A grumble about charity

As I sat watching coverage of the London Marathon on Sunday, I was struck by how many people were running to raise money for charity, which is obviously an amazing thing to do. Charity is an important part of our society, supporting needy causes that don’t get public funding.

It started me thinking, again (I’ve been thinking this for a while), about how wrong it is that some needy causes have to be supported by charity. That there is no government money for them.

Look at Cancer Research UK, for example. 1 in 2 people are now expected to get cancer during their lifetime. Shouldn’t there be more government funding available for something that affects half the population? What about sight loss charities? People who are born blind often have to rely on donations in order to get adapted equipment for the home or work – how is that right?

The thing that really got my goat during the marathon though, was the firefighters running to raise money for the community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire last year. I’d heard them interviewed on the radio on Friday, and then saw more interviews on the TV coverage. 18 firefighters who attended the fire, from North Kensington and Paddington boroughs, who’ve already done so much to rescue survivors during the disaster, were running in full gear including breathing apparatus (an additional weight of approximately 30kgs per person) in order to raise funds. But millions of charity donations already exist, and sit in the hands of the UK government who haven’t fully or correctly distributed them to survivors and those affected. Huge pots of money, donated in good faith by the British public who were saddened by the tragedy, not making the difference it should to the people who need it.

It’s morally and financially wrong.

Of course, some charities themselves are not above reprehension either. CEOs on 6 figure salaries, mismanagement of resources – it starts to add up to a really badly organised use of public cash which was donated in good faith.

It’s maddening.

Not to end on a bad note though, I salute every single person who put themself through 26.2 gruelling miles of running, in the hottest London Marathon temperatures ever recorded, to raise cash for a cause they believe in. They’re all amazing. I just hope their donations get used in the proper manner.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Rome’s hidden treasures – Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps

When I say hidden treasures, I obviously don’t mean in the true sense of the word; the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain are all very well known Roman attractions. But I was super surprised by their location within the city, and how unobvious they were!

Let me explain. On our first day in Rome we went on a city bus tour. We like to do this on most city breaks because it gives a good feel for the city, the highlights, etc and then we generally go back in our own time to visit the places we want to see. During our bus tour around Rome, the commentary pointed out that both the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps weren’t visible from the bus, and we’d need to get off at the nearest stop and walk to them, which we resolved to do at a later point.

That same afternoon, after lunch, we were wandering around the area near to our hotel and I said we should go the the Pantheon. Do you think we could find it? Even the power of Google maps on my phone wasn’t enough to locate this world famous landmark (admittedly my map reading isn’t the best, I have to get in the map like Joey in Friends). We were tantalisingly close and we knew it but just couldn’t quite pinpoint it. Later on we would find the reason why – it’s tucked away in a piazza with no fanfare or big signs or feel of a huge tourist attraction – it’s just there. We rounded the corner and there it stood in front of us.

The first time we went in was dark, so when we looked up the dome we couldn’t tell whether the black dot in the middle was a window, or something else.

Insisting on returning the next morning, we found that it’s an oculus – an opening into the sky with no glass or covering. Rain falls through the hole and is then carried away by the drains inside the building. I found that pretty amazing; that it’s existed for all those years with such a design. The Pantheon has existed, in it’s current incarnation, since 126 AD.

Inside the Pantheon Dome

Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Wow!

I loved the Pantheon. It was possibly one of my favourite buildings in Rome, which is quite a bold boast. Maybe it’s because we tried so hard to find it! Or because we saw it most of all (once we’d come across it the first time it felt like we passed it 3 times a day!) but I never tired of taking photos of it!

It was certainly special enough to be the host to our final lunch, where I ate unctuous lasagne and drank chianti and bathed in winter sunshine and the glory of an amazing trip.

The Trevi fountain is similarly tucked away, more so than the Pantheon (although better signposted). Walking down narrow streets we could hear a hum of people, and then turned a corner and there it was, in all it’s carved, watery glory.

It’s very beautiful, and very crowded – both due to it’s popularity and the limited space (as I said, it’s in a small piazza surrounded on 3 sides by buildings). As such it’s difficult to get many good photos, but just looking at these brings back the amazing memories.

