Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant – A product worth paying that little bit extra for.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant product review.

Shortly before Christmas I was lucky enough to win a bottle of Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant I wouldn’t have known about this product had I not won it and my skin would never have looked or felt so good!

Product Description

This unique Rice-based powder formula activates upon contact with water, releasing Papain, Salicylic Acid and Rice Enzymes that micro-exfoliate dead cells, instantly leaving skin smoother and brighter. The unique Skin Brightening Complex of Aspergillus, Grapefruit and Licorice helps to balance uneven skin pigmentation while a super-smoothing blend of Green Tea, Ginkgo and Colloidal Oatmeal helps to calm the skin, leaving it extraordinarily clear and refreshed. Gentle enough to use on a daily basis.
Photo 27-03-2015 12 28 10I have suffered with blemishes and spots my entire adult life (I am 39) so I began using it with my usual skepticism about whether it would make any difference. It feels like I have tried every over the counter product and routine going… Moisturisers, exfoliates, cleansers, toners as well as increased water intake and dietary approaches. The list is endless. and until now, nothing had ever really made a difference to my skin.
Not any more!! Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant changed my skin within a week of using it. My skin is brighter, smoother, clearer and virtually blemish free. When I went away on holiday, I didn’t take it with me and within days I had an outbreak of spots. Once returning from holiday and I began regular daily use again, my skin cleared up in about three days.
How to use:
The product takes the format of fine powder granules which you pour onto you hand and then lather up with a few drops of water. You only need to use a small amount of the product (less than a teaspoon) which means it lasts a long time. It lathers up as you apply it to your face and it washes off easily. What’s even better is that you can use it daily.
I cannot recommend this product highly enough. It costs about £40, which is significantly more than I would normally consider spending on a beauty product, however, as well as it’s obvious skin benefits, it lasts forever. This will definitely now be a staple on my beauty shopping list.
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Ikea Expedit Bench Hack – Shabby Chic

ikeabenchhackHere is the bench seating I have created in a corner of my living room. It is an IKEA ‘Expedit’ Hack. Note: In 2015 Ikea renamed ‘Expedit’ to ‘Kallax’.

The bench consists of a combination of IKEA Expedit shelf units (a 5x1unit and 3 single units…which have now been discontinued) – the storage boxes are also from IKEA (Drona). The bench cushion was made by my brother (who is very nifty on a sewing machine) – The fabric is Clarke & Clarke.

My brother also made the cushion covers.

The Moroccan Sensory Layer Cake. Trip report – DAY TWO!

For day one trip report, visit here.

—————————–

4 Day 3 Night Private Tour

We had lots of reservations about travelling in Morocco – many of which were eased by reading the extensive and reassuring information provided on Trip Advisor forums. It was a daunting prospect, being two female travellers, having to spend 4 days with someone we’d never met before, in a country that was alien to us. I didn’t sleep very well the night before – thinking what have I let ourselves in for?!

It only took a few moments in the presence of our driver, for my worries to be dispelled. As had been arranged, we were met at our Riad at 8:30am. Mohammed, our driver for the next 4 days, introduced himself and immediately demonstrated his polite, gentlemanly manner as he carried our bags up the cobbled streets of the medina. His impeccable manners and charm were endearing characteristics, present for the entire trip. The vehicle (Pajero) was new, clean, comfortable and well maintained.
Mohammed ensured we felt at ease and was very attentive – frequently checking that everything was ok – and giving us space to take in the sights, at the right moments and providing us information as required. When we were taken to ‘prime’ tourists spots, such as the Argan Oil co-operative, Rissani Market or the Labyrinthe Du Sud, in Ouarzazate, Mohammed gave us a pep talk briefing beforehand, explaining that we should not feel obliged to buy and use the opportunity to get lots of photos. This helped us to relax and enjoy these experiences without feeling pressured. He always hovered at a respectful distance and intervened if he felt it appropriate or necessary.
Day ONE of tour:
Today’s journey would take us from Marrakech, across the High Atlas Mountains, ending the day at Ouarzazate. As we drove out of Marrakech, the looming, snow-capped mountains seemed such a contradiction to the dry, arid flat plains stretched out before us. However, it didn’t take long for the terrain to become more rugged and undulating.

Atlas Mountains

Atlas Mountains

Obviously familiar with this route, within a few miles our guide pulled over to provide an opportunity for us to get some photos. Within seconds of us leaving the vehicle I hear the sound of a creaky bicycle pull up behind us (seemingly out of thin air). Immediately the rider begins his well-versed sales patter “Mineral”, “Amethyst” “photo?”. His ‘merchandise’ was three vibrant (more than likely fake) minerals. As fascinating and as dazzling as they were, I rolled off my standard “Non! Merci”. We quickly learned that we could expect to encounter these sellers any time we stopped… no matter how remote or isolated the spot! During one photo stop, my daughter was busy snapping away at the impressive view, when she turned round and was eye to eye with an outstretched hand containing a pair of lizards…. followed by “You take photo?”. I wish I could have captured her expression at that moment! Needless to say she was back in the car like a shot!

Tizi Ntichka

Tizi Ntichka

After a few hours traversing the winding roads, which snake up the sides of the mountains, we passed the highest point (Tizi Ntichka) – blink and you’ll miss it!

Our driver briefly pulled over to allow for an ‘out of the window shot’! We then dropped down off the main road and our guide explained we were heading towards Telouat Kasbah. Traversing the narrow, rugged roads on this part of the journey, left me feeling somewhat ‘sea-sick’!!

Telouat Kasbah

Telouat Kasbah

Telouat Kasbah

Telouat Kasbah

Telouat Kasbah

Telouat Kasbah

Telouat Kasbah was the only place where we needed to pay to visit (20 MAD). We were fortunate to have the place to ourselves. Mohammed explained the history of Kasbahs in Morocco, and guided us through this now unoccupied and largely dilapidated building. The downstairs area (where the poorer people would have resided) crumbling and in a state of disrepair, was dull and uninspiring and doesn’t prepare you for what’s in store upstairs! Floor to ceiling bright zelije tiles, ornate cornices, ironwork window grates and beautiful hand decorated panels on the doors. A photographer’s dream.

Our next destination was Ait Ben Haddou, where Mohammed explained we would break for 90 minutes, for lunch – “and just relax” he reassured us! The restaurant was clearly a regular haunt for organised trips – with numerous 4×4’s and coaches lined up outside. We now realise that lunch breaks were always taken at restaurants that seemed to cater for tours like ours – I wonder if the guides get a discount? They generally offered a limited set menu costing 100 dirhams (£7 approx) – this you needed to pay for (however breakfast & dinner were included in our tour price).
It was pleasantly warm so we chose to eat upstairs on the roof terrace – with a fabulous view of the famous Ksar – Ait Ben Haddou.

