drive parents to the brink of insanity.

Exactly sixteen years on and the silver Manolos are incredibly out of fashion but somehow the question still lingers. Do women have a right to choose? This year’s gender pay gap data showed that women in full-time executive roles in FTSE 250 firms fell to just 6.4% whilst in FTSE 100 firms it flatlined at a woeful 9.7%. Director roles look mildly better, coming in at 29% for FTSE 100 and 23.7% for FTSE 250. I could go into a never-ending Ted talk right now about factors and policies that are needed to change this but each time I think back to Carrie and that god awful pair of silver Manolo’s I always come back to the same thought. Do we have to choose? Children or career?

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In 2015, the UK government introduced shared parental leave, allowing parents to share up to 50 weeks leave between them and 37 weeks of statutory pay. Fantastic right? Well, the uptake has been less than 1%. Personally, I didn’t even know this existed until I started researching this post but nonetheless it at least provides female employees with a choice. To some respect… Of course, we still need to consider the gender pay gap, men still earn more in around 75% of all male/female couples. Financially speaking, it just isn’t feasible for many people to take a household pay cut so severe when having a baby. Let us digress from the stats a little though, as much as I want you all to ‘Stay Woke’ I don’t want you to lose the will to live.

I am twenty-nine right now, at the peak of fertility apparently, after this, it’s a downhill slope of ‘don’t leave it too late’s and ‘do you really want to be a geriatric mother?’. By the way, whoever introduced the term geriatric mother needs to be seriously dealt with. Not a fan. Every man and their dog are obsessed with what we, as young women, are doing with our wombs and that includes in the workplace. But the pressure doesn’t stop there, does it? 

I consistently battle two demons:

  1. Do I prioritise career overall?
  2. Am I a cold-hearted bitch who prioritises career overall?

It’s a lose/lose situation. I feel motivated and successful in my career but selfish in my home life. Or, I feel fulfilled in my home/family life but like I am letting myself down as a woman who has always dreamt of that high flying career. Perhaps a Woman’s right to choose is to actually have to make no choice at all. Do we have to always compromise? Am I a bad mother if I work 9-5, 5 days a week and leave the children with childcare? Am I a disappointment to the modern woman if I sometimes prioritise my love life and home life in place of my career? Can’t I be both?

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Compromise is something sadly we have all grown very used to. I choose a career yet I must accept the fact that women effectively work for free for 65 days of the year due to the gender pay gap. I choose a family yet statistically I will earn less than my counterparts who are not Mothers.

What is glaringly obvious through all of this though is that we do, of course, have a choice but it isn’t a fair one. It certainly doesn’t come without stigmas but yet we still make that decision. Men do too. We make a decision that we know in some way will be detrimental to us. Yet we still make it.

What can we draw from all of this? Make the decision but make it with only you and your world in mind. Every decision is hard. Every decision comes with a disapproving look from some bitch that thinks they know best. Every decision will make you feel so proud some days and absolutely awful the next.

We have the right to choose.

We have a right to choose from fair and equal options.

Let’s just keep fighting that good fight for the last bit. All whilst wearing those silver Manolo’s of course.

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Thursday 14 November was equal pay day. As of last Thursday, all women effectively work for free. Check out The Fawcett Society for more information.

 

 

Peachy Keen Jellybean – Grease the Musical – Cardiff

Cardiff, Lifestyle, UK

Dan Partridge as Danny & Louis Gaunt as Kenickie (front) and the T-Birds in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel HarlanMartha Kirby as Sandy and Dan Partridge as Danny in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel HarlanLtoR Natalie Woods as Jan, Eloise Davies as Frenchy & Tara Sweeting as Marty in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel Harlan

Picture the scene. I’m thirteen, studying for one of my singing grades and my tutor picks ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You” as one of my exam pieces. I spend almost every waking hour listening to Olivia Newton-John perform it in the 1978 movie. Whilst studying for my exam, the guy in my class that I think is pretty lovely tells me that I look like a boy and have a bowl cut (I did). I now not only love Sandra Dee, I think I am her. I watch that scene of her singing by the pool and I wallow over my childhood crush. A heartbroken and pitiful teen. Thank god fourteen years later I’m far more Rizzo than Sandy…

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This week, I kindly got invited along to the performance of Grease the Musical at the Wales Millenium Centre. Now, if like me your memories of the 70s classic are watching it on a Sunday afternoon with your parents and later singing the songs into your hairbrush in front of a mirror, I doubt you would know that Grease was actually a stage musical first. Shock. I know! I was as shocked as you. What do you mean Sandy is actually brunette?! What do you mean there are MORE Grease songs!? The outrage that no-one told me this before.

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I only found out that the Musical actually preceded the film as I gulped down a large glass of red in the theatre bar beforehand but as soon as the curtain lifted and the stage was revealed, I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed, regardless of any differences.

