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.

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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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. 

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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Nike’s Latest Campaign, Body Positivity and Dreaming Crazier.

Lifestyle

A few days ago in my usual pre-bedtime Instagram browse, I saw a story that blogger Callie Thorpe had posted – It showed a ”plus-size” mannequin in the Nike store wearing a sports bra and some fitted leggings. Nike continuously amazes me with its latest ads and campaigns. Their ”Dream Crazier” ad last year brought me to tears. The press had twisted and turned Serena Williams outburst at an umpire and headlines everywhere were painted with the words ”unstable” ”hormonal” ”erratic”. I am a huge sports fan, almost every game I watch a male player shout at the ref or an opposition player, but that’s passion right? No headline here.

“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, we’re delusional. When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy…So if they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do.”

It got me. Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Alex Morgan… iconic sports stars all saying a big fuck you to a slew of double standards and all through the medium of what was yet another fantastic Nike campaign. So, when I looked at that photograph of the mannequin my first thought was *clap, clap, clap* Nike does it again.

Now here I am, just over 48 hours later reading an article published by The Telegraph entitled “Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie” by journalist Tanya Gold.

“An immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat. She is, in every measure, obese, and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement.”

Read that. Read it again because I can guarantee if you were annoyed reading it the first time, you’ll be outraged after reading it the second time around.

Let me first make myself very clear. I am a UK size 10. Sometimes I love my figure and sometimes I hate it. I play sport, I love sport, I live for it in fact. Do you know what is the worst part of participating in sport or fitness for me? The clothes. The activewear that I only ever see on a minuscule model or mannequin. I pull that Lycra up over my sizeable arse and to put it frankly, I feel like utter crap every time. I see it squeezing me in all the areas I hate. I feel it pulling up or falling down when I’m running. I feel it tighten the hotter and sweatier I get. Each time, I dread that feeling. All that, and I’m a size 10. A so-called healthy weight.

I watch each Nike campaign and want nothing more than to get onto the netball court, to go for a run, to start a gym session. They empower me. The diversity of their campaigns. The focus on power, strength, and determination. Regardless of your race, creed, gender, AND weight. I look at that Nike mannequin and it is yet another stride toward our focus on who we are and not what we are. It is a big middle finger to sports clothing labels that don’t go above a size 12. It’s a big middle finger to everyone, who just like me, whether you are a size 4 or a 24, feels like absolute garbage anytime they put activewear on because we are only exposed to one image of what working out should look like.

Tanya Gold’s main argument seems to be that by being representative of a ”plus size” woman Nike are encouraging obesity and bad health. I imagine that Miss Gold has not expressed the same opinions when seeing mannequins in the brightly coloured windows of Topshop, Oxford Street – mannequin after mannequin adorned in beautiful, tiny clothes, no bigger than a size 4 at best. Did she express her concern with promoting unhealthy habits then? Did she spare a thought over the growing cases of eating disorders in young women in the UK? I doubt it.

Nike is a brand that is now synonymous for its indiscriminate campaigns and ads. This latest move to use ”plus-size” mannequins is not a promotion of bad health. I would be a fool if I were to say that there is no direct correlation between weight and health, that correlation, however, is not strictly reserved for those that are considered obese. Health is not something you see. You cannot simply look at a person and decide whether they are or are not healthy. A few years ago I embarked on an absolute absurd diet in order to look my best for my trip to Santorini. It didn’t verge on obsessive, it was obsessive. I lived for someone telling me how skinny I looked, it only motivated me to eat less and less. I’m not really sure now looking back what stopped that mentality but I wasn’t healthy. I was starving myself, I was struggling with my body image, I had a huge eczema flare up because I was starving my body of nutrition, but boy, did I look good in a bikini.

Nike’s use of this new size mannequin is a promotion of strength, determination, and power. It’s a nudge to all of us that have felt disgusting in gym gear because we don’t have abs. Its a little whisper in your ear that you shouldn’t give up on sport or exercise just because you don’t look like Miss Gym Bunny 2019. It’s a Welcome to Nike as you walk in their store entrance because you aren’t afraid of someone pointing and laughing at you being there.

Miss Gold’s article has taught me one thing, however. I don’t know what dress size she is, I don’t know what she looks like, I don’t actually know anything about her. I won’t judge her based on her dress size or her image. I will, however, judge her on her words and the discrimination, prejudice and discriminatory behavior she has today promoted. I can do that, that is my right, as a size 10, as a size 6, as a size 20. It doesn’t matter. Discrimination isn’t for just the attacked to defend, it’s for all of us to defend and I’m glad to see a global brand do just that.

