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June Wish List

It’s that  time of year when I am thinking about holidays, and while I now days always venture further afield than what good old England has to offer, I do love spontaneous road trips to out lovely seaside-resorts with my friends… when I stick around for long enough to arrange them, of course. For those of you who have never stopped by an English seaside town, all of the picturesque stereotypes are true: colourful beach huts line the sea front, from whatever spot of the beach you stand on, I can guarantee that you’ll hear an ice cream van singing merrily, and seagulls will try (and usually succeed) to steal your ice cream/fish and chips/mug of coffee. Here in England, we’re mad about pinstriped deck chairs and colourful wind shields (a necessity here, I’m afraid), and as lovers of beach-side co-ordination, these colour schemes can’t help but seep into out clothing, our accessories and the unnecessary clobber that we simply must take to the beach with us, in case we get bored (or is that just me?)june-wishlist

1. Sunnylife Ipanema. Beach Towel. £39.95. Available here. A great place to start on the beach-side wish list, is of course, a beautiful beach towel. Because yes, it really does matter just how cute and fashionable the piece of sand-covered fabric on which you lie, is. Most of the time, your choices are either bland, bright or childish printed towels, or those striped wicker mats that cut into your elbows when your trying to read on your front. It’s nice to finally stumble across something pretty that doesn’t scream ‘I’m a beach towel’, because of course, no one wants that.

2. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. Flo Stretch Dress. £940. Available here. Again with the yellow… it seems to be my clothing colour of choice lately (though I wear it surprisingly rarely). This is a beautifully cut dress is so flattering for big-bummed, small-boobed ‘pear shapes’ like myself (always a challenge.. no one wants to balloon the pear!), accentuating a tiny waist.

3. Topshop. Red Square Stone Studs. £6.50. Available here. These earrings would look great with the yellow Preen dress above, don’t you think? Unfortunately, I have never been lucky enough to find a metal that does not cause a reaction if worn in my ears (not even gold, sadly), and so earrings are a big no no for me, but perhaps… they could be turned into clip-on’s? I think I’ll have to start searching Pinterest for that particular DIY blog post… or of course, I could risk failure and attempt to figure it out for myself? Hmm…

4. Dune. Celia Peeptoe Wedge Court Shoes. £59. Available here. A beautiful pair of elegant, sleek white wedge shoes. These can be worn with any summer dress, which I adore (and in terms of packing your suitcase, it’s so much more practical). Not ideal for walking along sandy beach fronts, but stick to the esplanade and you’ll look great.

5. Kate Space. Cuba Street iPhone Case. $45. Available here. Kate Space… one of my favourites. Get your phone ready for the beach (and have planned a carefully sand-and-sea-free environment in which it can enjoy your holiday) by ‘dressing’ it in this illustrated ‘Cuba Street’ phone case.

6. Prada. Cat Eye Acetate Sunglasses. £230. Available here. This year, sunglasses trends are all about colour, pattern and drama, and Prada are, of course, leading that trend with their stylist new collection, my favourite being these cat eye, red-and-tortoiseshell glasses. Great for adding a touch of old Hollywood to your look. Think of Marilyn Monroe’s beach style.

7. Michael Michael Kors. Hamilton Saffiano Leather Shoulder Bag. £218. Available here. New wish list, new handbag. Usually, I prefer for my handbag to go big – out of necessity, obviously (is it just me who can’t read the word ‘obviously’ without Alan Rickman’s Snape temporarily commandeering my usual brain voice?). I generally need a bag that can hold my camera, laptop, kitchen sink, several layers to accommodate for our fickle weather, make up supplies, pen and paper, and other ‘essentials’ of a photographer/writer/art-and-gadget creative, but when there is sand involved… no. Key, phone, a novel (which can be tucked under my arm, along with my beach towel), are all I need… ok, slight lie, there is always the canvas tote beach bag, but that doesn’t mean that there is not also room on my shoulder for this little red Michael Kors bag.. you know, for my house key and phone. And literally nothing else.

8. Newgate Clocks. The New Ritz in Sleepy Blue. £25. Available here. Perfect for that seaside wake-up call at the start of a long drive (if you’re from the Midlands), to the sunny south coast. Or that was a typical start to the annual seaside holidays of my childhood, anyway. I’m a grown up now. My parents aren’t going to drag me out of bed anymore – not that they ever had to, as far as a holiday was ever concerned.

9. France-Tastic Voyage Travel Bottle $34.99. Available here. I know that flasks are more of a winter travel necessity, but for me, as a coffee addict (it’s been two hours since my last cup of coffee.. the cravings are strong), the need for a constant supply of caffeine is very real, and so road trips and long drives (short drives, a nip to the corner shop, crossing my hallway.. anywhere, really) without a drop is simply impossible.

