Four falls walk in the Brecon Beacons

stuff

Despite living in Bristol for the last 13 years, I have hardly visited the Brecon Beacons. In fact, I think before Saturday, I had only been there once when friends and I climbed the Cat’s back mountain earlier this year. Climbing the Cat’s back was brilliant, apart from the fact my Morrisons own brand thermos did not come through and when I reached the top, unscrewed the bottle and poured a cup of tea that I had looked forward to for the past 2 hours of climbing snowy ridges I found it was ice cold. This weekend, Zoe and I (following a recommendation from a friend) decided to head over the Severn bridge and complete the four falls walk. Following aforementioned tea incident it also gave me the chance to try out my PROPER thermos which I got for my Birthday, believe it or not I’m actually 31 and not 75. As the name suggests, the route takes you to see 4 waterfalls – Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr and Sgwd-yr-Eira and it was so much fun that I wanted to write a blog post about it.

We parked at Gwaun Hepste carpark (CF44 9JF) after heading to the Cwn Porth carpark and finding it full (same postcode and very close by). We arrived at 11am and the warden said in that in half an hour that carpark would be full too so leave early to avoid disappointment. Parking cost £4. There were v.helpful people there in hi-vis who could talk you through the route, toilets aaaand a little campervan serving hot drinks and cakes.



The route is well marked with red arrows to follow. There are green arrows too but the nice man in high-vis said this was a more direct waterfall to waterfall route but was treacherous, rocky and slippy. We stuck to the red arrows but still managed to get a bit lost. We were told to head to the first waterfall, then go to the third and fourth and then see the second one on our loop back to the car. We ended up ignoring him and instead did them in the order we found them in. Warning: each waterfall requires climbing down to the river and then slogging it back up to the main path again. Also it is fairly rocky in places (despite us being good gals and following the red arrows) so good shoes are a must.

Sgwd Clun-Gwyn

The walk to the first waterfall is absolutely beautiful and you get some amazing views out across the Beacons. The descent to Sgwd Clun-Gwyn is steep, but short. The first waterfall is the easiest to access as it is the closest to the main trail. My photo is from right at the top of this fall and doesn’t do it justice, the water cascades down to a deep and beautiful pool at the bottom and it started to make me feel hungry for a wild swim (more on that later). I found that each waterfall got better and better as we found them but this first find still took my breath away and I happily could have sat next to it for hours and watched the water falling over the rocks. But, I had three more waterfalls to find and a finite amount of energy so on we went.

Sgwd-yr-Eira

This was the waterfall we were meant to see last but ended up seeing second. It had the steepest and most strenuous climb down and back up so before we headed to see it, we stopped for some lunch at the picnic benches we passed on our way. We later found loads more idyllic picnic spots right next to the water so there are plenty of places to rest as and when you need to and prettier places to eat your sandwiches. When you reach the bottom of a set of deep steps you are greeted by the large flowing river. However, this time, the river side is very narrow and there are rocks you need to climb over. We saw someone having a photo taken and falling in, in their jeans. Schadenfreude. This is the largest of the falls and you can even walk directly behind it and pretend your Peter Andre in the Mysterious girl video.

Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn

After climbing back up the many many steps we realised we had gone the wrong way but a friendly passerby set us back on course to find the 3rd and 4th falls. The descent to the river is long and steep and is made via sharp flights of steps and a muddy path. There is a large space of flat rocks at the bottom right next to the river which would be a great place to stop. We decided to spend some time paddling our feet in the water and climbing around the rocks. We also stopped to watch a group of people canyon-ing who were jumping off the top of the waterfall which was incredible!

Sgwd y Pannwr

The final waterfall was tricky to find as it wasn’t well signposted. It is really close to the Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn but you have to climb up the bank of twisted tree roots and rocks to find it. Basically, follow the sound of the roaring water – it’s worth it. This waterfall was a fantastic finale and as you climb down from the top you can walk alongside the water’s path as it gathers in parts creating large pools. It was at this point that Zoe dared me to go for a swim. So I whipped off my leggings and got in, in my vest top and pants. This happened to co-inside with the group of canyoners arriving in their full wetsuits, trainers and helmets. They definitely thought I was mad. The water was freezing but beautiful to swim in. I lasted less than 2 minutes before jumping out and desperately tried not to flash any onlookers whilst navigating an inside out jumper with hands that had gone numb. I imagine a swim here in the Summer would be heavenly but no doubt the trail gets jam-packed with people so it would therefore lose a bit of it’s charm.



Clothes back on and feeling returned to my body, we started the journey back to the car with the thought of my thermos full of hot tea and a milky bar encouraging each (uphill) step. The walk took us 4 hours to complete at a leisurely place including a stop of lunch and impromptu dip. After downing my tea and munching through our chocolate I promptly fell asleep the whole way back to Bristol. What a fantastic day.

If you like to be extra organised, you can find a proper map of the route here. The trail is described as an intermediate walk and includes muddy paths, steep descents and strenuous ascents. 


