Tuesday, 30 June 2015

On the road again...

Countdown mode is on! In a couple of days we're setting off on our road trip round Britain! Well, the parts of this little island that we've planned for anyway. In the exact order we have:

Stratford on Avon
Pentewan (at the top of Cornwall to take in the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan)
The Lizard (Cornwall)
Wiltshire (for Longleat Safari Park)
Watford (for Harry Potter World or whatever the official name is!)

To say I'm excited would be an understatement. 


I'm planning lots of blog posts upon my return. Until then...

Friday, 26 June 2015


I posted this photo on my Instagram a few days ago of a Clinique blusher that I bought as a little treat. I didn't edit it at all and I took it on a white background to make the colour really pop. Added a couple of hashtags, job's a good'un. 

Days later, I am still getting likes for it! In all the time I've been on Instagram I have never had a photo be so popular. Last time I checked it was at 90 likes. I'm sure in the grand scheme of big 'grammers this is like a drop in the ocean, but for little old me? 90 likes? Wowser!

Lessons I have learned from this:
  • Buy expensive makeup and share it with the world in photo format
  • Buy makeup that looks so pretty you can barely bring yourself to use it
  • Use a white cracked window sill as your background
  • Use the hashtag #beauty or #makeup
There is one thing I am curious about as a result of this one little photo. I was getting updates constantly of likes and comments, each time I turned on my phone or tablet there were more. Do all those huge Instagrammers who have thousands, millions even, of followers just turn notifications off? Otherwise your phone would just be bombarded constantly. I was quite proud of my little photo in the end for generating so much love but I wonder if they just take it all for granted? This world we live in is a strange one for sure...

Monday, 22 June 2015

Live! - Samantha Durnan and Skinny Living

Two gigs in two weeks! If it weren't for the crappy English weather that would be a stonking start to Summer right there (COME ON sunshine!).

Back to my beloved Georgian Theatre in Stockton for a Sunday evening (school night!) of some live music. This time in the shape of Samantha Durnan on support and Skinny Living as the headliners. 

I might be wrong but I think that I first saw Samantha Durnan play in Mink. She definitely has potential - she's got a cracking voice, particularly when she rocks it out, much like she did when she covered KT Tunstall's Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. Yep, right there, keep that up. I think it's really interesting that she's writing her own stuff but that kind of ballad leaves me feeling a little underwhelmed to be honest. Having said that, she's just starting out and I reckon she's one to keep an eye on for definite. 

I had no preconception of Skinny Living. We pretty much decided to buy the tickets when we saw an ad for them on the screen when we were at The Strypes - impulse purchase! After Samantha Durnan finished I expected the instruments to start rolling out, but they had 4 microphones and a box. The box turned out to be the drum, and there were two guitarists, and the lead singer. Ooh but they were good! 

The band were funny, sweet, with good song lyrics, and a really interesting sound. Who knew that you could sit on a box and use it as a drum?! I'm sure it wasn't just any old box, but you know, clever! One guitarist used his guitar for some beats as well, and overall they had a really nice harmony that was utterly delightful and a real pleasure for the ears. They've just played the Isle of Wight festival so they must be touring around the circuit - I would most certainly recommend a listen if you get a chance to catch them. My favourite song was Storybook which you can watch below - but add two more band members and the special box and you get a whole other sound going on. I like. A lot. 

Oh and to the people behind us who talked their whole way through Skinny Living's set? Learn some effin manners and respect. Pet hate right there. 

Take it away, boys...

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Round Our Way - The Museum of Hartlepool

When we found out there was an exhibition about pirates on at The Museum of Hartlepool, you didn't have to see 'oooh arrrr me hearties' twice before we were there! A tiny pop-up exhibition as you first enter the museum, there were costume recreations, loads of fascinating facts, helmets to pick up (weighing in at 3kg!), treasure boxes to open, and pistols and weapons galore. For the bargain price of FREE this was a cute little informative exhibition. Probably aimed more at little persons but these two big ones wandered around happily anyway. 

While we were there we decided it was worth looking around the rest of the museum, which was also free. Once again, lots of things to touch and feel and open for the littles, but also lots of really interesting stuff about Hartlepool. And buttons to press, which is still entertaining even when you're a biggie. It's a big place and includes a giant lighthouse light, a real fishing boat that you can climb aboard, and all sorts of artefacts from pre-war to present day. I've just learned today that it's in Britain's top ten free visitor attractions (yay, go Hartlepool!) and I would highly recommend a visit. You can find out more information here. 


