So Cheryl got a new tattoo…

The media coverage around Cheryl Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini toilet attendant thug * and her new tattoo made me chuckle.

First reaction – “OMG! Cheryl has a new tattoo on her cleavage, and we were so busy obsessing over her first official public appearance with the One Directioner in Cannes that we didn’t even notice!”

(in spite of the fact she was wearing a very low cut jumpsuit)

Cheryl cleavage tattoo

Second reaction – “What does Cheryl’s tattoo mean? Reports tell us it’s a Buddhist symbol for enlightenment, which would reflect her personal life, the breakdown of her second marriage, and her new relationship with afore mentioned One Directioner”


…maybe she just liked it?

Y’know, thought it would be a cool place to get a tattoo and found a design that would look nice.

Radical, I know.

People get way too caught up in the meaning behind tattoos.

Yes, it’s nice if they have a story and mean something to you. People get tattooed to commemorate times, places, events and people. They get tattooed to remember someone or to heal a physical or mental wound. And that’s great.

But it’s also OK to pick a design just because you like it. Just because it’s pretty.

What do your tattoos mean

I have “Dad” tattooed on my right hip. I did it last year because I wanted my Dad to know what he means to me while he’s still here, rather than waiting and getting a memorial tattoo when he’s not. That’s important and personal.

I also have a black rose on my left shoulder that I had done purely because I thought it would look lovely. It’s not personal but it’s still important.

Without casting aspersions on Cheryl, she has a bottom full of pink roses. Very well done pink roses, granted.

Cheryl bottom rose tattoo

But, with that in mind, does she really seem the type of person to adorn herself with a Buddhist spiritual symbol?


And that’s perfectly fine.

I have another tattoo appointment tomorrow. I’m getting a flower mandala on the inside of my upper arm. Does it hold any personal meaning? Nope! But it will look pretty as hell!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

*I’m only teasing about Cheryl’s name and past, I actually quite like her. Well, as much as you can like someone who’s so pretty you actually want to cry when you see yourself in comparison 😉

Wanting it all

I wrote a post last year about being overcommitted in terms of time and events and money. It was a note to myself to not let it happen again this year.

Yet, here we are, 5 months into 2016, and our calendar is as full as ever. And it’s pretty much my fault.

I most definitely suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). I want to do everything, see everything and be everywhere. This has become magnified since my Dad’s illness was diagnosed, and only escalates as time goes on.


I think we live in a want it all society these days. When I was younger travel was less easy to arrange, flights were more expensive. High Street shops would carry the same stock for weeks on end. There was no internet, or online shopping, or even Sunday and late night shopping! Eating out was an every so often treat we used to get dressed up for and takeaways might happen once every couple of months.

(I’m aware this is turning into a “when I were a lass” diatribe, which is not my intention at all!)

The point I’m trying to make is how different things are now. The flight for my trip to Lyon and back cost less than ÂŁ100. A weekday train ticket to London for work is more than that! Stores get deliveries of new ranges on a weekly if not daily basis and the number of items they stock and supply online is into the thousands. Next day, or even same day, delivery means not having to wait. Popping to the pub for a bite to eat and a drink after work is no big deal, and a takeaway at least once a week is more or less an expectation. Sites like Groupon and Wowcher offer cut price hotel stays. Websites like Red Letter Days enable people to fly a plane, drive a tank or go in a hot air balloon. All of these things are out there, seemingly for the taking, and we’re bombarded with them through email, advertising and the media.

Social media has a big impact on the want it all society. There have been studies on the mental impact it can have when we’re looking at photographs of perfect people on perfect holidays in perfect bikinis when we’re sitting at home in our scruffs and unwashed hair watching Friends on repeat. The trouble is, in an age where we can follow people we’ve never met on Instagram and Twitter, our minds and expectations aren’t just confined to the realms of what our families and friends are doing. We’re seeing people our age with what we perceive to be better lives than we have. We have an insight into the worlds of people we probably wouldn’t mix with or even meet in real life. And it magnifies FOMO.

Me? I’m a realist. I know that I’m never going to have the gorgeous bronzed bikini body because I like food too much. I’m never going to be a constant traveller because I have a life at home with family to think about and a mortgage to pay and a car to run. I can’t just give up life and follow my dreams. I’m never going to be posting pictures of fancy hotels and fancy restaurants serving fancy foods because that’s not my comfort zone; I’m too down to earth and clumsy to feel at home anywhere with fine china or silver service!

