UK Country Music Week Review

As you know/can guess from my blog’s name, I absolutely love country music! So I was super excited when my boyfriend bought us tickets to go to the Thursday night show on the 5th October 2017.

I knew Country Music Week was going to be happening in London, but I was unsure who I wanted to go with, so I just thought I’d let that one pass! Country Music Week consisted of  series of “unique events” put on by the organisers of the famed Country2Country music festival.

These events featured both UK and US artists and covered a wide range of the diverse genre that is country music – so there was something for everyone. In particular these events highlighted acts at the start of their career, using larger more established acts to draw in the crowd.

The Venue

I’d never beeen to The Boarderline before, but I am majorly impressed with it’s size and facilities. It is very small, which was perfect making these fantastic gigs even more intimate and personal, drawing the crowd in further. This really highlighted the talent and vunrablility of the artists that were performing.

We arrived late (the first act had all ready started), the room was just iunder half full, so we were able to move about pretty freely, which made getting the all important beers in easy. We had a Boarderline larger and a beer (the draft selection is not all that great) I can’t remember the exact price, but I know it was under £10 – which I consider good going, for London!

The horozontal set up of the room meant that even if you are at the back of the room or the bar you’re never too far away from the stage.

Jillian Jacquline

As I said when we arrived she was already playing her first song – Holier Than Thou, and the first thing I noticed as we walked in was how inthralled the audience was by her tallant and emotional rawness.

I’d never hear Jillian before, but Jonny my boyfriend had been listening to her on Spotify for the past few weeks and absolutely loved her, later he admitted she was the reason he bought the tickets in the first place.

Next up on her set list was Sugar & Salt, followed by Reasons and Hate Me, Jillian gave wonderful backstories to her songs before she sang them, which endeared the crowd to her more! She described the messy breakups which she found hard at the time but were all key to her journey and where she is today.

We were fortunate to be stood next to her mum and friends, this made listening to her perform extra special as you could see their pride and love for Jillian bursting out of them!

After her set was finished she came down and mingled with the crowd. I absloutely love her music and am so pleased I got to see her live, before she hits the big time, which I’m sure she will – there’s a reason in May 2016 Rolling Stone put her on their 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know

Temecula Road

I was super excited when I saw that this trio were going to be playing, I fell in love woth them a year ago now when I heard them on Bob Harris Country one Thursday night. Something which also shon through when they got up on stage. As soon as, they started singing the previously noisy audiance quietened down and all eyes were on them.

The banter in between music was strong, kicking off with a slight at Maddie’s youung age (16), mind you the others are not that much older with her siter Emma and family friend Dawson both being 18. Maddie seemed a little on edge throughout the performance, which I couldn’t understand as her talant was unreal.

They played three of their own songs starting with What if I Kissed You and finishing off with Hoping and Everything Without You. I love how their music captures the excitment and trepidation that comes with taking that leap and falling in love, especially for the first time.

They also did a couple of covers, from the beautifully eerie Desperado by The Eagles, which had lighters still been permitted inside would have seen everyone swaying them above thier heads!

Followed up with the infamously catchy My Church by Maren Morris, this had everyone clapping and singing along.

I would have loved to have seen the 20 Hits of 2016 Medley that Laura Cooney wrote about in her article for Entertainment Focus on their performanve on Saturday at The Boarderline.

This trio are very professional, which is exceptional given thier youth. I can’t wait to see how their music develops and matures alongside them.

After they had finished on stage they dropped down in to the crowd to mingle in with thier fans.

Eric Paslay

The headliner for this concert was this Texan born singer/songwriter, who has written songs for the likes of Jake Owen and Lady Antebellum. It was wonderful to see him perform in such a stripped back setting, just him, his guitar and the audience – he let us know this was his favourite way to perform. Despite being a highly successful singer in his own righ with his first album reaching Number 4 in the Billboard Country Albums Charts in 2014.

I’m absloutely in love with his current EP – The Work Tapes, which are five rough tracks that Eric is currently working on, so they are raw and unedited. As a non-musically talented human it’s great to have a sneak peak at the work that goes into the process of creating a song.

He kicked off the concert with Angel Eyes, which was quickly followed up with She Don’t Love You, High Class and Song About A Girl. He was super talkative and spoke so candidly and honestly with the audience about anything. From the affet of the Route 91 Harvest Las Vagas shooting, that had happened earlier that week and his views on gun law, to being in London for the first time. As well as, the thought process behind some of his songs and the ideas that spurred him to write them.

He also did a few covers such as, Free Falling by the legend that was Tom Petty, which was well recieved by all. My favourite cover has to be Elvis’ You Were Always on my Mind, this song took me right back to the many road trips I did with my dad when I was younger.