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

It’s a good job we’d been given those 90 minutes to relax, and a hearty dinner (Moroccans certainly don’t hold back on portion sizes) – as the walk up to, and through, the Ksar involved ascending countless stairs! Nevertheless, it was a beautiful example of traditional Moroccan architecture and I particularly enjoyed walking through the many alleyways that were lined with shops – their vivid scarves, pictures and pottery illuminating our way. Simply charming. I took some of my favourite photos along there.

 

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We travelled on to Ouarzazate – Mohammed drove us past the film studios. He offered us the opportunity to visit them, but explained there wasn’t much to see. So trusting his opinion, we declined!

The final stop of the day was the Labyrinthe Du Sud – an Aladdin’s cave with two rooms full of antiques, proudly displayed against striking indigo walls and a vast pillared room, stacked with multicolour rugs and carpets. Mohammed left us in the capable hands of an animated and enchanting man, adorned in indigo blue traditional berber robes and headdress. We were guided through a whole host of artefacts, enraptured by their fascinating and eclectic history, before being led into the brightly lit carpet bazaar! I knew this was where they were going to get into serious sales pitch mode as the mint tea made an appearance! We took a seat, accepted the tea and braced ourselves for the sales pitch! I was quite happy to sit back and enjoy the ride as I knew I only had 200 MAD on me…. I doubt that would have even got me a carpet tile! Berber man and his faithful assistant set about a well choreographed routine, producing intricately made rugs and passionately illustrated each design for us… “these diamonds represent the Milky Way”, “this chevron show shooting stars” “pyramids for sahara desert” ,“this rug fold into suitcase to go on mule”, “this is family rug for marriage”. After being presented with about 15 rugs – getting progressively smaller, the anticipated sales pitch made it’s appearance. 1500 MAD for the smallest one… I took out my 200 MAD and conceded, “I don’t think this will buy anything here?”! Not surprisingly, we were soon redirected to a room containing jewellery and smaller artefacts where we leisurely snapped a few photos before returning to Mohammed outside.
My daughter and I now fondly remember this encounter and chuckle when we see a rug – as it provides an opportunity to try our best to creatively interpret the designs! It doesn’t quite have the same resonance on a brown two-tone IKEA rug though!

Just a 5 minute journey down the road and we arrived at our hotel, Riad Bouchedor. The grand building seemed very out of place amongst the incomplete and under construction buildings surrounding it. The staff were courteous and attentive at all times. The room was probably the best we experienced during the entire trip. Dinner was a fixed menu – and the food just seemed to keep coming (7 courses??). For some unknown reason my phone wouldn’t connect to the WiFi (although my daughters would) – as a result there then ensued about 45 minutes and seven Moroccans trying to get it connected for me…. I really wasn’t that fussed about having WiFi, but I was flattered and appreciated their relentless determination!

The Moroccan Sensory Layer Cake. Trip report – DAY ONE!

Curious to see more of the world, I decided to book my first ever holiday outside of Europe, bringing my 16-year-old daughter along for the ride too. Fortunately she is better travelled than me – having already visited Swaziland last year with her school. After much research and reading of the Trip Advisor forums I opted for Morocco as my destination of choice. My friends told me I was ‘brave’, ‘mad’ and that I should cover up (head to toe). ‘Stay safe’ were their parting words! Clearly these are people who have not truly experienced Morocco.
[THE FLIGHT – ARRIVAL]
Our early morning journey to Morocco began with us having the pleasure (!) of being seated next to a gentleman on the plane who was afflicted with verbal diarrhoea! He deemed it appropriate to tell me his life story, and then continued the one-way conversation by delighting in talking me through mobile phone photos of his dog, Porsche engine, family and 12 beheaded men (as you do)! He also relentlessly tried to get me to join him in drinking his recent purchase of duty free whisky (an absolute bargain apparently)…why am I such a ‘nutter magnet’?! He explained how his last trip to Marrakech had involved 8 men, a villa, 32 litres of spirits and the nightclubs. This time he was bringing his wife back for a similar experience! Lucky lady (?!) Needless to say, his itinerary was clearly very different to ours!

From the minute we stepped off the plane, we were experiencing the sensory layer cake that is the hustle and bustle of daily life in Marrakech. The heat enveloped itself around us. Despite it being mid February, it was pleasantly warm – comparable to a good English summers day. All around the airport, Moroccans were busying themselves (in a way only Moroccans can…often this seems to involve not much, apart from sitting/standing around and chatting)! We could hear the distant throng of a busy city – mopeds, cars, horses hooves, braying donkeys and the general buzz of animated chatter.
On a practical note, when you first arrive at the airport you are required to complete an embarkation card before passing through the passport control, so it definitely pays to have a pen in your hand luggage. Like a good boy scout, my daughter and I were prepared for this. You will need your passport number and hotel/Riad details to complete the form, so make sure these are to hand too.

We made arrangements with the Riad to provide a hotel transfer at a cost of 15 Euros. This meant a smiling Moroccan gentleman, holding a sign with our Riad’s name on it, greeted us in the arrivals lounge. For a fleeting moment we felt important! He whisked our cases from us and guided us towards his taxi, exchanging conversation in broken English and we had our first opportunity to practice our scant French linguistic skills! We trekked across the car park through lines of tired looking beige colour Mercedes (I bet they have many a tale to tell) – but fortunately 15 Euros buys you a little more luxury and our journey would be in a clean, modern people carrier. This was our first taste of Moroccan travel and roads…and suffices to say – anything goes! There seems no limit to how many people you can cram on a moped, or any regulation regarding wearing helmets. Mum on the front wears a flimsy plastic one, small child clinging on behind – no need (hold tight and hope for the best)! Cars, cyclists, motorcyclists, donkeys and pedestrians all seem to have a knack of weaving around each other without causing a collision! With my inexperience and lack of confidence as a driver, I was definitely best placed in the passenger seat! After a hair raising and eye-opening, 10 minute journey we arrived at an arched gateway in the ‘orange-red clay and chalk walls of the ‘red city’ (medina). Here a young Moroccan ‘Ali’ who was our host at the Riad Inaka, met us and guided us down the cobbled streets to the tucked away building.

[ACCOMMODATION – RIAD]

Riad Inaka is nestled amongst several buildings within the narrow passageways and Derb (streets) of the Medina (old town). We’re glad our host, Ali, came to meet us from the taxi, as the black, fortified, door only sported a small, shiny, discreet, brass plaque with the Riad’s name. The red clay, non-descript and unassuming exterior of the building gave no clue as to what lay inside. Once through the door we entered into a traditionally decorated courtyard.

