Stream it ~ Review

I’ve watched a few series over the last few months that I’m desperate to talk (or in this case, write) about. Knowing me as you do, for those of you that have been reading DIVAMUM for a while, you’ll know my interest in TV piques and wanes often. My mum asks me every other day ‘did you watch XYZ last night?’ And I’m there like, ‘No mum, you know I don’t watch much TV’ and the reason is not because I don’t love TV, I do! The reason, is because my kids are shit at going to bed and I live with chronic fatigue, and a brain fogged mind that refuses to concentrate on anything. Oh, and also because I’ve been watching Love Island only, for the last however many weeks and falling to sleep immediately after.

Since that ended though, I’ve had to fill the pockets of time I do get with short, sweet and easy, but still interesting (otherwise I really won’t concentrate on it) watches. So what have I been watching? The below paragraphs are, in no particular order.

Everything I know about love

Everything I know About Love. 5⭐️

Dolly Alderton’s best selling memoir of the same name has been transformed and semi fictionalised for TV and I could not wait to review it.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book! I’m aware of the opinion of many bookish bloggers who claim not reading the book before watching a TV adaptation is sacrilegious, but I have to say I’m partial to doing it backwards. A bit like the way I love kindle and don’t obsess over or miss turning ‘real pages’ or reading with a light on. Call me a fraud if you will, but here we are. Everything I Know About Love is, in my opinion an epic watch.

Maggie (played by Emma Appleton) is a post grad, twenty four year old fresh out of uni in the early noughties and looking for excitement. She moves into her first flat with best friend Birdie (Bel Powley) along with two friends from uni, Nell and Amarah in London’s borough of Camden. The episodes are full of exactly what you’d expect… love, but not always or specifically in its conventional romantic sense. Maggie dates many men, has the craziest of nights out, frantically searches for work and her soul, eventually finding both. It’s a beautiful depiction full of warm nostalgia for halcyon days and hedonistic nights. I downloaded the book as soon as I finished watching, but I’m still yet to get past the first chapter. I’m desperately hoping they’ll be another series of this though as Maggie’s story is far from over when the closing credits roll.

Breeders Season 3

Breeders. 5⭐️

If you’re a tired parent prone to dropping the f-bomb, full of parental guilt and rage…. This is for you. A darkly comedic show that shows that side of parenting the majority of instagram’s parental users are trying to shield us from. The bottom line…. It’s fucking hard. Paul (Martin Freeman) and Ally (the wonderful Daisy Haggard) are parents to Luke and Ava whom you see grow from toddler to teens in S 1-3. The show depicts the trials and tribulations of the working parent. Mental health, marriage and menopause also feature, with S3 showing Daisy’s Ally in bits due to the national HRT shortage. A brilliantly executed storyline. Fans of Friday Night Dinner and Motherland will appreciate. For me this show is everything being a parent is, it’s fear, confusion, guilt and an abundance of love, with laughter thrown in for good measure. NB: It’s quick witted and close to the mark, not for the easily offended.

Mood

Mood. 3.5⭐️

Written by and starring Nicôle Lecky, Mood follows the life of Sasha Clay. Sasha is a twenty five year old wannabe singer recently dumped by her boyfriend Anton (Jordan Duvigneau) and kicked out of home by her parents, Sasha finds herself shit out of luck with nowhere to go, before she’s taken under the wings of ‘influencer’ and sex worker Carly Visions. Sasha’s life turns around in an instant but is it for the better? A dark and interesting look at social media and the age of the influencer. Mood also features a soundtrack written and debuted by Lecky. Eye opening if a little exaggerated in parts, Mood is wholly unique with nothing else quite like it on TV.

You Don’t Know Me

You Don’t Know Me. 4⭐️

I liked this show a lot, and the only reason I didn’t give it the full 5⭐️ is because I found it got a little drawn out and hard to follow somewhere in the middle. That being said Samuel Adewunmi who plays main character Hero sold it for me. The show follows Hero’s life and his current trial for the murder of gang member Jamil Issa. I found Hero a likeable character and I loved how the drama flits between present day courtroom and previous events, delving into gang culture and doing the right thing. I’ve read a lot of naff reviews based on the ending but I have to say, I disagree with them. The show is though provoking and the ending gets that thought process going. I thought about this drama long after I finished watching it. If you want something to pass the time before the next series of Top Boy drops; this might be for you.

Have you watched any of these? As ever, leave me a comment or get in touch to let me know what you thought about any of the shows listed in this review. 

Happy Netflix and Chill.

Be Weird Be Wild Be Wonderful ~ Review

Got a preschooler who loves to explore? A baby under six months that is fascinated by their surroundings but still limited with movement? A tornado crawler? A toddler? If you answered yes to any of the above BWBWBW will surpass your play expectations. Situated in East Bristol’s Longwell Green suburb, occupying an old shop space with free parking, it’s a play hub like no other.

