We’ve just got back from a week in Spain. It was great, very much a “fly and flop” holiday where we did very little other than sleep, eat and read. Whilst the kindle has done wonders for not having 14kg of books and one pair of shorts in the suitcase, it didn’t help with the cardio, given that the only exercise I do on holiday is turning the pages of a book (or walking to the bar).
Anyway. We stayed in the Holiday Polynesia in Benalmadena. It’s the second time we’ve been there now, as it’s a bit of a trusted pair of hands. Short flight, only two and a half hours from Gatwick, sensible bus transfer etc. And we knew the place was clean, the rooms were spacious, and that the grub was alright.
The hotel itself looks like Spain’s answer to the Polynesian hotel in DisneyWorld, only without the £8,000 price tag.
It has tropical birds, a turtle pond, waterfalls and Tiki statues in the main reception area.
Bonkers, perhaps, but we like it.
It’s very easy to get into the swing of an all-inclusive holiday, especially if you’re as lazy as we are.
The days went a little like this:
08:30 Get up
09:45 Walk down the road to the beach club. This was a pool complex with a water park at one end, and we preferred it to the pool at the hotel, which was so busy, noisy and full of rubber rings that it reminded me of one of the end scenes of Titanic.
17:00 Go back to the hotel
20:30 Drinks, and listening to Juan bashing out Sweet Caroline on his Casio keyboard
I was asked a few times whether I’d be writing a trip report on this holiday. I don’t know if I have much to say though other than griping about noisy families with kids called Chardonnay-Marie and Bobby-Charlton. But perhaps I’ll do something more detailed if I have time.
Anyway, given that the week essentially involved eating and drinking like robots (if robots ate and drank, you know what I mean), what I wanted to talk about are things I observed at the all-inclusive buffet.
“Oh my god, it’s like a veritable cornucopia of delights! I can have as much as I want! Oh my! I think I’ll have a spoonful of eeeeverything as I can’t commit to a “proper” meal. Slightly horrified by the waste though.”
“Well this is still pretty cool. It’s a Mexican theme, so no-one is going to care if my meal is basically crisps, salsa, all the queso and guacamole. Oink!”
“All the food kind of tastes like it’s meant to, but not quite. What’s that all about? I mean, I love a sausage, but deep fried? For breakfast? Totally on board with the fried bread and eggs though. Yeehah! Those strange people eating cereal and fruit though, it’s a full almost-English over here!”
“It’s indistinguishable meat stew again. I think I’ll just have meat and cheese today. Oh look, there’s that woman who’ll only eat chicken nuggets from the kids’ section. And wayhey, they’ve chopped up the fried bread from breakfast and turned it into croutons for the soup. Crafty!”
“The orange juice is from a machine and tastes weird. And the coffee cups are so small that it’s gone in two gulps. Still, hash browns today! I swear to god though, if that kid Charlton-Heston drops his fork on the floor one more time…”
“Hurrah, it’s prawn night! What better to torture your husband with? Ooooh. And a chocolate fountain. Who cares that we’d never eat dessert at home? Get me in there! The wine isn’t really doing it for me tonight though, I think I’ll just have a Fanta Lemon, ta.”
“Nothing I want to eat tonight. I’ll just have some cheese, I think. And some more of those little pickled onions. Oh, but it’s the last night, I should at least try something. Not the weird pasta salad with chopped up fried breakfast sausage though. Husband, I’m pleased you’re enjoying your chips and strangely fruity curry sauce.”
“It’s 07:30 and we’re about to fly home so should at least eat something. I don’t know if I can stomach another deep fried fry-up though. Oh, who am I kidding, come here, lover. It’ll be leaves and water when we get home…”
Day eight (later):
“Oh crap. We have to cook for ourselves again now. Chinese takeaway?”
So yeah. We still managed to eat a lot. I daren’t go near the scales. We had a great time though. The place was beautiful, and we never once felt hungry.
However, the cocktails left a little something to be desired, even though they were served by the pint.
Still, home again now and absolutely wishing we were back there.
Post holiday blues are the worst.
Time to get planning the next one. Not before I’ve had a fry-up though…it is Sunday, after all.
Hello. I hope you’re having a nice Bank Holiday weekend. I am currently unable to move off the sofa. Not because I’m hungover, far from it, but more because I’m in a state of bemusement about how I spent the day yesterday.
