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Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

A very quick note just to say a very Merry Christmas to you all! Thank you for the support you've shown for A Little Bit of Everything so far. It means more than you know! Wherever you are & whatever it is you are doing today, enjoy yourselves. Days spent with loved ones happen far too rarely these days, so make the most of the ones you have., and spare a thought for those less fortunate.

I wish you all the very best of everything for your Christmas,. Eat, drink, celebrate. Give your time, show gratitude when others give you theirs. Be generous, be kind, be fun! I'll see you on the other side!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Festive frenzy

Ok, I have been utterly rubbish at updating you all recently I know. This time of year always seems to turn into a frenzy of shopping, socialising and trying to catch up on everything important at work, attempting to avoid the inevitable 'what did I forget to do?' moment that happens to all of us the minute we leave, not to return until January has settled.

This year is no exception, and is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. So this is a whistle-stop tour of the past week.

My home town seems to have turned into a hub of newness recently, with brand-spanking new coffee shops, ice-cream parlours, patisseries and bars springing up all over the place. Last Thursday was the 1 year birthday of one of my favourite newer additions, Lost & Found. A quirky little space just off of Bedford High Street, you'll find some of the best cocktails available for any excuse you can muster. Scrubbed wooden benches and bottled light-bulbs make for an offbeat but snug atmosphere. All cocktails were on offer for £5 on their birthday so we headed down there to help them celebrate.

Just some of the lovely concoctions on offer at Lost & Found

The very same evening, we'd been invited to the official opening of Artisan Tap, a new bar on the High Street, replacing the much-loved and now-missed Bear pub. My rather gorgeous friend is working in the newly opened 'Tap', and the opportunity of a good catch-up and the chance to suss out the new spot was too much to refuse.
As a former patron of The Bear, I was wary of its replacement, but I really did enjoy it! Prosecco on tap, artisan spirits by the bucket-load and 80s music in the background, what's not to like? It looks great, and while it's not the same beloved High Street spot it once was, I'd recommend anyone local or just passing through to give it a chance, I don't think you'll find yourselves disappointed.

Friday night saw a much-needed and long-awaited catch up with friends (and lots of bubbles), Saturday night was spent celebrating a relative's 10 year wedding anniversary (congrats guys!), Sunday was all about rest and recuperation (my liver was in need of TLC and water!).

Alas there really is no rest for the wicked. Last night we went to Cineworld's secret cinema screening. So secret, the audience doesn't know what they'll be watching until it begins! I won't lie, I was (not so secretly) hoping a galaxy far, far away might pay an early visit, so when the infamous music didn't start there may have been a smidgen of disappointment. Not for long did that last though. In the Heart of the Sea was the film of choice. Starring Chris Hemsworth it tells the historical tale which inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, if like me, you love a movie beast and some old-fashioned tale telling, it'll be one for you.

The rest of the week is pretty full-on too. Christmas lunch tomorrow, Christmas dinner on Friday night, a uni get-together with my old housemates at the weekend (I'm sure there'll be much to tell afterwards, so I'll try to stay coherent long enough to remember some of it!), a college get-together Sunday evening and then into Christmas week. I'm exhausted just thinking of it! I'll keep you all posted of my goings-on and anything interesting I may stumble upon.
   

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Kitchen-based beauty - Avocado


Whenever I go food shopping, I try to be as health-conscious as possible. Admittedly a few sinful goodies might find their way into my trolley, but I attempt to be good. One item that usually gets grabbed on the way round is avocado. A handful of already-ripe (I'm too impatient to wait for them to ripen at home) avocados will make their home in my fruit bowl, until I mash one up with lemon juice and black pepper, team it with chicken and sriracha (my favourite condiment) pop it all into a pitta bread and take it to work for lunch. It's delicious, and incredibly good for you. Not exactly a kitchen cupboard staple, I know, but stay with me.

Avocado is famed for its health benefits.Rammed with vitamins, nutrients and healthy fats, it keeps a healthy heart, promotes eye health, and ensures that we get the fibre, potassium, and Vitamin E (amongst others) that we need. However, it's always the case that I'll end up with at least one left languishing in the fruit bowl uneaten, beyond the point of being desirable lunch fodder.

I started to wonder, would it be as beneficial if applied to our hair and bodies? So I did some research.

Avocado can be used in a multitude of ways in your daily health and beauty regimes. The flesh, mashed up and applied by itself as a face mask, leaves you with beautiful, glowing skin that feels plumped and refreshed. Apply to your face, leave for 10 minutes and rinse, then apply a small amount of coconut oil to moisturise if you suffer from dry skin.

Avocado can also be combined with coconut oil to create a hair mask. A variant of the oil mask I told you about in my previous post, mash the avocado and a tablespoon of coconut oil together with an egg yolk, apply all over your hair and leave for 10 minutes then shampoo and condition as normal. This is a great for achieving shiny, manageable hair. This can also be done by substituting the coconut oil for avocado oil, for dry, frizz-prone tresses.

Avocado and avocado oil can also be used as a moisturising lotion. Again, combine the two, apply all over or where you have particularly dry skin, leave for a few minutes and wash off in the shower. 

It can be combined with aloe vera for face masks, oats and brown sugar for body scrubs, with honey for a facial cleanser, the list goes on. Next time you have one floating around the kitchen and you're not quite sure what to do with it, try one of these suggestions!



Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Kitchen-based beauty vol. 2


As many of you now, I was singing the praises of the beauty benefits of coconut oil and apple cider vinegar in one of my recent posts. Having grown tired of the often expensive and usually ineffective results of the beauty products out there, I turned my attention to my cupboards at home and began rummaging, in the hope of finding something more successful. So far, so good.

I've started picking up on the benefits of using bicarbonate of soda (baking soda to my USA-based friends). Used for a range of different purposes, it's being lauded as a must in our daily ablutions. I'd like to point out, I'm no scientist, I don't know the ins and outs of the effects that these things have, I can only work on personal experience. If you have sensitive or reactionary skin, please research these things before trying them, I don't want anyone to suffer adverse reactions on my advice.

Firstly, it can be combined with a small amount of water to create a paste, and used as a hand exfoliator. Gentler than some shop-bought brands, where the grains can be too harsh, or the cream too stringent, it soothes dry skin, leaving a smooth, soft feel afterwards. Rub gently into the hands using circular motions, and rinse in warm water for the best effect. If you suffer with dry hands like me, apply some coconut oil afterwards to moisturise.

Likewise, it can be used as an all-over scrub. Again, mix with a little water, creating a paste, adding oats if you wish it to be slightly more abrasive, and once in the shower, scrub away, being careful to rinse thoroughly.