Eric hopped straight off the stage into a crowd of adoring fans and graciously signed autographs and took photos with the crowd!

Chris Country Radio

These guys had a stall at the venue and I was keen to get a T-shirt as it this station who get me up and out of bed each morning! Sadly I had no cash on me and they only took cards, so until next time.

Conclusion

I absolutley loved the stripped back nature of this concert which fostered intimacy between the artist and the audience. I thought it was great that the musicians could share the stories that inspired their music. One of the reasons I love being a country music fan in the UK is the small  nature of the venues, but this concert was unlike anything else I’ve been to.

I’m so glad I went as not only did I get to hear Eric who I have ben wanting to see for some time now. I got to see Temecula Road who I have liked for a while now, but would have been unsure about going to one of their gigs. I also got introduced to Jillian Jacquline’s music, which I am now in love with, she’s possibly my favourite country music artist at the moment. It was great to see these guys at the start of their UK careers. I could have listened to each act for a whole night let alone a whole gig!

Next year I am definetly going to make sure I am availible for more of the concerts in Country Music Week!

This gig has left me super excited for next week when I am going to see Maren Morris.

 

 

Advertisements

New York City Baby!

Last month, at the ripe old age of 22, I broke my American virginity and finally visited the country. This trip was a surprise present from my boyfriend to me for our 7th anniversary, which meant we only had 2 months to plan it *Panic Stations*.

New York was never really somewhere I’d ever menetioned going, not because I didn’t want to, but more because I never thought we would be able to afford it!

The weather was insanely good while we were there, it was around 27 degrees celcius in the days, dropping to about 19 in the evenings, which was brilliant, except I’d packed for London in September (around 17-10 degrees celcious), so I was pretty sweaty a lot of the time… attractive, I know!

Anyway over to the trip…

Transport:

We flew with British Airways economy to JFK from Heathrow Terminal 5 and back premium economy. I’m not sure what they cost as they were a present, but I know we used miles to help. Most airlines fly to New York so if you’re looking, I suggest shopping around to find the best deal.

We booked Business Parking for Jonny’s car which was very good, we found a space straight away and after he’d done 10 laps of the car to check it was locked we got on the transfer and were at the airport in no time. I can’t remember the exact price, but I think it was around £100 as we booked it the day before we flew.

Terminal 5 was great – there was a bit of a queue to get our tickets, but other than that it was swift and without any hiccups. We went for breakfast at Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food, a favourite of ours. I had eggs Bennedict with a glass of Prosecco to really hit the day off, which tastes rather interesting at 6am!

IMG_2746

The flight out was pretty uneventful. I watched Beauty & the Beast followed by Hampstead, which were both great and highly recomended. The guy infront of Jonny put  his seat backs straight away which meant Jonny’s journey was pretty uncomfortable!

JFK was quick and efficient in both directions, there were queues at customs and security but they are to be expected, my only complaint is that there are really only 2 places to eat at terminal 7 and neither of them are that appealing!

BA Premium Economy was really good on the way back,  helped by the fact our plane was a lot newer, but we had loads of space and the food and drink was great. I watched Table 19 and Snatched on the way back, which were good if you want somenthing easy to watch, but I don’t think I’ll rewatch them!

To get to the city we used Uber so we had no stresses about finding our way to a meeting point. On the way back we used the hotel’s car which was again very easy and pleasant.

We mainly walked around the city and for anything further afield we cycled using the Citi Bike’s at $12 per person and were everywhere. They’re pretty easy to operate, but the traffic could be a little scary sometimes, especially after dark. The grid system makes New York pretty easy to navigate both on the pavement and the road, plus CityMapper was really helpful if we ever got confused.

IMG_2747.JPG

Accommodation:

Location and price were our two main factors when choosing a hotel, as we didn’t have any time to waste. We stayed at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway as Jonny’s dad had points we could use plus it’s only 1 block from the Empire State Builing and about 10 blocks from Times Square. We had enought points to pay for 2 nights so only had to pay for 2 nights. So it only cost around $300 in the end, but beware they do slap on a $15 charge for ammenities each day – for the gym, wifi, etc.

IMG_2748.JPG

The hotel itself was near enough what I expected, having known what Radisson’s are normally like. The room was quite big and very clean, we could even see the corner of the Empire State Building from our window! The bathroom was great and the complimentary tolitaries were fabulous and well stocked.

IMG_2749.JPG

The hotel staff were incredibly polite and very helpful with any enquiries we had.

Food & Drink:

Food and drink was quite expensive in New York, but the portion sizes were huge so it proved pretty good value.

A new discovery of mine which blew my mind was cinnamon and rasin bagels with cream cheese – I mean wow, life altering!

