Friday, 19 September 2014

Burnt out

When I moved to London I always knew it would be temporary. I love the vibrancy of the city, the cultural oddities, the vast range of cuisine, the chance to mix with people of every background, but for me there's also a darker side to city life. I hate the feeling that I get sometimes - the point where I'm so stressed, so tired, so mentally hectic that I feel like a great weight is crushing my chest. London life is stressful. It's relentless. And it's costly. In more ways than one.

Since I started working in London in 2006, and started living here in 2010, I feel like I've aged. It's hard to know whether this is a natural side effect of transitioning from your 20s to your 30s, but I feel more tired these days, and less enthusiastic about life in London than I've ever done before. I find myself longing for the chance to shut myself in a quiet room in the countryside, with nothing but birdsong and buzzing insects for company. I feel like I want some peace and quiet. Some calm and restoration.

My body feels it too. Last night I got home after rushing around all day: a circuits class at 7am, back-to-back meetings and deadlines, no time for a lunch break, no time to think. I walked home, lay on my bed, closed my eyes and felt awful. Then the doorbell rang. Our Sainsbury's delivery. I peeled myself off the bed and spent another half an hour checking things off the receipt and stuffing them into cupboards. Finally I sat down, but felt too tired and too ill to do anything except go to bed at 9pm without any dinner. And today? I woke up with a sore throat. Great.

So today I've cleared my diary for the weekend. No after work drinks on Friday, no meeting up with friends, no busy brunches or shopping trips. Just me, the flat, the cats, maybe a film or two, a potter round the quiet streets, and of course several cups of tea. Thankfully Museum Selection recently came to my rescue with this beautiful teacup and saucer and an Elephant Earl Grey Tea Caddy, which will be the perfect way to start my calm, collected weekend of recuperation.

Teacup and saucer

Elephant tea

Here's what else I have in store:
  • A good book (currently The Seas by Samantha Hunt)
  • A hot bath and a face mask
  • A yoga class on Saturday
  • A decent lie in (after an early night)
  • Wholesome, healthy food
  • Planning a week ahead that includes downtime
  • A leafy autumn park walk
What have you got in store this weekend?

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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Precious charms

I like a pretty dress or a shiny watch as much as the next girl, but I wouldn’t necessarily call myself materialistic. The items in my wardrobe come and go. They may have a season or a reason to be a current favourite, and when a hole appears, the fabric gets bobbly or they start looking tatty, I'll toss them in the bin or take them to my local charity shop.

Some of my possessions though are very special indeed. Not because of their aesthetic beauty or longevity, but because of what they've come to represent. Everyone has these kinds of possessions - the once that spark the question 'what would you save if your house was on fire? Your Louboutins or your photographs?'

This charm bracelet was a christening gift from my uncle Kevan, who bought me a new charm for it every birthday until he died of cancer. Sometimes, painful memories, when tangled with the good, can exist in a tangible, beautiful object. To me, those are the possessions that mean the most.


Looking back on it, my uncle's choice of gift was inspired. Each year he'd save the charm until I next saw him, and while the family bustled around the house gossiping, eating and drinking, he'd take my hand, lead me into a quiet room and present me with a little box. His choice of charm was always thoughtful: a tiny silver cross for my Christening, a kangaroo when he got back from Australia, a horseshoe when I started to ride, and when I got a bit older a dangly skeleton because it was 'fun'.

The bracelet is a little worn now. The skeleton has lost his legs, the silver is a little dull, but it's one of the most special things in my jewellery box. It's irreplaceable.

Seeing that the likes of Pandora and Michael Hill Jewellers have made charm bracelets popular again, it made me wonder what charms my adored uncle might have bought me had he not been so ruthlessly snatched away. Perhaps a kiwi to signify the time my uncle, mum and auntie spent in New Zealand as children. Maybe a 21 charm to mark a special birthday. A red Morano glass charm as a tribute to my birthstone (ruby), an Eiffel tower when my mum moved to France. One day it might be a little house when I finally buy my own home, next year's could be some bridal rings for when I have my wedding day, and maybe one day a pram. Maybe.


What are your most precious possessions?


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Monday, 15 September 2014

What I wore: ASOS floral midi skirt

I got back from holiday less than a week ago and already it feels like I never went away. My wanderlusting will have to take a backseat for a little while however, as I've used up most of my holiday. Sniff sniff! That said, I did manage to sneak in a crafty few days at my mum's in France for her birthday in November. The next big travel decision will of course be our honeymoon, which we've been furiously saving for as I'd love to go somewhere special. I've resigned myself to the fact that becoming a homeowner is a long way off for me. There are so many beautiful houses in the capital, but a quick search on property for sale in London puts me back in my place. I have some serious saving to do! It seems my priorities drift to somewhat more manageable goals: a nice holiday, a regular gym membership, the odd meal out here and there.