Adding a spoonful to a warm bath can soothe irritated skin, while soaking away the day's grime and relaxing muscles. It also helps cleanse nails and cuticles ready for a manicure, and can be used to wash away product build-up in hair, either by creating the paste mentioned before, or adding a sprinkle to your usual shampoo, rubbing through and rinsing out.

Also used for bad breath (useful with all those Christmas brussel sprouts coming up!), sparkling teeth, even deodorant, Bicarb of soda is another handy chap to have tucked away in your kitchen. And when it's not being used as a beautifying god, it's pretty handy for baking delicious cakes too!   

Window Wanderland & Christmas Tree Heaven

As Christmas is approaching, I'm throwing myself into all manner of different events, trying to build up as much Christmassy cheer as I can muster. This weekend was no exception, attending not 1, but 2 Christmas staples of my hometown.

First up came the annual Christmas Tree Festival, which takes place in St Paul's Church, and raises money for the Bedford Hospitals Charity. Each year, local businesses, charities and schools decorate Christmas trees to a specified theme. This year's theme was 'The Joy of Music', treble clefs, musical notes and sheet music were very much the order of the day! The local schools produced some beautiful decorations, the Rotary Club did themselves proud, and, fittingly, the Cats Protection charity produced a Cats the Musical tree. All trees were available for purchase, adding to the coffers of the charity.


We attended on Saturday afternoon. Having paid our entrance fee, we made our way into what resembled an enchanted forest. Trees adorned every available space, some with twinkling lights, others dripping with musical notes. Festoons of tinsel and clusters of baubles could be found in every nook. A beautiful choir sang carols and Christmas classics in the background, while everybody else had the pleasure of milling around and taking in the trees in all their splendor. It was a wonderful way to get into the Christmas spirit, and we helped out a charity to boot.


The Christmas shenanigans didn't end there. Saturday evening saw the Black Tom Window Wanderland take place. Residents in the area signed up to decorate their windows in various themes for the pleasure of the public. Tours were held on the evening, and the residents took the opportunity to go all out to impress, collecting money for charity on the way.

The residents really did themselves proud, the windows looked incredible. So much effort was made by all, it was really very special. So many brilliant themes were chosen, from a Dreams window, to Hansel & Gretel, Frozen (with the actual movie playing in the background, so the little ones (and some of the bigger ones) loved it), to Santa at Home, where we found the big guy snoozing away in front of the T.V. We attended the 2nd tour of the evening, with around 15 others. The first tour was said to have had about 50 attendees, and people were milling around with maps of the windows to visit by themselves, so the whole event made a big impact. It all ended at the Burnaby Arms (who participated with a very pretty window of their own), where votes were cast for favourite windows, a band was playing, and the drinks flowed. The overall winner was the Good King Wenceslas themed window, which really did look wonderful. But congratulations should be offered to all who participated, you did your neighbourhood proud and raised cash for charity. Thank you for the experience!
Dream a little dream
The Burnaby Arms' candy cane infused effort
Even the sleeping Sylvanian families got in on the action
Hansel & Gretel discover the gingerbread house
And Star Wars made an appearance too.
 The winner!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Kitchen-based beauty

At 28, I feel like I've been chasing the best kept beauty secrets for years. Naturally wavy-haired, I've battled frizz, dryness and the dreaded bed-kink, a special annoyance reserved for beach-barnetted goddesses who are not destined to be able to sleep on damp hair.

My skin has received equal focus, and been victim to various masks, scrubs, peels and potions. Whilst I've had varying levels of success, I'm still hunting for those perfect products. I must have invested a countless amount in beauty products, and been repeatedly disappointed.

Recently, I decided to take a look into alternative products, those that wouldn't immediately spring to mind when I'm thinking 'beauty'.

My first trial was coconut oil. I'm behind in the game I know, but it's been a revelation. Hair conditioner, moisturiser, make-up remover, make-up base... this little beauty has become a must-have edition to my bathroom cabinet. With the exception of the Mane 'n' Tail range (http://manentail.com/), nothing has ever left my hair so soft and healthy. Melt 3-4 tablespoons (or however much will cover your hair, mine is long and thick, and this amount is just about right) of oil in a bowl, allow to cool slightly so you don't scald yourself, then distribute evenly throughout your hair. Wrap your hair up in a towel or Turbie towel (http://www.turbietwist.com/), and leave for at least an hour. The longer you leave it in, the better the result, if you can sleep in it and rinse out in the morning. When rinsing, shampoo at least twice, otherwise you run the risk of oily hair. I still apply a small amount of conditioner to mine, but do what suits your hair type, and then rinse as normal. I do this every 2 weeks. My hair feels amazingly healthy and looks better than ever. Likewise, coconut oil has had a wonderful affect on my skin. I apply it as both a face and body moisturiser, but be sure to leave yourself time to allow it to absorb when using all over. It's a fantastic make-up remover, and has the added benefit of moisturising at the same time, so you have 2 products in 1. Even better, it's so readily available. Every supermarket and health shop is stocking it. My favourite, Optima Raw Virgin Coconut Oil, is available in Grape Tree (http://www.grapetree.co.uk/product/coconut-oil-500ml/), and is cold pressed and non-GM.

Inspired by my coconut oil discovery, I've recently been looking into what else lurking in my kitchen cupboards can be hijacked into my beauty regime. Apple cider vinegar has repeatedly made an appearance on forums, web pages and other blogs. It reportedly has a long list of benefits, both beauty and health, and is being raved about the world over. The one must, is that it has to be organic. I happened upon a bottle of Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar in my cupboard so decided to test a few of the theories. The first thing I read about was how good cider vinegar is for your hair, so off I jumped into the shower, took my vinegar with me, and tried it out. Shampoo and condition as normal, then do a rinse with the vinegar diluted in water. I used about 3 teaspoons in a glass. Rub through then rinse. To reassure you, I didn't emerge smelling like a bag of Harry Ramsden's finest fish and chips! Again, this was a complete success! Hair shiny and soft, I found it didn't need to be washed as quickly the next time either. I've also used this as a toner, again diluted, and found that I don't need to apply moisturiser (coconut oil) afterwards. And not a sniff of Sarsons about.

Moral of the story: don't be afraid to look for beauty inspiration close to home, you don't know what you might miss out on!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Decorations and illuminations

So, 5 days after running the B Jewellery stand at the Market Harborough Christmas Fair, I think I've thawed out just enough to write to you!