I won’t bore you with going into detail about the places we had lunch as these were always on the go and mostly sandwiches! Below is a few quick reviews of the places we ate dinner:

Hard Rock Cafe,Times Square – Jonny and I love the Hard Rock Cafe and always go if there is one wherever we are visiting. The staff here were super helpful and found us a table within about 15 minutes. We shared some humongous Nachos, then Jonny had steak Fajitas for main and I had a Guiness and Jameson Burger which was yummy. Jonny and I normally buy ourselves something from the shop, Jonny got a hoodie, but I couldn’t decide what I wanted and then we ran out of time to go back… so I may have to steal Jonny’s hoodie.

John’s of Times Square – Our waiter was great he suggested a pitcher of beer as it was cheaper than individual pints. Jonny and I had seen the size of the pizza’s on the way in (the filled the whole table) so decided to share one, you can go half and half, but if you do you are charged for the price of two, so in the interest of fruigality we shared. I can’t remember what the pizza was called but I do remember that I loved it. John’s is great if you want no frills dnning in a central location at a good price.

For our final night we decided to splash out so I chose the The Plaza Hotel, 5th Avenue at Central Park South for cocktails. It was every bit a dreamy as I imagined it, we chose to drink in the iconic Palm Court, and though meant as a dining space their cocktails proved to be superb. I had a “I Recall… Central Park in Fall” – similar to an Old Fashioned and every bit as lovely.

IMG_2750.JPG

For dinner Jonny chose Quality Meats, 58th Street between 5th & 6th Avenue which is a fantastic steak reastuaurant. Our waiter, Eric happened to be a West Ham fan just like Jonny, so they got on like a house on fire! Be warned the wine menu is not for the faint hearted with some bottles exceeding the $3000 mark! We decided to keep to Quality Meat’s own bottles under the name of Quality Wine’s, which was lovely and reasonable at around $80. We ordered a porterhouse steak to share for main with some potato waffles and some broccoli and cheese bites.

Before our main came some starters arrived and we highlighted we’d not ordered them, but or waiter said they were on the house from a fellow Hammers fan. So we tucked in to the most beautiful yellow fin tuna crudo and some grilled bacon and peanut butter – I was in heaven!

When our main arrived they had run out or broccoli so he subbed in some of their famous sweetcorn creme brulee and some mushrooms, both of which were fabulous. The steak itself was cooked to perfection. I’d never had a porterhouse before, but I certainly will be looking to pair up with Jonny for one in the future. As we were getting ready to pay a chocolate pudding arrived which was to die for. Needless to say we left a hefty tip and would recomend it to anyone visiting there! This was the perfect ending to the most wonderful trip.

IMG_2751.JPG

Activities & Culture:

When planning our trip we decided to buy the New York City Pass  before we left which allowed us access to 6 attractions chosen from a list of 9 for under £100.

We were supposed to do the Empire State the afternoon we arrived, but we both fell asleep!

Our chosen first stop from our city pass was the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, unfortunatley the only meant our ticket was paid for it didn’t give us any queue jump advantage. We hadn’t done enough research on it and had not booked (months in advance) to go up into the crown, which was disapointing! Next we headed over to Ellis Island, something I had studied at A level and was really looking forward to. We looked around the modern day immigration exhibition, the holding space, accomodation and records of the journey’s of the people who had spent time there, it was all very poiniant. On the boat trips Jonny and I got some incredible photos of the city sky line.

9/11 Memorial & Museum (we didn’t use our city pass for this one, so it cost $24 each) – we thought this would just be a quick trip, but it was so moving we ended up spending 3 hours there. I think this is such an important space for people to visit whenever they visit New York now, especially people of my generation as this event completely changed the way we live our lives. Both the memorial and museum are executed in such beautiful and respectuful ways. Jonny and I liked that The Sphere Sculpture that stood between the buldings has been kept and overlooks the site itself.

The Empire State Building was right next to our hotel so was it was really easy to get to. Our city pass gave us queue jump through security, which was helpful. The buiding itself was full of 1920’s and 30’s glamour. I was a little disapointed at the museum part, as it mainly focused on the structural feats of it being building, but not the numerous people who died while building it or any reference of its use or development over time. That said, the views were incredible! Our city pass also allowed us to go back and visit it the same evening so we could see the city at night, which was beautiful.

American Museum of Natural History unfortunatley, due to the rush we were in the whole time we were there, we didn’t have long here. Our city pass allowed us entry and a ticket to one of the shows, unfortunatley it did not allow us to escape the queues for tickets. We only got to see the African and North American Mammals halls within the museum itself, plus our show – Dark Universe. For me Dark Universe was too complicated and lost me early on, so with no chance of getting back in to it I decided to take a nap! On the plus side the show was in the planetarium so we got to visit the place where Ross and Rachel from FRIENDS had their first date! On the way back to our hotel we went for a proper cycle through Central Park, which was really fun.

