Two weeks into 2015 and I'm still writing the wrong date in my notebook.
Last year wasn't the easiest. But there were good things - there are always good things.
2014 was the year my book was published, the year my youngest started school and blossomed, immeasurably.
Last year I got some good work and grew my business - my work appeared in Mollie Makes, The Simple Things, Lionheart, Bristol 247, Coates & Scarry, and several bookazines.
There were holidays, there was reading, there were tattoos!
Days with blogging friends old and new, blog conferences and festivals.
But most of all there was music. I've started to make playlists of my favourite songs each month, and it felt like a good thing to combine some of the best into a playlist of the year. So here are my songs of 2014 - not necessarily recorded or released last year, but listened to and loved over the past twelve months.
Tell me, what are your songs of last year?
I have but one resolution for 2015 and it isn’t food-related. You’d think authoring a diet book might offer some immunity from the new year paunch but, no, I begin January as liberally padded (courtesy of Elizabeth Shaw and King Edward) as the next greedy reveller. That detox-doesn’t-work Guardian article is all over Facebook and I certainly won’t be going down that route, although the Bon Appetit Food Lovers’ Cleanse looks right up my street.
No, my resolution is to devour more books. Wilde is right. Call it middle age paranoia, but I am starting to get worried that there just isn’t enough time left to read all the books I want to read. Now that I’ve completed Crossy Road (I won! And the prize is my life back!), any spare time this year will be spent off screen and on paper.
Here are my five reads for January.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Ordinarily skeptical of the whole self-help movement, last year was something of a revelation to me. A friend who I admire greatly recommended the work of Brene Brown; she is just the ticket for a social psychology graduate who wants to read non-fiction based in proper science but with a personal development bent. Sounds niche but Brene is funny, articulate, intelligent, insightful and a must-read (or must-watch - she’s done two immensely popular TED talks, the vulnerability one clocking up a mighty 18 million views).
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
It is perhaps ill-advised buying a book about writing for a writer, but this was one of my Christmas presents and turned out to be the perfect gift. A quick flick through offers just the kind of nerdy facts and figures about grammar that I love, but in the most beautifully written copy.
Death And The Penguin
A dark comedy about a penguin with depression - I love the sound of this gem. Set in the Ukraine in the days after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Death and the Penguin is 'sinister and Kafkaesque', apparently.
The Mindfulness Journal: Exercises to help you find peace and calm wherever you are
This one arrived in my stocking - clever FC. Packed with tips for incorporating elements of mindfulness into your daily life, it’s a neat little handbook for living in the present. Rather than staring at a screen in the queue for the checkout, I’m going to switch off and do something more thoughtful instead.
The News: A User's Manual
My love of de Botton knows no bounds. I’ve recently started following him on Facebook - if you don’t already, I wholeheartedly recommend his sanguine and sage updates that make such a change from baby pics and anti-UKIP outrage. Also, his Book of Life site publishes some of the best free content the web has to offer. A friend of mine has enforced a news blackout (a la Ruby Wax) in her home as the state of the world at the moment is just too much for her to bear - I’ve been wondering how this fits with Alain’s stance. I shall find out.
Did you get something to read for Christmas? Is your nose in a book this month?
I’d love to know - leave me a comment.
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It's the first day of the school holidays and we're getting down to business with a bit of festive bread-making. What's so festive about bread, I hear you ask? Not much, really, so we go all out with Christmas tree shaped bread with pine needles snipped into the dough in the way you'd do with hedgehog bread.
The boys got stuck in while I stood well back, not wanting to get my new ASOS Christmas jumper covered in flour. And they did a fine job, even making these neat little dinner rolls to have with our soup!
We always use the same recipe - Nigel Slater's easy white loaf from Appetite. Give it a go this holiday.
1 kg white bread flour
14g instant dried yeast
700 ml water
1. Tip the flour, yeast and the salt into a big wide bowl. Pour in almost all the water and mix it to a sticky dough. Keep mixing adding a bit more flour or water until you have a dough that is soft and springy and still slightly sticky to touch.
2. Generously dust the working surface, turn the dough out on to the surface and start kneading. Knead the dough for 10 minutes or so. If you are getting tired that means you are kneading too hard. There is no need for that, just knead it nicely until it gets lighter and springy.
3. Put the dough back into bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave somewhere warm to raise. It will take about 1 hour or so.
