A letter to my 21 year old self

img_7816-1

With every passing year, my dear Mum is extremely prone to beautiful, profound and heartfelt messages about how extraordinary life is while also gently reminding me that it moves incredibly fast… blink, and you might just miss it.

I have to admit, I didn’t always believe her  when I was a fresh-faced 21-year-old, I always assumed she was being sentimental. In fact, I was almost hoping she was right. I couldn’t wait to get a full-time job to support my endless supply of cosmos and wardrobe second to none (Carrie Bradshaw may or may not have influenced this particular vision)

SATC-cocktails-700x525

I wanted out of university, studying was a chore and I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be just yet. I wanted to live alone, in a city flat filled with music, somewhere I could write and pour myself a drink at 9am just because I could. I wanted to go travelling on my own and be fully independent. I wanted to feel the warm sand wedged between my toes and fresh sea salt in my hair. I wanted everything yesterday and tomorrow couldn’t come quick enough, especially when it was a Thursday night and a Bacardi breezer was cheaper than a pack of chewing gum at the local night club ‘Nightspot’ 

*Blink*

One decade later, lying in my lap in the form of a red velvet cupcake jammed with glitter candles, is the concrete, unfathomable truth. Thirty one. How did I even get here?

As I blow my glistening birthday candles out in one, swift breath, I try to recall my last decade of memories, wishing I could rewind, press play and pause at the moments I wish I could live in forever. Some years a bundle of blur, yet some moments completely vivid.

The nights out, the nights in, the hysterical highs and the rock bottom lows. The moments you are so happy you think your heart might burst then the days you think your heart might break. Moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but even now, you can still feel the hot sun beating against your face, smell the sweet coconut oil dancing through the air and taste the watermelon Daquiri on your super sunburnt lips.


All those small moments that bring you to exactly where you are right this second. Where you were always meant to be.

Just to clarify, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my 20’s.

Partying till dawn, awful matching bowl hair cuts with my best friend, fancy dress theme for any occasion, rocking an over plucked brow while also sporting a boob tube and flat pumps to go to the local gym (Yes, this is fact – what was I THINKING?) 

Life was easy, old enough to know better but young enough to not care. Life was contemplating new shoes for the next gig line up or working out how I managed to come home from that night out with more money than I went out. 

I recently read an interesting article by super model Lily Cole who wrote her younger self a letter before she was scouted. The letter was filled with pointers, words of wisdom, tough love and self-love.

After discussing this subject at great length with my friends over a bottle of gin at 3am, we laughed and nodded approvingly at the answers provided. All completley different and unsuspecting. What advice or words would you give your 21-year-old self? The answers were deep, dignified and down right hilarious. The answers we didn’t have at the time and maybe didn’t need to know.

So, I thought I would share mine with you.

This is a letter to my 21-year-old self from my 31-year-old self.

I’m watching festival crowds scramble from the rain over a pipping hot Starbucks (yes, some things NEVER change) but I do come bearing some mind-blowing news for you.

You ready?

You’re not married. You’re not a millionaire. You don’t have kids or a puppy and you don’t own a car or a Vespa for that matter. You don’t have a job in publishing, photography or at a travel magazine.

You do have the best family and friends, you do have incredible, unconditional love, you do have a cosy flat to call home and you have a job you really like for the first time, um, ever.

Now, you won’t want to change a single thing. Every choice, every path, every turn, every bump along the way has made you, well, you.

But, I want to give you this letter. Little things I want you to know, little reassurances that everything works itself out in the end. I know right now, you might not believe me and you can be incredibly self-righteous but try to listen, ok?

Ahemmmm…

1. Right now, you’re out celebrating your 21st worrying about how patchy the tan on your legs look, how many freckles you have and how you’re having a bad fringe day. STOP. You are beautiful and looks are only skin deep. Get out the bog and go dance to your favourite Arctic Monkeys song, now!

2. Learn to love YOU… know your worth, treat yourself with the respect and love you deserve. #selflove

3. It’s totally OK to put yourself first. You have to learn to say no. It sounds tough, right? You will never please everyone, it will take you years to learn this but it’s a fact.

4. Enjoy your own company, you’ll grow to love it and need it. 

5. Please, do NOT use that home hair die… that golden brown WILL, I repeat will, turn your hair full on black. Ekkkkkk. 

6. You’ll get to see the world and travel… it’s everything you imagined and more. You will learn so much about you. Write down every memory – you’ll want to remember everything!

7. Mum is (usually) always right! Try to listen – she knows what she’s talking about and has your best interests at heart.

8. As each birthday passes, you’ll realise how small you are in this huge, incredible and magically mysterious world. Make it count.

9. It’s never too early to start investing in some good skincare or actually washing your face properly after a night out! Look after your skin and your skin will look after you.

10. Live in the present. Stop worrying about yesterday, you can’t change it. Stop worrying about tomorrow, it’s not happened yet.

11. Soooooo… don’t put that veet for legs on your face, ok? OK? #burnmarks #redmoustache #notpretty #whytho

12. Be kind to everyone, you never know what kind of battles they are fighting.

13. Wear your brace retainer… for the love of god!

14. Don’t be afraid to speak out when you have too, even if your voice is trembling.

15. You’re sometimes a little weird. You’re sometimes a little different. Don’t ever change YOU or try to be someone else.

16. It’s totally ok to make mistakes.

17. You’ll learn so much about the world, people, cultures, politics… always stay interested and help those you can. 

18. Work hard. Keep your head down.

19. Breathe when it all gets too much. It’s OK to not be OK sometimes.

20. Keep hugging, loving and smiling.

21. Boys can be assholes, stay strong and stubborn. Enjoy being single and one day, someone will sweep you off your feet (or get you really drunk, salsa dance you into a frenzy and look at you like no-one else ever has)

Oh, and please lay off that tequila – you may or may not have alcohol poisoning for the next two days.

To the next ten….

Love always,

Ash ❤️ 

Advertisements

The Great Scottish Escape

Let’s face it. Sometimes life can get pretty hectic.

If you’re lucky, you manage to find a seat on the early morning bus or train into work after scrambling desperately for a seat. It’s regularly crammed with empty crisp packets and sleepy commuters, who have their heads burried deep into an IPhone, carrying a strong, still, scoulding expression, reminiscent of their first cup of coffee that’s not fully kicked in yet.

At work, you reply to emails, answer calls, attend meetings, become ever so aware of that looming daily deadline and if you are anything like me, often contemplate running off to Ibiza, where you’ll set up a beach bar and consume daiquiris the size of your head on an oversized flamingo. Sounds super dreamy, right?


The travel home from work often feels like a zombie apocalypse, like the world is ending and everyone is trying to escape on the M8 or 22 bus. After impatiently waiting for your ride home that’s running ten minutes late, you are greeted by last nights dirty dishes and then spend an hour gazing at the fridge and wonder what you can whip up with your key ingredients – spinach and marshmallow fluff.

You wish Joe Wicks ‘Lean in 15’ would stop staring at you from the cupboard shelf with that beautiful hair and  washboard stomach while getting out a spoon for said marshmallow fluff.

Hanger 1 – You – 0.

And your social life? Ha, well – that’s another story. Dinner dates, work drinks, family catch ups, meeting friends you’ve not seen in 20 years but can’t cancel AGAIN as you’ve used all excuses while also struggling to stay on top of your group WhatsApp and striving to maintain a healthy relationship with your significant other. And BREATHE. #firstworldproblems

Not that I’m complaining, infact – quite the opposite! I love my job. I’m blessed to have an amazing group of friends and family. And my bus journey doesn’t have zombies, no. Well… not at every stop! And as IF I want to live in Ibiza and drink cocktails anyway.

Although I can’t help feeling, that every so often, when it’s been raining and the day has totally kicked my ass up and down, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with Kevin Spacey and a tub of my favourite Ben and Jerry’s. (Choc fudge brownie – obvs!)

I guess that’s just… life.

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all, right? Relax, kick back and have zero plans with zero people. Escape and go see the world. Be a hermit and stay in your pj’s for days. Not wash your hair for a week because you can. See if you can burp the alphabet after one too many ciders. No? Just… me?