Despite the freezing cold, everyone was in good spirits, bustling about to start their gift shopping. It was such a nice opportunity to meet some genuinely lovely people, which entirely made up for the sore legs and cold fingers at the end of the day! I even had one of my Christmas presents bought for me, so it'll be twinkles on Christmas morning for me! Market Harborough is a gorgeous town, even more so now it is lit up with its Christmas lights. It's always a pleasure to visit.


After making our way home, and heading out for a well-earned drink that evening, Sunday was dedicated to the annual Christmas decoration mission at me parents house. This is a serious affair, my dad and I don't trust just anyone with our tinsel and tree. We sent my mum out shopping and got down to business. Their entire home now resembles a well put together grotto so I feel we were successful in our mission! Putting up the decorations with my dad is one of my favourite activities of the year. I get my love of Christmas from him, so prancing around the living room belting out 'I wish it could be Christmas every day' is an apt way of spending time together! I even managed to swipe some extra tinsel and baubles for my own mini-grotto.

After the lights had been strung up, the baubles hung and the tinsel draped, I was off out again, this time to the cinema. I caught Mockingjay Part 2. Not a huge fan of the book, I still felt like I should see the series through to the end, and I'm glad I did. You won't hear me say it often (it's akin to blasphemy in my world), but I actually preferred the film to the book. It was a slightly depressing end to an otherwise festive day though!

I'm having a calmer week this week, with a few more nights in, so I've been relatively boring of late. But I'm back in action this weekend. The Black Tom area in Bedford is hosting its annual Window Wanderland event. Locals in that particular area sign up to decorate their windows with festive fun, open their doors and host bands for people to come and listen to, play movies for people to watch, or hand out Christmassy refreshments. It will be the first time I've attended so I'm looking forward to joining in with the community and admiring the effort that has been put into making the event. You can make your own way around the area, or join up with one of the tours, which meet at Park Road Methodist Church at 5.30pm, 6.30pm or 7.30pm. The tour ends at the Burnaby Arms where you can vote for the most impressive window. If you'd prefer to make your own way around, find the map of windows to visit here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zlfMnkeH1psU.kKfTlrPJFJcA&hl=en_US.

It's also the Christmas Tree festival at St Paul's Church taking place from Wednesday to Saturday at 10am-5pm, and Sunday from 2pm-5pm, in aid of the Bedford Hospitals Charity. The money raised is donated to both the charity and the church, with admission at £2.50 for adults and free for children. Local children's choirs and cellist group Cellophony will be performing throughout that time. For more info visit http://www.bedfordhospitalcharity.org.uk/treefest.

I'll be trying out an eggnog recipe at some point over the weekend, if a success I will of course share. As long as I'm still sober enough to type that is!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Christmas lights and sparkly sights

Before the weekend hits full swing, I thought I'd quickly fill you in on the past couple of days. This weekend is promising to be a busy one, and I'm not sure when I will be sat still long enough to talk to you all again before we enter next week!

Last night, the Bedford Christmas lights were turned on, with the support of an excellent fireworks display. Oohs and aahhs heard all over the place, the kids and adults alike seemed to be having a wonderful time. We took root outside the Embankment Hotel (after possibly, just maybe, popping in for a drink beforehand) to enjoy the festivities, before taking a stroll around the town, hot chocolates in hand, to enjoy the now-Christmassy atmosphere. My friend, my new work mate who is also new to Bedford, came along too so we showed her around the town, pointing out our favourite places to go.

We made a couple of stops along the way. I'd spoken often (and highly) of The Flute to Natasha, so we stopped off for a glass of prosecco. It's my favourite place to go when I'm craving bubbles, so I recommend you try and stop by over Christmas. It's a gorgeous little nook tucked away, definitely well worth a visit. Check them out on Facebook to see opening times and events.

Next we went slightly further out of town to The Three Cups. Anyone that reads my posts will already have heard about the Cups, I do like to pop in there! It's a great pub, it always has a buzzing atmosphere and the staff are lovely.

Today I was meant to be London-bound to see a show but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. Plans are being rearranged so hopefully I'll have a story worthy of your time soon! However, my day did start well, as I received my new, beautiful angel wings earrings thanks to the gorgeous Bel of B Jewellery. I'm a girl that loves all things sparkly, so jewellery will always be an acceptable addition to any day! They've been in my ears ever since and they won't be leaving any time soon!
I'm now off to join that lovely lady for dinner, so I'll be getting the drinks in by way of thanks! Don't forget, if you are free and in the area, I'll be manning her ship at the Market Harborough Christmas Fair tomorrow from 10am until 4pm. Please come and say hi if you are around! And perhaps, if you're feeling generous of spirit, bring something hot to drink, it gets bloody cold in that marquee! Have a lovely weekend all. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Christmas is coming...


Finally, it's allowed to be said, (the Coca Cola advert has been seen, so it's official), Christmas is indeed coming.

I love this time of year , with all it's shimmer and socialising. I'm not one of the many out there that begin to get excited in September, but I do enjoy the build up - buying the presents, decorating the house, taking part in the multitude of festive events that start cropping up.

Having had to dispose of my old tree last year (it had given up the ghost), and wanting new colours to replace the old, I've started from scratch this year, to my bank manager's dismay no doubt. But I have acquired some beautiful decorations, I'm itching to put them up!

My Christmas, like most others, has its traditions. It's always spent with my grandparents, who are generous to a fault, keeping everyone well fed and hydrated for the day. When I asked what I could provide to contribute to the day, my grandfather requested some of the homemade wine I gifted them last year, as he hadn't had the opportunity to try the last batch (my nan had demolished it with a friend of hers one evening), so my demijohn is, again, bubbling away like a demented cauldron in the corner of the kitchen. It will hopefully be ready for bottling 5 days before Christmas, so this year is promising to be quite a boozy affair!

We popped along to the Christmas evening held at Frost's last week, to take a look at their displays and see if we could pick up anything else to add to the already grotto-shaped mass of baubles and tinsel in the corner of the living room. They had a wonderful live band playing, the wine was flowing, the mince pies were being passed out, and everyone was merry. Trees festooned with all manner of decorations in every shape, size and colour towering over the shoppers, lights twinkling, flashing and glimmering from all corners. It was all really rather lovely, and certainly seemed to be cajoling everyone into the spirit of the season.

There's so much coming up over the next few weeks to look forward to. The big Christmas light switch-on in Bedford will be taking place on Thursday evening, so you'll find me propped up with some good friends in The Embankment Hotel, with some mulled wine and possibly a Christmas jumper. Friday sees me off into London for a theatre trip with a generous friend who's treating me, before whizzing back for Saturday, when I'll be in Market Harborough for their lights switch-on and manning the jewellery stall at the craft fair for my lovely friend Bel. Sunday, the decorations are going up, and the Castle Quarter Christmas celebrations will be in full swing. Then on to more festive shenanigans the following weekend. Photos and stories will follow!

