What Yoga is Teaching Me About Me

So, I’ve been taking a yoga class.

*pauses for gales of laughter to subside*

I know, I know, me and exercise haven’t always been the most natural of bedfellows. I was once pulled in front of the class and used as a bad example in PE. I walk the 5k Race for Life every year. My idea of a hearty workout normally involves walking to the fridge to get another piece of cake.

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I signed up sort of on a whim. My dad had wired me some pocket money and I wanted to spend it trying something new, something that I’d never normally spend it on. I’d read a post by one of my favourite bloggers not too long before about how she had discovered yoga and had fallen in love with it. So I googled “Dalston Yoga” and booked myself a block of six beginners classes at the first school that popped up. I am beyond, beyond thrilled that by sheer chance, I picked one of the best exercise classes I’ve ever been to. Dalston Yoga classes take place in a tiny loft studio, sunlight streaming through an open skylight, the air warm and spiced with soft incense. A black and white cat pads around the space, curiously observing. The teacher, Paulene, guides classes gently in a thick, soothing Aussie accent (this is probably where I find out that it’s not an Aussie accent and get in trouble), liberally peppered with swearwords.

I first walked through her door about six months ago and I honestly don’t know how I lived without it. It’s become a hard, occasionally weird, but always brilliant part of my life. It’s constantly teaching me things about myself, and I don’t just mean that in the typical “yoga has brought me to a moment of clarity and reflection” (although there are shades of that sometimes). It’s teaching me things about myself in the same way that trying anything that you’re not immediately good at does. Here’s a few of the things I’ve learned:

It’s a damn good thing that I’m smart.

I’ve always been a rather appalling goody two shoes. A teacher’s pet. A kiss ass of the highest order. So imagine my surprise on learning that when I’m not immediately good at something, I have an almost irrepressible instinct to play class clown. As soon as I start to struggle, when my legs start to shake or I can’t bend as far as I want to, I feel compelled to comically fall over or make a smart comment about my lack of fitness. Because at least then, people would be laughing with me, right? There it is, one of my biggest insecurities and defense mechanisms, laid utterly naked by nothing more and nothing less than a forward bend. There is nothing scarier than trying really hard and still not being very good. It has taken real strength to battle past that. To accept that actually, nobody is going to laugh at my poses quite simply because no one is looking at me. Which brings us neatly into surprise number two…

“Poses” is a grossly misleading word.

When I hear the word “yoga”, the image that comes to mind is pretty specific and also, as it turns out, utter bollocks. I imagine a thin, white, pretty woman pretzelled up on a sandy beach. The sun is probably rising. She’s probably drinking from a coconut. She has great hair. Her name is probably Tiffany. Regardless, her poses are just that: still, serene, beautiful. When I go to yoga, I am anything but. This took a long while for me to come to terms with. I had a very definite idea of what I should look like when I was doing yoga and for the first couple of classes, I verged on upset, face flushing bright red as my legs juddered and twitched beneath me, or my wrist cracked, or my breath became ragged. Then, as I got out of my own damn head for a second – helped infinitely by the incredible teacher, Paulene – I realised that yoga isn’t supposed to be pretty. It’s a process of discovery and discovery is almost never neat or Instagrammable.

Now, I set my mat up at the front of every single class. I have never ever done that in an exercise class before. My yoga isn’t any prettier but I don’t care, because I’m discovering my body, piece by tiny piece. Sometimes, it does super weird things. When they get tired, my limbs start to shudder. My movements aren’t smooth and practised. A lot of the time, I jerk stiffly from one position to the next. Sometimes, for no reason at all, one of my muscles will decide that it’s going no further and cling on for dear life. I grunt and groan and sweat my way through the classes. And it feels incredible.

It’s not about that.