Grease the Musical is everything that the movie is. It’s fun, kitsch, tongue in cheek and packed full of the most iconic songs to ever hit the silver screen, with a few extras thrown in for good measure. This is no Sandy and Danny show though, sure, the main storyline still has them at the centre of it, but, with standout performances from Rizzo (Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky) Kenickie (Louis Gaunt) and Jan (Natalie Woods) you find yourself more invested in their storylines rather than the post-summer fling genre that we have all come to know (and love).

Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky (Rizzo) in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel Harlan (1)Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky (Rizzo) in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel Harlan

The musical had a lot of qualities that I felt the movie simply didn’t. Despite being almost fifty years old, there is a lot of grit behind the storyline. The plot focuses more around the incessant need to fit in at all costs, bullying and other pressures that teens today still face. I have always adored Stockard Channing’s rendition of “There are worse things I could do”, who doesn’t, but when McCaulsky started singing, almost directing her words towards Sandy, you feel her pain, you start to contemplate just how hard this character works to fit in and the impact it can hold on a person. Something that I know many of us can relate to, especially in the world of social media. Her rampant sexuality is paramount, it oozes out of McCaulsky’s performance in every way. The way she walks, speaks, the way she sidles up to some of the main male customers or shuns others that aren’t in favour. In many ways, this performance, despite still being an All-American bubblegum setting, is incredibly modern.

There are parts of the show that tear at your heartstrings; Jan and Roger performing “Mooning”, Sandy (Martha Kirby) watching on as Rizzo (McCaulsky) teases her in “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee”, but Rydell High’s high octane, free-spirited group of teens are still serving up pure cheese and boy is it served up well. As the curtains roll and the cast burst immediately into Frankie Valli’s “Grease” it is hard to not be blown away with the performance – Sharp dance moves, bright fifties costumes and Rydell High in huge neon lights. It’s simply electrifying.

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A huge surprise for me personally was Darren Bennet’s performance as both Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine. As Fontaine, he is the eccentric, high energy, slightly sleazy radio DJ we expect from watching the movie, his performance during the Rydell Halloween Ball is frantic and a little wild, so he plays Fontaine perfectly. Making a return on stage as the pretty in pink Teen Angel, in a set that looked like the inside of my dream had exploded, Bennett gets right into “Beauty School Dropout” and its a performance that is something quite special, for me, I kind of forgot about Frenchie!

Much like the movie, you simply won’t be disappointed by the musical, it is everything we need in our lives, it’s bright, it’s fun and it’s a wonderful escape from what is a very grey UK right now! Today and tomorrow will be the last performances in the Wales Millenium Centre Cardiff but the cast will be popping up all over the UK in 2020 and it is certainly worth the journey.

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To purchase the last remaining tickets for the Cardiff showings you can use the WMC website.

I was invited along to the performance of Grease the Musical at the WMC but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Ultimate Guide to Harry Potter Studios, Watford

Travel, UK

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Any self-confessed Potter head has either already ventured to the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Watford or has spent each waking moment dreaming of going. Well, whether you are an Auror or a first-year it doesn’t really matter, This guide should help your visit be the best yet.

 

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Tips & Tricks

1.Buy your tickets in advance and try to go on a weekday!

You will inevitably arrive to a hoard of people queueing outside the main entrance. If you have already pre-purchased your tickets online you have no need to queue at the kiosk. There are handy touch screen machines that you can collect your ticket from and that is much quicker.

2. Leave the shopping until the end of your tour

Unless you’re a sad act like me and want a prop to wear on the tour, then leave the shopping until you are finished. There are several shops throughout the studios and the exit point is through the store that you see on entering anyway. Save your arms from carrier bag marks and wait. Unless you know Hermonie’s bag enchantment charm? DM me!

3. Stop off at the Three Broomsticks and share a Butterbeer

Ok it’s not actually The Three Broomstick it’s The Backlot cafe but there is a small Butterbeer shack for you to stop at. If you have an insane sweet tooth then be my guest, have a Butterbeer all to yourself, if not, get one to share. Butterbeer is exceptionally sweet, imagine a cream soda with a butterscotch cream on top, That’s the level of sweetness. I’d recommend ordering one in a souvenir glass, ok it’s plastic and isn’t the most attractive but it makes a much better photo than if you order one in the flimsy plastic beer glasses they have. Rain or shine, I recommend getting a seat outside the Backlot Cafe. There is a small overhead canopy and you get a lovely view of the Knight Bus, Privet Drive, etc. Take a jumper!!

4. Make sure to take your Time Turner with you

What? You don’t have one? How absurd. I suppose you will have to make do with the good old fashioned Muggle way… taking your time. The website advises that you will spend 2-3 hours at the Studios, I spent just over 4 on my visit and I still didn’t get to see everything. Don’t give yourself any time constraint. Take your time wandering through and read the information sections – you can find out some really fascinating facts about the movies and the sets. A lot of the props are incredibly detailed too – Spend your time meandering over the Gryffindor Common Room tapestries or gazing at the carefully placed detail on the Tri-Wizard Cup. One of the most beautiful things about the Harry Potter franchise is the almost incomprehensible attention to detail that went into the films, so take a few moments to appreciate it. I promise you, you’ll feel like you are in Hogwarts itself!

