Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A 'Week' of Wearing Makeup

I've always been terrible at getting ready in the mornings, but lately in addition to cats sitting in my porridge and knocking, so spilling my tea in my crotch as they fight for lap space, I have found myself addicted to trawling through BuzzFeed. In doing so I recently saw an article where one of the writers stopped wearing make-up for a week, which made for a very interesting read.

So I got all inspired and thought I'd have a go at doing the opposite. Fortunately, it just so happens that this week is half term, so I avoid setting myself a new standard of appearance for work; to think I'd have to wake up when my alarm sounded at half 5 instead of snoozing for half an hour... unimaginable!

I've never been a big make-up wearer, but then neither is my mum, so apart from my Nan's garish pink lipsticks covered in dust that I occasionally decorated everything but my face with, I never had any make-up to experiment with until I could afford to buy my own, at which point I was far more interested in music, stationery, painting my nails and reading magazines. I do slap a bit of slap on for 'special occasions' that require me looking a little less exhausted, but I have at no point in my life worn make-up on a day-to-day basis.

In one sense, I think the problem lies in the fact that I am completely clueless about how to actually apply make-up effectively; I always feel like I am literally painting my face. I also have no idea about what products to use, I am worried that the colours I do use are not quite the right colour, I find make-up too expensive, I prefer sleep to painting, and worst of all I worry that even after application, make-up will still not improve my appearance.

It is always a mystery to those who know me and my self-confidence issues that I am actually 'brave' (or stupid) enough to go bare-faced almost every day. However, I think I see it a little differently to those on the outside. I figure that if I'm not wearing make-up on a 'bad face day' (I have lots of those, alongside the bad hair ones), at least I know I could improve the way I look with a little cover... if I could be bothered. I also like wearing make-up to be a bit special; I don't want to get used to my made-up face, I want people to notice when I'm wearing make-up and to tell me I look pretty (cheesy, I know, but we all need a little boost).

The basics; bronzer, blusher, foundation, mascara & lipstick (and my teeny tiny make-up box in the background).
Day 1: applying make-up on a train.

As I briefly mentioned, sleep is a wonderful thing, and something I'm extremely fond of. For this reason, if I do happen to wear make-up during the day, I do my very best not to include application in my morning routine as this would mean waking up earlier. Instead, I make use of journeys on public transport where I have all the time in the world to make a mess of my face. While I always think it's a brilliant idea, particularly as the train initially crawls out of London, the moment we depart from Stratford and I begin prodding myself in the eye with every jerking movement, I am less enthused.

To be honest, visits to Norwich are now one of those 'special occasions' where I do wear makeup anyway, so Day 1 was not too difficult at all... until I decided that re-application on my next leg of the journey (sat on the top deck of the X1 to Kings Lynn) was a fun idea. Thankfully it was dark upon my arrival, but I do wonder whether I would have given my family rather a shock had it been daylight hours.

Day 2: battered by country air.

In stark contrast to visits to Norwich, visits to home are a time when I very rarely even take make-up with me. Since moving to London, time spent at home involves lots of walks along the beach or through the countryside followed by endless cups of tea, good food and lounging on the world's comfiest sofas to play card games. What with not really venturing into the public eye, make-up application is something I don't even consider.

With nowhere to travel this time, I had to incorporate face painting into my morning routine, which apparently renders the morning a complete write-off; it was midday and time for lunch before I knew it! After lunch we headed to Wolferton Woods for a bracing walk across the bog. Despite not really knowing what constitutes a 'good' make-up product, apparently Clinique survives a good fresh-air battering very well indeed; next challenge is finding a fool-proof hair product or two.

Day 3: facing the public.

Three days in and I was already beyond bored of wearing make-up; it is officially far too much effort! I was also having a 'bad face day' (probably the result of smothering my skin for two days) where I would have much rather been bare-faced so it was absolutely clear that I wasn't trying to look good. At this point, I was also beginning to forget that I was even wearing make-up and kept getting a shock every time I came into contact with my reflection.

On those days where you need a little boost, make-up is pretty good for giving confidence, but clearly that effect would be lost the moment you forget you're even wearing it; such a cynic! Even being out and about in town, I did not feel good. If anything I felt over-dressed and a bit silly.

Day 4: I gave up.

So I tend to be very resilient and determined, but I also believe in being happy, and not doing things that you don't want to if you don't have to. Back in London, I'd decided to head into work to sort out some practical bits and pieces that couldn't be done from home. This meant that my morning was just a slightly more laid-back version of my normal routine, but even then I couldn't be bothered to put any make-up on, or dry my hair (for some reason, on the few days I wore make-up, I also found myself putting in a little more effort with my hair as though they come together; like there's no point in my face looking good if my hair is letting the side down), and before I knew it I'd left the house feeling a tiny bit guilty for not being more committed, but not so guilty that I turned around and put it on after all.