Riad Inaka Courtyard

Riad Inaka Courtyard

The floor was tiled with soft blue and red patterned tiles that extended up and around the base of a central fountain.

Riad Inaka Courtyard fountain

Riad Inaka Courtyard fountain

The space was furnished with a mixture of traditional and modern furniture and had many plants dotted in between. Above us was a sliding roof, which was half open, allowing the midday sunshine to warm the space.

Riad Inaka Courtyard

Riad Inaka Courtyard

 

We were invited by Ali to take a seat, where we were then presented with our first exposure to the infamous mint tea – A small decorated silver teapot and two mini patterned glasses, neatly seated on a silver tray. Being a newbie to this territory, I was not yet familiar with the etiquette to tea pouring and I clumsily went to pour the tea – as Ali arrived back with a selection of Moroccan pastries (cookies). He chuckled, and rescued me from my uncouth moment! It would seem there’s definitely a knack to this tea pouring business – none of this ‘instant cuppa’ we are accustomed to in the UK! The teapot is poured from high, and the first poured glass is returned to the pot. I had read that the tea is very sweet, often with copious amounts of sugar added. This one wasn’t! I guess they were trying to cater for the western palette! It turns out I do prefer it sweeter!

After 10 or 15 minutes to enjoy our beverage we were shown to our room. It was situated on the upper floor, which overlooked the courtyard below. The bijou size of the room allowed for two single beds, with just enough space to get between them. There was a compact curtained wardrobe and to the right an ensuite with sink, toilet and shower. Ali showed us how to operate the air conditioning – setting it at 30 degrees for us (!), then left us to unpack. The room was simple, well presented and met our needs. For the price we paid (about £25 a night) I was delighted with the standard.

Riad Inaka bedroom

Riad Inaka bedroom

Like many of the buildings in the Medina, the Riad has a roof terrace. We took the opportunity to take in the panorama of the distant snow-capped Atlas Mountains, looming above the tightly packed rooftops of the cramped Medina.

Riad Inaka roof Terrace

Riad Inaka roof Terrace

Breakfast was substantial (compared to what I would usually eat)! Every meal in Morocco seems to be accompanied by bread – breakfast was no exception, although rather than the customary round Moroccan bread, we were treated to French baguette. We had a choice of tea or Coffee. We chose coffee for our early morning caffeine jumpstart, plus we were also given freshly squeezed orange juice. The main breakfast was pancakes or potato scones.

Jumping ahead a little here, but it seems appropriate to include this now as I am describing our Riad experience… Having read the Riad reviews, and then met Ali, we wrongly assumed that he was someone who’s word was reliable. We discovered this was naively misplaced, after we returned to the Riad from our four-day desert trip. Whilst we sat and enjoyed a welcoming mint tea he enquired as to the cost of our desert trip. I told him the price (350 EUROS each) and he looked shocked and told us that it was too expensive. I had done extensive online research, and the price was the cheapest of all the quote requests I’d made for our itinerary (about seven quotes altogether). I know that you can go on group trips for significantly less, but we made a conscious choice to pay the extra, and have a private tour. I thought nothing of this conversation, and just assumed Ali was not fully aware of the full package we had benefited from (and also the fact that to Moroccans, this is a lot of money). The next morning we decided we wanted to visit the Ensemble Artisanal. According to our Trip advisor app it was 2 miles away. Having only spent a brief amount of time in Marrakech on our first day, we thought we’d take a taxi there and then walk back (via Djemaa El-Fna). After breakfast we asked Ali if he could arrange a taxi for us. He quickly replied with “I can do private taxi for 300 Dirham”. I knew straightaway that this was extortionately high. My daughter quickly tapped it in her currency converter app and it was £20! Ali, still hoping for a sale, explained, “Taxi will wait for you and bring you back”. I let him know that it was too expensive and that we wanted to walk back. He replied (with what I have now concluded is a facetious response), “I know. It’s too expensive”. He was clearly having a sly dig at our discussion from last night regarding the cost of our desert trip. He then walked us out towards the main street to get a taxi. On the way we met a local man who seemed to ask Ali if we wanted a taxi. After a stream of exchanges between them in Arabic – it was offered to us at 70 MAD (just under £5). We opted for this just to get where we wanted! With hindsight (and discovering it was NOT 2 miles away) I also believe this was too expensive! I’ll write more about this part of our trip, later!

[TIME TO EXPLORE]

After settling into our room, we decided we would make the most of our half-day in Marrakech, as in the morning we would head off on our four-day tour. We were beginning to feel hungry so we decided to find somewhere to eat, therefore Jemaa El Fna seemed like the obvious port of call.
We asked Ali for directions, but by the time we had followed the first two instructions we had forgotten the rest, so we employed the use of the Trip Advisor City Guides app. Thanks to the app (which you can use offline) we effortlessly navigated the streets… when I say effortlessly, I am simply referring to the sense of direction. There is nothing ‘effortless’ about walking along or across these lively streets! You will find yourself zig-zagging around food stalls, parked vehicles, ambling pedestrians, stray cats, rubbish, parked donkeys – whilst also dodging the approaching mopeds, cars, donkeys, men pulling carts and cyclists. Crossing the road is a rousing experience, which I can only liken to playing ‘chicken’ as a child! Very rarely will a car stop to let you cross the road (even at marked crossing points). We quickly learned to shadow the locals as they crossed the road – closely following their path between the moving vehicles. By the end of our stay we were able to cross like a local too!

As we strolled down Rue Bani Marine, approaching Jemaa El Fna, all of our senses were being invaded and tantalised. The exotic aromas filled the air, and the sounds of drums and snake charmer flutes become louder and more hypnotic. Brightly coloured Caleches (horse drawn carriages) were lined up ready to whisk tourists off around the city.
I had read about the atmosphere (and the pit falls) of the square so we tentatively circumvented the perimeter. We saw leashed, performing monkeys wearing nappies, not something that interests us, Henna ladies perched on plastic stools – accosting anyone that walked within arms reach. Men in fringed hats and multicolour costumes, clang brass cups together, asking “Take photo?”. Teeth sellers sit with their best gnashers, dentures and braces proudly for sale on their table. We quickly bypassed charmed snakes (no thank you) and wide stepped the rows of orange juice sellers who relentlessly called out “Ay, Ay, Ay”. Crowds gathered around acrobats, story tellers and musicians as they performed in whatever space they could find.
Behind the sellers on the central square we discovered the labyrinths of souks (markets). Whilst browsing the vibrant, enthralling and colourful souks we were called ‘skinny girls’, ‘fish and chips’, ‘sexy ladies’, ‘Asda Price’, ‘nice eyes’ as well as being asked to buy some unknown item which included 10,000 free camels and a Ferrari! “Everything is free to today ladies”. “It’s free to look”. I quickly developed a quite tuneful ‘Non! Merci’, accompanied by a cheeky smile – much to the amusement of the traders!

