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 ÂŁ5 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 ❤️

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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 ÂŁ10. I only had ÂŁ13.78 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!)

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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!

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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 ÂŁ6 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 ÂŁ4 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 ÂŁ10 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.

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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!)

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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 ÂŁ3 job throwaway from Semi-chem!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 ÂŁ100 reduced to ÂŁ90, 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!)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…)

  

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

No waiting dating

Speed dating: Rate or hate?

Speed dating: Rate or hate?

In my mind, when someone utters the taboo words ‘speed dating’ I tend to envisage a very formal bar, laden with cocktails and canapĂŠs, filled with men and women who have turned up straight from work with pristine shirts and immaculate hair, coyly trying to suss each other out from across the room. It might even be in New York, it’s an American thang after all isn’t it? I’m familiar with the usual dating forums such as internet websites, blind dates, meeting people in candlelit wine bars… even the odd ad placed in the lonely hearts section of the Metro. But speed dating? I tend to think of myself as being a very open minded person and meeting new people is something I love to do when given the chance. So naturally, when my good friend Pippa asked me if I would like to give it a whirl in Edinburgh at a lovely pub called the Priory, my reaction was simultaneously one of pure excitement additionally one of complete and utter FEAR.

My accumulation of dates so far have been all kinds of weird and wonderful. Mostly weird, actually. I don’t claim to be a dating expert by any means but when you find yourself planning ‘that call’ or convincing your best friend to casually swing by in utter hysterics or even think about climbing out the toilet window… it’s just not happening. On the other hand, there’s the great dates. The ones you find yourself frantically messaging friends while in the loo with a reassuring ‘It’s going really well, we are getting on like a house on fire… no, you don’t need to pretend you’ve been arrested and no, he’s actually not a psychopath… ’ With speed dating, I was certainly hoping for the latter.

Speed dating is basically knowing what you like and what you don’t within 3 short minutes (or longer depending on the circumstances) It’s about finding an instant attraction, about finding something in common you both can ever-so-quickly chat about. Could this be the beauty of it? You would know straight up instead of having to endure a long socially awkward night drinking doubles with someone you barely know? The eternal optimist in me thought I might even meet my future husband, surely there must be one DiCaprio lookalike in there somewhere? No matter where you are or who it’s with, that initial excitement is usually there, sometimes you never know how one quick drink or an unexpected dinner can change your world. Whether you have been a relationship for one month, one year or one hell-of-a-lot longer, you will always remember your first date… and whether you like it or not, that memory will be ingrained into the deepest darkest corners of your mind. Just like the time at primary school when you thought that prostitute meant protestant, landing your 8 year-old girlfriends some seriously bad playground rep. Or was that just me?

While having lunch in Glasgow recently, my mum casually mentioned that she would pay for my dating subscription if I wanted to, you know, ever look into it. Smooth mum, real smooth. I laughed it off – trying hard not to keel over and choke on my oh so tasty Bakewell tart. She then continued on to say something about making a ‘pen friend’ and telling me that I should keep options open. Really? I put down my coffee mid-hysteria, wiped the sawdust pastry remains from my face and broke the ‘big news’ that I actually had 15 dates lined up so there was no need to worry… I just failed to mention that they were all in the one night, lasting only a few minutes and that I had no idea who the hell they were with.

That night, I started getting a bit nervous…what to wear, one bottle of wine before or two, have some questions lined up or wing it? I skimmed over the guideline material that you are given for the event and was surprised to see some ‘core rules’ outlined for the night. I’ll admit, I was pretty miffed to see that I couldn’t eat food during the speed dates (olive, anyone?) turn up intoxicated, wear trainers or be late. I thought a first date was about being yourself? Hmmm. Plan B then…

I met the girls before we went to the main even itself for a quick natter and a bit of ‘date’ courage. I had been off work the week previous and had been bed bound with the lurgy, so was leaping with excitement that I was actually getting to speak to someone who wasn’t my dog, siri or the post man. I went for a casual smart look, a black crepe/sheer top combo, leather skirt, tights, accessorized with a statement necklace and to top it all off perfectly, a beaming red runny nose – nice. After we exchanged stories of our day, we decided we better not break rule number one (as much as I would have loved to be the speed dating rebel) and we headed towards the pub in the pouring rain. 