Giving up actually had a much more profound effect on me than I realised it would. This time, upon seeing my reflection in the mirror that usually gives me nightmares as early starts, long days and children have resulted in my looking ghoulish and frizzy all through the week, I paused for a moment to look at myself when I suddenly remembered I wasn't wearing make-up. Then something very strange indeed happened. I found myself smiling and thinking (and I kid you not) "I love my face. I love my skin. I don't want to cover it up; I shouldn't cover it up!".

Therefore despite my not managing a full week, even those few days have taught me that I am actually a lot more comfortable in my own skin than I realise (so perhaps those on the outside were actually the voice of reason all along), and while I'm sure I'll be wearing make-up again soon for an evening out, I will be sure to embrace my face a bit more. I might even try to feel less repulsed when I catch sight of myself in reflections, having now discovered a true appreciation for my natural skin tone and those patches, lines and uneven parts that ultimately make me look like me!

The initial plan was to take a 'selfie' for each day, but I officially hate them.
So this is the first and only one, taken on the rickety bus with yellow sun streaming through the windows. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Holding me to account

One of the wonderful perks of blog-writing is the element of accountability (a word which when in the context of work makes me shudder with mixed feelings of disdain and fear) in that once I have shared my ambitions, hopes and desires (ok realistically just ramblings, but I'd like to think there's something behind them some of the time!), they are out there for people to see, and that very fact gives me motivation a-plenty to make sure I actually make things happen!

Another perk of blog-writing is that if I haven't written in a while, I have to go and do something exciting! Forever keeping myself busy, the only problem is that in recent times I seem to have forgotten the art of 'fun for free', and since living in London (not entirely (at all) true, I was heading in this direction in my final year of Norwich!) I seem to be living far beyond my means (and dragging others down with me... I mean, who wants to socialise alone?).

I just LOVE to spend money. I love to eat, to drink, to go to concerts and gigs, to visit exhibitions and attend themed parties, to wear new clothes and new shoes, to holiday and to be impulsive. But come November, I will be officially renting my flat alone, and I'm currently having a slight (ENORMOUS) melt-down at the thought of having to budget, cut back, slow down and worst of all, plan my spending in advance... WHAT IS THAT!? So, I am scribbling down my money ponderings in the hope that I will work out what to do, while at the same time sharing my burden with you, dear readers (that's a first...) as I'm sure that exposing my lack of ability to save money will absolutely motivate me to change my ways (if the thought of being forced to move home and commute isn't enough; mum isn't keen on me wasting my inheritance on survival, I think she has higher hopes for its eventual use)! I'm hoping it's a topic that others might be able to relate to? ... please someone make me feel better!

Today I sat down and actually had a little look at my bank account. While this is usually a terrifying experience as I never have as much money as I think I do, I got less of a nasty shock today as it seems that in my worrying about money, I have clearly just stopped using it wherever possible. Over the summer, funds ran remarkably low (I guess when my week usually consists of a return journey to work and a weekend splurge, my purse didn't handle daily splurging so well), and ever since I have been overly cautious with spending.

Nevertheless, I made it through the summer, and here we are in October, second pay-cheque of the academic year in, and I am surviving. So why the panic? Well I guess even after a year of residing in London, I can't get over the cost of living. I'm forever feeling like there must be a cheaper way! I would love, at some point, to save some money!? You might even say I'm feeling a little more grown up as I go into my second year and at this point want nothing more than to start working towards the own-home-goal (never in London, obviously, before I get laughed at too much)!

Theory is, if I want it enough then the expenditure adjustments won't seem so horrible. However given my wanting to weep every time I think of the contrast between my in and out-goings, I do wonder whether I'm going to cope at all well. Because, of course, my best method for cheering myself up is to go and spend in excess... gone is that boost.

So, expect future blog posts full either of strife and struggle, or thrilling tales of my weekends and holidays spent not spending. I have NO idea where this is going to go, but wish me luck!

My name is Laura Brockway and I am addicted to shopping (then posting pictures of my purchases on Social Media sites).
Vintage, children's books, wine & Tom Ford. Pay packet spent in a matter of hours.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Open House London 2014

This weekend was yet another where I ended up feeling rather like I was on holiday, not in London at all. I think this feeling has to be one of my favourite things about London; the way its cultural diversity means that you often find yourself stepping outside of 'England', just by stepping into a new or less familiar area.

Although this weekend may not have been spent solely in 'new' areas, it was spent discovering new places, and proved absolutely fascinating!

Open House London is an event across the city where more than 850 buildings are open to the general public for free. I was aware of it happening last year, but as it is only for one short weekend, it passed me by before I knew it and I missed the opportunity to explore! As soon as I saw posters appearing for this year's event, I noted the dates down in my diary and made the executive decision that I was going to get involved.