We’d only arrived in this vibrant city about 2 hours ago, but already we felt we had experienced more than our brains could accommodate. We decided it was time to do what Moroccans do so well, and stop for a sit down, a tea, something to eat and recharge! We chose a quiet, shaded restaurant on the far edge of the square. We thought this would allow us chance to digest the experience and avoid the sellers. However no place is free from traders (even high in the mountains as I will detail later)- cigarette and souvenir sellers were free to meander around the outside seating areas of the restaurant! My daughter opted for the safe option and chose pizza, whilst I was feeling braver and chose beef & vegetable tagine, accompanied by mint tea (this time with sugar).

Beef and vegetable Tagine

Beef and vegetable Tagine

With hindsight, the food was average, but as newcomers to the culinary delights of Morocco, it seemed like a taste sensation!

Now feeling recharged and primed to put my haggling to the test, we revisited the stalls in the souks. I proudly carried out my first barter purchase…for some shampoo (we forgot to pack ours). Afterwards, I calculated I had probably paid way too much! But it was genuine quality shampoo you see! “Handmade in the mountains by Berber women with their bare hand…Not factory shampoo”!!

We returned to the Riad taking an alternative route back to amble around the Minaret de la Koutoubia and the park behind it.

Minaret de la Koutoubia

Minaret de la Koutoubia

We had a couple hours breather, sat on the Riad roof terrace, drinking mint tea, and made use of the free WiFi.

That evening we ate on the third floor of the Café De France. We hadn’t chosen this restaurant for its food…but simply so that we could enjoy the panoramic view across Jemaa El Fna. The food was a limited choice, from a set menu (100 MAD – approx. £7). Salad for starter (which we didn’t eat as we read it can cause a dicky tummy). Chicken Cous Cous for main, followed by seasonal fruit (mandarins) for dessert. Drinks were approx 15 MAD (£1) each.

The sun slowly set on the horizon, creating a beautiful silhouette skyline. The lights of the stalls illuminated the hustle and bustle that raged on below us. A perfect end, to an exhilarating first day.

Djemaa El-Fna at sunset

Djemaa El-Fna at sunset

V Festival Virgin – Good, but NEVER again!

V Festival Ticket – WINNER!

I was fortunate to win a pair of camping tickets to V Festival from a competition run by Route One (http://www.routeone.co.uk/). The tickets were for Weston Park (Staffordshire) and worth about £225 each! This was a big win and an experience I was looking forward to. I decided to take my 12 year old daughter along with me.

::::::::::::::: RESEARCH! PLAN! PREPARE! :::::::::::::::  

I am not a festival virgin as I have been to the Big Chill festival previously, but I am a V Festival virgin! I did a lot of research prior to our visit, and I am glad I did. I was taking my  daughter so I wanted to ensure we had the best experience possible. I was unsure about taking children but after a quick read of some forums I discovered that plenty of people did take kids. Whilst there I realised there was actually very few kids – I saw about 20 – 30 over the whole weekend…..with hindsight it’s no surprise (see my closing paragraph)

Getting there?

Initially I intended to drive there, but my car is old and not particularly reliable (and it was quite a long way from Devon) so I decided to book a National Express coach from Barnstaple to Wolverhampton. The return journey for two of us came to £55 (using a family coachcard and discount code) – this was less than it would cost me in petrol. The disadvantage was the terribly early departure on Friday (5:20am) and the journey time – nearly 7 hours (and not forgetting having to tolerate irritating passengers).

From Wolverhampton we took the shuttle bus which had been provided by National Express, £8 each per return ticket. They buses left every 15 minutes. We got straight off the coach and straight onto a shuttle bus. The shuttle buses were supposed to have a priority route to the Festival, but it still took us nearly 2 hours to get there (for what should be a 40 – 50 minute journey). Fortunately the return journey only took about an hour (but poor Lois had to sit next to a wasted looking man who absolutely stank of piss).

Camping

Previous visitors to V Festival had also created site plans and advised on which campsites were best. I was able to work out which campsite we should use (Green seemed right for us)! With hindsight I may have chosen a different one. Red/Blue and Yellow campsites are the liveliest as they are nearest the Arena. Green is further away (about 25 minutes walk) so was supposedly quieter….It was still noisy until early o’clock! The Orange/Gold campsites were even further away so maybe they were quieter? It’s a festival, so I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep anyway and just accepted the rowdiness! After a while your ears switch off to it anyway!

We took a dome tent with a porch which was actually a perfect size for the two of us. It was dead easy to pitch, which was fortunate considering we’d walked for well over a mile from the bus drop off to the camp site. By the time we had queued and got our wristbands,  we got to the campsites at about 3pm/4pm – they were already rammed. We had to cut across to the back of the campsite to find enough space to pitch our tent. Fortunately the area we chose stayed relatively uncramped for the duration!

We only took basic camping equipment (tent, roll mats & sleeping bags). The ground was hard and it was uncomfortable sleeping on just roll mats…again it’s a festival – No place for glamping! A pillow would have been nice. A pile of stacked up clothes is just not the same! We didn’t have room to take any cooking equipment. We packed a few snacks to keep us going though.

Finding your tent….we had to use ‘landmarks’ to help locate our tent, such as flags and distinct tents! How drunken people do it I’ll never know (they probably didn’t)! We did spot people sleeping outside tents and half in collapsed tents!

Line Up/Clashes?!

Virgin don’t release a schedule until the day, and you can only find that out if you buy the programme (£10 – and having bought one,  I confirm it is a total rip off). Fortunately I found the clashfinder website (http://clashfinder.com) which guesses the schedule from previous years. I was able to see the full line up of acts, when they were performing and where. It proved to be 100% accurate. I planned what acts we would watch and saved my plan. My print off from this site was much more useful than the lanyard schedule Virgin provided.

Acts

*Saturday*

———–

Imelda May – A great act to open the festival. I’d seen Imelda May on Jools Holland and was looking forward to seeing her perform. She didn’t disappoint. I loved the outfit she was wearing too. She’d sprained her ankle so teamed her red/white striped sailor style dress with a pair of black converse a great retro look!

Parade – New girl band who I had heard of previously so I thought it was worth going to see them. They are very much like The Saturdays. One of the singers was wearing a really cool skirt made from Thomas The Tank Engine fabric. I don’t think all of the group were strong singers….one of them only seemed to gyrate around the stage the whole time, hip thrusting and grinding! 

Ellie Goulding – Amazing voice. I think she surprised a few doubters! She kept playing with her hair which I found really annoying. She spent most of the time with it swept right across her face.

