summer

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As I mentioned, a few weeks ago the magic three daytrippers lost one point of our triangle of fun times. Ali has moved to Goteborg, Sweden and therefore any future day tripping will mostly likely take place… er there! So that will be fun. I hope I see a bear or a wolf (from a distance).

Anyway inbetween packing up her wordly possesions and learning how to say JAG er ny här bli trevlig till jag behaga (er, meant to be I’m new here please be nice to me; but upon closer inspection of my really terrible swedish means I’m fresh here be nice to self which might not encourage new friends!) we managed to squeeze in one last London based day trip.

First stop was the London Transport Museum. Now you might read that and think snoooooze, but this place is seriously amazing. Transport is trendy! As a Londoner you clock up on average seven hours a week at least hurtling around deep underground on the tube (and that’s if you have a sweet 30 minute commute like me) so how can you not be slightly curious by how this monsterous network of tunnels and trains came to exist. It’s not just the invention, you can learn all about transport used during the war, revolutions and trends in travel. And if engineering and industry is not your thing, then you can pretty much see every poster, map design and artwork used since 1800 and they are absolutely amazing. I think my favourite are Adrian Allisons work from the 1930s with posters like this. There is an incredible online database of artists and artwork here if you aren’t near Covent Garden for a visit in person.

That’s the museum, what I haven’t mentioned are the two best bits of any museum… the gift shop and the cafe of course! And London Transport Museum has top examples of both. The cafe is a tranquil retreat in the middle of bustling weekend central London, as it never seems overly busy.

The seats are upholstered in traditional London Underground fabric (the kind that really prickles your bum if you have a summer dress on, let me tell you) and has a really quaint little menu – including smoothies themed around the various tube lines. I think we all tried to stick stubbornly to our respective tube lines that we live on! And I very much enjoyed a District line limey apple affair. Where else in London can you buy marmite on crumpets either? It was the perfect afternoon snack to accompany Alis present giving ceremony!

The gift shop is a dangerous place as you could easily end up with more transport related items than you could physically fit in any home. From giant poster prints, to tube map covered crockery, to an entire sofa covered in the traditional tube seat ‘moquette’ – again in your preferred line (East London line for me. Orange and Brown tetric cubes!) And it was in this shop that we discovered the joy of naughty bus! The best childrens book in the history of the world. I instantly added it to my amazon wishlist which is slowly starting to consist of more childrens books than anything else. Oops. (Burglar Bill, Each Peach Pear Plum & The Bad-Tempered Ladybird are all on there too!)

My tube geekery is definitely on the up and I stumbled across this amazing blog Going Underground to add to my reader, which features the serious stuff (strikes, maintenace, grr!) but also lovely anectodes and sightings on the tube as well as events and things to look out for.

We then headed just a quick walk around the corner to Hope & Greenwood. I think Ali might miss this place more than me or Craig! We will have to definitely post her H&G goody bags to keep her spirits up.

They are definitely the original and the best old fashioned sweet stockist, and the entire shop is an experience in itself. The smells, the bunting, the tasters and the jar after jar of beautiful sweets. I absolutely adore all the packaging and tiny details that they put into making everything as authentic as possible.

Do not fear, Craig and I will continue our day trips and adventures so I have things to report back on, but it will be with a slightly heavy heart (and sore fingers and thumbs from texting Ali constantly while we do it!). She has left us in care of her KITE! So that is top of the list for an autumn antic once I’m back from holidaying.

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You might have seen me talking about a super secret scary thing recently on twitter. Well, it happened last night and now it is over and I survived without melting into a pool of embarrassed Bee goo, I can talk about it!

I first heard about Cringe just a couple of years ago.  The concept is the brainchild of  the delightful Sarah Brown, and the story goes – The first inklings of Cringe came about back in 2001, when Sarah  found her old diaries at her parents’ house, and decided it would be a good idea to send the most painful excerpts to her friends in a weekly email. Two years later, she moved to Brooklyn and told roommate Liz Schroeter about this endeavor, prompting Liz to dig out some old teenage zines of her own. The first Cringe Reading Night was held April 6, 2005, at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom. Since then, Cringe has traveled around the U.S. and across the ocean as well, and is currently held once a month in London, England.

