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…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

Lifestyle

You know the film. Katherine Heigl shamelessly piling bridesmaid dresses back into her wardrobe after the cynical Wedding column journalist stumbles upon them. Each dress is more of a monstrosity than the last but it’s ok! Don’t panic! She finally gets to be a Bride in the end. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah.

I have been a bridesmaid seven times. Five of those have occurred as a woman in my twenties. It’s not quite twenty-seven times but it certainly feels that way sometimes. I have heard “Always the bridesmaid…” precisely one billion times, in a close second is “When do you think it’s your turn?”. Well, I have taken some time to consider these statements and I would like to address them once and for all:

I just really love pretty dresses and free food.

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Glad I’ve addressed this. No, all joking aside, what is wrong with being a bridesmaid!? It is one of the best life experiences ever. You get to spend 6-18 months (depending on how crazy/organised your friends are) to help them plan one of the most important days of their life, you usually get to look really bloody fancy for the day AND you get to unashamedly use a willy straw or wear something super tacky on a hen do. Most importantly, you get to do all of that, without the insane stress of being the bride. I am not ready to have an anxiety attack over whether my foundation contains SPF or not, or whether the ribbon on my place cards is one shade darker than the ribbon on my chairs. I am not ready for that level of stress. I am the girl that agonises over the organisation of a works Christmas party, imagine adding in a wedding-sized budget, 150 of your nearest and dearest and a huge, legally binding commitment into that.

*laughs nervously*

“When will it be my turn?” –  When I want it to be. I’m not sure I am a big believer in needing to be engaged to be married. I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by so many happy, healthy couples, both married and not. I remember as a little girl I used to think it was so odd that my Aunt & Uncle in Guernsey had been together all their lives but never married. They owned a house, even bought a ring but never actually ‘tied the knot’. the older I’ve got the more I’ve respected that decision. Committing a life to each other with no actual commitment at all. A conscientious choice to spend that life together. As a twenty-something woman, there is this constant flashing sign above my head that says ‘Not yet engaged’ in big neon letters, it shines brighter with each year that passes. Eventually, I imagine it getting so large that I turn into some kind of female version of Atlas, carrying my neon sign above my back, numerous cats perched on top of course, my back hunched and my hair grey from many years as a spinster.

Oh and by the way, I’ll just leave this here:

Spinster –

  • spin. ster.
    • An unmarried woman regarded as beyond the age of marriage.

Bachelor

  • bach.e.lor
    • A man who is not married

How did we get spinster!? Bachelor conjures up images of gorgeous, greying Clooney. Spinster conjures up images of that witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Warts and all.

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I digress. Engagements are lovely, please don’t get me wrong, I fawn and I swoon each time I see one of those picture-perfect engagements, the loved up selfie, hand to the camera, showing off the rock with that huge love drunk grin. It really is gorgeous and I will inevitably be counting the days until I can stalk your wedding photos. An engagement always seems to feel eternally impending. It’s the flashing light hanging above our heads until it finally happens of course and the light fades to grey but instead reads ‘Have you set a date yet?’

It’s no surprise that women proposing to men is on the up, Vogue reported last year that there had been a 336% increase, I’d say at least half of those are probably done by women sick of being asked ‘When is it going to happen?’. Ok, no that is cynical of me but it does get old doesn’t it? Being a bridesmaid, on the other hand, never gets old. I get to drink copious amounts of free champagne, organise insanely fun hen parties and get to wear a really pretty dress for the day. Oh, and what do we all know about bridesmaid dresses? You can just shorten them and wear them again.

No wait, that’s a total fucking lie because who has the energy to take a dress to the tailors/can still sow. It is 2019. Lets just Depop it and move on.

