Ascot 2014

This weekend marks the King George Weekend (A Modern British Classic) at the Ascot Racecourse near Windsor.  It also marks just over a month since I graced Ladies Day at Ascot with my beautiful girlfriends (from left to right: Georgie, Chaz, Myself, Shona and Becky).  Here’s what happened:

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After a bright and early start we all met at Georgie’s house for the 30 minute taxi journey to Ascot.  As we were in the Silver Ring, we were allowed to take 1 bottle of sparkling wine/champagne/cava per person as well as a picnic taken in a cool bag or hamper. I settled on a bottle of Prosecco and a ladylike burger from a stand inside.  Here’s a snap of us before we all went in.  I’m the short one in the middle.  Whilst I contemplated wearing heels, I also figured there would be a lot of walking involved on the day, to and from the betting stations and the bar (of course).  So I bit the bullet and went for my fancy Dune sandals of 4 summers ago, and I’m so glad I did!  Sparkly feet and no foot pain whatsoever, winning.  Whilst I can’t remember where all the girls outfits are from (but if you’re interested, comment below and I’ll find out for you :)) my #OOTD is as follows:

Fascinator – British Heart Foundation Charity Shop

Dress – Planet at Debenhams

Watch – Vintage

Clutch – Florence and Fred

Sandals – Dune

Cheers!

Cheers!

After we found ourselves a patch of grass amongst the throng, we sat down to toast the day and drink our bubbles.

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We’re all such busy ladies, so it was lovely to catch some sun, chill, chat, drink and giggle catching up.  People watching was beaut too!  (Also can we please acknowledge Georgie’s gorgeous hair?!)

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As you can see, it was utterly crowded in the Silver Ring, but it was great because it added to the atmosphere in so many ways.  It was lovely seeing everyone dressed up and having a good time.  Just before the races started the Queen popped on by in her carriage, we didn’t see her, but had this pretty good view of the big screen!

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Next the races started.  There were 6 in all, between 2.30pm and around 6pm with about 30/40 minutes between each, enough time to pop to the ladies, the bar, or make your bets.  We all got involved in the betting.  Whilst my Dad had very methodically selected 6 horses with the aid of the Racing Post, we all picked the horses we liked the names of!  I came away £25 up!  #Winning

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After an AMAZING day we got our taxi home where we descended on Yates’ in all our finery to watch the England game, and we all know how that turned out!  Nevertheless we had a fantastic time, it was a great experience, and I’d really recommend Ascot to all!

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John O’Groats

I love trains.  I really really do.  So, whilst I’m in my final ‘summer’ so to speak (although still working full time, as and when) I felt it was only necessary to take the train to John O’Groats.  As you do.  Snaps and stories.

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We took the sleeper train from London Euston up to Inverness.  This was my beaut of a berth.  If you haven’t been on a sleeper train, I’d really recommend it.  It’s so much fun toddling down to the dining carriage bar for a drink and to mingle with the other passengers.  (Note my left over gin and lemonade glass.)  It can be a bit hit and miss as to how well you actually sleep, but I find the swaying and to and froing really rather comforting.  Then waking up and finding out you’re in the middle of Scotland and that the London lights are 300 miles behind you, pretty breathtaking.

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We wandered around Inverness for a bit before catching our next train, from Inverness to Wick.  This was a 4 hour pretty bumpy ride through the Highlands but was absolutely beautiful.  I saw puffins, deer, even majestic stags and of course, lots and lots of sheep.  It was gorgeous.

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From Wick, we took another very bumpy bus up to John O’Groats (the most northern part of the UK) itself.  It was crazy, literally nothing there.  I felt extremely overwhelmed about how far north we were (which is weird, cause I’ve been to Australia heaps of times LITERALLY the other side of the world) but is was beautiful and desolate at the same time.  Excuse the pretty casual get up here.  (I’d spent upwards of 12 hours on trains).  But FYI my tee is ASOS, jeans are trusty BDG at Urban Outfitters favourites, socks are Topshop and sneakers are Vans.

After a twenty minute stroll around John O’Groats we got the same very bumpy bus back to our hotel in central Wick (located on the shortest street in the world, don’t you know).  After relaxing over a bottle of cava we headed down to a gorgeous dinner and some drinks in the bar, before collapsing into bed.

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After an early start, we got the same (bumpy) train from Wick down to Inverness where we spent the day strolling the Ness and the Isles of Ness, shopping and gorging on Pizza Express.  At 8pm we boarded the sleeper train to head back to London Euston where we arrived 12 hours later.

So that was it!  It was a beautiful trip and exactly the break I needed.  The Highlands were just gorgeous and I can now say I’ve been to the most northerly point in the UK!  Next, Landsend.