The Priory is an endearing little pub on Morrison street, lovely staff and perfect for post work drinks. As soon as we stepped in, we headed straight to the bar and try suss out ‘the situation.’ I was smiling a lot. At pretty much everyone who looked in my direction trying to see if there was any given exchange. I might have looked like I was some kind of crazy friendly lunatic. We headed downstairs and appeared  the first people to arrive at the scene. We were greeted by a lovely man called Peter, who was probably in his mid 40’s and was so welcoming, I instantly felt like he was a long-lost uncle. Peter explained to us that we would be numbered and matched with corresponding tables, we were given a name badge, pencil and a score card and told that each round would last approximately 3 minutes each. Jen, Pippa and myself sat huddled together at a booth, nervously eyeing up the incoming crowds. Everyone was chatting, laughing and already mingling, I was half expecting to watch a train crash so I was pleasantly surprised. I almost forgot what I was doing there until the bell rang… ‘Can you please find your table to commence the speed dating please!’ Peter yelled. AGHHHHHH, shit shitty shit. I started to feel my heart beat that little bit faster, just like when you go for an interview – except I wasn’t even sure what the job description entailed yet. ‘Wanted: accomplice to an axe murderer, one position currently available – apply within for an immediate start.’

Date number one. I arrived slightly flustered at the candle lit table, trying to carry my coat, glass of wine and scorecard. I was attempting to be elegant and graceful but in true Ash style, was more the equivalent of a bull in a china shop… who was maybe a little tipsy on excitement. Dan was from Aberdeen and was an engineer, blonde with a nice warm smile. He had been travelling, so we were talking about that for most of the time which was actually really nice as we got to compare notes on Cambodia and Laos. He was really easy to chat with and we had a few laughs but I found myself being easily distracted as I overheard Jen prodding her date for more India tips and Pippa explaining what a lumber-sexual was… it was extremely hard to keep a straight face at that point. I was surprised when the bell sounded as I almost felt like I barely got to touch the surface but after a firm handshake, I sat back in my chair, waiting for Dan to move on to the next table. A few seconds passed I started feeling a little awkward. Why was he not moving, did he maybe not hear the bell? We stared blankly at each other for maybe a few seconds then he politely laughed and whispered ‘Em, I think it’s you guys that have to move tables.’ Ahhh, I see. I overcompensated by laughing far too hard at myself before swiftly moving towards table number two, armed and ready with my doddled scorecard and red face to boot.

The next few dates went pretty fast from there, after the initial one, I felt more confident and I was actually quite enjoying the random chats. The questions asked were pretty standard. Hi, how are you? What do you look for in a partner? What’s your favourite animal? Do you like to be big spoon or little? One guy spoke about weights for three minutes. THREE minutes. What? I almost fell asleep in my wine glass, sorry Trev, the fact you can press 40 kilos means NOTHING to me. I might have forgotten to mention there were 5 men to 11 women. The maths equalled a lot of girls sitting in a booth together talking about dating in general. Some had past success, some had horror stories, some were cynical and others just hopeful. Truth be told, it was like a scene from Sex and The City, just with no Aidan or cosmopolitan in sight. The girls were lovely, really sweet and we actually had a proper hoot in that booth which was very unexpected. Before we knew it, we were all swapping numbers and organising a night out, whether or not it actually goes ahead is another thing but the thought was there… how often do you go to a bar and make new friends, 11 to be precise?