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The Coconut Tree – Cardiff

Cardiff, Cardiff Eats, Food

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Mill Lane is the hub of Cardiff for me. When the sun shines each bar and restaurant is awash with crowds. Cold glasses of white wine and lager lining the tables, Hoards of people gathered into Peppermints outdoor seating area until it’s standing room only, couples and friends sat on the patio tables lining Wyndham Arcade enjoying colourful dishes from Bills or Ask. In the Winter you won’t find much difference. We are Welsh, after all, there is nothing that a jumper and an outdoor heater won’t solve. It doesn’t matter what time of year you walk this avenue, Mill Lane is always awash with Cardiff life.

In comes, The Coconut Tree, a Sri Lankan bar and restaurant started up by a group of friends that met just outside Colombo. They specialise in serving up Sri Lankan Street Food, but not only that, they also specialise in bringing the Sri Lankan ethos and zest for life to their restaurants.

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The Coconut Tree sits between the infamous 10 Mill Lane bar and the equally infamous and mysteriously named, Private Shop. I guess you could say they are in good company. Inside you would be mistaken to think you were in a cool bar in Colombo or Seminyak. Dim lighting, bright exposed street art, those low wooden tables with the tiny chairs that make you feel like you are at a children’s party, patterned cushions that remind me of *those* trousers that your friend comes back with from their “Gap Yarr” in Thailand and Bali, along with their new found love for yoga and a nasty case of VD. The ceiling is papered with assorted pages from Sri Lankan newspapers, great if you are a cricket fan, it doesn’t take long to find a few stories featuring their national team. My favourite part? The bar. Two pence pieces lined up perfectly and set in place with a glittery resin. If I could pull this off in my kitchen, I would. The barware is an assortment of copper cocktail accessories and brightly coloured ceramic glasses, including the beautiful elephant, Ruby.

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The venue isn’t designed to be your quiet, romantic, secluded spot for date night. It’s loud, the music is masterpiece after masterpiece, the dishes are made to be shared and you are meant to get your hands dirty. They haven’t put rolls of kitchen paper on the tables for you to get precious about cutting your chicken wings with knives and forks.

We started with a few cocktails, sorry, I should say Cocotails, much like everything else on the menu they are extremely reasonably priced. When you consider that you are paying around the £13/£14 mark at the likes of The Alchemist these are an absolute delight at between £6-£8! There may be no sight of smoke or bubbles but these handcrafted cocktails are just as impressive and pack a punch.  We tried the Drunken Sri Lankan and the Sri-presso Martini to start us off. The first is a showstopper in appearance, taste, and concept. Ceylon Arrack – a traditional Sri Lankan spirit, Ginger Beer, Cointreau, Turmeric and Fresh Lime all served up in the cutest jade green ceramic glass in the shape of Ruby the Elephant. It’s very reminiscent of a Dark and Stormy but with a tiny hint of fire at the end from that added turmeric. If you’ve seen my Instagram post already about this cocktail then you already know why this drink is a winner in my eyes. Every drink that The Coconut Tree serves with Ceylon Arrack contributes to the care of real-life Ruby the Elephant and her band of buddies all being cared for by The Elephant Transit Home. The second, the Sri-presso Martini, which by the way is near impossible to say sober let alone after 2 or 3, is perhaps the best take on an Espresso Martini that I have ever had. Coffee-infused Arrack, Cardamom Syrup, and Coffee Liqueur. Creamy, fragrant, far too easy to drink, these are totally lethal because there is no way you will only have one. In fact, of all the Cocotails we tried, that statement is probably true of all of them, even ‘Ruby’s Mum’ which serves five. No judgment here. So let me just summarise:

Reasons why you should relocate your next cocktail hour to The Coconut Tree:

  1. They won’t break the bank. Cocktails start at £6 and even the sharing cocktails start at just £15. Your bank manager will thank you.
  2. They are going to look super cute on your Instagram feed. After all, if it’s not on Instagram, Did it even happen?
  3. Most of the cocktails contain some sort of spice or fresh fruit which we all know is good for you. Turmeric is a super food, coconut is good for your heart, Ceylon is packed of antioxidants, Mint even helps with stress. This isn’t a cocktail bar, it’s essentially a health retreat.
  4. Elephants are adorable, they also need a lot of looking after, Order a few ‘Ruby’s’ and sit back and daydream of her frolicking with all of her little elephant mates thanks to your kind contribution.