The hub is open plan so wherever you are you can see your little person playing safely

If like me you dread soft play and get jittery just thinking about joining a baby group Be Weird Be Wild Be Wonderful is the perfect alternative to both. Roomy, open plan interiors and infinite open ended play resources, even an indoor sandpit, the play hub offers an ideal space for your little ones to roam free and explore safely. Possibly what’s even more special about this place is that they offer proper coffee in childsafe cups! That’s right, you can crawl about with your little ones and get your caffeine hit whilst it’s still hot. Teas and coffees are served in flasks with closed lids, making it much harder for your little one to come into contact with any hot liquid, yet miles easier for you to be able to enjoy a hot beverage. The perfect place for a Mother’s meeting too, aka a catch up with your bestie, where you can chat away freely whilst your babies safely enjoy all the hub has to offer. And there’s a lot on offer. Areas of imaginative play include a dress up station full of vintage treasures. An outside space to enjoy the summer months. A corner den lit up with twinkling fairy lights with hanging shower loofahs posing as pom poms. Giant teddy bears and a monochrome section, sure to peak your child’s imagination whatever their age.

Kaiser is a huge fan of the metallics and spends ages with the sensory bottles

Down the middle of the hub is a huge tube ready and waiting to have wooden cars and balls launched down its innards, enticing laughter and repetitive delight from the little people.

In our favourite corner – the black and white area

The hub also sports a café so you can grab a cake with your coffee, or feed your little’n lunch so they’re nice and full in time for a nap on the way home.

The hub is designed for children aged under five, from tiny babies and beyond.

To access the play hub, booking is essential and can be done quickly and easily online via the website. Also on offer are classes including mother and baby fitness, and creative Little Pumpkins Play Time along with scheduled events for all of the family. The hub is run by early years specialists and all staff have the passion and knowledge required to bring out creativity, and inspire imagination in tiny brains. And if all of that isn’t enough to prompt a visit, they also have a range of items available to purchase from local small businesses. All products on offer -which include clothing, toys and child essentials- have been tried and tested by the hub’s staff.

Kaiser and I have recently purchased a membership which allows us to visit the hub for everyday play sessions as many times as we like, for just £18 a month. Usual pricing for everyday play is £4 per child and £2 per adult, so even if you only manage to go once a week, you’re still saving a tidy £6 a month with a membership.

Give the hub a follow on Instagram to stay up to date with all their latest goings on.

A novel for the migraineur

As someone who identifies as disabled, living with several debilitating chronic illnesses, I am forever searching my beloved books for representation of such characters. Until now I’ve been yet to find a protagonist whom is presented as disabled and humble. A character doing things along side of their disability, as opposed to in spite of. So many portrayals of disability can come across as though everyone living with one should be more productive, and offering accurate representation of invisible yet life limiting chronic illness, is paramount for awareness. Fiction writers are getting better at being more inclusive, particularly with mental health in narratives, but many are still falling short on the disability front. It’s a hard balance to strike when wanting to write exciting plot twists, but including a realistic representation of disabled or mentally unwell characters. What tends to happen is, a disabled character may get a side part in an able bodied person’s story. Or a mentally unwell character might end up being the villain in an attempt to emphasise the extremity of an illness, but I’m pleased to say, not in this book.

Seven Days In June by Tia Williams is a tale, written with grit and heart. Honestly, I devoured it, what a marvel! A book that really inspires the likes of me, a chronically sick, wannabe author.

Eva Mercy is a single mother and bestselling erotica writer who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone's surprise, shows up unexpectedly in New York.

When Shane and Eva meet at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their buried traumas, but also the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that fifteen years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. While they may be pretending not to know each other, they can't deny their chemistry - or the fact that they've been secretly writing to each other in their books through the years.

Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect - but Eva's wary of the man who broke her heart, and wants him out of the city so her life can return to normal. Before Shane disappears though, she needs a few questions answered . . .

What the blurb doesn’t tell you, is:

Protagonist Eva Mercy lives with the (often invisible) disability, migraine. The pages dedicated to her illness are raw, heart wrenching and honest, despite their fictional nature. Eva is a complex character and Williams is a perfect story teller. Offering up a window into the life of a young disabled mother. Not only is Eva a disabled person but a talented author, mother and sexual human being, too! Real life with migraine is often painkillers and dark rooms and this book captures that, even down to triggering smells and ‘face melting’ pain. It also tells the full story, the story of a woman with complex emotions, sexual desires, ambition and drive, that is often hindered by migraine attacks. As is her ability to parent and participate in loving relationships. It links trauma which is so often the catalyst to a life of chronic pain. But includes subtext, relating to mental health and teenage mistakes, drug abuse and even parental neglect.

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick

If I had to rate this book in stars I’d give it a full house simply based on the mention of migraine, and the debilitating nature of their attacks. However, I’m giving it a 4.5, and the reason I hold back the full five, is that the plot itself, whilst raunchy, does teeter over the edge into contemporary romance. If happy endings aren’t your bag, this book may not be for you. What I will say, is the road to happiness is portrayed with honesty, stubbornness and heart. Bonus, it’s a relatively short read that isn’t clunky to digest.

Praise for Tia Williams. You have a new fan!

Buy Online at Amazon now

Little pink café- Bristol’s Hanham Suburb

If you have a pink obsessed small person (or big person) in your life, or you’re just after a decent breakfast that doesn’t cost the earth, The Little Pink Café is now firmly on my favourites list.

Aesthetically pleasing in all pink and white, it’s atmosphere is that of a traditional bustling coffee shop. Set in the heart of Hanham high street this place is for everyone, not just the members of pink lovers anonymous.

