28 reasons I’m excited about turning 28 today…

It’s my birthday (woo, yey, let’s all have some cake!) so I thought I’d write a little birthday post.

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After turning 21 it’s too easy to be negative about birthdays: “I’m nearly THIRTY”, “OMG I’m nearly 40″, “I AM GENUINELY NEARLY DEAD” etc etc….and it’s nonsense. Getting older is a privilege and here are just 28 reasons that I’m excited about my 28th year on this lovely planet…

1.  I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

Honestly and truly, I have never been this happy…not when I was going soft play crazy at Tumble Tots, not when I was snogging boys in alleyways (a good few years after Tumble Tots, in case anyone is concerned for how I was raised) nor when I was partying at uni. The happiest I have ever been is right now and I look forward to basking in this “ooooh I’m a pretty damn happy adult” lusciousness a while longer.

2. I don’t suffer FOMO any more.

I know what I like now more than ever before and there are some events/places/things that I just don’t enjoy, so I don’t waste my time with them any more. I love an evening at home with a 90s thriller and a bottle of good gin, so why force myself to go out if I don’t actually want to?

I’ve stopped fretting about FOMO in a professional sense too, I’ve never been so happy for the things other bloggers/people who are in my odd line of ‘work’ are achieving. It can be easy to think “WHY DID SHE GET THAT OPPORTUNITY WHEN I DIDN’T?!?” when really we should be thinking “awesome, another brand has realised people like us are worth working with, that’s great for all of us”.

3. I’m going to Nice in a couple of hours.

You can’t argue with a long weekend in the Côte d’Azur.

4. Exploring new shops and styles.

I don’t want to pigeon hole brands and shops as I do believe people should wear whatever they want, from whichever stores they want, but there are some shops that I consider ‘younger’ and others I consider ‘older’. I am so over cheap tat and I am looking forward to getting to know brands like Cos, Whistles, & other stories and so on.

5. My sister-in-law is getting married in June and it’s going to be the best wedding ever.

Honestly, Pip’s wedding is going to be brilliant. SO BRILLIANT. I could not be more excited for the two of them. ST and I are going to Nice for a week straight after too, so that’s rather nice.

6. And before the wedding, there’s the hen party.

I’ll be losing my Amsterdam virginity in May (heaven help me) and something tells me this might be a very naughty weekend. I can’t wait.

7. I have LOTS of TV shows to catch up on.

I was bought The Killing for my birthday (thanks Helen!) and I’ll be watching this in Nice this weekend, but I’m also looking forward to watching The Fall, The Bridge, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black….the list goes on. I am genuinely very excited that I have all these shows to look forward to. I may even watch Breaking Bad.

8. I have a book shelf full of books to get through.

I have so many books that I’ve bought but not had time to read and that I’m SO excited to get stuck into. I have about ten books on my waiting list at the moment, from This House of Grief to Girl on The Train to The Farm to Dear Daughter. I AM SO EXCITED. Especially now I have my ‘reading sofa’.

9. My sister and Lukas are closer than ever to becoming doctors.

Watching your little sister become a doctor is a mind bogglingly mental thing to watch. “But you’re the girl who once made a fringe out of paper! How can you be a doctor?!” I am so proud of her – and Lukas – and over the course of the next year they’ll be near enough qualified. It’s seriously awe inspiring.

10. Lottie will be starting university

Again, when it comes to pride inducing stuff I could not be prouder that my teeny tiny cousin will be starting university in September to train to become a midwife. You can deliver all my babies Lottie, as long as you don’t mind looking at my bits….

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Shout-Out Saturday: Black Cabs (aka why I don’t use Uber)

I’ve been thinking about posting about my general love of black cabs for a while but didn’t see how I could weave it in, then I realised they could be the perfect Shout-out Saturday recipients. As for some reason, the true awesomeoness of black cabs – or rather, the cabbies driving them – seems to regularly get forgotten thanks to ‘services’ like Uber.

I cynically refer to Uber being a service in inverted commas because the few times I’ve used Uber it’s been more of a hindrance than a help, with drivers relying on GPS and generally not having the first clue about London. Maybe I’ve been unlucky the three times I’ve used them, but three times is enough for me to know never again. I wouldn’t use a washing powder for a fourth time in the vain hope that it starts miraculously removing stains, you’re allowed to say “this seems to be a crap alternative to very good black cabs, so I’m deleting it now”.

Whilst I’ve bitched about Uber and sung from the rooftops about black cabs on Twitter a fair bit in the past, I’ve been a bit wary about blogging about it. I guess because the main differentiator between the two (according to most people I speak to) is the price. By saying you take black cabs, some people interpret it as saying “I like spending more money than I need to”. Uber is, generally, a lot cheaper. Admitting you take the more expensive option for the same service can make you feel a little foolish.