When I first heard about Cringe I was instantly enamoured. I’ve always been an avid diary keeper, and realise now how precious (and hilarious and mortifying) diaries are to look back on. I’m very glad I didn’t give in to numerous desires to burn the lot of them and that I have painfully hidden and moved them with me to every house I’ve lived in (not easily hidden when they are all bright pink, fluffy and covered in hearts and stars) I think I’ve only recently got to the point where I can see the humour in my angst ridden, painfully detailed 15 year old ramblings. So, I took a deep gulp and when Sarah put a call out for contributors for Augusts Cringe Night in London, I volunteered.

On Sunday I met up with super Susie and did a practise run, choosing which of the many toe-cringingly embarrassing escapades to focus on but despite this planning, I still spent yesterday quaking like a leaf as I’m NOT a performer by any means. If I see a stage I am usually running away from it, and I do not like being in front of a crowd of people I know, let alone strangers, let ALONE reading my most inner thoughts and painful prose. I was suddenly starting to realise that I’d signed myself up for, well, my worst nightmare!

Despite my nerves, I knew that now I’d volunteered I had to really go through with it and that it would make a good blog post to do something massively out of my comfort zone. I didn’t tell anybody except Susie that I was doing it as I really wasn’t ready to share and spill in front of friends or work colleagues and was terrified if word got out, they’d all come along! The night starts at 7.30pm and is in the top venue room of the wonderful George Pub off The Strand. I have to say, I started getting mighty sweaty as more and more and more people crammed in and the room gradually packed out.

The night started off with a few readers who had previously read at Cringe nights and it gave me a chance to see the general tone and style of the content and delivery. The readers were all so witty, so funny and with great delivery skills that it eased me and panicked me in equal measures. It was really fascinating to see the difference between the first volunteer (her 12 year old girl diary about periods, shaving her legs and the pains of not knowing what a wanker was!) and the next volunteer, a guy, who read his diary from a smiliar age (“ate 4 iced buns today”. “went to Gemmas party. It was shit.” “Gran came round. She gave me a quid.” etc!)

So after about 4 readers and a 10 minute interval, just as I thought I would definitely hyperventalate with fear, it was my turn. As soon as I got on stage, the lights meant I could barely see the audience, and this made it much easier to pretend I wasn’t infront of a huge room of strangers! I was amazed how easy it was just to start reading and quickly get into my stride. It helped that the audience were SO receptive, I was getting cheers and claps and awwws and a lo of laughs which was unbelievable as I hadn’t expected that kind of reception to my inane teen traumas!

My time on stage passed quickly and after the initial shock, I really really enjoyed it! It felt great to be able to make everyone laugh and feel everyones mutual mortification at my hideousness – like everyone was really laughing with me, not err at me. I even got the guts to share some horrific song lyrics I wrote about an unrequited crush which I would previously have been sick at the mere thought of my best friend seeing, let alone anyone else. I left the stage feeling like I’d literally just lived through a realy Hollywood movie scenario! After all my fretting and worry; it had gone down so well and I almost felt like I could jump off the stage and crowd surf back to my seat or high-5 everyone as I walked off – because they had been so supportive and lovely. It was such a confidence boost and afterwards lots of people approached me to say how funny they found it and to thank me for reading. Aw!

I would absolutely recommend at least attending a Cringe night, even if you don’t have the material/nerves to read. I think the joy about them is that everyone there can instantly relate to the themes and questions and issues that all the readers diaries cover. It sparks long buried memories and feelings and is just an absolutely feed-good night out. If you can’t treck to London, then you can buy the book inspired by the event for the bargainous £3.50 on Amazon at the moment.

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As I get older I realise that I probably fall into the category of those with a nervous disposition. I think the mathematical formulae for being this way is:

Control Freak + Over Active Imagination = Easily Terrified

A prime example of this being a few months back when I was living alone in the flat for 3 months and spent the majority of nights sleeping curled on the sofa clutching a kitchen knife, yknow, just in case. But just because I am naturally twitchy and squirmy around all things scary, doesn’t mean I don’t love it. [As demonstrated when I went Ghost Hunting recently!] Obviously I don’t love being awake at 4am because I think I can hear a ghost baby crying in my wardrobe (!) but safer, controlled scary things like movies, books and tv shows I am all for. I think fear is an itch that everyone loves to scratch, but then starts to regret when you’re later laying in bed replaying scary moments and cold sweating.