 

Bella Evening

For the last 3 to 4 years, I’ve been partaking in an event named ‘Bella Evening’.  Or my full and real name evening if you know me well.  Prerequisites require a free house (boyfriend being out and about), wine, cheese and a girlish drama of sorts.  I’ve loved, even craved these evenings for the past few years.  A chance to let down my Bridget Jones, sing youtube karaoke to my webcam in my pyjamas and collapse into the MIDDLE of the bed, without fear of retribution.  So why is it tonight, I’m questioning my company?

I think it’s because generally, these days, I’m alone more.  So the question is, how to be alone?  Whilst one could take inspiration from this incredible youtube video, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs) how does one enjoy being alone when it happens so frequently, yet so seldom?  Excuse the melodrama.

I’m alone most days.  These days in #masterslife, I generally work from home.  I look forward to boyfriend returning home at 7pm, dinner and drinks, or a night in front of The Hunger Games.  So when boyfriend heads out of an evening, alone time turns into … lonely.  Yet I do oh-so hesitate to use that word.  I have beautiful and amazing friends, whatsapp and texts could provide me with a cinema or bar buddy in half an hour, yet I choose to stay alone.  Why?  When did my own company, which I love and crave so much, become questionable?

I believe it’s important to be alone.  I’ve always been around people, always.  My family home was full of people coming and going.  One year, I remember 16 souls in a 3 bed semi for a month over Christmas.  At university, I lived in a house of 9.  I’ve always been around people.  And don’t get me wrong, I love people.  And because I love people, I believe in the importance of being alone.  Whilst sociability is an exquisite trait, so is aloneness.  I just need to remember that.

I used to cherish being alone.  And in 6 months, when I have a full time job and am struggling with running a household, seeing friends and family and looking after a boyfriend (ladies, y’all know what I mean), I’m going to cherish it even more.  These evenings are few and far between these days, and will become even more so in the future.  My own company isn’t questionable, its essential.  Not just now, but always, and I will love and enjoy me, myself and I for years and years to come.  So should you.

Thank you for letting me vent, excuse me whilst I go bathe, watch Orange is the New Black and belt out ‘Titanium’.  I believe it keeps me sane.

Afternoon Tea at Vertigo 42

Last week I went for afternoon tea at Vertigo 42, the champagne bar on the roof of Tower 42 in the City of London.  We received a deal via Amazon Local and being partial to the odd finger sandwich and scone, thought we’d give it a try.  We entered the lobby and were directed to a maze of lifts to take us to the 42nd floor.  It was definitely quite a dated building, which you could tell by the 1980s decor in need of repair.  The lift actually arrived on the 41st floor meaning we had to walk the final flight of stairs to get to 42.  Not great for someone afraid of heights (but then again it was called Vertigo ..!).

We entered the champagne bar and the first thing that struck me was the incredible 300 degree (not quite 360 it has to be said) views of London.  It was a typical British day on which we visited; hazy, rainy and sunny all at the same time.  We were led all the way around the bar so we were facing the North of London.  Being a south of the river girl myself, I think I would have preferred to have sat the opposite side of the bar, but it didn’t matter too much.  We had a great view of Ally Pally and the Emirates Stadium, and the rolling hills of the north of England (i.e. North of Watford).

The attentive waiters wasted no time in swiftly bringing us a chilled glass of champagne, which was absolutely delicious, followed by our towering tray of goodies.  At first sight it looked lovely, but as a savoury fan myself I would have preferred to have seen a few more sarnies.  The finger sandwiches were nice with good flavours, but I think a little bit more attention to detail could have been paid.  There were a couple of sandwiches with crusts on and the filling servings were under generous.  Call me picky but I have high expectations with fine dining!  The next trays were fruity and chocolatey tart trays and then scones, both of which were delightful.  We rounded the tea off which a lovely pot of English Breakfast.

When we had finished tea, the waiters had no problem with us sauntering round taking some photos, but I could tell were keen for us to leave so the next herd could be fed and watered.  Whilst I overall had a lovely time, I don’t believe the Afternoon Tea experience would have been worth the full price.  Having experienced Afternoon Tea elsewhere such as the Ritz and the Landau, where the service is excellent and sandwiches a-plenty, it just didn’t measure up.  I had a lovely afternoon and the views were incredible, but the food just wasn’t up to par.

Vertigo 42

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IMG_3157Next stop, The Savoy!

Social Media Madness

I love social media, I absolutely love it.  I love tweeting and texting and instagramming and facebooking – it’s safe to say I am a social media harlot.

In this day and age of smartphones and 3g, much of our social media participation is done on the go.  I’m talking checking in at the cinema, instagramming your dinner at a restaurant, or tweeting about your night out.  That’s fine, I do it too.  I encourage it, I embrace it.  What I DO have a pet peeve about is social media(ing) in the company of others.  Now I don’t mean walking along, or hanging out in a common room chilling and chatting.  I mean real company, spending quality time with someone.