Despite having lived in the near vicinity for 30+ years, I’ve never actually made it to Reading festival. It was a rite of passage for all my friends when we were in our early 20s, but I’d always been busy, or disinterested and had never quite made it there. I’m no stranger to a festival, I’ve been to a few, although I hasten to point out, I have never camped. My idea of camping is a 3* hotel with no pool. Day tickets only, thankyou.
But the time had come to tick this one off the bucket list. My friend, and gig buddy, Caroline, is the only person, other than my husband, who shares my taste in music and feels the same way I do about the general unwashed. But we love live music and so have been to a number of shows over the years. We’ve suffered the mud at Download, been blinded by the neon lights in the corridors at Wembley, and been disappointed by how awful Vince Neill sounds these days.
One day, a couple of months ago, I was in a seminar for work & came out during a break to find this on my phone:
It looked as though we were going.
Fast forward to Friday night. Caroline had ordered an additional ticket (through Viagogo) for her daughter who had asked last minute if she could come. But alas, the scalpers had struck, and Caroline was in possession of an empty UPS bag. That she’d paid £180 for. Unbelievable. Just a side note really. It would appear Viagogo is rife with scammers and it’s impossible to make a claim via customer services. We’ve used Get Me In without a drama in the past but I’ll never touch Viagogo after this episode.
Anyway, a few strings were pulled here and there, and we were sorted. Given that I didn’t know whether I’d be able to go or not, until about 3pm on the day, I’d decided against the train. I spend my life rushing for various modes of public transport and I was willing to sacrifice a couple of warm pints of Tuborg in favour of getting in and away quickly.
So. We met up in Reading and hopped in a cab to the festival. We could see the main stage from the road, and thought “cool, none of that bloody hiking that we had to endure at Download”. Hahaha. Read on.
Yesterday was an unbelievably humid day. I mean, I’ve done 104f in Florida but it didn’t compare to this. I was in leggings and boots and after a few minutes, looked like I’d just stepped out of the shower. Bad day to wear creme eyeshadow.
We walked and walked, basically doing a tour of the whole perimeter of the campsite. We finally arrived, swapped our tickets for wristbands, then carried on walking again. It was like something out of Lord of the Rings, only in what felt like tropical humidity. Ugh.
Once finally there, we made a beeline for Bill Bailey, who was just starting a set. Too hot – and crowded – to stand in a tent, so we sat on the grass by the speakers outside, and dried off. Bill Bailey was fantastic. In a typical fashion, my husband and I had actually been to see him do a warm-up show a few nights earlier. I tried hard not to be that person going “ooh there’s good bit coming up” but failed miserably. Bill Bailey is a genius. So talented, and hilariously funny without being blue or derogatory.
We then checked out the loos. Never enough, but the ones that were there were good. Proper static loos, not those grim plastic banks of portaloos. So far so good.
After that, we caught the end of the Eagles of Death Metal set. They were only on my radar after last year’s Paris tragedy but what I heard seemed pretty good. They closed on a Duran Duran cover so thumbs up from us oldies.
Then it got a bit weird. We saw that Courteeners were up next, and thought “what the hell” as it’s fun to discover new bands at a festival. Caroline and I spotted a space near-ish to the front, so stood there.
Then, gradually, we were piled on by seemingly endless streams of teenagers. Thousands of them. All the girls had exactly the same uniform: double french braided plaits, high waisted denim hotpants, bralet tops, and glitter. Glitter everywhere. It was like we’d been descended on by One Direction’s entire fan base at once. The boys all had cut-off jeans, Ray Ban Wayfarers, and not many t-shirts.
It was like a Primark fashion show.
Then the flares started. God, those things stink.
True to form, Caroline and I didn’t know a single one of the songs. The crowd were having a high old time though – literally. Whilst they were all too young to drink, there was an awful lot of weed on the go.
At this point, we found out that Reading is the destination of choice for those who have just got their GCSE & A level results. Oh. What happened to Reading, Festival of Rock? We genuinely felt as though we’d stepped into an episode of the Inbetweeners. Compounded by the group of boys next to us who were inexplicably screaming “Vegans! Veeeeegans” throughout the set. Nothing funnier than someone else’s stoned private joke, is there?
