Thursday, 19 December 2013

2013: The Year That Was...

Don't pretend like you don't love reading these posts on how people's lives have panned out over the past year. I can't help but read them myself, so instead of ingesting everyone else's highs and lows over the last twelve months, I thought I'd write out a few of my own.

2013; The Year That Was...

Snowy (high)
Well-documented on here and much-mentioned everywhere else, I packed in my job and did a ski season last November. I spent 6 months in the luxe ski resort of Val d'Isere. It was the best decision of my life.

Bloody (low)
One week before my flight back to the UK, my friends and I took a trip to the leisure centre to have some much-needed pamper time. After a dip in the jacuzzi, we sat in the Hammam for some steamy therapy. After a while, I got up to leave and as I pushed the handle to open the door I fainted.
My robust head flopped forward and smashed the thick glass. Still clutching the handle tightly, I came round and found myself in a pool of blood. My friends, helpless, half-reaching across the shimmer of glass shards to comfort me. My horrified shrieks echoing off the water, the ceiling. Proper horror movie stuff!
So much glass was embedded in my bum where I'd landed hard and then shuffled about in the stuff, grinding it into the skin's surface, then deeper, and deeper. The doctors spent 3.5 hours tweezing, pulling and stitching me back together. They were so pleased with themselves as I happily guzzled a barrel of gas and air.
Now, I have a leopard print-esque scar on one butt cheek and slashes across various parts of my body. Never mind.

Lovey-dovey (high)
Romance took me by surprise in the mountains. Cliche and cringey as you like, I fell for a boy who took the time to help me get over my fears and made me open my eyes - both metaphorically and literally. Never ideal going down a slope with your eyes shut...
After skiing we drove around Europe in a converted van and spent 3 months on the road. It was idillic. I saw so many beautiful things and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take the time to explore and to have shared it with someone special.

What next?
My aims for 2014 are threefold.

Use my body

After my glassy accident it was incredibly painful to move. Gouged skin takes a long time to heal. Consequently, I lost my fitness and motivation to do much else but massage bio oil into myself. Anyway, I hope to take up running properly again next year as netball tides me over for now. I've found it impossible to psych myself up to go out in the cold/dark/wet/damp/gusty/iffy outdoors.


I'm launching myself as a freelance writer. When I put my mind to it, I'm actually pretty good at putting words together. I have already written for the London New Journal (to be released mid-January) and I'll be contributing to The News Hub (launching early 2014), focusing primarily on women's sport.


I'm 25. Maybe I should think about being a grown-up next year. OR maybe I shall plan another cheeky adventure to escape the 9-5 and live my life as I have done in 2013, because it's made me ever so happy...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby.

I think people have forgotten what The Great British Bake Off once was. I cannot believe the lengths people are going to to make this light-hearted baking show something it's not. I'm not saying GBBO should be sugar coated, but some 'fans' are ruining the whole experience, like hemp in a tea loaf, and focusing on Ruby Tandoh personally is a dangerous and wrong outcome for what used to be an innocent programme.

Paul 4 Ruby 4eva

First and foremost, the allegations that Paul Hollywood fancies her is no fault of her own. Despite the rumours earlier in the year about his American antics, the British fans have decided to interpret his creepy ways to take the stick out on the innocent one here: Ruby. Even if he did fancy her, what hassle does she deserve to receive and how does his behaviour affect the quality of her baking? P.S. THERE ARE TWO JUDGES.

Remember that time last year when Mary Berry lined up the finalists (all-male) in hottie order instead of rating their technical challenge and went round to all the journalists proclaiming her preference? NO, ME NEITHER. Do people really care about who Paul Hollywood believes to be the prettiest? All it does is spark unnecessary controversy. Yawn.


Another thing that has been mentioned many times during GBBO is the fact Ruby was working towards her History of Art and Philosophy degree and had exams throughout her time in the competition. Ruby was stressed out - quelle surprise! She only has to bake a signature pie and then go home to study for some exams about pluralistic rationalism then come back the next day to produce some casually perfect petit fours, go home to study for some exams on hedonism and then get up the next morning and do the exam and then have to come home and try to create a lovely cake out of vegetables!? She should be congratulated and praised for her diligence.

'The victim'

Many viewers are obsessed with the term 'victim', and how Ruby has been 'playing' this 'role'. The overuse of the word 'victim' is utterly wrong in these tasteless quips. Since when did people lose their grasp on what it means to be actually be a victim. What does it mean when they say:

Her lack of self-confidence was unexpected, not irritating. When has modesty and surprise made someone false and devising? Sorry, is Ruby doing an evening course in drama, too? What's awful is that now Ruby is a victim: of Twitter bullying.