But here’s the thing, Uber and black cabs are NOT THE SAME SERVICE.

Yes, they’re both cars that will take you from A to B, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end if you ask me.

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I don’t know if I am particularly anti-Uber because I have a car – i.e if I wanted to sit in traffic, not be able to use the bus lanes and rely on GPS I would just drive myself for free. But for me, taxis are what you use when you want to get somewhere safely and as quickly as possible. I will ALWAYS take the bus/tube when I can, so taxis are for when there isn’t time to take the bus/tube or for when you need to go door to door.

I don’t use black cabs every day but I do use them every week and I have never felt unsafe in one. You can of course have the odd debate about what route is better, but it’s because they know so many routes that you can have that discussion in the first place. You don’t rely on GPS ‘hoping for the best’ or that there won’t be a road closure or congestion – it’s London, there WILL BE a road closure or congestion….and a black cab will know where these are and how to get around them.

I totally get the appeal of Uber in an app sense. I can see why people love having an app that gives them a private driver and takes away the need to carry cash – it’s why I use Hailo. I’ve watched the Hailo vs Uber vs street work debates with a lot of interest.

I stopped using Hailo for a while when there was a particularly high amount of hatred towards it from cabbies, but I’m back using it now. My Hailo account is linked to my business credit card, so it’s really helpful from an expenses point of view to have the whole thing seamlessly linked. I don’t use it if I have cash on me or for ‘pleasure rides’ (ooo errr), I just hail on the street like I always did pre-Hailo. I’ve never used their executive car service because if I want a cab I want a proper black cab…I still don’t really get why they’re trying to be an app for black cabs AND for exec cars.

The Hackney Carriage element is important in itself, I don’t mean from a nostalgic “support black cabs because they look cool like red phone boxes, LOL” point of view, I mean because they’re comfy and roomy and really great to be a passenger in. You can can get work done. There’s a decent amount of room between you and the driver so you can have private conversations or quiet phone calls. I don’t want to pay to sit all squashed in the back seat of a saloon car as if I’m 13 years old and off to a netball match. The bus is genuinely more comfy than any Uber I’ve had. And the bus is £1.50.

I wish black cabs were cheaper, I really do, but I appreciate that I’m paying for an expert to drive me somewhere safely and efficiently. There’s a price for that service.

I think the Uber fanfare has massively died down anyway now to be fair, but I just wanted to use this post to say that I truly think black cabs are great. Take a cab in any other country and you’ll appreciate even more how great they are here in London. I’ve had a few rude/annoying cabbies, sure, but I’ve had hundreds – literally hundreds – who have been top class guys (and girls!) with great chat. I tend to take fairly long journeys when I take them (20 minutes plus) so there’s usually time to talk and I like to make the most of that (can you tell I work on my own and crave conversation?!). Most weeks a cabbie will have generally made my day better somehow.

I can’t even begin to imagine how frustrating driving a cab must be some days, with the traffic being as rage inducing as it can be and passengers being rude/drunk/idiots. I certainly couldn’t do it.

This article on The Knowledge is a great one, which really helps you appreciate how much cabbies go through before they can drive a Hackney Carriage. And it’s because of that knowledge – which EVERY cabbie has – that I can’t seem to understand the appeal of Uber.

I haven’t even touched on the crazy accusations about Uber at board level or the horror stories of rape, abuse and attacks by drivers. Maybe these issues are few and far between and just generate a lot of media noise….or maybe it’s just too damn easy to become an Uber driver. Setting ALL that aside (and there really are a lot of horror stories) I still think black cabs come out as far far far superior.

As I’ve sarcastically said before on Twitter: Uber is cheaper, but so is the bus.

The Hackney Carriage cabbie service and the Uber driver service is not comparable.

I’m certain that the tech commentators who said that Uber will kill off traditional cabs will be proved wrong…and I know who my taxi money is going to, even if the price difference does mean it’s less frequently.

Thank you London cabbies, you’re great.

x

Riding the Hogwarts Express at Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Last night Katie and I headed over to Watford to go to Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter for the fifth time. Yes, you read that correctly, it was our FIFTH visit.

photo 1 (1)There’s a shuttle bus that takes you from Watford Junction station to the studios, which is brilliant if you sit on the top deck because it hits tree branches manically and you can pretend you’re on the knight bus.

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We’re big Harry Potter fans (in case that isn’t obvious) but it really is such an amazing ‘thing to do’. I’ve never heard a bad word said about it and I know tonnes of people who have been multiple times. You have to book in advance which means it can never be a spur of the moment thing, but other than that it’s pretty much everything your Potter dreams could imagine.

I am not going to share too many pictures (trust me, you will take HUNDREDS) as you need to see it all for yourself to realise how epic this place is, but yeah. It’s great.

