Sunday, March 24, 2013

The high street makes me sad

I'll start this blog by saying I love Cheltenham. I love living here and have no intention of leaving. In a way, this post could be about any high street, and it genuinely makes me feel sad. Cheltenham is not even the worst affected but if we don't start doing something about the decline of our high then we may as well close all shops and turn the centre of towns into flats or supermarkets. I can't even tell if people are interested in doing anything about it. 

The photos aren't great - it was freezing and threatening snow - but I think the grey helps to make my point.

My mum was walking into town the other day, down the very street I've photographed, and overheard someone say "It's looking a bit tatty isn't it".

Yes, is the answer. Cheltenham looks tatty. But only on the high street. It's plainly evident that a lot of money gets spent on the Promenade or Montpellier. When I was a teenager I didn't even go on those streets because the shops were too expensive!

Now, they don't even look like they want people to walk down the high street. The bit that stretches from The Restoration Pub down to the Cheltenham & Gloucester (a brand that itself will be disappearing, along with all the local heritage that goes with it) looks so tired. It's charity shops, betting shops and sandwich shops. New Look has a great store up that end, but it's the only one. The Disney store, next to Millets, next to HMV - a huge expanse of storefront, with HMV about to close, will soon be a big block of empty shops.

Cheltenham used to be wonderful. I used to be so proud of my town, now... I'd rather go shopping somewhere else. This is happening everywhere, and the worse thing is, I can't think of a solution. I am just as guilty of shopping online as the next person, but there's nothing like walking round a shop picking stuff up and buying on a whim. I still visit bookstores because I love books, and I love finding a random one that I otherwise wouldn't have picked, that turns out to be excellent. Same with clothes.

I also know I'm slightly hypocritical as I love shopping centres. But I do only visit them infrequently - Cheltenham is the place I WANT to visit on a weekend, and I want it to be a good experience! Am I asking too much?

But there is light for Cheltenham. They are completely rebuilding the front of the Regent Arcade and that will hopefully reignite a section of the High St that needs waking up. We're FINALLY getting an H&M (I know, I'm easily pleased!) and I can't help feeling hope that we can be proud of our town again.

And because I didn't want to be totally depressing today, Cheltenham still has it's highlights. If you're in town, check out Pepper Crescent, a lovely cafe that does lovely lunch and cake.

Cheltenham, I love you. But pull your socks up please. And not just for Race Week.
The Party Shop is the only one that's been there for years - the rest come and go

The mobile clinic used to be Game

Bye, bye HMV. PLease someone snap up this space!

Another empty storefront on the right

It just got busier

The Promenade, looks better in sunshine

A wonderful hideaway - Pepper Crescent

Sunday wishlist #4

Yet another week when the ridiculous cold weather has me scouring the internet - either looking at holiday locations or planning what I'll wear when I'm there!

This week's wishlist is yet again based on my upcoming holidays. Every year I dream of looking effortlessly cool and chilled when away in a hot country. In reality, I'll be the one looking like a big, sweaty mess. My hair does NOT like heat - not quite Monica from Friends - I'd kill for that volume - more a limp mess that doesn't know what i wants to do.

This year I'm starting early with the holiday wardrobe planning...

Warehouse, £56
I want, want, want this dress. This photo does not do it justice. I should have bought it this week - there was a 25% off voucher in Grazia. Fingers crossed for a future offer!

H&M Conscious Collection, £19.99
This fashion that is good. It's sustainable. I'll never look as good as Vanessa Paradis does in the advert. Doesn't matter because it's sold out. Gutted.

Warehouse, £18
Just cute. That is all.

Warehouse, £28

You can tell I'm craving sunshine.

Am off to Cornwall for Easter weekend, and would love some sunshine. As it stands, I'll be packing the wellies, my North Face jacket and woolly tights.

Gotta love the British weather!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tourist for the weekend

Last weekend I headed to the big smoke for the weekend, to see some friends and get away.

I like London. But I couldn't live there - I tried, for six months. Now I like to be a tourist, and know I can go home at some point!

I stayed at the Lodge Hotel in Putney. I have a few weird habits, and one is that I don't like staying at people's houses. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I hate putting people out... Even though my friend told me off for not staying at hers (and pointed out that if I'd stayed with her, I could have bought the handbag I fell in love with, instead of spending the money on a hotel) I still chose to stay here. I love my own space, and if there's even the slightest chance I might be hungover, I just don't like seeing people.

I got to London on Friday night, later than planned. Thank you to the new car park where the M4 used to be. I have never been more grateful for a gin and tonic, and they served up a lovely one. The hotel is really reasonably priced for London, it's spotless and the staff are great. It almost felt quite empty as I didn't see any other guests - I've stayed in other London hotels where u can queue for ages to check in and breakfast is a mob, but it was quiet here.

I watched a bit of Comic Relief but fell asleep still holding my book and ipad, so an early night was needed.

On Saturday I headed to my favourite place ever. Westfield. Yes, I know... it's full of chain stores and I'm sure there are pretty little streets of independent shops, and big shopping centres are killing town centres. Yeah, I still love it there. But I'm not supposed to be shopping so I'll just say nothing...