Pink lattes and decent coffee

Enjoy funky pink drinks, traditional teas and coffees, English breakfasts and American style pancakes in cute and kitsch surroundings. The choice is vast here at The Little Pink Cafe. An independently run business by a group of friendly females, this is an ideal place for those mothers’ meetings and Saturday morning breakfasts with the kids. it’s also a lovely place to host an event such as a baby shower, when we attended this morning there was a group hosting a 40th birthday breakfast, and I just love that idea!

Whatever your occasion, or even if there isn’t one, give these guys a visit.

Brett Salako Photography ~ Review

On 3rd April we hired Brett to take some photographs at our daughter’s sixth birthday party. During my time blogging I’ve met some great photographers and all of them offer a different and individual vision. We hadn’t used Brett before. We’d never hired a professional to photograph a kid’s party before either. It’s safe to say though, we were more than a little thrilled with the final pics.

Those of you that have been reading my blogs for a while will know, I don’t often review products or services. But I felt it important to write a full review of Brett’s services and tell you why I think you should hire him for your next event.

  • Brett arrived early, managing to capture some fantastic, intimate, family photos before the carnage of 30 six year olds ensued.
  • Brett’s presence was non invasive. You can imagine lots of kids don’t want to be lined up for a hundred photographs when they could be partying, and Brett made sure that wasn’t necessary, whilst still managing to capture some perfect shots.
  • He has a very arty flair when it comes to captures, and he managed to make the otherwise plain background of the hall fit perfectly into each photograph.
  • He listened to what we asked for and delivered.
  • His efficacy of getting the finished edit to us was stellar.
Banksy style capture

Brett is Wiltshire based but also covers surrounding areas, he is available for family shoots, weddings, landscapes and a variety of other photography services.

Brett’s instagram showcases his versatility.

What I really liked about having Brett at our daughter’s party, was his patience. When you’re surrounded by children moving at speeds, for hours, it can be hard to capture the perfect shot, but that wasn’t an issue for Brett. He was dedicated to the cause and managed to capture our daughter, and us as a family, beautifully.

Action Shot
Family

So why would you hire Salako Photography for your event? Well, if you’re after a patient, punctual and interested photographer, who listens to your ideas and is speedy with his edits. I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to hire Brett. His prices are competitive, he really cares about your vision and will work with you to achieve it whilst adding his own artistic flair. We now have a whole album of our daughter’s special day that we’ll be able to cherish forever. Her first birthday as a big sister, and her first surrounded by friends post covid-19.

I highly recommend Brett, he’s not just a great photographer, but a genuine and friendly guy, too!

Mothership Writers Workshop Review

I first heard about Mothership Writers when my daughter was around three years old. I’d been writing my blog for some time and was looking for inspiration as well as guidance in the form of a writing workshop. Mothership (unfortunately for me back then) caters to new mums with babies two and under, so I had initially missed the boat. However, I kept in touch with Emylia Hall, founder and novelist via Instagram and when I found out I was pregnant with my second baby I immediately sent her an email asking to be on the list for updates on the next available course. I joined Mothership Writers when my son was ten weeks old and I’ve just recently completed the eighth and final workshop.

What is Mothership Writers?

Essentially, it’s a creative writing course that walks the attendee through various writing styles, but in reality it’s so much more than that. Mothership caters to women in the early stages of motherhood creating a sense of solidarity and openness you can’t find in your standard baby group, or indeed creative writing course.

Emylia’s teaching style is encouraging and heartfelt, she creates a safe space for mums to pour over their experiences with words, evoking powerful emotions and allowing the attendee to experience a full and wholesome sense of catharsis. The course is made up of eight hour long sessions and a whole host of information you can’t get from simply Googling ‘how to be a good writer’…. Emylia instils a sense of pride and ownership in us mums during each workshop and it’s obvious from the very first session she’s fully invested in our individual stories and writing success.

During lockdown 2020 Emylia curated the book Born In Lockdown a fantastic collaboration of fragments from over 250 authors, all of which are women who experienced pregnancy or became new mothers during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The book is free to download with donations accepted for SANDS the leading stillborn and neonatal death charity.

All graphics and illustrations by Esther Curtis

Course layout

The hour long weekly workshops take place over zoom and are always initiated with a head emptying exercise AKA brain dump. An exercise which I have found so useful that I’ve continued to do it outside of the workshops. The session is then broken down into writing exercises and group discussion, always starting and ending with an influential poem. Some of the best poems I’ve ever heard have been introduced to me during a Mothership session!

Though the course is designed for mothers, writing craft is very much in focus during the workshops and Emylia delves into writing styles, including character creation and story structure. The hour always flew by, but I always came away feeling like I’d got loads of writing done and the sense of achievement coupled with inspiration after a session is great soul food.

The really great thing, (or rather one of them) about Mothership Writers is, you don’t need to have ever written before to benefit from the course. It’s designed for all writing abilities and I feel that anyone, with or without writing experience will benefit from the course and Emylia’s kindness and knowledge.

The level of insight Emylia gives regarding the various ways in which there are to write both creatively and expressively, is a true testament to her own writing success.

Emylia Hall, founder of Mothership Writers and Author of The Richard & Judy Bestseller, The Book Of Summers.