But it doesn’t stop me wanting the most out of my own life, within the realms of what I know is possible for me. Which is why I never say no to a gig I want to go to, in case I don’t get chance to see the band again. Or why I’m always pushing for a city break or a holiday or a day out to soak up everything that’s out there to see. Or why I cave when husband mentions takeaway, even mid week, because food is such a joy and a pleasure and I love eating more than I love being the skinny minnie I was when I was 20 (damnit!)

I’m lucky that I have disposable income to do (most of) the things I want in life. It hasn’t been handed to me on a plate though. I have studied and worked to reach this point, as has the husband. We’ve also made conscious life decisions that facilitate our lifestyle. We don’t want children and we don’t live in a big house. We choose life over possessions (apart from shoes. Because, well, shoes!)

I also control my expectations, to a certain extent, by not overexposing myself to social media accounts of people who will make me question my own life. As a rule I don’t follow aspirational blogs or instagram accounts with millions of followers, because they’re unrealistic. I don’t see them as something to aim for, I see them as a way for me to belittle myself and my own happiness. Which I really don’t need, thank you very much! It’s not being jealous, it’s just being truthful to my own mind.

I’d much rather read about someone living a real life that’s similar to mine, with all it’s failings and foibles. A funny story about falling over. A day out at the UK seaside. A new pair of shoes from New Look or Primark. Look at Instagram photos of pretty flowers in a local park or a bright Rimmel nail varnish.

On that note I will stop my waffling and look forward to all the nice things I have coming up in the next few weeks whilst most definitely NOT thinking about things I’d like to be doing but can’t. Because really, what’s the point? Whilst I’m engulfed in FOMO about something, I’m AMO (actually missing out) on the things happening in the moment.

(P.s, if you fancy giving my realistic Instagram account a follow, click here!)

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Living with dying

This is a post I never wanted to face up to writing. Despite knowing the time would come, I of course hoped it wouldn’t. Naively, ignorantly, optimistically hoping something would change.

This is not an attention seeking post, or an attempt to bum anyone out. If you’re feeling emotionally fragile or only drop by for the fun stuff then I won’t be offended if you don’t read on.

2 years ago, about now, my Dad started passing blood when he went to the loo. Not being one to neglect these things, he went to his doctor, who referred him to the “2 week clinic”. A cancer doctor.

Dad researched the internet (as we all do these days) and feared it may be bladder cancer. When he went to the clinic he was told there was an issue with his prostate. Ironically the passing of blood was completely unrelated, a one off.

My only knowledge of prostate cancer up to that point was:

a) It’s very treatable

b) It’s an “old man’s” disease.

My Dad was just 57.

As for the first point, yes it is very treatable. Mortality rates from prostate cancer are difficult to measure, because many older men who are diagnosed with it will, ultimately, die from something else rather than the cancer – maybe old age, or a heart attack.

But somehow my Dad, at the age of 57 and with no previous symptoms ever, had stage 4 prostate cancer. Inoperable. Too far gone to treat, and with no possible cure. It had already spread out of his prostate and into his bones. The only options were treatments to halt the growth, the spread, the virility with which it was attacking his body.

He’s had two years of treatments; hormone therapy, injections, radiotherapy and chemo. And now there are no treatments left. Only pain management. Treatments that will ease the pain that the cancer will cause in his bones.

Living with Dying

The head fuck of all this is that my Dad doesn’t look or seem ill. He hasn’t lost weight, stopped going out, become immobile or lost his appetite. He’s travelled to Greece, Italy, Cambodia and Vietnam since his diagnosis. He’s currently having a brand new kitchen fitted. He still tells me off for drinking too much and regales me with tales of what he’s been eating for dinner. He still sees friends and goes greyhound racing. The only problems he’s had have been as a result of the medication he’s been taking.

When he was diagnosed the realisation was almost too much to bear. The thought of finality and an end. Of knowing what’s to come. Cancer is a horrible disease, and I saw what it did to my Grandad, the physical effect it had on a once strong man. It’s a scary prospect.

But then, for a while, cancer became a word again; something that was there but we couldn’t see it. We lived from month to month with Dad going for blood tests to see how the medication was working. We breathed a sigh of relief and wept with joy when the results were good. We cried with sadness and despair when results were bad and yet another treatment option was exhausted. And now there will be no good results. There are no more potential highs to combat the crippling woes.