With no proper time off work since February, I felt it was time to book in a chill holiday and escape the Monday to Friday 9-5. But with a pending visit to see my brothers in Australia – it would have to be somewhere that wouldn’t break the bank.

So, where could I feel at peace, have some serious down time… be surrounded by  postcard views and feel fresh air crowd my lungs?

Where could I be eaten by midges, feel the rain dribble off my just applied mascara and witness constant moody over cast skies? Scotland. Yeah, you guessed it. No where else in the world quite like it. 

While searching for the perfect staycation, I had a small mental checklist of what would be just perfect. I happened to stumble across a little gem called ‘The birds nest’ on Airbnb that happened to tick all the boxes, or ‘on paper’ was totally our type! Nestled in the farm lands of Aviemore – I pressed BOOK NOW and already had started counting down the days for our get away.

The day soon arrived! YAY.

After packing an excessive amount of all weather clothing, emptying Tesco shelves of beer, cider and essentials like strawberry laces, we set off on our adventure to our converted workshop for 3 full nights… we were SUPER excited! Maybe too excited as we ended up driving east coast towards to Aberdeen instead of North before realising we had missed a turn off. Holy crisps! It only put another hour or so onto the journey. Great. It was also approximately 20 odd degrees. That’s what you get when you think you are more savvy than the trusty satnav.

The road to get to our humble abode was a long, winding, super dusty track passing a beautiful array of quirky homes and a small pond, with nothing but a few ducks and boats floating over the gorgeous blue reflective water. Stunning!

As we drove past, I was almost hanging out the window trying to take 100 pictures – there was so much GREEN! After driving  over a small bridge with a passing steam train and what can only be described as a 180 degree bend – we had finally MADE it!

We checked in with Emily, the lovely owner of the nest who lovingly built the cabin with her husband as a project on their farm. It was perfect. I ran up and down with excitement, I mean, I knew it was going to be amazing but WOW. Just what I was looking for, secluded Scottish countryside.


The birds nest overlooks farmland and has a stunning view of the Cairngorms in the backdrop. It’s like someone has blown up a postcard and popped it on your window ledge. The weather was (I know we all say this being typically Scottish) but actually TOO HOT!

The cows were grazing, the sheep singing, deer dancing and hens clucking. I was suddenly an extra in the sound of music! Julie Andrews eat your heart out!

The interior was decorated in a very minimalist, super cool Scandinavian style that looked so effortless. You know, when cool people just throw cool things together but if you tried it might look like someone’s broke in and stole all your furniture. Yip, hear you.

With a compact kitchen space, couple of rocking chairs and a view from the kitchen overlooking the vast fields next to a small wood burning stove that would be perfect for winter nights… think hot chocolate, toasting marshmallows with a good book. *Cameron Diaz – the holiday* type scanario.


The steep, wooden staircase lead up to the mezzanine level – which holds a gorgeous lounge area and massive bed, all carefully designed and immaculately positioned. I couldn’t believe it was all HAND MADE in someone’s spare time. I mean, I don’t have enough time to get my nails done never mind build a cool converted cabin! Mental note: Must make better use of time!


The only thing that took me by surprise was the compost toilet. Basically, no standard flush but sawdust in its place. Totally in with the ecological and environmental friendly vibe the cabin has going on! It’s definitely enough to push the boundaries of a closer than close relationship, let’s just keep it at that peeps. Also – for a hoverer, it wasn’t easy.

The sun gods answered my prayers and it was a schorcher…. 25 degrees and climbing. So, we jumped in the car and headed down towards the beach to catch some rays. A MUST do is visit Loch Morlich. I could have been in Ibiza – although in Ibiza I would have had on a bikini like most normal people, not my heavy mom jeans, heels and a yellow top that would result in bad tan lines. I was feeling SO chilled already and seeing the breathtaking scenery was making me feel happy inside.

The water was clear, the sand was warm, the smell of the burgers over a BBQ was enough to make me drool (quite literally all over Chris’ t-shirt, whoops!) Now where is that daiquiri when you need it most? 🍸

After a few hours and some seriously bad tanlines, we decided to pop up the Cairngorms to catch some views with our lunch. It was a 90 degree hill and since we were packing some extra layers, the car wasn’t just stifling – it was struggling to even get past 20 miles an hour to the top. Some lads on cycles were passing us by, I’m sure I caught one of them sniggering and asking if we needed a push. Erm, yes please!?

We got there eventually and the views were epic. Still beautiful and the sun was shining all over the mountains, glistening across the water and manovering in and out the clouds above. I had NO signal. Nothing on my iPhone. I didn’t even miss it. The scenery was so amazing I felt like all my worries were drifting off into the clouds above.

After returning back to our retreat, having a few ciders and playing a cards for a few hours, we decided to hit the road. Emily explained we can walk into town easily through a forest that should only take an hour or so. Perfect. We had our maps looked out and felt confident we knew what we were doing.

The walk was beautiful and green… I felt like I was in Canada or America, out in the wilderness with wild dear hoping around, midges eating me alive. I repeatedly asked Chris if he knew where we were going and assuming he knew the way. Emm, negative. One hour in and no sight of human life, we realised we missed a path along the way. SO US!

I must admit, there is something nice about feeling lost. Feeling a million miles away from everyone and everything. We stumbled across an old steam railway just before sunset. Looking down the tracks, I wondered where the train was going. I wondered what was at the end of the road, the final destination.

It was so quiet, it was amazing to be switched off from the world for a while.

Then… I started thinking about WHAT THE HELL was going on in Love Island… Get me to the pub. Ahh! Where’s the wifi at peeps?

The rest of our time away was filled with eating, drinking, Cairngorm brewery tours, reading and writing. I can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed and chilled. I can’t recommend it enough my friends, and even if you just need a long weekend, this is PERFECT for you.

Here are my top 5 tips for your escape in Aviemore – your must see and do’s.

1. Visit the Cairngorm brewery for a tour and LOTS of beer tasting afterwards. Malkie (who calls himself Malkie the Alkie) is absolutely brilliant and is also a stand up comedian. Best £5 you’ll spend… do NOT take the car!

2. Eat breakfast at The Mountian Cafe, grab a full breakfast and a slice of homemade cake, the selection is UNREAL. You are SO welcome.

3. Visit Loch Morlich and go kayaking, we totally would have if a certian someone didn’t get sea sick. The beach is beautiful. You can always pack a picnic and a few beers.

4. Stay at ‘The Birds Nest‘ in Aviemore, I think the pictures say it all. Make sure you have a car and walk into town is around an hour. Fresh eggs provided and THE comfiest bed.

5. Walk up the Cairngorms and see Scotland in all its beautiful-ness! If you pack rubbish shoes like me… you can always pop on the train up to the top to the cafe for a quick drink before heading back down.

Hope you enjoy the recommendations and if anyone could bring me home a big slice of red velvet – I would love you forever.

It’s pretty nice to sometimes just take some time out of everyday LIFE. Switch off, recharge those batteries, take a step back and realise that life is actually pretty…  extraordinary.

Ash ❤️

Not for the faint hearted

What makes your blood turn cold? Is there anything that makes you want to curl up in bed and never leave? Even if it means missing out on that drama filled episode of Love Island? 🙈 (I know, serious stuff, right?)

I get the fear when I look at my vastly declining bank account on the 20th of the month (I should have shares in Zara – like, for real!)

I get the fear when I am hungover AF and its 8pm on a Sunday night. I’m questioning the meaning of life over a dominoes and would rather stick needles in my eyes than go to work on Monday.

img_9975
I get the fear when I’m running around like a headless chicken, which is pretty much every day. I met my neighbour for the first time last week… he was laughing just a little too hard at me, breathing out my behind, red faced and slightly sweaty after just making the number 22. ‘Your the girl who’s always running for the bus.’ Seemingly infamous around these parts. 

We all have things we hate doing, feel like we would rather run a mile than face up too. Facing your fears – we hear that a lot right? Easier said than done, my friends, easier said than done.

I read something recently about the legend that is Will Smith, overcoming his fear of jumping out a plane at 14,000 ft to possible sudden death (also known as Skydiving!)

He spoke about how on the other side of fear, is the best life you can live. It’s a YouTube video if anyone is feeling inspired… the man would have you jumping out without a parachute he’s that convincing! 

