Yesterday I did that thing where you wake up so violently that before you’ve even opened your eyes you’re sat bolt upright in bed, completely and utterly convinced that it’s Friday and oh SHIT you’re late for work! Then, as your brain catches up with the rest of your body – that by this point is very almost leaping out of bed towards the shower – the two collide and your brain says, “whoa there Nelly. Hold the hell UP. It’s not Friday. Oh noooooo. No, it’s actually SATURDAY which means that it’s now the weekend, so go back to sleep!” and you slowly slide down the pillow, back into the warm nest that is your bed, pull the covers up around your ears and have THE MOST blissful sleep. I’m sure you know exactly the feeling I mean and it’s exquisite, it’s delicious and to me it just about sums up one of the many reasons I love weekends.
The reason why I’m waxing lyrical about weekends is because it’s been almost two years now since I’ve been able to experience that kind of joy when thinking about Saturday and Sunday. This is because for the vast majority of the time when I was freelance and juggling multiple projects, I’d be working. Saturday and Sunday just rolled on into the rest of the week, there really was no differentiation between the two and whilst Mister Ruffles had left work behind when the clock struck 5:30pm on a Friday, for me work was all-encompassing and paid no attention to weekends. Don’t get me wrong, freelancing has an enormous amount of positives – being your own boss, flexible working hours, total autonomy and the ability to carve out your own career path – but one of the biggest flip-sides is that you never really get to switch off. Now, one month into my new job, I’m embracing being gainfully employed and funnily enough, for pretty much all the reasons I just mentioned were the positive aspects of being freelance! However what I’m really, truly enjoying are my weekends.
Last weekend I enjoyed a sleep devoid of deadlines and went for a long, lazy brunch with Mister Ruffles at what has fast become my new favourite local brunch-spot - Fingers Crossed Café on Amhurst Road in Hackney. After grabbing some coffee we took a walk to the Stoke Newington Farmers Market, where I marvelled at the many colours of tomatoes and bought some sunflowers for the house – and we know how much I love sunflowers! Wearing a breton dress from French Connection (pun unintentional!) I think I was subconsciously trying to recreate some of the gallic magic I experienced in France a few weeks back! It made for the perfect relaxed weekend outfit paired with my Birkenstocks which haven’t really left my feet all summer.
My yearning for all things French was definitely satiated at The 3 Crowns Wine Fair, which we popped along to later that day; with red, white and blue bunting strung up, boules and croquet games taking place and endless plates of charcuterie and fromage, I literally could have been back in Gascony and not stood within a car-horns distance of Old Street roundabout. My favourite wine that day was an icy-pale rosé by The French Wine Project, which I have to confess I ended up quaffing a little too exuberantly as the next day I was so hungover that Sunday was a total write-off and all I was able to do was build a small fort on the sofa out of blankets and pizza boxes. Which, along with lie-ins and lazy brunches, seeing friends and spending time with Mister Ruffles, is exactly what weekends are for non?
French Connection dress – Vintage bag – ebay Sunglasses
Driving through the South of France and seeing endless fields of golden sunflowers whizz past our window was one of my pinch-me-now-is-this-for-real moments. There were hundreds, perhaps even thousands of them, carpets of intense yellow for as far as the eye could see and as soon as we drove past our first I squealed ‘SUNFLOWERS!’ and simultaneously almost caused poor Mister Ruffles to crash our hire car. I’ve always wanted to have my photo taken in a field of sunflowers and I knew that they were prevalent in Gascony – the region of France we visited – but I wasn’t quite sure whether they’d be anywhere near where we staying. Luckily for me though, there was an enormous field and it was literally right behind the chateau we were staying in!
I’d imagined myself frolicking through the field in a whimsical and carefree way, however the reality was quite different. For some reason or another the bugs in France are next-level big – like enormously, frighteningly monstrously big – and the field of sunflowers was ram-a-jammed-full of them, cue lots of girly screaming from me as a beetle decided to take refuge INSIDE my dress at one particular point. Eurgh. Another issue to contend with was that the sunflowers were deceptively close together, forming a dense and prickly maze to try and negotiate, which meant frolicking really was out of the question and instead I had to adopt more of a tentative shuffle to venture in. The trials and tribulations of rural outfit posts hey! Bugs and prickly bits aside though, I had a lot of fun and my crisp white cotton shirt-dress from Primark was ideal for the blisteringly hot French sun. Paired with a sunhat from Beyond Retro I felt like I brought a touch of Riviera Chic to the French countryside, although I have to confess to using it as an impromptu fly-swat on a few occasions after being accosted by multiple rogue insects!