4. Preheat the oven to the highest setting, 250C/gas mark 9.
5. Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a work surface, scraping out the dough that stuck to the bowl. Give it another short session of kneading. Shape into your rolls, place onto a floured baking sheet and dust generously with flour. Cover with a clean tea towel and let it double in size once again.
6. Place the rolls into the oven to bake for 10 minutes. In 10 minutes turn the heat down to 220C/gas mark 7 and bake for another 10 minutes or until cooked - rolls should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool on a wire rack.
Thanks to ASOS for sending me a lovely jumper.
There was a time when I used to be a bit precious about The Tree. It had to be the bushiest, biggest, most Christmasy tree I could find. Then, decorating it, white lights only. Pretty, co-ordinated decorations. Nothing too gaudy or clashing.
And then I had kids.
This year, the boys decorated our tree. (Kindly sent to us by Pines and Needles, this lovely Nordman Fir shouldn't drop its needles which is a blessing.) They went nuts with the decorations, putting everything they could find on there, including their own homemade cardboard alien decos.
I confess to a small amount of rearrangement once they were in bed, mainly to ensure this year's new arrivals - the most exquisite handmade ceramic decorations from iamsjm* and a burnished wooden letter 'L' from Anthropologie - were safely up high.
But other than that? It feels like the year when I have to park my expectations and let it go.
Pity the poor feet of the blogger. Always being photographed in different shoes, different locations. Instagrammed to within an inch of their little toes. Being centre stage can take its toll on the condition of the blogger’s feet, making it extra important to keep heels buffed and toes polished at all times - you never know when those Saltwater sandals will need to make an appearance.
But how do you keep feet happy and healthy? I’ve tried reflexology once before, when pregnant and feeling particularly sorry for myself. It was a relaxing experience, but any kind of sitting down at that stage in the game - even a trip to the dentist - felt like the biggest treat imaginable. Last month I was offered a reflexology treatment from Bristol-based reflexologist, Victoria Davidson of Green Orchid Therapies, and there was no way I was going to say no.
Slotted between my yoga class and my shrink on what I named Chakra Tuesday, the session was a hugely calming hour in what had been a frenzied week. I arrived at The Practice Rooms in Clifton Village, where Victoria introduced herself and made me feel at home in the large, peaceful room. Candles were burning, music played quietly in the background, and the air was perfumed with essential oils.
After a chat about my general health, I hopped up onto the bed where Victoria offered me a warm lavender wrap for my neck. Victoria then cleansed my weary feet with tea tree oil, and began the treatment. Using a reflexology wax made from vitamin E, beeswax and olive oil, Victoria’s technique involves a rhythmic sweeping motion across the foot and toes, resulting in serious relaxation. I tried so hard to keep awake but, deeply calm, I nodded off for a minute or two.
The pressure on the feet was just right - I like a firm massage at the best of times - and there were a couple of moments when I realised these feet of mine had not had any attention whatsoever in years, indicated by the twinges I felt as they came back to life under Victoria’s soothing strokes. The session passed quickly (always the sign of a blooming good treatment) and I was sorry to reach the end.
If you’d like a similar treatment from Victoria, you’re in luck - I am giving away two Green Orchid Therapies reflexology treatments. Just complete your details below to be in with a chance of winning. Winners must be able to travel to Bristol for their treatment, or can give as a gift certificate - the perfect Christmas present.
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OFFER: If you'd like to book a reflexology treatment with Victoria of Green Orchid Therapies, just mention Oyster & Pearl for £5 off your treatment.
Thanks to Victoria for my free treatment. All words, thoughts and images are my own.
Long gone are the days of going out for New Year's Eve. Forget expensive nights spent drunk on pricey booze and expectation - instead, we batten the hatches, hunker down, and make our own fun at home.
Let's get into our pyjamas while the sun is setting, light candles that smell of mulling spices. Bake cakes and cookies to snack on in front of a roaring fire. A midnight feast - the best midnight of the year - all cwtched up together in one big bed, reading chapters of classic stories aloud and making up our own with hand puppets. Hot chocolate for the kids, a dark and stormy for the grown ups.
We have everything we need.
GIVEAWAY: Oyster & Pearl has teamed up with Anthropologie to offer one reader a £50 gift card. Just head over to their site to vote for staying in or going out, then enter your details below.