Body image


I saw this article about Raymond Blanc questioning Ruby's love of food simply because of her weight.

Never mind his weak comment about 'female tears', is Raymond saying that if she were grossly obese her obvious 'love of food' would mean she would qualify as a proper contestant?! Doubtful.

As Sarah Ditum puts so neatly in her piece for the Guardian,

'Here's why I think people are so free with their dislike of Tandoh: because they follow the same narrative the media does, and they know that when a woman does well, step number two is always to give her a pummelling.'

It's so true and sad.

The Final Bake

GBBO squashes other BBC2 programmes twofold with its mega audience figures, so it's moving to BBC1 for its fifth series. As its popularity increases, I'm sure the trolls will grow like a proving sour dough. Twitter is a lazy tool which allows people to say things quickly, without thought. Viewers are caught up in the whirlwind of reality tv in real-time, where following the nasties is far easier than thinking about a point to make their own.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Euphoria Girls. Why it's wrong that a naive and innocent performance makes us cringe.

Last night I sat in my pyjamas, bought a curry from Tesco and watched the X Factor. My Saturday nights are sorted for the next four months.

I have found myself thinking about Euphoria Girls. A lot. The group of 16-17 year old girls who gave such a sickeningly 'happy' rendition of something horribly old fashioned that was only memorable because of the unconventionality of their performance.

The slightly naive, over-the-top, smiley-smiley, 'we just want to make people happy!!!!' attitude is rarely, if ever, seen amongst a group of young females on the television. From what I saw, the reaction on Twitter was incredibly negative and, although it certainly didn't encourage a standing ovation from myself, it really made me think about what we - the viewing public - believe a teenage girl should portray herself as.

For example, if the girls had come out and pouted a little more, and during their routine walked up to the judges stomping with hands on hips, were more provocative, did a butt-shake here and there etc., this would not have been shocking at all. This is what we're used to seeing.

Is it right that, in fact, we cringed at their 'young' appearance and slightly immature personalities?

Throughout the show's history, a key shock-moment for judges is when they find out how old a contestant is. 'Only 16!? Wow.' Is it the 'maturity' of their voice? Or their physical appearance and (sexual?) 'maturity' of their performance? Most of the time I feel that the majority of young female auditionees appear with a face full of unnecessary make-up and dressed as if they were in their twenties.

Sharon Osbourne stated last night that she wanted 'more attitude' from them, that that would be the only way to succeed in this process. I wonder what the girls (/the X factor producers) interpret that to be. Attitude. I should think it means 'be more sexy', and only time will tell.

It seems that being a 'PG version of the Pussycat Dolls' just doesn't give enough to voyeurism.

We are desensitised to the sexualisation of young girls, aren't we? It makes me terribly angry.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Top Tips you should read before embarking on a European road trip

1. Use a Travelex Euro/Multi-currency cash passport. This card doesn't charge you for cash withdrawals, the commission is low, the website is reliable and it's quick and easy to top-up any amount of your choice over the internet. Way better than getting charged by your UK bank every single time you get out a wad of cash. You can also use it for internet transactions.

2. Shop at Lidl. Carrefour, Super U and E.Leclerc's are cheap but Lidl is much cheaper and its stock is good. I'd never shopped in one in the UK because I'm a snob. Oh, and remember to take carrier bags or a backpack to carry your goods as plastic bags from supermarkets can be expensive.

3. When using a sat-nav, spell your destination correctly. It might seem simple, but if you're visiting little towns or villages there are usually many incredibly similar spellings where there's an extra 'l' or 'e' which may be the other side of the country. (Luckily, we caught our mistake just in time and only went an hour out of our way.)

4. Over-estimate the time the sat-nav tells you, unless you're in a ferrari. Camper vans take a while longer to get up mountain passes and hair pin bends.

5. Don't trust tap water, even if it says it's drinkable, it's not worth the risk. Lidl will sort you out for 2litre bottles for 16c each.

6. Fast-food is more expensive than you think, and usually you're better off buying a yummy fresh baguette, ham and cheese. Support the local economy!

7. McDonalds' in Italy does not allow you to use wifi unless you have an Italian mobile number. French McDonalds' is fine but you're won't be able to connect outside of opening hours.

8. Diesel is expensive in Italy, less so in Greece and France. Shop around (if you can!) and you can usually find a bargain at the supermarket gas station. Don't buy any fuel on a motorway if you can help it because you're charged a fortune for service (the guy who has to fill your tank up - you're not allowed to do it yourself) as well as a premium for the stuff itself. Plan ahead!