Primark dress – Beyond Retro hat – Topshop sandals – Vintage bag – Primark sunglasses
It’s been just over a week since I got back from the South of France and from time-to-time I’ve found myself letting out a puppy-esque whimper thinking about the fairytale castle that I got to call home. Smack-bang in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by vineyards and bobbing fields of sunflowers (more on those later this week!), it was picture-postcard-perfect. I spent a blissful week at Cheateau de Lisse preparing for the wedding of two of my dearest friends and it made an incredible setting for a breathtakingly beautiful wedding. With turrets aplenty, suits of armour standing to attention, twinkling chandeliers, marble staircases, ornately grand salons (one even complete with a grand piano!), a vineyard, an outdoor swimming pool, a lake and *catches breath* a resident croissant-nibbling peacock we named Pierre, Chateau de Lisse was an extraordinary place – a veritable adventure playground for adults and I miss it dearly.
Most of all though, I miss being surrounded by my very best friends and the run-up to one of the most fantastic weddings I’ve ever been lucky enough to attend. The past ten days I’ve caught myself fantasising on numerous occasions about my magical holiday with our daily diet of croissants, Camembert, cornichons (and copious amounts of red wine!), morning swims, forest walks and impromptu cabaret/karaoke/dance-offs.
I returned to London with an obsession for French shutters, a full-blown addiction to Violet liqueur infused champagne and a love for Reblochon ice-cream after eating it served on a duck confit salad (if you ever happen to be going to Nerac then check out Le Vert Galant – an extraordinary restaurant that serves THE BEST savoury and sweet ice-cream I’ve ever eaten). Being completely truthful I’m not entirely sure how I’ve managed to cope this past week without my newly-found vices, anyone know where to get Reblochon ice-cream in London? Anyone?! What I’ve also come home with are some of the happiest memories and if entirely possible, an ever deeper love for the crazy-mad-bunch of people I’m lucky enough to call my friends. So Vive la France and if anyone happens to be visiting there any time soon then please pop a bottle of Liquer de Violette in your suitcase and I’ll be an extremely happy girl. Ta.
After Glastonbury it’s customary to spend the next week with your head on ice, immersing your mind, body and soul in health, watching a lot of Disney films, keeping activity to a bare minimum and essentially keeping your brain cocooned in a kind of fuzzy straight-jacket making sure life is as stress-free as possible. What you don’t do is take a day to recover, then dive face-first into preparation for a 2nd interview for your Dream Job whilst battling an extreme case of festival-induced narcolepsy and gargling ginger tea to (please-God-please) desperately try and get your voice back so you can actually enunciate words rather than inaudibly croak. No. Only someone completely barmy would do that. To then ricochet from one festival to another via said interview well, you’d have to be quite out of your mind to agree to do that now wouldn’t you?! Ahem.
Well, the good news is that I got the job! However my brain literally fell out of my face when I came back from two weekends of back-to-back festivalling – which were an absolute scream, had SO MUCH FUN – and I took about a week to feel myself once again, but regardless, I GOT THE JOB !!! On Monday this week I joined Beyond Retro as their Head of Press and Marketing and I’m beyond delighted to be an official member of the 9 to 5′ers once more. Suffice to say that I spent last weekend preparing, and by that I mean I bought myself a new notebook (I plumped for a printed Rifle Paper Co. lined journal from one of my favourite shops, Search and Rescue and in Stoke Newington), prepared my pencil case and planned all of my outfits for the week ahead. Really Important Stuff. On Sunday I actually took one of my outfits for a trial spin, quite literally, as this spaghetti-strap dress from ASOS has an enormous billowy skirt, making it ideal for spinning around like a crazy thing until you fall over – a move I opted not to bust out when I wore it in the office today, I’m saving that for another time! It’s also ideal for this hot-and-sticky weather we’re having right now and even better, it’s only £18 in the sale – quick click hurry hurry!