Between my own ideas and helpful suggestions from a Knowledge Boy, an extensive list was compiled and a route mapped out. So our journey began!

Saturday got off to a slow start as the dreaded Cold had struck me down at the end of the week. Nevertheless, not one to mope around and feel sorry for myself, I was determined still to get out and about! So I headed to the unfamiliar territory of Canning Town for our first port of call; Trinity Wharf Buoy/Container City.

Canning Town felt a little like South Lynn extreme; an industrial area with some houses and vehicles creeping by at a steady rate. The area was very sparce, and slightly tricky to navigate as a pedestrian, but we finally wound our way out in pursuit of the wharf (which I have only recently discovered stands for 'warehouse along river front'; mind blown). We saw where we were headed long before we reached it, as brightly coloured containers poked out above old warehouse buildings with the O2 standing boldly behind, the Emirates Airline running across the river to the left. After taking a little detour for a pretty view of the O2, we swiftly walked through an organised tour in order to discover the place for ourselves. Like a film set, there was plenty to catch the eye. Not only full of interesting things to see, the area also houses some sonic art installations; one that might be likened to a minature pipe organ, played by the tide, the other a computer run composition to last 1000 years. The latter was set inside London's only lighthouse which made for a surreal experience all round!

At least an hour later, we managed to tear ourselves away so to continue our quest. It was at this point (if not before) that we realised 13 ports of call was far too ambitious if we were going to be so enthralled by each of them! Nevertheless, we also decided at this point that we were already having a great day!

Our next stop (after a very tasty lunch break at Wahaca) was one of great interest; a partially-completed station at Canary Wharf forming part of the new Crossrail network. It was here that we encountered the very well-spoken adventurers, keeping us well amused with their ridiculous comments and expectations. Having spent many years (I think, or maybe it just felt that way) living in a building site when we moved into our current family home, there is something nostalgic about the smell and sight of bare materials. Getting what felt like a special preview of the station currently without its escalators, fixed lighting, working lifts (that was a little scary) and hoards of commuters, was a very special experience indeed. I can't wait to visit again when it opens for use!

Before heading for home, we made one final stop at Samuel Johnson's house, writer of the first English dictionary, and man whose quote I knew before I knew who he was:
'When a man tires of London, he is tired of life'

I think we were both a little disappointed by the way the house has now been gutted to accommodate the museum, but there were still narrow, rickety stairs and a sweet gift shop to keep us entertained. It is interesting to think of the power held by a man who writes a dictionary!

Sunday arrived, and after an unpleasantly early start to walk the dog (which was actually more than pleasant once I was out of bed and wandering around a still slightly misty Wimbledon Common trying to spot Wombles! Not to mention the Full English upon our return), this time we began in South London at a Buddhist Temple. The fact that 4 acres of land with a Buddhist Temple in the middle of it even exists in Wimbledon was quite astonishing enough! The temple in question was small but beautiful on the outside; brilliant white with red detail and gold which glinted in the sunshine. Off came our shoes and we stepped inside where we were greeted by a very friendly Buddhist lady who drew our attention to the most vivid murals covering wall to ceiling, and a huge shrine at the front of the room.

The murals were unbelievably hypnotic, and presented a mixture of Buddhist tradition with the modern world as machine guns were held in the trunks of elephants, the Mona Lisa hid in a corner, brightly coloured mohecans stood out above a crowd of robed monks and Maggie Thatcher sat on a chair in a corner watching a crowd of worshippers. We were told that as the temple was built in the late 70's, early 80's, the artist had decided to include a large number of references to life at the time so the place would also act as a time capsule. I think we could have stayed there all day.

However, we eventually tore ourselves away again and headed back home for a re-fuel before setting off into Central London again. Having learnt our lesson from Saturday, we only had a list of 3 this time. However I don't think we were expecting to be so absorbed by the temple, so number 2 was missed and instead the next port of call was a Livery Hall; the Barber-Surgeon Hall.

I'm still not entirely sure I understand Livery Halls, but I'm intrigued so may have to do a little bit of further research. On our way to the Barber-Surgeon Hall, we passed by a few others, and they certainly are grand buildings!

Too caught up again to think about lunchtime, our stomach's suddenly reminded us that heading straight for food after our visit was a good idea. So we ended up with picnic food which we ate at St Paul's; how idyllic!

After two full days of scaling London, we were ready for home, but not before locating a cosy pub in the Leadenhall Market for a drink or two (it was only 4 o'clock at this point, after all!).

Already counting down the days to the next Open House! Although the wonderful thing about the event is that it has also opened our eyes (or mine at least) to lots of buildings and points of interest around the city that we could actually visit at any time of year; how very exciting!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Breaking the silence

It's always so lovely to have positive comments on my blog-writing, particularly when I've gone a bit quiet and they're just to say it's always nice to hear what I'm up to!

