Always Winter

Thursday, 28 March 2013




Fashion blogging in the winter is tricky, especially when you have to take your outfit photos outside. We're right at the end of March and it's still snowing and sodding freezing. Do I want to remove my coat, hat, gloves and several layers of scarves to stand still in a floaty frock when it's minus 2 outside? No, I do not. And I don't understand all the bloggers that are doing outdoor photos with ballet pumps, bare legs and spring dresses. Are they immune to the cold? Do they actually wear those clothes for the rest of the day? I don't know about you lot but my office is nowhere near warm enough for spring clothes, even with the heater on. Part of the reason I love Vix so much is that yes, she dons the chiffon in sub-zero temperatures (and looks amazing in it) but she certainly doesn't pretend it's a balmy March day out there.




I'm not into pretending either. I couldn't even bring myself to remove my gloves until halfway through taking the photos. Luckily the cape has a muff. Fnar.


Oh yes. THE CAPE. Found in an Ashbourne charity shop on the last day of the Norbury Manor holiday and immediately pounced upon by me with great glee and much squawking of "Welsh tweed?  CAPE?! BUYBUYBUY."  It came with a matching skirt which I didn't wear today partly because it needs altering but mostly because, much as I love Welsh tweed, I don't think I can wear it top to toe without looking like a bit of a maddo.

It's made by Trefriw Woollen Mills, so I did a spot of googling and discovered that they're still in existence and still making beautiful textiles.  Also their customer service is ace, cos I emailed them to ask if they knew anything about the pattern and age of the cape and got a reply within about half an hour, telling me that it's a St David's cape in R62R from the early 80s.  Must have been pricey back then because the ones they make now cost £250!  I got mine, plus the skirt, for £15 and they're in perfect condition. Hurrah!





I love how it fastens up the shoulder.






Cape - Trefriw Woollen Mills via charity shop
Dress - Closet @ Dorothy Perkins
Heels - Office Vintage range, via ebay
Pebble necklace - charity shop
Ring - Dorothy Perkins sale
Gloves - no idea!

Visiting London...On The Cheap

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

I used to be scared of London. Too big, too loud, too many bloody people.

That's changed though.  I visit it a few times a year now and I can wield my Oyster card and tut at annoying dawdlers with the best of them.

I know half of Blogland lives in London and will probably have no interest in this post but I never fail to be suprised by the amount of people in the real world who treat my London trips as some sort of exotic journey.  Maybe they're all scared to step foot outside the North West?  Maybe they assume it's horrendously expensive? I'm not an expert on everything our capital city has to offer but I think I'm quite good at planning cheap weekend breaks, so here are my recommendations.

Priorities


What would you rather spend your money on?  I know it sounds a bit grownup and boring but have a proper think about what the important parts of your trip are before you go and it'll stop you getting carried away and spending a shedload of money.



As a basic rule, I will happily spend money on an experience that I think is worth it but I won't waste it on things like hotels.  The only thing that was absolutely vital about this weekend was going to see Macbeth.  I was not prepared to be stingy over the ticket price for that so we paid £65 each, sat in Row C and it was wonderful.  All the other stuff wasn't as important, and in total (for return train tickets, my share of the hotel and a ticket for another play) it cost £65 as well.  Not bad, eh?  If you'd rather stay in luxury then you can sit in the crappy seats at the theatre and pay for a nice hotel room instead. The choice is yours.  If you can afford to do the whole trip in style then I shall graciously pretend I'm not envious.

Trains



I am such a fraud writing this section.  I hate train websites with a passion I only usually reserve for hating Fearne Cotton.  They boggle my brain, so I outsource this element of my trip planning and get my good pal Lee to do it for me while I organise other things instead.  He is most excellent.  Ask him for tips if you want cheap train tickets because I can't supply you with anything helpful.

There is technically a £12.50 standard fare from Liverpool to London but you'd be hard pushed to find many of them, especially at a reasonable time and at weekends.  Still, £19 isn't too bad at all and I didn't have to get up too revoltingly early.


Travel


Walk, especially if you're in central London.  It's the best way to get your bearings on the space around you.  I think a large part of the reason I used to dislike London so much was that I never knew where I was.  But guess what? It's really not that hard to navigate, especially in the central areas where you can't move without falling over a signpost. I am still rather vague about the further flung parts of the city but I'm not likely to need to go there so it's not a problem. I can walk from Euston to the Globe without getting lost and I know a few nice pubs and that's good enough for me for now. 

Or y'know, take the Tube. But get yourself an Oyster card. It's cheaper than day travelcards and you'll feel like less of a tourist.