We all tend to think of ourselves as big heads on sticks. Our mind does all of the living for us and our body runs after, trying to keep up. As somebody who has devastatingly physical symptoms whenever my mind gets out of balance, I can definitely attest to that. More than being about getting bendy or skinny or even fit, for me, yoga is about actually taking some time to hang out in my body. As touched on in point one, I’m a bit of an Overachiever. It has been really, really difficult for me not to get caught up going “Well, by this time next month, I want to be able to bend this far, or hold this pose for this long”. That works for some people but is really destructive and distracting for me. I spent my first couple of classes physically pulling myself into uncomfortable stretches and poses before being utterly called out on it by Paulene.

Once I got past that, it became less about nailing each pose and more about going Oh, so that’s how my body moves in that direction.
So that’s how far I can go this way.
That’s what it feels like when I twist like that.

Your body has no moral value. There is no right or wrong way to have a body (despite what some people adamantly insist). The class isn’t a place for me to criticise or improve my body. It’s a place for me to observe. Because how are you supposed to love something that you don’t even know? So I watch my body. I learn what it can do. I learn Oh, that feels good.
That feels weird.
That’s interesting.
I think I can go further.
My body is great.
I am great.

Just like she knew when my mind was pushing me too hard, Paulene knows when my mind is blocking me. She knows when it’s my mind saying no, when my body could actually go a little further. Bit by bit, I’m building up. I’m starting to notice which poses make me feel happy, which poses make me feel strong, which poses make me feel grounded. Because I started at the ugly, ungainly beginning.

Once, talking about another yoga class she had attended, Paulene snorted, “They’ve got all these poor people trying to stand on their heads and they haven’t even learned to stand on their f*cking feet”.

That’s what yoga is about for me. It’s not about the money shot, the headstand, the scorpion pose, the perfect, beachy Pinterest pin. It’s about spending time with me. It’s about not pretending to love my body when actually, I’m just ignoring it. It’s about being present. It’s about learning to stand on my f*cking feet.

It Starts Now

I’m so excited that I arrive half an hour early and have to sit in the lobby of the uber stylish Hoxton Hotel, people watching and becoming increasingly frantic that everyone walking past looks infinitely cooler than I do. The beloved imposter syndrome sets in but has to take a back seat; there’s nothing in this here world that would make me miss one of my favourite writers in conversation with one of my favourite websites, especially when the odds of free cocktails are high.

Photo provided by the lovely folks at Aperol UK.

Photo provided by the lovely folks at Aperol UK.

The event is called It Starts Now, a name that runs up my spine and reminds me of that whispered promise that the New Year brings. It’s run by the Debrief, sponsored by Aperol and plays host to three amazing bloggers who will be telling us exactly how to grab 2016 by the unmentionables.

I’m at the event solo. This is the undeniable downside to having cool friends…they are literally always booked out. I tentatively introduce myself to another girl in the corridor, Hannah, and by the time the doors open, we are already cheerily discussing micropenises. We are ushered into a bar that looks like it leapt directly out of Pinterest: black and white chequered tiles, bright orange everything, squashy armchairs, warm white fairy lights, bottles of stinging orange Aperol scattered artfully around. We’re given a cocktail each and advised to hang onto our glasses for top ups. This is excellent news.

Hannah’s plus one, Sarah, arrives shortly after and turns out to be just as excellent as Hannah. They very nicely let me gatecrash their evening and it is definitely their fault that I don’t have a single non-blurry photo of the night. I’m far too busy giggling and drinking Aperol Spritzes to stand still enough for a photo.

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After a little mingling, we are brought into a tiny cinema room and this is where the fun really starts. Jo from food blog Jo Eats London, Laura from lifestyle blog Superlatively Rude and Zara from beauty blog Mouldy Fruit sit in front of us and reveal the secrets to making 2016 a truly great year. Laura’s blog has been one of my favourites for a very long time. She’s one of the most stunning, truthful writers that I know, and if you haven’t read her blog before, you absolutely should. When I meet her, I instinctively throw myself at her, before panicking a split second too late that she isn’t a hugger. Of course, she is, so when I say goodbye, she gets a proper hug. Jo and Zara are both new discoveries for me but hearing them speak is amazing.