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|Nancy Mitford, photographed by Cecil Beaton|
1. Christmas Pudding
For years, I have adored the Mitfords for their eccentric aristocratic lifestyle, their beauty, and their wit. But, far from being a superficial affection, the things I love most about them are their intelligence and talent. Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climateand The Pursuit of Loveare old favourites, so much so that I packed them in my hospital bag when going in to have my second child - picture me serenely reading as the contractions came and went, without so much as a glimmer of pain showing across my bespectacled face. (That did not happen, by the way. What on earth was I thinking?)
But I have yet to read Christmas Pudding. Recommended by a friend, this is - surely - the perfect festive read.
2. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
This book was a birthday present last week. The kind giver told me that a flick through the pages in the bookshop reminded him of my writing. What a lovely thing to say! Fascinating to see your work through someone else's eyes.
3. The Flavour Thesaurus
What if flavours were like words? What if you could unpick them, use the theory of each component part to make an edible sentence no one has ever come up with before? This book is the perfect gift for anyone wanting to broaden their culinary horizons or those who like to invent. I used it loads when developing the recipes for my book.
4. They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life
I have always loved that Larkin poem. And I'm a big fan of Oliver James's column in the Guardian, too. This book is such an illuminator; not designed to make family strife worse, instead James gives fascinating examples of various scenarios illustrated by stories of people in the public eye. Particularly interesting is the case study of Woody Allen. The implications of this book are a little frightening, though, and I have been thinking hard about my own kids and their upbringing. Painful but necessary.
5. The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook
Oh em gee! A cookbook by the lover of Gertrude Stein, describing meals in Paris in the 1920s with Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso? It's like Midnight in Paris brought to life. How did I not know about this?
What are you reading at the mo?
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It's my birthday next week. Not a biggie, but a birthday all the same. I disapprove of Christmas beginning before the birthday is out the way, but the older I get the more I realise it's impossible to hold back the festive tidal wave until I've decided I'm ready.
Much as I love surprises, my family has a tradition of asking for and adhering to wishlists. And so here is mine. I imagine it may also serve as inspiration for Christmas gifts for ladies of a similar age who appreciate the finer things in life - and we all have those, right?
Left to right:
1. Hexagon hoop earrings, £44
2. Hand knit hat, £22.78
3. Fair Isle mittens, £18.95
4. Violet Blonde perfume, £50
5. Vintage style brooch, £19.95
6. Glass and brass jewellery boxes, from £20
7. Multi jacquard scarf, £25.99
8. Honeycomb throw, £59.99
9. Turntable, £100
10. Bicycle bell, £15.95
11. Snowflake socks, £6
More wishlist inspiration over on this Pinterest board.
What do you want for Christmas this year?
Thailand: home of tropical beaches, temples and totally delicious food. From hot green curry to street food, I'm pretty partial to a Thai meal. In this house, we are all about the noodles. Nine times out of ten when we go out to eat it's for noodles, and my very favourite is Pad Thai. I often convince myself we have to go out or get takeaway as it's just not possible to make a decent Pad Thai at home, but turns out that's not true.
The following is adapted from a Ken Hom recipe, and is just the right combination of hot, sweet, sour and salty - the classic Thai flavours.
Vegetarian Pad Thai - serves 2-4Ingredients:
225g/8oz flat dried rice noodles
3 spring onions
3 fresh red chillies
2 tbsp groundnut oil
3 tbsp coarsely chopped garlic
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp light soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
225g/8oz fresh bean sprouts
handful fresh coriander sprigs
4 tbsp coarsely chopped roasted peanuts for garnish
1. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain.
2. Peel and slice the shallots and onion. Chop the spring onions into 2cm chunks. Seed and finely chop the chillies.
3. Heat a wok and add the oil. When it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the shallots, onion, spring onions, chillies and garlic, and stir-fry for one minute.
4. Add the rice noodles, soy sauce, rice wine, lime juice, soy sauce, pepper, sugar and vegetarian oyster sauce, and continue to stir-fry for two minutes, combining the ingredients well.
5. Add the bean sprouts and continue to stir-fry for four minutes.
6. Finally, add the coriander and stir-fry briskly for 30 seconds.
7. Divide between plates and sprinkle with the peanuts to serve.
Although it's somewhere I've always wanted to go, I have never visited Thailand. The food is a massive draw, obviously, as are the beaches, markets and beautiful scenery. And the thought of warm weather right now is particularly appealing. First Choice fly tourists to this amazing foodie destination - it's top of my list.