Then I found my new favourite shop...

Saturday evening was the reason I'd headed to London. I met up with the girls I used to live with for a fab dinner and gossip. We headed to Il Portico - owned by my friend's cousin. I cannot recommened Il Portico enough - the food is just heaven. We had plenty to gossip about - with me feeling very jealous of their London lives - and I felt quite sorry for the couple sitting next to us who had to listen to our probably quite detailed stories!

We had such a good catch up, and it was so good to see the girls. There's never enough time to catch up on what we're doing, so already planning a return trip.

Then we went to Bodo Schloss. This is when I felt really old and just not a Londoner. Firstly, when we turned up (before 10!) they were full and not letting people in. Whatever. Then, when we came back after 11, they charged us £20 to get in. TWENTY POUNDS?!?!!? To get into a ... I guess you can call it a club. £20. Unbelievable.

I stayed for a bit and danced for about a minute. It was so good to see the girls, but it was getting close to midnight and I was tired. They all looked fresh as daisies and like they were probably gonna dance for a while - I just wanted my bed! I am so old!!!! I am aware this makes me sound like a grandma, but hey... I was knackered.

So off I toddled back to the hotel, ate a giant bag of pretzels and passed out. After paying a ridiculous taxi fair obviously.

Love you London. Don't love your prices.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday wishlist #3

I was in London this weekend and was this close to buying an item from this week's wishlist. Walking from shop to shop in the rain I was in one of those moods and needed cheering up. I popped into Liberty (seriously, how nice is that shop!) and happened to wander through the handbag department.
I love handbags. I don't necessarily treat mine with the respect it deserves, but I do like to spend quality time in nice shops, stroking the nice bags

And I found this one.
Marc Jacobs, £310, Liberty
Yep, it's a plain black bag. But that's what I'm currently looking for. It's beautiful. It's so soft and I nearly caved. But i was so strong, I walked away. Even finding the link for this picture was dangerous so I might leave my bank cards at home next time I wander through the shops!

But let's face it, £310 is silly money.

At the slightly more affordable end of the scale...

Glittery cluth, Oasis, £45
Yeah, it's sparkly and I'm like a magpie. Like.

And still hunting for dresses for weddings this summer.

Maxi dress, Ted Baker, £199
I love Ted Baker maxi dresses. However, I don't look good in them. I try them every year yet always look massively pregnant. Not a good look (unless you are, obvs).

Whenever I read other people's wishlist posts, some of them try hard to come up with weird stuff you just wouldn't find near you. I make no apologies for choosing high street stuff, ok except for the designer handbag - that's what the high street is there for! Maybe one day I'll feature something from a small Cheltenham boutique... but they're mostly a bit fancy so I don't go in many of them!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Food wishlist #1

I loves my food.

My confession is that I am a bit scared to try new things. On a menu, I'll stick to what I know - if something sounds different then it's likely I'll ignore it and go back to my usual. And don't get me started on Nachos - if they're on a menu I can't even read anything else on the list! Maybe it's because they're glamourous crisps...

But part of my 'not being lazy' thing is going to be about trying new things. And new places. Not just sticking to my normal pubs and restaurants but trying the ones other people are talking about... Or maybe finding some cool ones of my own.

Here's a few places I'd like to try (and if you're heading to the races this week then you might think about trying them).

I also love the Curious cafe (no website) on Bath Road, Cheltenham. A hidden gem, perfect fry ups for that Sunday hangover and a lovely courtyard out the back to hide away for a couple of hours. Always rammed so get there early.

And my personal favourite for a brilliant night out...  The Daffodil.

Hidden in a back street of Cheltenham, the building is an old Art Deco cinema. The food is amazing. The cocktails are amazing. It feels special but not awkward. I love it. Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday wishlist #2

More window shopping this week...

I'm not ashamed to admit that I am really looking forward to the summer. I love sunshine and hot weather and am considerably happier once it starts getting lighter in the morning and later at night. The first drive to work when I don't have to put my lights on puts me in a great mood!

So because it's grey and miserable today, I've been window shopping for summer gear... we're going to Spain and Oz at the end of their year, so I do need to be prepared!

Seafolly bikini top, ASOS, £54.50
Yep, it's expensive. But it's pretty!

Oasis dress, ASOS, £28
This is ONLY £28! And it's a lush colour and it's sooo cute.

ASOS smock dress, £25
Need to get a tan before I wear this... cute though.
Asos sandals, £28

My feet will look hideous in these, but they're still pretty.

Anyway, better wrap up warm as I believe the winter is rolling back in...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A ruined weekend

Warning: this post will be miserable, soz.

This weekend was meant to be brilliant. Both Nick and I could use our Christmas presents with a long weekend - but alas, it was not to be.

Nick managed to use his present. He spent today at Crufts, courtesy of my parents. It was gundog day, his favourite types - spaniels, etc - as he would definitely not be happy on Toy dog day! Nick volunteers at Bristol Cats and Dogs, and walks all the dogs who are there, so is really quite passionate about them. I've shared two of his (awful) photos but apparently he had a great time and loved every second.