10. James Read. Gradual Tan for Body. £24. Available here. I’ve never really been one to delve into the world of fake tans, being far too fearsome of the dreaded Tango TOWIE look to try, but I’ve heard good things about James Read’s Gradual Tan collection. Great for those who, like me, can’t sit still for long on a beach and would prefer for their skin to remain pale and therefore healthy, youthful and melanoma-free.

11. Mischa. Continental Wallet. £85. Available here. An alternative to the tiny Michael Kors handbag, I suppose (a house key could easily fit in a wallet… but a phone?), this gorgeous blue and white print purse would look great used either as a wallet or, when possible, a clutch bag. Imagine, this purse with the Dune shoes and yellow Preen dress… it works, yes? Or the dress, shoes and red Michael Kor bag, for that matter… choices, choices.

12. Zara. Blue Mini Skirt. £35.99. Available here. This skirt would look so cute with the white Dune wedge sandals and Prada sunglasses above… though a shirt would of course have to be found to complete the look. I should have added a shirt to this wish list.

13. Urban Outfitters. Berlin Boombox in Pink. £60. Available here. When I was about six, I wanted a pink boombox almost identical in my imagination to this one. A few years later, I wanted one of those stereo bags. I never gave into either of those desires (or rather, my parents never did), and I’m quite glad about it really. I mean, they are both equally ridiculous inventions. Nevertheless, this one is adorable, and so a small part of me can’t help but think that maybe I could somehow make it work… no, no, definitely not, but it’s here nonetheless.

14. Chan Lu. Wrap Bracelet. £128.73. Available here. Nothing screams backpacker chic more than a wrap beaded bracelet. Especially if they are handmade. I can guarantee, however, that no true backpacker would ever be seen wearing a £130 bracelet when one could be made from a bit of twine and some plastic beads instead… imagine just how many hostel nights could be paid for with that money! Still, it’s beautiful, and I would wear it all summer long… probably forgetting to ever move it onto the other wrist, resulting in unfortunate wrap-bracelet tan lines.

15. Hope & Greenwood. Tuck Box. £40. Available here. For £40, this is an overpriced extravagance if ever I saw one, but being an item on sale at Selfridges, I suppose it’s to be expected, I suppose. Still, there’s plenty to go around, so shared between a group, this could become a cute little addition to any beach-side summer picnic. Just throw in some Pimms, and your picturesque English picnic is complete.

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Wanderer

Holy Condoms, scorched Celebrities and Bernini Porn…

My first week back in Rome was quiet, calm, you know. Nothing worth blogging about. And then today happened, and it was one of those days where the world just seemed completely hilarious and you just walk around collecting funny stories and strange observations to later share with friends – and the blog, of course!

The weird and wonderful highlights of today (and the reasons why I’ve spent most of the day laughing so much that it now hurts):

  • Pouring hot coffee over Joaquin Phoenix
  • Having the Pope accidentally bless a condom
  • Spending a bizarre hour with 20 rather confused Chinese tourists who each insisted that I have my photo taken with each of them… and every possible pairing!

First of all, I have to say.. Joaquin Phoenix really needs to pay more attention to where he’s going. I swear he just appeared out of no where, charging towards me – and my coffee – and I had about a split second to consider my options:

  1. I could have jumped in front of the passing bus to avoid him
  2. I could have wildly thrown the coffee in the air, covering us both
  3. I could have chosen which way to tilt the mug – and therefore choose which one of us was about to be covered in coffee.

I of course chose the third. He’s rich enough to duck into the nearest clothes shop and replace his ruined shirt, I’m sure. I wasn’t at this point aware as to who it was who was storming towards me like a raged bull, but I bet that’s exactly what he did as soon as he ran off after our brief.. chat? It wasn’t so much chatting as a lot of ‘what the fuck’s (on his part) and ‘watch where you’re walking, stronzo’ (on mine). And that was that, another minor celebrity story to add to the collection, along with reluctantly sharing a bag of jelly babies with Donny Osmond, saying hi to George Clooney at Lake Como and discussing shoes with Gok Wan… such a thilling collection!

Honestly, if my run in with Phoenix hadn’t happened in front of the Colosseum, I probably wouldn’t have twigged to who it was… though he doens’t look much like he did in his Gladiator days any more.

That’s definitely not the best story of the day, however. The best story came afterwards.

Today I was tricked by a lovely so called friend into enduring a tediously slow few hours eternity in complete silence, and worse, suffering with a completely numb arse after the first twenty minutes. By tricked, I mean tricked, as in, I was told that the ‘free spare ticket’ was for the Vatican museums. And it has been a few years since I’ve last been inside the museums, and then I only saw about 15% of everything on display, so of course, I accepted her invitation immediately.