In a world where we are all discussing mental health and self-care more and more each day, how can we deign to put body types into categories – Healthy or unhealthy? As if it is something that we can see just by checking our clothing labels. I know other people will look at me and say ”she’s a size 10, what has she got to worry about?” but yet I still get that sinking feeling when I go to pull on my sports bra for my run. I still dread going to the gym because of how self-conscious I feel. I still buy my activewear online because I can’t think of anything worse than going into a sports store and trying anything on. All of that has to change. Sport is for us all, so is health, so is fitness.

So, Fuck you Tanya Gold. I’ll leave you with this.

Happily Ever Afters, Red Opera Gowns & Soundtracks

Lifestyle

I currently have a ‘must watch’ list of around five or six romantic films on my Netflix account. It doesn’t really matter what they are all about, boy meets girl, boy does something to hurt girl, boy makes a grand romantic gesture and gets the girl in the end. There are good, bad and ugly renditions of this age-old genre but I’ve seen them all. Mainly the ugly.

There is nothing that makes my little heart soar more than seeing Edward Lewis, at the end of Pretty Woman pulling up to Vivian’s home in his Lincoln Stretch Limousine, conquering his fear of heights to climb up the fire escape, all with a bunch of roses in hand, to kiss her and utter the immortal line:

Edward: So what happened after he climbed up the tower and rescued her?
Vivian:
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Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman plays out. The tears run down my face. I spend the next thirty minutes yearning for a real life romantic moment with diamond necklaces and red opera gowns.

What happens after the credits roll though? What happens after those immortal words? What happens after they go back down that fire escape?

Everyone knows by now that Disney and rom-coms are behind our misguided expectations of romance and flowers in our relationships but what if actually we’ve been reading it wrong all along. What if we start understanding that after those credits roll the romance still continues but its more pyjamas and takeaway than operas and polo?

We constantly associate the word romance to images of grandeur, extravagance and overt displays of affection. Whether we like it or not these moments just don’t have longevity kids. Unless of course you are married to Kanye West for whom filling a mansion full of roses is just another day. We are creatures of habit, after all, we get comfortable with our loved ones, we slip into that beautiful haze of monogamy. We forget about wearing matching lingerie every day or greeting them at the door wearing nothing but a tie (Sorry I’m back to Pretty Woman again). Everything has a life span, nothing is forever and so why do we treat stages of relationships like they are?

Last month I was stricken with the worst kind of period pain. The kind that makes you want to curl up and cry watching The Notebook. In a hormonal struggle, I ended up highly upset that I couldn’t find my hot water bottle, as we all know, our uteruses best friend in moments like this. Joe disappeared to our corner shop and a few moments later returned with some rubber gloves and a pillowcase which he proceeded to shape into a makeshift hot water bottle for me. Tell me that is not romance. Admittedly my yellow marigolds probably don’t scream Richard Curtis movie but at that moment I truly thought this was one of the most romantic things anyone had ever done for me.

 

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We have been together for five years now and yes, I cannot lie, some days I  watch one of my beloved romantic films and yearn for those moments of romantic bliss and there is nothing wrong with that. In those moments though, I’m missing the real romance. I’m missing him ordering us pizza even though he keeps telling me “pizza is just a snack” because he knows I love it. I’m missing him leaving me a cup of tea on my bedside table in the morning even though I’ve grumpily kicked him out of bed in my post wake rage.

We are all missing what’s going on after the credits. It isn’t all opera, red gowns, and soundtracks but it is romance, and in possibly it’s sweetest, most wonderful form. We hear so many cases today of relationships breaking down because the spark has gone, and perhaps it is, or perhaps we are so accustomed to thinking that the absolute fireworks, passion, and romance of a new relationship should be forever that we tell ourselves it isn’t working. Yes, a spark and chemistry are important but let’s not forget that sparks do not live forever. They are not limitless beings. They need to be tended constantly and ultimately they do die out. Edward Lewis doesn’t climb up the fire escape each week with red roses and a swoon-worthy line. I certainly am not casting one of the greatest Hollywood movie romances to the ashes though. I am convinced that the credits roll and many years later Vivian is sat on her custom chaise lounge in her old Rolling Stones tee eating cold noodles vying for those days of diamonds and raunchy evenings on a grand piano but also counting down the seconds until Edward gets home from his latest billion dollar business trip.