We felt out of place and like we didn’t belong. Us, the seasoned gig-goers.
Things didn’t really improve after that.
The stage wasn’t really high enough to get a decent view. I’m not tall (far from it) so spent most of it watching the screens, which is always disappointing.
We ate an expensive hot dog, noting on the way that the queues to buy glitter were longer than the queues for the bar. The hot dog was £7 which is standard for a festival, but I did wonder how much it would cost these kids to do three or four days there. I mean, I work in the City a few days a week and am no stranger to paying £9 for an overpriced takeaway salad but you’d need some serious cash to spend all weekend at a festival.
Imagine Dragons were up next. I’ve got both their albums and quite like them but they were just…weird… live.
The singer spent most of the time jumping off the stage, talking about peace, and banging a drum. Disappointing.
Luckily by this point I’d bumped into a friend and his group so we spent a long time exchanging war stories about how things were better in ye olden days, like boring old gits.
Then I saw this, which was a high point of the day, as anyone who has read my Florida trip reports will know. #USAnumberone
Another high point of the day was seeing what these teenage boys had scrawled on each others’ bodies in fluoro face paint. My favourite was the kid with “Get Your Tits Out For Harambe” daubed on his chest.
We were only really at Reading to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Long time favourites of ours, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is one of my all time favourite albums. Caroline and I have seen them before but they play the UK so rarely that it was exciting to see them again, especially as it was going to be a two hour set.
Quick (hahaha) loo stop:
This was mad.
But I liked the political commentary that someone had scrawled on the door.
I didn’t manage to get any decent photos. Mainly because THIS kept happening. Yes, you’re quite right, you ponchoed, floral crowned loon, we’d MUCH rather gawp at you than at one of our favourite bands.
The set was amazing though. All the classics. We were very happy. The funniest moment was when a girl tried to barge us. Caroline and I have attended enough concerts to know that once you get a good spot, you stay there, planted to the floor. You become the immovable object. So when the girl realised she wasn’t going to be standing where we were, she just gave C a withering glance and said “well, at least you’re enjoying yourself”. Pity the two old bats who’d been allowed out of the home for the day.
It was then time to head out, trying to find Caroline’s daughter, who’d inexplicably sacked off the Chili Peppers for some noise called Section Boyz (which reminds me of that bit in Rock of Ages where Drew joins the boyband called the Z Guyeezz).
We found #1 daughter, and headed for the exit. Dear Reading Festival, your signage is terrible. We walked, and walked, and walked past rows of tents so tightly packed together that they were like little terraced houses. Didn’t hear a single person playing the guitar though.
After half an hour or so, we found a marshal, who pointed out we were going the wrong way. “Walk through the purple camp, then the green, then the red”. We were in the brown camp <insert joke here>. So, feeling more and more like Frodo and co, we trooped all the way back. On weary feet that had been standing for 10 hours.
Finally found the exit and embarked on the mega walk along the river to get back to the main road. Hurrah! A taxi rank. Boooooo, a taxi rank with a queue that stretched as far as the eye could see.
But then, a glorious sight. A Reading bus. Yes, glorious. As it had taken us 1.5 hours to get this far, we got straight on the bus with no queue and were soon being driven back to the town centre.
We said our goodbyes and I went off in search of my car, narrowly missing getting taken out by some drunken revellers who had decided to form a walking human pyramid on the pavement.
Made it home by about 01:30 and let me tell you, taking my boots and my makeup off was an even more thrilling feeling than removing my bra.
So. Would I do Reading again? No. I think if I were 16 years old again, it might be fun. The prospect of having a carefree weekend with my friends, let off the parental leash to cover myself in glitter, hear some music and eat some expensive food might have appealed to me. But really, I was a bit sad that something I’d always thought of as a classic festival has been over-run with hyperactive kids. Now I know why there weren’t as many people of my generation there. We want to hear the music & have sensible fun (hehe) not be penned in by girls brandishing their phones at their friends to analyse what the most recent Whatsapp message from a boy actually means, shrieking at each other during a legendary guitar solo that you’ve been aching to hear played live.
I know I sound pretentious. I’m not really a Dementor, trying to suck the joy out of things. But still. No to Reading. But maybe I’ll see you at Download. I’ll be the one moaning about my feet, the rain and the loos, but at least there’s no glitter.