The guide dog display - CUTE

A braccio italiano
On Thursday evening, I felt a bit of a tickle in the throat. Through Friday I got worse. Nick decided to go Crufts without me - at first I was gutted. Then I didn't get out of bed until 1pm today so I think he made the right decision - I would not have been pleasant company!

Next year, maybe...

But I'm really gutted about the rest of the weekend. Cinema trip cancelled tonight. And tomorrow we were going to London, for afternoon tea at Claridges. My Christmas present.

I've wanted to do this for years, and I get ill and we have to reschedule. Luckily we can reschedule - but it won't be for months as they are rather busy. And we lose money on the hotel.

So instead I'm going to sit in bed, whinge and be bloody miserable.

Weekend ruined.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Not as easy as they look

Some things look nice and easy. They fool you. They lull you into a false sense of security. You think you can do it, then BAM... The realisation hits you, that you might not able to. You might not be any good. People will think badly of you.

But it's not your fault.

It's the glossy pictures. The smiling faces of the people who CAN do it. The TV programmes.

Yep, those celebrity chefs have a lot to answer for.

I'm talking about cooking. About following a simple recipe. Because, you see, I can follow one to the letter and STILL GET IT WRONG.

Part of my anti-laziness campaign is to learn to cook. My current culinary repertoire includes: two pasta dishes, chilli (and a damn good one - thank you Good Food), chicken or beef casserole and toad in the hole. Oh, and sandwiches.

Not a massive list if I'm honest.

I read a lot of blogs and when people write food posts, they make it look glam. Everything looks easy and it all turns out right. Right, well I'm going to write about what ACTUALLY happens.

This weekend I tried a curry. A Jamie Oliver curry (I'd link but it's on the Recipes app). I've tried it before and it was nice and spicy and a big hit. This weekend, not so much.

Cooking the rice... So you need to cook the cumin seeds etc in the hot oil. WHAT HAPPENED: they exploded. Popped ALL OVER THE KITCHEN. we're still finding them on the walls.

Garlic... I love garlic. I do not like stinking of it for 3 days because I had to grate it.

Meat: I hate raw chicken. That's my fault, not the recipe's.

You're supposed to be able to cook the curry at the same time as the rice. Yeah right. Good luck with that. It took aaaages.

Spices: I used loads of spices. There was no flavour. I have no idea if I burnt them, didn't cook them long enough or they were just plain dull.

At least it looked like the picture. Sort of.

I also used EVERY Utensil/spoon/gadget in the kitchen. We barely had plates to eat off, and it looked like a bomb had hit it.

This happens every time I cook. I can't instinctively follow a recipe, I just don't get food. I'm not dissing Jamie Oliver, I think he's great - the first time I made it it was fine. Why did it not taste right this time?

Anyway... The cake I made on Sunday was much better. Not sure how I managed to sugar in my hair though.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday wishlist #1

I love shopping. I think I'm an emotional shopper as the slightest bad mood sends me to the high street (or the internet - thanks you lovely internet shopping creators...).

But at the moment I am trying desperately to save for the holiday of a lifetime next Christmas. Yep, it's 10 months away but it's going to cost A LOT so I have to save up the money.

So I am doing some serious window/browser shopping. All the stuff I would normally just 'one-click' and it would appear at my door... I'm not buying it. Or trying to anyway, I've had the odd weakness.

Here's what I've been craving this week...

Beautiful butterfly top from Oasis - I will probably buy this :)
I have the pink one of these but this peach/orange colour is lovely - H&M
They're PINK! - Zara
This is LUSH Coast - I have two weddings this year, think I've found one dress!
It's highly likely that I'll buy everything on this page. Definitely the orange jumper and butterfly top... but I'm being strong and waiting for some offers.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stuttgart - day 3

Day 3 started off very slowly. Because *somebody* was hungover. Yes, of course it was me. 

Can't think why... was perfectly sober the night before...

 After peeling myself out of bed, and out of the hotel room (eventually) we set off for the Mercedes-Benz museum

The museum, again really easy to get to on the S-Bahn, is beautiful. Apparently they created it entirely without right angles, so the whole building is curved. Whatever, it was so cool. 

On entry you take the lift to the top floor (quite difficult when hungover) and work your way back down, through the history of cars. 

The displays are fantastic and the cars amazing.

Here's my confession: I was so hungover, I powerwalked through the entire exhibit so I could sit in the coffee shop at the end with a bottle of ginger ale. I paid 8 Euros to go to this museum and I'm going to have to go back - because all I can remember is what's in the above photographs.

So I sat for a while waiting for Nick to go through the museum, playing on my phone (thanks O2 for the better European pricing on data, although not for the snotty text telling me I went over my allowance on Day 1- oops!!). Nick loved it -  I would need to go again.

Then it was back out into the cold for the journey back to the hotel. After a quick coffee, it was off to the airport.

Thank you Stuttgart for a fab weekend - we'll definitely be back! In warmer weather though!