Friday, 20 November 2015

B Jewellery


A while back, I worked in the jewellery trade, selling gorgeous twinklies to whoever might want them. I moved out of that world a couple of years ago, but an incredibly talented friend of mine broke out on her own, and began designing, making and selling her own range of silver and gold jewellery, and bespoke pieces.

Belynda (Bel) has turned her hand to everything a customer has asked her to make, as well as producing some incredibly beautiful, imaginative pieces for her collection. She even produced my friends wedding bands. They were seriously pleased!

Last Saturday, Market Harborough hosted a craft fair in the town square. Bel had taken her jewellery down for the day, and I tagged along to help out (shop!). We had a great day. It's a beautiful town, and we spent the day surrounded by extremely talented people. There are some wonderful things to be found at these kind of events, I cannot encourage you enough to attend any that are local to you. I loved wandering off for a mooch around the stalls. I picked up some incredibly beautiful christmas decorations, courtesy of Very Shabby, Very Chic (https://www.facebook.com/VeryShabbyVeryChic/). Beautiful vintage goods are on offer, from decorations, photo frames, candle holders... I could have spent a fortune! A woman very much after my own heart when it comes to style. Do visit her Facebook page via the link above and see where she's heading to next, her stall is well worth the visit, plus she's such good fun!

Back to the jewellery! People love the fact that Bel offers gorgeous products that are all handmade, a lot of love and attention to detail are poured into her creations, and her customers can tell that. As she says, she only makes jewellery that she would want to wear! The other incredible thing about B Jewellery are the prices. Unlike high street jewellers, Bel sources her materials, makes every piece herself and directly deals with each customer, allowing her to be fair and reasonable on her prices. You get a lot of sparkle for your money!

I love helping her out when she has craft days. I get to hark back to my jewellery selling days, seeing if I still have the knowledge lurking in my grey matter. I also get to spend time with a highly valued friend, and I get to play with all of her wonderful creations, so it's a real win-win situation! Spending time with customers, witnessing their pleasure at buying something gorgeous, and hearing the stories behind their purchase is something I've missed from my time in jewellery retail, Bel lets me go back to it. People are always amazed that she produces all of these things herself. Even I am, and I've known her for years!


I'm lucky enough to have my very own collection of B Jewellery loveliness floating around in my jewellery box. I've got more on the way! Plus it's wonderful to know that other friends of mine have viewed Bel's work and loved it so much, they trusted her to make the most important pieces of jewellery they will own, their wedding rings. With Christmas coming up, her website really is the place to look, whether you're looking for something special for a loved one, or looking for an extra special something to complete a festive outfit (boys, that's aimed at you too, she makes fantastic cufflinks, tie pins etc.). Take a look at her collections and some of her bespoke pieces at http://www.b-jewellery.co.uk/. Alternatively, I will be manning the helm at Market Harborough on the 28th November, Bel will be there on the 27th, so why not pop down and say hi. The Christmas lights will be going on that weekend and festive cheer will be all around! 
One of my pieces, the Talking Parrots. It's always commented on!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Beirut and Paris


This Friday, I headed out after work to my friend's house, where I was spending the night. We haven't seen each other for a while, so we ordered a takeaway, set up at the kitchen table with a bottle of red, and shared our meal, catching each other up on life's recent events. We decided to head to the village pub afterwards, enjoying the company of the locals and looking forward to our day on Saturday, selling her jewellery at a craft fair. Our thoughts didn't much extend beyond our weekend and the enjoyment we were experiencing. Then we arrived home and did the now obligatory Facebook and Twitter checks before heading to bed. That's how the news of the attacks on Paris reached me.

I started this blog, not as a political platform, or a space to vent my opinions for others to read and judge. I want this to be a refuge, a haven for sharing ideas, good experiences, adventures. I want to offer something pleasant for you to read. I like to think that, so far, I've delivered. But when something monstrous occurs, the only thing to be done is to face it head on and address it.

This past week, 2 countries have experienced heartache beyond measure. Lebanon on Thursday, France on Friday. People are, understandably, scared, fearful, angry. No matter how many times we hear of such atrocities, they still take our breath away. For that I am glad. I will never accept these occurrences as the norm, I refuse to. The day that I am not shocked, surprised or immediately appalled by these types of action will be a very distressing day indeed. They will never be acceptable.

Every time these stories hit the news, I am aware of how such actions are intended and designed to make me feel. They are designed to cause suspicion, public outcry, and disjointedness between cultures. We are being urged to look at one another questioningly, to be mistrustful and scared. Don't. Feel defiant, feel unity, feel determined. I will not allow such things to alter the way I look at strangers. I refuse to judge people any differently than I have in the past. If anything, we need to pull together. Now more than ever, we need to look after each other, support each other, and trust each other. If we can't, they have succeeded. Don't let them. There is the obvious threat of future attacks, the UK itself has been at its highest security level for months. People have talked of avoiding big shopping centres, and city centres across the country 'just incase'. I understand, but I won't be following suit. I will be heading to London in the next couple of weeks, and I won't be deterred. Again, if I did, I'd feel like I'd let 'them' win.

Those in Beirut and Paris that aren't waking up with their families today are in my thoughts, as are the Lebanese and French who are coping with the aftermath of the weekend, and anybody else who has suffered as a result. I have been, and will be, lighting a candle in my window each evening since. It's a small gesture, it might seem trivial or unimportant to some. But it's a way of saying that you are being thought of. That there is still light out there. That we're there for you. It's reminding me to be grateful for what I have.

I apologise for such a serious post, but in the light of such events, it seemed necessary to address them. Sobering though it is, despite how much we may want to focus on light-heartedness, these things keep occurring, and we shouldn't ignore them.    

Friday, 6 November 2015

Halloween Fun at The Pad

My last couple of posts have been all about my recent visit to Cornwall, and I still have stories to tell you all from said trip. But I wanted to fill you in on my Halloween antics before it's too out of date!

I adore Halloween as I'm a horror fan, and love the weird and wonderful. Plus it's the time of autumn, pumpkins and big woolly jumpers so I'm all for it!