Well. Hello. I know it’s been a while. I wish I had an interesting excuse, like a holiday, or competing in the Olympics (I would win gold at competitive crisp consumption). But no. I’ve been flat out with work, nothing any more exciting than that. I’ve eaten some crisps too.
So. Many of you will know that I have a fairly sizeable makeup collection. These days I’m not as au fait with new releases as I used to be but I keep a (lined) eye out. One of the reasons I stopped blogging about beauty stuff was because I was at saturation point. I owned every nail polish colour known to modern man (including shades of baby poop, and a creamy pale yellow shade, called, erm, “Load”).
These days, I’m more inclined to find something I like, and stick to it. This explains why I own the same dress in four different colours, and two identical pairs of pleather leggings from River Island. Despite my increasing irritation at my iPad behaving like a needy child every few hours and demanding to be backed up, the phenomenon of backing up everything material in my life is strong.
I buy my moisturiser and makeup remover by the litre, multiples of them, mainly to justify the postage but also just in case I run out, or worse, they get discontinued. This is why shopping in Lidl is bad news for someone like me. I found some amazing cheese crisps there once. Fell in love. Never seen them again. The heart wants what the heart wants.
So. I stockpile perfume and foundation every time I go through duty free. It was a hard thing, trying to find a foundation I liked. But then I did. And then they went and reformulated it. In this case, the wondrous Dior Forever, it was actually for the better, but I felt physically ill when I heard they were planning to mess with my holy grail (or “HG”, as beauty bloggers abbreviate it to) foundation.
It’s not that I don’t like change. But I don’t like change.
It took me the best part of thirty-mumble years to find a lipstick that I actually like. I don’t like bright colours on me, it’s too high-maintenance and I hate seeing a red ring of lipstick on my sandwich.
But hallelujah! On a recent trip to New York, I found it. The perfect lipstick. It’s by cult brand Anastasia Beverly Hills, in the shade Pure Hollywood. It’s the perfect mauvey nude, stays put, doesn’t rub off on my sandwich, and doesn’t require hours of buffing and balming beforehand.
I didn’t know if I’d like it, so I only bought one tube. Ive seriously had a word with myself since then. A serial checker of things, I frequently have to make sure my bag contains all my important things – phones, cables, purse, keys, and this bloody lipstick. It truly is my HG.
So naturally, you can’t buy it in the UK. Well, you can…
But seriously now.
I decided to take a leap of faith, and turned to eBay. I bought one from a seller that seemed reputable.
Here’s what I got. The bottom one is my well loved legit item from Sephora & the top one is allegedly the same thing. Totally different colours, and it stank. Really bad. No way it was the real deal (although the packaging was pretty good). A fake!
The seller then had the balls to tell me that MY version was a fake and that I’d only get a refund if I sent their item back. Sigh. Dispute opened, item sent back. It ended up costing me money as I had to post the bloody thing back to them, which I wasn’t refunded.
So, my search for the holy grail continues. I’ve had friends in the US scouring Macy’s and the Sephora website for me. I’ve been stalking websites over here. And this is the only shade that is perpetually out of stock. So it’s like a personal vendetta now. But also exciting, in a perverse way.
How do I know that I couldn’t just stroll up the road to Boots and find something else? Well, I don’t. But I’ve spent too much money over the years in my quest for the holy makeup grail to settle for anything else. Would anyone else notice, care, or think differently about me if I decided to use something different? No. But I like what I like…
Don’t worry though. My house isn’t like one of those that you see on Extreme Couponing, or like Richard Madeley’s millennium bunker. The crisps don’t last long enough for that.
What’s your holy grail? What do you buy in bulk? What lengths have you gone to to get hold of something you love? Tell me I’m not alone.
Happy British summertime, y’all. Yep, the trains have stopped running, Homebase has sold out of oscillating fans, and I’m unable to focus on Once Upon A Time due to next door’s kids beating the crap out of one another in a paddling pool, then yelling for an ice cream (them and me both).
So, tonight, we decided putting the oven on simply wasn’t going to happen, and decided to check out the #1 Tripadvisor recommended pub near us.
I grew up in a village, but have always lived in town ever since going away to university. Once in a while though, we feel the need to get out of town to the lands of single track roads, great big corn fields, and warm pints of real ale. Which is exactly what we did tonight.