Jo talks about what’s going to be hotting up and what’s going to be cooling off in our kitchens. Cupcakes are over, thank the lord. Give me a slice of proper cake any day. So are spiralisers. Pasta is the way forward, says Jo. I think we’ll get on just fine. Jo is warm and sweet and funny and completely succeeds in making me very hungry. Apparently, in 2016, we need to be eating cauliflower. And doughnuts. And I’ll raise a glass to that any day.

Laura chats about life, love and social media, not necessarily in that order. Chat really is the right word for it. She goes off on tangents and laughs at her own notes when they get pompous – “I regularly prune my social media garden…what does that even mean?”, she chuckles at one point – and has all of us in stitches as she mourns the loss of her slightly uncool imaginary celebrity BFF Khloe Kardashian. Her message is the same one that rings out through her writing: do what feels good. She talks about authenticity and truth and beauty and I feel like standing up and doing a little victory dance every five minutes.

Zara is talking beauty. More specifically, beauty trends that will look just as good on your actual face as they do on Instagram. As she so aptly puts it, we’ve all gotten to the stage where we feel like we should have five Instagram filters on our faces before we even walk out the door. Excessive contouring is swapped for dewy, glowy skin, nude Kylie Jenner lips are replaced with bold cherry lips and swipes of turquoise eyeliner. I’m excited. Like the others, Zara started her blog because she felt like somehow, she had something to say. And she certainly does. I take a full page of notes of beauty products that I want to buy.

Zara, Jo and Laura.

Zara, Jo and Laura.

All three are warm and fun and gorgeous in every sense of the word. I leave the room feeling like 2016 is probably going to be the year that I take over the world. Sarah, Hannah and I head back into the bar where we sit and put the world to rights, drink a few more Aperol spritzes than is really appropriate for a school night and swap social media links and story ideas, before being politely ushered out after everyone else has left. What else are ya gonna do on a Wednesday night, right? Take a deep breath, my darlings. 2016 is here. It’s going to be a big one, if you’ll let it. Relax. Do you. Do what feels good. Introduce yourself loudly. Throw yourself in for the hug. Order another drink. Laugh too much. Get inspired. This is your life. It starts now.

Camille In The Round

As much a storyteller as a singer, Camille O’Sullivan has one those raw, heartrending voices that seems to tear the very fabric of the air, before reaching through and punching you right in the heart. When I lived in Edinburgh, I made a point of seeing her at least once a year when she rocked the Fringe festival, so last year, finding myself stuck in London throughout August, I was pretty gutted. It didn’t even occur to me to check whether she was playing in London and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should always date someone smarter than you. My lovely boy bought me tickets to see her for my Christmas.

Camille O'Sullivan London

From a tiny Edinburgh festival venue to London’s beautiful Roundhouse, Camille’s set remains familiar. It’s like wandering into the mind of a fairytale character; dresses hang in the air, filled with fairy lights, a rabbit lamp sits on top of a battered leather suitcase, an assortment of hats lies to the side of the stage, a microphone stand drips with chimes, a pair of ruby slippers glitter conspicuously in the dim light. Camille herself is equally surreal. She enters in a sparkling black cape, wrapped in yet more fairy lights, painted red lips the only colour among orchid-pale skin and dark, shining hair. I always have a certain amount of love and respect for beautiful women who could choose to be hot and choose to be weird instead (see also: Kate Bush). Camille lurches and sashays and bunny hops wildly around the stage, miaowing, swearing, drinking wine, before assuming whatever character she’ll be occupying for the duration of the next song. All of which isn’t to suggest that she isn’t sexy as hell. She’s basically the love of my life. She shifts between spurned lovers, spurning lovers, heartbroken daughters, deranged freak-show nightmares, salacious temptresses, often huge caricatures with enough truth in them that every one feels familiar. Changing characters are accompanied by changing costumes, a glittering array of shoes and dresses and hats and face paints and lipsticks. Different voices, different faces, different walks. Her singing veers between soft, whispering crooning, scratching rock and roll belting, rich, deep instrumentals. She has a voice that feels as though it is physically surrounding you, filling you up. I cry three times: once at the lovesick beauty of Declan O’Rourke’s Galileo, once at the raw, scraping power of Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam, once at the ironic, understated loneliness of Fascinating Aida’s Look Mummy, No Hands.