After my last date with risquĂŠ Robert, the final bell sounded. Robert was a nice guy, banker, just moved to town, sounded like he was living a life of complete luxury and was looking for someone to whisk away that wasn’t his mother. I was telling him all about my new camera and that I had been thinking about taking up some photography lessons. He proposed we went out the following night for a walk around Edinburgh taking some night snaps of the city which was sweet… equally prettttty creepy at the same time. We left it at that and I made my way over to the girls to catch up. No one was really sure what to do when we finished so when one of the guys mentioned grabbing a drink, I pretty much jumped at the chance. We pushed some tables together and awkwardly sat down. Some people disappeared to the bar and failed to return but the majority were there and keen for a quick drink. We were an unlikely bunch. But that’s what I kinda loved about it. We all agreed it was a good experience, we got a free drink from it and a laugh if anything else. Personally, I think it takes a lot of balls and not a lot of people would dare come along with friends never mind alone. I had respect for those who had, big time. We had a chat at the table about day to day topics and everyone seemed deep in conversation, but before I knew it, it was after 10pm and we decided to call it a night. I could feel my lurgy cough re-surfacing and Dan was getting the brunt of it, I’m sure wine was almost coming out of my nose at one point. Maybe not my ‘coolest’ moment. So, saying goodbye to our new-found friends, we crept off into the night, exchanging notes, laughing hard at some of our chats and generally thinking we might end up like alcoholic cat ladies together, but that we would actually be pretty happy with that.

So, none of us actually found a match. But we did find nice people, unexpected laughs, a new experience and that there’s a whole lot of single people happily ready to put themselves out there. Being a hopeless romantic at heart, I always like not knowing what or who is round the corner – that’s the exciting part, it’s all still to come I guess. Speed dating for me just opened up my eyes to meeting new people and that it’s good to try something out with the norm. Sure, it would be nice to have come across a DiCaprio, but if you don’t try you don’t get, right? Who knows if you will find a perfect match within a 3 minute time frame, but it’s a bloody good place to start. The girls and I went to meet new people and that we did. It’s a total mixed bag, you won’t know what you’re in for until you turn up. Go in with an open mind and no expectations. What do you have to lose? Apart from 20 bucks, a few hours of your spare time and your sobriety, of course.

She would blog

Apt street art in Camden on a recent London jolly

Apt street art in Camden on a recent London jolly

As a young woman, in her mid to late… OK, almost 30’s, I often look back on my last decade with fondness, laughter, appreciation… additionally sheer disbelief that I am now 28 years of age. Where has the time gone? What is this age that has been bestowed upon me? What am I even DOING in life? At this present moment, my 10-year-old self would probably high 5 current me in the face for not being where I thought I would. I recall it so vividly. Standing in P6 class circa 1996, a tartan pleated ruby skirt accompanied by a mustard jumper and my Clarks Mary jane’s shining like a new penny, I was alone at the back of the classroom day-dreaming. We had been making paper mache that day. I think that amidst staring at an immeasurable accumulation of news papers past and present and looking over my shoulder in fear that the class clown slapped my face with wet paste again, I got to thinking about my future. I’ll have a couple of kids. A pool. One of those beetles. My husband who looks super pretty, will of course be a billionaire and I will obviously be living in a Malibu beach house that is filled with my shoes and Polly pockets. When I’m 20, I’ll become an astronaut, a dog whisperer or a journalist for my local courier paper (I hailed from Armadale, that was a big deal for me…) or someone who knows exactly what they want in life.

The truth is, I still don’t know where I want to be or what exactly I want to do. One thing I know is, that’s actually FINE. Do we have to conform to society and feel like there’s something wrong with us if we are still single, still not got that house we thought we would own, not having that Aga cooker that you once dreamed about cooking your Sunday roast in? I remember my freak out well when I returned from travelling a few years back. I was very fortunate to go travelling to Australia and Asia 4 years ago. I was at the supreme age of 24 when I left Glasgow airport on my own, backpack round my shoulders and clearly not enough money in my bank account – but that feeling was incredible. I knew I always wanted to travel from a very young age and it’s been the only time in my life I knew I really wanted to be somewhere or knew exactly what I wanted to do. Mum always drummed it into my head (thanks mum!) and I actually got the chance to follow my dream. I felt like my time in Australia was the best few years imaginable new friends, places, food, drinks, cultures… It changed me forever. I have still got an uncontrollable wanderlust that makes me think about going back to work and live abroad every day. Damn those itchy feet. After an amazing few years away from all of lives sometimes tedious realities, it came to an end and I flew back home one Christmas to surprise my parents. That’s when I really started thinking about what I was doing. This is where it gets serious. I need to work? Say whaaaat?! The majority of my close friends were married, or about to get married. I found myself becoming single just before the summer. Stressing about where to go, what to do, I decided to pick up sticks, move out my mum and dad’s and head to Scotland’s capital – home to beautiful people, bars, scenery, a castle and captivating cobbled streets. My love for Edinburgh was reborn and boy, did we get on just swell.