We also went back during the daytime, because I like to squeeze every last drop out of every trip, but I preferred it in the evening because of how beautifully it was lit, and also because the bright sunshine cast shadows over the incredible detail (not that I’m complaining about the sunshine you understand; we were incredibly lucky with the weather and it made everything even better).

And finally, the Spanish Steps, tucked away at the end of a long shopping street (where I spent some of my birthday money on Pandora charms). Again we’d struggled to pinpoint the area, and it was our last stop before our final lunch at the Pantheon, and the poor old husband’s legs and back had given way after days and days of me walking him all over the city.

I didn’t know what to expect and that’s probably to my detriment because I guess I thought it was a tourist attraction in it’s own right, but really it wasn’t. I climbed the steps to the top, because I was there, and the architecture surrounding them is beautiful, but there’s no wow factor as there is in all of the other tourist attractions in the City (and there are a lot). The steps are just steps, and very crowded too.

Trinità dei Monti Cathedral is the imposing building at the top; I didn’t go in but it’s twin spires were very imposing against the beautiful blue sky (there’s me banging on about the weather again).

Catch up on my previous Rome posts below:

Day 1 in Rome

Day 2 – Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica

Day 3 – Colosseum and Roman Forum

Have you ever been to Rome? Did you have a favourite attraction? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

My new garden

Remember when I blogged about the building work on our house, and I told you that when we bought it it was really weird?

Well it’s fair to say that the garden had it’s own quirks too, with a higgledy piggledy zoned layout that didn’t make the best of the space at all. These were the online listing pictures – we struggled to even understand how they related to the house until we went for a viewing!

 

We had some use out of the garden last year; getting outside to read/drink/barbecue whenever it was warm enough, and we bought some new garden furniture and prettied the space up with some pots, but it was just a temporary measure until we decided what to do long term.

Obviously, when we moved in, our priority was to complete the building work which would change the house from a 2 bed apartment with 3 garages into a 3 bedroom “normal” 2 storey house. With builders having a habit of trampling everything in their wake and covering it with rubble and dust, we knew that the garden would be a casualty once the work started in October.

It’s now 3 months since the building work was finished, and with Spring just around the corner (surely?!) it was time to start focussing on our outdoor space, which is going to be a HUGE part of of our life during the better weather. We’d had the shed built just before Christmas (it needs painting, we’re debating colours at the moment) and I’d spent many an hour with an axe and a shovel digging up long established but neglected fuschia trees and bushes last summer, so we made the decision to open up the space by moving a fence that split the garden area in two, giving us a big open plan area with a seating level, an upper level and the lawn.

Here it is in progress, after the fence came down.

We’d had bifold doors put in the extension that was built over the winter, which opens up the side of the house onto the garden. As much as I say I like gardening, what I really like is the pretty bits – choosing and planting flowers – so we wanted the area outside the patio to be low maintenance. The existing slabs were covered in a thick membrane, and we had 7 tonnes of dove limestone gravel laid down.

Which is the perfect area for our bistro table and outdoor dining table!

Obviously I had to test out the positioning with a glass of wine! How else would I know if everything was as it should be?

Garden phase 1 finished 2

There’s still lots to do – the grass is in a bad way and we need to plan planting of border with shrubs and bulbs. In terms of prettiness I shall be on the hunt for beautiful plant pots and curios and mirrors as I want it to be a really eclectic space full of quirkiness, but it’s such a massive difference already that I can’t wait to do the next phase.

Are you a garden person? Or do you prefer to be indoors?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Friday Feeling [29] – when you think you’re having a bad day, read this!

This is one of the funniest stories I’ve read in a long long time – I defy you not to laugh out loud at it!

17 years ago a man brought some pepperoni to some of his naval buddies in British Colombia, and set it on his hotel room windowsill to refrigerate until he saw them later that day.

In the interim, while he was out for a walk, the pepperoni attracted the attention of some seagulls who decided to have a tasty snack at his expense, and take over his room in the process.

Seagulls

What ensues is rib ticklingly hilarious in a way that me summarising could not do justice to.

Have a read here, and be forever grateful your day hasn’t ended in a 17 year hotel ban!

