Packing for a (non) spring city break in France

When I booked our trip to Lyon, I had visions of wandering cobbled streets in maxi dresses and sandals and sitting at riverside cafes sipping cold wine.

The weather has other ideas.

Despite being May on Sunday, Lyon seems to be suffering with same crap weather affliction as the UK. I’ve trawled multiple forecast websites to find something more favourable, but all of them seem to be suggesting cool evenings and showers.

Arse.

In a confusing state of mind though, in the past two days it’s improved slightly, with the temperatures creeping upwards. Not one to miss any opportunity to make the most of the sunshine, this now means I have to pack for two types of weather, just in case. As I don’t have two lots of luggage allowance (damn you Flybe) I’m going to have to get creative.

Love trips hate packing

I’ve come up with a list of jeans, boots, maxi dresses, tops, maxi skirts, leggings, scarves, a hat, sunglasses, hi tops, sandals, a leather jacket and a denim jacket.

That’s pretty much every eventuality covered!

Now all I need to do is persuade the husband he doesn’t need a 50% share of the luggage space…

I’ll probably be sharing some pictures via Instagram whilst I’m away (free wifi dependant, obvs) so if you want to see what I’m seeing then give me a follow.

Thanks, as always, for reading ! x

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Five things I love about “actual” spring

I started to write this post last week when the sun was shining, and it felt really mild, verging on warm. Then, as if I tempted fate, it rained so much I thought I might need an ark to get home from work, and on Saturday we had a bit of snow. British weather, eh?

Today the sunshine and milder temps are back, and I’m starting to believe I can actually pack away my winter jumpers. This makes me happy.

Spring

In my head I start calling spring as soon as the sun shines in February, mainly because I cannot wait for winter to be over, but in truth it’s not until April that it feels like the season has begun and I can acknowledge that I don’t live in an eternal tundra.

Here are 5 things I love about about spring.

Not wearing a jacket
I love jackets and how they can really add to an outfit, but there’s something liberating about knowing you don’t need one after a winter of being wrapped up from the elements.

Driving with the windows open
Even just a tiny crack to let in that fresh spring air makes you feel all vibrant and refreshed.

Sitting on my balcony when I get home
Admittedly at the moment it’s only for a brief 15 minutes, but it feels good to relax al fresco after a day cooped up in the office.

Blossom trees
Pretty. Pink. Look like confetti. Nuff said.

Open toed shoes
Again it’s a liberation thing, shedding those socks and boots, painting those toenails, and exposing those tootsies to the world.

What do you love about spring?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My latest tattoo

I got tattooed yesterday, as planned. And it frickin’ hurt! At times it felt like there was a flame on the back of my arm. I certainly breathed a sigh of relief when it was over.

Naively I hoped I’d get the whole piece done in one sitting. Even if there had been time I’m not sure I could have handled it. But I’m absolutely thrilled with the result. Even though it’s hugely bruised and swollen, it feels like it should be there. Like it belongs. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, so I’ve already been visualising not having a naked arm anymore.

Here’s a picture, taken by my tattoo guy immediately afterwards when it’s all fresh and bloody (nice!)

Black rose arm tattoo

I have to wait until the end of May until my next appointment, which is a shame because I’m very impatient! I’m having a flower mandala, and I have the OK to use numbing cream! Apparently I’m not allowed to tell the chemist it’s for a tattoo, because they’re not supposed to sell it for that reason, so I have to say I’m having some injections.

Now I have the annoying couple of weeks of healing, where it goes tight, scabs up and itches like crazy. For someone who’s a natural born picker, the temptation to pull bits off is immense!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Tattoo Tuesday, some inspiration

I’m booked in for some tattoo work on Saturday. Major eek! I haven’t been tattooed for over a year and I feel physically sick at the thought of the pain. Every time I get some new work done, even if it hasn’t been very long since my last session, I’m convinced I’m not going to make it through. The first scratch of the needle, and the first 5 minutes or so of work, I have visions of myself having to tell my tattoo guy to stop.

Tattoospiration

It’s worse this time because I know that the positioning is going to , as I’m having some done on the inside of my upper arm. I don’t know anyone who says it’s not that bad there. Pinch your skin and you know it’s sensitive. Ouch.

Still, no pain, no gain and other such clichéd sayings that really don’t help! I’ll grit my teeth, cry on the inside and rejoice when it’s over. I may even cheat a little bit and get some numbing cream.

I currently have a piece on my shoulder that has grown with time, and I want to extend it to a quarter sleeve.

Actually I want a half sleeve, or even a full sleeve, but there’s always the worry it might be detrimental to my career future, which is extremely annoying.

Here are the inspiration pictures I’ll be taking with me, and some of the styles I want to incorporate.

I love dotwork, if you look closely a lot of the design is made up from tiny little dots to create areas of shading.