What 2021 taught me

stuff

2021 was a funny old year wasn’t? I started it allowing myself to feel a tiny bit hopeful that we would see the end of Covid’s impact on our day to day lives. In reality, it has been so confusing and tiring that I now see 2021 and 2020 as one big blur in my head. I let that tiny bit of hope on the 31st December 2020 encourage me to throw some ideas out into the Universe just incase something sticks. I didn’t end up consistently using Duolingo but I did use Olio a lot more. I gave up on 1 second every day (because I missed a day or two and then the perfectionist in me told me I might as well stop all together) but I did buy a house. So I’m taking that as a win. Even though the past year has been an absolute clusterfuck, it has taught me a lot and I wanted to take a bit of time to appreciate those lessons.

January
January taught me that I could get through hard things. We went into our 3rd lockdown in our one bed flat and we did all we could to keep our spirits up (strictly no Zoom quizzes). I fell off my bike and then made myself ride it home again because I knew if I didn’t, I’d have the wobblies forever. I went for walks and runs with friends, even in the snow. It was a slow start to the year but I leaned into it.

March
March taught me that sometimes smaller Birthdays are better. It was my 30th this month and I always thought that my 30th would be when I would go all out. I am usually pretty extra when it comes to my Birthdays and stretch out the attention as long as I can with numerous different plans with different friendship groups and family members. It’s fun until it isn’t and I end up exhausted and inevitably have a break down. Instead of launching into a week long festival style celebration of another year of me I spent the day with Zoe in our flat. She gave me a spa day, made an amazing charcuterie board lunch, organised an online horror escape room with my best friends and made it v.v.special. I loved every minute of it and it’s encouraged me to keep my Birthday small going forward – it’s much nicer.



June
June taught me that I am a real grown up when Zoe and I got the keys for our new house. The process of buying a house was eXtremely stressful and I could have just summed up January – May by saying ‘These months taught me that buying a house is hard’. It was so worth it in the end. We found our dream house that we could make our own, it has 2 bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, a living room, a dining room and a garden! It’s in a lovely pocket of Bristol and I now say every day, without fail ‘I love this house’. It’s the best thing I have ever done, with the best person I have ever met.



July

July taught me that I should take myself on dates often. Growing up, I haaaated spending time by myself and regularly spent the Summer holidays counting down until the start of school but as I have grown up I love being on my own. I love being selfish with my time and doing exactly what I want to do. It fills up my self love cup and makes me a nicer person to be around once I am done being by myself. This month I took myself on solo lunch dates and solo cinema trips to see musicals that no-one else wants to see. I sand along, ate popcorn and cried. It’s better than therapy (not really – *see November).

August

August taught me that holidaying in the UK can be wonderful. We went on a mini road-trip of Cornwall for a week and spent our days swimming in the sea, walking, reading, eating and being together. I highly recommend it. August also taught me that I really wanted guinea pigs for pets (who I am kidding) I’ve known since I was 14 and my last of 4 guinea pigs passed away – RIP Snowy, Sooty, Patch and Fudge, that as soon as I had a house of my own, I wanted piggies back in my life. After some excellent persuading/begging on my part – Zoe agreed and after our holiday, I picked up Rhubarb and Custard who quickly changed my life forever. I completely fell in love with them, my mental health improved and I honestly felt like the luckiest girl in the world to call them mine.

September

September taught me that I didn’t want to drink anymore. There was no final blow out or bad drunken decision which lead to this but more a quiet bubbling under the surface which finally came to a solid plan this month. Zoe sent me this article last week and it absolutely sums up how I feel about alcohol. Because I am rubbish with rules and any thing I commit to I immediately want to rebel against I am not saying I am sober and never drinking again. If I want to drink, I will but so far I haven’t wanted to and I am thoroughly enjoying the benefits of that.

October
October taught me that grieving for a pet is necessary and the pain of this loss is very real. A tragedy meant that Rhubarb and Custard were taken from us far too soon. It is no exaggeration to say that my heart shattered. Just before this loss I was signed off work for 1 month due to declining mental health and the loss of the girls came at the worst possible time. However, October also taught me that processing difficult things has to happen for you to be able to move forward. I spent this month doing a lot of crying but I also spent this month leaning on loved ones and letting myself be held. It was very tough but very necessary.

November

November taught me that I deserve good things. I was able to adopt 2 senior guinea pigs from a local rescue and although they won’t ever replace Rhubarb and Custard, they helped my heart to heal. They are called Cookie and Snoop and I am obsessed with them. I returned to work and felt calmer, more present and confident. However, October and November also taught me that I needed some more therapy. However much I begrudged the cost, the results have been worth it sevenfold. I felt safe to share things I have never shared before and I put in the work. I found someone who helped change my relationship with my body and food forever.



December

December taught me about rest which is a lesson I need often. An ongoing issue with my knees saw me finally visiting a physio who has signed me off running for around 3 months and given me daily exercises to do. I am hopeful that I will be back racing soon but for now I am taking things slowly and enjoying swimming, walking and stretching. I also followed a busy Christmas with a lovely few days of resting (my final day before the return going to work being tomorrow) and I feel really refreshed for it. Endless cups of tea, cross stitch and reading have made me very happy – as well as regular guinea pig cuddles.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the year ahead will teach me. 2022, I’m ready for you.