Today's made me realise that despite a truly wonderful summer, I'm currently having one of those quiet moments. So before I get even more lost in the madness that a new school year brings, I thought I'd write a little something to keep me going!

This week I met my new class and had my first day teaching with new teaching assistants. I am very excited to see what the year brings with them; I can already tell it will be another year where there is never a dull moment! I warn you now that I have verbally threatened a few people that the blog may this year end up with school-related material making an appearance, but I promise it will only be in the form of funny anecdotes (although I probably can't promise that they won't be of the 'had to be there' variety)...

In the meantime, I wondered what I could actually write about today. So in the spirit of truly tenuous links, I turned to Instagram. I can always tell what kind of a week I've had by the photos that I've posted on my Instagram, and I'm ashamed to admit that this week has clearly been a lazy one. 

I present you with, food, food and kittens: 

1. A lovely quote from a friend that 'family bring flowers, friends bring wine'; although I think wine did cross my cousin's mind, but she decided to be good. We had a long-overdue catch-up over a very healthy dinner before I really went back to work!
2. Upon my return home from making my classroom finally looked like a classroom, on Tuesday evening I treated myself to the last macaroon (can never get the spelling right!?) purchased from 'Macarons and More' in Norwich over the weekend (would have been blog-worthy, but I do wonder whether I rather inundate you with them).
2. Thursday night was spent catching up with the kittens who upon my return to work are missing me during the day (she says. I'm sure they are really!).

So I shall endeavour to fill my weekends with things worth writing about over the course of September. But prepare yourself for school anecdotes and the mundane as well...

Friday, 8 August 2014

Summer in the city

Yesterday I met a friend for lunch from Shake Shack which we ate on oddly arranged benches in St Paul's churchyard, Covent Garden. I then found myself signing up for yoga sessions (at last!), before exploring Seven Dials (where I finally stumbled upon Tatty Devine) bearing a tent. Upon realising how close I was to Soho, I decided to aim for music shops in pursuit of Einaudi. Along the way I encountered Foyles, where I proceeded to lose myself for a good hour or so. These days, I'm not much of a reader beyond Vogue, but I do still love a book shop, particularly when it stocks sheet music in abundance!

Pretty bunting & building in Seven Dials
One of my 'big' plans for the summer was to get musical; be that playing my instruments lots, finding an ensemble to join, recording or even writing my own music! However, for the first time in as long as I can remember, the summer holidays have been beautiful, so my time has been predominantly spent outside! I don't know whether I've not been in a writing mood, or whether being so busy has rendered me too lazy, but it truly has been a wonderful summer so far, with lots of time spent outdoors with family and friends. 

Unusually, I have spent little time alone (perhaps another reason for my written silence), and yesterday was one of my first little lone London ventures after a brief one that came out of running errands the day before.
If the thought of rifling through sheet music for the first time since graduating from my music degree wasn't exciting enough, the fact that said sheet music was stored in draws stacked so high that I had to climb a ladder to locate Bach's Partitas for violin really set me off! Up and down I went, gathering scores for pieces I've always dreamt of playing, and finally picking up a manuscript book (mainly for nostalgic purpose, although I think in the back of my mind I'm hoping I might put it to use).

From Foyles I let Google Maps lead me to Kings Cross by foot with several of my own diversions through various gardens and squares along the way. While most diversions were merely scenic routes, one which captured my attention enough for a sit-down was the Calthorpe Project, a fantastic community garden (quickly becoming one of my favourite things as well as rose gardens) where I was pleased to find lots and lots of children playing, pretty ceramic benches, a stream complete with little bridges, plants for sale and a compost heap!

Once well-rested, I continued my journey only a short distance (if it weren't for closed pavements and my desire for a cold drink leading me into a café (determined not to find myself in a Starbucks) where the proprieter was more than enamoured by my tasseled dress) to Camley Street Natural Park, which I had discovered after hours from the top of a viewing platform currently located behind Kings Cross St Pancras the day before. As I had missed opening hours the day before, the decision had been made that this was where today's adventure would lead me.

Possibly one of the most surreal places I have visited in London so far, the Natural Park is located in an old coal yard along the Regent's Canal. It has been transformed into a nature reserve where you wander through woodland and around a pond and meadow. While sitting on a bench surrounded by greenery, I could never have imagined that I was in Central London!

Today, I write from Kenwood House, Hampstead, where I have spent the afternoon moving freely between reading Vogue, writing, and napping following a lazy morning at home. This evening I intend to food shop and make something yummy while I watch a film. Gosh I love the summer holiday!

