A travel and style blog

I Will Learn To Contour & Other Life Changing Resolutions

Well hello there. Happy New Years Eve! 

I hope you had a marvellous Christmas and that you've got something lovely lined up to see in 2017. I'm celebrating with Oliver and our families. In fact tonight will be the first time my Mum meets his. In nervous anticipation I've done my makeup five hours too early. 

The Harris Museum Open Exhibition

I wandered into Preston City centre to see if I could return some boots that had been cutting my feet to ribbons all week. The shop assistant stopped me in my tracks when I tried to speak, refused a refund and told me to ring customer services if I still had a problem. 

I did still have a problem. I had two of them, wrapped in Elastoplasts. I rang customer services but their "lines are currently being upgraded" and wasn't able to speak to anyone.

And so there I found myself, with rising blood pressure and the type of regret you only feel after trying to get your feet out in a high street store.

With no particular place to be, I decided I'd pay a visit to The Harris Open Exhibition. With a pair of unwanted boots slung on my back I made my way there. 

The Harris Open is held annually, showcasing the work of local artists. The exhibition invites artists from any background, of any age and any level to submit their work for display. And the best bit, most pieces are available to buy.

I could feel my blood pressure returning to normal the moment I stepped foot in The Harris. What had looked to be a stressful day was starting to be rescued.

I wandered round the exhibition and, weighed down with my bags, stopped to take a seat for a little while. I sat by chance in front of piece number 300, and read the painted words...

In winters age
To feel no chill,
To be with you
Is to be lovely still

I flicked through the catalogue curious to find it's title... "My Wife - Advanced Alzheimers" by Chris Tattersall.

I was so struck by the painting that I sat there a little longer. I decided I wanted to share the exhibition, and this painting in particular with you. I'll be honest, sitting here now I'm struggling to write exactly why because I can't think of any words that do justice to quite how beautiful a piece it is. That's the beauty of art isn't it. What a gift to be able to convey a feeling when words alone won't do.

The Harris Open is running until January 07th 2017. It's a haven away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Christmas shops. Take ten minutes away from fighting to get the half price gift wrap and give yourself a gentle reminder that a refused refund on a pair of boots really isn't all that big a deal.

Thanks so much for reading x x

Crafty Vintage Christmas Markets

I've been saying I'll make it to a Crafty Vintage gathering for a wee while. Last night I was true to my word and went along to the Christmas Markets at Brockholes. If good food, music and mulled wine are your thing you're in for a treat. 

I love a good nosey at vintage stalls and could spend hours browsing bric a brac. I was expecting it to be a little like other vintage gatherings, where you have a quick browse, pass a couple of hours and leave empty handed. Apart from a dream retro tea set, champagne glasses and two adorable handmade organic children's jumpers, I did in fact leave empty handed...more or less. 

If you have a weakness for quirky or retro, Crafty Vintage may give your spending will power a run for its money. Alternatively if you can resist the lure of stylish homewares and one-off pieces (what's wrong with you?), you needn't spend more than the £2.00 admission and car parking charge. 

Live music and entertainers make it a fun trip out for the whole family if you're that way inclined. 

"A gathering where like-minded folk can meet, socialise, share ideas and gather inspiration."

The Christmas Markets are on for the rest of the weekend at Brockholes so if you're in search of something fun and festive to fill your time I'd recommend a visit.

The good news is events are held throughout the year at different locations in Lancashire. It is most definitely not grim up North. You can find more details on the Crafty Vintage website here! I'll be off to one in the summer months. Ah summer. Remember that?  

This isn't a collaborative post, I'm just very excited about my new tea set.

Thanks so much for reading. Have a cosy festive weekend however you decide to spend it x x

Glamping at Samlesbury Hall

My boyfriend once said I wasn't very "outdoorsy." He wasn't a million miles from the truth, but still, I took offence.  I forget which activity I was trying to worm my way out of at the time the accusation was slung, although paddle boarding springs to mind. 

Well, to celebrate his birthday this year I booked a surprise night camping glamping in The Shepherds Hut Hamlet at Samlesbury Hall. Who's not outdoorsy now?

I managed to keep the location of our night away a secret right until the very last minute when someone gave the game away...