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Everything you order in The Coconut Tree follows a trend. It would be an insult to say it is ‘cheap and cheerful’ because whilst it is both those things, it is so much more. The food is designed to be luxury Sri Lankan street food. Reading the menu, it promises an explosion of colour and flavour and Boy… does it deliver just that.

I am a huge fan of spicy food. When Joe first met my parents the poor lad had never really eaten anything spicier than a tikka dish, then my mum serves up the infamous Jerk Pork that she makes with fresh scotch bonnet chilies. I didn’t know whether he was crying, sweating or a mixture of the two. Meanwhile, I’m sat there scrapping the marinade off the bottom of the pan with a piece of leftover bread. When I come across a restaurant in the UK like The Coconut Tree that promises to serve up cuisine notorious for spice and heat, on most occasions I’m left feeling a little disappointed. We were lucky enough to try quite a range of dishes, small dishes designed so that you can share them and try a bigger range. Once the first few dishes arrived my spice seeking cynicism took all of 2 seconds to dissipate. Each dish was punchier than the last. A side of chickpeas would normally sound like a bit of a take it or leave it dish, these were more like try it or regret it. Chickpeas stir-fried in coconut oil, onions, garlic, mustard seeds & chilies and topped with shredded coconut they were full of flavour and carried a good whack of heat, even for me.

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Cheesy Columbo – Fried cheese cubes in a sticky, sweet sauce – £5

An assortment of dishes quickly followed. Devilled chicken wings, Black Pork, Jaffna Goat Curry. All served up in white enamel bowls, all steaming hot, packed full of flavour and creating the most wonderful aroma in the air. The Kotthu, a fusion street food, is by no means a looker, it looks really like a pack of stir-fried veg you’ve just picked up from Tesco Express. Nope, this deserves more than a Tesco label, this deserves a sexy M&S Ad with that weirdly erotic voiceover. Shredded roti, mixed vegetables and eggs running through it, you can opt to add in chicken or cheese but this dish is perfect just as it is, incredibly moreish and yet again, full of flavour.

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Devilled Chicken Wings – £5

Other standouts? Hot Battered Spicy Cuttlefish, covered in a stocky, spicy glaze, piping hot and wonderfully crisp and the tradiitional Hopper, a bowl-shaped coconut milk pancake served with a runny fried egg, coconut sambal, caramelised onions with a hint of cinnamon & Sri Lankan salsa. Mix up the filling and then roll this into a pancake to enjoy. This definitely had a taste reminiscent of Caribbean jerk seasoning, lots of herbs, spices, and a slightly smokey finish.

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Hot Battered Spicy Cuttlefish – £7

This is going to sound so unbelievably corny but The Coconut Tree feels like so much more than a restaurant and bar. It feels authentic, the focus isn’t on creating Sri Lankan inspired dishes with a hefty price tag and suited to a more Western palette, the focus is on serving real Sri Lankan dishes and flavours just like you would find them on the island. The staff are warm and many of them themselves hail from Sri Lanka, they’ve even brought over some of their Grandma’s in order to get inspiration on the menu, it doesn’t get more authentic than that does it!?

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Egg Hopper – Coconut milk pancake, coconut sambal, seeni sambal & lunu miris – £3.50

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(L to R) Kotthu, Hot Battered Spicy Cuttlefish, Chickpeas

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Kotthu – Shredded roti stirfried with vegetables and egg – £5

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Where? 10 Mill Lane, Cardiff

Price? Cheap!! Dishes range between £2.50-£8.

*I was invited to the opening of The Coconut Tree and all dishes were complimentary, however, thoughts are all my own and there was no obligation to post.