If only the movie industry were only permitted to release Richard Curtis romantic comedies. The ones that make us ugly cry because the moments are true and painfully relatable. Bridget Jones with her dodgy makeup because she didn’t apply it in the right lighting, Emma Thompson heartbroken when she finds THAT necklace, Rachel McAdams trying on dress after dress in About Time in an emotional flurry. Now that isn’t to say these movies are realistic, they are movies after all and there is a reason we all flood to watch them in our gaggles of friends. They are truer though, they show the tough side of love, the side that comes after the whirlwind, the side that reminds us that there is more to relationships than opera gowns and soundtracks. There are marigold hot water balloons, pizza takeaways and surprise cups of tea. What more could you want?

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The ‘Just because…’ Gift Guide

Lifestyle

Is there any better feeling in the world than when you buy someone a gift that they absolutely adore? A gorgeous little trinket or something really personal. A little gift that you saw and thought of that person the second you saw it. The feeling is even better when it’s a ‘just because’ gift, not because we’ve been swept up in the mayhem of a commercial holiday but just because we wanted to.

Here are some of my favourite ‘Just because’ gifts, all from lovely independent/responsible sellers.

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Instagram: The Little Market

The Little Market is a fair trade shop set up by friends Lauren Conrad, of The Hills fame, and Hannah Skvarla who through a shared love of design, travel and empowering women set up this nonprofit organisation as a way of alleviating poverty and bringing a brighter future to those in need. The Little Market works with artisans from all over the world offering them design and business advice and bringing their beautiful, lovingly made products to the world. You may not be living on the beautiful Californian coastline within walking distance of Conrad and Skvarla’s picture perfect store but you can still get your hands on their unique, one of a kind pieces. If you are on a slightly bigger budget then please go and take a look at their wonderful gift sets. You can choose from either preselected sets, there really is one for every occasion, or create your own by handpicking the items you like. My personal favourite is the Celebrating Women gift box inspired by Women’s equality day. For those of you who don’t want to spend a (very) pretty penny, check out the ceramic trinket trays and tableware. My absolute favourite, pictured above, is made by Chabi Chic in Morrocco and are hand sculpted. That blush and gold pattern is the absolute tableware of dreams.

Purchase here.

Don’t forget this is a US based store so take extra shipping and tax into consideration.

 

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Not on the High Street: Wue (Bees Knees silver earrings)

Now, these are the bee’s knees! Gorgeous sterling silver studs from the husband and wife team at WUE. All of their jewellery is made in the UK and each comes beautifully presented with small personal sayings and mottos. Perfect for a little pick me up or motivation for anyone that needs it. I picked the bumblebees above because they are just super sweet and always seem to remind me of the UK in springtime. My favourite season. I also have my eyes on these because the lightning bolt design is adorbs and I am obsessed with the message on them. What a lush present for a friend or loved one!

 

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Website: Crown and Glory (Aurora and Luna Moon and Star barrette set)

Crown and Glory are without a doubt one of my favourite British brands. Founder Sophie King created the brand after an unsuccessfull hunt for the perfect, pretty hair accessories. Today, the Cornwall based brand boasts a star-studded following and their products have been seen on the pages of Vogue, Grazia and Rock n Roll Bride. If you are getting married, or are maybe just super extra, then you must check out their Bridal accessories. Their Nebula star veil is the thing of dreams, I have genuinely sat and contemplated if I can wear a veil anywhere other than my own wedding because it is just that gorgeous. For something a tad more low key then what better than the Aurora & Luna Moon hair set. This celestial bobby pin set is a must buy for the star in your life.

P.s. Please send tips on how I can wear this to every possible social occasion.

 

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Etsy: Minetta Jewellery (Personalised hammered disc necklace in gold)

Ok so my gift ideas are basically all jewellery or accessories but I just can’t help it when there are necklaces as pretty as these around!!! My best friend bought me a necklace very similar to this as a bridesmaid gift and it is honestly my most treasured piece of jewellery. I wear it almost every day and I swear I am just waiting for it to erode away on my neck into dust because I wear it so often. These necklaces are 14k gold fill and what I love the most is that you can pick the chain length depending on your preference. This necklace is by Minetta Jewellery, you can find them on Etsy, and they specialise in simplistic, minimal jewellery that you can wear every day. Their personalised gold bar necklace is going on my hit list sharpish.