For once I've decided not to ramble on about every single adventure I've had this summer, so here are a few pictures from some of them:

1. When I climbed up The Wellington Memorial
2. A statue in the rose garden in Hyde Park
3. Three statues in the rose garden at Hampton Court
4. Little Venice 

A wedding in Cyprus

That ol' 'View From Plane' chestnut.
Memoirs of a lone traveller from Cyprus? The first time I've really travelled alone, it caused mixed feelings. While one part of me was feeling the nerves expected, the other was full of excited anticipation!

It is a truth universally acknowledged (not universally at all, but known to those who actually know me) that I am a huge fan of my own company. Even as a child (now please don't start pitying me here, I swear it has always been solitude by choice) I spent much of my time alone in my room, or I could be found racing ahead or trailing behind on family walks, always imagining. My mind is forever brimming full of goodness knows what, so time spent alone is never dull or lonely, but put to good use to think, and to be.

As most of my writing (or even my writing silences) would suggest, this time in solitude does not come around so often in my adulthood, particularly with my move to London; a city where I am almost never alone!

I begin this post in the restaurant of the hotel. The hustle and bustle of guests visiting the buffet and the waiting staff frantically clearing tables and taking drinks orders means I am not alone, although I am dining for one (and tonight the food theme is France, so the melancholic sounds of the music from Amélie are piping through the outdoor dining terrace). I would almost feel sorry for myself, as dining alone has the potential to be a little tragic, if not for the fact that I am absolutely loving life!

On numerous occasions since my arrival, I have found myself wondering, 'why have I never done this before?' There have often been (and still are, so watch this space...) places I've desperately wanted to visit, but have been unable to due to the fact that suitable travel companions have been few and far between for various reasons, but never had it crossed my mind to just go it alone!

View from the balcony of a lonely hotel room.
Only took me until the last day to realise that I did, in fact, have a sea view!

Beyond the hotel on this occasion, I am not alone. The journey in question has been made for the wedding of one of my oldest friends for whom I am bridesmaid. So in fact, an entire wedding party has descended upon Ayia Napa! Unfortunately for me, my first visit to Cyprus is an incredibly brief one, but already, it has been absolutely magical!

While Wednesday became a full day spent travelling, yesterday (Thursday) was the big day, and what a beautiful day it was! With the first of my friends to be married came my first invitation to be bridesmaid. Mother dearest had very valiantly managed to find a Cadbury purple dress and shoes to match, and with a little adjusting they were good to go!

I've never been 'behind the scenes' as it were at a wedding, so was rather taken aback by how much there is to consider. I don't know if the coordination of every step is usually so precise, but in Cyprus, it certainly was! Also, as much as I've always mocked the Americans for their 'wedding rehearsals' as observed in the films (it's not like I've ever actually been to one, giving me real grounds to mock), I can now see the value of having a small run-through, if only in order that all parties know where to walk (or in my case, totter) and stand... not that we needed one; pros!

As it was my first day in Cyprus and I didn't want to alter my body clock so dramatically that work would be an even bigger struggle on Monday morning, I decided to get up and out to the beach (after a more than hearty breakfast of course) at the crack of dawn (l exaggerate not. With a two-hour time difference (ahead), it really truly was!)! A paddle, sand between my toes and a lie-down for an hour had me in great stead for the rest of the day. So after a shower, l gathered together my bridesmaid bits and with directions from the receptionist, I was on my merry way!

Could not get over how clear the water was!

When I had asked for directions to Nissi Beach hotel, I was told I would have to 'cross' two beaches, to which I replid 'oh that's fine, I love sand!' However my journey turned into the Laura Brockway version of something resembling a cross between the opening credits to Naked Gun, and a Mr Bean stretch as the catastrophes began...

All was going well; the sun was high in the sky, I had beach and plantlife to the left of me, sparkling sea to the right. The gentle lapping of waves on the shore and the sound of crickets filled my ears... then next thing I knew, the handles of the Topshop bag I had stuffed full of my bridesmaid dress, heels and bag for the day decided to snap. Swooped up by me with impeccable timing mid-fall, I proceeded, clutching (although I'd like to think cradling) it like a baby on my hip as I hurried along (already by this point coming to the realisation that half an hour in this heat might have been a little over-ambitious). Catastrophe number one.
Having been thoroughly spoilt by a man-made footpath up until this point, by which to enjoy the view, suddenly I was confronted by the first beach I would have to 'cross'... (this is already starting to sound a little like We're Going On a Bear Hunt)!

The rather delightful footpath that ran alongside the coast when there were no beaches in its way.

Sunloungers littered the beach, there were inflatables and bodies galore, and couples and families played gentle games of bat and ball in the shallows. Now, elegance is not my thing, so instead of tip-toeing my way carefully around my many obstacles, instead I bulldozed my way through, causing sandstorms as I kicked up sand onto unsuspecting sunbathers, stumbling and tripping my way over everyone and everything. So I headed into the sea, thinking shallow water might be easier for walking than sand, but then proceeded to splash my way through every game of bat and ball, overturned multiple lilos, and probably knocked over a small child or two as they innocently hopped and skipped over the ripples that remained from incoming waves.