Sea swimming in Cornwall

stuff

Goodness me. I haven’t written a blog post in 2 months. I guess I have been busy getting back into the groove of the ‘new-normal’, returning to the office, being social again and.. getting guinea pigs! More on that another time. Recently, Zoe and I took ourselves on a mini road trip around the Cornish coast and it was a joy. We stayed in 4 different places (including a book-ended trip to my parent’s house where they happily did mountains of clothes washing for us, offered endless cups of tea and there was my elderly cat to cuddle. Lush). Our 3 other stops were in the areas of Polzeath, St Agnes and Penzance. Despite being a Cornish gal, I haven’t actually been to that many different parts of my home county and it was so nice to have the time to explore various beaches, towns, coves and cream tea offerings. I thought it would be fun to do a round up of the trip via our outdoor swims and the snacks we ate afterwards.

Seaton

Our first swim took place the evening that we arrived at my parent’s house who are based in Saltash (a place I regularly moaned about growing up but now love to return to. Absolute small town vibes but a stones throw from some amazing beauty spots). After dinner my Dad suggested we kicked off our Cornish adventure with an evening dip at Seaton. Seaton is a large, pebbly beach with a carpark right next to it meaning no climbing required. It is very busy in the Summer days and popular with families and dogs but at around 7pm when we headed there it was fairly quiet with lingering day time bbq-ers and a few brave kids in wetsuits dipping their toes. This is the first evening sea swim I have done in a while. I will say now that all of our swims were cold, initially, but after the initial shock passed it felt great. Getting your chest/shoulders in is definitely the hardest bit, I usually wait to do this until my legs have adapted – or maybe gone numb. We bobbed about for around 20 minutes and revelled in the fact that our holiday had begun. We got changed gracefully underneath our towels before Zoe ventured into the v.fancy restaurant to ask for two takeaway hot chocolates, with whipped cream and marshmallows, obviously. It turns out that I can stress about money no end but will happily depart with £7 for two hot chocs after a swim without a second thought and did so regularly on this holiday. We took said hot chocolates to another level by dipping in some salty pretzel filled milk chocolate from Aldi which was a taste sensation. After warming up we went for a walk along the coast path. There is a really nice pathed walk underneath some houses that look straight out of ‘Selling sunset’ and some rocks to climb if you’re feeling adventurous.

Swim rating: A solid 7/10. Got the holiday off to a great start
Snack rating: 8/10. Anything involving two types of chocolate doesn’t deserve anything less
Beach rating: 4/10. Severe lack of amenities. Wouldn’t go here for a ‘day on the beach’ but nice for a walk or swim




Tregonhawke

Tregonhawke beach is probably my favourite beach in Cornwall. It’s what my Mum calls a ‘locals beach’ but I think it is more that a lot of people can’t arsed with the effort required to climb down and back up to your car. It is steep but worth it, promise. We parked at the top of the cliffs in a farmer’s field (£5 for the day). You can park on the side of the road but there are strict rules on wheel placement and rumour has it that if your car wheel is placed at an angle and onto the main stretch of road, you’ll get a ticket. We met our friends April and Lucy and their dog Ruby and spent such a nice day in the sunshine. Tregonhawke is part of Whitsands bay and is biiiiig. There is plenty of space even though we were there on a bank holiday August weekend. We spent a good hour in the sea before deciding to hire a paddleboard (£10 for an hour) from the rental shack next to the café. It was great fun but the waves made standing atop of the board extremely difficult so we mainly stayed on our knees and pursuaded someone else to push us around. We even got Ruby to have a go, but she wasn’t so sure.

After our paddle boarding we headed to the café for snacks and managed to get ice-creams and fresh watermelon slices! The café does loads of great options including hot food and they have an adorable pully system that carries the stock down the cliff to them. There isn’t a loo so you either need to climb back up the cliff or use the sea (no number twos allowed). Before returning to the car we were eager to find a giant rock pool that we had seen last time we visited when we looked over the cliff top. We had seen a woman swimming there naked and she looked like an actual mermaid. To get there we had to walk the length of the beach towards Sharrow point and tuck in to the cliff. I wasn’t feeling so confident we would find it and worried that the mermaid we had seen was the result of severe dehydration but we turned the corner and it was there! There were 2 young girls and their Dad jumping in from a rock (it was sooo deep) but they left after a little while and we had our own little spot of paradise. We kept our cossies on but did decided to eat some seaweed for a dare and I impressed myself by not being scaredy cat and jumping in from what felt like a dizzying height but doesn’t look so impressive on the video.

Swim rating: 9/10. Absolutely dreamy, added hilarity of trying to paddleboard earned this swim an extra point
Snack rating: 5/10. Aldi’s own brand ice-creams being flogged at Magnum prices
Beach rating: 9/10. If there was a loo on the beach I honestly think it would be deserving of 10/10




Trevaunance Cove

On our way to our first Air BnB we decided to stop off at Trevaunance Cove to break up the journey. We parked at the top of the cliff at a place that only accepted change so I had to ask someone to lend us 10p. We then found out there was a cheaper and card accepting car park right by the cove. You live and learn. When we arrived you could barely see the beach but there were a few keen people sat on rocks waiting for it to appear. It did slowly get bigger throughout the morning but it was still a small space which got very busy! That being said, we managed to find a nice spot on a stone step providing an excellent back rest for reading. In fact we got so involved in our books that we hadn’t realised we were sat in complete shadow once the sun had come out so we relocated once we could see some sand.