My Personal Experience

After being admitted to hospital at the end of my second pregnancy because of a rapid and terrifying decline in my mental well-being, I had zero desire to write. I’m a person that usually writes in order to ‘hear myself think’ and writing has many a time been a form of therapy for me, during pregnancy I often documented my honest, but not always positive, experiences. Once my son was born though, the intrusive thoughts I was experiencing felt too raw and too heinous to get on the page and I just didn’t have it in me to write, about anything. Mothership Writers gave me both inspiration and clarity over my thoughts. Listening to other mums express in their own words their personal experiences helped me to open up, it also gave me inspiration to write about the positives. It helped me articulate and put into words the tiny nuggets of joy that occur daily in motherhood. The joys that are so often overshadowed by our darkest times in the early stages of parenting. I am so humbled and grateful I was able to attend a Mothership Writers course during my recovery from perinatal mental illness, because I genuinely believe the course itself to have been a powerful recovery aid for me. I loved it so much, I’m deeply sad that it’s over, but I know I’ll stay in touch with Emylia and the Mothership crew via social media.

VerdictCannot recommend the course enough, for all mothers keen to explore their creativity through writing!

Image of my dog Frank and Son Kaiser during a Mothership session!
  • For more information on Emylia and her latest writing projects follow her author page Emylia Hall IG

Royce Lingerie – Non wired sports bra review.

Black and hot pink piping is a vibe

Hello Divas. This is my second collaboration with Royce Lingerie and I’m yet to find fault with them. I don’t do dishonest reviews, even when I’m gifted a product I honour it on the proviso that my findings are genuine. So here goes. Now, sporty probably isn’t a word you’d automatically conjure up when thinking of me, so what is it about this sports bra I found so great?

Firstly, it’s cotton, secondly it’s non wired and thirdly its support ability despite being without wire is fantastic. There will be some skepticism around this I’m sure, especially for bigger busted ladies like myself but I can assure you this bra has been tried and tested by me. Because it’s cotton it’s recommended for low impact sports and that was the aim for me when trialling. I’m gradually adding exercise back into my health routine after being very sporadic in my approach previously.

The first test for me was taking it for a hike. I have a new walking buddy in the form of a french bulldog and he’s been spurring me on come rain or shine to get out walking. This week we walked for over an hour completing my target of 10,000 steps uphills and down steps and back whilst wearing Royce’s sports bra and I’ll be honest it felt weightless. That in itself is something that never happens to me. Usually when walking I get frustrated and uncomfortable if my boobs are bobbing around all over the place and occasionally slapping me on the chin. So you can gather that I’m very pleased to report neither was a factor.

Us at the top of Troopers Hill Bristol

The second test was when I tried Pilates. Now I know neither of these are considered high impact on the standard fitness scale, but when you have large boobs everything is considered high impact. I can honestly recommend it as both a weightless and comfortable sports bra that also looks great. Going back to the fact it’s cotton it absorbs sweat better than some of those awkward looking, shiny nylon sports bras that can leave you feeling like you’re boobs have been sweating inside a shell suit.

It’s classic black design with the hot pink piping really is gorgeous and as with all of their bras it’s understated without being ugly. It still looks great and I’ve even worn it as a tshirt bra just for the fact that it’s comfy and gives your breasts an uplifted and sculpted shape under clothes without the Mrs Doubtfire separation so oftenly seen with sports bras. In my honest opinion it’s a perfect design to base the future of gymwear around, so that us larger chested ladies can feel confident knowing we can get great support whilst still looking on trend. Available upto size K shop here Impact Free.

You can also view this article on http://www.house21.co.uk

DM To Collab…..

Ok so here’s the thing. You’ve recently started growing your social media following and brands are approaching you with exclusive discounts. You think wow someone wants to work with me and bite their hand off for a freebie. Maybe it’s an umbrella from Amazon that someone is asking you to write a review for. Maybe they want to send you an exclusive discount code for recruiting brand ambassadors, or maybe they’re trying to sell you weight loss products because youd be perfect to represent their brand.

You don’t consider your self an influencer so you feel like you’re lucky to have any kind of opportunity for a freebie and you snap each one up eagerly. Next thing you know you have to write a caption bigging up an umbrella in the middle of a heatwave or promote weight loss shakes that taste like sick and give you a headache for a week.

The moral to this story is – Don’t fake it. If you don’t believe in something don’t try and sell it for a freebie. Because in doing so, you’re committing to work for free for a product you don’t even believe in yourself. The reason I’m writing about this now is because I was that girl who tried and failed to promote an umbrella. I hate umbrellas, they’re awkward, they get in the way and almost always break upon second use. Instead of saying that though, I tried to write a catchy caption about why this plain and badly made umbrella was the highlight of my week. I had a better experience when I stole one from the brolly bin on exiting a Cardiff restaurant during an April downpour.

Also noteworthy, if someone is commenting on your picture dm us to collab I can 99% guarantee that they are doing the exact same on another 1000 posts each week. Maybe even several times a week, thus meaning their collab offer is likely to be no more than an invite to apply. Or maybe it’s a discount code and an expectation on you to produce content for them, for FREE.

After learning the hard way that most people’s ideas of collaborations are in fact expectations, I now strictly only work with brands that work for me! Meaning I only promote products I am interested in, or that represent what I’m about. For example I recently collaborated with Royce Lingerie to promote their blossom bra, a non wired bra available in my mega size of a H cup.

Likewise I’ve promoted menstrual cups and self care products that promote wellbeing for women’s health. Being a chronic illness and mental health blogger as well as a mum means there are not always opportunities in abundance for product reviews or PR posts.