I’m scared. I’m so fucking scared. I’m scared for my Dad – I know he hates pain and fears what’s to come. I’m scared for his wife, who he’s only been married to for 5 years. She’s the same age as my husband, and far too young to be widowed. They were supposed to have a really nice life together, a long life, a happy retirement for my Dad filled with travel and days out and all the life affirming things they love to do together.

And I’m scared for me. I’m scared of how I’ll cope. If I’ll cope. I have no idea how to comprehend the fact that he’s not going to be here. That I can’t phone him up to talk about my holiday. To not see the animation in his face as he describes a meal he’s had at a restaurant.

My husband has told me on many occasions that at least this way I get to spend time with my Dad, not leave anything left unsaid, make memories that will carry me through the times we’re not together. And I know that’s true. But I wonder if sudden death is easier, for everyone? Because grieving for someone who is still very much alive is so difficult. And I don’t know how my Dad even gets out of bed in the morning, living with the knowledge of what’s going on. Living with dying.

In the UK tests for prostate cancer aren’t currently done on a routine basis, they have to be requested from the GP. As far as I can tell, they’re only available to men over 50, unless there is a significant indication that there may be a problem. If you know someone over 50, maybe mention this to them and suggest they think about a test.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

A trip to Wales and a stay at the River Café in Glasbury

About 5 years ago the husband and I were invited to a wedding just over the Welsh border. The bride and groom included a list of accommodation which was local to the wedding venue, which is how we found the River Café.

Situated in Glasbury on Wye, it sits in an enviable position on the river, with a large decking area looking over the water, a well recommended restaurant and just 5 rooms available on a B&B basis. We were so taken with our stay, albeit brief, that we said we’d love to go back another time and just chill out.

That time was this weekend.

Setting off early (for us!) on Saturday morning in the bright sunshine we drove through country lanes and small towns, meandering down the west of England towards Wales. First stop was Hay on Wye, famous for it’s literary festival happening in a couple of weeks. Hay has a proliferation of bookshops and pretty little streets which were decorated with brightly coloured bunting.

We had a little wander round and a mooch around a small vintage market. How cool is the stuff on this stall?

Hay on Wye vintage stall

Hay Castle was built in the 12th Century. It’s not open to visitors, although there is a restoration project planned.

Then on to Glasbury on Wye. The River CafĂ© is run alongside Wye Valley Canoes which, unsurprisingly, is a canoe centre! They hire out single and double kayaks and canoes, as well as mountain bikes, tandems, and lambretta scooters! As I mentioned, there’s direct access to the river so it’s easy to get going, and the team at Wye Valley will come and collect you and your canoe from wherever you end up, if you want them to. Isn’t that fab? You could row down to Hay, have some lunch and then get delivered back to Glasbury by road rather than having to go against the tide to get back.

We had nothing as energetic in mind. In fact we wanted to do nothing apart from sit on the riverside deck and relax. Here’s the view of the back decked area, from the other side of the river. Nice, eh?

View of River Cafe Glasbury

Ironically we stayed in the same room this time around as when we were last there 5 years ago. The rooms are all simply decorated with white walls and simple furnishings; nothing fussy or chintzy.

Outside River Cafe Glasbury

It was lovely to open the windows and hear the birds tweeting while we unpacked our bits and pieces. A comfortable bed, delicious pillows and the softest duvet made for a great night’s sleep, and the bright airy bathroom with it’s walk in powerful shower was a great way to start the morning.

And so we spent Saturday afternoon sitting outside and reading with a couple of drinks, which was non too shabby with these peaceful river views.

Then showered and changed for dinner (I had chicken terrine to start, confit duck for main, and cherry cheesecake for dessert; all real tummy pleasers!) We were in bed ridiculously early for a Saturday night, no doubt exhausted from all that doing nothing in the fresh air! And Sunday started with a fabulous freshly cooked breakfast with tea and toast and never ending freshly pressed cloudy apple juice.

There’s plenty to do in the surrounding area, with the Elan Valley and Brecon Beacons National Park both being a short drive away. We quite fancied doing the Waterfall Walk but hadn’t come prepared (TripAdvisor reviews recommend waterproofs and sturdy shoes to walk behind the waterfall at Syn ) so that’s one for another time.

It was a lovely relaxing change of scenery, and I would highly recommend the River CafĂ© – either to stay or to eat – if you’re ever in the area (do book a table in advance though, as the restaurant gets very busy).