Remarkably well in-tact myself (makes a change) as I reached the second stretch of footpath, I thought it best not to turn to see the trail destruction I had left behind, but instead valiantly soldiered on! This time, the stretch of footpath was much shorter, so a similar scene ensued along the next, longer beach (or rather beaches), and all the way into... the wrong hotel.

Catastrophe number three. There was me feeling really rather pleased with myself having arrived bang on time despite my rather traumatic journey, only to discover that the trauma would in fact continue for a further ten minutes or so in my endeavour to locate the correct hotel! By some pretty enormous stroke of luck, my over-confident striding straight into the hotel and up in a lift to the room I was expecting to need to be outside did not end in complete disaster, as the door was open and a maid inside cleaning. At this point still unaware that I was in the wrong hotel, I sent a text to the bride;

'I'm at your room, but you do not appear to be?' (A little too self-assured perhaps?)
'... we are. Where are you??' Came the reply.

So as it transpired, my French is rather excellent, because while I was required at 'Nissi Beach Hotel', I had found myself in 'Nissi Plage Hotel', and plage means hotel, so once I realised this I didn't feel so silly (although the next time I walked to the right hotel and saw the ENORMOUS signs (two of them) above the hotel further along the beach which is where I was supposed to be, I was a little embarrassed), and made a hasty retreat, feeling beyond flustered by this point, to the correct hotel. Even once I got there, we somehow managed to miss each other a few times going up and down by lift and stairs, but we all coordinated eventually!

Hair that was supposed to be clean and dry was a little closer to hot and sweaty by the time I landed on the sofa of the hotel salon, but I had finally made it! The last time I'd had hair and makeup done was actually for the wedding of the bride's twin brother, and it's always a slightly surreal experience. There is something distinctly awkward about being so close to someone you're not about to kiss, particularly when the person in question stinks of smoke, is chewing gum loudly with their mouth open, has a pretty violent method of makeup application (no wonder she slapped so much on, we probably needed it to cover the bruises!) and looks threatening too (I may, or may not have told her how scary she was...). 'Light' makeup was not light at all, particularly by the standards of a non-makeup wearer, but the bride was happy so I was too.

Next (by this point with the first glass of champagne down me), I stepped up to the hair chair. My hair hadn't been 'styled' since it was cut short, so I was not at all sure what the end result would be; another nerve-racking experience! Again I put my foot in it when midway through I exclaimed that I resembled a poodle due to what seemed to me to be excessive back-combing. Thankfully she somehow calmed my Jimmy Neutron-esque hair down and I came away looking like I had LOADS of hair, which was quite impressive really!

Despite the rather unorthodox methods of the ladies in the salon, bride, bridesmaids and mother of the bride emerged looking fit for a wedding, and one might even say pretty if I do say so myself! So with an hour to go before the ceremony, we headed back to the room to get into the dress...

It was ENORMOUS, laid out on the bed like a whole nother person in the room and it took three of us in addition to the bride and lots of holding everything up to get her in, then another team effort to tie it all up! Seeing the first of my friends to get married in the dress was extremely special! Once secure she looked absolutely stunning and all princess-like.

Photos began as soon as we stepped out into the hotel lobby, and so the precision began. The walk down to the gazebo from the hotel was a highly structured operation, with a fifty metre gap left between each person, me in the middle trying desperately to remain on two feet in crazy high heels while holding a bouquet with both hands and at the same time retaining a smile for the camera as opposed to letting the grimace of concentration show. The bride and mother of the bride followed, and as we all reached the groom I don't think there was a dry eye in the house!

The ceremony was short, but in the most beautiful setting! There was then a wait before the evening reception which was spent in the shade drinking water for cooling down and champagne for toasting! The champagne was accompanied by canapes, one of which I of course managed to drop down my dress (fear not, I then licked up the mess with true class)... There was also wedding cake, card games and the hotel cat to keep us all entertained. It was a most lovely afternoon!

If the setting for the ceremony, overlooking the sea with palm trees and brightly coloured flowers all all around, wasn't beautiful enough, the evening reception was in a pavilion right on the beach, a BB buffet while the sun set, the waves lapped the shore and a coastal breeze kept us all cool. Then came speeches followed by a hasty exit from the other bridesmaid and best man (not as dodgy as it sounds, they had a plane to catch and were already travelling together). At this point I decided that the bride needed a wedding day/wedding dress paddle, so dragged her off into the sea (holding her dress up of course, bridesmaid duties!) while the groom stayed on dry land taking photos.