The sea was choppy and there were a lot of children with body boards meaning we had to swim out a little way to get some space. Despite that it was a really nice spot which boasted toilets(!!!), an RNLI charity shop, a v.boujie restaurant and a decent café serving sandwiches, cakes, pasties, ice-creams and more. As we finished our swim prior to the sun appearing we opted for hot chocolate after a quick change hidden behind an unclaimed beach hut where I definitely flashed my bum by atleast 3 times (not on purpose).

Swim rating: 5/10
Snack rating: 7/10. A score to match the cost of 2 hot chocolates. They were better than the ones at Seaton but I didn’t have any pretzel chocolate to dunk. Gutting
Beach rating: 5/10




Polzeath

Polzeath is touristy heaaaaven. There are tons of gift shops, cafés, ice-cream and fish and chip shops and lots of posh looking people ready to spend their money.. not as posh as the people seen in Padstow and St Ives but still second-home-by the-sea level. We parked in a farmer’s field again for £5 and these farmers must be making a bloody fortune. We ended up right by the main strip of shops and close to the beach. There was a car park closer but this was jam (after the cream) packed. The beach was full to the brim of people and it felt like a proper brits at the seaside sort of day. There were endless amounts of group going for surf lessons but a distinct lack of waves which made watching their lesson very entertaining.

Similar to Trevaunance cove we had to swim a little bit out to find a quiet spot of sea to bob about in via an obstacle course of bodyboards but there was a great atmosphere in the water. Due to aforementioned lack of waves you could do a lot of lying on your back and looking at the sky without fear of being carried off into the depths of the ocean which is always a bonus. After our swim we wandered around the shops and bought some supplies for an evening in at our Shepherd’s hut (they have a very well stocked Spar).

Swim rating: 6/10
Snack rating: 6/10. Just had our classic packed lunch after a swim but did step things up a notch with a trip to Vanilla where I had a rhubarb and salted caramel ice-cream!
Beach rating: 6/10. Busyness lost this spot some points but lots of shops, toilets and cafés mean it is great for a day trip

Chapel Porth/Porthtowan


We decided to have one walking day during our trip and decided on the stretch between Chapel Porth and Porthtowan (around 3 miles but we added in a walk to and from the hotel which we heavily regretted on the return journey). The start and end of this walk offers the opportunity for a swim but we decided to have our dip at the half way point, on Porthtowan beach. We detoured over to the Wheal Coates tin mines once we got to Chapel Porth, as the tide was in, before turning around and passing Chapel Porth on route to Porthtowan. At this point I must mention the Hedgehog ice-cream which we continuously read about in reviews of the area and only available from Chapel Porth. There was a lengthy queue at 10am in the morning for good reason but we decided to have ours on the return leg to give us a boost before a hilly ascent back to our hotel. The walk was glorious and totally took me back to reading the Salt Path, one of my all time favourite books. There was a decent amount of up and down hill along the way and much appreciated benches to stop and take off your back pack, rest your legs and wonder ‘how much further?!’.

We originally wanted to go to Porthtowan because we had read about a beautiful tidal pool in our Wild swimming book. However, despite trying to get it just right for a prime-time swim the pool was pretty much empty. It was still nice to see though and maybe next time we’ll get to go in. Despite our tidal pool woe we still managed to have a lovely swim at Porthtowan which was fairly quiet and had beautiful golden sands and still waters although it is fairly shallow. There is a popular restaurant/bar next to the beach, a village shop and some clean toilets which we used to wash our feet and get changed in before our pilgrimage back to the Chapel Porth ice-cream shop.

Picture this: A scoop of vanilla ice-cream (or you can have chocolate or blackcurrant too) topped with clotted cream and then lazily rolled in honey roasted hazelnuts *chef’s kiss*. They also offer 2 other toppings, the foxy – rolled in homemade flapjack or a kids version – rolled in pick n mix. Hedgehog ice-cream is worthy of every accolade the Chapel Porth TripAdvisor page gives it and in the words of countossie “Been coming here for over 30 years and there is no other ice cream to compare. Go there, get a hedgehog and enjoy”.

Swim rating: 5/10. Mainly because I was disappointed about the tidal pool!
Snack rating: 10/10. I bow down to the Hedgehog ice-cream
Beach rating: 7/10




Praa sands

Our final stop off took us to the very bottom of Cornwall and to the wonderous Praa sands which is genuinely, beautiful. It offers a huge stretch of white sand and plenty of space for you to feel like you are the only ones there! Apparently, and here’s the science, the light sand is made from seashells that have been pulverised by wave action over millions of years and in the sunshine, the sand can look almost blinding (not that we would know..the day we went was very grey and windy but the beach was still a looker!). As we wanted to have a quiet day on the beach we headed away from the lifeguards swimming flags (sorry Mum) but we got our comeuppance as the sea was really rough so we didn’t stay in for too long. It was still a nice but brief swim and accompanied by some chunky chips, the perfect way to finish our road trip. There are some nice cafés, plenty of beach side parking, a restaurant and somewhere to hire surf boards, body boards etc. A great beach for a family especially as a large stretch of the sea is nice and shallow (when the tide is behaving!).