I’ve actually always been a fan of all things scary from a really young age. I think it’s because both my maternal and paternal grandparents had a collection of phenomenal ghost stories, and out of every story they would regale me with – it was the ones that made goosebumps cover my arms and my spine tingle that I’d beg for over and over. I supposed that as influencers and carers, they should have been reassuring me that ghosts and things that go bump in the night are aload of guff… but I’m grateful they didn’t as those stories are the ones I repeat again to family and friends even now. My sister is three years older than me, and while other girls our age were reading Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High we were building up the worlds largest collection of Point Horror books and counting down the hours to Michael Aspels Strange But True (oh god! the credits!)

Can you remember the first time you felt real fear? I can remember mine. There was an independent  video shop (the type of which I imagine are almost completely extinct now) that my mum would take us to on a Saturday after swimming, to get a film for that evening. The video shop was called 2001 Videos – HOW scary that ‘2001’ seemed so far in the distant future and as if when it eventually was 2001 we’d be living in space and driving hover cars. Anyway, tangent ahoy, at 2001 Videos we religiously stuck to the kids and cartoons section, occasionally browsing the general releases. At the back by the counter there was the Horror aisle and my sister would always dare me to walk up it. I think I was about 6 when I finally took the bait and waited for my mum to be distracted before taking a deep breath and stepping hesitantly towards the word HORROR. There were two video boxes in particular that were SO frightening, so horrifying and so unlike anything I’d ever seen that they shook me to the core. They were Childs Play and Hellraiser

No matter that we eventually left the shop (with something nice like Care Bears) and that I was back in the comfort of my family home, the fact that I had those terrifying images burnt into my retinas meant I just couldn’t relax and I had nightmares for weeks. From a bloody VHS box! Not even watching the film!

Anyway this is all a bit of a build up to the fact that last week I went to see the INCREDIBLE Ghost Stories at the Duke of York Theatre. The play is written by Andy Nyman – co-creator and director of Derren Brown’s television and stage shows and Jeremy Dyson – League Of Gentleman genius. Their aim in creating Ghost Stories was to bring back some of the classic Victoriana theatre going experience; something creepy, haunting and that could raise a blood curdling scream.

Before going to see Ghost Stories I had avoided reading or googling anything about it (and you should too! Which is also why I promise I wont go into any depth about the content) and so really had no idea what to expect. Approaching the theatre absolutely covered in goading signs saying “Just keep telling yourself its only a show”, “Pant-Wettingly Scary” and “NOT suitable for those with a nervous disposition” (Oh, hi!) I was starting to feel the churn of fear in my belly before I’d even entered. Everything about the theatre experience is designed to put you at un-ease from the second you walk in; from the decor, the darkness of the circle as you find your seat and the well to hell sound effects playing as you sit waiting for it to begin.

I think that Ghost Stories is possibly one of the best pieces of theatre I have seen in my entire life. I just cannot beg you hard enough that you have to go and see it while it’s still running. It will certainly make you scream, question everything and immediately want to book tickets to see it again. (I did, sad!) The acting, set and intricate story are just mindblowing. Just when you think you know what is going on, you realise you have no idea! You are constantly lulled in false senses of security before embarrassing yourself by jumping ten feet in the air and screaming in the face of the person next to you.

Five stars, go see it, go book it now.

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Hotels are one of my favourite things, EVER. Growing up in a big family, hotels just did not feature on the radar of life. All holidays consisted of being crammed into log cabins or country cottages or youth hostels. I don’t think I stayed in a hotel for the first time until I was 15, on a school trip to London! To most people this is probably ridiculous but this period of denial means that hotels = Christmas to me. Growing up and seeing them in movies (Witches! Home Alone!) they seemed like this unobtainable dream that only really wealthy or proper grown up people got to experience.

Even first discovering Premier Inns was a joy, so cheap yet you still get a little kettle and sachets of hot chocolate and a TV and sheets you don’t have to wash yourself. Now I have stayed in a few hotels with work and weddings and other things like that, the excitement still doesn’t go away. However I have started getting more of a refined taste; understanding that paying just 10 or 20 pounds more to stay in a non-chain or more boutique hotel can bring joys like a ROBE! and a nice big bath, or being able to order chips at 3am if you want to.

I think I love the anonymity. The idea that thousands have people have stayed in your very room. Who were they? What were they doing? Were they happy? I guess the prospect of staying in a bed that has been slept (er and more maybe!) in by other people every night might gross alot of people out but it fascinates me and my over active imagination. There is something so peaceful and nicely lonely about hotel rooms. I have a collection of hotel photographs which I will save for another day, as they are part of a shh secret project… soon to be revealed.