The pub we chose was in the middle of the most beautiful village – something that would make American visitors weep with joy. It was run by a batty, posher than posh lady, and made us feel like we’d just walked into the pages of a Jilly Cooper novel.
Really good pub grub. The menu was full of locally sourced items. We had fantastic garlic mushrooms on toast…
….and you know sometimes only a burger will do, so burgers were had. None of your plastic cheese (which I do secretly love) here, but chunks of salty, smoky cheddar instead.
After dinner, we went for a drive around the village, and picked out which house we’d fancy. There were plenty to choose from. Does anyone else do this?
Aside from being almost taken out by the obligatory sports car on the single track road back to town, we’ve decided that bearing in mind pretty much all we do is internet shopping and watching Netflix these days, we wouldn’t do so badly in the country after all. Obviously we might feel differently in the snow, or when we have to pay eleventy-billion quid to get a taxi to/from the nearest station.
What do you think? Are you a fan of rural life?
As a side note, I know some of you reading this followed us on our Disney adventure earlier in the year. I just wanted to say that my husband got a clean bill of health from the doctor this week, and aside from some monitoring, all is well. A massive relief all round.
So, we’ve been watching a lot of Netflix recently, in a bid to entertain ourselves without spending too much money, or indeed, leaving the comfort of the sofa.
I’ve binged through 32 episodes of Once Upon A Time in about a fortnight. No mean feat considering I’ve also been working full time.
I was in a meeting at work the other day and a colleague pressed his face up against the window to make us all jump. And jump I did, as I thought for a split second that he was, in fact, Rumplestiltskin. It then occurred to me that the show is doing strange things to my brain.
I’ve started looking at people, wondering who their Enchanted Forest alter ego would be.
I’ve been looking at fruit in the supermarket, searching for that perfect red apple.
I’ve been wondering how the hell Emma got to be Sheriff without possessing a single qualification.
I’ve been wishing I had Regina’s entire wardrobe.
Asking questions about why, in this age of diversity, that it’s still odd that Belle has an Australian accent.
Wondering where Hook and the Mad Hatter have been all my life?
Worrying every time I look in a mirror as I’m not sure who might be trapped in there.
Wishing I looked like Ruby and thinking that wolf-life is pretty cool.
Thinking its a weird career arc for Robert Carlyle. From a Hillsborough vigilante to, well, Mr Gold. Maybe not so weird after all #dearie
Marvelling at the bonkers wigs, and the false eyelashes, which seem to get bigger in every single episode.
Far preferring Snow White’s bad-ass character to Mary-Margaret, who looks like she’s just rolled through the Boden catalogue.
Cheering every time Jim-Robinson-from-Neighbours rocks up to be evil. Is there a show he hasn’t appeared in at some point?
I’m only on series two, and already I’m wondering how they’re going to eke this out for several more series’. It’s like “Lost”, but on acid – and with more pleather trousers. I love it.
What do you think? Have you ever been consumed by a TV show? I hope I don’t end up like my husband, who had to stop watching Dexter when he was found to be looking strangely at people misbehaving, and muttering “what would Dexter do?” under his breath….
OK, ok, I know I said I wasn’t going to be blogging about beauty. But I don’t know if this post counts. It’s just a quick summary of stuff I’m liking at the moment. No swatches, no fancy photos, no press releases, no PR samples.
I guess I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least mention makeup once in a while, right?
First up. Caudalie Eau de Beaute Elixir. I’m aware that this is prohibitively expensive and you could probably knock up something similar in your kitchen with a spray bottle, some water and mint (sticky-back plastic optional). But I still love it, and have repeat purchased it many times.
Next, primer. I’m a bit obsessed with primer and usually have a couple in rotation. I like Illamasqua Hydra Veil for the winter, and YSL Touché Eclat gel blur for the summer but the other day I was looking for something to make up the numbers in a Boots 3-for-2 and thought I’d give this a go.
Soap and Glory One Heck Of A Blot. I prefer matte skin to anything too glowy and stone me, this is pretty good. It’s not as slippery as some primers and I’ve definitely noticed less oxidisation as the day goes on, and equally good staying power than if I’ve used one of the more expensive brands. Nice work.