Swim rating: 4/10. Purely due to the sea conditions that day
Snack rating: 6/10
Beach rating: 8.5/10


There were a few other places which we passed and didn’t swim and the one I really wish I’d packed my swimming gear for was Rock. We got a boat from there over to Padstow and on the return leg a beautiful sandy beach had appeared and water that almost begged for you to get in! Next time..

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re interested in reading more about my more local wild swimming, check out this blog post. It feels nice to be writing again.

40 things I feel proud of

stuff
  1. I co-owned a successful business for 6 years

    2. I bought a house

    3. I embraced my sexuality (and met my soul mate)

    4. I can do the alphabet in sign language

    5. I have a job which I genuinely, really enjoy and that I’m good at

    6. I am open about my mental health

    8. I can sing in tune

    9. I make a great cup of tea

    10. I’m good with money

    11. I’m a kind friend

    12. I’ve made it through all of my worst days

    13. I got the highest mark in the class for my year 4 project on the Victorian era

    14. I can touch type

    15. I can find the peanut butter in a supermarket in under 20 seconds

    16. I can run a half marathon distance

    17. I make my friends and family laugh

    18. I read a lot of books

    19. I support small and local businesses

    20. I’ve done a lot of personal growth & healing

    21. I am always up for a swim in the sea or a river

    22. I can carry heavy bags of shopping

    23. I call out/in people who make inappropriate comments or do inappropriate things

    24. I have a VERY healthy Monstera plant

    25. I survived a global pandemic

    26. I know the boundaries that I need (even if I struggle to always upheld them)

    27. I don’t have the Facebook apps on my phone

    28. I’ve never had a floordrobe

    29. I give good hugs

    30. I understand the importance of naps

    31. I’m extremely organised

    32. I once trekked across the Great Wall of China and raised lots of money for charity

    33. I will no longer succumb to peer pressure when it comes to a reptile house or pet shop. I’m not going in

    34. I’m great at finding discount codes

    35. I am a evangelistic supporter of the library

    36. I bought a bike in lockdown #1 and now feel confident to cycle to work and back every day

    37. I can semi-competently perform ‘One Day More’ as a one-woman-show

    38. I can do a handstand in the swimming pool

    39. I did an ultra marathon (didn’t I mention it? ;-))

    40. I like myself


40 things I feel guilty about

stuff

Inspired by the wonderful Elizabeth’s days online list of the 40 things she feels guilty about, I thought I’d share my own.

1. I closed my business

2. Every time I get a missed call from an unknown number

3. Every time I get a letter that looks official

4. The fact I quit a sailing course my grandma paid for (aged 12) after day 1

5. I don’t know how to drive

6. I haven’t recovered from my eating disorder

7. I am rubbish at general knowledge quizzes

8. I didn’t pass my grade 5 music theory test

9. Not seeing my grandparents enough when they were alive

10. I don’t have a skincare routine

11. Every time I don’t answer an email, text or Whatsapp immediately

12. I don’t journal

13. I don’t keep up with current affairs

14. Feeling jealous of other’s successes

15. I’ve never read Lord of the Rings (or seen the films)

16. Not feeling enough gratitude for what I have

17. Not recycling every thing I could recycle

18. Letting my house plants meet their maker

19. I don’t drink enough water

20. I hate yoga

21. I can’t do a burpee

22. I can’t do a forward roll

23. I’ve never watched Friends

24. I spend too long on Instagram

25. I didn’t do well enough in my A-levels

26. Every time that I stand up for myself

27. I don’t know how to play chess

28. I gave up learning French

29. I don’t read enough non-fiction

30. I can’t shuffle a deck of cards

31. I don’t message my brother and sister enough

32. Every time I prioritise my mental health

33. Taking annual leave

34. Whenever I say ‘no’ to a social invite

35. I haven’t travelled enough

36. I don’t like coffee

37. The time I used the wrong key when locking up a pal’s house and I had to call (and pay for) a very expensive locksmith to sort it out whilst relentlessly messaging her when she was already having a stressful day

38. I talk too fast

39. Any time I have to make an important decision

40. I’m both too much and not enough

2021 gigs

stuff

I absolutely love going to see live music and it is one of the things I have missed the most through the pandemic. I miss:

– Elbowing through to get to the bar to order an overpriced pint that then gets knocked all over me whilst trying to navigate my way back to my pals

– Pretending to know the lyrics whilst I sing along when I definitely don’t know the words to their B side track on their first album but my god, I’m a trier

– Trying to make eye contact with the leader singer and then convincing myself that they were singing to me and me only

– Waiting for a song I don’t know (which is beyond the realms of me trying to sing along to) and making a mad dash to the toilet only to realise by the time I’ve reached the front of the queue that they’ve moved onto my all time favourite tune and having to rush back to the dance floor in time for the chorus.. whilst still being desperate for a wee

– Getting annoyed at people on their phones and passive aggressively sighing when I spot it happening near me

– Being tall enough to always see what’s happening regardless of where I am in the room because I’m so tall

– People behind me tutting and passive aggressively sighing because I’m so tall

Now that there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel I have allowed myself to get excited about being at gigs again and have started buying tickets to see some of my favourite artists. If you aren’t using it already, I would highly recommend the songkick app where you can follow singers/bands and be alerted when gig tickets are going to go on sale. It also recommends similar artists that you might enjoy and you can keep all of your gig plans in one place.