 

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Hidden Gems

We know the books and the films are magic but so are the sets and the props. Here are a few hidden gems that you shouldn’t miss.

  • The tiny bottles of memories stored in the corner of Dumbledores Office – You’ll spot a few familiar names…
  • Uncle Vernon’s most prized possession, The trophy made entirely of drillbits – Sat on the mantel in 4 Privet drive behind the flurry of letters
  • Dolores Umbridge walking the tight rope in Fred and George’s Joke Shop – The Diagon Alley set
  • a grubby little package wrapped up in brown paper lying on the floor” of Vault 713. 
  • The Chocolate Frog cupcake at The Chocolate Frog Cafe – Entrance of the studios
  • Harry’s spectacles on a shelf in the cupboard under the stairs
  • Self-stirring cauldrons – These were made for the film!
  • The board of the animal actors in each film – Read the short bio’s, it is utter heartfelt loveliness reading them.

 

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Best Photo Opportunites

You can be honest with me, it’s ok, we all know that one of the main things you want to do at the Studios is have your photo taken in the Potions Lab to show off on Instagram. Me too, but there is no need to spend hours queuing at the green screen stations. Seek out some of these locations to get the Golden Snitch of photo ops.

  1. The Harry Potter Undesirable No1 posters – Outside the studios either as you arrive or exit
  2. Sat at one of the benches in The Great Hall – Everyone else will be gathered in front of the costumes, take your moment and get a great shot of you on one of the benches.
  3. Mirror of Erised – this one is trickier to get (crowds) but try to find a moment and get your closest photographer to snap your reflection in the mirror.
  4. At the entrance to Dumbledore’s Office
  5. Looking into the Pensieve
  6. Boarding the Hogwarts Express – Queue to board the train and as you are boarding get your mate/partner/resident photographer to stay at the bottom of the small steps to catch you heading off to Hogwarts!
  7. Rushing onto Platform 9 and 3/4 – Luggage in hand of course
  8. Sipping on a Butterbeer – Take it outside and use the Knight Bus or Privet Drive as your backdrop
  9. Outside No3 Privet Drive – yes, I know Harry lived at No4 but there will be a huge queue outside No4 – Go next door and stand tactfully in front of the house number. They’ll never know the difference…
  10. The Hogwarts bridge.
  11. Gringotts Bank in front of one of the Goblins – Hand over your card and request some galleons.
  12. Perusing in any one of the storefronts on Diagon Alley.
  13. The sweet shop within the gift shop – This real store looks just like Honeydukes!

 

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Key Information:

Website here.

For all transport information, opening hours and FAQs use the above website link.

Ticket prices:

  • Adult (16+): £41
  • Child (5-15): £33
  • Family (2 adults & 2 children OR 1 adult & 3 children): £132

HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT

Food, Lifestyle

Faced with the ‘Lunch on the go’ counter at an M&S service station I stare long and hard at those carefully packed sandwiches. Thick white bread, Huge chunks of chicken and bacon smothered in mayonnaise. Then the little tiny bars of sea salt chocolate. All the calories my little heart can dream of. I’m tired, I have horrific stomach pains, I want the bread and chocolate. 

What do I buy? Some sort of quinoa salad box. I don’t even like quinoa that much, personally, I think it tastes a bit like gravel. It’s just something, just like kale, that we eat because someone had the audacity to publish that it is a superfood. Why did i choose the sad-looking grains? Because I got the guilt. “I am a small and dainty woman. I eat nothing but air and leaves and tiny, tiny portions.” If the sales assistant sees me buying a sandwich and chocolate they will think I am a disgusting and greedy human being. My thighs feel bigger just thinking about buying what I really want.

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The point isn’t that I chose something healthy over something unhealthy. The point is that I am subconsciously punishing myself for wanting the sandwich and cake. I am all for ‘Everything in moderation’ and balanced diets but when it comes to a moment like this all my brain can think is ‘that food you hate? It’s healthy. It’s especially healthy because the healthiest food is bad, tastes bland and leave you as dissatisfied as the UK is with Brexit’

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I could have chosen anything! I could have opted for that Moroccan butternut pot I like (healthy), or a small sushi tray (still healthy) or even that chicken and avocado wheat sandwich (STILL HEALTHY) or I could have just got the poxy sandwich and chocolate and not punished myself. Wouldn’t that have been a revelation for the history books?

As Women, in particular, we have a tendency to use food as a way to punish and reward ourselves. Period pain? Chocolate. Long day? Glass of wine. Gained a little weight? Insane military diet that means I will live off nothing but plasterboard and water for 6 weeks. There seems to be no middle ground between binge mode and diet mode. There often seems to be no middle ground too between ‘I feel like a supermodel’ and ‘I feel like a pig, why are my thighs touching?’.