"Starting route to Samlesbury Hall" 

Cheers for that IPhone Maps guy.

Considering we'd been graced with the presence of Storm Angus early last week I was a little apprehensive about how a night in a hut, in November, would pan out. Advertised as cosy in the winter, I packed extra bedding just in case... "Happy Birthday, sorry about the hypothermia"... and booked a camp fire kit as an optional extra.

Nestled in the grounds of Samlesbury Hall, the huts are tucked away on the perimeter amongst the trees. I'll be honest it was a little chilly when we first arrived, but perhaps that's to be expected this time of year. We were shown how to work the heating and it ended up a toasty little haven.

The hut we stayed in was kitted out with two comfy double beds, bedding and snugly throws, tea and coffee making facilities and an en-suite including hot shower, towels and toiletries. It also had the added luxury of plug sockets, and a table and chairs. I could get used to this wilderness malarkey.

We ate at Mezzo, an Italian restaurant a short walk from Samlesbury Hall and strolled back to our hut that night clutching the lantern provided. The Hall is closed if a wedding's being held so it's worth having a quick check on-line when you book. When everything's open there's a restaurant, coffee shop, museum and gift shop to go at.

But back to stumbling to our hut. We got the camp fire going, 'we' meaning Oliver, and whiled the night away huddled together, gazing at the stars. Well we whiled a portion of the night away until we retreated to the warmth of our hut and cracked open some Champers. It's November people.

We slept soundly unaware that we might not have been completely alone. Samlesbury Hall is well known as one of the most haunted places in Britain. A fact I knew before we spent the night in it's grounds. I didn't know however that 'The White Lady' Lady Dorothy Southworth who died of a broken heart, has been seen, and I quote, "on many occasions" within the hall and it's grounds!!  

I can't say we witnessed any unusual goings on during our stay, thank the lord, other than my camera randomly stopped working for a little while. Paranormal activity or too much fizz? You decide. 

We rounded off our stay with a welcomed Full English Breakfast in the hall itself sat by a roaring fire. 

If you fancy something a bit different Do have a look at a night in a Shepherds Hut here but Don't search YouTube for Samlesbury Hall Ghosts before you go. 

Thanks so much for reading. If you've any suggestions of fun and different getaways send them my way xx

Loving Franz Ferdinand & Other Signs Of A Noughties Indie Girl

Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures Album TShirt

What does Babyshambles mean to you? A refreshing sparkling perry or a band that you simultaneously loved and worried for their well-being? If it's the latter, this post is for you...

I watched Oasis: Supersonic this week, a documentary about the rise of, you guessed it, Oasis, and had flashbacks to my own meagre dalliance with the world of rock. 

Joining a band, sell-out gigs, crystal meth fuelled fallouts. Ahh those where the days... that I didn't have any of. I did however start wearing converse, cut the sleeves off a few band tees and looked immediately for a boyfriend with long hair.

Did someone say booze, boys and bands? Goodbye low cut pink tops from Morgan, and hello Joy Division Tops. Cliché? Moi? Never!

Kick back and flick through your copy of NME right AFTER you've read ... The Tell Tale Signs You Were An Indie Girl In The Noughties ...

* You felt way too uncomfortable to class yourself as Indie

* You fancied a bloke(s) purely because of his longer than the norm barnet... (not to be confused with fancying all blokes who have longer than the norm hair)

* An excellent selection of Fred Perry clothing alone made a bloke an eligible bachelor

* Your mates classed any guy in any band as "your type"

* Still though, you wouldn't mind going out with a guy in a band

* Bands, bands, bands, you loved to watch a good band

* You wished you'd had the chance to watch Joy Division live but settled with the film Closer, several times

* You were distraught when you heard The Cooper Temple Clause had split up

* The more worn out your Converse the more credibility you had

* You went through a phase, a short phase, of buying badges

* You started buying Vinyl and overlooked the inconvenience of getting up and turning your records over

* You started buying clothes from vintage shops despite that smell, the smell of attic, that never quite leaves a piece of vintage clothing.