Hotels


My advice is always this: stay in a Travelodge.  They're fine.  They're clean, they have a bed and a bathroom and a tv and a kettle and you can borrow an iron and a hairdryer if you need them. You will probably be in the hotel for about 10/11 hours, 8 hours of which will be spent sleeping. Why pay a fortune when all you need is somewhere decent?  The hotel we stayed in at the weekend cost £35 for a Saturday night and we've had different Travelodges for £18 a night before now.  Stalk their website a bit and grab their cheap sale rates, or have a look and see if anything is available when you want to go. This visit was only meant to be a day trip until we discovered that there were some cheap rooms available.  The same logic applies to Premier Inns which are basically the same but a bit nicer. They have pictures on the wall and everything.

ps - only stay in an EasyHotel for the hilarity factor or if you actually like sleeping in an alcove and/or having a floor space that is literally smaller than a bath towel. They're not that cheap and they're not pleasant. You can't even hang anything up! It wouldn't kill them to put some hooks up, would it?

Theatre


This is mostly what I go to London for. By theatre I mean plays, not musicals.  I'm sure there are loads of places out there that can tell you how and where to buy cut price tickets for the latter but we mostly book our theatre tickets a long way in advance so don't come to me for advice on last minute deals. What I can recommend is signing up to all the newsletters from the ticketing companies and theatres.  Whilst this may occasionally drive you mad (eg when we really wanted to see Our Boys but the timings did not work out at all and about a million emails came through going "Come and see Our Boys" "You know you want to" "What are you waiting for, you Northern morons? WATCH IT!"), it often pays off and you end up seeing some really interesting stuff for less than the cost of a cinema ticket. Case in point: on Saturday night we saw Old Times with Rufus Sewell and Kristin Scott Thomas for just a tenner. Bargain.  They have 100 seats for each performance at that price and it's very much worth it.


Tip - if you're seeing anything at the Harold Pinter Theatre, you still get a decent view on the back row of the stalls.  Unless you're desperate to be in the front few rows, it's a good option.


Booze




Well I don't know about you lot but I won't pay £6 for a glass of wine in a theatre bar. I prefer the rather naughtier (and massively cheaper option) of buying a mini bottle in the shop round the corner for £1.99 and stowing it in my handbag. Theatres always have plastic glasses on the bar so help yourself to one of them and voila! Just pour it out in a discreet fashion when the ushers aren't looking.

Food


You know the usual options for cheap food, don't you?  Of course you do.  Anyone that said McDonalds can go and stand in the corner.  I mean the usual things that work out well for evening meals - vouchers, offers from o2 Priority Moments, Groupon etc.  You don't need me to elaborate.  We didn't actually bother with any of those this time as we had limited time between shows, so we just zoomed to the Wagamama near Leicester Square instead. It's no more expensive than the ones anywhere else in the country and their food is lovely. 



When it comes to daytime eating, never have a hotel breakfast (unless you've ignored my above advice and are staying somewhere swanky). I mean, I love a good cooked breakfast but a) the ones that hotels provide you with aren't good and b) HOW MUCH? £7.95 for some lukewarm bacon and mushy tomatoes? I think not. My solution: £1 for a pot of fruit salad from the shop round the corner to tide you over until later in the morning.  Then, instead of the aforementioned overpriced breakfast, spend a few extra quid on enjoying a really lovely brunch in the company of really lovely people instead. Much more fun all round.



Lee and I met up with Chloe on Sunday and we went to Salvation Jane which was conveniently close to our hotel and really, really good.



Salted beef hashcakes with fresh spinach, poached eggs and smoked tomato relish. AMAZING.


And that, dear readers, is the nicest soy chai latte I've ever had. (I'm not a pretentious nobber btw - I just can't have normal milk)

It wasn't particularly cheap but I'm not into money saving for the sheer hell of it. I like to save money on some things so I can spend it on others.


Free Stuff


Speaking of saving money, go and do FREE STUFF. Free stuff is great and there is really quite a lot of it in London - Time Out has a handy list. I like to explore and could quite merrily walk around looking at roads and buildings and suchlike all day (it's all due to growing up around my mum who likes to go "Alex, LOOK, a chimney!"), but blimey, did you see the weather at the weekend? BRRRRR. We went for a good yomp around the V&A instead.

International man of mystery and his shortarse sidekick.

I love museums.  I can play my favourite game of Thing I'd Most Like To Take Home for hours.  This time I narrowed it down to:


A green Chippendale chair.

A green bonnet.

A most beautiful (and not green) piece of papercut art.

Next time we're going to the Natural History Museum to look at dinosaurs. Raaaar!



So, that was my cheap(ish) weekend in London and those are my suggestions for what to do if you don't want to spend a fortune. It can be done cheaper but I think you've got to strike a balance and I wouldn't have missed out on those Macbeth seats or that delicious brunch for anything.