Having seen her at least ten times before, I’ve got a list of firm favourites, songs that give me goosebumps or make my heart start thumping after just a few notes. I couldn’t have written a better set list for this show. Niall laughs at me as I bounce and squeal and grab his hand every time I recognise a new song. The show opens with Gillian Welch and closes with Nick Cave, stopping off at Bob Dylan, Kirsty MacColl, Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel and a rollicking tribute to the Starman himself, Mr David Bowie. Camille covers songs that I would ordinarily forbid people to cover and she makes them better. She makes them more beautiful. She makes me understand them in a new way.

Between songs, she chats affectionately to the audience, trips over microphone wires, talks lovingly about the artists she is covering, marvels at how much easier it was to salsa Kirsty MacColl’s In These Shoes when she started ten years ago. Despite all of the glamour, all the theatrical glory of the performance, between songs, you’re made to feel as though you’ve just bumped into her in the pub. She exudes warmth and fondness for her audience, and performs with the air of someone who still, after all this time, feels so privileged to be sharing her favourite music with them.

She’s back in London on the 29th of April. Go see her. Miaow.

A Hot Date With You

During the summer, the boyfriend headed back to Ireland to spend a weekend with his family, leaving me on my ownsome for a few days.

An artist's impression of me on my ownsome.

An artist’s impression of me on my ownsome.

I like to think of myself as kind of a Badass Woman but here’s a secret: when Niall goes anywhere for more than a couple of days, I tend to get a bit pathetic. Not full on sitting by the window in a crinoline, waving my handkerchief, but definitely a bit sad and mopey. This is combined with the novelty of having the flat to myself, having lived with Niall for five solid years. This combination of factors means that when he’s away, I’m generally to be found in my pyjamas, eating slices of cheese, surrounded by dirty plates, watching the worst movie available on Netflix. And that’s an awesome way to spend a day! But after a whole weekend of not seeing the outside world, I tend to feel a bit less awesome. So this time, I decided I wasn’t going to do that. I decided that instead, I would go on some super hot dates…with myself.

I washed my hair and painted my nails and put on my brightest lipstick and wore my fancypants patterned tights. And you know what? I looked hot. I would totally date me. Dressing up for yourself is kind of great.

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The coolest thing about your significant other being away is that you can relish doing things that they totally hate. So, I headed for Leicester Square, marched up to the half price ticket hut and bought myself a ticket to see Wicked that evening. £40 lighter and deliriously excited, I skipped off for what turned into a very boozy lunch in the sunshine with my friend Suzanne. I guess this is technically cheating on my spending-time-with-me plan but hours of girl talk is one of the things that I so deeply miss about sharing a flat with a load of people, so I’m totally counting it. After lunch, I wandered slowly along the Southbank, pausing every five steps or so to gaze at the river and share a romantic moment with myself. It was glorious. I arrived at Wicked, literally bouncing with excitement. At first, it felt pretty weird being by myself and I was sure that everyone was staring and pointing and such, but that evaporated as soon as the lights went down. I bawled and beamed my way through the entire show without once having to worry about whether my date was bored…I knew she was loving every second.

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The next evening, I did something even scarier: I took myself out for pizza, wine and a movie. There’s a little Italian in Stoke Newington called Trattoria Sapori that does pizza, a drink and a movie for £12. Every day, I walk past it and every day, I peer wistfully in the windows. So this day, I decided I’d go. I booked my ticket, confirmed that it was just for one, took my seat, confirmed that it was just for one, confirmed with the couple who came in after me that I wasn’t saving a seat, it was just for one, confirmed with the waiter that I was by myself…turns out that people aren’t used to seeing a gal out on the town by herself. Again, it felt pretty weird to start with but I was starting to quite like my own company. I struck up a conversation with the couple beside me, ate an entire pizza all to myself, didn’t stop to check whether my companion wanted to head home or whether I could order another glass of wine.