However, even if there were, I will never promote products that make false promises such as shakes that claim to contain all the nutrients you’ll ever need to sustain a healthy lifestyle, or pills and supplements that claim to fix health problems.

Be a grey goose in a pond full of swans

Suffering from chronic illness makes you a less than desirable candidate for some brands, as do my personal and often very sweary captions. I recently got offered a collaboration with a well know sanitary production company. I sent them all my insights and they asked me to be part of their latest campaign. I agreed, but upon them viewing my grid I was not deemed appropriate because of some of the language I use. Eg – I say Fuck, a lot! But that’s fine, because I don’t work for these brands. I created a blog as an outlet and a space to share my experiences, if I get offered payment or freebies of products that I’m interested in, I consider it a bonus. I’m not prepared sacrifice my integrity for a tub of Slimfast or some free tampons. If your purpose in life is to be an influencer then this blog might go against the grain. You may be thinking any work is work and that’s absolutely your choice. I don’t look down on people who have #Ads all over their grids, it’s just not for me. I don’t DM to collaborate with brands because I believe if they really wanted to work with me they would in fact be reaching out to me to offer me a collaboration opportunity.

I’m not suggesting you never do the reaching, I think it’s great to network and let people know you’re interested in their products but what I am saying is these secondary accounts commenting on your photos are not likely to make you the next big thing. And remember huns, that being famous on Instagram is the equivalent to being rich in monopoly….. #justsaying

Example caption from one of my recent grid posts

Diva Reads June

So this was a funny old month for me and I spent a lot of it in a not so great, head space. My reading often reflects my mood and can also alter it to some extent. June was also a month that saw me binge watching a lot more TV than usual, to be honest I rarely watch tele but when I do I go in hard. I spent a whole day in June binge watching Station19 and ugly crying. It was pretty epic to be fair.

Back to books.

I finally read June’s House21 book club read of Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare. It was a perfect palette cleanser, and everything you expect from chick lit. The protagonist Tiffy is a typical girl next door, a bit geeky and out there along with utterly likeable. Tiffy shares a flat with Leon, they also share a bed, but not at the same time, at least not initially. Their love affair begins with post it notes in an unordinary, archaic fashion. Later when they finally meet in real life it’s a typical, happily ever after scenario and I loved it.

BA Paris – Behind Closed Doors.

This book was a real disappointment to be honest. I was expecting great things being a psychological thriller fan but I’m loathe to say it didn’t deliver. Tricked into marrying the worlds most sadistic man, Grace rushes into a marriage before she’s even seen the house she’s going to spend the rest of her life in. There was very little back story on why her psycho husband Jack was indeed a psycho, and it generally failed me as a reader. I also felt like the Author’s reference to the vulnerability of Grace’s sister Millie who has down syndrome was quite misinformed and bordered on offensive in parts. I’ve heard good things about other BA books though, and for this reason I’m willing to try another at a later stage. If you’re interested in predictable badly narrated domesticity this might suit you well. It didn’t me, unfortunately.

Alex Michaelides – The Silent Patient

I loved this book right up until the last few chapters. The protagonist Theo is an interesting and believable character who narrates the book from his point of view. He’s a therapist, married to an amateur actress. He later takes a job at The Grove a hospital for the criminally insane and his patient Alicia is incarcerated for killing her husband. She hasn’t spoken a word since her arrest. I won’t spoil the ending but I devoured this book with speed and ease, then got to the end and though – huh, that’s it? I will say it cleverly increased in suspense but the end was a little anticlimactic in my personal opinion. You can really tell my mood was low in June huh? Probably as a direct result of these mediocre books I read!

Pauline Black – Black By Design

After the death of George Flloyd I knew I needed to further my education into racism, particularly inherent racism and I wanted to go back and start at the Black Power Movement of the sixties. I’m a huge Ska fan and so it was fitting for me to read the work of one of my favourite female vocalists Pauline Black of The Selekter. What I learned from this book has blown my mind and caused me to address my own unconscious bias in a major way.

Pauline Black was a mixed race female adopted by an all white family in Romford Essex. She was the only girl with 4 brothers several much older than her. She grew up being made to play down the fact she was indeed a woman of colour. So much so, that she was ridiculed for her Afro Caribbean hair, and reminded by busybody aunties that she surely didn’t need sun lotion during a heatwave because of the tone to her skin. When she finally formed part of the Selekter with the help of both black and white friends she was part of the infamous 2Tone movement. She was also subjected to further racism at gigs and performances by 1960 Skinheads and National Front facist groups. As amazing as it is to read how Pauline became the woman she is today it left an unfading imprint in my mind of just how acutely racism and prejudice can affect a person. I still have a LOT left to learn and believe me when I say I plan to do just that. But I’m glad I started my learning with this book and would highly recommend it worth a read.

That’s about it really, I’m still feeling a little morose and not quite on top form so I’ve opted for some more lighthearted reads this month, starting with Ruth Jones, Never Greener. What a writer this woman is! This post will also be available to read over on House21 and listen out for myself and Mel who’ll be discussing our favourite reads on the House21 podcast in the coming months.

Recommended Reads #3

I promised to keep them coming.

What have I been reading the last couple of months? LOADS! I’ve been reading loads as usual. On average I get through a book in three nights.