But no, no tour, no museums. I was tricked into attending the Pope’s weekly audience (not cool, Val), an Atheist surrounded by crying nuns and rosary bead-grasping Catholics, all of whom have a penchant for nonsense muttering… is lying not a sin, Val? Hmm?

So once we were there, it was too late, I had no choice but to sit it through. Well, I’m sure I could have tried to leave, but there has been something so drilled into me over the years, perhaps simply Englishness, that makes it almost impossible for me to cause a scene with a dramatic exit in a large crowd of strangers. And by dramatic, I don’t mean screaming and shouting and jumping around, I mean, they were sitting there so silently, and so patiently, even just to get up and quietly walk away would have turned every eye on me and everyone would have started muttering and wondering why I was leaving. How dare I leave! Because of course I was so fortunate to have a ticket (you know, a totally free, easily available to all ticket)!

I couldn’t tell you what the Pope talked about, even if I had decided to listen, I wouldn’t have understood a word, and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t have agree with most of what he said, unless it was just a simple ‘be good, don’t murder, don’t lie’ (Val), in which case, why do I need the Pope or the Bible or God to tell me that? Surely religious people don’t read the 10 commandments and are surprised that they say ‘do not murder’, ‘do not cheat’, ‘do not steal’ etc.

I swear I started to fall asleep. One minute everyone is sitting there, listening intently while I glare at Val, and the next, everyone starts rummaging, holding up rosary beads, crucifixes (crucifi?), little prayer books, and Val starts nudging me, getting rather pissed off at me and pointing out that people are staring because I’m not taking advantage of his blessing, and again that very English side of me that doesn’t want to offend kicks in, and I think, ‘I don’t believe in this mumbo jumbo anyway, so why not’. And I grab the first thing that my fingers touch in my bag; my travel journal. Yes, my travel journal has been blessed by the Pope. How that would in anyway change my life, I have no idea. Is it supposed to bring me good luck? Or is it a necessary ticket to heaven? Do I have to make sure that when I die I’m carrying it in my hand? Fuck knows.

I just so happened to glance up at my hand, which was mimicking everyone else, holding up my journal, and what do I see poking out from between the pages? A stow-away condom. And my mind begins to panic, because it’s just there, in bright pink foil, about 70% of it clearly visible between the pages, and I’m holding it up in the air, surrounded by hundreds of very devout Catholics, holding it towards their Pope, practically pointing it right at him. And of course, we all know just how much Catholicism hates condoms. I wonder if throwing condoms at a priest has the same affect as throwing holy water at the Devil? He starts his blessing mumbo jumbo, and I just stand so, so still, biting down on my cheeks to stop myself from laughing (because that is literally the only thing you can do in that situation), and hoping that no one notices, because they’re all standing so still, if I moved even an inch, all eyes would be on me, and they’d see what I was holding.

The condom has been taped into my travel journal. I may be Atheist, militantly so at times, but I’m not about to test my beliefs (or lack of) by using a condom that has been blessed by the Pope. Could you imagine what would happen if I was wrong, and if Catholicism was right? Surely there would be nothing more insulting to their God than laughingly using a Papally-blessed condom, and so… he’d be pissed. I’d probably be punished by it splitting and I’d be infected with the 12 plagues of Egypt… the 12 plagues of foo (ew), or worse – yes, worse is possible – impregnated by the anti-Christ… or by octuplets… 8 bearded little Jesuses (Jesi?).

Definitely not worth the risk in my opinion.

As for ‘Bernini porn’… that’s just a strange observation of mine in Santa Maria della Vittoria. I’m a big Bernini fan, I love his art, I love his sculptures, so of course I had to go and see the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, which frankly, I’ve always raised a brow about, because it definitely looks like ‘worldly ecstasy’ to me! There’s hardly anyone in the church, just me and a small group of old women, who I quickly gather to be very devout Catholics. They’re muttering to themselves about how ‘beautiful’ the statue is and how it captures the ‘essence of the holy father’, and so I look up.

I don’t see something awe-inspiringly religious. I see a woman clearly in the middle of a hell of an orgasm, a very child-like guy hovering over her, and on either side, two marble-carved theatre boxes, filled with men. And they’ll all carved to look in her direction, watching her, nudging each other, whispering, generally looking very questionably and.. pervy. How no one but me could see that, I don’t know. Yes, yes, I’m sure you could argue that ‘holy ecstasy’ would make you look rather ‘ecstatic’ (wink), but why did Bernini choose to flank the statue with several gawping men watching from a theatre box?