Thanks to First Choice for helping to bring you this post.
Why should the kids have all the fun? With a December birthday, one of my favourite childhood memories was getting to open my advent calendar AND my birthday presents, all on the same day. Last year I made the kids this DIY advent calendar, and even the cat had her own from the vet. But it's been years since I had my own advent calendar.
This year, the kids have been sent an enormous box of Christmas confectionary to be drip-fed throughout the month, and I think this might be the year I treat myself to one. With so many to choose from it can be a tricky decision, but I've managed to get it down to this shortlist of four.
Clockwise, from top left:
1. Carluccio's chocolate calendar, £11.95
2. Masters of Malt Botanicals ginvent calendar, £124.95
3. Moomin advent calendar, around £30 (including postage)
4. Liberty beauty advent calendar, £149
Clearly I don't have hundreds to spend on whimsical trinkets, and the Moomins would be nicked by the kids, so it'll probably be the Carluccio's number for me.
Do you have a grown-up advent calendar? Or is it strictly kids-only round yours?
Christmas isn’t usually allowed to start until after my birthday, which falls at the beginning of December. But some rules are meant to be broken, especially when beauty, bloggers and breakfast are involved.
Lori of Wild and Grizzly organised the most charming of mornings, held at the Mockingbird Cafe in Bristol. It’s a very beautiful new space - all scrubbed tables, industrial lighting, vintage knick-knacks and vases of flowers. Plus, they played Dolly Parton and Elvis which makes them officially my kinda people. Sun shone through the big glass windows as we drank coffee, ate amazing buttermilk biscuits with egg and bacon, and got to work putting together our Christmas wreaths, supplied by Laura Ashley.
I’m so happy with my wreath. I chose to stick with just a few of my favourite bits and pieces - pine cones, glittered acorns, red berries and a plume of white and brown feathers.
It’s always a pleasure to get together with fellow bloggers and their sweet kiddos. Seven of us chatted and gossiped, laughed and wreathed (is that a verb?). My fellow makers were Lori of Wild and Grizzly, Fritha of Tigerlilly Quinn, Adele of Circus Queen, Jessica of Along Came Cherry, Laura of Cardboard Cities, and Laura of Side Street Style.
I may have to revisit my no-Christmas-until-December rule after all - since the wreath-making, I have succumbed to my first mince pie of the year. It’s all downhill from here.
Remember these? They're the lady pirate boots I was banging on about a few weeks back. Well, in a slightly obsessive fashion, I tracked them down. They were sold in Anthropologie a few seasons back, and are by a brand called Holding Horses. Eventually, I found a pair on eBay.com, located in America, and the owner agreed to ship them to me. Excitement overload!
The most beautiful piratical footwear set sail across the ocean, arriving at my door last week. Turns out lady pirates have small feet - these turned out to be a size 6. My treacherous feet are a size 7. Excitement overboard.
Enough with the dubious seafaring nonsense. The point of this post is that I now have a pair of the lovely boots pictured above FOR SALE! Drop me a line if you think your feet would be a good match and I can send pics galore.
I also have a pair of replacement boots - these ones pictured below, from Esprit. I'm sure we will set sail on adventures a-plenty, me and these rugged lovelies.
Female wrestlers fighting alligators? Hell yeah! This book is something else - 'in the Florida Everglades, gator-park Swamplandia! is in trouble. Its star performer, the great beauty and champion alligator-wrestler Hilola Bigtree, has succumbed to cancer, and Ava, her resourceful but terrified 13-year-old daughter, is left in charge with her two siblings. But Ava's sister has embarked on a romantic relationship with a ghost, her brother has defected to a rival theme park, and her father is AWOL.'
Peculiar subject matter meets exquisite writing.
2. Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies
After reading this piece by Hadley Freeman in the Guardian, I wanted more. Be Awesome is one of those books I wish I'd read when I was younger. Much of it isn't new, but I like the way she writes and it's a very easy read. Sometimes that's all I need.
3. Life After Life
I forget who recommended this book to me, but I have no doubt it was one of my most well-read and learned friends. I love the premise of Life After Life: What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
All the questions!