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If you are a food lover. I certainly am. Most of the memories that stick out in your mind will involve food. Those gyros you had on the beach in Greece, the birthday cake at your 21st birthday party, the spaghetti marinara you enjoyed on a first date. So many of our relationships are entwined with memories of food and that’s ok. Read Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Listen to Nigel Slater speak about swiss rolls. Watch anything that Nigella Lawson does. All of them live for that direct correlation of love/romance and food. All of them revel in the unadulterated pleasure that a good pasta or casserole brings.

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It’s a bloody terrible resolution but I do resolve resolut What on earth is the verb of resolution?! Anyway, my insanely late 2019 resolution is to change my relationship with food – for both the good and the bad. I want to order the cake at the patisserie and enjoy it without that voice in my head telling me I’ll have to have a kale salad tonight to even it out. I also want to not reach for the jaffa cake as soon as I’ve had a stressful meeting. I do not want to be on a (insert ridiculous fad here) diet ever again. I want to eat balanced meals, each enjoyable as the next, both healthy and unhealthy and not beat myself up about it.

I want to have my cake and eat it. In moderation of course…

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Recipe – Korean Fried Chicken Bao Buns with Pickled Courgette

Food, Recipes

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As a self-confessed bao bun addict, I was beside myself with excitement when M&S started selling their ready-made baos. Just over a minute in the microwave and you have perfect fluffy buns ready to be stuffed with whichever glutinous filling you set your little heart on.

If your creative juices aren’t flowing then this crisp, sticky fried chicken is not only super easy to make, its also incredibly tasty.

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Ingredients

For the chicken
  • 6 chicken thigh fillets (skin removed)
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger, grated
  • 100g cornflour
  • Vegetable oil
For the sauce
  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp kimchi paste (Korean chilli paste)
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp finely chopped or grated garlic (roughly 2/3 cloves)
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
For the pickled courgettes
  • 1 medium-sized courgette
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 30ml rice wine vinegar
  • 50ml boiling water
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
Extras
  • Pack of 6 bao buns (Follow instructions on the pack to prep)
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced lengthways
  • Half a cucumber, finely sliced lengthways
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Sriracha sauce (or a tsp of kimchi paste)
  • Chopped peanuts

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Method

1.Start with your courgette pickle. Peel your courgette into ribbons and place to one side. In a small mixing bowl add the ground turmeric, salt, sugar and boiling water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Once dissolved add the rice wine vinegar and mix again. Now add the courgette ribbons and stir to cover. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.

2.Grab a small saucepan and place on a medium/low heat. Add all of the ingredients that you need for your sauce and stir until sticky and simmering gently. Take your sauce off the heat and place the pan to one side.

3.Cut the chicken thigh fillets in half and remove any fatty excess. Then season with salt, pepper and the grated ginger. Pour the cornflour onto a plate and one by one toss the chicken thighs in the flour until completely coated. Shake off any excess.

4.Heat about 2-3cm of vegetable oil in a wide-based frying pan. Use a small piece of fat (removed from the chicken) to check when the oil is hot. If the oil starts to bubble up around it then you are ready to cook your chicken. Fry the chicken thighs on each side for around 4 minutes until golden. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. I recommend frying in batches.

5.Remove the thighs from the oil once cooked and place onto some kitchen paper to cool for a few minutes – Leaving the oil on the heat. Then place the chicken back into the hot oil and fry until extra crisp. Again, removing and placing onto kitchen paper to cool.

6.Reheat the sauce on low until warm and sticky. Add the fried chicken to the sauce and stir gently until evenly coated. Sprinkle a generous tbsp of sesame seeds in the pan and shake to cover.

7.Now time to build your baos! Mix the mayo and tsp of Sriracha together and put a dollop in each bao followed by a few sticks of spring onion and cucumber. Now for the main event, grab a piece of your sticky fried chicken to nestle in there and finally top your bao with toppings of your choice. Chopped peanuts and fresh chilli are my favourites.

8.Serve your beautiful baos with a nice little heap of courgette pickle and a cold beer. Well, that last bit is up to you…

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What’s on in Cardiff – Autumn Edition

Cardiff, Wales

It may still be sitting around a humid 26 degrees right now in South Wales but last Sunday welcomed the 1st September and for me, that means one thing…It’s officially autumn guys.

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Get your bulk order of opaque tights in before it’s too late, put the pumpkin spice candle and furry socks down, this season there is no room for staying in, there’s far too much going on to spend Fall sat in your dressing gown watching X-Factor. Here are a few of my favourite events popping up in the next few months around Cardiff

Luna Cinema

This is my absolute favourite event of the year by far! Grab your camping chair, a blanket, and a picnic and get yourself down to Cardiff Castle to watch a movie under the stars in the most incredible cinema surroundings you’ll ever see. Luna Cinema is the country’s leading open-air cinema and they pop up in the most beautiful venues around the UK showing a multitude of movies, from the latest to blockbusters to classics like Pretty Woman and Back to the Future. My favourite thing about this event is that you have the freedom to bring what you need. If you don’t fancy queuing at the bar or grabbing a snack from the street food trucks then come prepared with some snacks of your own. You can even bring your own booze. Just leave the glass at home!