 

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Instagram: Papergang

Last but not least, the perfect treat for any stationery lovers in your life (Hooray, It’s not jewellery again I hear you cry!). Papergang is a Monthly subscription service, BUT, you can buy a fixed period subscription or even a gift card, so no scary moment when you forget to cancel that direct debit and your mate is left swimming in free stationery at your expense. Papergang is another wonderfully responsible brand. For every four Papergang boxes that are sold, one tree is planted in association with Tree Aid. The trees benefit the environment and also provide food for villagers that they can grow, eat or even sell. So your lovely friend gets a beautifully designed box of stationery AND you get a healthy touch of the feels for doing your part for charity. You kind so and so.

So that’s my list, Happy spending, spoiling and just being the kindest little gem you can be ♥

Why ”Friends Are Your Most Important Romance”

Lifestyle

Norman teaI played with the idea of picking up Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton’s book, Everything I know about love, for months. I don’t typically enjoy reading a run of the mill, soppy, romance novel. They are almost always set in New York. The heroine always has the perfect apartment and wardrobe to boot and falls head over heels for the sexy, always a stockbroker, man of her dreams. This book may have love in the title but it is certainly not that.

I eventually picked up this book in a red wine-fuelled haze on Amazon. It sat on my living room shelf for a few weeks after. Then last month I had a work trip to Barcelona and grabbed it in a rush so that I wasn’t bored to tears whilst shoved into my tiny dayglow orange Easyjet seat with my tiny g&t. I read the entire book back to front in 4 hours. The second I landed in the UK and arrived back to my office I pressed it into the hands of my colleague and best friend. Why? Because I read this book and I instantly wanted to tell her all about it, I wanted to buy copies for all of my female friends. I wanted to tell them all that they were the great loves of my lifetime.

Through each chapter, Alderton takes you through her teens, twenties, and thirties retold with anecdotes, letters, and recipes (The Got kicked out of a Club Sandwich is an end of night saver). Each chapter dotted with hilarious and often ugly but beautifully honest recounts of her drug-fuelled, drunken, boy crazy years. There is one consistent theme though, her friends. Boyfriends, good and bad (mostly bad), come and go and occasionally so do her friends but the message through it all is that we need to put “more friendship in our romances and more romance in our friendships”. We ask ourselves over and over again if we only get one soulmate or one great love, well to that I say absolutely fucking not. Look at your friendship circle and tell me that some of you weren’t absolutely made for each other…

I thought not.

 

My 4 reasons why we should all start appreciating our ‘Great Loves’ a little more:

1. Do you know what I have spoken to my female friends about in the last month? Water retention, Mood swings, Shaving your thighs (or not), Hairy bums, That time I got sick in my hair and ‘Unfortunate Sam’ (It’s a story for another time). How many of those things would you speak to your partner about? In the same totally shameless manner that you would with your friends? My boyfriend is arguably the best person on this planet but he has no need or intention to start discussing the ins and outs of a water infection with me.

2. In the wise, wise words of Carrie Bradshaw – “And why is it that we can see our friends perfectly but when it comes to ourselves, no matter how hard we look, do we ever see ourselves clearly?”. How many times have you told one of your friends that she looks absolute fire in that new midi dress? Or that she is wayyy too good for that guy that hasn’t text back? Your friends are your cheerleaders, They know your insecurities inside and out and they know when you need a pick me up. We may look at our friends and wish we had their tiny waist or their sense of style, but I can assure you, they are doing that right back.

3. Your friends may know the best of you but they also know the worst of you and they aren’t afraid to tell you straight. Partners have that whole ‘She’s hormonal and may actually fatally injure me if I say that” thing to deal with but friends know that we could never stab them! After all, we’ve already made murder pacts of ex-boyfriends/office bitches/rude uber drivers together and sworn each other to secrecy. They can tell you when you are being an over-controlling freak or when you really shouldn’t order that chicken burger because it will 100% set your gluten allergy off. I can’t say I always listen to them but hey, they try…

4. Girl time is sacred. Now by that I mean friend time is sacred. My perfect Sunday involves brunch, gossip, a few glasses of prosecco and an animated discussion about some kind of Man-splaining incident one of us has had to suffer at work. Joe’s perfect Sunday most likely involves a gym session, some form of meat-heavy lunch followed by a beer-fuelled afternoon ridiculing his friends back and forth in the harshest way possible. It’s our ‘secret friendship behaviour’ and we all need it! It’s not a competition of whether you enjoy the time more with your partner or your friends. They should each be as enjoyable because they are each totally different!!!

You can buy a copy of Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love here.

Dedicated to my great loves.

Is this the real ‘Gin Craze’?