9. Prepare for tolls. Some are much more expensive than others, especially if you're travelling through a lot of tunnels. Do your research online before you head off anywhere otherwise you can smash your budget in a few hours and that's sure to cause many a sad face.

10. Be aware of dodgy areas. We referred to a special camping guidebook which pointed out parts of motorways or tolls that we should be wary of. You don't want anyone puncturing your tyres or grabbing something through the window...

11. In the Med you should eat as much fresh fruit, veg and produce as you can because it's usually a total bargain and super delicious. Once you get to France the food returns to the standard in the UK: extortionate and tasteless. Boo!

12. Be nice to each other. If you're the passenger, don't fall asleep.

13. If there's lots of Germans, it's a good campsite.

That'll do. Enjoy!

Sospel to Vallerauges: gorges, castles and McDonalds.

From Sospel we stayed in the mountains and on to Entrevaux, a little fortified town situated beside a rapid river. We camped beside a lovely lake which was popular with families using paddleboards, canoes and floats. Pete decided to borrow a child's canoe that was resting on the edge of the water, and when he came back he returned to three young boys with their arms folded and bottom lips stuck out. Oops.

We found another wild swimming spot beneath an old stone bridge, away from a more touristy spot along the river. As we drove through the Verdon Gorge, the scenery was unforgettable. Prehistoric rock formations that can only be appreciated with the human eye - the camera shrinks it's enormity.
Leaving the gorge, we consulted our Wild Swimming book and stopped at Lac Ste Croix. After a severely underestimated walk to the said point, we were disappointed to find it full of people. As we carefully stepped down a steep rocky pathway we squeezed ourself in with the Germans and attempted to get to the jumping rock. After much hoo-ha, we made it into the water and in the space of about 10 minutes everybody decided to leave! I don't know what it was that caused everyone to evacuate... perhaps they had to get a bus. As I climbed the rock I realised that I hadn't ever jumped off anything, really. And I became very scared and for about half an hour I sat on top of the rock staring at the water. Pete, meanwhile, was doing backflips and impressing those passing in boats, even getting a round of applause from one group. When I finally plopped in it really hurt and wasn't fun at all. Stupid rock. I went for a long swim in the flat, empty lake.

Living in a van means you don't have a washing machine, obviously. And when you're on the road a lot, your washing builds up and up and up until you realise that it's getting quite pongy and all of a sudden you simply must do washing. At our campsite we managed to shove in about 7kg of washing (including bed sheets, towels etc.), and once we set up our tri-washing line it covered our entire camp pitch, leaving us camouflaged but clean and content.

We were missing the beach so we headed to the coast at La Ciotat. We met up with one of Pete's old friends for the evening and got hideously drunk, terribly bitten by mosquitoes and the only way to console ourselves the morning after was to head straight to McDonalds and eat a load of crap and glug a 2 litre carton of orange juice.

Next stop was a Cool Camping site just outside the sweet town of Vallerauges which was run by a lovely English/Dutch family. A small river ran through the area and on each side were perfect jumping platforms for Pete to do some more showing off. We had a lot of fun there and I wasn't such a wimp about jumping off the rock this time. Out of all the campsites, we'd probably return there as it was brilliant value for money and had a great friendly atmosphere. (

Monday, 29 July 2013

Into the French Alps and beyond

Vive le France! 
We avoided Monaco (I think we might drive through it on the way back) and head up into the mountains. We found some reasonably priced Camping Municipale in the village of Sospel which was a little gem. Manoeuvring the van through Les Grande Tour des Alpes to get there was a bit travel-sick-inducing but the scenery was like nothing I'd seen before. Jaw-dropping rock formations with visible chunky layers pressed together and pushed up and up, with the sun shining through the aromatic pine forests. I gave my biggest smile (which I fear turned into a pitiful one once I saw the agonising look on their faces) to the mental cyclists attempting the 2000m mountain pass and even got a wave back from a sturdy looking bloke! Soon after that though we reached a small village, so I guess he had just set off… 
Consulting our Wild Camping book we prodded in the longitude and latitude of our first secret spot and hoped the sat nav would take us there. It did! It was a cloudy morning, and we traipsed down down down another 'path' deep into the valley. I heard Pete woah-ing a lot and suddenly the photo in the book was right in front of our eyes! White-grey smooth boulders with aquamarine water plunging between and around them. This is literally what Centre Parcs' pool and rapids are based on. Yay for beautiful wild swimming! Shame it was ice cold, but I guess that's what you get for swimming in the mountains.