Luna Cinema Cardiff runs from September 13th-15th. Further information and ticket purchases can be found here.

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Photo credit: Luna Cinema

Oxjam Cardiff

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Photo credit: Oxjam (Oxfam GB)

For the music lovers amongst you, 27th October is a date for your diary. Oxjam is not only the UK’s largest grassroots festival, but it is also a music festival of a whole new breed; it’s a festival created to beat poverty. Oxjam Cardiff will see 20 different artists perform at spots all over the city and all of the money raised goes directly to Oxfam to help support their work around the world. Oxjam is also a huge promoter to independent artists. Since the first festival in 2006 several artists have gone on to become huge stars in the music world. Foals anyone? Everything Everything? They might ring a bell.

There are few details released to date but keep a close eye on the facebook page as well as the Oxjam webpage.

I’ll be working with Oxjam Cardiff to promote this event so I’ll also be sharing key info closer to the date on my instagram and twitter.

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Rugby World Cup 2019

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Ok so it’s not in Cardiff but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a huge event for your Autumn calendar. One small detail… since the matches are being played in Japan all of the matches are played around breakfast time here in the UK. Now if I know Cardiff, and I think I do, that will not stop any rugby fan in the way of enjoying a proper rugby day out. It just means that you’ll be enjoying an Eggs Benedict with the match instead of a pint, or four…

Now, I haven’t seen much in the way of venues announcing showings of the match yet but here are a few of my favourite rugby spots. Now just pray they will all be showing it!

Depot

Let’s be honest, the team at Depot were always guaranteed to announce one hell of an event timetable for the World Cup and they have not disappointed with their Fanhub returning for both the Wales v Uruguay and Wales v Australia games. Every £5 ticket gets you a free pint. I think that’s a good indication of how this breakfast screening will go down…

Old Arcade

The Old Arcade is my absolute favourite Cardiff pub, particularly on a matchday. I love how it’s kind of tucked away in the side streets, you would barely know it is was there if you weren’t familiar with the area. It’s packed to the rafters with rugby memorabilia and more often than not you’ll spot a few Ex-Blues and Ex-Wales players in there.

Welsh Fixtures – announced to date

Monday 23rd September- Wales vs Georgia – KO 11:45am (UK Time)

Sunday 29th September- Wales vs Australia – KO 16:45pm (UK Time)

Friday 11th October- Wales vs Fiji – KO 18:45pm (UK Time)

Sunday 13th October- Wales vs Uruguay – KO 17:00 (UK Time)

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I wish I could list a thousand more events and autumn spots to you lovely lot but I’ve got Bake Off to watch and a custard tart to eat, but how could I leave you without a few extra recommendations for when the cold weather rolls in? Enjoy!

Extra Events

Wales Millenium Centre, Supper Club

Abergavenny Food Festival

St Fagans Real Food Market

Oktoberfest Comes to Cardiff

 

8 reasons why West Wales should be your next holiday destination.

Travel, Wales

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1.THE PUBS

New Quay is home to the Black Lion, reputably Dylan Thomas’ favourite haunt. Tresaith is home to The Ship Inn, my favourite haunt. Aberaeron is home to The Harbourmaster, reputably everyone’s favourite haunt. It has won countless awards after all. You could really spend your entire holiday going from pub to pub and why not!? From the beautifully modern Harbourmaster to the traditional stone and slate Pentre Arms (Another favourite of Dylan Thomas) there are so many lovely pubs to choose from so why choose at all?

2.THE BEACHES

From where we stay in Tresaith there are at least six or seven beaches within a short driving distance and each more beautiful than the last. My personal favourite is Mwnt, wind down the country roads and you’ll most certainly think you are lost but the view at the end is worth the journey. Sat on that beach, looking around at the crystal blue sea and the rock formations dipping into it you’d believe you were in a movie set. Oddly, it somewhat reminds me of that Raquel Welch beach scene in One Million Years B.C. A beach that is so beautiful it’s as though it is completely untouched, totally natural and almost prehistoric. How many other places can you say that about in this day and age?**

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3.THE WILDLIFE

Up until my first visit to West Wales I had the right hump about never having seen dolphins. I’ve been to countless Caribbean islands but not a single spotting… I drive two hours from Cardiff to New Quay and there are dozens of the buggers! It’s almost a challenge to not spot any wildlife on the Pembrokeshire coast. Dolphin pods, Seals basking in the sun or popping up to be nosy, Crabs, Lobsters and sea life galore. Best of all? All in their natural habitat. For a great dolphin spotting location head to one of my favourite pubs in the world, The Ship Inn, Tresaith. Grab a cold drink and try to nab a bench overlooking the sea, there are dolphin spottings almost every day from that exact location.