Concealer. I don’t use a lot of concealer but I do like something to whack on my purple eye bags. I grabbed this Cover FX concealer in my last visit to Sephora, not really knowing a lot about the brand but wanting something heavy duty. This stuff does not cake, and it doesn’t budge once it’s dry either. I’m lucky enough not to have had any spots to test it out on, but it’s far and away the best concealer I’ve tried in terms of toning down dark circles. I’ll definitely be repurchasing this.
I think I have quite a lot of brand loyalty when it comes to foundation. It would take a lot to sway me from my beloved Dior, to be honest. I’ve wasted more money on Rimmel, L’Oreal etc that have been used once then tossed, than a bottle of this would cost me.i held my breath when I heard that Dior were tinkering with the formula of Forever but hallelujah! It’s better then ever. Matte, a good colour match for me, goes on beautifully, stays put, and takes powder well. The only niggle is that you can’t unscrew the top, so once the pump stops pulling up any product, you can’t open it up and scrape the rest out. Swizz.
Out of habit though, and due to too much time spent on public transport, I still use powder. I’ve been through a few in my time, but I always come back to this Sephora own-brand one. I prefer baked powders to pressed ones as the density means you get better coverage and less flying away into the air. I usually do my makeup at about 6am and never ever reapply it during the day. I’ve never been one of those girls you see queuing for the mirror in bars, maybe because I’m wearing so damn much at the start of the day.
Eye makeup is something that does change more regularly, probably due to the fact that I have a fairly sizeable collection, both from my days as a beauty blogger and because I am, essentially, a magpie.
First up, I couldn’t live without this DIY quad from Inglot. It contains (what’s left of) my favourite transition shades, and the best matte black I’ve ever found, which I use daily to blend out my eyeliner. I occasionally use the brown on my eyebrows too.
My newest toy is the Modern Renaissance palette by Anastasia Beverly Hills. I do love a palette, to the point that I’ve recently depotted all of my Nars duos and singles so that I can see them all in one place.
I know there’s a lot of hype about this palette at the moment, but it’s justified. I’m really into warm shades and orange tones at the moment and you can do everything from more natural looks through to bolder, more colourful makeup. I never thought I could wear reds and pinks without looking like I had an eye infection, but this works perfectly.
My eyeliner of choice is Rimmel Scandaleyes. I’ve lost count of the number of these that I’ve been through, and I have a permanent stock of them in case it ever gets discontinued. It’s smooth, easy to blend, and stays put all day. Marvellous.
I do occasionally change my mascara – I’ve quite enjoyed Benefit Rollerlash recently – but this is the one I always return to – YSL Shocking. I know it’s a rip-off as it dries out so fast but it’s just brilliant. Gives you massive eyelashes with very little fuss, and is easy to remove as well.
As far as eyebrows go, I am lacking in this department, mainly due to being a teenager in the ’90s. Thanks to this little saviour, Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow, I can at least fake it. This little pot of wonder gel requires a steady and cautious hand during application but gives a fairly natural look when you get it right. Also, it survived a fortnight of sweating in 30c Florida humidity without shifting. I’ve used this almost every day for six months and am only 1/3 of the way through the pot.
I know the world has gone mad for highlighters recently. I’m not one for looking like a glow stick but this palette from Hourglass does it all for me. I’ve been using the bronzer and blusher daily for months, and use the top row of powders for a more natural cheekbone highlight. I know this palette is a complete cliche, and I dithered for ages over buying it, but I am so, so glad I did as it is an absolute staple in my collection now.
Finally, lipstick. I have always been terrified of brightly coloured lipstick and far prefer something more natural on me. I scare myself if I ever decide to use red, so tend not to. This is Crush, from the latest Anastasia Beverly Hills collection. My all time favourite is Pure Hollywood, as it is slightly more mauve toned, but that lives in my handbag, plus it’s dangerously near running out, so I’m trying to use my others. Despite what you might think, I’m quite lazy once I’ve done my makeup and hate reapplication. I’ve found that these liquid lipsticks stay on for hours. Hurrah, maximum return for minimal fuss.
And, because it wouldn’t be a proper makeup post without them, here are a couple of (filterless) photos showing all of the above. It’s been a while since I’ve done an FOTD, be gentle!
There. A makeup post. Sorry if some of you found this boring, I’m sure I can think of something to rant about in my next instalment.