The one thing I think that Bristol is missing is a big arena sized music venue but at the same time I feel really lucky to have so many smaller more intimate gig spaces across the city. Over the years I have seen Ed Sheeran perform in the back of the pub, Ibeyi do a gig by candlelight to an audience of 30 and Young Fathers singing in a record shop. The other brilliant thing that happens a lot in Bristol is stumbling across random unheard of bands who sometimes go on to be massive (exactly what happened with Ed Sheeran) but even if they don’t, you always end up having a good time and discovering new people that you should be listening to. I love going out ‘just for one’ and ending up dancing to a ska band or world music artist who happen to be doing a gig in your drinking hole of choice.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the concerts that I am looking forward to in 2021 which I am seeing across Bristol, Birmingham and London. You’ll probably be able to tell that my music taste is pretty eclectic and I won’t have a bad word said against Steps.

Have you got any live music plans for the year ahead? Who would you most like to see performing live? Do you have any music recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below.

Ben Howard

Dermot Kennedy

Princess Nokia

Tom Grennan

Black pumas

House gospel choir

Jon Hopkins

Steps (!!!!)

Me and White Supremacy

books, stuff

Laylaa F Saad began an Instagram challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy where she encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviours, big and small. Thousands of people participated and from this project the Me and White Supremacy book was born; with added historical and cultural contexts, stories, anecdotes, definitions, examples and further resources. The book leads readers through a journey of understanding white privilege and their participation in white supremacy so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage of black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) and in turn, help other white people do better too. It is clear from the onset that this work will be uncomfortable, painful and necessary. Even if you already have an understanding of white fragility, cultural appropriation, and tokenism, methodically working through and examining your own complicity in them is another thing entirely. This is essential work for all white people.

White privilege – inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice
White supremacy – the belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups, in particular black or Jewish people
White fragility – discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice
Cultural appropriation – the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society
Tokenism – the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce

In light of the BLM protests, a friend of mine set up a book club for us to explore this book. As a group, we decided to meet weekly and share our journaling responses to the chapters. Saad sets out the most effective way this can be done as a group to ensure that it is a safe space for sharing. Before starting work, I genuinely thought that racism was negative words and actions said and done towards black and people of colour. I believed that I hadn’t ever been racist because I had never acted in this way. I didn’t think I really had any work to do around racism because I was a good person who believed everyone should be treated equally. Working through this book taught me just how wrong I was. I had limiting beliefs, I had unknowingly benefited from my white privilege, I had tone policed people of colour and I had been a performative ally. Responding to the questions posed by Saad made me go deep into my childhood – growing up in a Cornish town where there was one person of colour in my whole secondary school, challenge my behaviour when dating black men in the past and acknowledge where I have disregarded the experience of black, indigenous and people of colour.

Something that becomes very apparent through the book is the need to call out/in friends, family, colleagues, random strangers when you witness behaviour that needs to be challenged. This is something that I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve heard problematic comments and I have been silent. Doing this work in a group setting gave us the chance to talk through real life experiences and workshop the best ways to respond whilst also exploring how they may respond to your actions (white centering/fragility). Putting this into practise is hard but isn’t comparable to the hard shit that BIPOC have to go through as a result of my and other white people’s actions. I finally feel like if I lose people as a result of calling them in/out then c’est la vie.

I’ll be honest – the work was hard and at times I wanted to give up. I felt apathetic & then there was a chapter about white apathy. Saad totally hits the nail on the head when she says that it is absolute white privilege that we get to opt out of this work when we want to and disengaging cannot be an option. I felt proud when we completed the 28 days but knew that this wasn’t where the work finished, it is where it begins. We were asked to list our actions that we would be taking forward over the next 2 weeks and beyond and committed to holding each other accountable. There is so much that we can do with our money and time to support BIPOC and we have to do that over and over again. It is baffling how many people/companies shared social media posts in solidarity during the BLM protests and have since been silent. It is not up to BIPOC people to tell you what you can do or how you can help. This shit is on you.

Recommendations:


– Read Me and White Supremacy
– Read Why I’m no longer talking to White people about race
– Financially support charities/projects ran by BIPOC for BIPOC
– Ask charities/projects how you can best support them
– Get involved in local protests
– Listen to the About Race podcast
– Listen to the Woke Up podcast
– Diversify the media you consume and those you follow on social media
– Challenge spaces that aren’t diverse or are tokenistic
– Have conversations about racism with your friends/family
– Take ownership of where you have done wrong in the past and apologize
Think about where you hold influence and how you can use this to be a force for good

Thirty, flirty and thriving

stuff

I have always wanted to be older. I am the youngest of 3 and desperately wanted to be in my brother and sister’s gang. I hated playing by myself and would spend the Summer holidays asking my Mum when it was time to go back to school. I loved being around people and I loved the sense that a new year at school meant I was moving up in the world and one step closer to being a grown up. At that time being a grown up meant being in year 6 and ruling the roost but in later years it was my constant drive to be moving onto what was next. At secondary school, during a nasty patch of bullying, I remember telling my parents how ready I was to go to University. I was 13 at the time. I always felt mature for my age and I looked older too (I feel like I’ve been 5ft11 since I was 8) so I wanted to be with my equals who didn’t pick on me for not having a Jane Norman bag for my PE Kit or for preferring a night watching a musical at the theatre to underage drinking in the park.