Hope your Friday is going well!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Coming out of my cocoon

I’ve noticed that I tend to neglect myself in January and February. And this year it spilled right over into March too! Not in a “woe is me” kind of way. Just in a “can’t be arsed” kind of way. Know what I mean? Pyjamas become uniform (if I’m not wearing them by 6.30pm on a week night something’s horribly wrong), lack of socialising leads to longer than is acceptable eyebrows and greasier than acceptable roots, and I generally just want to hide away and wait for Spring when I start to choose to feel human and bothered again.

It doesn’t help that last year was so crazy busy with moving house, and our builders were on site right up until 3 days before Christmas, so now we’re finally settled in to our new lovely extended open plan downstairs we just don’t want to leave. In fact I’ve joked in recent months that I’ve developed weekend agoraphobia (not that agoraphobia is a joke, before anyone gets the wrong idea, but my reticence to leave the house from Friday night to Monday morning has become quite the source of amusement for my work colleagues).

And if I’m not leaving the house, I’m often not leaving my PJs!

With lighter nights, milder temperatures and spring flowers all making an appearance I start to feel like I should be making an effort too. Bits of colour appear in my wardrobe and layers become singular. Toenails will be painted in anticipation of sandals. I’ll start to think about fake tan (I’m so unattractively pasty right now). It somehow all feels more worth it when winter is over.

People joke about hibernating in winter, but I would genuinely like to! It just doesn’t suit me – physically or mentally. Spring and Summer is when I thrive and am at my best.

It’s just a shame that Spring feels so reticent to make itself known this year. We keep getting the occasional glimpse, but it just doesn’t last (although I did spend a lovely couple of hours in my garden potting flowers yesterday)

Anyone else feel this way? Or am I the only seasonally slovenly sloth around here!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Male suicide

Last night when I got home, I found out that a friend’s brother had taken his own life on Tuesday.

This morning, a different friend saw the horrifying sight of a man hanging from a motorway bridge as he drove to work.

Only last week, 84 sculptures were revealed on top of the ITV building in London, to highlight the number of men who take their own life every week in the UK. This is part of Project84 – a campaign run by CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

Project 84 male suicide sculptures

Male suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, and reports indicate this is due to social rather than biological reasons. Please make sure all the men in your life – family, friends, work colleagues – know there are people available to talk to, and that sharing their problems does not make them less masculine or reflect on their manliness in anyway.

If you are experiencing problems and suicidal thoughts; whether you’re male or female, you can contact professionals including The Samaritans.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

 

A classic case of need vs. want

We all know the drill; you see something that catches your eye, your inner magpie is on full alert, but you know deep down you don’t actually need it.

But you really, REALLY want it.

Let me introduce my multi coloured sequin skirt from H&M.

H&M multi coloured sequin skirt

I only ordered it to be nosy (honest). Then when it arrived I couldn’t bear to send it back.

It was such a bargain.

And so pretty.

Just look at those colours!

Multi sequin skirt close up

So I kept it.

And then, on Monday, I wanted to go out to lunch so I needed something to wear. And while it might not scream bank holiday in the pub, I made it work. The husband didn’t laugh when I came downstairs , AND he held my hand publicly.

Dressed down with my new snuggly star jumper, opaque tights and flat buckle boots.

I even briefly sat outside to watch it sparkle in the daylight.

Sequin skirt outside

And I’d do it all over again, oh yes I would! Next stop summer with a black t-shirt, denim waistcoat and gladiator sandals.

If summer ever arrives, of course.

Do you do eveningwear for daywear? Sequins in summer?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

DAYS OUT: Cardiff Castle

This week I had some emails telling me that Friendsfest tickets are on sale for this year. I guffawed loudly and remembered how crap it was last year – so overpriced and underwhelming (you can read about it, with pics, here). It didn’t help that we’d driven 100+ miles, from Birmingham to Cardiff, for the “privilege” and that it was one of the husband’s birthday presents.

Huge fail!