One of my worries (because of my own paranoia, not the standard of my artist) is how the tattoo will “end”. I don’t want a border or anything final, in case I extend again in the future, and also because I think it can look a bit harsh. So I’m thinking maybe some filigree or decorative stuff which almost fades out to nothing and could be added to in future.

Ornate shoulder tattoo

I love the negative space of this one, although I have a feeling this is spray painted over a template, as a fashion tattoo.

Lace effect tattoo

These negative space ones are lovely too.

And I love mandalas, but worry that they’re currently “trendy” and might date, plus I’d be a bit of a fraud because technically they’re spiritual and I’m not.

I think my heart lies mostly with more black roses. The first tattoo I had on my shoulder was a black rose, and I love it to this day.

So, as usual, I’ll rock up on the day, thrust some ideas at my tattooist and hope for the best! Not a very technical approach, but better than being too overly set on the exact finished article and then not being 100% happy. I’m sure it will be great, once the swelling has reduced and my arm has stopped looking like a bloody animal carcass.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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The 5 most pressing destinations on my travel bucket list

Like many people I have a list of “must see” places as long as my arm, and the desire to see as many of them as possible is ever present!

Travel quote

I tend to take the opportunity to travel as it presents itself – perhaps there’s a good deal, or a cheap flight, for example. But there are some places that have my head and heart and remain ever present, no matter where else I may go meanwhile.

Santorini

Santorini

This has been on my list for a long time, at least the 11 years the husband and I have been together. We bonded over a love of castles and travel during the time we were “seeing each other” and deciding whether to throw our eggs into the relationship basket, and we used to look at pictures of Santorini and talk about wandering through white washed streets and watching golden sunsets. We’re currently right on the verge of booking it for this year, but we’re holding out for a chance we might get to go to our very favourite getaway from it all resort on mainland Greece, so maybe it will slip through our fingers until next year.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

I crave to go East so much, but the husband isn’t very keen. One of these days maybe I’ll take off Shirley Valentine style and tour Asia alone. Except I won’t. Anyway, Hong Kong. I have some Virgin airmiles that were due to expire, so I had a mooch around the Virgin Atlantic website and was surprised to see how relatively cheap it is to get to Hong Kong. So I looked into it further and it just looks amazing. Then I spoke to my Dad who confirmed that it is amazing. Cosmopolitan, lots to see, great food and of course the Eastern culture. So this one is high on the list and, if I get my way, we’ll go there next year.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Another place that has always kind of interested me, again my interest was piqued when I noticed some very cheap flights. The city looks so pretty with the canals and the architecture and the parks, and I really want to go. In December and January they have a festival of lights which looks incredible, so I might tell suggest to the husband that we ditch the oodles of Christmas presents we usually buy for each other and use the money for a long weekend in Amsterdam instead.

India – The Golden Triangle and Goa

Golden Triangle 2

India is a dream destination for me; the history, the colours, the culture and the flavours. I’d go there in a heartbeat. Again the husband is reticent. He worries about getting a bad stomach and a lot of unwanted attention (if you read my throwback post on Marrakech you’ll know what I mean – when you look very different to the locals, as he does with blonde hair and tattoos, people tend to stare and sometimes touch! Not in a bad way, but he doesn’t like it). As much as I would like to go to Goa, with it’s street markets, warm seas and whites sandy beaches, my first choice would be the Golden Triangle tour of Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. Seeing the Taj Mahal would be overwhelming, and the Pink Palace and Amber Fort would be so amazing. Of course it would make sense to add a few relaxing days in Goa on at the end…2 birds in one!

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

I went to Croatia about 9 years ago and was struck with the friendliness of the people, the beautiful weather, the flora and fauna and the visual history that’s a reminder of the Yugoslavian war, with abandoned buildings and bullet marks. Dubrovnik just looks amazing, with it’s medieval city walls and amazing architecture. Perfect for a city break or a pre-cursor to a longer trip taking in the coastline and national parks, it’s right up there on my list.

Where in the world is on your must do list?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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A post about mental health, for World Health Day

Well, lookie here, no fancy pants title or trying to be funny.

Then again, mental illness isn’t funny.

It’s also nothing to be ashamed of.

I’ve been on anti-depressants for many years. That isn’t supposed to sound as flippantly blasé as I know it does, but it’s a fact. And facts are important.

Ironically, the “face” of depression – the weeping, wailing, staying in bed all day – is about as far away from my symptoms as can be. I did go through a period like that, after I’d been diagnosed but before I started taking medication. I had 3 weeks off work, slept all day and lived on cereal. I also used to laugh with my friends on the phone and go out clubbing. There was a real dichotomy to my diagnosis.

But, for me, mostly, depression is about anger, irritation and the inability to deal with normal situations in a rational way. An overwhelming overwhelmedness.

I had started to be this irrational, short tempered, irritable person who snapped at nothing and everything. I couldn’t see it myself. I was living with my Mom at the time, after she and my Dad had separated, and inevitably most mornings would wind up with her in tears and me thinking it was all her fault. During a brief moment of clarity when I realised perhaps I was partly to blame, I booked an appointment with my doctor. Where I spilled everything and had a good cry to boot.