The Wanted – The Arena was full to capacity for this performance and we stayed near the back to avoid the piss bombs. We couldn’t see the stage at all, but they sounded pretty good!

Eliza Doolittle – She seemed so tiny and small on this stage. Nothing spectacular but I am glad she performed my favourite song Rollerblades.

The Saturdays – We were quite far back watching this (huddled against the sound crew barriers). They performed most of their well known hits and it was great for singing along.

Rihanna – She started her performance about 20 – 30 minutes late. She was ‘OK’. We did open up our umbrella when she performed ‘Umbrella’. Her show didn’t leave me buzzing with excitement though, in fact I can’t think of much to write!

Eminem – Talk about Anti-climax. Biggest disappointment of the weekend. We stayed for the first 4 or 5 songs (none of which we knew)! We could still hear his performance back at our tent and he did play some songs we knew towards the end of his set. We could also hear that he got Rihanna on stage again to perform Love The Way You Lie with him. 

*Sunday*

————-

Big Country – We just arrived at the 4 Music stage as they played their last two songs. They seemed quite humbled to have the turn out they did.

Aloe Blacc – Only one song we knew “I need a dollar’. We couldn’t be bothered to stick around to listen.

Bruno Mars – A big surprise! I liked his music but had never really seen him. He was a really good crowd pleaser and very cute. He was humbled to be performing in front of such a big crowd. As well as performing his better known recent hits he also did some old tunes they had started off playing in bars. One of these was a Mash Up of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and ” Billie Jean”!

Jessie J – Her leg still in a cast, Jessie J hobbled on stage with crutches and sat on a Chaise Longue to perform. Her costume looked great, although I prefer her bobbed hair (to the scraped back Essex face lift she had)! She was great interacting with the crowd some of her lines included the inspirational “Remember there is always someone worse off than you” (with reference to her being in pain with her leg) and on seeing a piss bomb launched across the crowd…”I hope that bottle I’ve just seen thrown contained water and not piss”….followed by “judging by the look on their faces, it was piss”!

She also brought out the crews children on to the stage and introduced each of them individually. One girl said into the mic ‘I love you, you’re my idol’…bless!

Tinie Tempah – A surprisingly good performance (despite the fact he was drunk)! He did a good job of interacting with the crowd. He also introduced the wrong song, saying it was the tune that had launched his album to platinum….then afterwards announced he was drunk at that it was actually the next song that had helped send his album to platinum!!! Hehehe!!! He also demanded that all the people out on the wings come onto stage saying “all of you” quite forceably…then poor old Jessie J hobbled out on her crutches with the others!!!

Dizzee Rascal – My favourite act of the whole weekend. His music and throbbing base line was infectious – we couldn’t help but dance! We were stood way back from the stage throwing some shapes having a bloody good time. His lighting and pyrotechnics were also the best I saw the whole weekend. A great way to round off the festival – finishing his set with ‘Bonkers’!

Phone charging & wifi

There were 3 Virgin Media phone charging towers on the site. They had leads for most phones, but if you wanted to charge a popular handset, there was no chance of you getting yours charged (unless you wanted to waste your time queuing/waiting there). There were several stalls offering to charge your phone. Prices varied, but most were roughly £5 per hour. I found a stall that cost £3 per hour or £5 for 2 hours (or £10 for unlimited charges throughout the weekend). I used this stall twice to charge my phone for an hour. I was a bit dubious about leaving my phone with complete strangers but they ran a good system. You hand your phone in and they give you a wristband with the collection time written on it. You give them a password which you have to give to collect your phone. I half expected to return to find very little charge in my phone, but both charges were enough to keep my phone going. My battery management app showed it had gained at least 40% each time.

There was free wifi access across the site, with access points dotted across the arena. I found the connection to be very sketchy (even when sat underneath a point) and it would regularly drop out.

Phone signal (on Orange) throughout the site was never a problem and my 3G access was far more reliable than the wireless.  

Food & Drink

We didn’t take any cooking equipment so had to buy all our food on site. I got over the initial shock of the prices of the first few catering wagons we saw (£4.00 for a greasy burger and £2.50 for bottled drinks) and managed to find some decent food at ‘ok’ prices.

The first night we ate cheesey chips (£3.00) which were disgusting, fatty/greasy and the cheese didn’t melt.

We bought some bananas from the on site ‘supermarket’ (?) which were 50p each, for breakfast. They also sold bread at £2.00 a loaf, and I think 4 pints of milk were a similar price. They were well stocked including daily papers, magazines, toiletries, bacon, sausages, chocolate, snacks and all your usuals. Bags of Haribo were £1.50 (I know this because we had a cheeky bag of strawbs! NOM! NOM! NOM!)

On the Saturday we found a stall serving pasta pots (£6.00 for a medium pot, £8.00 for large). There was several sauces to choose from. I had Mediterranean veg and a carbonara on the following day. Lois had a tomato and basil. A medium pot was just the right size for a meal.

I had a Mexican veggie burger (£4.00) for lunch on the Saturday and went back to the same stall for Veggie Breakfast on the Sunday – which was £6.00 (except they forgot to charge me for it and I didn’t realise until I’d left and eaten it)! This included 2 veggie sausages, scrambled egg, beans, wholemeal roll and a hot drink. Lois had a Kelloggs breakfast deal. For £5.00 you got a bowl of cereal with milk, cereal bar, piece of fruit and a drink.

Finally on the Sunday night I opted for sweet chilli chicken noodles (£7.00) and Lois had a foot long hot dog (£5.00).

I bought Lois soft drinks at £2.00 – £2.50 a bottle. I drank water for most of the weekend. You can’t take any bottles of drink in (unless they are sealed soft drinks) so I carried an empty bottle with me and filled it up from the drinking water taps in the arena. On a couple of occasions I forgot to empty the water out when coming back into the arena. I ‘declared’ my bottle at the gate – One security guard let me through no problems, another asked me to empty it (which was no hardship as it was only water)! People had to drink or throw away bottles/cans of alcohol at the gate. Others just found ways of sneaking it in!

You could get most types of food including pizzas, curry, paella, noodles, pasta, baked potatoes, mexican veggie, vegan, crepes, toasties, fish & chips plus the usual burger wagons

On the Sunday I managed to catch a glimpse of the bar prices – most drinks were £4.00 (Pint of Carling, small wine bottles or Bacardi Breezers were the main offerings).

Stalls/Attractions

There was a large fair in the Arena with all the usual rides. Most rides were £3.00 – £4.00. There was a bungee gyro thingummy which was £25 a time and a large spinning pendulum type ride that was £12. We opted not to go on the fair.

The majority of the stalls in the arena were selling hats (straw hats £10), offensive t-shirts and jewellery.

– You could get your hair straightened with GHD’s (no idea of cost).