Anyway, enough daydreaming about warmer climes and yummy plates of food! Today I wanted to share an outfit I wore on holiday. We were in Sumartin at the time (blogged about here) and I wanted to wear a pretty skirt to mark the one year countdown until we get married on 5 September next year. This ASOS floral midi skirt has become a top contender for both the office and at home. It's almost a thick jersey material so very comfy and flattering. Plus it stretches after a big meal (I take stock of these things when shopping). we paused on our way to the restaurant for a few snaps on the water's edge. The light was dimming so I can't vouch too well for the sharpness of these pictures, but it was a beautiful evening all the same.



Outfit details
Topshop grey vest (no longer on site)
Warehouse cardigan (old)
New Look wide strap buckle sandals - now £8
Oasap oversized clutch* (old)

Joggers have also become a firm wardrobe staple for me this year, and I'm trying to get as much wear out of them as I can before the bitter winter chill sets in. I picked up this latest pair from New Look for £17.99, and they're so utterly comfy I could wear them every day.

Back in #blighty and loving my new #joggers from @newlookfashion! #fbloggers #wiwt #ootd

I hope you all had perfect weekends and are making the most of the milder air before the chills come. On Sunday I treated Frank to lunch at the OXO tower and was very proud of myself for choosing the salmon over the enormous burger that Frank lay his hands on (although I managed to commandeer a couple of bites... The ingredients were so fresh and the salmon was perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle. Delish.

I seem to have engineered a very busy week for myself this week: various social events, a consultation with a personal training and slotting some gym classes in between. I'll definitely be trying to sneak some early nights in there too or else I'll be well and truly pooped by Sunday! What do you have planned?

Delicious lunch at @oxo_tower bar today :) #foodporn #London #southbank #lunch #food


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Friday, 12 September 2014

Two nights in Split, Croatia

I got back from holiday on Wednesday and thus begins the long arduous process of editing photos (and wishing I was back there). I'm completely incapable of snapping one or two photos on my travels, so you may have to bear with me and my trigger happy tendencies.

Split was our first port of call in Croatia. Everything here felt alien as the shuttle bus dumped us on the side of a dusty road. Local residents with apartments to rent thrust papers in our faces, amid a slightly uncomfortable kafuffle for our suitcases. Street sellers eyed us from their stalls as we wheeled our luggage along the pavement. Plastic sunglasses: 30 kunas, postcards: 6 kunas, Croatia beach towels: 70 kunas. We meandered around the gentle bend of the pathway towards the old town, passing the harbour front, which was lined with restaurants and paved in white blocks of stone. Thud, thud, thud went our suitcase wheels in unison across the paving slabs.

Split harbour

Split Old Town2

Succulents in split

Laundry in Split old town

^ The labyrinth of the old town swallowed us whole, and we were grateful for the crumbling little houses, cobbled streets and plant pots overflowing with fleshy succulents.

View from Split balcony

View from our balcony in Split

^ Our apartment, tiny but perfectly formed on two levels, offered a perfect view of Split from the balcony, where we sipped a glass of white wine and drank in the sights and smells.

View from top of Marjan nature reserve steps2

^ Our first day took us not into the thick of things, but towards the back of the old town into Marjan Nature Reserve. We clambered up the steep stone steps, shouting to each other over the deafening orchestra of frog croaks that rose up from the damp, dark undergrowth. The views from the top were spectacular.

Marjan nature reserve trail

^ Heading onwards, we strolled deeper and deeper into the reserve up a gentle sloping hill. Pine needles blanketed the road, which lay empty apart from the occasional passerby.

chapel in the hillside of marjan nature reserve

Cacti in Marjan nature reserve

^ Ancient chapels stood firm and faithful, magnificent in their simplicity. My favourite, buried deep into the rock and surrounded by flowering cacti and aloe vera plants that were bigger than me.

Hot, tired and thirsty, we eventually found ourselves on the downward stretch, looping back and forth as the beach below taunted us – far enough to seem like we’d never get there, near enough to see people like tiny insects swimming in the cool blue sea.

Frank in the adriatic

^ Eventually we made it, and found our own little secluded spot. I dropped our rucksack and reached in for a towel. Before I’d manage to flap it open and lay it on the pebbles, Frank had yanked off his t-shirt and was up to his waist, grinning with pure joy. I joined him then, slipping slightly on the hard pebbles, watching for sea urchins, before sinking into the blissful deep.


^ After reading, swimming and dozing we eventually conceded to hunger, packed up our soggy things and drifted back towards town.