4. The Happiness Project
The Happiness Project is 'one person’s year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment. Drawing at once on cutting-edge science, classical philosophy, and real-world applicability, Gretchen Rubin has written an engaging, eminently relatable chronicle of transformation.' I do love a bit of thorough research, although I'm slightly concerned this might be a bit on the New Age side for me. We'll see.
5. Imperfect Home
A new book by Mark and Sally Bailey, owners of one of my all-time favourite shops (and just in time for my birthday!). The subject is one close to my heart - I really dig the way they leave visible the layers, history and imperfection that most people would decorate over. And I pretty much love everything they do, so this book has me yearning for a return visit to their beautiful store.
What are your November reads?
Back in the summer, I wrote for a piece for the home issue of Lionheart magazine. Super duper editor Hels also asked me about my favourite room in the house, and I picked the bathroom.
I have a real thing for bathrooms that don't have any of that seashell, blue water-themed jazz - just a simple and serene space that just so happens to have a bath and a loo and a basin etc. Recently, Viakal challenged me to make it even more relaxing by sending over a hamper of luxury goodies. It worked.
Gone are the greying flannels and towels, replaced with fluffy white ones from The White Company. Banished is the scrappy bar of soap; instead we're washing hands with the most delicious hand wash from Diptyque, made with lavender honey, rosemary and lemon oil. And, for a final touch of luxury, a Diptyque Baies scented candle. I'm keeping that one for baths taken alone with the door firmly locked, small people fast asleep. The biggest luxury of them all.
Thanks to Viakal for the hamper.
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When I was a very small child, my parents made a bit of extra cash letting out the spare room to actors who were in the city for short spells with Bristol Old Vic - it was something a lot of Bristolians did and still do. One memorable guest was Beryl Reid, an English actress well known for her role as Grandma Mole in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, who must've stayed with us in the early 1980s. According to my parents, Beryl was not happy about the noise my younger brother and I used to make when we woke up, as her life as an actor meant for late nights and late mornings. But she did enjoy eating (and almost certainly drinking) with us from time to time.
My parents are immensely outgoing and love nothing better than an impromptu dinner guest, and I can imagine that playing host to up-and-coming actors was irresistible to them. A fantastic cook, my dad has countless books stuffed with hastily-scribbled recipes documenting his favourite meals of the time, and it was among these I came across the recipe for Beryl's creme brulee.
Scrawled on her own headed notepaper, Beryl has crossed out her name, instead giving the recipe the caveat 'Written without my glasses'. Despite this, the recipe begins well - quantities look ok, the writing is just about legible. Beryl does not pull any punches: she expects the reader to know how to make an egg custard, and writes in a heavily abbreviated fashion. However, around half-way down the page things get a little indecipherable - her hand becomes looser, the instructions more vague. It doesn't instill a cook with the kind of hand-holding security we've come to expect from recipe books today. To bring things up-to-date I've played around with the recipe, filled in the gaps and tested for myself, and have come up with the following fail-safe tribute.
1/2 pt (284ml) double cream
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
4 level tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp demerara sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas mark 2.
2. Pour the cream into a heavy bottomed pan and set over a medium heat.
3. Whisk the egg yolks together with the caster sugar in a roomy, heatproof bowl, combining well.
4. When the cream has reached a steady simmer, add the vanilla extract.
5. Pour the cream onto the egg/sugar mixture, stirring all the time.
6. Place two ramekins into a large, deep oven tray, and pour half the custard mixture into each.
7. Pour hot water into the oven tray to create a bain marie (water bath) - the water should come half way up the ramekins.
8. Carefully place the tray into the centre of the oven, and cook for 30-35 minutes.
9. Remove the tray from the oven, and the ramekins from the water. Place in the fridge until completely cool.
10. Just before you wish to serve the brulees, switch on the grill. Sprinkle the brulee tops with the demerara sugar, making sure you cover the surface evenly and the sugar goes right to the edge of the dish.
11. Finish the tops under a grill (the Reid way), or with a culinary blowtorch (the modern way) - either way be careful the sugar doesn't burn. As Beryl says, you want a finish that's 'brown, even and shiny'.
I like to serve these dusted with icing sugar and with a few berries on the plate, but pudding purists may like an unadulterated creme brulee. The fun part is cracking through that caramelised top, so all that's really needed is a sharp spoon and a hearty appetite.