I also had some complex stuff I was dealing with in my family life which conflicted the standard parent/child dynamics all whilst trying to sit my GCSE’s and then A-Levels. I definitely didn’t do as well as I could in school but my brain felt so full of other stuff that I didn’t have room for finding the value of ‘X’. There was a huge lack of support for my wellbeing not helped by the fact that I absolutely did not want to talk about it. When things settled on that side of things, I felt like I’d missed out on the time that is really important for a young person growing up and figuring out the world. I guess what it bottles down to is that I spent a lot of my teens feeling really fucking lost. I was so unsure of myself and didn’t know who I was, what I liked or where I was going. Looking back, it feels kind of sad that I spent so much time wishing away my younger years and not being present in my childhood and teens.

University was a time of real transformation. Moving from a small town bubble to a big city meant I had the chance to make friends with people from all over the UK (and beyond) and forge friendships from mutual interests and not because we’ve been forced into the same form group. I also got to study Drama and Creative Writing which I loved with other people who loved them too. I didn’t care that I didn’t know what I wanted to do after University, I was finally living my life and being an adult and I could eat pizza every night for dinner and my Mum couldn’t force me to finish my peas before I got down from the table. The confidence I gained at University meant that the day after my graduation, I travelled to Canada to spend a month with a friend I hadn’t seen since I was 9. This would have been unthinkable to the anxious child and paranoid teenager I was but University had really changed me. The world was my oyster.

Repressing a lot of stuff as a teen was always going to catch up with me and a large part of my twenties has been spent nurturing my inner child and younger self. I have definitely made a whole load of mistakes since graduating from University but I feel now that every decision I have made has lead me to the place I am today and I’m doing ok! Yes, I’ve had a lot un-fulfilling relationships with men but they have lead me to a blissfully happy in a relationship with a woman where I am able to voice my needs and truly believe that I deserve to have them met. Yes, I’ve worked myself to breaking point in the past but I now know the power of rest, boundaries and my own self-worth and care. I feel like I finally know who I am. I know what I like and I sort of know where I’m going. I think growing older is a privilege.

I am stepping into my thirties and it feels really good.

Boundaries

books, stuff

Last week I listened to The Joy of Being Selfish by Michelle Elman and honestly, it rocked my world. I have always been a textbook people pleaser and would always put other’s needs before my own. I have been called a door mat, someone with no backbone and a push over. I took pride in being the person that others always go to in their hour of need and the more I gave out, the better of a person I felt. Until I didn’t.

I have always let people have a lot of access to me. From my fleeting years of (low-level) Instagram fame where I shared the most intimate details of my experiences with mental health and an eating disorder, to never turning my phone off and always allowing people to get in touch with me whenever they wanted and I would always reply, straight away. From listening to Elman’s book, I realise now that I was showing myself a complete lack of self respect and the only way for me to really practise self love and put energy back into myself is through boundaries. This felt like a scary concept but boundaries will strengthen the relationships that matter because the more respect I show myself and the more respect I demand, the more I will be given.

I initially started the book because I was struggling with someone I know. Conversations we had would replay in my mind when I tried to go to bed and would ruin my weekends because I’d be worrying about seeing them again the following week. They spoke to me rudely, sent me relentless Whatsapps and always called me at bad times. Sure, their conduct was inappropriate but I was allowing them to continue this behaviour by always responding, further confirming that any threats I made such as ‘please stop sending me Whatsapps’ had no roots. The more access I allowed them, the more ‘taken advantage’ of I felt and something needed to shift. This book gave me the tools to have a conversation with them where I laid out my boundaries and then I stuck to them.

Setting boundaries works, you can take ownership of your time and take no bullshit. Another thing that has helped navigating tricky relationships is that I don’t get to control how people react to me – my only power is how I choose to respond. Their response to my words/actions is not my responsibility and thinking about it on a Saturday night when I’m trying to watch Ant and Dec’s Saturday night takeaway, isn’t going to achieve anything positive or change what they are thinking. I do however, have the power to choose how I respond to myself and treating myself with kindness and allowing myself the time to switch off fully is something productive that I can do.

Boundaries with acquaintances is one thing but I also needed to instate boundaries with my friends and family. I have decided that I will do this by:

– Not being accessible to everyone all the time by turning off my phone and not responding to messages right away. Responding to messages quickly means that I rarely process what I am saying and also means I regularly agree to things that I don’t want to do. Responding to messages when with others is also just plain rude (unless it’s an emergency obvs). I also will respect other’s boundaries by not expecting people to reply to me immediately.

– Saying no if I don’t want to do something and not give a reason why. I used to really struggle with saying no to plans but I realise now that a gap in my diary doesn’t mean I always need to say yes. In the past, if I turned down a social invite I would worry that I would have upset someone or that they would be angry at me for not attending. Now, I realise that if I don’t want to do something then I am not going to have fun doing that thing and other’s aren’t going to have fun doing it me. I have the power to choose how I want to spend my time and this means that when I do spend time with others it’s because I really want to. I also will respect other’s boundaries by accepting if they say no to me.