Being diagnosed with depression when you’re not that weeping wailing ball of sadness that you associate with the illness is a weird one. I had no intention of taking the anti-depressants prescribed by the doctor, because it was obviously just a phase and it would pass. Besides, people on anti-depressants were generally nutters, right? It wasn’t a category I wanted to associate myself with. But the situation worsened over the course of a week and came to something of a crescendo when I threatened to take a packet of Nurofen if my Mom didn’t back off. She carted me off to the pharmacy, with the much hated prescription in hand, and made me take my first tablet there and then.

It would be overly dramatic to say she saved my life, because I wouldn’t really have taken the Nurofen (I think there was only a few in the packet anyway), although there were times during the weeks that followed that I’d have been happy for it all to end. Not suicidal as in I wanted to deal the final blow, but if I could have stayed in bed and everyone came to say goodbye and then I just went to sleep, that would have been groovy. Of course that didn’t happen, and I’m rather glad. She certainly saved our relationship at that point in time, because there was no way we could have continued living together had things progressed any further.

Initially I went through the stigma of not wanting anyone to know and keeping it a secret. I shared it with a few people and then had it thrown back at me, by someone who should have known better, telling me that I had nothing to be depressed about and didn’t know what a hard life was all about.

But I’m not ashamed. I don’t declare it from the rooftops, but I’m open with friends if it comes up in conversation. My husband and I affectionately refer to my Prozac as my “loopy tablets” and they’re a source of relationship glue for both of us. I say that following an episode 2 years ago where I decided to come off them without telling anyone, because I was feeling strong, and unknowingly put our marriage under a lot of strain. Same situation – me being intolerable and nasty and short tempered but thinking he was to blame. Of course that’s not all that keeps our marriage together! But it certainly contributes to the stability of our marriage. Because, let’s face it, who wants to be legally stuck with someone who’s aggressive, accusatory and irrational?

I know you’re not supposed to be on anti-depressants for a prolonged period of time. But I’m also a great believer in knowing your own mind. I’ve been through times where I’ve taken a tablet every couple of days and felt fine. There are days when I take them religiously each day. There have been times when I’ve upped my dosage for a while (although always with a doctor’s consent). The key to me is doing what’s right for me, and what makes me feel ok. And, in the experience I’ve had with not taking them, I can honestly say I need them. Not an addiction, or falling apart at the seams if I miss one. But that little bit of connection between the wires of my brain that don’t quite match up makes me the “real me” and not the “angry me”. And why would I give that up just to not be a statistic?

I love this cartoon, which I’ve seen a number of times and totally sums it up, for me.

Depression cartoon

If I had diabetes, I wouldn’t not inject myself because of the stigma.

If I had a heart condition I wouldn’t refuse beta blockers because I didn’t want to be on them.

So if at some point in this journey of life my mind stopped working to it’s best ability, then I’m damn well going to give it everything it needs to bridge that gap – for my marriage, for my family, for my employers but, most importantly, for me.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My first…part two

Last month I started a new series of “my firsts”, which will feature on the 1st of the month.

This month’s is my first car.

My younger sister had her first driving lesson this week. I couldn’t wait to learn to drive. It was top of my list when I hit 17. My birthday was just before Christmas, and I passed in mid May.

For the first year I shared my Mom’s car. I loved being able to drive to 6th form for classes. Looking back I guess my Mom must have missed out a little, as I was zooming here there and everywhere while she was at home, car-less! I suppose, as a parent, you’re happy to make sacrifices for your kids.

When I started work at 18, I wanted my own car. I was earning decent money and had very few outgoings, so my own wheels became a priority to me. I remember my Dad telling me to buy the newest I could afford, so I wouldn’t end up with repair bills and being stranded places.

My first car

At the time there was an advert on TV for a Fiat Punto, in metallic electric blue, that was driving around Italy. It was my dream car! So I saved really hard for a few months, and my Dad boosted my coffers by giving me £500 towards a deposit, and then I took out a loan and bought one. It was only 12 months old and had electric windows. Not your typical first car. I loved it so much. That car took me on a lot of adventures! I first started clubbing during the time I owned it, and drove all over the country to different clubs, events and festivals.

My funniest memory is going to Leeds Love Parade with a group of friends. There were 3 cars on the way there, but one broke down. Instead of getting towed home, the 4 lads decided to carry on up to the festival and deal with it later. That meant there were 13 of us in Leeds and only 2 cars to get us home.

I left Leeds in the boot of my own car, with another girl squished alongside me, and 5 people inside the car which was now being driven by one of my friends. It was so random! I’ll never forget stopping off at the services on the way home and getting out to stretch our legs – the look on the faces of people in the car park as two girls climbed out of the boot of a Punto!

This series is only two months old and already bringing back so many memories. Things I’d forgotten about, or not recalled for a long time. It feels nice.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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