– Charge your phone (see above)

– There was ‘oxgyen bars’ – you put an oxygen tube thingummy up your nose to help relieve hangovers or something! It just looked weird to a sober me!

– Henna Tattoos

– Cop A Feel (breast cancer awareness)

– Coca Cola – Keep It Going (see below)

– Camping Stalls – These sold pretty much everything you’d need to camp including tents, sleeping bags, air beds, pegs, pillows, duvets, cookers and camping chairs. Prices were reasonable.

– Posh (!) Loos (£3 at time)

– Posh (!) showers (not sure how much these cost, I’m thinking about £7)

– Cash machines (£2.50 per transaction)

– Liquorice/Sweets/candy (we bought a bag of candy floss for £2.00)

Free cash & swag

We had a great little money spinner. For every whole paper cup you return, you get 10p. As the majority of people couldn’t careless, they just dropped their cups on the floor. On the Saturday night whilst Eminem was on we’d had enough and headed back to the tent, but first did a quick lap at the rear of the crowd and collected 60 cups (=£6.00). Over the course of the weekend we managed to collect over 400 cups (over £40). Late on the Sunday night after a cup finding mission, we were disappointed to find they had closed the cup return points early, saying they had run out of money. We waited around for 20 minutes when they finally opened the till again. Unfortunately you had to count your own cups this time…..We were stood in the queue for long enough, so to kill the boredom had already counted our 144 cups….people around us had much bigger stacks though… one bloke had a massive rubble sack full…on my way passed I said “good luck counting that lot”, to which he replied “I’ve done it already, ‘523”!!!!!

As we walked around with our stack of cups, we did get called ‘Pikey’ a few times though (mostly by chavs)! LOL!

The other swag generator was plastic bottles. Coca Cola had a recycling stall called ‘Keep It Going’. You could swap plastic bottles for swag. Most people just discard their bottle on the floor so it was a case of going round and grabbing them.

2 bottles = Coke Bag

5 bottles = Poncho

10 bottles = Bandana

15 bottles = Cap

20 bottles = Blanks

30 bottles = T-shirt (2 designs)

60 bottles = Coca Cola Hoodie

We managed to get 3 t-shirts, 1 cap, 3 bandanas, 3 ponchos and 2 bags!

First Aid

I was stupid enough to have a crazy ‘Kim’ accident on the Sunday morning. I sat down in the tent to change my footwear and as I sat down I managed to twist my thumb back awkwardly. Cue immense pain and inability to use my hand to its full capacity. Lois insisted I go to the first aid tent – knowing the consequences if I ignore her, I did as I was told!

Run by St Johns, but also staffed by ‘proper’ nurses and doctors, they had a good system. You go to triage and then wait to be seen. I only had to wait 5 or 10 minutes to be seen. The St Johns bloke who dealt with me was a bit of a muppet but he did his job. Telling me I had done some muscle damage. He gave me two paracetamols and (badly) bandaged my hand and I then had to wait for an ice pack.

I did expect to see more drunken people in there but fortunately most of the injuries seemed ‘normal’ – twisted ankles, infected bites and burns.

The triage did have to deal with some time wasters (plasters for a blister and muscle rub for sore shoulders) – but they quickly dispatched them off to the pharmacy!

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***And unfortunately this is why I will never go to a V Festival again…….***

Total loss of dignity

So after all the good bits, I am sad to say that some of what I saw throughout the weekend has put me off ever going again, especially with a child. How people can behave in such an undignified manner is beyond me. I’m not a prude and I have had my fair share of nights out getting wrecked. I’ve been drunk and I have had hangovers from hell….but never have I experienced behaviour and carnage like I saw here. Fortunately I did not see any violence.

Toilets – It’s a festival. I knew the toilets would be grim. In fact we prepared ourselves for this ensuring we always had hand sanitiser and toilet roll with us. Had it just been a case of grim toilets then I would be able to put it down to it being a whole part of the festival experience….but it’s not just toilets…..and what I saw shouldn’t be the part of any festival experience_EVER ….[READ ON]

Men and women had no qualms about peeing wherever they were and needed to go (I’ve read about one bloke taking a dump, in a box in his tent porch….)

It was bad enough seeing people up against the fence peeing. It wasn’t just the odd few – there would be 10 or 15 people per fence (right next to the toilet blocks too)! Women squatting, with their fella/mate holding a coat to conceal (???) them! By the end of the weekend the fence lines smelled like a zoo. I also saw people in the crowd just squat and pee where they were.

….but it gets worse….

Peeing into cups and bottles…..great, if you just poured it away/binned it…. but no, it would seem that the in thing to do is to lob it into the crowd aka ‘piss bombs’ – this got progressively worse as the weekend went on. I read about this before we went so knew to expect it. For this reason Lois and I always stayed towards the back/side of the crowd and Lois kept her hood up!

As we walked back from watching Ellie Goulding we walked passed a man with his privates in his hand, saying to his mates “here, help me with this” as he tried to pee in a bottle. Broad daylight, early afternoon… NO NEED 😦 😦

We queued for the loos like normal dignified people do…..I was in the loo when unfortunately Lois was hit by a piss bomb. The bottle (thrown from the back of the toilet queue) hit her welly and leg. Understandably she was really upset…we went to the welfare tent who offered us some wipes and sanitiser (which is all they had) to clean it up but that doesn’t stop you feeling utterly violated does it?

Whilst in the welfare tent there was a young woman passed out on the floor under a blanket being cared for by the staff. Bang goes her festival experience.

We saw another young woman, lying on the grass near some stalls, drunk to the point of passing out and vomitting. Her mates crouched beside her as if nothing was happening…I wonder how much of the festival she managed to see? £225 well spent?????

….the thing that got to me the most was that we saw 3 girls (and by this I mean young women, early 20’s) wet themselves. One was stood right in front of us whilst we watched Ellie Goulding. Lois spotted her doing it, she simply stood up, wrapped her coat around her waist and carried on as if nothing happened. Later whilst watching Eliza Doolitle we stood by the entrance/exit so as to avoid piss bombs, and a girl walked passed with orange denim shorts, clearly having wet herself. Finally Lois saw a group of 3 girls stood around chatting and one just stood there and wet herself. I also saw at least 2 men who had wet themselves. Seriously, this has to be the lowest of the low 😦 WHY? If worse comes to worse, go against a flipping fence…..I dread to think what they/their tent/bags smell like 😦 DISGUSTING. FILTHY. GROSS.

I have no intention of returning to V Festival any time soon. Been there, done that, got the mental scars….thanks!

Cleanliness is next to impossible.

henrys

My Henry and my daughters Little Henry! Partners in grime…dust bunnies beware!

So…inspired by this picture of our Henrys I thought I’d post a couple interesting Henry stories!