Each year we try to do something different. Scarefest at Alton Towers was a particularly good one, and we've popped along to the local cinema on more than one occasion to see old school horror films make a big screen return. This year wasn't far off, but instead of popping along to Cineworld, we went to The Pad, a local nightclub, to watch a screening of Scream.
Previous Halloween being eaten

First, a Pad history lesson. An old terrace house tucked away in Lurke Street, a back street of Bedford, the Pad has been up and running as a club in one of its several guises for decades. Always a place for and run by real music lovers, Winkles, Limehaus and now the Pad has catered for mods, rockers, the indie crowd, held drum and bass, dubstep and garage events, hosted silent discos and generally been home for me and many others for a long time. I spent most weekends for years in the Pad, the only place bar The Hob where skinny jeans, Converse and a band tee was acceptable and expected evening wear. Plus it was the only place I could listen to Bloc Party, We are Scientists and Maximo Park. The Pad has significant influence over events that occur in Bedford, and stepped in to host Halloween on behalf of Cults for Cats Protection.

The Pad already has a pretty underground feel, with bare brick walls, low lighting and dark paint, so the Halloween decorations - cobwebs, spiders and obscenities scrawled over every wall in glow-in-the-dark paint - looked right at home. The popcorn maker was churning, cakes and sweets lined up for sale, and the bar was open.
The Pad looking extra spooky
After buying our drinks and having a quick catch-up with friends who were also there, we took our seats and settled down for the movie. I'm sure most have you have seen Scream, so I won't be going into detail about the film, but I will say it's one of my absolute favourites! It was a nice, blood-soaked nostalgia trip!

As much as I love a night out, especially in fancy dress, it was really nice doing something a little different. Granted watching a film is in no way original at Halloween, but doing it sat in the middle of the dance floor, at your favourite nightclub, whilst the Addams' Family and Harley Quinn are in the rows next to you, is pretty special. And it was in all in aid of a good cause. A great night was had by all, and the cost of the ticket also gave you entry for the Pad's more traditional Halloween club night. We didn't take advantage of this, with an early start the next day. So off we headed home, for more movies, copious Halloween themed snacks, and a pint of Wychwood's Pumpking each.

There are plans in motion to show Die Hard and Elf over the Christmas period at The Pad, so give them a follow on Facebook to keep up-to-date of any news. If you buy tickets for both, it will work out cheaper - bargain! I'll be the one in the corner, wearing my Christmas jumper and stuffing myself with mince pies!




Thursday, 5 November 2015

Cornish Adventure part 2

After drinking St Ives dry on our Sunday day out, and waking up to some horrendous rain on Monday, we decided to take a drive into Newquay and visit some of our favourite haunts. As much as I love all parts of Cornwall, Newquay holds a special place in my heart, simply because it was the first place I visited there.

It was a late start to the day. Heads were sore, mouths were dry and breakfast couldn't be faced, so recovery time was needed. Eventually dragging ourselves from bed, showering and dressing, we made our way out. First stop was at Healey's Cyder Farm on the way to Truro. An odd choice for the day after a mammoth drinking session, I know, but there is so much to do there, not to mention one of the best cream teas you can buy. Plus we needed to stock up on their famous Rattler!

It's changed drastically in the year it has been since we last visited, with a more contemporary entrance, the huge viewing platform/giant barrel inserted at the front, plus the tours now have a different look. As was before, you can tour the entire facility, including a tractor ride around the orchards, watching the cider-making and bottling process, learning how generations used to make cider, visiting the cellar and jam kitchen, and (the best part) visiting the taster bar. But they now offer extended or shorter tours, self-led tours and a chance to clamber up to the viewing platform. Having completed the tour on more than one occasion, and running behind on our day, we decided to have a mooch around the farm, visiting their resident cart horse in the stables, indulged in the obligatory cream tea (jam first, then cream) and purchased our goodies.

Once we hit Newquay, the hangover hunger massively kicked in, regardless of scones and lashings of jam, so we paid a visit to Jon Buoys fish and chip shop up on the hill. Literally the best fish and chips I've ever tasted, the fish freshly caught, and with a view of the coast to die for as you eat, we always go here. This time around they served up some much needed grub, aided by the fresh, salty air.

Afterwards, we took a much-needed stroll around the town centre, popping in to some of our favourite shops, even picking up a Christmas decoration along the way. One of my must-visits is Cornish Cream, effectively a Cornish hamper in a shop, where you can pick up the most gorgeous bottle of sparkling strawberry wine, Cornish Sunset, or cream teas pre-packed in wicker baskets as gifts. Luckily you can now order online from them, so I can always get my fix - https://www.cornishcream.com/t/visitourshops.

Feeling much better for food, fresh air and exercise, we stopped for a drink before heading back for a cozy night in, feet up, snacks out and movie on. Who says that staying in can't happen on holiday?!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Cornish Adventure part 1

It seems like an age since I posted, and I apologise for the radio silence, but I've been off galavanting around the country. More specifically, down to Carbis Bay in Cornwall. I've gorged myself on fresh seafood and Cornish gin, and caught up with a lovely friend who moved down to St Ives a while back.

I have mentioned a few times in past posts my love for Cornwall, and I try to get down there at least once a year. Everyone has places that they visit that they immediately feel comfortable in, I have 2, Cornwall is one of them.

Normally Newquay is home for a few days over the summer. But this year we fancied a change. We stayed at the adorable Green Apple B&B, a stone's throw away from the beach. It's a quirky, vintage find, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
Vintage breakfast room

The view from our breakfast table
One of the benefits of knowing a local is that you can pick their brains for the best places to visit. After taking a leisurely stroll from Carbis Bay, along the beautiful coastal road, into St Ives, Sunday lunchtime found us all meeting at The Sloop, one of Cornwall's oldest inns. It resides on St Ives' wharf and has been serving thirsty customers since the 14th Century. It's a traditional 'fisherman's' pub, with low ceilings, wobbly floors (you don't need to drink to feel off-balance!), and tankards behind the bar. It's charming, and incredibly popular. We were lucky with the weather, glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze, so we sat on the wharf and caught up, making friends, both human and four-legged along the way.
Beautiful Carbis Bay beach
The fresh sea air down there is wonderful, but it does build an appetite. A suggestion was made that we visit The Beach Cafe Bar. It's a neat little spot on the wharf, tucked away in a nook. I knew I'd like it when I saw their huge Tarquin's Gin display! Another reason I love Cornwall so much is that it has produced one of my favourite gins, so any bar that serves it is fine by me!


We took a look at the menu and eyed up their Smidgen boards. A Cornish tapas, you could choose to try 1, 3 or 5 of the delicious dishes they offer. With 3 of us dining we opted to order two 5 smidgen boards, and one 3 smidgen board, with a selection of West Country cheeses, sourdough, parfait, cod goujons, garlic salami and (my favourite) seared scallops with pea relish. It was so good in fact, I had no opportunity to get a snap of the food before it was devoured! So here's the website to make up for it - http://www.beachcafe.bar/food/.