For my 30th last year, my brother Ross who lives in Australia and his lovely other half Debbie bought me a skydive that expires in 4 weeks. I mean… a bag or pair of shoes would’ve sufficed. Who else would want to throw me out a plane for my birthday? 😜

Naturally, you google, don’t you? NEVER google kids. Got the cold? Your leg needs amputated. How many calories are in an Indian take away? Death! How safe is sky diving for females…? You get the picture. Skydiving granny loses teeth? Death from laughing! 😂 Good old Google.

para

But seriously, when was the last time you felt exhilarated and stepped outside that warm, cosy little comfort zone? When was the last time you thought ‘I actually DID it!’

I honestly couldn’t remember mine. Maybe starting a blog? Doing 6am exercise class while shouting about unicorns and hugging strangers? Does getting a skinny latte with no syrup count?

Maybe it’s going on a first date? Recording a Facebook live? Speaking your mind?

I get the fear trying to tell my hairdresser she made me look more like a member of Hanson than that Taylor Swift number I was hoping for… mmm please stop! Da da daaaaaa. 😳

Funny, isn’t it? We spend so long worrying, obsessing, scared stupid about overcoming something, saying something, or worry what people might think of us. Wasting sleepless nights over the inevitable… when we know we HAVE to do it. 

When my boss asked me to say a few words at our work annual summer conference with over 100 people attending – I happily agreed. I was SUPER delighted. What a great opportunity! I was calling Chris, feeling super chuffed to even be asked. It was a huge deal for me. 

That night, on the 22 bus home, my self doubt crept in like a thief in the night, an old nemesis tapping me on the shoulder. Hello public speaking, it’s been a while.

What I would say, who would all be there. What. Have. I. FREAKIN. Done? I can’t. I can. What’s even happening? My mind was shutting down and telling me to run and never look back! 

Public speaking is something I am sure will resonate fear with many people and I guess that it’s definitely a huge human commonality… and nice to know I’m not the only one who has the fear of collapsing with nerves. 

One of my biggest limelight moments was circa 1990, where I managed to have a nativity play called off and then postponed while playing a donkey in Bethlehem.

Nerves got to me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I desperately needed the toilet and was too scared and nervous to ask anyone as I was on stage. I was hot under the heavy, long face mask and wired head of hay as hair. The sea of faces staring at me as my line was fast approaching. What will I do? 

I knelt down and pretended to tie my hooves (aka – my new Clarks magic steps buckle shoes… anyone else remember them?) Everyone was looking directly at me but my line failed to escape my mouth. 

Before I knew it, one of the wise men started pointing and shouting his mum over for help while telling me that I had been in an ‘accident.’ I don’t think he knew my name… so before I was whisked off stage, the last thing I heard was along the lines of ‘The donkey made a mess!’ 

I recall trying to pass my nerves as apple juice, praying my sharp 4 year old antics would buy me an out of the stables card… but I was busted. The play was cancelled and my pride was battered. Damn wise men! The incident stayed with me for long, long time… my Mum likes to remind me every so often, you know, for the banter. 

After a couple of restless and exciting  nights with lots of practise, the day had arrived, it was summer conference o’clock.

*Must use toilet before*

I wore my best professional ‘I’m an adult’ dress, woke up extra early to have a coffee and even brushed my hair for the occasion. I was first up on stage, introducing our chairman and kicking off the day.

I had read over my notes 1000 times, it was hardly a novel . It was like I had the memory of a gold fish. My brain was frozen over. Need wine. Large wine. Straw. Help.

The room started to swell with people arriving, so did my fat fingers! It was like that panic you get when you can’t get a ring off in Topshop and you think you might have to surgically saw it off or send for fairy liquid… the panic is real, right? As I tried to lift my glass of water my hands trembled ever so slightly. 

‘Knock em dead’ my boss whispered to me. It was time.

I quickly shoved a piece of rather large shortbread in my mouth (great delaying tactic) and had my last gulp of water. Why did EVERYONE have to come today? They all came to see me pass out and die on the spot, obviously. 

I made my way up to the stage, the voices from the tables were quieting and all eyes were turning towards me. The microphone taunting me… 

Negative thoughts started to swarm my head and I could feel that self-doubt creeping in. Why am I doing this to myself? It’s self-sabotage! My leg started to tremble ever so slightly, but I drew a deep breath and tried to think of everyone naked. Then had to quickly revert. Cancel that! Abort mission! I work with these people! Ok, focus. You can do this. 

‘Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for coming along to today’s annual summer conference…’

And just like that – I was done! Pow pow pow! I survived! No one died, I got a few laughs and the more I spoke, the more I wanted to stay up there! I was so proud of myself I wanted to pat myself on the back. If I didn’t look a little weird then I possibly would have.

I had a few smiles and nods as I returned to my seat. I shoved my remaining short bread in my mouth and text Mum quickly.

‘Mum, made it out alive! No fainting or projectile vomiting, now eating shortbread and mentally conjuring up ways to become a world famous speaker. See you soon.’

I spent so much time fearing something I actually ended up loving. The fact that I pushed myself outside my normal comfort zone made me feel well…. pretty amazing!


I guess that by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, you have that ‘I actually did it!’ attitude and it feels amazing, like you are on a high. As Will Smith said, the best life we can live is on the other side of fear. 

What scares you the most?

So jump out that plane at 14,000 ft, go on a random blind date with a stranger, run a marathon for the first time, book a holiday all on your own… quit your 9 – 5 day job and travel the world! Start everything over if you’re not happy. 

I guess it really comes down to this. Find your own worth from within and not from what others think of you. Worrying about tomorrow is wasting your today. Always believe you can, even when your fear is irrational, because you will. And no matter how big the fear is, you, my friend are bigger than it. Anyway… wouldn’t you regret the things you didn’t do in life the most? 

Half the fun is in trying and making hilarious, forever stories along the way… and if all goes wrong? 

There’s always Love Island, a bottle of wine and another day to slay! ❤️

Ash x

*** MIC DROP ***

Beyonce "The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour" - Los Angeles

 

Something good in every day

A few months ago, while glancing through the beautiful, pastel co-ordinated furniture and to die for martini glasses inside Oliver Bonas, I happened to come across a small, bright, eye-catching book while being momentarily distracted from ‘100 gins to try before you die…’ (Wow, I have some damage to do!)

It’s completely normal for me to wonder aimlessly around Edinburgh on my lunch break, just to stare longingly at the new season French Connection sequin dresses or after pay day, go to Anthropologie and treat myself to that totally overpriced but essential bowl that would look GREAT to pop some, eh, olives in.

I stood deep in thought, staring indecisively at the potential purchase in my hand, while clutching onto my champions lunch of a sausage roll and tomato soup combo, obviously. I had a quick flick through the crisp, white pages, wondering if it was a suitable gift for, well, me.

One Sentence a Day‘ instantly appealed to me for a few reasons.


Valid reason number 1:

I have the memory of a goldfish, don’t you wish you were able to remember everything great that ever happened to you? I once completely, mm, disremembered my Dad’s birthday. Oh god, when I see it in black in white that is pretty bad. Well, my Mum and brothers did too so least I ‘m not alone…

Valid reason number 2:

I love diaries. No, I LOVE diaries. Not just my own, but reading peoples thoughts and memories, seeing people’s faces when they remember something from the past they had possibly once forgotten about. Keeping a short one liner of daily occurrences meant I’d be more inclined to write in it too.

Valid reason number 3:

It was £10. I only had £13.78 left in my bank before pay day. I can still afford my gingerbread latte on route to work tomorrow. Oh, and they do such cute gift-wrap, right?

As I peered down at my watch, I realised lunchtime was almost up. I’m probably the most indecisive person on the planet when it comes to a potential purchase, so as you can imagine, I had an intense internal conflict over spending my last £10 on a diary! I proceeded to do that thing. You know, the justifying it to yourself ‘thing.’

‘You deserve this, Ash. Go on, treat yourself. It’ll come in handy… if not you can totally use the paper if you decide to take up the complex arts of origami.’