Digression: I have forgotten to mention previously the state of toilets in Greece and Italy - poor. Why do the toilets not have seats?!!? Why? Several times I did that thing where you're expecting the loo seat but some guy has left the seat up and you feel like you're going to faaaaaaaaall into the loo because you're judgement is wrong and you lose your balance. Crazy times. France, however, is different. Clean and nice and lockable doors too. Wahoo! Some of our campsites have even provided loo roll - mega bonus! It's never exactly inconspicuous carrying a roll of paper under your arm as you meander past eeeeveryone to the toilet block.

Sat nav is proving very useful and has brought us to all our selected swimming spots so far. It does enjoy taking us on the scenic route though: circling, venturing into dead ends, popping us onto a road that's not there etc. Thankfully, the scenery is super so it doesn't matter all that much.

Our flights are booked to return on 15th August so we're not sure whether we'll manage to get to Spain. We'll keep exploring the wild swimming through France and see how far we get before returning to Florence to drop the beloved van off and fly out of Pisa.

Cinque Terre: an adventure in itself...

Our campsite was called 'Mare Monti' which made me think of a cheerful Italian horse every time we passed through the gates which was nice. Full to the brim but still quiet and friendly. 

The railway line wasn't far, and so we set off for the furthest town 'Riomaggiore' paying a slightly extortionate single fare. When we arrived we were greeted with multiple ATTENZIONE signs and locked gates. Hmph. Many of the paths were closed. After purchasing a €20 obligatory ticket to enter the park environment we had to get back on the train in the direction we'd come, along with half the world's population and half the sun's heat radiating down on us.

Getting off at Corniglio we took the 'path' towards Vernazza; an hour and half hike. Woooooo yeah cool idea for a pretty warm day yeah. Basically, we sweat A LOT. Really. When we reached our destination I realised I hadn't packed my bikini which was a major bummer and there were lots of people in the sea so I had to jump off a rock in my shorts and tie my scarf (which I'd fashioned a hat/turban from) around my chest. It was a good look for me; an attractive day all round. 

Saying goodbye to Monti we headed for France and hit a terrible storm. It chased us the whole way up the motorway and when the clouds finally burst we certainly knew about it. We were thankful to be driving through several tunnels but sometimes it was frightfully scary during the bits in between. The rain slammed down on the windscreen, making our music and speech inaudible and driving slowed to a crawl as it was practically impossible to see. The thunder shook the van and the lightning was FORKING terrible!!!…………..No? Anyway. Luckily there were no accidents but to calm our nerves we stopped for a croissant and a Powerade but they tasted weird, unfortunately.

Falling in love with Florence and pronouncing things incorrectly

We stayed a week with Pete's family: aunty is an artist, uncle is a photographer, and their son is a piano extraordinaire. In a house on a hill overlooking Florence, we had an incredible time having good food, drink, and absorbing the deliciousness of Florence city. Every morning we awoke to Leo (Pete's cousin) playing a Chopin piece in preparation for his exam in the autumn. A lovely way to be gently woken up, until it got to the more dramatic crescendos and chromatics which, although rather violent, made me miss playing and practising very much.

We toured the grand Uffizzi Gallery as well as the Academia, and after that we were completely pooped and culture-filled. Michealangelo's 'David' was just wonderful though; humongous and truly impressive. 

We did a lot of wandering - more of which I think I enjoyed. I ventured in on my own and did slow paced wandering as I can never keep up with Pete and his long strides. We also ate a lot of gelato. We were steered away from the touristy spots where overpriced nondescript gelato is served, and pointed towards Grom…and others which I can't remember the name of. Useless. FYI though, Grom's hazelnut is unbeatable.

Next we were heading to the Cinque Terre next - a group of 5 small villages almost balanced upon the cliff edges of the coast. The whole area is a huge national park. When I asked Pete's Italian uncle for advice on campsites, he swiftly corrected me from pronouncing Cinque Terre as 'sank tehr' - French-stylee, to 'chinkweh terreh': Italian. Oops.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Near-death experiences along the Amalfi coast lead us to beautiful Bolsena

Pete wanted to drive the Amalfi coast. About halfway along I don’t think he wanted to drive the Amalfi coast. Windy, twisty, narrow roads complete with copious mental Italian drivers made us hold our breath more than once. As the van is British, I sit on the left side which means I spent a few hours leaning as far over to the right as possible. The view was absolutely stunning but was sometimes difficult to enjoy, being on corner-watching duty.

Just past Naples, Camping Averno was appealing with its swimming pools and heated thermal baths. The price was steeper than what we’d paid before but it was worth it for a day of laziness. The gardens had beautiful flowers, and even though it was part of a hotel it was quaint and had character.