4.THE FOOD

If there is one thing I love most about the seaside it’s the seafood and the Pembrokeshire coast does it exceptionally well. Try The Lime Crab in New Quay for your old school fish and chips fix. In addition to cod and chips for you traditionalists, they also offer up a few different dishes such as salt & pepper squid, mackerel goujons or scallops for those who like their chippy tea with a twist. They also offer a great range of both gluten-free and vegan options. If you fancy a sit-down meal then you really can’t miss The Cliff, Cardigan or The Harbourmaster, Aberaeron. Both serve up a stunning array of freshly caught seafood. For a quick pub snack, The Harbourmaster crispy cockles with spicy vinegar are not to be missed! If you somehow aren’t full from the copious amounts of crab, cockles and other fresh fishies you simply cannot miss a visit to Crwst in Cardigan for a spot of brecwast. Try their pancakes served with Llaeth y Llan yogurt, homemade granola, mixed berries, and Cardigan honey and grab a few doughnuts to snack on for later. You’ll find space, trust me.

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5.THE HISTORY

Whether it’s famous poets or prehistoric settlements you are looking for, the West is a haven of historic tales for you to explore. Arthur’s Stone, Cefn Bryn is surrounded by myth and legend, the 25 tonne stone is actually a Neolithic tomb but in the land of the dragon, there is no harm in believing whichever legend you choose. Head into the town centre of Cardigan and to the castle that sits on the banks of the River Teifi to explore years and years of Welsh history, or, If beautiful views are the cheese to your toastie then don’t miss Pembroke Castle. It’s as if Disney plucked this castle right into each of their movies, it really is breathtaking. It’s also the birthplace of Henry VII!

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6.THE BEER

Dive into any one of the aforementioned pubs and you won’t struggle to find a pint of good, Welsh beer. The South may be the kings of brewing the beers with the likes of Tiny Rebel, Grey Tees and Pipes all residing there but the West know how to serve it up. For a real taste of the West then seek out a pint of the strong stuff brewed by Felinfoel or Gwaun Valley Breweries. Iechyd Da!*

7.THE VIEWS

Stand by the statue of St Crannog looking over Llangrannog bay. Near the Church of the Holy Cross in Mwnt. On the beach in Aberporth. Stand/Sit/Jump in any one of those spots and tell me that those views don’t rival some of the best in the world. Wales is a country of unparalleled beauty and the West coast showcases it beautifully with its picturesque seaside towns and coastal paths.

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8.THE RELAXATION

Joe and I are lucky enough that we go to the West Coast every summer with his family. When I started writing this piece I asked him what his favourite thing about Tresaith was (The small coastal village we stay in), “It’s a week of the year where I can just totally relax because it feels a million miles away but yet it still feels like home”. Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s a home away from home, a small piece of Welsh paradise and the perfect remedy for those busy bees amongst you that just want a break away from city life.

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If you are officially head over heels and fancy booking your break to West Wales, check out Canopy and the Stars for some gorgeous accommodation options. Including a few dog-friendly ones so your pooch can also come for a mooch!

*Cheers! in Welsh.

**Be warned there are lots of steps to get down to the beach so make sure you have your supplies before you get down there, you don’t want to find your perfect spot and then realise you’ve forgotten your much needed Calippo.

Club Tropicana, Perms and Neon Scrunchies.

Cardiff, Lifestyle

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I may be a 90’s baby (just!) but you’re a fool if you think I’m not a sucker for an 80’s hit and a perm shoved into a Day-Glo scrunchie. This week, the outrageously camp and hilariously funny musical romantic-comedy, Club Tropicana is at the Wales Millenium Centre starring X Factor winner Joe McElderry and ex-Sugababe Amelle Berrabah. Joe McElderry plays Holiday Rep Gary who delivers each line unabashedly, hand on hip, with a cheeky wink and a fierce sashay.

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Club Tropicana, not just a hit for Wham!, is a slightly shabby Spanish holiday resort vying for the highly coveted Best Hotel Award and what ensues is 2 hours of your favorites 80s tunes, outrageous perms and some very very cheeky humour. The star of the show was undoubtedly Kate Robbins, Mother of Britain’s sweetheart of the moment Emily Attack, with her Manuel from Fawlty Towers style performance in the character of Consuela the Spanish House Maid. Comedy clearly runs in the family because Kate had the entire audience belly-laughing with her deliberately tawdry Spanish accent and her rather rude ‘signs’. In a cute little nod to Cardiff, she dresses as Shirley Bassey in one scene, references Ely in another and leaves us all spluttering all over again.