The sun set, and a DJ reminiscent of the one from the wedding reception at the beginning of Love Actually took to the decks for the first dance. After a bit of oohing and aahing, we all took to the floor and danced the night away until heat rendered us useless and we settled for sitting and marvelling at the warmth of an evening in Cyprus before exhaustion from all the excitement of the day led us to bed!

The morning after, despite a continuous stream of champagne over the course of the wedding day, I awoke bright and early for a full day of nothingness in the sun. My day was spent on the beach where I sunbathed, paddled, had an occasional dip, and wrote in the shade of a tree.

On Saturday, the bride and I took to the town of Ayia Napa for a spot of sight-seeing. Almost like a mini Vegas, it really is the most surreal place, like a toytown of nightclubs, bars and holiday accommodation. Yet somehow, in the middle of it all (literally) we managed to locate a rather more picturesque monastery where we found stray kittens, pretty plantlife, chandeliers and shade (our decision to walk into town from our hotels in the heat of the day had left us rather flustered)! As opposed to going back the way we came, we decided to take a circular route, so wandered on to the harbour and back along the sea front, and across beaches (something I was getting to be a dab hand at by this point). Although Ayia Napa is not an area of Cyprus one visits for the scenery, it filled a morning and stretched our legs, and we were back at the hotel just in time to collect the wedding photo proofs!

Sunday came, and it was time to go home. My flight was not until the evening but my hotel was very wonderful with a late checkout, a left luggage room and even a shower to use before my departure! So I spent a final few hours finishing off the tan by the pool, where in true British style, I made the most of hotel Wifi in order to access my SoundCloud as I was at this point, pretty bored of listening to the small selection of songs stored on my phone).

The view from my sunlounger on the final day.

I'm always very sad to leave holidays behind, and even more so when they 've been so fleeting! Sat in the back of the taxi with the same driver who had held up a sign with my name on it at the airport (this excited me beyond belief!), his air-con up ridiculously high, I thought about how much I had enjoyed myself, and how Cyprus had made for an Excellent location. Next stop, the reception at home for absent family and friends, and then who knows who will be next... I do love a good wedding (no pressure ladies)!

Friday, 18 July 2014

A Chap Olympiad, Agnes Obel, and air hockey

Before beginning to write about last weekend, I have first made a page-and-a-half-long list of everything I did... and I wonder why my posts become so long and rambly! Maybe, just maybe, if I want to write about what I do, I need to start doing less.

I am sitting in the airport (in the quiet area with loungers!? Score.) waiting for my flight to Cyprus for the wedding, and realised that as I will no doubt have lots to write about that, I'd better get this one written before it catches up on me! And as I have the perfect opportunity...

Saturday was really quite surreal. The afternoon was spent at the eagerly anticipated Chap Olympiad, a celebration of the sporting ineptitude of English gentlemen. Sporting events included cucumber sandwich discuss and some sort of briefcase relay, and prizes were awarded to those who maintained the perfect trouser crease or an immaculately well-tamed moustache as opposed to those who actually got at all competitive!

The day began at my flat, where I got over-excited and provided china plates, elegant glasses and cucumber sandwiches (to eat) accompanied by Pimms served in a teapot to get us in the mood! A little carried away with food consumption (sandwiches on tiger bread, Sensations popcorn, baked camembert, grilled sweet chilli haloumi and plum tomatoes - YUM), we did not actually manage to start getting ourselves ready until early afternoon (bearing in mind the event began at noon)...

All hair, makeup and hats at the ready (until the moment we stepped outside when all three attempted a Great Escape), we headed off! A great reaction followed us down the street and onto the Tube, where we sat feeling hot, but pretty (hats come in awfully handy for fanning) as we made our way to where the games had already begun.

Slightly unsure of where to go from the Underground, we were soon given a rather large hint in the form of the not so dulcet tones of jazz music as to where we should be. Hidden in private gardens in Bedford Square, we were welcomed by waist-coats, hats of all varieties, old uniform (ooft), petticoats, canes, fans, white gloves and furs galore, many accompanied by proper Fortnum and Mason picnic hampers, and most sitting on traditional picnic blankets or under gazebos, sipping cups of tea and cocktails with a slice of cake; the most surreal but wonderful sight! Of course we made a bee-line for the bar where (still fanning away with our headgear) we ordered more Pimms to keep us going and some more adventurous/lethal cocktails.

Whilst stood in the queue for the bar (in front of a man in a yellow tweed suit? Amazing.) we were treated to the sights of what can only be described as a 'hench man with an unbelievably gruff voice bending metal on (or maybe with?) his crotch'... fortunately the rest of the afternoon took a more civilised turn for the most part! It was spent sipping our cocktails, observing strange goings on in the arena, basking in British weather at its best, engaging in conversation that was probably as far removed from ladylike as it gets (also apparently at an inappropriate volume, as hats do cover ones ears... oops), and admiring (or, quite often, making scathing comments about) the 'general splendour'.