Oh, there are some horrible shoes out there! I've been trawling for a new pair of boots and have come across some remarkably nasty ones. Why is it that when you're actively looking for a specific pair you can't find them?
The boots of my dreams are ankle boots.
They are devoid of buckles and zips and laces, and yet they have character; they have lived a little.
The leather is good, soft leather.
They have a hint of the cowboy or the biker about them without being a caricature or a costume.
They pull straight on, the toe is not too pointed, and the heel is low.
I think they could be described as lady pirate boots.
Have you seen my boots? Please tell me where they are. I miss them.
These ones I've pinned come close but aren't quite right. The search continues...
|Sali Hughes and her sons|
Photograph by Thomas Butler for The Guardian
1. Pretty Honest: The Straight-Talking Beauty Companion
From the age of about 19, I've worn the same make up - black, cat-eye eyeliner - accompanied by varying degrees of face/eyelash coverage. As I've got older, I've just upped the quantities and now wear the full face of make up I wore on my wedding day as my day-to-day look. I have no idea if this is a good thing or not. Sali Hughes knows, and I'm deferring to her from now on with her new book. She recommended a glorious Chanel eyeshadow on her Instagram a while back, and I proper fell in love.
Book group time again. Looking forward to reading this story of 'Calliope Stephanides and her truly unique family secret, born on the slopes of Mount Olympus and passed on through three generations. Growing up in 70s Michigan, Calliope’s special inheritance will turn her into Cal, the narrator of this intersex, inter-generational epic of immigrant life in 20th century America.'
It won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, dontcha know?
My friend Alice swears by her Alice Hart book, and I've only just discovered this one dedicated to all things green and glorious. And Skye Gyngell, she of Petersham Nurseries, has contributed! What could be better?
4. The Priory
I've always been a little bit enchanted by the idea of Persephone Books - a publisher dedicated to reprinting neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. Cor, yeah. Hubs went to the capital a few weeks back and went in on my behalf. He requested the best/most popular title and came home with this one. The reviews are almost universally great. Can't wait.
5. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
'Here is the story of what it was like to be a girl at the height of punk: the sex, the drugs, the guys, the tours, the hard lessons learnt and those not considered. From Madonna to Lady Gaga, fashion to feminism, Viv Albertine has influenced a range of exceptional artists. Here, before and beyond the break-up of The Slits in 1982, is the full story of a life lived unscripted, with foolishness, bravery and great emotional honesty.'
Can't NOT read it.
What are you reading at the mo?
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Mini breaks are all well and good, but have you ever been on a micro break? Don't worry if you haven't as I've just made up the phrase. Couldn't think of a better way to describe spending a few hours away from home without travelling too far.
Last month, we took our first micro break: to Bath. It's just a few miles from Bristol, and a city in which I work a day a week. Ben came to meet me after work and we headed straight to The Roman Baths Kitchen for supper. It's always a treat to spend some time together without small people interrupting or asking for things, and we enjoyed a three-course meal and some actual conversation. Unheard of.
Our meal was part of a Twilight Tour of the Roman Baths, and so after our meal we crossed over the square to the Baths, where we uncovered the history of the ancient building by torchlight. Exciting! My parents tell a story of years ago when they swam in the sacred waters of the Roman Baths. Rather them than me - the baths were somewhat green, but the tour was fascinating and we learned so much.
To top off a glorious evening, we spent the night at the MGallery Francis Hotel which was one of the loveliest hotels I've seen in a very long time. We stayed in a Feature Room - individually designed, and not at all as traditional as the hotel's exterior might suggest. Instead, think four-poster beds styled with Welsh blankets, Regency tables and chairs topped with a fancy coffee machine in your room, black-and-white tiled bathrooms with an enormous shower. And the bed itself was sublimely comfortable, like a big old fluffy marshmallow. Heaven.
And the breakfast? Well, I do love a hotel breakfast and this one was pretty cool. Smoothie shots and mini pastries, homemade yoghurt with granola and fruit, and plenty of coffee. Both of us had to be back at work first thing, so we headed back to Bristol. It really was a whistle-stop, just-over-12-hours, micro break. Totally worth every second.
Disclosure: We were given a night's stay at the Francis Hotel and pass to the Themae Bath Spa as part of this post. All views and opinions are my own.