Friday, 19 June 2015

It's not you, it's me

I remember the first time I ever read a Patricia Cornwell book. I was living in just one of the many grotty flats that I experienced in London, my flatmate was permanently grumpy, we had to wash up by candle light as the kitchen light was broken and the landlord was evil and wouldn't fix it, and I was so skint that I could hardly afford to get to work, much less travel into London for some fun times. There's never been a better time for a book recommendation. Roll up 'Postmortem' by Patricia Cornwell - the first in the Scarpetta series. I hardly drew breath as I wolfed it down like a fine meal, followed very quickly by the next book, and the next, and so on. 

Kay Scarpetta was just this awesome character. She could do everything, quite literally. The characters surrounding here were so fascinating and the story lines so gripping that I clocked up many hours, way past bedtime, just reading one more chapter. As time went by, it reached a point where I couldn't wait for the paperback version to come out and would order the hardback with baited breath, waiting for the thump on the doormat as it arrived. That my friends, is dedication to an author right there. 

Somewhere along the way it all went wrong for Patricia Cornwell. It all started when she killed off one of her major characters, who then might have turned up a few books later. Not quite coming out of the shower like Bobby Ewing (Dallas flashback anyone!) but in a manner that was equally as ridiculous. Then she changed the way she wrote the books. I know! Barmy or what? She went from writing in the first person to this strange third person narrative that made no sense, was incredibly hard to read, and just made no sense. Why Patsy, why? Being a dedicated fan I stuck by her, hoping that she would eventually come to reason and go back to what the fans wanted. After another 2 books like this I gave up the ghost. The love affair was over. It's not you, it's me...

Until last week. I was browsing the library shelves and saw 'Red Mist' and thought okay, let's give her one last try. Well that try is over, and once again, I have reached the painful decision that we are too. By we, I mean me and Patricia Cornwell/Kay Scarpetta (let's face it, they are both the same person!). That early excitement that gripped me is weighed down by the paranoid misery that Scarpetta has become. I waded my way through the 500+ pages quite quickly as the reading is still pretty easy but just so disappointing. There's nothing worse than disappointment. 

I was interested to read after submitting my own review to Goodreads that many of her fans feel the same. Yet they are all sticking by her in the hope that she returns to the glory days. This my friends, is how you continue to make money as an author, even when your books are shoddy. Hopeful fans who yearn for the Scarpetta that once was. Nice one, Patsy. You're onto a winner there. But us? We're through. Over and out. I can't bear it any longer. My farewell to Scarpetta is done. One fan down, but I can't imagine it will make much of an impact. 

Now, in some sort of foolish being hard on myself, I'm doing the same with Kathy Reichs, but I fear she and Tempe Brennan are heading the same way. I'll keep you posted...

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Green Space

The garden we had in the old house was absolutely one of my most favourite things ever. When we moved, there was a little part of me that feared I could never love another garden as much, but I should have had more faith in myself. When we moved in to this house, there was hardly anything to see except lawn but as the seasons are unfolding, so is the garden, day by day. And it's delightful! The colours are all a bit samey and the plants have almost been trained not to grown beyond a certain level, but with our green fingers abound I'm sure it will become the green space that we love the most. 

I never would have imagined that I would enjoy gardening so much. It seems like it should be a hobby for an older person but there's something so satisfying about getting your hands in the earth and watching things grow. Especially fruit and veg! 

Enjoy some green space visuals.

Even though this photo is blurred, I just love the pop of purple in the centre. And these flowers smell amazing! 

I can't wait for all my sunflowers to be ready to brave the outside of the greenhouse. They're my absolutely favourite flower. Oh and I also can't wait for the strawberries. And the raspberries. Having your own green space is truly the Good Life! 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Live! - The Strypes at The Georgian Theatre, Stockton

Those tickets up there were like gold dust. There's a bit of a story behind them. The Strypes were originally only supposed to play one night at The Georgian Theatre in Stockton but that gig sold out in about 20 minutes flat. Disappointed was not even an accurate description. I was in Brighton at the time, far away from home, but luckily very close to a WiFi signal. At about 12.30 am on the Sunday morning I couldn't sleep and I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw that they had added an extra night. I immediately clicked through and got into one of those timed ticket buying situations. Cue me running around a strange house looking for my purse, running into a slightly bewildered Debs on the landing who absorbed my manic 'they're playing another night' squeal, and much excited jumping about when I got the confirmation email. Trust me when I say it was all worth it. 