I’ve now read all of C.L Taylor’s books and am patiently awaiting her 7th release. My favourites are definitely ‘The Missing’ ‘The Escape’ and ‘The Accident’ I liked ‘Sleep’ as I really related to the characters particularly Anna, but I found Christine’s role a bit far fetched and that kind of ruined it for me a bit. ‘The Accident’ is my most recent favourite and I could relate to Sue as both, a girl in a relationship with a narcissist and a mother, it definitely kept me guessing and I understood her battle with mental health also.

Some other good reads are ‘Watching You’ by Lisa Jewell, set in my home town of Bristol. A good twisty thriller written in a traditional English style, which you don’t come across often anymore and so it makes pleasant reading. Lisa is a powerful story teller and her thrillers always have a great protagonist.

Another of my new favourite Authors is ‘Mark North’ his first book ‘Hold My Hand’ is set between Bath and Oxford and that was what drew me in, having been born and bred in Bath I like books I can relate to in terms of geographical memory. I like to read about streets I’ve walked, I find it helps me connect. His second book ‘Keep Her Close’ is all Oxford based but equally as good. His Protagonist Josie Myers is a good strong female lead and I’m intrigued to see where her story goes in the next instalment. I do find a lot of Crime Thrillers & Cop Saga’s do tend to be samey but if it’s a genre you enjoy I would recommend this writer.

Another author who’s work I admire and I’m currently reading a book of his is Mark Edwards. Im almost at the end of ‘Follow You Home’ I love the way Mark manages to convince you of some supernatural activity before dropping the obvious explanation, making you question your own sanity for a moment or two. He did a similar thing with ‘In Her Shadow’ and I really enjoyed reading that too. Follow you home is dark and gripping making you look at the world at its worst but in an addictive and compelling way that will keep the pages turning until the very last.

Bristol Places to See!!

Bristol mum’s, I promised my readers more ‘free fun’ tips. As days out with kids go, I’m getting pretty good at recommending free places to visit.

However they’re not for the unimaginative. In order to enjoy these great outdoor spaces you have to be able to think outside the box!

Bristol has so many amazing places to visit, where just a stroll can turn into the most magical of days for your little people.

Today we visited Bristol Harbour. See these coloured houses? Who do you think lives in them?

Is it a school for princesses? Or does Queen Poppy and the troll community reside there? Is it home to Ryder and his team of pups? You decide!

The boats are getting ready to sail across stormy seas and aboard are pirates and cocomora (Moana) if you look closely enough you can even see them.

Whilst stopping for a coffee before heading off to Leigh woods, we discussed our fairy finding tactics. Remembering that the Trolls from Frozen live in the woods too. Along with a few noisy pterodactyls and their nests. With this is mind we decided to explore each open tree trunk and moss covered rock as we ventured around the wood. What’s even better mum’s and dads is, this is actually considered exercise and I hit my daily step count in just a few hours!

There’s a lot to be said for getting out in the wilderness. The aimless wandering, coupled by great green scenes are surprisingly therapeutic. Let’s not pretend I’m a great outdoorsy type with a longing for nature and tree hugging. I’m really not, I’m a typical city suburb, pre kid, day drinking lover. However, I had to get savvy when it came to entertaining my ever demanding three year old. When she became so used to the farm trips, the theme parks and the fayres, we couldn’t afford to sustain these weekend ‘luxuries’ so we had to think of free stuff to do in its place. With the help of google maps we’ve found so many amazing places to visit in Bristol and it’s surrounding areas and still have so many more I want to see.

Yesterday we visited Clevedon and searched for dinosaur eggs on the rocks and crabs in the pools. We found one too, a crab that is! All you need to be able to enjoy these places is a car to get you there.

You’re never too old to forage and hunt and believe in magic. It was so nice to be outdoors having a laugh and getting excited about random coloured rocks instead of in front of Netflix or queuing for the toilet at Longleat and pushing to the front to get a millisecond glimpse of the penguins. Don’t get me wrong I love these things too, but for a change of scenery and a tightening on your purse strings, I’d recommend trying my ideas out too.

Below are links to the amazing Clevedon Beach (Perfect for dinosaur hunting) and the stunning Leigh Woods. I literally saw just a fragment of it today so will definitely be heading back soon.

I should state Clevedon pier does charge to enter but you don’t need to be on it to appreciate its scenic value.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/leigh-woods

https://clevedonpier.co.uk/

Beautiful Clifton

If you’ve never seen the suspension bridge it’s a photographers paradise. The view is immense. As well as the view though, Clifton has loads to offer. From the deli in Clifton Village serving the best pastry’s the city has to offer, to woodland walks in Leigh Woods. If you’re after somewhere to take the kids on the weekend Durdham Down is huge and there’s plenty of space to kick a ball, they also have a small play park too. Let’s not forget, The White Lion Bar at Avon Gorge Hotel if you fancy a pint. When I’m in Clifton I feel relaxed.

Oldbury Court Estate

The perfect place for a family day out. Has a good size play park and an amazing canal walk through Snuff Mills to the equally beautiful Eastville Park.

Coffee huts stand either end and are open all year round. In autumn the colours of the trees are truly stunning. Even the dog will love this place. A bit further up near Fishponds High street is The Porto Lounge, where you can grab a bev or a bite to eat.