* You contemplated learning to play the guitar

* You never imagined the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The Kooks would come to nothing

* You dated a guy even though he was, how do the French say??... a right dick, because he looked the part and liked the same music as you

* You forgave a not subtle fondness for Class As and decided Pete Doherty was a good catch (I blame Kate Moss)

* You bought tickets to watch Pete Doherty but he never showed up (see aforementioned fondness for Class As)

* You daydreamed about throwing in the towel at University, and your weekend job while you were at it, and becoming a groupie

* You drank a lot (not specific to Indie girls)

* Guys on nights out were friendly - the girls were not

* Maaaany a Saturday night ended with The Stone Roses, I Am The Resurrection and rightly so

Not all of the above was a passing phase. I love me a good Fred Perry top. Designed to last you see. And most Saturdays you can find my Conversed feet trotting off for a big shop. Still got it haven't I. Still bloody got it! 👍

Thanks so much for reading. Let me know in the comments if I've missed out any corkers.

Should Your Mum Read Your Blog?

I haven't written a blog post in a while. In the interests of blogging best practice I'm led to believe that you should keep any such gaps on the down low. There's always the chance no-one has noticed and you might just get away with it. The first rule of Blog Club is: you DO NOT talk about Blog Club... or words to that effect.

And so without further ado ... let's discuss ... Should Your Mum Read Your Blog?

A few weeks ago I wrote about a decision I'd made to leave my job. I was ready for a change and the world was my Oyster. I was hell bent on following my dreams... to a different desk in a different office... but still a change was afoot. 

I sat down and wrote about stage one of 'The Change'. Not THAT change, but 'The Change'.

With hindsight I might have slipped into using Not Your Nine To Five as a diary and a free form of therapy. In the interests of a good read I merrily typed about my personal situation and hit Publish. 

Tinkering on the brink of over sharing, I was hidden under an anonymous guise and didn't really care all that much. 

The next day my phone rang. I answered, knowing what was coming.

Dad: "Hello, how are things?"

Me: "Good thanks, blah blah blah..."

Dad: "And how's everything else?"

Me: "Everything else is good thanks" ... I waited. Dad's NEVER phone just to chat do they. 

Dad: "I'm just thinking about how you have to be careful about what you put in writing"

Me: "Mum's spoken to you about my post hasn't she?"

Dad: "No, of course not." .... Blatantly had. That's a team for you right there.

If amateur dramatics are your bag that would've been your perfect time to tap the lines. I refused to 'censor my writing'... until I re-read what I'd written and thought "oh shit yeah, that's a bit unprofessional." It's a small world after all and it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this blog belonged to me, if you knew me!

Unwittingly and painfully, I clicked Revert To Draft and started wondering should I remove my own Mother from my subscribers list?

Here's the dilemma:

Your Mum will always be your number one fan. She'll have been the first to head to your site when you told her you'd started a blog. (Immediately after you've explained what a blog is). 

She'll read each and every post without fail. 

No-one will follow your blog more loyally than your Mum, and therein lies the problem. No-one will pay more attention to what you write and subsequently worry on your behalf. My sister, about 20 years ago, once ripped a page out of a library book. I mentioned this in a post. My Mum worried the police might get involved.  

She's a lady that's always maintained, Be Careful What You Put In Writing. 

There is of course truth to this. Once something's been shared on the good old world wide web there's no going back. 

Will you at some point regret what you've written? By writing about it, are you immortalising a past that might resurface and bite you on the bum? Have you checked before you write, how long exactly do people serve for stealing a page from a library book, over 20 years ago, from a library that's now closed down? Possibly due to costs incurred from stolen pages.

What's a gal to do then when her favourite hobby is writing on a personal lifestyle blog? How do you find a balance between sharing your 'real' story and keeping your Mum's blood pressure down? 

If you censor your work you risk loosing the emotion behind it. You risk loosing the reality that inspired it. I doubt E. L James flung a first draft of 50 Shades Of Grey in her Mother's direction for a quick once over. Pun intended.

I've decided that I won't remove my most loyal reader from my subscribers list, nor will I write to avoid any concerned telephone calls. 

I will instead adopt a strategy that I found in an on-line discussion about what to do when your Mum brings up something she's read in your diary...