Another gem of a find was the Firehouse Grill. After lunch, cocktails were on order so we headed here. A cool, modern haven from the bustling street outside, the food smells delicious as you enter. Having consumed our body weight in smidgens though, it was definitely just a drink or 2 on the cards. Seating ourselves at the bar, we had a read through the drinks menu. A mojito on one side, a Spicy Storm on the other, I was definitely in the gin zone and asked for something to be put together for me. Our cocktail maker is a friend of our friends down their, and he seriously knows his stuff. Opting to make me what I was told would be the best G&T of my life, he poured my drink over cucumber and rosemary, and I have to admit, he was right. After that came a Singapore Sling, my favourite cocktail. It's a fantastic stop. The atmosphere is great, the staff knowledgeable and friendly, the products on offer well thought out and definitely tasty. If you're in that area do visit. You can find out more at http://www.firehousestives.co.uk/, and check out their Instagram account to see how lovely their stuff looks - https://instagram.com/firehouse_bar_n_grill/.

St Ives is a great place to just wander around, absorbing everything around you. There is a wealth of galleries displaying local art, artisan delis serving only the freshest produce and places selling odds and ends, goodies that you wouldn't imagine finding. It was bursting with life, even at this late stage in the year. We had a great afternoon strolling about, picking up treats (and dare I say it, a couple of Christmas presents too).

We stopped off at the Rum & Crab Shack for a dark & stormy (the cocktails in Cornwall take some beating!), then headed off back towards Carbis Bay for a while before venturing out for dinner.

We found ourselves getting colder as the sun set behind us on our walk back to Carbis Bay, so sought refuge in the Cornish Arms, cozying up by their roaring fire.
One place that's always a must visit on our travels down south is The Hub. We first discovered their food at their Truro branch on the recommendation of a local who we'd pressed for the best burger in town. She directed us the The Hub Box, a converted container on Lemon Quay. We knew it would be worthwhile when we saw the queue! Gourmet burgers, hotdogs, craft beer, it offers real comfort food, fast-food style, but with so much more style. The St Ives branch is on the harbour, and you can look out at the waves while enjoying your meal. Definitely throw out the healthy eating for one night if you find yourself outside one of their restaurants. Details found at http://www.hub-stives.co.uk/.

We then took ourselves back off home, well fed and watered (or ginned in my case!). It was a perfect end to our first day.

Check out my blog Instagram for more photos (link on the home page), and keep an eye out for the next Cornwall installment!





Friday, 23 October 2015

Not so summer holiday

Last year's day trip to St Ives.
Where most people enjoy warm, sunny breaks away in the summer, this year I decided to book my break in October. Not just because autumn is beautiful and my favourite season, but the usual boring 'money/busy at work/don't have time in the summer months' excuses too.
July is normally my time of escape. Cornwall has become a ritual trip every year, so I'd shove a handful of summery clothes in a holdall, jump in the car, and 6 hours later we're there. Glorious sunny weather, endless stretches of beach and seas so blue they hurt your eyes. Needless to say my bikini will be staying firmly in its drawer this year. I love sea swimming, I don't love hypothermia.

I'm still seriously excited. Cornwall is just stunning, and I imagine autumn makes it even more beautiful. A bag full of jumpers and cosy knits will keep the cold at bay, and I'll be off stomping around the countryside. And maybe still getting my toes wet on the beach.

I normally stay in Newquay, I love water sports and the laidback surf culture there is my kind of thing. But this year I'm off to St Ives. I've visited before, but haven't stayed for longer than a day. I'm so looking forward to exploring. It really is a beautiful spot. Great views, wonderful places to eat, and an old-world charm that entices you to stay. Plus a friend of mine lives there, so I'm looking forward to a catch-up, over cocktails of course. That's not to say that I won't be retreading any familiar ground. I may have to pay a visit to Healey's Cyder Farm to stock up, and the temptation to visit one of my favourite restaurants in Newquay may result in a cross-county drive. Plus the shopping in Truro is pretty good...!

So I will be off the grid for a few days, but needless to say, I'll be reporting on my adventures when I get back. If I come back. I make no promises. Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Turmeric and the golden milk

Recently, I've been trying to be more experimental with my diet and exercise. I don't 'do' diets, but I do like to change things up, for example, adding white tea to my routine, or trying sriracha. I recommend both. White tea has a beautifully delicate taste and made a marked difference to how well I felt after a few days of drinking it, and sriracha is just delicious, I eat it on everything!

I know some of the products out there can be 'faddy' or seem insincere in their health benefits. But as anyone who reads my posts knows, I regularly indulge in less healthy options, so it's nice every  now and then to incorporate a food, drink or ingredient that is healthier. It's not always successful (I can't abide coconut water for example, it just doesn't suit my tastebuds), but it is always fun to try.

I'm always on the lookout for new ideas, or even old ones that I haven't necessarily come into contact with. Matcha is on my hitlist at the moment, as is turmeric. I keep seeing Instagram posts and Pinterest articles about turmeric's health benefits, and the concept of 'golden milk', a turmeric based beverage that is meant to have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing.

I have the spice in my cupboard, it's a staple for any homemade curry and comes in handy to have around. I'm quite tempted to try this idea out, but I wanted to do my research.

There is a lot of noise about the brilliance of golden milk. Firstly, you make the 'golden paste', recipes of which vary, but is predominantly turmeric, black pepper and water. This is then added to milk, or a milk alternative, such as almond milk, and with flavour variations including vanilla, honey, coconut oil and cinnamon. The idea behind the drink is to draw all of the nutritional and medicinal benefits from the turmeric, and create a tasty drink.

Turmeric is lauded for its supposed benefits: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, clearing of the skin, anti-cancer properties and blood purifier. It's important to note that this isn't hugely researched, particularly not when it comes to human trials. But it has been in use in eastern philosophy and medicine for centuries, and some research has been conducted into seeing whether these benefits actually exist. It should be said that it has been suggested that anyone on anticoagulant medication should approach with caution, as it is believed to have blood-thinning properties so can have a negative impact. However, it is not believed to have any negative outcomes, as long as ridiculous amounts are not consumed, and a lot of people out there are swearing by it. I tend to take these recommendations with a pinch of salt, but I am intrigued by what I might find.

Variations of golden milk recipes can be found at the following websites. I'll be trying a few of them out to see if I find one to suit me. I'll keep you posted!
http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/golden-milk-recipe-with-turmeric-and-virgin-coconut-oil/
http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/golden-milk.html
http://www.instructables.com/id/Golden-Milk/

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Apple Day at Bromham Mill

I've been going on about it throughout a few posts now, and today Apple Day finally arrived!