– Being clear when I do not have the capacity to take on someone else’s emotional load. I want to be honest and upfront with friends who need support as to if I am able to give them my time. If I’m not, it is much better for everyone if they reach out to someone else and if I am able to give them my time then it means I am present in that and able to support them fully. I also will respect other’s boundaries by asking before I want to dump my emotions on them.

I’ve realised that I do not need to be liked because I get to define if I am a good person. It is a sure thing that setting boundaries is going to rattle some people because suddenly, they don’t have the unrelenting access to me that they previously had. I have decided that a negative response to my boundary setting will show that they were previously taking advantage of my lack of boundaries and not because I have done anything wrong. Something that really impressed me about Elman’s book is the practical examples of where you need boundaries and how you can set them, as well as how to respond to those who do not respect them. Finishing ‘The Joy of Being Selfish’ left me feeling empowered to take back control of my life. There is so much more I could tell you about boundaries but ultimately they are an extremely personal choice. I would highly recommend reading the book and thinking about where you can set them in your own life because you deserve to reclaim your time, energy and self-belief.


The things getting me through this never ending lockdown

stuff

The Great Pottery Throw Down

Sometimes, something happens that makes you 100% sure that you have found the one. The moment Zoe turned to me and said ‘Do you fancy watching The Great Pottery Throw Down?’ was one of those moments. I am an avid Bake off fan. I jumped on the bandwagon late with the Nadiyah series but half way through watching, I began from series 1 and watched them all by the time we saw the Queen crowned. I was hooked and also very confused as to which contestant was on which series because I was watching too many different series at once (Classic me). This is the third series of Throw Down and oh my goodness. It is honestly, wonderful and *whispers* I like it more than Bake off. There was something about the move to Channel 4 that irked me about GBBO and I never found myself as invested since ad breaks were introduced and the history section was scrapped along with the holy trinity of Mez Bez and Mel and Sue. For some reason, this hasn’t been the same with Throw Down. I am 100% invested in the journeys of every single potter and I cry week in week out. There is so much I love about it and if you’re quick, you can get through the 5 episodes that have already aired and watch live with the nation every Sunday night. It’s worth it, promise.

  • The head judge Keith cries when someone does well. This is relatable for me and now when Keith cries, I cry. Rarely do we see an emotionally engaged man on TV. Paul Hollywood is adored for being a meany but I will eat my hat if you watch Throw Down and don’t instantly want Keith to be your Dad. He’s lush.
  • The series is doing well in terms of diversity. There is still a way to go BUT it is so nice to see different body types, sexualities, nationalities, races all together making really nice crockery. My fave is Rose, the pottery assistant and the self-proclaimed ‘trans kiln witch’.
  • I don’t know anything about pottery, I’ve made one pinch pot in my life time and it is fun to watch something completely new and learn about the creative process behind the household objects we take for granted. With Bake Off, I feel like we know the challenges and themes like we know how predictable the Hollywood handshake is but with Throw Down everything is new and exciting and the challenges are really different. One week they’re making dainty ceramic daisies and the next…bricks.
  • There is a real escapism in just watching nice people doing something nice and being nice to each other. I’m all for it.

Puzzle books

A couple of weeks ago, I needed to buy something from the corner shop to get change for the laundrette. As I’m trying to kick my Diet coke habit, I instead reached for a puzzle book. I’m not sure why.. maybe because Philip Schofield was on the cover.. who knows. Whilst my washing tumbled, I was absolutely hooked by cross words, word searches, arrow words and sudoku. My washing finished and I couldn’t leave until I worked out the year Torville and Dean won Gold (1984, you’re welcome). I have decided my favourite are word searches because they don’t require you to know anything and you can’t cheat. I now have a bumper book of 189 word searches to get through. I look like a Nan, wrapped up in my blanket, highlighter in hand and before I know it a good hour has past and my cup of tea has gone cold. I am in the matrix, I eat word searches for breakfast. I also may or may not have applied for a TV game show and whilst there won’t be a round on word searches (if there is, the other contestants can eat my dirt) I’m doing some brain gym and surely that is going to help when asked v.tricky general knowledge questions that I have zero general knowledge about.

Learning stuff

If you are have got this far in the blog post you deserve to know that not only have I applied for a TV game show but I am now through to the final audition to actually be on a TV game show. I am on a quest to learn everything there is to know so I don’t get turned into a meme. Even if I don’t make it onto the programme, I’m going to be the pub quiz assassin and you will all want me on your team. My weakest subjects are Geography and Sport so this last week I have been revising. I have now covered the Continents, Oceans, Space and Capital cities. I might not be the sharpest tool in the box but once I’ve learnt something I am pretty good at remembering it. I did not get on with my Geography teacher one bit and spent the majority of the classes sat outside in the corridor so I have had to do some serious ground work and I’m weirdly..enjoying it?! Take that Mr Clarke and your stupid maps that no-one wants to colour in, you asshole.

Podcasts

Off Menu Podcast
Shagged Married Annoyed
How to Fail
I have limited myself to 3 podcasts because I am a completionist and there are only so many hours of the day and I am busy watching people make pottery, doing quizzes and learning stuff. These three tick my boxes. Download them and thank me later.