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Hotel review: Kyriad Gare Perrache, Lyon

When choosing a hotel stay for a city break, I like to get the right balance between location, quality and price. The Kyriad Gare Perrache ticked all of those boxes.

Located just a couple of minutes walk from Perrache station, the transport links were second to none. With Metro and tram stops, and an overland railway there was nowhere that wasn’t easily reachable. Also it was just a short walk to Place Bellecour for the city tour bus and walkable to the old town across the river bridge. Location box ticked.

All the reviews I read on TripAdvisor commented on the friendliness of service, the modern styling and the cleanliness. I emailed the reception with a couple of questions before we arrived, which they answered quickly and helpfully. Check in was quick and seamless, in a really cool and funky brightly decorated reception.

Kyriad Gare Perrache reception

The rooms were well laid out, with The. Most. Comfortable beds and pillows, plenty of plug sockets, well lit mirrors (and a full length one too, amazing how many hotels forget that) and a great shower (one of the first measures of any hotel stay).

Kyriad Gare Perrache hotel bedroom

The rooms were serviced daily with clean towels, renewed coffee, tea and biscuits and everything was immaculately clean. Points lost for the tiny size of the lift (the three of us and our luggage wouldn’t fit, we had to make two journeys) but that’s not the end of the world.

The hotel had a great bar which played contemporary and traditional jazz and again was decorated in a very modern style. Drinks were VERY expensive, but that’s hotel bars for you! We didn’t eat in the restaurant but the food looked really good. Check out the funky piano!

Kyriad Gare Perrache hotel bar

Quality – box ticked.

Finally, the price. I mooched around to get the best deal, settling on and taking advantage of cashback via Quidco. The hotel website price was around 100 euros per night, but I booked it for about ÂŁ50 per night. I found it cheaper to book a 2 night and 1night separate stay than all 3 nights together (I then just emailed the hotel to ask if I could stay in the same room for the duration of the two stays, which wasn’t a problem). You can read my top tips for booking a bargain trip here.

Price – box ticked!

Booking a hotel is always a risky process, even if you’re only on a short break and will just be using it as a base, because staples like a good shower and comfortable bed are important. But I was thrilled with this hotel and would definitely recommend it.

Only after I booked it did I realise that Kyriad is obviously a chain in France, as I stayed at one in Nice last year.

What are your criteria for booking a hotel?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x


A day trip to Annecy

One of the great things I find about French cities is how well connected they are, and how cheap the public transport is. So it made complete sense for us to take advantage of that and plan a daytrip outside of Lyon.

Annecy is a pretty town very near to the Swiss border, in the Alps. The old town has lots of coloured buildings and a river running through it. It’s sometimes referred to as the Venice of the Alps. I’ve seen pictures of it and read about it in the past and, although it’s a 2 hour train journey, the tickets only cost us about ÂŁ45 return which was well worth it.

If you follow me on instagram you’ll have already seen a lot of these photos, as I was very taken with the place!

Lake Annecy is the biggest lake in Europe, and surrounded by pretty lakeside towns and mountains. We went on a boat trip.

There are flowers everywhere in the town and on the bridges across the river.

This is tartiflette – a speciality of the region. A gratin of potatoes, onions and bacon lardons smothered in baked reblochon cheese. It was pretty spectacular!


We had a beautiful day in the sunshine, breathing in the mountain air and enjoying life, before getting the train back to Lyon in time for dinner!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x



Our trip to Lyon – what we did

Lyon is the third biggest city in France, after Paris and Marseilles, according to the commentary on our bus tour of the city. The open top bus, where everyone was crammed downstairs because the weather was so bloody awful…

Thank goodness for overpacking. As I mentioned in my previous post the weather forecast for the first two days was cold and rainy, followed by warmer temperatures and sunshine for the next two. There’s always the hope that the forecasters have got it wrong, and in fact they had, it was colder than suggested!

Our first stop was the Basilica de Notre Dame, situated high on Fourviere Hill on the old town side of the River Saone. We took the (impressively clean and organised) Metro and then the funicular railway to the top of the hill. The Basilica was built between 1872 and 1884 and is one of the most breathtaking churches I’ve ever been in – from sheer scale through to attention to detail.

Inside was mind blowing.

I spent so long looking at the mosaics – each one must have been 3 metres long and was made entirely out of tiny half centimetre squares. The dedication and attention to detail is hard to comprehend.

Mosaic fresco at Basilica de Notre Dame Lyon

On a good day you can see Mont Blanc from Fourviere Hill. On a cold, rainy, windy, 6 degree day, you can’t!