New York Mets Baseball Jonny and I love sport so we really wanted to watch some kind of American Sport whicle we were in NYC and settled on the New York Mets as they are not as mainstream as the Yankee’s! We both fell in love with baseball and now support the Mets whenever they are playing! For supper we had hotdogs washed down by a couple of beers, which were quite expensive. We went during fan appreciation week, so there was a fantastic fireworks show at the end.

IMG_2752

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum my dad had been to New York just a few months previously and highly recomened this museum to us, especially as I love military history. We used our city pass for this one and did get queue jump as well. The museum is well equipt with a submarine, an aircraft carrier, a space shuttle and multiple aircraft including a Concorde. Jonny and I decided to pay the extra $20 each to do the Concorde tour, which talked about the history of the plane both in build and in flight as well as allowing us to go onboard. USS Growler, the diesel electric submarine, was really interesting to have a look around, using the boat itself as the museum space means visitors get a more hands on experience and sense of the working conditions. The USS Intrepid is an Essex Class air craft carrier which was built during World War Two as part of the Pacific Fleet. I was particularly interested in her involvement with the Japanese ship Yamato, but unfortunatly I didn’t find anything on this in the museum. I did however find the Vietnam exhibition very interesting, as I had never imagined that war from the sea. There is also an exhibition on Drones, which was quite interesting especially seen as their use has only really hit the limelight in recent history.

We did not really have that much time to do any shopping while over there, we went to one of the famed flea martkets, I didn’t buy anything as I thought it was quite overpriced for what was on offer! Other than that Jonny bought me a couple of tops and I looked at buying a watch, but never purchased it in the end. However there is one purchase I cannot gloss over and that was in the world famous Tiffany & Co. I had a necklace which Jonny had bought me for our first christmas and had added charms to for each of our aniversaries and last year just before our 6th anniversary it went missing. So he thought it would be quite fitting to buy me a Tiffany necklace seen as we were in New York to celebrate our 7th anniversary. Jonny chose a beautiful heart neclace form their new “Return to Love” collection, which I absolutley adore. Some of our friends (and Jonny’s mum) thought we had gotten engaged as when Jonny bought it they offered us some champagne so we had a rather cliched photo taken, we did giggle! Even if you are not buying anything you should pop in for a visit, the bottom floor is like a museum and there is even a letter from Audery Hepburn on the wall!

Top of the Rock Observation Deck we did this on the day of our flight home as a final attemp at completing our city pass, sadly there is no queue jump with this one, but you do go and book your time. So we decided to book this as the last thing we would do once we had finished our shopping, which was a lovely way to round off the trip seeing New York in all her glory. As an obsevation deck this is slightly better than the Empire State Building as it is taller, you can see Central Park more and the added bonus that the Empire State Building itself is in your pictures!

IMG_2754

There were a few things we didn’t have time to see, but I was not that worried as we fell so in love with the city I know we will go back there in the future. Next time I’d like to see the Metroploitain Museum of Art, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdales, to mention a few.

Overall:

I cannot recomend a place more! For my first trip to the United States of America this was a dream. It was by no means a relaxing trip and 4 days meant it was a particularly busy trip, I’d definetely recomend anyone else going that 5 or 6 is probably better, if you can. This would have made out time a lot less rushed and allowed us to see more of the attractions we did visit as well as those we didn’t have time for. New York City is expensive, but in terms of value for money it’s so worth it! I would recomend getting the city pass if you want to see the main attractions it includes, as it can help you plan out your days. Transport around the city is relatively painless, from our hotel we could walk most places, but when we couldn’t taxi’s were easy to flag down, the trains were pretty easy to use and bikes were easy to hop on. Our hotel was pretty good, maybe a bit too expensive for what we needed it for as we were hardly in it, but then again it was so comfortable for when we just needed to crash! The food and drink was insanely good and the portion size was gigantic. Jonny and I would move to New Yourk City in a heartbeat, we just fell in love with it. There is definetly something in New York for everyone, if you’ve never been I urge you to start saving for a trip right now!

Have you ever been to New York City? Where did you go on your first trip to the United States of America?

Why You Need A 5 Year Plan

It’s the one year anniversary of my 5 year plan so I thought I’d let you know why think it is really beneficial to have even if it’s really rough.

I’d been trying to work out my life goals for a few months and everytime I’d manage to set them, I’d follow them for a week or two but then I’d get distracted. Mainly because I had too many, they were all related, but they were not properly linked together.

So I did some research on goal setting and life planning and the posts all had one thing in common they kept telling me to link my day-to-day goals to my larger life goals. Asking where I saw myself in 5 years time and how my life would have changed? I was 21 at the time and couldn’t really imagine planning more than a year ahead so 5 years sounded very dramatic, but I gave it a go. More out of curiosity than anything else.