A celebration of all things apple, Bromham Mill is a beautiful setting to celebrate it. I've been going for a few years now and look forward to it every October, it's become one of my favourite autumnal traditions.

There's a real mixture of things to do, and it's a quintessentially British affair. Apple bobbing, cider bars, hog roasts, Morris Men dancing for the crowds.

The first thing we do on arrival is have a good nose around the stalls. There's a multitude of stands - food, preserves, drinks, crafts, charities, all catering for the thousands who visit. The first we came across was the Owl Sanctuary, being supported by some of their most feathery friends.




We then came across our friends from the Happy Brewer. Anyone that's read my previous posts will know that these are the guys I turn to for all of my home brewing goodies. Last year they helped me make my own white wine, and advised me on what to do with my sloes from making sloe gin (making Slider). Today they were convincing me of the benefits of making your own spirits at home and advising me of what kit I would need to start up. That's my new project sorted for January! The Happy Brewer is a family-run business, with a real wealth of knowledge about the products they sell and how to make the best home brews possible. This all stemmed from brewing being a hobby of theirs, before buying the shop 5 years ago. They offer great service and are just lovely, genuine people. I can't recommend them enough! Find out more about them at www.thehappybrewer.com


After visiting the next few businesses sharing their wares, we made our first purchase. We met the lovely Elisabeth Evershed on her homemade cider and soft drinks stall. What caught my eye was her gorgeous ginger beer. 3 varieties were on offer: traditional, cinnamon and damson. I tried the traditional and damson, both of which were stunning. As a huge fan of all things plummy, I went for a bottle of the damson ginger beer, with its delightful pink hue, a fruity flavour with a gingery kick. We also had a chat with her about her products and how she sources her ingredients. Neighbours and friends of hers are happy to allow her access to their fruit trees, collecting windfall to make her drinks. It's wonderful that people are so generous. Find out more about Elisabeth at http://www.evershedscider.co.uk/Introduction.html.

A little further on we met Jo from Uniquely Yours by J. Jo makes utterly gorgeous memory boxes, photo frames, mirrors, wooden bunting and butterfly and heart hangings, all hand painted and so, so sweet. Everything on her stall would make a wonderful gift for someone, and with Christmas coming up, it would be great idea to see what she has to offer. Either that or you can treat yourself, I'm thinking about it! Jo doesn't have a website but she is on Facebook so go over, check out her page and give it a like. She'll also be at the upcoming Vintage show at the Centre MK.

After our first sweep around the stalls, we were feeling a bit parched, so it was time to visit one of the cider bars. Local brewers and micro brewers offer up some of their best ciders (hard cider to our American friends), it would be rude not to sample some of them. I tried a lovely example called Burrow Hill. Smooth and tasty, it was a great choice. Suicider was the choice of my partner in crime, and if the name doesn't give you an idea of what it was like, the shocking orange colour of it would have!

After that, we visited the stalls inside the tent set up for the apples. I was treated to some Falstaff apples (yum), and some bottled local brews from Glebe Farm including a refreshing strawberry cider. I also received a beautiful ruby and gold coloured glass candle holder from The Lemon Tree as another treat. I've visited The Lemon Tree stall at several events, admiring all the lanterns, tea light holders, candles and wind chimes. I bought a gorgeous lantern from there some time ago, and had hoped to see them again soon. Today was my lucky day!


After buying some very fresh corn on the cob from the fruit and veg stall, we took a walk through the woods, back to the car, and off to the local pub, The Swan for a quick drink before home and warming up. 

The weather wasn't up to much, being a grey, dowdy blanket on the day, but it dampened no spirits. The fayre was as popular as ever, with people flocking to visit. The mill is beautiful no matter what the weather, and the trees offered some much needed shelter when the rain decided to pay a visit. It was a fantastic day, I'm already looking forward to next year!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

French Toast Indulgence

As much as I like to get out and about, it's been ages since I had a day at the weekend with nothing planned, to do with as I pleased. No must-do shopping, no urgent housework, no big evening outing.

So I started with a lie-in. Not something I'm prone to do (although it does have a tendency to happen when I don't intend it to...), but it was thoroughly enjoyed. And how better to follow up a lazy lie-in than with an indulgent brunch?

One of my favourite things to throw together when hungry and not hugely concerned about being healthy, is french toast. It's soft, gooey warmth is always a winner, especially on a cold morning with a cup of white tea. That's white tea leaves, not black tea with milk!

Not overly difficult to make, and adaptable to most toppings, you only have to rely on a few cupboard essentials to throw it all together. I pour/measure freehand when making these, so please forgive the lack of measurements.

First, crack eggs into a bowl. Use 1 egg per 2 slices of bread if using large eggs, if in doubt do this, then pop an extra into the bowl just to be safe. Pour in a good glug of semi-skimmed milk.


Then add a healthy dose of ground cinnamon and about 1/2 - 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Anyone who doesn't like cinnamon or vanilla, feel free to experiment with a favoured spice or flavour. Nutmeg is another personal favourite of mine.


Take 2 slices of slightly stale bread per person, and thoroughly coat in the mixture. Using stale bread ensures that it will retain its shape and not fall apart.


Heat some butter in a large frying pan. Once the butter is sizzling, place 1 or 2 slices of your bread into the pan. If cooking for more than 1 person, place the slices into an oven-proof dish and place into a pre-heated oven. This process doesn't take long so there's no fear of them drying out.


When all cooked, stack onto a plate, sprinkle with icing sugar and maple syrup. Enjoy!


Golden syrup is another popular choice in my house. If you want a healthier alternative, top with fresh fruit and yoghurt, or drizzle with honey and sprinkle some chia seeds and almonds. The world is your oyster.

Apart from eating my bodyweight in french toast, I indulged in not one, but 2 films. Ah the benefits of an Unlimited Card!

First up was Crimson Peak. I'm a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro and Tom Hiddleston so this was a must. It's a new take on an old genre, paying homage to the gothic romance, and I have to say it's really well done. A great film, and perfect with Halloween coming up.

A glass of red at the local pub broke things up, then it was off to see another del Toro, this time Benicio, in Sicario. Based on the USA government's war on mexican drug cartels, it's a deep thinker. Possibly a little too deep for Saturday night fodder, but a good film none-the-less. Emily Blunt was her usual brilliant self, but del Toro steals the show.

It's been lovely to have a day to really indulge in things that I love, with nothing else threatening to occupy my time. And with Apple Day to look forward to tomorrow, it is just looking to get better and better! Now I'm home, and it'll be a cup of tea and a good book to end a lovely day on an even lovelier note.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A quick catch-up

After a couple of weeks of threatening to happen, this weekend I finally succumbed to illness. Which was rubbish because we had so much planned that couldn't happen. A couple I am friends with had a naming ceremony for their lovely little boy, but I couldn't attend. A catch up with a friend home for a few days from Cornwall was missed. I was not impressed. I did manage to squeeze some fun in at least!