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Of course, when my boy came back, I threw my arms around him and didn’t let go again for about three days. But if you’re not used to spending time with yourself, I’d absolutely recommend it. I’m big on being comfortable in your own skin, so it was pretty strange how not comfortable I felt hanging out with myself at first. I’m so used to having other people to bounce off of and chat to that I wasn’t sure me, myself and I would have much to talk about. A lot of the time when we talk about love, we talk about someone else completing us. And that sounds nice in theory but in practice, it’s much nicer to be a whole person and have someone else compliment that. In fact, when you’re a whole person, there’s a whole lot more of you for them to love. I know, I know that’s a little long to fit on an inspirational quote instagram. I’m working on it.

The Razz For Life

So. I’m throwing us a party.

Razz For Life (1)

I don’t know about you guys, but I am way, way over cancer getting all up in our business and taking away the people that we love.

For anyone who doesn’t know my history, my mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was just 16. My sister Sophie was 11. This completely sucked. But amazing advances made by organisations like Cancer Research UK meant that 15 years after my dad lost his mum to cancer, I didn’t lose mine. She beat its ass and now spends her time drinking cocktails in her Spanish apartment, taking hilarious selfies with our dog and cruising the Norwegian fjords.11243676_921685944537392_512823715_n

Awesome.

But I’m not through with cancer yet. Because while I was lucky enough to keep my mum, lots of people haven’t been. And this is not over until no mother ever has to sit her kids down and tell them she has cancer.

So I’m doing what Glasgow girls do best: picking a fight and throwing a party.

On the razz:
out enjoying oneself or celebrating, especially while drinking freely.

We will be taking over the fabulous basement bar at Farr’s School of Dance in Dalston.

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We’ll be filling this sexy speakeasy with flashes of hot Race for Life pink, decadent treats and amazing people.

We’re gonna have cupcakes from the fantastic, gorgeous Polly from the Cake Diaries.

We’re gonna have goody bags for every guest, featuring amazing products from Timeless Truth Beauty Masks, Inlight Organic Skincare, Hifas da Terra and Race for Life.

We’ll have the chance to win a massive bumper goody bag worth over £100, with goodies from the Body Shop, Nails Inc, Essence and more.

We’ll have glorious heated massages from Lava Angels.

You’ll be able to chat to the folks from Sniffy Wiffy about their amazing products and how they can help you check yourself for the early signs of breast and testicular cancer.

And we’ll have more surprises to be announced closer to the time.

Fancy coming along? Of course you do! Just drop me a line at theescapologistsdaughter@gmail.com. Places for the event are limited, so get in touch!

Cancer, we’re coming to get you. And we’re gonna party all over you.

All of the Flowers, All of the Time

I love flowers. I really do. Having fresh flowers in the house makes me about 72% happier. I keep a jar of flowers by my bed, so I can see them in the morning, before I have the chance to get grumpy. So I was pretty excited to be moving so close to Columbia Road’s famous flower market.

Of course, this excitement translated into me completely failing to go for my first six months in London. But this weekend, we finally made it!

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Gee, thanks cloudy sky for making all my photos totally blown out.

Picking Mother’s Day for our first visit probably wasn’t the best idea we’ve ever had. It was so completely packed that at points we literally just had to stand still and wait for the crowd in front of us to move. So that wasn’t ideal.

But the flowers. My lord, the flowers. They erupted in every colour from every direction, and the air was filled with the most incredible scents. I could get drunk on the smell of jasmine, it’s so damn beautiful.

columbia road flower market columbia road flower market columbia road flower marketI think my favourite thing about the market was that, despite the fact that they were selling flowers, the sellers were such market sellers. They flirted, yelled and cajoled their way into any sale they could. They berated passers by who had empty hands or frowns on their faces. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an enormous man holding up an orchid and bellowing “Cor, look at the size of this one! Three stems!” in a thick North London accent.