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This show will have you laughing until it hurts, dancing up out of your chair and singing ABC’s Look of Love for at least the next week but on top of all that, it also gave me a huge hankering for some major throwback material. So, inspired by the showstopping cast of Club Tropicana Musical and some showstopping outfits here are my top 4 fashions that I gladly welcome back into 2019 (by Delorian of course).

1. Blazer & high waisted jeans

This is an 80s trend I am more than happy to see the return of, made truly iconic by the late Princess Di. We may have left the huge shoulder pads firmly in the Dynasty loving days but a good structured blazer and a pair of high waisted jeans is a surefire combo. Go for a mom jean cut for that extra 80s flair.

2. Monochrome Power Suits

Wedding guest? Power suit. Work meeting? Power suit. Going out-out? Power suit. There is nothing this 80s trend cannot prepare you for. Go for a cute pastel or neon-bright to really rock this trend. Asos have some lovely options like this.

3. Polka dots

If you haven’t seen THAT Zara dress yet then where have you been!? If you are hot for the spot then you know this trend is well and truly back. Combine this print trend with another big 80s trend, puff sleeve blouses and you are on to a winner. This polka dot shirt does the job for you and combines the two in one sheer stunner.

4. Graphic tees

The uniform of any eighties supermodel worth her salt. Understated, cool and punching a message to the people, this trend really hit the headlines with British designer Katherine Hamnet’s 1983 campaign.

Some of you may not be familiar with the political “58% DONT WANT PERSHING” slogan tee but you certainly will be with her ‘CHOOSE LIFE’ design that Wham! famously donned. Graphic tee’s may be a little less political nowadays but In The Style are leading the way with their fab Pride and female empowerment tees. 

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If you too want a large, cheesy dose of eighties nostalgia then Club Tropicana Musical is at the Wales Millenium Centre August 13th-17th. Tickets can be purchased from their website or the box office. Use promocode: CLUBFAN to get your tickets for just £20.

I was invited to watch Club Tropicana by the Wales Millenium Centre however all thoughts and reviews of the show are my own. 

5 reasons why we just ‘love to love’ Love Island

Opinion

With the final episode approaching this evening, we will all soon be plunged into that Love Island-less pool. Distraught. What do we talk about now? What do I do with my evenings?

I read an article by The Guardian a while back that had a fantastic line in it describing our favourite reality show of the moment as “chess with tits”. Fantastic isn’t it because like it or not, that is exactly what it is but yet we absolutely love it. The show is so iconic it has even featured in the newest series of OITNB.

The premiere episode this year brought in a whopping 3.7 million of us, all tuning in to watch a beautiful parade of twenty-somethings in their latest quest for love, or 50k, you decide. But what exactly is it about Love Island that has a nation transfixed? Here are my 5 reasons why we love to love Love Island.

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1.The Office Chat FOMO

I only started watching Game of Thrones because I got so sick of not being able to join in on the coffee break analysis of last nights episode every time a new series was aired. Now imagine that FOMO daily! “No Karen, I didn’t see Malin make a surprise return to the villa and who the f*** is Terry?”. Now I’m a sheep, I know how Molly Mae ties her hair bun, I know Jordan’s middle name. I will never miss out on a weekday office Love Island debrief ever again.

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2. They are like us, but pretty.

“Omg Amber is me, that’s sooo relatable”

Except she’s spilling out of her DD cup bikini like a Sports Illustrated model and I’m a proud gold member of the Itty Bitty Tittie Committee. What is more watchable though than watching Amy confess her love for Curtis when he’s shacking up with someone else back in the villa? Or Molly Mae having a breakdown shouting ”she’s a ring girl!” as Maura comes in the villa, eyes set on Tommy? I’ll tell you what’s better. Watching it and getting that smug little feeling of ”Thank God I am not the only absolute nutter that has behaved like this over a boy”. We’ve all had our moments, haven’t we? Watching Love Island is basically self-validation therapy. We are all exactly the same!! Except these people are basically chiseled from stone and live on diets of kale and Joe’s Juices. I’m sat on my sofa in a dressing gown with hobnob crumbs down my self.

3. We are all romantics at heart.

We love love. It’s a fact. Whether we like to admit it or not, we have all had a bit of a blub over Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts at the end of Notting Hill and if you watch First Dates, don’t you wait for the end with the small, heart-filled hope in your eyes that one of the couples have found their perfect match? We love to have an “Aww” moment. Its that little glimmer of feels in this big, bad world.

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4. “It’s the drama Mick, I just love it”

Zara losing her Miss GB crown. Terry and Malin falling out over toastie gate. That feminism row between Jonny and Camilla. If there is one thing Love Island isn’t short of, its the drama and we simply cannot get enough. We all know we zone out when the producers spend too long showing the dates or the heart to heart chats. Give me the tweet challenge or a love triangle any day.

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5. The Lingo.