In an effort to make the day less of a fail we also went to Cardiff Castle, which was 10 minutes walk from Bute Park where FF was hosted. And honestly? That was a disappointment too! As a castle lover I was very much looking forward to visiting but I felt that it was overpriced (£12.50 per adult, for basic entry, plus an additional £3.25 for the house tour). Much of the castle has been rebuilt in more recent years, so it feels like it lacks authenticity (I like my castles gnarly and ruined and grand). The Norman keep was the best bit, in my opinion, as that’s what my idea of a castle is, and it’s a bit of a rip off to charge extra for the house tour considering how little else there is to see and do compared to other Welsh castles that charge much less for entry (we didn’t do it on principal and because it struck us more as entering into stately home territory, which isn’t really our bag).

It’s fair to say I wouldn’t recommend it unless you happen to be in the area (don’t make a special journey); there are much more interesting and striking castles in Wales.

On that note, here are some pics!

 

 

 

 

Have you ever been to Cardiff Castle? What did you think? Am I doing it a disservice?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

One size DOES NOT fit all

A big well done today to ASOS, who have announced plans to start showing the same clothes on different sizes and shapes of models.

Because we all know that a dress we buy online isn’t going to look the same as it does on the model…don’t we?

So, won’t it be nice to see the effect of wider hips or a bugger bust or shorter legs on clothes before we buy them?

ASOS different sizes

More importantly it’s a recognition that women do come in all shapes and sizes, and that we want to see all shapes and sizes reflected in our decision making process.

Naturally it’s going to take a while to roll out across the entire website, but it’s already a great start. Other retailers take note!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

BREAKFAST REVIEW: Comptoir Libanais, T4 Heathrow Airport

When you have an early start at an airport it makes sense to get there, check in and have something to eat while you’re waiting for your flight. I usually get the fear of not knowing when I’m going to eat again (this also happens to me on car journeys of more than 1 hour) so not eating is not an option.

I’m not much of a traditional breakfast person, I really have to fancy the sausage/bacon/eggs combo that is so prevalent at breakfast time, so when we were going to Malaysia last year and the husband told me he’d researched eating options at Heathrow terminal 4 and found something that was right up my street I was intrigued.

(as an aside, the reason I didn’t know what was there myself was that I thought we were flying from T2, had booked our pre flight hotel near to T2 and had looked at breakfast options at T2. D’oh)

Comptoir Libanais is classed as a Lebanese canteen, serving traditional Lebanese cuisine alongside more traditional options. Now, this is a chain restaurant, and a chain in an airport at that, plus I’ve never eaten Lebanese food, so I don’t know how good it is compared with other Lebanese restaurants, but I really enjoyed it!

The restaurant is decorated with lots of bright colours, tiles, wicker and storage tins, with wooden tables and chairs.

Comptoir Libanais table close up

Comptoir Libanais Heathrow

Table service is offered and the waitress was incredibly friendly and smiley (2 things I couldn’t be if I was serving food to people going on holiday while I was stuck working).

So, what had the husband found that was right up my street? Shakshuka with Sojok. Don’t go thinking he picks out what I do and don’t eat, because that definitely doesn’t happen, but as soon as I saw the menu I said “I want that” and he told me that was what he thought I’d go for. The combination of Middle Eastern spices and flavours with the lamb sausage had my name written all over it (well, not really, my name isn’t Sojok, but you know what I mean), with pita bread to mop up all that delicious sauce.

Shaksuka with sojok

I said at the time, and till stand by this, that it would be a nice thing to try and recreate at home, but being as it’s 11 month since we we had it the chances of me realistically doing it are probably slim.

Lebanese beer and Minta frozen vodka

I paired my food with a Minta frozen vodka (don’t judge me, I was on holiday!) which, honestly? Was a bit like drinking alcoholic grass, because it contained all the mint, shredded up into leafy mintness and it was so overpowering that I couldn’t taste any other flavours (lemon, lime and orange blossom, apparently) but I drank it anyway because it contained vodka (I don’t like to waste alcohol) and it cost £7.95 which was as much as my breakfast.

The husband had a beer, so he looked like an alcoholic whilst I looked like a health freak.

 

Conclusion – I’d definitely recommend it if you fancy something a bit different, but have a different drink!

Are you a traditional breakfast person? Or do you prefer something a bit different?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x