I was out a hell’uva lot, probably not really facing the facts about my direction in life, enjoying my newly single sense of freedom, having the girls round for a cuppa and accidentally consuming a bottle of wine instead. At the time, I’m pretty sure my mum thought I was a verging alcoholic (3 glasses of wine would raise an eyebrow so I took it with a pinch of salt and a side of tequila) and my dad maybe thought I was having a pre-mid life crisis. There was a lot of Vespa’s and pension discussions to be fair on him. I was enjoying my new-found sense of freedom and independence. But I started over thinking everything. Will I be alone forever? How can I afford a deposit? If I eat nutella everyday will I turn into a hazelnut? My inner 10-year-old was taunting me – big time. There was some mornings I would look at my bleary eyed self in the mirror and ask myself ‘Why don’t you have your life together?’ I was putting things off. I’ll do it tomorrow. Maybe next week. My middle name was procrastinator. What should I be doing?

One day, I recall going to Starbucks for my post work latte, taking my book with (Bridget Jones – The edge of reason, obviously!) and finding my usual seat on the balcony where I can switch off, sit in silence,  just have my own thoughts swirling around like the caramel syrup in my coffee before jumping on my train home. Two girls, in their early 30’s I guessed, were beside me chatting over the background noise and the hushed tones of Bon Iver. I heard one of them talking about something being ‘lost’ and my ears picked up. I had just managed to lose not one, but two MAC lipsticks over a couple of weekends and felt an overwhelming desire to find out what item she had lost at sea in aid to make myself feel better. Phew, least I’m not the only one that manages to lose stuff ALL THE TIME. As I sipped at my caramel froth, I tuned in a little more, sure not to look completely obvious. Before long, I realised that this woman in the beautiful tan mac and immaculate blow dry actually hadn’t lost an item. Or a MAC lipstick for that matter. She was in fact, lost. Not in a directional sense that I often do when I’m driving around Edinburgh in the dark, but in the sense that she was unsure what she was doing in life. It started me thinking, no one has it all worked out, do they? Can we really worry too much about the stuff that’s not happened yet? Sometimes, you maybe need to embrace everything life throws at you and appreciate what you have right now instead of worrying about what the future holds and really live in the moment. That minute, the worry of my post weekend antics fuelled by too many pornstar martinis faded. Everything is uncertain, but that’s what makes it an adventure, right? As I folded over on my new chapter in my book and finished off my coffee, I sat back against my chair and smiled. Phew, least I’m not the only one that doesn’t have it ‘all figured out’. Then, to my complete joy, a pigeon decided to take a shit on my new black Topshop ankle boots.

After my realising that I had to just really do what I loved, no matter what or where or how daunting starting something new might seem, I decided I was going to start a blog. I thought about the things that made me happy; my friends, family, music, gin, food, fashion, Ryan Gosling, gin… all the good stuff you know? It’s a brand new adventure for me and I know it will make me put myself out there and do something I really enjoy. Sometimes, you just need to step outside your comfort zone and do something new – try speed dating, go for that hair chop, wear your pj’s round to the local shop on Sunday morning if you really feel like it. I decided to stop worrying about the future and make a bucket list of things I wanted to achieve. Blogging was one of them… and here we are. So, while I’m living life in the moment, taking the bull by the horns, holding the world (or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie) in the palm of my hands… I will have the pleasure in sharing it with you guys. I reckon 10-year-old me would now totally fist bump current me for doing something I love.