"If she brings something up just say, "No, that's not for discussion. How's Aunt Winifred?"

Considering I don't have an Aunt Winifred I think she'll get the picture. 

It's important to remember that if your Mum doesn't gasp at your memoirs then something's amiss. However, be mindful about what you write... 'Will I regret sharing this? Will I end up serving time? How the hell IS Aunt Winifred? 

Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to know if you've ever ended up in trouble over something you've written?

It's lovely to be back :) xx

Favourite Things To Do In Florence

Panoramic views of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo

A good friend of mine told me that Florence was his favourite place in the world. Not surprisingly then, I had big expectations on my first visit there this summer. If you like fairy tale pretty places, steeped in history, with stylish shops and restaurants lining the streets, then yeah I suppose Florence is ok. 

In a city that has so much to see I've picked out three of my favourite things to do.

#1 Get your fashion fill with Karl Lagerfeld's Visions of Fashion at the Pitti Palace...

Karl Lagefeld Visions of Fashion Exhibition, Florence

"Today, photography is part of my life. I can't see life without the vision of photography. I look at the world and at fashion with the eye of a camera." Karl Lagerfeld

We'd originally planned to see Michelangelo's David at the Accedamia Museum, but, on arrival decided against two hours queueing in the heat. We sacked off the snaking queue in favour of exploring the city further by foot, which is when we found Karl Lagerfeld's exhibition.

After only a small wait for tickets we were in and wandering amongst 200 elegant images "celebrating Karl's diverse and elegant approach to photography." 

I left plotting ways in which I could ever afford anything Chanel, and how I could become the muse of an 83 year old silver fox and legend.

If you fancy seeing images that flutter from the ceiling, mirroring the movement of models on the catwalk, then you'll have to be quick as the exhibition ends on the 23rd October 2016. Budding photo gazers grab your camera and go go go! 

#2 Eat and fall in love with La Menagere...  

La Menagere Restaurant, Florence

La Menagere is one of the most atmospheric, interesting and absolutely wonderful restaurants I've ever had the pleasure of eating in. So stylish is this restaurant that you run the risk of going home and stripping your walls back to the bare plasterwork, with the belief it might just look as amazing as La Menagere. 

We dined by candlelight and played discreet 'name that tune' as the pianist performed. With guacamole ice cream to start, yes you read that correctly, the menu matched the décor in the standing out stakes. Restaurant by night and bistro by day I can't recommend it enough. Where else can you feast, then pick up fresh flowers and nick nacks for your home?

Stylish yet comfortable, this place is an absolute gem and nestles into the back streets of fairytale Florence perfectly. 

Be wary of tourist traps. We had a disappointing meal in a restaurant next to The Duomo which earned top marks for location, but zero marks for cracked plastic chairs, flat Prosecco (which I sent back mistaking it for white wine, which they served again as "no no Prosecco") and mediocre food. 

#3 Watch the sunset from Piazza Michelangelo and never want to leave...

If you take the walk up to the Piazza Michelangelo you can work off some of those Pasta related carbohydrates and enjoy panoramic views of the City. Get your camera at the ready and join in with the happy snappers, all trying to catch that perfect shot as the sun sets on beautiful Florence. 

There's a couple of restaurants and vans selling refreshments so you can wander up there early and claim the best spot, although there's plenty of room for everyone. 

Have you ever felt that watching the sun set is bitter sweet? Calming on the one hand and good for your soul, yet on the other there's a fleeting sense of sadness that comes with knowing another day has come to an end. Oh well, there's always the stars. 

Thanks so much for reading, it really does mean a lot. Let me know if you've any must see recommendations for Florence!! x x 

Getting Perspective & Making A Scene On A Beach

At 4am on the forth night of our Italian getaway, the Doctor said I could leave the hospital. As I walked out into the warm night air with Oliver by my side, I took a deep breath, exclaimed, "we're free!!" and gave him a squeeze that bit tighter than usual.

It felt wonderful to walk again, even if it was an entire lap of the hospital perimeter looking for our rented Fiat 500 (no prizes will be awarded for spotting any Brit in Italy clichés). 

We had just taken part, unwittingly, in an unplanned excursion to Chiavari hospital after causing a scene on the beach that gave Weekend At Bernie's a run for its money. 