Truth be told it does feel a teensy bit strange being back in an office environment after spending the past almost-two years working pretty much on my own, I keep getting distracted whenever I hear another voice for example! I’m really enjoying it though and so excited about beginning this new chapter. Invariably I’m also blaming it all on Dolly Parton; hearing her sing “9 to 5″ at Glastonbury must have ignited something deep within me! Altogether now, “Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition….!”
ASOS dress – Topshop sandals – Vintage sunglasses – Vintage bag – River Island bracelet - Vintage Rings
This year marks 16 years that I’ve been going to Glastonbury festival (which is in fact half my life – showing my age here!) and being from the West Country, it’s somewhat of an annual pilgrimage for us Somerset-folk. Since my very first visit aged 16 I’ve gone to all but three and having clocked up a fair few visits to Worthy Farm – along with an assortment of other festivals as well – I’ve become pretty adept at knowing just what to pack to make the experience as hassle-free and comfortable as possible. With Glastonbury but a mere few hours away, I thought I’d share some of these tips with you, because if you’re anything like me you may well have left it to the very last minute! This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to pack, think of it more as a list of things that you may not have considered before along with some handy tips, tricks and hacks that I think make for a more enjoyable festival experience! Oh and if you are off to the festival then have a peek at this guide from First Great Western with train times, a site map and all manner of useful tidbits – enjoy!
My Five Top Festival Packing Tips
1) Pack in outfits in bags. Don’t try to cram as much of your wardrobe into your rucksack as possible. Instead pack per day and then pop each outfit into a plastic bag; that way you can easily locate what you want to wear when you’re out of your brain on festival-strength cider turning your tent upside down and inside out in the dark. (I speak from experience) You can then use plastic bags for rubbish – always Leave No Trace - or as a ‘laundry bag’ for your dirty washing. Pretty handy as waterproof socks when you have leaky welly boots too. Oh and if it rains then you have something to sit on too. Plastic bags are evil but when it comes to festivals they’re extremely useful
2) Only take with you what you can afford to lose. I’ve ruined countless favourite items of clothing from accidental red wine spillages, mud that JUST WILL NOT COME OUT and a whole manner of assorted unmentionable feral activities. If you love it, leave it
3) Don’t scrimp on your skin. As my skin instantly stages a dirty protest if I don’t take my makeup off, one thing I never sacrifice is my cleansing routine (my dignity and sanity I leave at home!) so I always take moisturising face wipes (my favourites are by Klorane as they contain soothing cornflower ), miniatures of all my favourite beauty products, a refreshing toning water spray (Lush’s Breath Of Fresh Air is divine!) along with earbuds, an orange stick (to clean the mud out from under my nails!) and a hairband to tie my hair back when I have a wash. This may seem over-the-top but believe me feeling clean can make all the difference
4) Hangover Cures. If you’re not a Bloody Mary fan then ignore this bit but if you are then this is for you … The night before you leave make a Bloody Mary mix – essentially everything that goes into a Bloody Mary bar the vodka – in a 2 litre water bottle and whack it in the freezer. The next morning wrap the frozen-solid Bloody Mary Mix in a towel and it will stay cool for a fair few days. Just add vodka and there you go – instant hangover cure!
5) Leave the picket fence at home! One year I was thrilled to find a white picket fence in the 98p shop in Dalston and, despite the fact that it was yet another cumbersome thing to carry, I decided that I absolutely MUST HAVE IT for the tent. That year was one of the muddiest I’d been to and the picket fence stayed in the bag and I then had to carry it home. Moral of the story. If it’s not useful then leave it at home.
What to Pack
- Wellies. Always. Even when the forecast is “glorious sunshine all weekend”
- Blanket. When night falls it can get extremely chilly at festivals; a blanket will keep you warm in your tent when you’re calling it a night, but if you’re someone that likes to stay up until sunrise then a blanket draped around your shoulders is another much-needed layer of warmth.