Lifestyle

We all have a story about a particularly bad moment fuelled by gin, don’t we? I legit lose my mind after a few too many. I swear it’s like I’m possessed. I’ll also gladly spend £20+ on a double if it means it comes in a crystal goblet with edible flowers and pretty garnishes. That’s the true craze…

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We have Prince William of Orange to thank for our seemingly new found addiction to this spirit. He brought genever to Britain in 1688 which at the time was the Netherlands liquor of choice, quasi-medicinal and fondly known as “Dutch courage”. Long story short the new Dutch King was a tad lax in the rules surrounding distilling genever and soon absolutely anyone could distill their own and sell it! Unlike beers and ales, the sale of gin wasn’t regulated and soon gin-shops were serving the public around the clock. The drink quickly fell from a drink of the Upper classes to the cheapest drink in town, synonymous with poverty, thievery, prostitution, and violence. The lack of any distilling regulation led to cheaper substitutes for juniper being added, turpentine, sulphuric acid, gin became an elixir for the poor and desperate. Thus the Gin Craze was born. It was only in the 18th century when the gin craze was finally wrestled under control and soon London dry gin began to be developed and with it, the g&t was born.

From mother’s ruin to modern tipple, the UK is now awash with gin bars, gin-vent calenders, gin hotels and even gin inspired perfumes. Gin has seen a huge revival and you can’t even walk into your local Wetherspoons nowadays without being confronted with around 30 different variations of the quintessentially British tipple. The resurgence of this spirit is accredited to Bombay Sapphire. Vodka was the spirit of choice for most bartenders until Bombay Sapphire’s floral gin showed up and in a striking blue bottle to boot. Sipsmith and Hendricks distillery shortly followed and each one of them are today household names.

Today you will find gins containing anything from lavender, cucumber, rhubarb or rose to the more unusual tobacco, tea or kelp! In an Instagram obsessed world, gin is the perfect drink. The addition of botanicals, edible flowers, and even glitter all stacked into a beautiful goblet shaped glass – its no wonder that gin sales soured in 2018 to a whopping £1.5 billion.

Drinks trends tend to come and go but long may this gin trend continue! To help you all along with your modern day ‘Gin Craze’ here are a few of my fave picks!

Little Bird

In case you hadn’t noticed I am a huge fan of a good old-fashioned London dry. The folks at Little Bird have knocked it out of the park with this one. A recipe of pink-grapefruit, orange peel and ginger & seven more unnamed botanicals. This spirit is a true London gin too! It’s distilled in Peckham. If that isn’t enough to twist your arm then just take one look at the bottle, the gorgeous pinup ‘Miss Ginger’ is inspired by the work of Alberto Vargas who began painting pin-ups for Esquire Magazine. Definitely a bottle for the front of the shelf.

Serve with: Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and a slice of pink grapefruit.

Purchase here

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Jawbox

Another classic dry but this time from our friends in Belfast. Jawbox is a small batch distillery just outside Belfast in a vast 16th-century country estate. They use time-honoured methods and triple distill their gin in traditional copper stills with various botanicals as well as local Black Mountain heather. The end product? Light notes of juniper and citrus that are clean on the nose and the palette. The freshness of this gin finished off with the slight hint of pepperiness thanks to the addition of the hillside heather.

Serve with: Ginger ale and a wedge of lime! The original Belfast serve.

Purchase here

Also worth a try is their pineapple & ginger gin liqueur! Which you can find here

Dyfi Pollination Gin

I had to include a Welsh gin, didn’t I? This family-owned distillery began production in 2016 and has already been awarded the ‘BEST UK GIN’ title at the Great Britain Food Awards.  Dyfi Pollination Gin is everything you would imagine a Welsh inspired gin would be – a grassy and fresh taste with hints of wildflowers, fruits, and conifer tips. This gin not only tastes wonderful but is wonderfully eco-friendly, its distilled using botanicals foraged from the Dyfi Biosphere (A UNESCO site), the Snowdon foothills and some of the other surrounding areas.

Serve with: Fever Tree light tonic, torn mint leaves, juniper berries, and lemon peel.

Purchase here

For the Cardiff/South Wales based amongst you, try some of these incredible venues for a fantastic range of our favourite modern-day tipple. Just don’t go starting your own gin craze…

Gin & Juice – Castle Arcade, Cardiff

Chapel 1877 – Churchill Way, Cardiff

Gin 64 – Penarth

Pennyroyal – High Street, Cardiff

Hogarth’s – Newport & Swansea

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