Let me take you back to the start. 

We'd spent the last two days sightseeing in Milan, exploring and eating our body weight in Gelato (when in Rome Milan). The next leg of our journey was a drive to the picturesque coastal town of Chiavari. Picked at random as our base for the next three nights because of it's location, we were blown away by how pretty it was, and more than ready for some seaside relaxing. 

We kicked back on our sun loungers with nothing more planned for the day than getting lost in a good book and taking the odd dip in the sea. 
As I got stuck into Spectacles A Memoir by Sue Perkins, which on a side note is laugh out loud funny, I felt all my stresses start to fade away. It's so much easier to concentrate on a book when you're lounging by the sea, with nowhere else you need to be. 

After a couple of hours we sauntered to a beach cafe for a bite to eat while I secretly judged exactly how pale I am in comparison to every olive skinned beauty that happened to pass by. Pretty pale in case you're wondering. 

I consoled myself with the thought that, pale I may be, but poorly accessorised I am not. I was beach ready in a Tommy Hilfiger bikini, Ray-Ban Clubmasters and a red bandanna tied in my hair (think more Amy Winehouse and less Hulk Hogan). 

Accessorised and relatively content I asked Oliver about the book he'd been reading. As I listened to him talk, out of the blue, I started to feel 'funny' and not in a way that you'd laugh about. 

Me: "I feel funny"... then nothing. 

In the seconds that followed, while I, slumped in my chair, was in the midst of the complete oblivion that comes with a black out, Oliver jumped into action. 

In what I'm hoping was a shocked attempt to bring me round and not the sudden release of frustration pent up over the three years that we'd been together, he threw a bottle of water in my face and slapped me twice. He's adamant only gentle slaps, although of course I have only his word for this.

If I've ever been grateful that there wasn't a wet fish to hand, this was that time. 

In the bizarre moments that followed everything was very strange. For a fleeting moment I had completely forgotten that I had ever been sat in the beach cafe. In the seconds after 'nothing' before I returned to the beach, my thoughts raced and I was totally and utterly swept along with them, as though they were playing out in front of me. I had been in my thoughts, sitting their helplessly while they raced and I was swept along with them, momentarily oblivious that I was supposed to be somewhere else.

My racing thoughts were based on the last conversation that Oliver and I had been having, which was about the book he'd been telling me about. I never knew the title but it was about doping amongst cyclists. It was the first time I've ever randomly blacked out and the first time my thoughts have ever raced about cycling. 

I'm forever thankful he hadn't been reading a Steven King thriller. 

Meanwhile as my faculties returned, my thoughts changed from doping scandals to wondering why Oliver was knelt down on the floor in front of me. I also wondered why three Italian women had gathered round and perhaps most importantly why my bandanna had come off?

To cut a long story short (which is something my Mum often says after telling you the entire story) an ambulance was called and we spent the next 14 hours in Chiavari A&E. I had tests to rule out anything sinister, died inside a little as I bared my bare white breasts to a tanned Italian doctor while Oliver was in the room, a drip to rehydrate and the rare opportunity to finish Sue Perkins Memoir while hooked up to a heart monitor. 

Tests showed a high count of white blood cells indicating that I had an infection or virus of some sort. This, combined with the heat, had most likely caused me to conk out, which is not a medical term. 

It was, it seems, just one of those things. 

As the 14 hours ticked by I laid on the trolley and watched the comings and goings in the Italian hospital that we'd found ourselves in so suddenly. 

Apart from the moments when we couldn't look at each other for fear of bursting into laughter when a few people in the ward suffered from wind that could've been mistaken for a ship docking, I was so happy to have Oliver by my side. 

He snook me comforting contraband chocolate chip cookies when the doctor had said no food. He repeatedly told me everything would be ok and calmed me down during each and every panic attack of the day. There had been a few, I'm a delicate soul.

He made me laugh when I was wheeled from waiting room to doctors room and back again when really I'd felt like crying. 

He'd carried my drip for me when I needed the loo and had been afraid to carry it myself for fear of passing out again. I told you I was a delicate soul. And even though we both knew that I'd ruined a part of our holiday, he never let any disappointment show. 