White roses were definitely flavour of the month, blooming from almost every stall, but no matter what your taste, I’d bet you’d find something you like. In fact, I was absolutely thrilled to find big bunches of white iris, my favourite flowers, which I can almost never find in florist shops. I took a bunch of white and a bunch of blue for my bedroom.

columbia road flower market columbia road flower marketThis day definitely didn’t showcase the market at its best. We probably picked the peak time of day, on the peak day of the year to go, so it was hard to get a proper look at the flower stalls. We got kind of swept along in the middle of a big crowd, having to crane our necks to get a look at the wares on show. And once we got to the end, it started to rain. Not ideal. But even at its worst, the flower market was pretty incredible. I’m a sucker for beautiful flowers, and it was pretty special to be completely surrounded by them. Not to mention the chintzy cafes and vintage stores that run up and down Columbia Road itself. I’m definitely going back, as soon as the weather picks up…and I might even make a habit of it. It might even be worth getting up early for.

columbia road flower market

Shine Bright Like A Diamond: How To Be Your Own PR, with Antonia Mariconda

I stepped down the stairs at the Soho Hotel to the now familiar sound of heels clacking, cameras clicking and new connections being made. This was the third of Antonia Mariconda’s workshops that I’ve been to, and as usual, she didn’t disappoint.

Antonia is an award winning media professional and safety in beauty campaigner, who began her interest in beauty after significant reconstructive surgery following a car accident. She took this tragedy and turned it into a wildly successful career.

Basically, this is a woman who knows how to grab life by the balls.

And this workshop was all about how we can learn to do that too. How to find our inner sparkle and make it shine bright enough that everyone else can see.

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshopWe settled in with the usual gorgeous breakfast spread and exciting goody bags…just what I need at ten on a Saturday morning!

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Armed with my notepad, a cup of tea and a whole lot of ambition, I couldn’t wait for Antonia to get started. On seeing Antonia for the first time, I couldn’t help expecting a certain personality to follow. I expected her to be fluffy. To be ditzy. To be shallow. I literally could not have been more wrong if I tried. You don’t get where this woman is without having some serious steel in there. She is determined, she’s smart and she point blank refuses to take any nonsense from anyone. Her criticisms and anecdotes are blunt and sometimes brutal, but cushioned in the genuine warmth of someone who truly wants to see you succeed. She’s a woman who lifts others up, who wants to share her knowledge and help others achieve what she has. She’s also brilliantly relatable, quipping throughout the presentation about the beads dropping off her skirt, and handling an impromptu Rihanna outburst with typical grace and aplomb.

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Seriously, why this room is called the Indigo Room, I will never understand.

The presentation lasted for three hours, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. If you want to know all the secrets, get yourself booked onto her next workshop. But since I love you all very much, I’ll share just a few of the gems (see what I did there?):

1. You have to know who you are.

Sounds obvious, I know. And yet, when Antonia picked on workshop attendees and asked them to pitch themselves in one sentence, most struggled. And when she asked for the two words that they’d write under our names on TV shows, we struggled even more. When I worked in marketing, I had product pitches that described our service in 250 words, 100 words, 140 characters, one sentence and a tagline. I prepared pitches from lengthy investor presentations to 60 second elevator pitches. I knew it inside out. So why should it be any different when you’re marketing yourself?

2. You have to know who you’re talking to.

Again, seems obvious. But it’s so important to know your audience. It affects everything from the visuals you use, to your tone, to how you choose to communicate.

3. You have to know what you want to say.

Everything that you do in the public domain is PR. Every tweet, every comment, every picture is PR, and it all comes together to create people’s image of you. So make sure that you know what you want that image to be. Make sure you know what message you want to put out there.