Actually, worth it is not really a very accurate description either. Oh my. Those boys. Those 4 boys - I'm not even sure they're legal to drink yet, but O.M.effin G did they rock the little tiny theatre (my most favourite venue). From the moment they came on, immediately warming up the audience by telling us in their cutie boy Irish accents 'youse are the coolest town cos you have a Doctor Who shop', they didn't stop. Loud, proud, completely commanding, the energy that came off them was amazing and utterly mesmerizing. They owned that room, very loudly.

With one album and an EP out there in the world, and their second album due for release at the end of July, they stretched the set out to almost an hour. An hour of relentless energy, attitude, and some serious head banging from the bass guitarist. It's hard to describe them - Dave got the whole Liam Gallagher swagger from the lead singer, but I think of them more of a punked up 60's boy band, with their smart skinny suits (except for the guitarist in his Superman tee), bowl cut hair, and their short but brilliant songs. However you choose to describe them, I definitely urge you to have a listen and should they be playing live anywhere near you, it's one not to miss. I came out absolutely buzzing with a massive smile on my face and my ears threatening to ring for days - all the signs of a seriously damn fine gig. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Listen Up!

There's a rumour that Summer might be starting soon...so you definitely need a song that is ideal for dancing around the fields. Or your garden. Or your kitchen. Wherever you get your dance on. 

So I present Circa Waves. 

To the fields, friends! 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The X(ercise) Files

Hi, my name is Claire and I struggle with exercise. Not as in actually doing it, although I would admit to sometimes being out of breath and a bit red in the face, but as in motivating myself to actually do it. Just do it, as the people with the ticky swooshy symbol would say. 

In order to fully explain I think I need to step back in time to when I was a wee school gal. I was ALL about the sports at school. I was in the hockey team, the netball team, the badminton team, I used to run for my school house on sports day, I could hurl myself backwards over the high jump and leap into the sand on the long jump, and I loved it all. I got that buzz that mega-fit people talk about. I carried on with the badminton when I went to college, but by art college? Forget about it. By then I had discovered beer, and that dossing about with your friends was much more fun than being all runny and jumpy. I call this stage the beginning of the slippery slope. 

Fast forward by at least 10 years and I've finished university. I've piled on the pounds eating all the carbohydrates and drinking all the lager, my boobs have grown 3 cup sizes and my dress size was also large, possibly even extra large. I'd like to say that it was at this point that I found the motivation to return to fitness ... but I would be lying. 

Hit the fast forward button again and other than a brief stint where I used to do a yoga/pilates DVD 3 times a week and was a bit of a lean(er) mean yoga machine, I was slobby. As in lazy. As in definitely not motivated. In that time I would say I joined at least 4 gyms where I paid the extortionate monthly fee to go, ooh I would say zero times per week. Ahem. 

I have always been very good at making excuses. Oh I'm too tired/too busy/too this/too that - all of that translated to: I'm too lazy. 

And so here I am. I turned 40 this year and with that some little switch has been flicked. I definitely wouldn't say that I was highly motivated, but trust me when I say I am trying to be. I joined another gym. I've been twice. But I have used the card to play badminton. The summer is on its way and I've been out and about on my bike at least once a weekend. And I'm motivating myself to do at home workouts using the YouTube marvel - I'm lucky to have a flexible working schedule that allows such luxury. For me, this counts as motivation. Truly. 

The good news is I think it's working. I don't have a 6 pack (yet!) and it's unlikely I ever will but surely motivating yourself to move, even if it's only for 25 minutes a day is better than nothing at all? Step by step, day by day, I hope that the 40 switch flick will be my motivator to stick with it. I hope so. Sometimes you have to face up to the fact that if you like cake and biscuits and ice-cream, that you gotta do some work afterwards to make sure you can enjoy more. For me anyway. And I think this is the important bit - finding what works for you. I'm never going to be a gym bunny, no matter how much I try to pretend, I HATE it! But I do like yoga. And my bike. And walking with some good tunes or a podcast in my ears. Work it baby, work it!