Chivey. It is what it is. Messaggeeee. Dead Ting. Drop me out. Loyal. The list goes on. It may sound like a foreign language to many but not to you. You know the ins and outs of the Love Island catchphrase book and you aren’t afraid to use it. What would we do without Olivia introducing us to the concept of ‘Dicksand’ or Maura bringing the word ‘Fanny flutters’ back? Well, I can tell you one thing for sure, that’s not a world I want to be in.  Sorry though Lucie, Bevvy just isn’t going to work.

And with that, I bid you goodbye. Enjoy the finale. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried & we have looked on in absolute horror but it’s been a hoot. Now to go and find where I left my social life…

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When did the word ‘Influencer’ get so dirty?

Opinion
influence
/ˈɪnflʊəns/
noun
1.
the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
 
It’s a word that makes some of us cringe more than hearing the word ‘moist’ or ‘mulch’ said out loud. It’s certainly become a dirty word in the blogging and journalist community in recent years but what exactly is the stigma behind this 21st-century business model for marketing?
 
Hands up if you are someone that skips past an official ad on social media…
Keep your hands up if you still find yourself following Instagram accounts that post ads or recommendations for products…
 
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We all consider ourselves super ‘woke’ when it comes to the big green monster that is corporate advertising, a small percentage of us even use ad-blockers or incognito mode in order to keep our cookies firmly in the jar and out of targeted ad campaigns grasp but yet psychologically we do not have the same aversion to a post by Selena Gomez holding a glass bottle of coke or Zoe Sugg using her KitchenAid mixer to make a pancake recipe from her own book. One huge difference, these are posts on their personal Instagram accounts, they are “real”, or at least they feel real. So, the kings of manipulation changed their tactic and the influencer was born. Big or small, it doesn’t really matter, this is advertising and it’s delivered directly to a concentrated market.
 
The demise of the Influencer bubble seems to have started with the widely publicised Fyre Festival fiasco which tarnished the name of many a high profile celeb and brought Influencer marketing into the spotlight for questioning. I’m not sure that the wave of ‘Influencer hate’ is thrown at the likes of multi-millionaires Kendall Jenner or Emily Ratajkowski though. Whilst they certainly have influence they are not Influencers, they are models, actors or performers. Let’s be perfectly honest here when we talk about Influencers what we really mean is that circle of Instagram where Bootea is a food group and cheap, fast fashion is king (I’m looking at you Pretty Little Thing).
 
Vacuous beautiful people posting beautiful photographs of beautiful things. Did I hit the nail on the head? I can’t begin to pretend that some ‘Influencers’ aren’t just that, looking for the next quick buck off an easy upload of a protein shake that will most certainly rot your insides. In a world where we are obsessed with removing labels, we are all too happy to label bloggers, Instagrammers and social media fanatics with the Influencer label along with all of the negative connations it carries. 
 
Just researching this piece I found comments like “Influencer scum”, “freeloaders”, “one of the vainest, inefficient, unreliable jobs ever”. Do a quick Twitter search of ‘blogger’ and it’s not all too dissimilar. Yet, some of the comments I found about Influencers are written by bloggers. Oh, the irony. The main grievance seems to be the concept of Influencer marketing, not so much with brands reaching out to bloggers/influencers for collaboration but rather the other way around. Sadly there are all too many examples on social media of restaurants/brands publicly shaming people for reaching out to do a collab, many are rude and hurtful, many stories like the one in the press recently about charging Influencers double drum up hateful and often insidious comments and surely that is the real horror behind it all.
 
For generations Creatives have been asked for free work for ‘exposure’ or ‘experience’, Some of the best internships in the world are still unpaid but this power shift toward Influencers and Influencer marketing is really rubbing people up the wrong way. Again, I digress. I’m not writing this to have a Question time debate on the ‘blaggers, not bloggers’ scandal. I’m here to understand when the word Influencer got so dirty.
 
 
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Scan back to the top and read the dictionary meaning again. It’s neither a positive or negative word, stick an -r on the end though and you’re in a whole new world. Bloggers shake in their boots at anyone daring to call them by the I word, they balk at the mere mention of the word and hasten to stick it on others in big red letters. I’m taking the word back. It’s fetch and it’s going to happen.
 
Influence, as long as it is positive, is such a wonderful thing to have on a person. One post of a coffee and cake can bring tens, even hundreds of people to a local business they would have never discovered before, sharing a cool eco-friendly product can influence people to be more responsible with their shopping and a mental health post can influence someone to go and have a chat. Influence is a powerful thing, for both the good and the bad. If you are able to make an impact or influence a decision toward something good then go you!!! Social media is so often tarnished in a bad light and maybe I’m just annoyingly positive but isn’t there something very pure about a platform that gives so many people of all different opinions, creeds, races the opportunity to share their opinion? Isn’t it sad when that is torn down simply because someone doesn’t agree?
 
Please don’t sell Bootea though, use your powers for good, share things you love, rant about plastic pollution and veganism, promote lovely little independent businesses. Just don’t tear others down. You aren’t perfect, I’m not perfect, but we can all influence each other to be a little bit more so.
 
See what I did there…