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The first thing ST asked me when I got home last night was “how many rides did you go on?” and I think this is an easy mistake to make – this isn’t a theme park. I haven’t been back to Universal Studios in Orlando since the Harry Potter section opened there but this isn’t that.

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There are no rides, instead you are visiting the real life studios where all the films were made, seeing literally hundreds of thousands of props and getting to walk on all the sets you recognise. The best comparison I can make for it as an attraction would be the backlot tours at Universal Studios Hollywood.

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It’s a staggeringly fascinating place, with so many things to see and SO much detail on everything from wig making to animatronics to green screens. Having been five times, I still find something new to see on each visit (and that’s regardless of the new exhibits, there’s just always going to be things you only notice on the second/third visit etc).

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We ‘concluded’ last night that, if given a choice, the best time to go is over the Christmas period as nothing beats Hogwarts in the snow and the Great Hall all laid up for Christmas dinner, but we were there last night to see a new permanent exhibit that anyone going next week or next Christmas can really look forward to – THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS!…

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Learning to wrap presents beautifully with Jane Means…

This time last week I was having a thoroughly lovely time in Maida Vale, learning how to wrap presents with Jane Means. Yes, gift wrapping courses exist and I went on one. AND I LOVED IT.

Jane Means gift wrapping course

I appreciate that “wrapping presents” isn’t usually how I’d spend a Thursday, but at the beginning of the year I came up with 15 things I wanted to learn in 2015 and wrapping presents beautifully was one of them. I have to thank Bella Porgorzelska on Twitter for alerting me to the fact that gift wrapping courses are in fact a real thing and that I should get myself along to one with Jane Means.

Jane Means is known as a ‘Gift Wrap Guru’ and for good reason, this isn’t like when Channel 5 dubiously called me a ‘Selfie Expert’…Jane really is a guru when it comes to all things gift wrapping. Her portfolio includes services for Harrods, Claridges, Selfridges, Dior, Ralph Lauren and Chanel (to name just a few!) and she has worked at Highgrove House and even wrapped a gift for the Queen. It’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about tying a bow.

Jane Means gift wrapping course

I was a bit worried about going on the course in the sense that I thought I’d be surrounded by true ‘crafters’ and I’d be way below the average standard in the class – I can barely peel back a new roll of sellotape so the idea of making handmade pom poms to adorn a present was definitely one step beyond – but it was a lovely and welcoming group which spanned all ages and abilities.

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Jane is so charming and kind that you relax as soon as you arrive (especially when greeted with tea, biscuits and daffodils – they always help) and I soon realised to much delight that chatty tea breaks would feature throughout the day. There was a lovely lunch and plenty of cake included too.

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But it wasn’t about the tea and biscuits of course, we were there to wrap! And as we each approached our individual wrapping stations I realised we were going to get straight to it. (Eeeeep, scary, can’t we just watch you do it Jane? etc etc). …

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Review: Brunch at St Clements in Parsons Green

As this past Saturday was our first lazy Saturday together in London since something ridiculous like CHRISTMAS (what a modern marriage etc etc) we’d decided it was going to be all about BRUNCH, BOOKS (okay, magazines) and BRILLIANT 90S MEGA MOVIES.

I’d walked past St Clements on New Kings Road (Parsons Green end) a couple of times since it opened last year but last week I actually stopped to read the menu and my mind was made up pretty quickly: we needed to go there for brunch and we probably needed to go at least five times so I could try aaaaaaall the things.

When I woke up and saw the undeniably blue skies above my side of the bed it was confirmed: WE WERE GOING TO BRUNCH.

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I mean seriously, how stunningly beautiful was the weather in London on Saturday? It was just delightful. I wore a shirt without a jacket and only had to slightly skedaddle through the shadows. I was generally ‘not cold’. What a treat.

We walked over to St Clements via the barbers and all my favourite streets (it feels like we’re just minutes away from Quarrendon Street being all pink and blossomy and then all will be right in my world) and were pleased to find plenty of tables at middayish when we got there. They serve brunch til 3.30, so you don’t have to jump out of bed to enjoy the yumminess, thank gawd. It did start to get very busy though, especially with the outside sunshine tables.

The menu was a delight (as you can see below) and from a veggie point of view, I’m not used to having such an interesting selection. I was excited to see Ozone coffee on the menu too, as Shoreditch is annoyingly far away and we need more of their coffee goodness out here in the wild west.

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You order and pay at the counter which I always find slightly irksome as you may want more coffee etc, but that’s a minor niggle. For two (vegetarian) breakfasts, one side of toast, a coffee, a tea and one juice it was £35ish quid and I saw ST wince at the till and shoot me daggers of “this better be good” as he paid. Again, I think you mind less when you get the bill after you’ve had the amaaaazing food. But beforehand it’s a bit, “LOL, look at us spending £35 on breakfast”. It HAS to be good.

Well luckily, it really was.

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