So lovely a soul is he, that as the sun began to set on what was supposed to be a holiday, he found himself roped into helping the women in the beds either side of me. He passed them drinks and put their drinks away again, closed curtains and opened curtains again. He told them he couldn't speak Italian but they chatted to him anyway. 

When 4am finally rolled round, and the room had finally stopped spinning, I was able to stand up. My tap dancing days weren't as earlier feared, over. 

I mimed to the elderly Italian lady sat dutifully by her daughter's bedside to the left of me that we were going home. She'd been sat there lovingly and patiently for hours. Bravely pottering about tending to her daughter whenever needed.

I'd desperately wanted to chat to her, comfort her a little or just pass a bit of time. As the lights dimmed on the ward patients in the beds slept if they could, but those sat at their sides could only sit there and wait. How frightful and lonely a time it must be, sat there, endlessly waiting, just in case that person that means the world to you needs you.

My Italian was as little as her English so we never got much further than smiles and mimes, although my apology was hopefully clear when she failed to lock the toilet door and I trotted straight in. 

Although we failed to chat, when I dressed to leave she understood. We were going home. She smiled a heart warming smile that showed genuine happiness for us. She beamed and shared that moment of relief and happiness with us, even though she was faced with what must be any parents worst nightmare, to be sat at their child's hospital bedside.  

You can tell the ones who are in there for the long haul. They know the drill and take it all in their stride, or seem to on the outside anyway. 

I thought about that lady and her daughter for a while afterwards. How brave and together she was. How lovely she was. Even though we hadn't spoken I could just tell.

Our trip to the beach had been the most bizarre experience. It had been frightening to be so far from home and not sure what was happening at times. I'd been prodded, poked and slapped, twice, but gently.

In the days before collapsing in Chiavari I'd been quietly obsessing over my holiday outfits. Fretting about the dress that made my hips look like they could birth a rugby team. Bothered that you could see wobble at the top of my legs when I wore hot pants and horrified at some of the photos that were taken. 

Me: "Deeelete it"

I'd still been cringing over a chance encounter with a huge fashion blogger who I never did hear from after she said she'd look up my blog. I'd taken her silence as confirmation my blog wasn't good enough. 

I decided Italy would be a break from blogging and social media. A chance to spend quality time with Oliver and forget all about the on-line world. 

As I'd laid in hospital with bed pans to my left and right, amongst frail injured bodies, I'd felt entirely lucky to be able to stand up and walk out when our time came (which was 4am, did I mention that?) and entirely silly for all the fretting I'd been doing.

We waved goodbye to the lady to my left and quietly walked out. We walked away from those whose fates would have them stay a little longer. Those like the chap who couldn't lay still for much longer than ten minutes before having to quietly plod to the toilet, for the umpteenth time, drip in tow, while nobody waited at his bedside.

If I'd needed perspective, at 4am on the fourth night of our Italian adventure I finally had it and I'd never loved Oliver more. We'd seen Milan, we'd seen Chiavari's A&E department and we'd seen each other. 
In the grand scheme of things a Tommy Hilfiger bikini is neither here nor there. Well it was actually in the hospital provided placky bag. 

May the following act as reminder if you find yourself caught up in comparing yourself to people on-line... things often aren't as rosy as they seem!

Thanks so much for reading this lengthy and soppy post it really does mean a lot xx 

Blogging & The Curse of Self-Doubt

"The more you can be yourself, the more successful you will become." Michael Atavar

Apart from all the things about me that look nothing like her, I'm a dead ringer for a 1960s Twiggy. Basically it's the hair. I have cropped hair. 

My cropped barnet has, in a round about way, played it's part in a) a downwards spiral into self-doubt and b) making me feel very left out when the messy top knot landed. I'd love a messy top knot.

My androgynous locks had got me wondering why I was paying in the region of £50 every five weeks for a trim, when I had little hair to come off in the first place. With a non-conformist air of "we'll see about this" I started getting my hair cut at a barbers. No appointments. no washing, just a short back and sides for £8!! I had beat the system (the over priced hair salon system) and was thrilled. 