As I did this I reflected back on all that had changed in the last 5 years of my life, I’d finished school and uni, I’d moved city twice, I’d changed my career path twice in fact the only thing that had really stayed the same was my hair style! But seen as most of the change that was ever going to happen in my life was now thankfully behind me I decided 5 years is reasonable as long as it remained a loose plan and was flexible to change.

Looking back I now think a long term plan is very important for personal motivation and to force you to chase your dreams, as it’s very easy to get bogged down in the monotonous passing of hours, days and weeks. Just getting by living for the weekend and winging about how rotten your lot is!

I found my 5 year plan allows me to be proactive rather than reactive and forces me to focus on what really matters.

Yes it doesn’t prevent me from having to “fight fires” sometimes when the unforeseen inevitably bites me in the arse, but it means that I can evaluate whether spending my time fighting them is going to help me get to where I want to be.

Crucially to build a 5-year plan you need to look at you life in all directions; you need to look at where you are and the mistakes you made getting there, as well as look at where you want to be in the future.

Perhaps the most important factor which I think is often over looked and can cause people to build the wrong supporting goals is, forgetting to look at who you want to be surrounded by! Ask yourself, what do I want my relationship status to be in 5 years time? Who do I want to be in my life?

From this you can then analyse the key categories of your life and ask yourself about them:

Lifestyle:

  • What will my social life be like?
  • Where will I live?
  • How do I want to feel within myself?

Career:

  • What job would I like to be doing?
  • Are there any academic or professional qualifications I’d like to have?

Leisure:

  • What do I want to spend my free time doing?
  • Do I want to have achieved anything with my hobbies?
  • What are my fitness goals?

Finances:

  • Do I have any debts I want to pay off?
  • How much do I want to have saved?

If you are struggling with thinking about goals for any of the above, look at your strengths and weaknesses, is there an area of your life that needs developing? Or is there something you are really passionate about that you want to push further? Can you turn your hobbies in to a career? Do you want to own a property and therefore need to save and increase your income?

Most of the time there will be a primary goal, which stands out as the most important and the others will either be less important or supporting that goal.

Be aware you don’t really want to have any more than 6 goals on the go at once otherwise it can get confusing and overwhelming. I worked out mine on a spreadsheet, below is an example I’ve knocked up for some of my current goals:

image005

Your 5 year plan is not a business plan, it does not have to be detailed and you don’t have to justify any of your goals.

I use mine more as a reminder – like a prompt card. So I can work out what tasks I need to achieve in my year, month, week and day plans. I’ve printed mine out and stuck it in the back of my diary so I can check on it whenever I feel myself loosing focus.

The key thing to remember is that although it’s written down and should not be changed on a whim, it should remain flexible as your life can change a lot in 5 years. Some goals will be chased and achieved, some will come faster than others and some will become obsolete before you have chance to finish them.

Your plan should enable you to have some focus in your life and keep pushing you forward towards your main goals and avoid the spiral of despair and confussion that comes from having a lack of focus. Not chain you to serving something your no longer interested in or no longer applies to your life.

So a review process is key, I come back and review mine very quarter to 6-months to check everything is still attainable and realistic and whether I need to add in any more steps.

What method do you use to set out your goals and how do you review them? Or have you got a 5 year plan for your goals?

Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I had heard a lot of good things about this book by the time I had finally picked it up. Although I would not have described it as a historical fiction book, it really is one. Set in the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), this book deals with the events before the war and life during it as well as the turmoil that Nigeria was left in once it was over.

Written by Nigerian born Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the book was awarded the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007. She has been hearalded as beeing the “21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe” by the Washington Post, whose book Things Fall Apart written in 1958 is listed in the Time Magazine Top 100 Books.

IMG_1436

Adichie chose three narrators: Ugwu the house boy, Olanna who is an academic and the central character of the book and Richard and Englishman who comes to Nigeria as an Expat to write about Igbo-Ukwu art. To tell the entwined story of themselves and two other main characters: Odenigbo the professor and husband of Olanna and Kainene the twin of Olanna.

As well as jumping between narrators the story also jumps about the timeline, flipping back and forth as if the character is reminicing and then crashes back to reality. This allows Adichie to throw in curve balls every now and then as just when you begin to trust one of the narrators she drops in something that forces you to be disapointed with them.

Richards book is stratgically placed with in Half of a Yellow Sun detailing the war, which gives the reader a better understanding of the reality of the war and firmly cements this book in the historical fiction genre. This was a great spring board for me to do some further research into this war that I had not previously heard of.

In an Q&A for her website Adichie said the wove this second book into Half of a Yellow Sun as a “strongly-felt political point about who should be writing the stories of Africa.”