Religion bewilders me. It’s just completely blind to common sense. Among other priceless ‘saintly relics’ that I’ve heard about since I arrived back in Rome: Jesus’ foreskin, Jesus’ umbilical cord, and – in Germany – the breath of Jesus contained in a vial. And people pay to see this?! Insane.

Oh, and as for the confused Chinese people, I don’t know if they mistook me for someone, or if choosing a random foreigner is a strange travel tradition for them, but I won’t complain because they insisted on buying me lunch, in exchange for about 200 smiling tourist photos (peace signs compulsory) with each of them. I gave one of them my business card in the hope that they’d share a few with me, and then you can see for yourself just how well I perfected my bewildered ‘what the fuck’ smile.

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Wanderer

And so it begins…

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Porto. Second city of Portugal after Lisbon, with a population of 238,000, and famous of course for port wine. I’ve been here before; last September, for just a short 4 day trip to end last summer’s adventures. It was a lazy holiday to end the chaos, and I was too poor to do anything much at all, having spent all of my money in Italy and France and the various other countries that I had wandered into last summer. But this time, Porto is the first stop…

I do still love Porto, but that fuzzy haze of last summer has faded; last summer I could compare the row after row of derelict shabby chic buildings to beautiful, crumbling Venice, but now they seem very much apart to me. Maybe the fuzz will be back by morning, and it will turn out that it was just the less than perfect Ryanair flight that has clouded my opinion for now… we’ll see.

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Of course, I feel like I shouldn’t bother to complain about Ryanair; you get what you pay for and for a £50 flight (and 100000000 Ryanair flights under my belt already), I really couldn’t have expected much. It was all very same-same; they don’t even consider opening the gate for boarding until the plane was due for take off, then we are all prodded and poked like bad tempered cattle up the narrow staircase with our as-heavy-as-we-dare case, and into any available seat, while we are then stripped of our luggage and watch cautiously as it is launched from one end of the cabin to the other and following a brief game of catch between crew members during which I swear they earn points as to how many heads they can clobber with each case, it is finally placed in a luggage rack miles away. None of that bothered me in the slightest, I’m more than used to Ryanair’s typical passenger treatment by now, I’ve learnt how to just breeze by, which I think is quite impressive when I’m wearing as many layers as I can get away with without looking like the Michelin Man’s self-combusting wife.

Still, I honestly think I was the cheeriest person on that flight; everyone let the 15 minute delay get to them far too much, or maybe they were just naturally a bad-tempered bunch. Even my meagre lunch of overpriced sweaty cardboard chips and soggy salt which fell in clumps onto my food couldn’t put a damper on my mood. They tasted as if they had been re-heated at least twice. In fact, I’d swear that they had been, as they tasted exactly like a bowl of chips that I ate last year shortly before we caught the freezer out on it’s infamous game of sneak-a-defrost. Sneak-a-defrost was an irritatingly secret game played by the household freezer during which it would switch off just long enough for everything to thaw, and then magically repair itself, leaving us oblivious. They tasted exactly like sneak-a-defrost chips. Still, I’m off on my big adventure, so I can forgive a short delay and a dozen re-heated chips.

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As soon as I stepped from the metro at Sao Bento, I just so happened to bump into an old acquaintance (of sorts), Scary Mary, a local homeless woman who despite a pretty serious limp and her feeble remains of a pair of sandals can chase after you at about 100mph, jingling coins at you and shouting in Portuguese about lord knows what… my bets are she’s either shouting at me about her unfortunate living conditions as one of Porto’s homeless or a detailed fantasy about the various ways she’d like to kill me; batter me to death with the sandal remains. I bet it’s one or the other. If she wasn’t so terrifying, I’d buy her a McDonalds and a coffee, but I just don’t dare to linger when I see her charging towards me, filthy, wild-hair flailing all over the place, even wilder-eyes burning through me, limping away in her shit-stained trousers and those damn sandals scraping across the cobbles. She’s truly terrifying.

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Don’t get me wrong, Porto isn’t all homeless people and crumbling buildings (though sadly 70% of the buildings here are derelict, so I’m told). It’s a beautiful city which is a strange mix of being loud and lively and full of dancing and music and people congregating in squares and at the river to laugh and talk, and equally you can walk down eerily quiet, deserted streets moments later, which is perfect for someone like me; I like my me-time, and I like my space, which of course can be impossible to find when travelling. I find it pretty admirable how happy people are here, despite buildings around them quite literally falling down around them. It’s just one of those infectiously cheery places.

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Tomorrow I will probably head to the beach, and make the most of this lovely 30-35C heat! Are you jealous my lovely friends back home in England? I hope so.

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