Then I my heat rash got really bad and I was told no more sun or sea or pools or general movement. Woop. Because of this, we decided to cover as much ground as possible in the van to get us up past Rome. I’d already been a tourist there and P wasn’t bothered – I have a feeling he just wants to get to France to jump off cliffs and go wild swimming.
Luckily, we have found the most wonderful spot beside Lake Bolsena, Bolsena. We are staying in an ‘Agriturismo’ site which is part of the owner’s farmland. It’s a 20 minute walk from town along the lakeside, and every morning we are offered bread and croissants the owner’s husband has purchased from the local bakery that morning. We can buy courgettes, onions, salad, wine and oil, all produced on the farm and freshly gathered. Delicious.
Our neighbours are all German or Dutch and very friendly. We’re happy here.

The next stop is Florence where we will stay with Pete’s aunty.

Sassy Matera, Paestum, and a visit to Decathlon

Lonely Planet guided us inland and suggested visiting the World Heritage site of Matera to see its sassi – cave dwellings. The van was getting pretty sandy so we gave it a sweep and left the lido and the glares behind. Hooray!

Matera is cool. The landscape was completely different: slow-rolling golden hills interrupted by MASSIVE GORGES. The town is set upon two of them, and up until the 1950s half the population lived in caves carved into the rocky ravines. They got cleared out by the EU after some guy wrote a book which dissed them – you can Google that for yourself.

Our campsite was situated next to a solar farm, with a magnificent view beyond it. We had free wifi as long as we spoke to a charming but slightly crazy (possibly drunk) employee who did odd jobs around the place. We found a lush lake where we had lunch and chill time. Pete got the slackline out and I made friends with a manky golden lab.

We observed Paestum’s Greek ruins through the van windows and settled in Camping Ulisse, back on the coast. There was a bar, restaurant and entertainment for those who wanted it – apparently nobody. Pete got cranky because they kept playing Gangnam Style.

A big plus was that they sold mega croissants warm with Nutella which was particularly useful (and scrumptious) as we ran out of gas for the cooker. We went on a lengthy expedition to find a Decathlon and came back with the whole shop’s worth of gas canisters.

Safety first!


Have you ever felt that everyone is looking at you, but really you’re just being paranoid? How about when everyone is actually looking at you, all the time, constantly staring? Because that is what we found as we stopped at the Torre Canne lido. It was a Sunday and the place was heaving with Italians enjoying their weekend. We were part of their fun, it seemed. I was intimidated by a group of young girls who were no more than 10 years old who stood and stared as I showered, hurling Italian speech at me. I felt super stupid – a typical English person with no grasp of the national language. Poop. Our pitch was placed next to the bar/restaurant and also a main walkway of the lido. NOT IDEAL.

Beyond the lido owned area was a large sandy beach. Yay! Though there wasn’t a space to perch anywhere so we enjoyed a quick dip but were still exhausted from the journey up. We had a pizza for dinner that was oddly watery but delicious enough. That night there were fireworks in the town centre, so low and loud it made the van shake. It was also roasting hot and we were afraid we’d get robbed by the children in the night. Not a good night’s sleep.

We have decided never to stay at a Lido again.


Daytime-mosi-infested-creepy-place + Ferry Fun

The next camp stop I will call ‘daytime-mosi-infested-creepy-place’, which is located nearby Patra. But first I will mention the 51 degree heat of Olympia which we thought would be a good cultural fun-stop en route. We managed a 2 minute walk down to the entrance of the site but had to return to the air-con for fear of our vital organs MELTING. Literally.

Later, we parked up at daytime-mosi-infested-creepy-place and sighed a big sigh: it was definitely no Navarino beach. As soon as we opened the doors mosis attacked us which was totally uncalled for so we briskly walked towards the sound of the sea. Unfortunately, this led to more sighing as weeds and rubbish washed up onto an empty stony bay. We explored for a while, and then I saw a fat rat scuttle off so that was the end of that. Blergh. I think I got about 30 mosi bites that night, despite the Autan.

We were ready to escape the extraordinary heat of Greece and boarded the (very delayed) nighttime ferry from Igoumenitsa to Brindisi, Italy, with a massive tub of tsatziki and canned stuffed vineleaves for dinner. A culinary delight! The van was directed to park next to the ferry’s engine which was mega loud. I managed to sleep a bit somehow, but Pete’s mistimed espresso shot left him very awake at the wrong hour. After customs rooted around in our dirty laundry bag for various illegal items, we drove off in the darkness we finally found Torre Canne, our next stop...