So, off I walked, out of Oliver Bonas with my new  journal and my head held high! I was buzzing from the rush of my purchase! I was swiftly forced to drop my head down towards the tomato soup massacre I had frustratingly just created at the shops door step and all over some poor girls Nikes. UGH. I’ll remember my first entry at least.

After my face gradually returned to the same colour as my body and not blending in with said tomato soup, I lovingly looked through my new journal.

The concept, is to get you to write down something small each day that is most meaningful to you. A lyric, a drawing, a compliment you gave or received, a moment that made you feel happy or grateful. The reasoning being, is that you focus and pin point one good thing that happened to you that day, every day for 365 days. Then, when the book is finished, you read over what made you happy and feel great and continue to do them – also providing those small, amazing memories we might have otherwise lost over the years (or seconds, shout out to my fellow goldfish readers!)

memory2

They say its the small moments that you remember, not the year, not the week, not the day, but small moments. Just a few happy seconds can stay engrained in your memory forever, which I think, is darn beautiful.

It got me thinking about my ‘stand out’ moments throughout my life. I could essentially be here all day boring you to death with every descriptive detail, but I won’t… I’ll just limit it to a few that may provide some light entertainment.

The time I pretended I could snowboard.

I once upon a time, went snowboarding for the first time in Glasgow Escape. I proceeded to enter slope, with no prior lessons. When up on the slope, I took a deep breath and launched myself off, hoping the people in the restaurant were NOT watching. I fall over, naturally. I land awkwardly and start to cry. *moment I will remember forever* Cool staff snowboarding man ‘Have you ever been snowboarding before?’ Me ‘Err, Of COURSE…!’ Cool staff snowboarding man ‘Cool, just with that fall. Where?’ Me ‘Spain.’


The time the train loo door opened.

On my commute home, roughly 3 years ago, and a bottle of Friday fizz down, I was bursting on the loo after sprinting like Usain to platform 9. No one likes to use a public toilet never mind when it’s going at 80mph! But, desperate times call for desperate measures and all that jazz. I took one big, deep last breath as I entered. You can DO this. I shoved my bag on the hook and quickly started to hover (as I do…) *moment I will remember forever* The darn door swiftly opens as I hadn’t pressed the bloody lock to a crowd of approximately 3 faces looking in, as baffled and embarrassed as I was. I scream. I scramble to shut the door. I DIE inside. That’s perhaps a memory I wish I could forget.

The time I watched sunset on Cable beach, Western Australia.

I was travelling the West coast of Australia in 2011. I remember vividly, sitting down on a rock, with my 5 seeds cider clasped tightly in hand (it was my favourite!) and witnessing the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my entire life. The sky was ablaze with vivid tones of pink, orange and shades of red. There was next to no one there, I had my feet buried deep in the sand and nothing but a rug sack on my back. After a few standard cartwheels, I remember having a moment of complete and utter happiness. I had never felt so free, so alive… so skint!

sunset-beach

I’ve since made a solid dent in my diary with my one-liner entries. Picking the most meaningful moment or thing that happened to me that day could range from coming home to a hug and the person I love after a really tough day to finally mastering the perfect poached egg (it takes a lot of patience and love!) It could be smiling to a stranger in a coffee shop or being alone with nothing but a good book, spoon and a jar of Nutella.

Each day is different. Some days, if something doesn’t quite go my way, instead of thinking it’s the end of the world and drowning in my own self-pity… I love sitting at the end of the night choosing to pick a memory that was meaningful and happy, even if it was for a split second. Every day might not be good, but there is something good in every day, right? I guess it’s all about perspective. Since writing in my journal, every so often, you are instructed to look back on your entries, I always do with a smile on my face (especially at the day I almost nailed ‘Gangsters paradise’ for the first time #karaokegoals)

Choose to live in the small moments, because those are the ones we look back on, not the weeks or days. Choose to create the moments, the ones you won’t realise you were in until time passes. If you are lucky enough, you’ll make thousands of them in your life time. The big ones, the small ones, the life changing ones… the one’s that you didn’t realise were important until you do.

So, I encourage you to write. Write about all the good, hopefully not too much of the bad, the indifferent, the great. The memories, the moments, the ones you’ll never forget.

Keep them close to your heart… and write them down, even if it is just one sentence a day.

xxxx


 

Festive dates for the diary in Edinburgh this December

The most wonderful time of the year has arrived once more, where it’s perfectly acceptable to eat mince pies for your breakfast, wear an offensive knitted Rudolph jumper on a Saturday night out and sing along to Mariah Carey at the top of your lungs… agreed?


We all know that Christmas is a time for cheer, being in good spirits, giving to others and generally feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. We also know the festive calendar is outright, the busiest time of the year, with people to see, presents to buy and parties to attend (I mean, it’s a tough number, but someone’s gotta do it, right?)

The air is laden with the subtle smell of pine, mulled cider, crisp cinnamon and a wafting smell of waffles, courtesy of the twinkling German markets.


There is so much to see, that it’s almost a sensory overload! St Andrews Square Ice rink, the Dome’s iconic, beautiful decor inside and out, not to mention the Street of Light, just a few essentials to kick-start the most magical season of them all.


So, if your diary isn’t already full to the brim with magical nights out, boozy work lunches and any excuse for a mulled wine, then here are some events and places you NEED to check out in Edinburgh during the festive. All have something to offer that’s pretty unique, that might just give your usual Christmas routine a run for its money…

1. Street Food Putter Club – Biscuit Factory, Leith

Based in one of the coolest venues in the city, Street Food Putter Club combines street food (from the likes of Burger meats Bun) cocktails, beer, great music and MINI GOLF all under one roof. Yup, that’s right. As far as I’m concerned, they have scored a hole in one with this event! Tickets are £6 pp and dates are available on the 10th and 11th December, starting  early afternoon into the small hours.


2. The Royal Observatory – Stargazing, Public Astronomy Evenings

Not only do you get to star-gaze through a pretty epic telescope, you also get the chance to learn all about the night sky and handle a real METEORITE from space. Pretty cool, huh? The Royal Observatory is well worth a visit, winter skies tend to be perfectly clear, unlike earlier this year, you might get to see a lot more stars (or Santa – if you’re lucky!) Tickets are only £4 each and advanced booking is required. Look out the woolly gloves and hat for this event and plan time for a hot chocolate afterwards to warm you up.

3. Starbucks – Princes St

My favourite spot to gaze at the castle with nothing but a gingerbread latte and good book to keep me company. If you are looking for somewhere central but also to get some ‘me’ time or a little peace and quiet… it’s definitely worth checking out. After you make your way upstairs, make sure you get a good spot next to the big, beautiful windows to strategically plan buying your families presents and watch the crowds pass by below. The Christmas menu and beautiful red cups and decor will have you feeling festive in no time! #thatsnotmyname #theycallmeAshley

4. Sarah Murray Beauty – Leven St

If you are looking for a talented, super lovely beauty team to transform your nails, HD eyebrows or give you that glowing festive facial to name a few – look NO further than Sarah Murray Beauty. The newly decorated Scandinavian styled salon is gorgeous – a perfect, cosy retreat for those cold winter nights. Book in now to get your pamper on for those up and coming parties or for some essential post-Christmas therapy… I PROMISE you’ll love it as much as I do. Did I mention the Blackbird is next door for a post treatment cocktail and bite to eat? #nailedit

5. Pentlands 

Looking for the perfect winter walk? Or if you’re anything like me, wondering where you can make snow angels? In Edinburgh, the Pentlands produces the most snow fall at this time of year and hosts the most spectacular, breathtaking views over our beautiful city. Great for some brisk outdoor exercise… just make sure you take a big old flask of hot chocolate to keep you warm! (Hint of Bailey’s – optional!)

6. Cameo film house – Home St

First opened in 1914, the Cameo boasts that true retro feel, showcasing various alternative films from past to present, included in the line up this year is ‘Meet me in St Louis’ (for those Carrie Bradshaw fans!) Make sure to check this cinema out and keep an eye open for Christmas films popping up to get you in the festive mood. Home Alone double bill anyone? Also hosts a lovely bar for a pre-viewing glass of wine, bottle of beer and to stock up on your snacks.