- Waterproof. When it comes to staying dry then you really do get what you pay for. Invest in a decent waterproof and you’ll keep it forever. Mine is a Karrimor jacket from Sports Direct
- Flipflops. When it’s muddy you don’t want to be putting your welly boots on every time you need to leave your tent to go to the toilet or pop round to your friend’s tent for an impromptu tent-party for that matter
- Leggings. Great to sleep in and perfect to pop under a pair of shorts or as an extra layer under jeans
- Bikini top. Every morning I try and have what I like to call ‘a bird bath’– basically a wash in one of the sinks – it instantly revives me no matter how heavy a night/day/night I’ve had and wearing a bikini top means that I can have a proper wash and my clothes don’t get soaked in the process
- Scarf. Come day three my hair usually looks like it’s inhabiting a family of small fieldmice. A scarf is a quick and easy way to get it up whilst (trying to) look presentable
- Festival phone – As much as I’m an Instagram addict I’m also a total pro at losing my belongings! To avoid any mishaps I use a Festival Phone, this is basically a phone so old it has an aerial and a wind-up battery. I jest but you get the gist
- Camera. But leave the DSLR at home. One with a strap is also preferable as prevents you (me) losing it
- Spare pair of sunglasses – As well as being Top-Of-The-Class when it comes to losing things I’m also an ace at breaking them too. I’ve now learnt to bring a spare pair in case (read – when) this happens
- Bumbag. An across-the-shoulder bag keeps you hands-free yes, however it still ends up giving me shoulder ache after FIVE DAYS of lugging it around. Bumbags mean you really are hands-free and it’s also the best deterrent to pick-pockets
- Packs of pocket-tissues. Taking a whole toilet roll is a pain in the bum (no pun intended) to carry and invariably it will only get wet, shredded and/or used as a pillow. Go for the easier-to-carry option instead
- Hand towel. To use when having my birdbath but also on the one occasion I wash my hair. It will dry within a day hung up inside your tent (bring a wire clothes hanger to do this on – also perfect for any wet clothes you need to dry out) or, if it’s sunny, on the roof of your tent
- Dry Shampoo. My hair is baby-fine and the next day has about as much volume as a deflated blow-up mattress. Batiste adds that much-needed bit of oomph. I love the stuff
- Perfume. Covers a wide range of sins. Invaluable
- Tangle Teezer hairbrush. I’m a recent convert to Tangle Teezer and I just know this is going to come into it’s own at Glastonbury. No matter how mud-soaked, cider-marinated or bramble-infested my barnet gets this will glide through those tangles like a dream
- Suncream. Even when the rain is thundering down in biblical proportions I’ve managed to ‘catch the sun’! Suncream is a must
- Plastic glasses. For making cocktail hour drinks and to double up as a beaker for cleaning your teeth with so that you can then swerve the huge queue for the taps
- Lucozade tablets, diaoralite and Berocca. These are the Holy Trinity of hangover cures. Failing that a Bloody Mary does the trick nicely. More on this later ….
- Painkillers. See above
- Handwipes & Hand Sanitiser. Keep these in your bumbag for mucky-pup moments
- Handsoap. Dispense some of this into a squirty bottle (Boots do one) and you won’t be cursing that there’s no soap left at the taps
- Latex gloves. This is a weird one I know but have you ever tried to remove a mud-caked welly boot when your ankles have swollen up to the size of golf balls? You get absolutely covered in mud. Wear these and avoid filthy paws. A little Princess-like I know!
- Earplugs. Call me an old lady but getting at least a few hours kip every night has now become essential. These ensure I block out the sounds of overenthusiastic (read – eyeball-bleddingly infuriating) festivalgoers shouting “Alan!” “Steve!” “Alan … Steve!” over and over and over and over again
- Glitter. Absolutely loads of it! However it’s no fun getting it off the next day. My saviour is Lush’s Ultrabland, it’s a creamy beeswax-based cleanser that removes even the hardiest of ‘Festival Face’
I’m now going to go ‘off grid’ and spend the next five days in one of my favourite places in the world, Glastonbury Festival. I can’t wait to spend the weekend rolling around in the fields with my friends covered in glitter. See you on the other side!