1) According to Manchester Evening News:

A dwarf  accidentally glued his penis to a vacuum cleaner at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

As part of his stage act Daniel Blackner pulls his Henry vacuum across the stage, attached to his private parts. Sadly he had to repair a broken attachment and didn’t wait long enough for the glue to set hard.

2) I posted about this story from The Sun last year.

A HOSPITAL builder has been sacked after being caught having sex with a Henry the hoover.

The Polish contractor – who was supposed to be locking up the site – was found naked and on his knees with the smiling cleaner in the staff canteen.A horrified security guard at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital told him to “clean himself and the hoover” before kicking him out.

The shameless builder later told bosses he was vacuuming his underwear – “a common practice in Poland”.

Childhood toys

Tonight whilst stumbling I came across this website that has brought back so many childhood memories.

I love my Fisher Price ‘Little People” and played with them often. They were solid well constructed toys designed to last. Once my brother and I had outgrown them they were passed onto my younger brother and sister. I don’t believe that Fisher Price make these any more.

I know that I had set 663, 875, 725 and 761. The toilet in the ‘725’ set caused much amusement to ‘little me’! It was hilarious to put the dog (the black figure in set ‘663’) on the toilet or to have it driving a car (the dog….not the toilet)!

FPcamperI also had this camper van which I considered simply brilliant – it was my favourite addition to my Fisher Price Little People collection. It had so many removeable parts. The boat came off the roof and it had little seats to fit the people in. I seem to remember the boat did float and was often used in our bath.

There was a space for a sink and toilet at the back of the camper van. The van unit lifted off leaving you with just a truck. I believe the truck made a clicking noise as it drove along….or was this just a fault with our one? I know that the arms on some of the chairs did get broken…possibly stood on when left in an inappropriate place. OOPS!

FPhospitalThe hospital was quite a substantial and muched loved addition to my set. It came with lots of accessories including a set of weighing scales…and the dial even moved when you place the figure on them , an xray machine and as you stood the figure on it the display changed to an xray image. The ambulance had a stretcher that fitted in the back and you’d have to strap in your patient using the velcro strap! The stretcher would often become a make shift car. Downstairs in the hospital there was a ‘theatre’ including an operating table (this was used as all sorts of other weird things by me). The best bit about the hospital was the lift. You turn the handle and up (or down) goes the lift. I believe there may well have been a bell that pinged when the lift reached its destination too! This was the height of toy technology!
I used to have ‘gatherings’ on the roof of the hospital too. The spacing on the roof (around the convenient carrying handle) was just enough to stand the figures in. I also vaguely remember (selective memories!!) that sometimes, ‘Little People’ “accidentally fell off” the roof..Sometimes there would be nasty accidents involving the lift and squashed little people…but at least they didn’t have far to go to hospital!

Roller skate memories and madness!

I can remember my first pair of ‘proper’ roller skates with great fondness although I can’t quite remember how old I was, probably about 8? My dad was a lorry driver at the time and he knew a place to buy some cheap in Leeds (iirc). So the next time he had do a drop there (bearing in mind we lived in Somerset) I travelled along with him. My pocket money was burning a hole in my pocket. All my friends had roller skates. I was so desperate to own my very own pair of roller skates it felt like it was eating away at my innards!! I was well past the “Fisher Price” extendable skates by now! The first place I got to try out these newly acquired skates was in the back of my dads lorry, parked up in a car park in Leeds!!

I loved those skates and I like to think I got pretty good on them. My friends and I used to build little ramps and skate like demons down our hill and jump off the kerb at the end. HOW COOL DID I FEEL! During my early teens my brother and I used to attend the local roller disco at the guildhall. That was so much fun and a good chance to hone my “skillz”! During my mid teens I migrated from roller skates to roller blades and then onto a skateboard. I have also tried my hand at ice skating with a good level of success too.

Fast forward to today (some 15+ years later) and I am on the look out for a pair of roller skates again! I must be mad…I’m hardly that adept, agile and fearless 8 year old any more! Can I really come out of the other side of this ‘urge’ without any broken bones (and damaged pride)? Well time will tell. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to hitch a ride to Leeds in my dads lorry so I have been trawling the internet to see what delights are on offer in the modern world of roller skating!

Here are some of my more interesting discoveries!

Apparently these Landrollers will “get your mojo on”….

According to their website these skates “allow enhanced performance over inline and quad roller skates, providing skaters of all skill levels with an entirely new and improved experience.”

I think that they look like you’ve had a nasty accident involving a passing child’s stablisers!!

How about these for a bit of “Line Dance” roller skating?

Sadly, I don’t have any more information on stockists for these little beauties (!!) but I am sure that LeAnn Rimes will own a pair (perhaps drop her agent a line?)!

Alas, these are not for me.

Next ‘in line’ (!! ha! see what I’ve done there…!!) is a rather sexy pair of boots – unlike any other. Who would wear them and more importantly how they’d use them I do not know but I do know that you aren’t going to get much more blinged up than these:

Bling Bling roller skates!

Bling Bling roller skates!

Rather disappointly – since I broke my foot I have been unable to wear heels so I’m going to pass on these.  I’d love to see some video footage of these in action though!

Moving swiftly on we have a pair of “Booster blades

Booster-Blades really do Boost, but what are the advantages of Boosting over a regular Inline or Rollerskate?

GREATER PROPULSION; With the aid of the unique chain mechansim, one is able to generate greater self propulsion
BETTER BRAKING; With the brake pad design, one is able to brake quicker
FLEXIBILITY; With Booster Blades the user has more control over acceleration and brakingetcetcetc

Hmmm actually I really just want a simple pair of roller skates!

On to my next discovery….

…No you are not looking at an off road dune buggy. These are actually designer skates I’ll have you know! This is a wonderful offering from Emporio Armani. If Victoria Beckham was on the look out for a pair of skates, this is where she’d go!

Now I don’t know about you but these just completely remind me of the Fisher Price skates that we had as Toddlers? I can’t ever remember a time that ‘strap on’ roller skates have been cool. You always tend to look a bit sub standard with a pair of ‘strap on’ skates on. Anyway, these have all sold out so my quest for the perfect skate continues….

Holy Moly, even a pair of skates designed for Jesus….and of course if you owned these bad boys you’d *have* to wear them with socks.

The company behind these is called Aircoast and they seem to offer a variety of unfashionable footwear that is modified to skates. Has anyone told them, that adding a set of four wheels to a shoe does not then make it cool?!

Devon is a rural place. Lots of hill, fields and other similar landscapes, so perhaps what I need is a pair of all-terrain skates. Fortunately these can be found at SuperDairyBoy

The TrailSkate™ all-terrain skate is an evolutionary leap in the advancement of human powered sports. They are easy to ride…and a whole lot of fun.