Grilled seabass in Split

^ To eat: grilled seabass, calamari and beer.

Diocletian's Palace3

^ That night we headed to Diocletian’s Palace and perched on cushions in the main square drinking overpriced wine and listening to a Croatian singer. I touched Frank’s arm and pointed at a little dog as it trotted across the square. Suddenly there was uproar as one drop, then two more splashed on my bare ankle. Waiters shouted, dashing across the plaza to grab the cushions before the downpour. We took refuge under some ruins and finished our drinks, watching the gentle patter on the wet glistening stones.

The rest of our time in Diocletian's Palace saw us giving in to the confusion and hubbub and simply getting lost.

Diocletian's Palace2

Flowers inside Diocletian's Palace

Me inside Diocletian's Palace

Inside Diocletian's Palace

Outside view of Diocletian's Palace

Sunset in Diocletian's Palace


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Monday, 8 September 2014

Two nights in Sumartin, Brač Island, Croatia

We knew that between the tourist hubbub of Split and Dubrovnik we'd want some downtime in Croatia. Our island-hopping tactic is a tried and tested route for many people coming to the archipelago, but most who venture to the Dalmatian coastline in the south head over to Hvar (the 'party island') or else to Miljet, a nature reserve. We opted for Brač, an hour's ferry ride from Split and famous for its white limestone, which was used to build the likes of Diocletian's Palace in Split and the White House in the United States.

As we offloaded from the ferry in Supertar, coaches lined the nearby bus station, transporting hoards of tourists off to their big hotels, busy beaches and parasol-lined roads in Bol on the south side of the island. Meanwhile, we clambered onto our own, nearly empty bus, with a curious array of local passengers, including men in dusty hats carrying shopping bags and a pair of elderly nuns. Soon enough our bus started its winding route through the centre of the island to Sumartin on the east side of the island.

The gentle trundle of the bus calmed my nerves as we wound round the coastline on some quite hairy-chested stretches of road with sheer drops into canyons below. Piles of unpolished rocks are dotted everywhere across the island, the work of women and labourers over many centuries as they cleared the land for cultivation. I read somewhere that when the Venetians ruled the island, a man from Brač would be expected to plant 100 olive trees before he could marry. Hundreds of years later these labours of love - mounds of rubble - lie as far as the eye can see.

Sumartin harbour

^ Sumartin is a sleepy rural fishing town. Little boats bob in the clear blue harbour, locals relax outside coffee shops reading papers and chatting to their neighbours. The Church of St Nicholas stands protectively over the village, the bells tolling every half hour in steadfast reassurance. Croatians are deeply religious I've found. Crosses over doors, rosary beads wound round door handles and pictures of the saints placed on bedside tables.


^ Karlovacko beer became a familiar friend, a large bottle costing less than a glass of Coke. We spent many an afternoon perched on the edge of the quaint little harbour sipping cold drinks and chatting as the sun glittered on the water.


^ A platter of Dalmation smoked ham, local olives, salted anchovies, hard cheese, sardine pate and fresh bread made for a triumphant lunch when we arrived.

Sumartin beach

^ Our apartment was a clear 20 second walk from the ocean, and beautifully secluded so you could jump straight into the water from the rocks. No sooner had we dumped our bags, we shot out of the door to the sea, despite it being nearly 7pm. There was no one for miles around as we dipped a toe into the warm Adriatic sea and ventured in, supervised only by the mountains and the fish.

Sumartin sunset swim

^ As the sky darkens, the water, which is the clearest blue during the day, turns inky, glistening like oil. The sky turns peachy, and even transforms the mountains of Makarska pink across the water. Surely this is what paradise looks like.

Chicken salad in Sumartin

^ Another delicious lunch, this time chicken salad from one of the local coffee shops. Some of the best food I had in Croatia was from Sumartin.

We spent the day swimming in inky blue water today, against a misty mountainous backdrop. The water was crystal clear and cool, with little fish darting back and forth. Secluded, quiet and calm. Our very own piece of heaven :) #croatia2014 #croatia #Brac

^ After a bike ride round the little stone village, spying olive trees, grape vines, crumbling stone walls and wonky houses, we headed back to our little paradise on the water, this time for some kayaking. The mountains were secluded in mist but the water was oh so clear.

Kayak in sumartin

Sumartin harbour copy

^ The harbour in downtown Sumartin lit up with the soft glow of the village's few restaurants. We sat drinking a beer and watching the world (and his cat) go by. A large ship had pulled in that afternoon, carrying a group of men from the Czech Republic. They sang sea shanties in harmony as we wiled away the evening.


^ The pace of life here is slow, and the sunsets even slower. This day marked our one year countdown until our wedding day. I couldn't have wished for anything more.


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