As the months passed however, I started to miss the luxury of a salon and my hair was starting to resemble a thick winter hat shortly after each cut. I was also growing tired of being queue jumped by men at the barbers, assuming I was waiting for someone else. "Get in line mate wudya, it's actually ME that's waiting for a 4 on the sides, 5 on the top."

My hat hair and I longed for a salon visit again. 

With my hair struggles in mind, for our 3 year anniversary, Oliver, (my boyfriend who I'll name from now on because 'boyfriend' sounds a bit wanky) told me to book in at whatever salon I liked as his treat. I chose Trevor Sorbie in Manchester. So there I was, three weeks ago, happy as Larry flicking through a magazine while my colour set. 

As the red dye started to slowly seep across my hair line, one of my favourite, and huge, fashion bloggers sat in the chair next to me. I follow her blog regularly and always check her Instagram so to see her randomly in the flesh was completely surreal. Star struck, I nearly fell through the floor!

Should I say hello or not?? As a firm believer in signs and fate, it was too much of a coincidence to not say anything. 

It is with deep regret that I write to say, I fangirled. Badly. My heart was pounding, I couldn't string my words together properly. I suspect she feared for my sanity and her safety. 

Despite me behaving like a 13 year old girl meeting One Direction. she was, as I'd expected her to be, completely lovely. She chatted and answered my questions and said she'd look up my blog. I should have said that that would mean the world to me, but instead, through nerves, I asked if my hair colour made me look like Sharon Osborne. To sum up, I hit her with a barrage of questions then talked about myself. 

On the train ride home I started to cringe. 

Over the next couple of days I wondered if she would ever get round to looking at my blog? A few days passed and I never heard anything from her. I came to the following conclusion. She had either;

a) never actually looked because I couldn't have sold it to her any worse than I did ("it's a bit funny and there's a coffee shop in it") or b) looked and thought it was dreadful. 

That was decided then. My blog was awful. 

My salon trip began to really trouble me. My ego sensed a vulnerability and had a field day. I couldn't shake off the feeling that I just wasn't good enough.

A few days later, as I was packing for what was to be a dream get away to Italy, the nagging feeling wouldn't leave me. I was about to be living La Dolce Vita with Oliver, so why was I still obsessing over an embarrassing introduction to who was essentially a stranger on the internet?

I'd started blogging as a hobby, a bit of fun and a chance to practice writing. I didn't expect at the age of 32, to get wrapped up in self comparison to the extent that it would start making me feel bad about myself.

Instead of enjoying the content that other bloggers were creating I had, without realising, started to soak up everything that they were sharing. I was comparing my life to a snapshot of a stranger's life created for the on-line world. I'd even been going hell for leather at the gym* in the run up to our Italian adventure, trying to get honed and toned before I donned a bikini.  

*not quite 'hell for leather' but I HAD been going to the gym

I'd underestimated the influence of the blogger. 

In the run up to our holiday, and during my self-doubting slump I received an email from a homeware company asking if I would be willing to include their products in a post. They weren't however going to be sending a product sample. Instead I would have to imagine what the product might be like and write about that. 

I wasn't willing to write about a product that I had never seen in the flesh and from a company that I had never heard of? I had no way of vouching that the product was any good.

I politely declined, unhappy with the direction my blog had started to head in. Not only was I expected to write about imaginary bed linen, been shunned (not really but sort of) by one of my favourite bloggers, but I hadn't toned my legs or stomach how I'd wanted to. I would have to go to Italy with my legs still wobbling a bit at the top. I knew it was all ridiculous and highly unimportant but I just couldn't shake feeling bad about myself.

I had become completely swept up in trying to mirror the images on-line that I was scrolling through daily.

Not Your Nine To Five was never started as a platform to shove products at people. It was started so that I had somewhere to write and to make people feel a bit better about themselves. Instead it was starting to slowly chip away at my happiness. 

I finished packing and was raring to escape. All I needed to do was get my head out of social media and stick it slap bang in the middle of 'real life'. Italian 'real life' as it happened. 

If I couldn't get my perspective back after exploring Milan, Chiavari, Portafino and Florence then I was beyond all hope...

... To be continued 

"...be careful of the pull towards conformity." Michael Atavar

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