Once the games were over and winners announced, we noticed the construction of the dancefloor taking place and got very excited! As soon as drinks were finished, we took to the stage for a lot of hip swinging, foot flicking, arm flailing and jazz handing, much to the admiration of two ex-naval officers (amongst others, I'm sure), who decided we'd be the ideal candidates to show them how it's done. Oh dear.

With perfect timing (and not before a highly romantic/anti-climatic marriage proposal was made), the rain came. So we took our cue to leave, waved goodbye to the Chap Olympiad until next year and set off for Somerset House.

I've wanted to go to a gig at the venue for a long time, and I think Agnes Obel in such stonking (yep, I just used the word stonking) weather made it a pretty perfect experience!

Having gone straight from an event with strict 30's dresscode to an open-air, standing gig, to say I felt a little over-dressed would be a huge understatement. As we joined the queue, I wished for a big sign explaining my situation, as there was an awful lot of staring going on (made even worse by a near-miss with a familiar face from home territory which is always something I strive to avoid having made my break for freedom in London). Had I not been wearing the hat all day, I might have chosen to tone down the outfit with its removal, but feared that the hat-hair would cause even more stares, and for all the wrong reasons!

Assured that I would blend right in once we were lost amongst the crowd, we ventured in. Having found a good spot and then stood in it for all of 5 minutes, we were suddenly accosted by an overly enthusiastic pair of American Express representatives (not that we realised this for the majority of our encounter). 'Have you taken your selfie yet'? There we stood thinking to ourselves 'do we really look like the sort of people who take selfies'? Knowing looks of disapproval were passed between us as we shared this thought. 'You don't have to take it yourselves', came the response when we gave a simultaneous 'no'! Next thing you know, the guy's taking our photo with my phone, I've uploaded it to Twitter with some hashtag I don't know the meaning of, we've got VIP access to an indoor bar with free champagne and a £20 ticketmaster giftcard, and said photo then appears on the big screens either side of the stage so everyone can see what a fantastic time we're having (or how awkward we look when sprung upon to have our photo taken)... I think it was worth it?

Turns out the indoor bar, at least, served dual purpose, as we did not think much to the support act, Laura Doggett, whose singing voice left us rather dumbfounded given her stature and the sound of her speaking, which I will describe as 'contrasting', so as not to sound too highly critical. To be fair, I do still intend to give her the benefit of the doubt and give her recorded stuff a listen, as maybe it was the whole live 'experience' that was too much for me... so we hid inside with champagne and olives until the storm had passed, then emerged once again in anticipation for Agnes Obel.

A far cry from the vocals that preceded her, Agnes Obel makes me melt a little. I found myself announcing 'this one's my favourite' at almost every song, before resigning myself to the fact that I really just like them all!

She had two cellists and one violinist on stage with her and her piano. All three providing haunting vocal harmonies, and unusual effects drifted from their instruments, each one more powerful and spine-tingling as they worked their way through the set. Agnes spoke sweetly to the audience between each song, offering the small stories behind her music, and expressing her enamour at the venue and us, the audience.

Following a truly magical performance, we were carried out from Somerset House in the tide of the crowd and across Waterloo Bridge to the Southbank, still hypnotised in some way, and not really wanting to just go home where it would all be over. So we had a wander, with the desired effect being almost like wanting food to settle, only in a musical sense instead (or, you know, some more romantic simile; I'm excellent with words)...

The craving for pork scratchings took over for the third time that day, and with Wahaca in sight serving not only pork scratchings, but also Magaritas, our feet knew where to take us. Catastrophically, upon our arrival we were informed they were no longer serving, so we found ourselves on a mission doomed to fail which took us beyond the London Eye. Here, we did not locate pork scratchings, but instead happened upon a well-hidden, enormous amusement arcade and AIR HOCKEY... which we played, of course.

NB please bear in mind that this whole time we were still donning Chap Olympiad costume. I have no doubt it was quite the sight to behold!

Saturday was just the most surreal day! Nevertheless, if Saturdays were frequently spent in such a way, I would be more than happy. Sunday took a more real turn, with salt beef sandwiches (ENORMOUS and incredibly tasty) from Borough Market, drinks in The Shard, a visit to Barbican for the Digital Revolution, Polo Bar for tea to relieve chronic indigestion/the hangover and Liverpool St station for Burger King. Real as it may have been, it was still equally as pleasant, and probably requires a post all of its own. However, as at this point, I am perched in a low-growing tree on a beach in Cyrprus, frantically finishing this post off in order to begin writing about my adventure here, I just leave you with that succint list and safe in the knowledge that Sunday was the perfect way to round off a fun-filled, frivolous weekend!