7. The Voyage of Buck – William St

Newly opened bar brought to you by the owners of Hamilton’s, Treacle and The Blackbird… The Voyage of Buck is my new favourite bar in town. From the bright show-stopping yellow piano outside, to the glass case full of rubber ducks inside, it’s nothing short of brilliant. The cocktails and tunes make a great night out, or in my case on a Friday after work, a perfect night-cap. Atmospheric, cosy and accommodating. The surrounding independent West end shops are filled with fairy lights and festive decor, which even makes the walk to #TVOB feel like Christmas.



8. Santa fun run – Princes St

The annual Santa fun run is aimed at raising money to grant the wishes of children for ‘When You Wish Upon A Star.’ For £10 entry, you can easily register and gain your very own Santa suit to walk or run your 2.5k while taking in the city views. Just think of all those SANTAS! A great event for a great cause. Get involved on the 11th of December for a guaranteed festive fun day… just about enough walking to burn off that bottle of prosecco afterwards! 


So, there you have it! A range of fun, creative, pampering, thirst quenching, star-gazing, film feasting and alcohol fuelled events for the diary.

 I think it’s safe to say the festive season is officially underway.

Eggnog anyone…….?

Turning 30

30. Big 3-0. THIRTY. 3 decades.

If someone was to ask me then, what 30 year old me would be doing now, I would have said that I’d probably be married with kids, possibly a small dog or three, living in the city… or maybe I’ll move to New York or Paris! I’ll have enough money to work for only 6 months a year and travel the rest! That, was my understanding of where I would be at 30. To be honest, I thought of it as a bracket I didn’t want to be ticking my age group off as. I clearly hadn’t heard of inflation and thought money grew on trees.

My 20’s.

Circa 2006, I vividly remember having a haircut to rival Rod Stewart and a polka dot neck scarf I would wear so tight, who needed bourjois blusher? Blazers and boob tubes were all the rage and I had one in every colour. My early 20’s, I can honestly say are some of my favourite memories. I spent most of my time with friends, habitually frolicking around local clubs and frequenting bars for the cheapest deal on a long vodka, not thinking twice about walking a mile further to get the best deals on a pitcher of cheeky vimto.

img_7811

The girls and I thought we knew it all… and some more. Lip gloss, check. Orange palm from OTT tanning, check. Side fringe, check. £10 for the night out and coming home with some change for a chippy, check.

Parading around town dressed up for any occasion was a frequent occurrence. And when I say any, I mean ANY. Sailor for your birthday you say? Greek goddess for a house warming? Why not! Holiday to Portugal – let’s wear matching florescent tutu skirts! (I mean, we did get quite a lot of attention from the locals, for all the wrong reasons!)

img_7819

My worst faux pas, had to be the time the girls and I casually hired a limo take us to Glasgow and my Moulin Rouge theme was verging nudity, thank god our hi tech cameras then consisted of a £3 job throwaway from Semi-chem!

img_7817

Tennis player… if you hadn’t guessed already.

I was earning money and BOY was I spending it. Topshop was my weakness. Every weekend, I would run to my best friend’s house and we would raid each other’s wardrobe before we went out on the Saturday night to the local ‘nightclub’ (when I say nightclub, I mean a small sticky floor with mirrored walls – but wow, did we LOVE that place!) We sometimes, on the odd occasion, raided my mums – I still to this day have pictures of us hanging off each other sporting dresses from ‘Wallis’ or ‘M & S’ god forbid anyone was to know (excluding my mum – who often found items of clothing mysteriously reappeared in her room sporting new cigarette burns and red cola cube stains.) I wished away a majority of my earlier birthdays in our old haunt, secretly wishing there was more to life than swaying to Journey while washing it down with tequila rose.

img_7816-1

And so on the early 20’s progressed, moving in with one of my best friends. Two, single, independent women, moving to the bright lights of Armadale, a cosy 2 bed house… the world was our oyster! We thought we were adults. We lived off our emergency heating most days and ate cous cous or cereal for dinner. I think I laughed like a mad woman most days while I watched our lives pan out in front of us, the mishaps, the silliness, the hangovers, the uncooked chicken. We once managed to lock ourselves out after a night out in Glasgow. Cue us running through our neighbour’s garden (with CCTV that we were blissfully unaware of!) Me, trying to jump over the 6ft fence and getting stuck while said neighbour runs out with a hammer and a baseball bat to ‘do us in’ with Julie hiding in the bushes somewhere. We bonded with the neighbour after that incident. We laughed we would always live together and that really does feel like yesterday.

From flat adventures to travelling. My mid-twenties were my prime travelling years. I turned 26 as I was heading home from my time away and remember my mum saying it was time for me to get back to reality. So, I moved to rent a flat in Edinburgh and booked a flight with the girls to Ibiza. Ibiza is reality, right?

img_7814

While we were there, I remember feeling out the loop. Not down with the cool kids. We clearly missed the memo on the bumbags – but for the first time, I really didn’t care. I also remember, myself and the girls talking about how we felt ‘old’. And THAT, my friends, was the first time I genuinely worried about turning 30! Someone did mention we looked too old to be in Amnesia… cue defense mode and writing him off as clearly being on hallucinogenics.

My 29th birthday.

img_7820

What? Wait a minute… but, I was only 21 like 2 seconds ago? On my birthday last year, I had a shiver when my Dad brought it to my attention… that it was my LAST year in my twenties (like I didn’t know that, thanks!)

From then, it lurked in the back of my mind, just like when Donald Trump was running for President, it was there, but you don’t think it’ll ever really HAPPEN, or anytime soon for that matter. It wasn’t clear just what was round the corner but that number put the fear of death inside me. Saggy skin? Sunken eyes? No bladder control and puffy ankles? Verbal diarrhoea, cat lady and wrinkles?

OH GOD.

And before I actually had a clue what was going on, 2 jobs, a flat, a full year later and BAM. I was 30.

I woke up to a FaceTime with my family while in Dubrovnik. Before answering, I caught a glimpse of my slightly pink, 30 year old self staring back at me. But, wait a minute. I looked the same. Infact, some might say my hair looks better now than when I was in my early 20’s. Also, my makeup skills have flourished, the ‘clown’ look is so 2007. My skin has small lines but they are laughter I’ve had over the last 10 years that I would never change. I’m a lot more confident now than I was when I was 20. I have a home, it might not be a house in the city but it’s a flat filled with love. I have a dog… he may only be a door stopper but he’s a dog. Felicity the fern may not be a baby, but she’s a responsibility. Don’t water her for 2 weeks and she may start to cry!

I still feel 20 at heart. The lines on my face may run deeper, but that’s because they have a better story to tell. 30 feels no different to any other birthday (well, I did get treated to a weekend in Croatia, but hey, that could happen every year right?!) I had a kick ass time at Hemma, with my kick ass friends, playing kick ass beer pong and feeling pretty lucky that over those 10 years… I’ve made some pretty amazing friends in the process.

img_7327

All in all. For any of my friends or bloggers or anyone that are currently worrying about age, how you look, who you’ll become and if you’ll have it all sussed out by 30? Don’t. The best is yet to come and a number does not define us. It’s all relative. It’s knowing yourself and not worrying what the world will think of you. It’s learning that it happens to us all, embrace every second and LIVE it.

Inspired blogging

IMG_2889

When I started blogging last year, it was for my own enjoyment. I love writing. I love that I can express how I feel, tell my side of the story, share my random experiences and do something that, well, makes me feel pretty damn proud.

Recently, the only writing I have been actively participating in has been long winded work emails and a monthly essential Boots shopping list (that  tends to be arm length, comes at a hefty price and leaves me vigorously reading over the receipt the second I leave the shop, praying I’ve been mistakenly charged for a bar of gold!)  I’ve really, really missed it. So, this is me, back in the game, going for gold, full steam ahead… move over, pitiful shopping lists and say hello to 2016. Game. On. Blog.

Since I’ve fallen off the bandwagon on the blog front this year, I thought it was about time I picked that dusty pen up, popped on my rusty thinking cap, search under my piles of Zara and Topshop ‘I don’t really need this but… oh my god, it should have been £100 reduced to £90, BARGIN!’ sale purchases, to find my trusty, red laptop that hasn’t had even the slightest sniff at a Starbucks for about 6 months. 