Throughout the book the author makes strong political points on the social conditioning of race, “I am Nigerian beacsue a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because a white man constructed black to be as different form his white as possible.”

The book covers a wide range of themes from interracial relationships, female empowerment to domestic abuse and infidelity all wraped up in the overarching theme of the Nigerian-Biafra War.

This is all the more intensified as Adichie is not affraid to hurt her characters by and stripping them of love, to symbolise the way the war fractured Nigeria and left the country to rebuild itself.

It’s also hard to ignore the references to academia both inadevertendly in that Olanna and Odenigbo are both university professors, while Richard is a writer and Kainene is a captain of industy. As well as overtly in statements such as “Education is a priority… How can we resist exploitation if we don’t have the tools to understand exploitation?”

In 2013 it was made in to a film by the same name by the Nigerian filmmaker Biyi Bandele, staring Chiwetel Ejiofor from Love Actually, Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose from Dreamgirls. Sadly the film did not recive a great reception, with The Guardian giving it 2 out of 5 stars and The Telegraph awarding it a more favourable 3 out of 5 stars. I haven’t seen it yet, but look forward to sitting down to watch it soon.

In the beginning I found the book hard going, but once I got used to the changing of narrator and the style of the book it was hard to tear myself away from it. In the end Adichie leaves the story much as a war leaves a nation in a sense of dispair and loss with many questions still to be answered.

I’d recomend Half of a Yellow Sun if you are looking to read something a little more challenging than your average historical romance that dares you to think a little further than the story itself. Adichie’s message may seem confusing when you are reading it, but this book is quietly powerful in the way that will stay with you for time to come.

Have you read Half of a Yellow Sun or any of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s other works? Have you seen the film yet?

 

Maren Morris – Hero

If you like your country music straight then this one’s probably not for you, but if you like a little shake-up every now and then, take a listen. I absloultely love this album and have been playing it non-stop since it dropped in June 2016.

IMG_2416.PNG

This Texas firecracker made my ears prick with her witty lyrics and storytelling power that is up there with some of the greats. Hero is an unappologetic melting-pot of genres, making sure it is completely her sound, with a naughtyness that keeps it fun.

The album has a refereshing honesty in line with the music of Cam and Kacey Musgraves, which have been testing the boundries of country music recently. With confident lyrics telling of their inperfections and mistakes, not for judgment or redemption, but to show the world they’re human and though they might not make the right choices everytime, they are not going to let that stop them.

Morris’ sound is more daring than that of Cam and Musgraves, perhaps using the opening they’ve made in the country music scene to push the boundaries further. She even breaks one of country musics strictest rules and slings in a swear word here and there.

The common theme throughout the album is love and girl power, but Morris keeps the album light and the topics from digging too deep. The album saw her nominted for four Grammy’s in 2017 – Best New Artist, Best Country Song, Best Country Album and Winner of the Best Country Solo Performance!

Plus Rolling Stone put Hero at #13 in their 50 Best Albums of 2016. Not bad for her first album with a “Major” record label! You’d be forgiven for thinking she is just starting out on the music scene and testing the water in the different genres with this album, as this lady has been releasing music independently for 10 years now.

My personal favourite song from the album also happens to be the first track I heard from Morris – My Church. I found it very relatable as I too find there can be nothing better than a long drive when I need to clear my head! She even adds in a shout out to country music greats with the line “When Hank brings the sermon, And Cash leads the choir”.

My favourite line of the album comes from the second song Rich, “Me and Diddy drippin’ diamonds like Marilyn”. Which explains all the things you could have and do if you had money every time you went back to a bad boyfriend and were right about him being wrong.

Morris is not aftraid to juxtapose her own approach, with Drunk Girls Don’t Cry explaining her frustration at a friend who goes back to a bad boyfriend. With verse upon verse comparing the likelihood of him changing to drunk girls not crying. This is exactly the same situation she made light of herself being in, with the song – Rich!

I love this album as it seems so honest like it’s comeing from the heart, but you by no means feel like you are reading her diary. Perhaps the most personal sound on the album is I Could Use a Love Song, which describes the broken hearted searching for some way to clear your mind and make you forget the pain when nothing else seems to work.

I’d defiently recomend checking it out, it’s perfect for the commute or in the background at home, my personal favourite is having it on in my car when I am using it as “My Church” (pardon the pun!). In June 2017 Hero was certified Gold in the United States.

Maren Morris is following Hero’s 2016 album release with a tour of the United States, Ireland and finally the United Kingdom. I have tickets to see her in London when she is over and I cannot wait! So check out the album and if you like it you have time to choose if you want to see her while she is over!