I’d kind of only really like to stick to flat even surfaces for now!

Hmm decisions, decisions.. there’s just so many skates to choose from. What’s a girl to do??!!

Makeover and photoshoot.

Well it has been a while since I updated so this is long overdue! I thought it would be nice to write about the amazing weekend I have just had.

Last year I won some Virgin vouchers on the MSN ‘Big Snap’ competition. I didn’t think that I would get chance to use them so I passed them on to my sister. My sister decided to use them to book a makeover/photoshoot experience for me, her and her best mate.

It was booked with a company called NewID Experiences at their Cardiff salon.  I had heard that you get quite a hard sell at the experiences so before our visit I decided to do a bit of research on-line so I knew what to expect. I managed to find loads of reviews – all of which were really quite negative.  Reviewers had moaned about a long wait, poor customer service, rip off prices, poor photo quality….This didn’t bode well and after reading all that I had really low expectations about the company.

Our appointment was at 3:15pm, but we decided to leave early on Saturday morning so that we could do a bit of shopping first. For the photoshoot you can take up to 4 outfits.  I had packed 4 but I actually ended up buying 2 new outfits beforehand.

After dumping our shopping in the car we headed to the salon early. We actually arrived about 20 minutes early for our appointment. The staff were fine with this.  We handed in the vouchers and they took our coats and bags off us.  We took a seat in the seating area and they offered us drinks (Bucks Fizz, tea, coffee, squash or water). This was a good chance to have a nosey around at what was going on. The salon was a lot smaller than I had thought but with hindsight I actually consider this a good thing. You are able to see and hear a lot of what is going on, which I found reassuringly honest.

Along one side there was hairdressing stations, at the far end there was make up stations and along the other wall there was the photo studios and viewing rooms. There was about 3 or 4 clients having their hair/make up done whilst we waited. Plus there was a couple people waiting.

A member of staff came over and asked us to fill in a consultation form – which was basically so we could give them a rough idea what hair/make up and photography we wanted. Nothing was set in stone though and you could also just leave it up to the staff to create your look if you wished!

My sister was called over to have her nails done and I went to have my hair styled. The stylist asked what sort of look I wanted for my hair – and I said curls.  She actually had her hair styled nicely with curls so I told her I’d like the same look.  Unfortunately the only available straighteners weren’t heating up so she transferred me over to the make up station. They have 3 looks for the make up ‘Classic’, ‘Glamorous’ and ‘Fashion’. I wanted Glamorous (smoky eyes – cat walk style). Overall I think she did a good job of the make up and it did look nice but it wasn’t what I’d call glamorous. It was very subtle and I did have to ask her to apply a bit more eye-shadow. They do check that you are happy with the look after every stage which is good.

Next it was back to attempt my hair! This time there was a working set of straighteners available. The stylist managed to curl my hair very quickly and she was really good at doing it. I was very impressed. The final look was really nice.

I had a bit of a wait before I was called to have my nails done. Throughout our wait we were regularly offered drinks.

At the nail station there is a wide choice of colours. The stylists gave my nails a quick file and applied the nail varnish I had chosen (silver).

It probably took about an hour for all 3 of us to finish having our hair, make up and nails done. My sisters friend did have to wait a bit longer to be called to get her make up applied as it appears there was a mix up between the stylists. They were very apologetic though.

All made up and looking glam we had to wait around in the seating area. This was a good chance to have a sneaky peak through the door into the photo studios. I could see that there was lots of different backgrounds they used. There were two photographers – one male and one female and two studios.

I’m not sure how long we had to wait to be called in by our photographer. It didn’t feel particularly long – perhaps 30 – 45 minutes? When you’re nosing at what’s going on, chatting and browsing their brochures the time soon flies!

Once in the photo studio the photographer explained to us how it was going to work. She asked how many outfit changes we had – my sister and I had 4 and my sisters friend had 3. The photographer said they usually try and keep to 3 changes. She also asked if we wanted photographing together or individually – and we wanted both! This was not a problem.  She left us to get changed ready for the first shoot.

The photographer was brilliant. She gave really good direction and helped us feel at ease in front of the camera. I think having the photos taken was the most exciting part of the whole experience. We got to choose different backgrounds and we used some props that were in the room too (chairs and a ‘circle wall’).

After finishing in the photo studio it was back out to the seating area to wait to view the photos. It was getting quite late in the day now and the staff were busy tidying up and packing away. I think that this was the worse ‘wait’ we had during the experience. The staff were behaving as if they were off duty. Where as previously we had been asked if we wanted any drinks – no one asked us at all…despite the fact that the staff were back and forwards making themselves drinks.  I was able to see into the viewing room and could see that the salesman was flicking through our photos on screen. Several of the staff members were in and out of the room during this time and it felt like they were nosing at our photos. I began to feel a bit embarrassed but I was also very excited about seeing the images for myself.

After what seemed like forever we were called in to view our photos. The salesman was lovely. Not at all how I had expected (from his appearance and also from the reviews I had read). There was no hard sell, no pressure and viewing the photos was a very relaxed experience. He was friendly, funny and approachable. In total we had 93 photos. He got us to go through them all and say if we didn’t like any – which he then got rid of. We were then left with just over 50. We went through them again until we whittled it down to 4 individual photos each, 1 of me and my sister and 2 of my sister and her friend (15 in total).

At this point prices had not been discussed at all. We were simply having fun viewing the photos and picking our favourites. You do get one free 5×7 photo with the makeover package. Having read their website I knew that a 5×7 photo was £50 and 1 photo on a cd was £100.  I had in my head, that if the photos were really nice then I could probably stretch, at the most, to £150 – so I would get four 5×7 photos (including my free one). As it happens the salesman was able to offer us a deal we couldn’t resist. I’m not able to publish it here but we did manage to get the 15 photos on CD for a very good price. This was the icing on the cake for what had already been a fantastic day.

Even if I had just walked away with the one free photo that comes with the package, it would still have been a brilliant experience. I think if you can go in there open minded, not expecting the glamour &  glitz you see on tv makeover shows and remember that the experience only cost £25 – £50 then you will enjoy yourself.

Here are the photos so you can see the end result!509032810071509032810-edit1509032810123509032810128

First week of full time employment complete!

On Wednesday 10th Sept I started full time work for a local business. The job is really varied and interesting, but I am on my feet all day long! It feels good to be out of the house and to be off benefits, earning money.  My colleagues are all really nice and I’m enjoying my time spent at work….in fact time flies when I’m there.

The hardest part of working full time is getting life organised at home. The house is a tip, I’m behind on the laundry, I have a stack of paperwork to catch up on….and somehow I need to do an online Tesco shop! I’m sure I’ll get caught up on this eventually!