My 2015 was one of my best years I’ve ever had, a complete whirlwind from start to finish and I don’t think I stopped smiling the full time (well, when I watched my boyfriend fall in the fifth of forth in freezing temperatures on a stand up paddling lesson, it made me cry… with laughter!) It’s been a year of celebrating 30ths, weddings, babies and bumps… I really just haven’t had the opportunity to blog much. I mean, between all the gin guzzling and general party schmoozing, being in your pj’s, drinking tea and watching SATC in bed almost every week night, it’s just SO tiring doing nothing!

Oh, how I’ve neglected you, dear blog. I promise it won’t happen again. I’ll buy you a venti, with an extra caramel shot and big old fat brownie to make up for my abominable behaviour. We got ourselves a deal?

As well-known author Charlotte Bronte once proclaimed ‘I’m just going to write, because I cannot help it.’ And I agree, wholeheartedly. High 5 Char! Word! Amen to that, C-Brontz!

Or, perhaps, more apt dialect for the Bronte era would translate as ‘Fascinating. I completely and utterly agree, darling.’ Although, I still believe she would have thrown me a tremendous high five in there somewhere (Pow pow powww!)

IMG_5221

By no means do I think my writing is anywhere near impeccable, and by no means do I lose sleep over it at night. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s a work in progress. The more I do, like anything else, the more I learn and ultimately grow from my experiences.

Just like the first time I went for a full body massage. Apparently, you are meant to go UNDER the towel to cover your modesty, not lie on top, naked, looking super eager with nothing but Sesame Street pants on, getting told to ultimately… ‘put it away!’ Needless to say, my face was as red as my MAC lipstick that morning. Oh, shit. I believe the Balmoral got a little more than it bargained for that day. 

But, you live and learn as they say! Moral of the story: never wear cookie monster pants that have shrunk two sizes too small if there is a slight possibility anyone might see. Hungry bum = not a great look.

Throughout writing my blog, I have had phenomenal support from my family and friends, who, often ask me… ‘When’s the next blog out?’ ‘When you pulling the finger out, it’s been ages?’ To which my reply usually is ‘Well, I have ideas… I’m just not quite finished yet.’ They generally fill me with reassurance and confidence about my passion for doing what I love. I’m sure if I wrote the biggest lot of gibbersh gobeldegok, they would still support me. I guess that’s one of the reasons  I love them so much.

helen.jpg

In life, they say you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends, and boy, do I have the pick of the bunch. I have a whole assortment of beautiful, caring, loving, can’t breath for laughing, and would do anything for you friendships. Some with the life span of 25 years, some as little as 2, but little does time matter when you meet the right people in life who make you laugh that little bit harder and smile that little bit more.

IMG_4395

They say the true meaning in life (no, no… it’s not to drink all the gin, dance like an idiot to Britney while using a straw as a microphone – sorry to break it!) is to love and be loved. It’s beautiful, right? I mean, when your friends still love you when you start throwing high 5’s to strangers after a few tequilas, are eternally late for every event in life period and entertain your tree surgeon alter ego chat repeatedly on nights out, endure your cheese jokes and cooking skills, or, lack off… they deserve some sort of medal really!

o.jpg

From the one’s who live round the corner to the one’s the other side of the world. The ones who I talk to everyday, and the one’s I don’t but even when I do feels like we’ve never had a day apart. For the times I’ve danced with them, the times I’ve been ridiculously drunk with them, the times I’ve ate my body weight in halloumi with them, the times we have laughed till we cried and cried till we laugh. I am eternally grateful for the strong, genuinely caring, loving and inspirational friends I have around me on a daily basis.

IMG_5946

Sometimes, I guess you need to stop and think about it for a second, to realize how truly lucky you are to have people you don’t know what you would do without.  I have friends second to none who have inspired me to write this post today. Thanks for the encouragement/abuse/threats/inspirational words! I won’t fall off this time.

To a 2016 filled with more beautiful memories (and better pants, of course…)

  

Dubai Diaries

Before it all went pete tong.

Before it all went pete tong.

It was no secret that I was going to Dubai from the very second Emirates accepted my credit card payment – well, post initial panic that I had booked the wrong dates that is. I casually screeched the news at my parents, text my ever-so-interested friends, dropped it into conversation at my local newsagent. I didn’t hold back in letting any of my clients at work know either  ‘What was that Mildred? You’re watering your plants? Cool. Well, err, I’m actually going to Dubai in a few weeks… don’t know if I’ve already mentioned it? BEAT THAT SISTER!’

Some might say I was pretty casual about the whole holiday scenario, not hyper at all, nope, not me. It was a new adventure, a new beautiful destination, a huge change of scenery and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love getting a bit of sunshine at this time of year when it’s this miserable at home?

Our best friend Steph, moved out to Dubai around a year and a half ago for work which:

1) Left the team a vital man down and us in tears (I only wear waterproof mascara when she is around now)

2) Now means we get THE best presents from Victoria’s Secrets AND cheap booze home at the holidays

3) Provided us with the perfect excuse to go over and visit any time we wanted and see her face

So, with the latter in mind, the girls and I booked a flight in hope that we got to see this new, amazing, glamorous, surreal lifestyle our friend was now living, additionally in hope that we would not be arrested or detained for being our drunk and disorderly good selves. Amen.

Before I knew it, Jill and myself were throwing back our last-minute ciders and pizza at Glasgow airport while making a run for the departure gate (In our heads, we had champagne and oysters at the emirates lounge – we shouldn’t have pinned our hopes on an upgrade) Once on the plane and a ‘good few’ complimentary vodkas in, we were high as a kite… or an Emirates flight for that matter.

I found myself sandwiched in the middle seat on the 8 hour flight. To my right aisle, an elderly woman named Cynthia, who managed to tell me her intriguing life story in between very regular toilet breaks and requesting vast amounts of gin and tonic. To my left window, my partner in crime Jill, who found it rather hilarious to press my assistance buttons to order alcohol continuously throughout the flight – which left me looking like an extravagant economy class diva. We found ourselves in a pretty great position to hear a frantic woman a few rows behind us in a very entertaining screaming and shouting match. Apparently, her brand new white converse had been subject to spillage and that someone (I felt sorry for whoever the someone was) owed her £56 pounds due to accidental red wine damage. It went on for a few minutes until the now burgundy converse owner threw her napkin directly at the flight attendant demanding cash from someone! What a hustler! People around us whispered and rolled their eyes ‘She better shut it – she’s going to get arrested!’

After the drama had dissolved and the 8 hours worth of vodka and hilarity was starting to wear off, came in an announcement from the captain. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts and prepare for… the feeling of the warm sun against your skin, the taste of ice-cold daiquiris and mojitos and an ache in your feet from dancing the night away! Cabin crew, will you please take your seats.’ And buckle up we did, because it was going to be one hell of a journey.

Now, I don’t know exactly what I had in my mind for Dubai, but what I saw when I arrived exceeded every image I ever had and any expectation I ever had. We checked into a hotel in the city centre on our first day (rooftop pool, oh, HI!) then we headed down to the dream that is JBR beach. After making it in one piece through crazy Dubai traffic, we arrived to a beautiful, picture perfect beach on a 30 degree day with barely a cloud in sight.

As we lay down on the sand, sunglasses on, I remember thinking that I wish my life was made of small moments like that, just simple, but perfect. Best friends, laughing over nothing, swimming in the water, eating frozen yoghurt with our toes in the sand while singing along to some classic ‘Return of the Mac’ channelling our inner Mark Morrison’s. It all felt pretty surreal. Camels and banana boats to the left of me, Jill’s nose stuck in 50 shades of Grey to the right, towering sky scrapers behind me with a crystal clear sea rolled out in front and as far as the eye could see.

camel 4

I felt like someone had picked me up and dropped me on the front cover of a First Choice holiday brochure it was so beautiful.. minus the fact I was blinding passers-by I was so pale and that I was also sweating rather profusely. To overt attention away from the fact I was both sweaty and white (super attractive, right?) I talked Gail into coming to do some hand stands down near the water with me and being the absolute sweetheart she is, agreed to even get involved. Now folks, I must admit that I’m usually a pro at the old hand stands and cartwheels. I mean, I used to do them around my room up until, I don’t know, like a few months ago… sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch me whip out a cheeky handstand on a night out.