Frank Bruno

On Saturday the 2nd March I had the pleasure of attending an evening with Frank Bruno. Being an avid boxing fan I was excited to hear about his bouts against the greats, such as Mike Tyson and Bone Crusher Smith, and of course his amazing win of the title against Oliver McCall. When these fight’s originally occurred I was very young so didn’t watch them first hand, I do however remember Mike Tyson Vs Frank Bruno 2. Purely because it was strange to have this on in my nan’s house, but there she was up late in all her glory on the date of 16th March 1996 with a Tia Maria in hand, watching this brutal rematch that would see Frank defeated a second time by the animal that is ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. Hearing Frank speak honestly about these fights often with huge respect for the other fighters was fascinating. Even after the grudge match with Lennox Lewis, Frank regarded him with respect. He also talked about current fighters such as Chris Eubank Jnr and Tyson Fury.

But for me, the most fascinating, heart wrenching and humbling part of the evening was hearing Frank talk about his battle with Mental Health and how he started the Frank Bruno Foundation, in a bid to ‘knock out’ the stigma that still surrounds mental health today. Frank spiralled into a depression after retiring from the great sport and following the break down of his marriage. He was victim to phone tapping and harassment from the media that made him feel as though he was ‘going mad.’ He was eventually sectioned for the first time in 2003. For years following this he suffered a long and debilitating battle with mental illness and described it as his ‘toughest fight.’ When asked how he overcame his demons, Frank’s reply was ‘I haven’t, but I fight very hard, I use fitness and determination to keep me going.’ I think that’s a really important message for anyone who thinks mental illness is some kind of excuse or elaboration, and believe me, sadly those people do exist. I urge those people to read Frank’s latest book Let Me Be Frank and then decide if you still feel this is some glorified publicity stunt. This is a man who has battled with some of the toughest men in history, but found battling with his mind so much tougher. You have to admire his strength and determination as well as his courage to speak out.

After the show on Saturday we had a photo opportunity with Frank so you can imagine my excitement. I patiently awaited my turn, thinking in my head of something to say, it was probably going to be the one and only time I got to speak to him so I wanted to say something memorable. Frank talked during the evening about his battle with antidepressant medication and how he was now 4 years medication free, I wanted to tell him about my own battle trying to withdraw from the same type of drugs, but there wasn’t enough time. All I was able to stutter when my turn came around was ‘Frank, I’m so excited, shit, everything you do for mental health is amazing’ and I truly meant it. For someone in his stature use his voice to promote health and well being for people who suffer mental illness is truly commendable. We all battle demons from time to time but we tend to put celebrities on pedestals or misunderstand their motives. Frank now has his own charity in The Frank Bruno Foundation and that charity works hard to really help sufferers. He makes no excuses for his illness, blames nobody for his failings and refers to his dad as his ‘hero’ it was a truly inspirational evening and I felt privileged to have been there, obviously I paid a premium for that privilege but it was worth it. It’s a night I will probably remember for the rest of my life. I think I may have found a new hero myself.

His parting line after being asked ‘ Who hit you the hardest Frank?’ Was ‘The Taxman.’ What a legend.

In Dublin’s fair city.

My favourite City in the world. Ok so I haven’t been to that many, but it’s still my fav.

Having visited 5 times now I consider myself a bit of a pro, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite places with you and give you a bit of a low down on what’s worth the money and where really isn’t.

You’re bound to of heard of Temple Bar. It’s literally the heart of Dublin if you’re a tourist. And it’s a fun place to be. After always staying close to Connelly Station on the other side of The River Liffey, we chose this time to stay in an apartment in Temple Bar itself, which is great for exploring the city but also pretty noisy, and you should bear in mind if you do this, that it is a tourist attraction and you’re sharing it with other tourists. Culturally though, you miss out on some of the City’s authenticity if you spend your whole trip in Temple Bar so make sure you venture across town too.

One of the most infamous pubs in Dublin’s Temple Bar, aside from The Temple Bar, is Oliver St John Gogarty’s. It’s a huge bar that hosts live music from about 12 lunchtime, all day everyday and is definitely worth a visit if just for photo op value. However, they are specifically aimed at the tourist industry and because of that fact you’re looking at around €8 a pint and €7.50 for a shot of your favourite spirit, then add €3 on top for a mixer. It’s also often aimed to target hen and stag doos so expect a lot of those. Whilst it is a great pub and the music is good it gets very busy and the wait for a drink and food can be long!

However just along the road you’ll find The Auld Dubliner and The Old Storehouse, both of which are great bars with real Irish singers and bands, smoking rooms, and a cracking pint of stout. A little further again and you’ll find The Porter House. One heck of a bar, with a whole menu of its own brewed stout and ales, bear in mind they don’t sell Guinness (I know) but they do do a fab Porter which is just as good. And what’s even better is if you buy 6 you get one free so if there’s a group of you it’s a great place to indulge. They also have live music every day, and for me, that’s what Ireland is all about.

Further up on the main road away from the hustle and bustle is Peadar Kearney’s, a typically traditional Irish pub, with the sport on, a singer and a slew of friendly locals happy to welcome you. On Saturday night we visited and they had an Irish Singer who sang everything from The Dubliner’s to Oasis and The Beatles, and even ABBA, all round great entertainment.