Vieux Lyon, old town, is a maze of cobbled streets and little squares with restaurants and traditional Lyonnais bouchons – tiny eateries serving rustic cuisine from the region. It was very pretty, but hampered by the weather even though we struggled on in the face of adversity!

You can get a perspective of how high the Basilica rises above the city from this picture.

Vieux Lyon with view of Basilica

Parc de la TĂȘte d’Or covers 290 acres. It’s huge! I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a multi faceted park in my life, and we spent 2 hours just wandering around.

It has a lake where people can boat in summertime, a beautiful fountain surrounded by flowers, and there’s a big velodrome in the grounds too!

There’s a small deer park, which randomly also has some ostriches?!

A zoo with flamingos, a giraffe (who we didn’t see, unfortunately), lions (who wouldn’t stand up for a photo!), a variety of monkies who I couldn’t photograph through glass, buffalo, toucans and tortoises! An eclectic mix!

The park is famous for it’s rose gardens, although we were slightly too early as they weren’t fully in flower. I can only imagine what a riot of colour there is in high season.

And the Botanical Gardens which, although not my thing (too claustrophobic) were  very impressive.

There you have it, an overview of our time in Lyon! We didn’t mange to see everything we’d have liked because of the weather, the fact that 1st May is Labour Day and there is no public transport running (WHAT???!!! I didn’t know that when I booked!) and also my Mother-in-Law, who was our travelling companion, isn’t at 100% health right now so we were tourist dawdlers rather than striding out all over the place and walking miles like we usually do.

Special mention, before I finish, to my first time of eating snails! Which I enjoyed so much I had them a second time too! They’re fiddly to get out of the shells and not very filling, but they were so tasty and enjoyable. A similar texture to mussels, they were cooked in garlic butter and I loved them.

Tomorrow I’ll share some pictures from our daytrip to Annecy, in the Alps.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

My first…part 3

Wowsers, another first of the month. Where is the year going?!

Continuing my series, and as I’m currently in Lyon, I thought I would talk about my first city break abroad.

I’ve been holidaying overseas since I was a little kid, and the excitement of those 2 weeks a year in a big hotel in the sun was always immense. But as I got older travel started to become more accessible, with low cost airlines and the internet opening up all sorts of possibilities that would previously have been much more expensive and complicated.

The first city break I ever went on (by which my definition is not a holiday with the purpose of sunbathing!) was to Prague. It was also the first holiday that the husband and I ever went on where it was just the two of us. We travelled at the end of November on a cheap as chips flight. I remember vividly when the flight landed, at around 8pm, that there was a light dusting of snow on the ground, which I was so excited by!

We stayed in an apartment on the top floor of a stunningly ornate old building which had an aged charm and an eccentric owner. The small terrace was too cold to sit out on, but you could see the beautiful roofs and domes of the city, all glistening in the cold frosty air.

After dropping our bags we went straight out to have a look around and get some food. Our apartment was 5 minutes walk from Old Square which was buzzing with people, despite the cold. Restaurants had outdoor seating with patio heaters, and people were eating and drinking al fresco bathed in the lights of the square and the bars.

We fell in love with it instantly.

Over the next 4 days we wandered around the city, visited cathedrals, crossed Charles Bridge many many times, drank cheap beer, went on the funicular railway, cried at the Jewish war museum and cemetery, marvelled at synagogues, did a bit of shopping, ate hearty winter food, drank absinthe in an underground bar and went to a sex museum!


But, best of all, was on our last day. I was really upset to see that the Christmas market was being set up in old square but wasn’t yet open. As a firm Christmas fan, I was bereft that we hadn’t planned better.

And then, on our last night, the Christmas tree was lit and the market opened! I was beside myself (and very vocal!) It was the best end to a stunning break I could have asked for.

It was bloody freezing (as you’d expect) but we’d planned accordingly and wrapped up in multiple layers, hats, gloves and scarves. I’ve always thought of Prague as a winter city anyway so wearing chunky boots and a furry russian hat epitomised what I had anticipated in my mind.

Prague is an absolutely amazing city and I would love to go back, perhaps at a different time of year. I’d avoid summer due to the unfortunate proliferation of stag parties looking for cheap booze but I think springtime would be very beautiful.

I can honestly say that trip opened my eyes in terms of short breaks and seeing a different side of the world, and we haven’t looked back since.

Have you been to Prague? Do you love city breaks? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x