So, there I was, trying to look all Beyonce ‘Drunk in Love’ on the beach incorporating a bit of a Jay-Z swagger walking down to the water. Gail signalled that she was ready to take the pictures even though there was about 10 people with kids who stopped to watch me. First handstand, nope, didn’t get it right. Damn it! The pressure was now on, people were peering over there sun glasses in anticipation of this girl, on the beach, with crazy concentration levels while making random acrobatic movements. Jeez, how does Louis Smith do it with all these people watching?

Second attempt, YES, I was up, perfect picture. Oh, no…noo… to far over! I suddenly managed to flip into some sort of weird crab position, landing on the solid, wet, wet sand, THUD. The population of JBR beach must have thought an off the Richter scale earthquake had hit or perhaps that some large mammal had found itself beached on the shore. I had winded myself pretty badly. I let out a loud squeal, a squeal so high-pitched that I’m sure the dolphins were tuning in on my frequency. OUCH. I crawled back to my towel as onlookers scurried on.

Now, I was more like Beyonce ‘Sober in Pain’ with a bit of Jay-Z who’s just been kicked in the nads swag. Oh, not to mention that I had sand indented into my back for about a day.

And that kids, is how it’s done.

After an amazing dinner at Steph’s favourite place at JBR ‘The Cheesecake factory’ (any type of cheesecake imaginable with portions of food the size of your HEAD) we headed backs to the hotel to get our glam on for our first night out in Dubai at ‘The Address.’ It was ladies night. For those of you who, like me, love cosmopolitans, good music, great surroundings and more importantly FREE booze – it’s your dream. When we arrived, the view was breath-taking. Dubai’s skyline mesmerized me so much, I almost forgot that we could get free cocktails for 4 hours. The four of us gathered around a small candle lit table with an abundance of cosmos, chat, laughs and some seriously questionable dance moves.

We were on a roll, the minute one had finished, we were back up a the bar, nudging our way in for our delicious freebies. As I was standing, quietly minding my business while trying to gauge the attention of the bar staff, a rather odd-looking man held out his hand to some fast paced salsa song and tried to dance with me. Now, when I say dance, I mean drag me around the floor, spinning me around in hope that maybe I knew a few ‘moves’ which clearly, I didn’t. After a polite smile and a few thumbs up while pointing over to the girls with my drinks from the bar, I managed to make my speedy get away. He then proceeded to walk up to the table, tried to plant a kiss on my cheek during which he managed to spray half his whisky drink all over me! Smooth. I mean, was it not bad enough when prince charming almost pulled my arm out my socket trying to salsa me into a frenzy, he felt the need to share his drink with me too? Before I understood what happened, he was gone, leaving nothing but Gail and I howling with laughter at the bizarre, unnecessary yet hysterical scene we had just witnessed. Shortly after, the free bar closed and we made our way to the next destination… maybe not quite as sober as we had arrived.

This time, we headed for Baristi beach to catch some last drinks before home time. Inside there was a sea of unrecognizable faces, a cloud of sheisha filled the air, the beach waves just a minute wonder from the bar… it just oozed beach-bum brilliance. We only stayed for a few drinks as we had a long day ahead of us on the Friday for our Brunch and we had been warned not to get too carried away by our resident tour guide Steph, so we all grabbed a taxi and headed back to the hotel.

Now, most people, would have went to bed, it was already after 2 am. After Steph left us to go home, Gail, Jill and myself decided we weren’t so tired after all and were still up for carrying on the party. We headed down with our free drinks token to Nelson’s bar within the hotel where we were greeted by a bouncer and a couple of I.D checks (brownie points already, Nelson’s!)

Inside, there was a nautical theme. I felt like I was on a boat and no, it wasn’t because of the shots we had just downed at the bar. After claiming our free drinks, we were told that we only had about 45 minutes left. So, we grabbed our vodkas, presented our best dance moves in the middle of the floor to the likes of Aerosmith and Katy Perry – I think at one point we were cuddling each other in the middle of the floor screeching in true karaoke style ‘And I don’t wanna miss a thingggg.’ Thankfully, the bouncer separated us and told us to ‘make fast tracks.’

While on route back to the hotel room, we suddenly thought, what better night-cap than another Jager bomb? I mean, that will definitely put us right to sleep.

As we made a pit stop at the overcrowded bar, we bumped into Rob. Rob, bless him, was a retired architect who had been working between Abu Dhabi and Dubai most his life. He was late 60’s early 70’s and from Glasgow, so, when he heard our accents he was overjoyed and keen to chat to us. Funny that, isn’t it? I guess it’s much like finding a can of Irn Bru on holiday, you know it’s going to be there somewhere, it’s just SO exciting when you find it, a piece of home, some familiarity.

Rob had on a worn baseball cap, his white free-flowing hair peering out from underneath, sitting just to the shoulder of his vivacious Hawaiian oversized shirt. He was slim, a chain smoker and enjoyed talking about politics. The deep lines around his long face told a story and boy, did he have a few for us. We bought Rob a few Jagers in exchange for tales about his time in Dubai. After asking if any of us were single and verging on creepy man territory, the girls and I sobered up ever so slightly and made the eyes at each other. You know, when you need removed from a situation immediately? Yup, those one’s. After being moved on by the bouncers anyway, we said our goodbyes to our new-found friends at Nelson’s and eventually made our way up to bed…

Our big brunch day out was now only a few hours off and I had a feeling we might not be as fresh as we originally promised. My mind was racing and I couldn’t sleep with excitement… or was that the vast consumption of red bull? Our first day in Dubai had been absolutely amazing, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the holiday. I didn’t want to close my eyes as I didn’t want the day to be over. After a few minutes, I eventually managed to drift off into a deep sleep with nothing but the cities bright lights left on… Oh, yeah, and my data roaming.

Move over, January blues

Munro completed  from bucket list 2014. Cairngorms.

Munro completed from bucket list 2014.

January. Here again, are we? Where did you come from? And what did you do to the jolly old me I knew just a few weeks ago?

I know I’m not the only one out there who has inevitably drained the Prosecco pool dry, consumed every last chocolate crumb and shovelled every last existing morsel of cheese and crackers down my face until I needed to nap just to recover from the daily strains of eating my body weight. But boy, how GOOD was it at the time? And now, it’s officially back to reality. What do you mean I need to go a day without a Baileys on ice?

The last day of the calendar year arrives at my door step rapidly, much like an unwanted Topshop bill that I peer at, scared as hell, through the small gaps in my fingers, as if I were about to watch a horror film unfold in front of me (let’s be honest, it is pretty terrifying when you see the price of your beautiful new dress has been dramatically slashed in sale… now THAT will haunt you at night people!) Truth is, I’ve never been a big NY fan. In fact, if I had my way, I would ensure that under ‘Anti-Climax’ in the old Cambridge Dictionary, it would read ‘New Year’s Eve.’ I could count on one hand the times I actually remembered my night, additionally the times I didn’t hysterically cry during/before/after for no apparent reason at all. I always associate it with goodbyes, never easy and emotionally draining. It’s like a short lived friendship, one that will ultimately define you and test you through thick and thin. Memories, holidays, laughs, tears, new experiences, special occasions, birthday’s, increased dosages of anti-wrinkle cream, then it just all suddenly evaporates, leaving nothing but distant memory behind. Poof – it’s gone. All down to three little words. Wait, come back, wasn’t there things we were supposed to do before you left 2014?! I’m sure you promised you would teach me how to knit… wait, come back!

Any year, no matter how utter crap or brilliant it turned out to be, will hold some sort of place in your heart, because we remember our experiences by year, don’t we? All the best and worst memories are highlighted with a neon pink marker, so they can be vividly recalled as often, or little as necessary. A year is made up of 365 days, but the moments you remember will stand the test of time. ‘Remember 2013?’ I would say to my friends. The year we were single, lived in Edinburgh, drinking cocktails for breakfast, finally going to Ibiza and grabbing every opportunity to go out and dance our much smaller butts off? Oh, those were the days girls…’ Now, I’m lucky if I last till 1am without having my Pj’s on and cup of tea in hand. What have you done to me, time?