The Guinness Storehouse should 100% be on your list of MUST visit places. It’s amazing, the worlds largest pint glass. Even if you don’t like Guinness, the view alone from the gravity bar is a good enough reason to visit. It looks out over the whole city. St James Gate should be on the top of your list of places to see at least once in your lifetime.

The Jameson Distillery is also another must visit if you like an Irish Whiskey of course. While the home of Arthur Guinness is a whole day out, with bars and booze on every floor, not to mention the shop, the Jameson distillery will only take you an hour to walk around and you’ll come out three sheets to the wind.

It’s not all bars, whiskey and Guinness though, although obviously that’s a big part. Dublin has some really great places to visit on foot. Dublin Zoo, is set in Phoenix Park which is the largest green space in any Capital City in Europe. It has a huge collection of animals set in an ‘African Plain’ style environment, even elephants are free to roam here at Dublin Zoo.

Trinity College is a great building to see if you’re an architecture fan and it also houses the book of Kells. An interesting artefact if you’re a history fan.

Whilst you’re sat enjoying a Guinness, you’ll have heard ‘Molly Malone’ sung by one of the many Irish singers you’ve heard on your trip. The Molly Malone statue sits in Dublin’s shopping quarter on Grafton Street. Another one to tick off the bucket list.

St Stephens Green which is a stones throw from Trinity College, is a beautiful park to wander around during a winter morning, and feed the ducks whilst you’re at it.

A few things to remember when travelling across the city, if you’re on your own or in a couple, The Luas is your best friend, use it. Taxis are cheap though so if there’s 4 or more of you, you can travel by car for small change. Another thing to remember or if you’re on a budget, is Dublin can be walked on foot too, the Liffey has a canal path and of course if you’re part of a couple you’ll be wanting to put your lovers lock on the Ha’penny Bridge.

One of Dublin’s most iconic landmarks and here’s a fun fact for you: The Ha’penny bridge was actually cast in Shropshire England in 1816.

So I’ve rambled on about places to visit and drink, but you’ll be wanting to line your stomachs too so, for breakfast, I’d recommend pretty much any of the hotel’s as they all do a fab Irish Breakfast, we’ve stayed in The North Star, opposite Connelly station several times and their breakfast is fantastic.

Boxty’s in Temple Bar do a great American/Irish breakfast with Boxty’s special potato pancakes.

Lunch in The Guinness Storehouse is also great, any of the cafes or restaurants serve good hearty Guinness inspired food.

But our favourite, and it was our third visit this time, is Ciao Bella Roma’s. THE best Italian I’ve ever tasted and that’s not an exaggeration. Authentic, huge portions, the meat is something else and it’s not too expensive.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not cheap but for the quality of food it’s good value, also all the Italians eat there so that tells you something. The service is great too.

Do feel free to message me if I’ve missed anything. Don’t forget to Visit Carroll’s whilst your there and pick up some tacky souvenirs, the Irish love them, and everyone needs a fridge magnet of the Ha’penny bridge.

Enjoy xoxo

The Coconut Tree

You only have to look at me to know I’m a food lover.

Whilst taking a leisurely stroll along Bristol’s Gloucester Road today, I fancied eating something I wasn’t going to be able to cook at home. Something proper tasty though, as I was ravenous.

Tucked in at the bottom of Gloucester Road opposite Shape, Wrap and Roll, sits The Coconut Tree, where they aim to bring Sri Lanken street food to us here Bristolians (I’m actually from Bath, but who cares)

This place was alight with red wallpaper, scattered with palm trees, and a dining space filled with high tables. It was everything you’d expect for a tapas style eatery. The walls also donned tribute to their native Elephants and it was an all round vibrant vibe.

I was driving, so sadly didn’t get to try them, but the cocktail menu looked insane! Serving Sri Lanken takes on classics like, Old Fashioned, that had a chocolate twist, and Espresso Martinis made with coconut milk. They also had an amazing sounding turmeric and coconut concoction, that I’ll definitely be trying on my return.

Now let’s get to the bit you’re all waiting for, the food!

It was a serious taste explosion. Dishes are served as tapas, but are by no means small. We shared 6 between two of us and to be honest it was too much. But that was just because the richness and flavours were so intense, you didn’t need to stuff your face to feel satisfied.

I had THE best goat curry I have ever tasted, and being a huge fan of Caribbean food where goat is often used, I’ve tasted a few.

It was like curried silk. Salty and full of spicy flavour, but for you mild curry lovers, don’t worry, it wasn’t overly hot. The red rice was cooked to perfection too. We also had spicy cuttlefish pieces, for calamari lovers these are the shiz.

As were the chilli cheesy cubes of lushness, the devilled crispy pork, the melt in the mouth flat bread and every single thing on the menu, was insanely good.

Along with great food, they also had great staff, they gave us a talk about how to get the best of the flavours. And the best bit…. drumroll…. KIDS EAT FREE!!

Yes, they really do. There’s no catch, they just get to choose a free dish from the kids menu. Ciara especially loved the flat bread!

The whole place was alive with a lively buzz, and that was at lunchtime. It cheered me up on a dreary day, when I was starving, but also during a time when I’m struggling to get excited about anything!

Shaun (my fiancé) and I, both agreed we absolutely need to return for ‘date night’

Whenever the next opportunity for that is, we’ll be enjoying it at The Coconut Tree, and I can’t wait to get on those cocktails.

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