Today I am in the Abode Hotel . This hotel is a double winner because my work are picking up the bill, as I’m here on business (love saying that, it still sounds ricidulous that someone would pay me to do any kind of business. Adulthood is mighty stealthy).

My room is beautiful. Green vintage tiled walls, pink button tiled bathroom, free BURTS crisps! and a ginormous bed that I don’t even take up 1/4 of.

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I have never been to Sonar before. I have actually never been to a music festival outside of Britain before, but after 10 years of soggy camping, over-priced van food and harrowing when-weather-goes-bad experiences I had enough of hearing myself inevitabley bleat with the amount I’ve spent at 3 days of festival going in the UK, I could have paid for a holiday abroad! and decided to put it to the test.

There were alot of things that appealed to me about Sonar 2010. The fact it was in Barcelona – a city I had only visited briefly when I was 14 and well below Sangria slurping age or the age to really appreciate anything other than the fact I was away from home for the first time with boys from the YEAR ABOVE shocker! Also the fact Sonar is a non-camping festival which means you hook yourself up with a nifty little appartment and have somewhere nice to wake up, BATHE and prance around in pretty dresses (speaking as someone whos favourite teadress got washed away in the Bestival 2008 monsoon, this is of upmost importance!) It also means you can buy the amazingly cheap local Cava (two euros fifty a bottle) and freeload it in your appartment before leaving to start partyng at night; thus avoiding buying the not-amazingly cheap beer at Sonar – 3 euros for HALF a pint. Oucho.

I went to Sonar with a gaggle of 3 girls and we rented an adorable appartment in the El Born region. The appartment had teacup tiles on the wall and a roof terrace that we could spy over Barcelona from and laze around in the sun, munching food from the local food market like jamon, queso and la sandía. We arrived a day before Sonar kicked off, so we could have a beach bum day and get cracking into some Estrella daytime drinking whilst getting our bearings.

 

 

Sonar is great because it runs Day and Night. Sonar by Day is held at MACBA which is an amazing venue, packed with exhibitons – the key one being all about robotsa! and two stages. My favourite was Sonar Village, which is covered in faux grass (think butchers windows) and had a constant flurry of DJs playing amazing tunes. One of the absolute highpoints was when Lemonade did a DJ set on the Friday afternoon at about 5pm. We danced, beers in hand, sun beating down as they played amazing reggae and summery tracks. We danced until our calves hurt and when they dropped in All That She Wants by Ace of Base we witnessed a stampede as everyone around us hurtled towards the stage to dance too. I’ve never seen so many happy smiley faces, I guess Ace of Base really are internationally adored and so uncool they are cool or something?

 

 

After a midnight rooftop party, we knew we had to get in some serious siesta in order to last a night of raging. We also had learnt that teeny tiny tapas is no stomach-lining material and this lead me to discovering Maoz for the first time. Or should I say MMmmaoz! Super cheap falafal pittas stuffed with salad and hummous with all-you-can-eat access to a buffet bar of extra toppings including giant sundried tomatoes, fried cauliflower and jalapenos. My pitta was actually bigger than my entire head and probably one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. Luckily I found out they have a chain in London, phew, who wants to go?

 

 

I can’t possibly list all the incredible things and reasons why this festival was the best five days of my year, possibly life! Sonar at Night is held at an old aircraft hanger type set up, sprawling and with plenty of space for dancing crowds. The stages are inside and outside and it’s so warm you don’t realise when you are walking between one and the other. Dancing to Hot Chip under twinkling stars, dancing to LCD Soundsysem as slices of sun start to crack through the night sky at 5am. Bare leg weather through the night. Branded plastic beer beakers. Ghost balloons. Even loving crazed Dizzee Rascal (I challenge anyone not to shake a leg to Bonkers!) Dodgems. Twirling around our kitchen eating crisp feasts and making lemon fanta shandies. Singing so loudly (ahem, badly) to A Little Respect in the that taxi the driver almost turned around and took us home. 7am trip to A&E after my festival buddy fell during a poorly executed flying-high-five and tore her ankle ligaments (true story!) Bocadillo vending machines.