Whether you like to admit it or not, everyone starts a ‘New Year, New Me’ idealistic plan for the month ahead and for a short while, have the best intentions imaginable. You begin to ponder on the year yet to come and the year passed. You can’t help but wonder what this new, shiny, untouched 12 months could potentially have in store and that absolutely anything is possible.

The turning of a new page can be pretty unnerving. I guess I have just started to appreciate going into the unknown and seeing it as an opportunity to make it your own, rather than wish it was summer already and that every Monday was a Friday (especially as the big 3-0 is getting ready to take me hostage me next year) It’s like an imaginary slate that you get once a year to (almost) erase every bad day at work you had, every piece of Dominoes pizza you ever consumed, those drunk texts that left you banging your head against the wall while engulfed in unadulterated embarrassment.

I like looking back and seeing how I’ve grown and what I’ve achieved during the year. As the saying goes, you really do live and learn, more often than not, the hard way. Often, I tend to find myself in situations that I want the ground to swallow me up; over thinking the situation for weeks on end, cringing in bed at the very thought of what happened wishing the recipient of my blunder has now forgotten and erased it from their memory. Then, as time passes, you slowly start to laugh as it wasn’t really that big of a deal, was it? You realise that what happened, well, it’s really just a small ripple on the perpetual surface of the sea, because you grow from it… and to be frank, there’s usually a lot bigger fish to fry.

I try to recall my ‘resolutions’ from last year. Nope, whatever they were I didn’t stick to them. As if. Who really wants to drink less and eat more lettuce anyway? I did, however make a bucket list. Making a list of things I wanted to do instead of the things I shouldn’t seemed much more plausible. Blogging was one of them. Tick. Bag a few Munro’s. Done. Participate in a 5k race. POW! Learn the ukulele. Em, does one song count? Duet with Beyonce. Not so much.

It’s that time again to appreciate what you have done and what you can do this year. It’s quite exciting not knowing exactly what lies ahead, who knows what’s round the corner. I guess you are the only person who can choose to make it happen. 2015, I’m fully embracing you. I’ve decided to take an 8 weeks creative writing course to meet new people and to expand my experiences. I’ve booked a trip to Dubai, somewhere I’ve never been before. I would love to see the Northern lights in Iceland, InterRail through Europe, sky dive, learn how to surf and actually be able to stand up, become a backgammon champion, knit myself a scarf… to name a few. I’ve decided to see and do as much as I can because years can come and years can go, but it’s what you do with them that really counts in the end. I think January should be a time where you decide what’s yours for the taking, who and what you want to be. Maybe you had a bad year and this is your time, maybe you had the best year ever and the best is yet to come.

As morbid as this may sound, my lovely Uncle Scott, who is a current funeral director, tells me all the time that life is short (and believe me, he should know) and that people often say what they wished they had done as opposed to regretting anything they did. I guess it’s something I keep at the back of my mind every day. Instead of feeling blue this January and thinking about the things you shouldn’t be doing, think about the things that you should. Put down the finished book of 2014 and open that brand new chapter of 2015. The pen is in your hand, ready to start on this new, untouched, unwritten page. It’s just up to you how you want it to end. It’s YOUR story, make it the best, most interesting read you possibly can.

So… what’s on your bucket list?

It’s been fun, December

From mulled wine to mistletoe, tinsel to turtle doves, the most wonderful season of them all is coming to a close and getting ready to rest up for another year. It’s been a month to remember and boy, did it go off with a ‘pop!’

I don’t know about you, but December is my ultimate favourite time of the year. It’s pretty magical, isn’t it? What other month of the year can you get away with wearing pyjamas all day everyday while shovelling mince pies and turkey sandwiches in your face, only to wash it down with a nip of baileys on ice or eggnog. The rosy-cheeked shoppers are overflowing the streets searching for a perfect present for a loved one, while carol singers and brass players belt out renditions of ‘Jingle bells’ and ‘Fairy-tale of New York’ that instantly make you smile. Winter wonderland is in full swing with beautiful glimmering lights, the ice skating rink in its full glory and the air around you swirling with festive spice and all things nice (mulled cider and frankfurters to name a few!)

It’s a time to be with your nearest and dearest, to forgive and forget, to spread joy and love…to drink, eat and be very, very merry. It’s a time to fill up that social calendar to the brim with nights out and work parties galore. Your bank account and liver may be the only ones that don’t enjoy it quite as much but well, it would be rude to say no to that boozy lunch, wouldn’t it?
Some people tend to say that it’s just TOO busy, that the buzz is just too much and they hate shopping when it’s that chaotic. Oh, ho ho ho, not me. I LOVE it. I’ve now mastered the elbow nudge and stern facial expression that discreetly screams, ‘Hey lady, I’ll fight you for this last stuffed turkey… back up there sister…and hands off those parsnips!’ I mean, we all know what happened when the turkey got in a fight don’t we? The stuffing got knocked out of him. (That’s right folks; I collect all my cracker jokes!)

Yes, yes… I am one of those people. You know the ones, don’t you? I whole heartedly believe it’s fully acceptable to play ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ in November, I reckon that buying presents in September is just really a sign of great organisational skills and believe that all decorations, advent calendars, stockings should be up on the first of the month, obviously.

As 2014 and the festive draws to an end (I say this with a heavy heart!) I spend an evening looking back through my memories of this month, trying hard to remember every detail and why it was so special this year. I almost feel sad that’s it’s all over… why do we only get 31 days to indulge in this magical time? I mean, why isn’t it Christmas ALL THE TIME? I almost stepped out in front of a tram while in a festive daydream last week while New Year dress hunting, completely captivated by my beautiful surroundings. Edinburgh castle looked so pretty against a clear starlit night, the shop decorations were bright and bold, the markets a cluster of gorgeous fairy lights that from a distance appeared to be its own little village, filled with an effervescent community.

This year, my calendar went a little something like this: The Christmas singer-song writers (my ultimate favourite festive event – live music from amazing bands, mulled wine and a magical atmosphere!) one too many Prosecco fuelled girls lunch, the annual ‘let’s try not to get beyond drunk and make a total ass of ourselves’ work day bender, lots of festive baking, Xmas jumper making and dance floor ‘All I want for Christmas’ gyrating (that’s totally mandatory, is it not?)

I’m also convinced I set the world record for the following:

· The amount of celebrations chocolates consumed in one week
· The longest length of time anyone has stayed in an adult onsie
· The most intoxicated person still standing after a mammoth wine indulgence

Well, to name a few anyway…

For those that get the pleasure of spending time in Edinburgh over Christmas will agree that it’s magical. There are a select few cities in this world that I love, but Edinburgh at this time of year has to be my favourite. Every time I see the crowded markets or sit in Starbucks at the royal mile watching people go past wrapped up along the captivating cobbled streets, my heart melts. The cold crisp air, bright blue skies and the fact that it’s a time where you can shop until you actually drop in the Boxing Day sales and it’s completely acceptable is just perfect to me. The last few weeks have been a busy few and I’ve wanted to stay in the moment for as long as I could… so have been taking pictures a plenty. After all, Edinburgh at this time of year is just so aesthetically pleasing, it would be a crime not to try capture as much as possible, right?

For those that know me, will know how much love I have for Instagram: it’s been a little obsession of mine for a long time now. I love capturing a moment and being able to set a mood, tone and making it look pretty darn cool in the process. Over filtering is my speciality, Amaro or Mayfair? No, I look super pasty; pump up that saturation level my friend! It’s a great way to make a picture story book of moments that you want to remember and share with all your friends (not forgetting the rest of the social media world too.)

So, this is my take on December to show you what’s making me feel all warm and cosy inside. Feast your glistening eyes upon my snaps that in no way convey that I am an obsessive Crimbo fanatic, no, not at all. As 2014 hangs up its dancing shoes and a New Year is suddenly upon us, I hope you all had an amazing time spent with those you love and bring in the New Year with a BANG! (Oh, remember – shots of tequila can seem like a good idea, it’s all fun and games until you can’t eat your steak pie on the 1st… just saying!)

Ashley x