 

I’ve Been Nominated for the Liebster Award

A few months back Lydia from Mademoiselle Women nominated me for the Liebster Award and now I’ve finally got around to witing my response. So here goes:

What is the Liebster Award?

I’d heard the name floating around the blogosphere for a while, but took no real interest as I assumed it was another unachievable award that had no relevance to small time bloggers like me.

After Lydia nominated me I did some reseach and I found out it’s actually an award given to new bloggers by other bloggers.

IMG_2240
What are the Rules?

While the premise itself is simple, the rules are not. There are more versions of the rules floating around than there are fake Mulberry Handbags in London!

For ease, my post will follow the same format as Lydia’s did when she nominated me:

  • 11 facts about me
  • Answer the 11 questions set by Lydia
  • Nominate 11 bloggers with a further 11 questions posed by me

So, without further ado:

11 Facts About Me:

  1. I was born in Plymouth.
  2. I identify myself as Welsh – predominantly for sport, but I also spent a lot of time there while I was growing up.
  3. Aged 11 I went to boarding school and loved every minute of it.
  4. I used to fence épée for Wales when I was younger, now I just do it for fun, when I can be bothered.
  5. I can’t click my fingers!
  6. Oh and I can’t whistle either!
  7. I obtained a 2:1 hons in History from Oxford Brookes, despite going out 4 times a week in my final year!
  8. My favourite family in history are the Medici’s and my favourite person is Catherine de Medici.
  9. I live in constant fear that I will not have enough books to read, I have a “To be Read” pile of well over 100 and that is not including my reserve pile in Cornwall.
  10. Even though a large part of this blog is about country music I have no musical talent – my mum made me give up the recorder aged 7 because I was rubbish and only used to practice in the car on the way to school!
  11. I’m hopeless at cooking – I once burnt pasta twice in the same morning!

11 Questions from Lydia:

Q. How do you keep organised, in terms of a planner?

A. I use a year diary (page a day) and a month to view sheet that I insert so it can move through the pages. This way I can focus on the day-to-day with out losing sight of the month plan. I try to set myself 3 main tasks a day for my blog and personal life and then 3 separate ones for work, in-line with my goals. I make sure to schedule in catch up time so I can eliminate missing the deadlin. This is key as I love to procrastinate.

Q. Ice cream – yay or nay?

A. What a silly question. I am eating some while writing this post! Mint chocolate chip is my favourite.

Q. Manicure or pedicure? 

A. Pedicure, my toes always have to be painted!

Q. Apple or Samsung?

Apple 100%. I love my iPhone and my other Apple bits and bobs.

Q. First album you ever bought?

A. Busted’s 2002 album Busted!

Q. What motivated you to start blogging?

A. I had been a fan of blogs for a while and one day I just thought I could have a go at this and see what happens. As I started, I found I had a need to have my voice heard, which is perfect as now I am not at uni, blogging allows me to continue being creative and forming an opinion on things.

Q. Dream job as a child?

A. After I got over the fact I could not become a helicopter! I settled on the rather understated General Surgeon in the Royal Navy – A-level chemistry put paid that.

Q. Would you call yourself a feminist?

A. Now here’s an interesting question. No, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist as I’ve never liked the term. Whenever someone has asked me this I’ve always rather flippantly turned and said, “if it wasn’t for those darned feminists I could be sat at home with my feet up right now.” That said, I think if I looked objectively at my life I would find that I make a very stong case for a feminist; I’m a well-educated, unmarried woman, living with my boyfriend, I work in the city, with aspirations to go into a traditionally masculine career and certainly always put my opinion across. Yet, I feel society works best when we work together as a community made up of men, women or whatever else you choose to identify as. So I guess I’m an equalist, just freeloading off the growing tide of feminism? I feel feminism can be percieved and used as a way for women to dominate over men, but maybe feminism is just a stepping stone on the way to equalism?

Q. Who is your role model?

A. My friend Freya. She I the cleverest person I know, she knows exactly what she wants to do with her life and while the rest of my group of friends, myself included, are dilly dallying about deciding if we’re willing to take the risk and go for our dream jobs, she’s already starting hers. She also happens to be the funniest person I know, with the unique ability to command a room and have everyone hanging of her every last word. So if there is anyone I look up to and want to imitate it is her.

Q. Who is your hero?

A. My dad, he has had the courage to stand up to his superiors on occasions when he has not felt working conditions on his ship have been up to par, but got on with the job at hand when faced with no alternative but to meet the set tasking.

Q. Pineapple on pizza – yes or no?

A. No, no, no! Never!

Chosen Bloggers to Tag:

Natalie from Rawli

And anyone else who feels they want to complete the challenge.