Sunday was a sad day, and even the beautiful care bear clouds on the flight home and being treated like P Diddy on arrival at Gatwick because of Susies broken foot (private lift and mini bus arriving to the plane to whisk us off and through security in .5 seconds!) can’t shake my back to work blues.  I would recommend. Heck I would BEG anyone with a foreign festival itch to scratch it next year and head to Sonar next year. I’m already counting down the days.

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Me and my day trip buddies had planned this trip months in advance, picking a day at random and scribbling in our diaries on the train home from the seaside in April. This time we wanted to take our day-trip relationship to the next level. We were ready to commit, we were ready to invest seriously. We were ready for… BENSON! (our street car hire car) We made a shortlist of potential locations and after lots of umming and aahing, Ali came through with Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. As the day approached, England was in a pretty good state of affairs. Blistering heat and glorious sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. Until you reached our day-trip day on the five day forecast for Dorset and the summary was “Chilly, with beefy rainclouds“. Luckily, like with many things (eg. the time bbc weather told me Bestival would have a mini-heatwave. In reality there was a freak storm, followed by a typhoon, followed by people being airlifted to safety from the knee-deep mud…) they were wrong. And thus followed… the day of perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 After a 3 hour drive and listening to Go West a few more times than necessary, we boarded the ferry that took us from mainland Dorset onto the peninsular . Our first stop was Corfe Castle which is a quaint little chocolate box village with a beautiful ruined old castle sat overlooking it. It’s apparently what Kirrin Island in the Enid Blyton books is based on, which made the fact we climbed up to the top for some jolly wholesome exploring and picnicking even better. Ali had made the most amazing picnic – to make sandwich bread you buy a Tiger loaf, empty out the middle and then fill it with your favourite fillings (more the merrier, I think we had cheese, ham, pickle, tomato, black olive spread & hard boiled egg!) then when you arrive at your munching location you can just slice it and ta-da instant, perfect sandwiches. We had a flask of ice tea and punnets of huge strawberries and raspberries. We met some mountain beasts (ok, brown sheep) and moseyed around the village shops before getting scared because it appears their thing is scarecrows and pretty sinister looking ones at that, with pipe-cleaner glasses. I have an irrational fear of scarecrows and it was beginning to feel like we were in the Wickerman, so made a hasty exit.

 

Isle of Purbeck was enchanting because we kept stumbling across incredible things when we least expected it. For example we pulled into a standard looking Co-op to use the cash point and behind it we found this vintage steam railway that looked straight out of a film set. By now we were getting itchy beach feet and the sun was like nothing else. Total Hawaii weather. We pulled up at a random path that looked sandy and started trekking towards what we hoped was a beach. 20 minutes of walking barefoot on scorching sand, through ferns & forests and past lakes and not seeing a soul… we spotted the sea! And white sands! And… a large angry looking naked man! 

We had managed to locate the ‘famous’ (apparently) nudest beach, and boy was it busy. We had no option really but to skulk along the dunes, trying to keep our eyes on the horizon, but the naked people seemed very keen to run past/towards us and I definitely saw more wobbling male genitalia in that 30 minutes than my entire life up to that point. We paddled past the nakeds and towards a more clothes-friendly part called Shell Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main aim of daytrips is always to sample the local fish and chips, and we found a place in Swannage that definitely fitted all my requirements called ‘The Fish Plaice” and with a surly 12 year old looking waitress who we had to practically use brute force to get to actually acknowledge our presence and take our order! The fish was lovely but the batter was greas-ee. A chocolate milkshake and OD on tartare sauce helped. Also +points for the 20p bread and butter slices on the side. For pudding? A polystyrene pot of shrimps from a kiosk on the pier, that scared Craig so much that if I chased him with them he screamed a bit.

 

The sun finally set and on route home we stopped at a pub in Wareham to laze in their beer garden and eat homemade Dorset apple pie with cornish clotted cream. Even the 4 hour journey home (big bad motorway accident, boo) and then the fact I missed my last tube and had to stomp my sandy feet through the mean streets of Bow at 11.30pm couldn’t wipe the fresh-air smile off my face. The phrase ‘staycation’ used to filll me uncertainty, but I really doubt you could find prettier places across the whole of Europe as the Isle of Purbeck. I’m sure we only scraped the surface and I’m already plotting my return.

We only have one more day-trip of the summer left, before Ali abandons us for a life of Fika and Ikea homeware in Sweden in August, so any location recommendations welcome.

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