It has become all too normal to turn up to a bar meeting friends for drinks and put your phone on the table.  It’s of course, fine it you’re waiting for an important call ot an email, but not if you’re waiting for a retweet or a ‘like’ notification.  What, is then wrong with the company you are keeping?  Are they less important to you that one of your 300 facebook friends commenting ‘fit’ on your new selfie?  They can’t be, otherwise you wouldn’t have arranged to meet them in person.

It makes me so mad when I’m having lunch with someone and they check their phone.  Instantly, there’s a digital barrier between us and all connection and conversation flow can vanish.  Again, it’s fine if they’re showing me a picture of something or a hilarious vine, but to connect with the virtual world when they should be connecting with the real world?  No.  Not on.

I recently raised this issue with Boyfriend.  I told him, that when I’m having drinks with friends at Uni, there are no phones on the table, that the conversation and banter is on fire and everyone is genuinely interested in each other – and how utterly refreshing it is.  Then I told him what I’m telling you, how cross I feel when social media company is put before my company (or maybe I’m just THAT boring?!).  He commented, that maybe phones and social media in company is our new norm in society, not something to feel angered or upset about.  This saddened me.  I love social media, I’ll be the first and loudest to admit it.  But not when I’m around others, not when I’m enjoying real life, my life, and living it to the full.

Ever since I can remember, phones or laptops have not been permitted at dinner or drinks in my family.  If you use your phone at our dinner table, you will be asked to leave.  I believe this is how it should be.  It is the height of rudeness to start a conversation with someone else whilst spending quality time with a person, so why is it okay to do it virtually?

I’m not campaigning we all put down out smartphones and digital detox.  I’m not going to go all crazy and throw a friends phone across a room if they dare brandish it in front of me.  I’m just trying to get us all to have a little think, about our social media habits, about our phone habits when in the company of others.  What do you think?  I’d be really interested to hear another take on this.  Feel free to like, retweet, comment, poke, repost, or any other social media action you can think of.  All I know is, I won’t be checking if you did, whilst in the company of others.

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Woops

Karaoke Playlist

So last week on an impromptu snow day night in (#SNOLO) and after reading a list of 50 things to do before you leave University, my friends and I decided to have a Karaoke Night.  I absolutely love Karaoke.  It usually occurs on a night out in a bar, or in front of the family computer after a dinner party, but we decided to give it a full on go; microphone and everything.  So I thought I’d share with you my personal Karaoke Playlist, my favourite songs to sing (warble/scream/shout) when a Karaoke night comes my way.  Sooo ..

NOTE: Technophobe over here, click on the link if you want to hear the songs :)  Sorry if it looks wrong or anything!

Smokie – Living Next Door To Alice

ImageNow this a tune my Ma introduced to me (on my parents 24th Wedding Anniversary no less, naw!) about a year ago now.  It’s from the 70s when she was growing up and was one of her favourites.  I cannot count the number of times my Mum and I have screamed this after some wine, its always the one I start with on a Karaoke night – I just love it!

Ironik – Stay With Me (Live Lounge Version)

IronikThis is the Radio 1 Live Lounge version (that is VERY important people) that I discovered on a ‘Best of Live Lounge’ CD a few years ago.  I played it to my Dad and he LOVED it so much, so much we both learnt it to whack out at a dinner party.  He does the girly bits, and I do the rapper bits .. which I know EVERY word to!  I’m not really sure how I managed it, I’ve never actually looked at the lyrics, but nevertheless I know ALL the words, he knows the girly bit – and we rock that mike.

I_Will_Survive_Gloria_GaynorThis is just a Karaoke CLASSIC if we’re all being honest, and the one I bring out when I really want to impress (i.e. in a social situation that doesn’t involve family, family friends or my best mates).  I know everybody thinks they’re absolutely incredible up on a stage after a few drinks, and I am no exception in  this – I rock!

Rihanna EminemAnother corker, especially if your secret talent is rapping.  My Dad isn’t a fan of this one as such, so this is one I crack out on my own.  This song did indeed require checking out a lyric website, but now I’m a pro!  Maybe in time, the more confidence I get in this blogging thing after giving vlogging a go, if you guys are very very lucky you might be able to catch a cheeky video of me rapping, ha!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtEzZEe_5kA

EdelweissTheSoundOfMusicThis is a most definite end of the night tune.  (Ironic, cause you might think that would be the ‘Goodbye’ song from The Sound of Music, but I find that one a bit too stressful.)  It’s quite a recent addition to my Karaoke Playlist.  When people are over, we always ask them their favourite song and what they would like to song (or like us to sing), and this is one that popped up recently.  Just beautiful.

I absolutely LOVE a good bit of Karaoke, and I’m not ashamed to say so!  What are your favourite tunes?!  Love Bella x