I know the rules stipulate that I was supposed to tag 11 bloggers, but as this tag has been going round for a while I struggled to find people who had not already completed the tag. Also I didn’t want to tag people randomly in case they did not want to complete it so I approcahed around 20 bloggers and Natalie was the only one who wanted to do it.

11 Questions for those tagged to Answer:

  1. Where would you rather live a city or the country?
  2. Who’s your favourite person in history?
  3. If you could go back to a time in the past when would it be?
  4. Where is your dream travel destination?
  5. What is the best lie your parents ever told you as a child?
  6. What childhood toy do you still own and why?
  7. Who is the first blogger you followed?
  8. What is your favourite book?
  9. What is your favourite alcoholic drink?
  10. What is your pet peeve?
  11. What’s the scariest thing you have ever done?

Royal Ascot 2017 – The Day

After the stress of all the preparations and the debarcle surounding Jonny's suit the day finally arrived, in the morning my hair would not curl propperly and our taxi booking got lost, I sware something was trying to tell us not to go!

My boyfriend and I knew taxi's would be busy on the day, but we booked one anyway and an hour after it was supposed to arrive we started to worry and when we called the company they said the system had crashed and our booking had been lost.

So Jonny and I decided to start walking in case this new taxi we booked was also an hour late. I had just got to the end of a long gravel road in my heels and the driver arrived so we got in – I had to sit at a very strange angle so my hat could fit in, much to Jonny's amusement!

On arrival Jonny was pounced upon by a woman with a "lucky Carnation" which was all very lovely until we realised we had no cash on us!

We headed in after a thorough search of out bags, which was very efficient and professional. Once inside Jonny laughed as the photographers wanted to take photos of all the ladies around us except me.

Food & Drink:

After a quick wander around and a precautionary plaster break, we headed to the bar. Jonny bought us half a bottle of champagne for £35 – we wish we had bought the full size one for £70, as you get a little bag to carry it in so you can wander and drink. We drank it on one of the outside balconies so we could watch everyone else coming in and some ladies hats flying off!

Here's a picture of me looking glamorous with my champagne:

  

And here's the reality of wearing a hat on a windy day and trying to take a lovely photo:

We had not booked into one of the restaurants as they were very very expensive, instead we headed to the alcohol free area at the Lavazza Coffee Bar and had a lovely sandwich and coffee. This worked out well as not many people were in that area, so we had a fabulous view of the Queens carriage procession! We also saw the Queen walk into the Royal Box, whcih was pretty spectacular.

A few races in Jonny made battle at the bar, which took a good 30 minutes. We decided to get a bottle of Rosé wine as that would last us longer a normal drink. I was pleasntly suprised that it only cost £20!

We didn't stay for a drink after the meet, in an attempt to beat the sea of people, with mixed success. We actually stopped off at one of Jonny's family firends house for a few drinks, which really rounded the day off in a wonderful day.

For dinner Jonny took me to his local Indian in Sunningdale where the food is sublime. Unfortunatley we were both so tired we kept falling asleep at the table! So we headed straight home to bed afterwards.

Betting:

Jonny and I's first bet of the day was on "How many other women we would see in my hat?" – loser had to buy dinner! Jonny went for 2 or less and I went for 3 or more, as soon as I saw one I was praying for over 3.

In total of what we saw there were four of us, which isn't bad when you consider how many women were there and the price of my hat. I've never really been that fussed with wearing the same thing as someone else, in fact I find it quite flattering!

All four of us wore it differently and looked incredible in it. It wouldnt have mattered if I had worn one of the other hat's I liked as there were about the same number of people in them too!

We bet about £5 each per race, sometimes Jonny got a bit excited and stretched that a bit further. I love going to the old fashioned book makers at the races. I use the race card to help me choose my horse, in so much as I see which name I like and if I like the jockeys colours! Then I like looking at the bookies LED screens for the best odds and rushing over to place my bet before they change!

I tend to do £2.50 each way, which is effectively two bets, one on the horse to win and one on it to place – traditionally in the top 3. I like this type of bet as I find you tend to get a bit more return. Especially with my method of choosing a horse it may place, but I'm not likely to pick the winner!

Overall between us I think we came out about £65 down, which is not too bad given our skill and that it was a whole day of entertainment. I won £35 on Stradivarius in the penultimate race, which I was over the moon with!

All in all despite arriving there with both Jonny and I saying we will never go again as it is too stressful and too expensive. We both left saying when we come next year we will do things differently.

The things we would have done differently this year are:

  • Checking the suit order
  • Practicing my hair before the day
  • Matching Jonny's tie to my outfit
  • Organising the taxi a few days in advance
  • Wearing lower heels
  • Buying a full bottle of Champagne instead of a half
  • Eating a snack before we go

Have you ever been to Royal Ascot before, what did you think of it? Or, do you want to go to Royal Ascot?