I did manage to pop to the Bedford Beer Festival on Friday, and spent a couple of hours trying various different local beverages. I even managed to convince my folks to attend this year, which was fun. They seemed to enjoy it, so I think it may become an annual outing! I love the festival. Anyone that reads this blog will know I enjoy beer, so it's no surprise I enjoy a festival dedicated to the stuff!. I also love the atmosphere, everyone is just looking for a relaxing evening, socialising with friends and enjoying a good drink or 3. I discovered some great local pints, and one of my favourites was present, Plum Mild produced by Banks & Taylor Brewery (http://www.banksandtaylor.com/index.htm )based in Shefford, Beds. It's a fruity dark beer, a little on the bitter side but with a hint of chocolate. And it goes down far too easily! It's served in my favourite 'proper' pub, the Wellington Arms, that's if you are lucky to grab a pint. It's a popular tipple! It was a lovely evening. Everyone is so friendly at these events, and it's always a popular place to be.


Unfortunately, Saturday was very much wasted. I hate being ill, there's always a sense of what was missed out on while you're languishing away in a heap of duvets, tissues and self-pity! So I dragged my backside out of bed on Sunday, determined to be more productive. What actually happened was that I was hugely spoilt.

We decided to drive to Milton Keynes and have a wander around the shops, but there was a purpose. A new hat and lipstick were on the agenda. First, a visit to the MAC counter in Debenhams. I've wanted a new autumnal colour for ages and finally had the opportunity to hunt one down. I wanted a berry colour, not too red. But as a blonde and as milky-white as can be, I thought this may be a struggle. However, it wasn't as traumatic as it could have been. After decorating my wrist with a selection of stripes, I found the perfect colour. Hang-Up is one of Mac's cremesheen range and described as a deep berry shade. The more you layer on the more intense the colour. Blotting it leaves a pretty, berry hue that lasts beautifully. It's a fab colour for this time of year, and you don't need the complexion of a sun bunny to carry it off.

Next up, I was hunting a hat. On my way around Covent Garden during a recent trip to the city to see Lord of the Dance, (see review here: http://lilysalittlebitofeverything.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/lord-of-dance-dangerous-game.html) I found a gorgeous hat in Accessorize. Oversized and floppy, in a lovely soft pink shade, it was perfect for autumn/winter days out. Rather than traipsing it around London, I decided to wait until I got home to buy it here, only to discover that my local store doesn't stock it. Luckily MK did not let me down! Find it here at http://uk.accessorize.com/view/product/uk_catalog/acc_5,acc_5.32/8910321400. Even nicer, I wasn't allowed to spend a penny, being treated to my lovely new goodies and a spiced pumpkin latte as well.

When we got home, the slow cooker was, the house smelled amazing and was warm and toasty. Reading and some colouring in the evening and I was worn out. A perfect Sunday.

I think I'm getting quite good at this!


I'm slowly on the mend thankfully, hopefully meaning I'll be posting more in the coming week. I'm determined to be completely healthy by next weekend, Apple Day approaches and I'm not prepared to miss out!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Rugby World Cup: Fiji v Uruguay 06.10.2015

Last night I was lucky enough to go to my first rugby match. It also just happened to be a World Cup rugby match. The friends that took us are my official favourite people of the month!

I've been attending football matches since I was 11. I've seen some of the biggest teams in the world, and visited nearly all the top stadiums in England. I love live sport, the atmosphere, the skill, the bringing together of thousands of people with a common purpose. I can honestly say that last night was one of the best experiences at a sports event I've had.

The atmosphere was electric, from boarding the bus in the centre of Milton Keynes, to arriving and entering the MK Dons Stadium. One of the pleasures of watching 2 teams you don't have a vested interest in is that you can kick back and just enjoy. Members of the crowd were waving both national flags, wearing the shirts, donning the scarves, not because they were Fijian or Uruguayan, but because they wanted to show appreciation for the teams preparing to put on a show for us to enjoy. 

Our seats were ridiculously close to the pitch, our view was fantastic! Even watching the teams warm up was enjoyable. Everyone stood respectfully as the national anthems were sung, and then the Fiji team kicked off the show in style, performing the Cibi, a war dance adopted by the team in answer the All Blacks Haka. It was amazing watching these guys roaring at their opponents and got everyone into the spirit of the occasion.
Fiji Cibi
Then the game kicked off. In the first 30 seconds, a Fijian player murdered the corner flag nearest us, obviously finding it offensive! Credit to both teams, they gave it their all. Fiji took an early lead, but Uruguay admirably kept up the pace, constantly fighting back. An impressive feat considering the size differences between them and the Fiji team. Those boys are huge! Number 11 is forever christened Juggernaut in my mind now (his real name is Nadolo but I'm sure he won't mind), the guy is a tank. At one point, one Fijian player had 4 Uruguayan players clinging to him in the hopes of wrestling him to the floor, and still he powered on. There were some brilliant tries, incredibly flamboyant plays and downright chancing, it was a great game. 7 tries for Fiji and the game was won.












There's a lot said about the English, particularly regarding sport. We get a lot of good natured abuse (some not so much), and we take it in good humour. We occasionally like doling it out too! Last night, I was so proud of my nation. When it comes to this kind of event, we really show up. I doubt there were a huge number of true fans of either Fiji or Uruguay in the stadium last night, but both teams had a wealth of support. Every player got cheered on, every play was applauded. Each point scored was celebrated like we had won the final. Say what you will, but our hospitality, our spirit and our willingness to support others is immense. The Olympics 3 years ago was a huge demonstration of Britain's capacity to put on a glorious show, to welcome the world into our home and throw them a party. Last night was a lovely reminder of that. I hope they felt at home. the fact that last night's crowd, at 30,048, was the largest ever hosted by MK's stadium says a lot.

We're not in it for ourselves anymore, something England fans will shake their heads in disappointment at for years to come, and no doubt something our Welsh companions will enjoy reminding us of too (and the Scottish and Irish for that matter...). But I'm so pleased I got to be a small part of it, and that the English are throwing themselves into supporting other teams in the tournament, happily waving the flags of other nations and enjoying the spectacle of the World Cup. 

In the meantime, I'm going to sit here and hope that we host it again in my lifetime, so that I can catch a few more games. Until then I'll settle for the 6 Nations, and hopefully rectifying that bloody score against Wales...