Do you have any good cheapskate tips for visiting London, or any other cities?

A Very Pretty New Frock

Friday, 22 March 2013


Well hello there new frock!

When I was in Leeds for my recent theatre trip I popped into Primark in search of that gorgeous blue and white dress that everyone has been raving about since the spring/summer lookbook got released. I didn't find it, but I was just as pleased with this beauty.  My eye initially fell on the shirt made from the same fabric but it was covered in hideous tacky studs (why must shops do this? Whyyyyyyy???????) so I bit the bullet and got the dress version instead. 


It might not sound like a huge leap of faith.  You're probably sitting there thinking "Why is she afraid of pale frocks?" Well, I am a notorious spiller and also quite good at sitting in chocolate and other messy things.  White frocks are therefor not high on my list of sensible clothing to wear but with a pattern this pretty, an exception had to be made.


It looks like Delft tiles! I adore it.

Dress & belt - Primark (although not bought at the same time. It came with a nasty tan belt originally)
Cardi - H&M

T'was the perfect outfit to wear whilst having a frolic around the gardens when on holiday last weekend.

FROLIC!

I kept getting Bodhi-bombed mid-frolic though. He was adorably excited to have that many people playing with him in the garden! Such a cutie.


Thank you Alice for being my photographer!

To The Manor Born

Thursday, 21 March 2013



Last weekend was bliss and a real escape from how stressy real life has been recently.  I rounded up eleven of my favourite bloggers - Rosie, Char, Maria, Sarah, Lucy, Chloe, Sarah, Becks, Alice, Gemma, Sophie (and Bodhi the dog) - and we went on a jolly holiday to Norbury Manor in Derbyshire.

It really was the most amazing house I've ever stayed in. And HUGE! If I'd taken a photo of everything that was beautiful then this post would be so long you'd all fall asleep reading it. I'll try and narrow them down a bit. Read on, mes amies. I promise you it's not a sleep-inducing post. And there is a mystery treat for you at the end!

Thank you Mr Martin. Mr Stapleton Martin? I dunno. We found his grave in the churchyard next door and he actually had about 8 names.  Anyway, Marcus, do forgive the informality. You and your house rock and I'm ever so glad you rescued it.

I had the pink bedroom. I put aside my violent prejudice against the colour because it had a) window seats, b) a chaise longue, c) a dressing room and d) the most excellent floors for sliding around on in your socks. 

Also e) a Char to share it with. She may have wished for a different roommate after we got overexcited, jumped on the bed at the same time and I elbowed her in the knee. She has a massive bruise now. Me and my pointy elbows.


It was a deliciously relaxing long weekend, full of epic amounts of laughter, gossip, photographs, cake and wine and amazing food (massive thanks to Chloe for menu planning, ordering and cooking it all!). Yay for fantastic bloggers who share tastes in how a good holiday should go.

We love our cameras.


Becks managed to take a photo of me taking a photo of Lucy taking a photo. The mind boggles.

And we love cake. Did I mention cake? There was lots of cake. So much cake that I had some for breakfast. What?! I was on holiday. It's totally allowed.

We did some active things too. Look, walks!


The debate rages on as to whether it was alpacas or llamas that we saw when we were out in the countryside. Can anyone give a definite answer as to what these creatures are?  The little white one looked remarkably like a sheep to me.


I was gobsmacked to discover that some of the girls had never even heard of Poohsticks, let alone played it. We promptly had a game. Um, shortest game ever. We rather underestimated how fast the river was flowing and I don't think we ever did find out who won. Still fun though!


I do mostly believe in being lazy when you're on holiday though.  Walks are lovely, especially when the sun is shining, but if you're away with that many fantastic people you mostly want to lounge around and talk to them. The Manor had many, many places where this could happen and you could guarantee that you'd always find a group of people gathered around the kitchen table, curled up on the comfy sofas in the sitting room, tucked up in the snug, holding court in the dressing room, sitting on the stone benches in the garden or just generally frolicking around enjoying themselves.

Thankfully there are no photos of me sitting round in my pjs drinking wine (bravo for the unspoken group decision not to take any photos in the evenings) but there are a lot of me in my typical daytime pose - curled up somewhere enjoying a Persephone book.  Here I am:

On a window seat

In the amazing roll top bath

And on a different window seat. There were many to choose from!  I'm wearing a divine pair of new Irregular Choice shoes which the girls got me as a present for organising the holiday.

What a truly lovely bunch of people they all are. I did not expect a present at all! I was just pleased that everyone had managed to make it there and that we all got on so well. Just goes to prove that the best people live on the internet.