4. You have to believe that you are awesome.

Let’s be honest, if you don’t believe you’re awesome, why should anyone else? You have to be your own absolute number one cheerleader, and not be ashamed to shout your achievements from the rooftops. I’m Fiona. I’ve been published in a number of online and print media sources. I single handedly ran a marketing department for a year, at the age of 22. I’m a pretty talented writer. I once starred in a national media campaign with Cancer Research UK. Let’s have a brag off! Leave your best brags in the comments, or tweet me. Be your own champion. Back yourself.

5. You have to put yourself out there.

This is an old cliche, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But like so many, it’s a cliche for a reason. Pitch a story to the Huffington Post. Ring up ITV and ask if they need an expert to go on This Morning. Don’t keep yourself small because it feels more comfortable. You’d be surprised how much you can blag with a bit of confidence. Believe that you’re important, take the risk of putting yourself out there, and you bet that people will believe right along with you. Fake it til you make it, and you will. Okay, that’s enough cliches for one bullet point.

The advice that Antonia gives is like gold dust, and I always leave her workshops feeling ready to take on the world. But actually, I haven’t touched on the most amazing element of the workshops, for me at least.

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshopSix months ago, none of these women knew each other. And on the surface of it, we don’t really have much in common. In this group, we have mums, bloggers, scientists, business owners, make up artists, aestheticians and more. We are scattered from all over the country. And each of us are at a different stage in our stories and our careers. But Antonia’s workshops seem to attract a certain type of woman. Strong, ambitious, warm, going to Antonia’s workshops and connecting with these women on Twitter and in real life, I have surrounded myself with a network of women who want to see each other succeed. All of us have different areas of expertise, and we use them to build each other up. They inspire me every single day, and I feel very lucky to have a support group like this in my life. Not to mention that they’re mean craic over a bottle of wine.

Despite my insistence on Twitter, Antonia isn’t a fairy godmother. She doesn’t wave her magic wand and make your life better. She does something much more important. She shows you that you are the one holding the power, the magic is inside you, and it’s been there the whole time just waiting to be unleashed. Go forth and sparkle, fellow fairies. Yes, even you guys.

Benefit Cosmetics’ Curls Best Friend Pop Up

Nestled in the heart of Theatreland, Benefit’s Curl’s Best Friend pop up parlour is a warm, welcome respite from the grey wintery weather outside.

benefit curls best friendThis isn’t the first pop up venture that Benefit have launched in London…I was devastated to be moving to London just a couple of weeks after their world cup bar closed its doors. So this time, I booked myself a table as soon as I saw it on Twitter. Gladrags on, I hopped on a tube straight back to the 1950s.

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I took a bunch of serious versions of this picture, but liked this accidental shot better. Some girls just aren’t meant to pout.

I got that skirt for £2 in an Oxfam shop. Can we just take a second to appreciate that? And our awesome Six Nations setup, of course. Paired with my Kate Bush t-shirt and the patterned tights I bought for the Gossip Girl party.

Benefit have dolled up their pitch on Greek Street in full 1950s glamour, with pink tables and plush sofas straight out of Grease, hairdryer themed lights and a big, bright bar serving all manner of delights.

benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friendWith staff as bubbly as the drinks, Francesca and I immediately made ourselves at home and set about sampling everything the menu had to offer.

benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friendHow gorgeous are those cocktails? Now refusing to drink anything that doesn’t come in a milk bottle with a stripy straw. Also, they serve popcorn as a bar snack along with the drinks. I might ask if I can move in.

After a few hours putting the world to rights over many glasses of bubbles and even more jars of popcorn, we were whisked away by the gorgeous Rachel, who was playing the role of Benefit’s Honest Leah for the evening.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendTo be honest (Leah), if I looked like that, I’d dress like that all the time. Just doing my shopping in Tesco in a sequinned Jessica Rabbit ballgown.

Anyway.

The pop up is actually in honour of Benefit Cosmetics’ new mascara, Rollerlash. Ohmygod, if you haven’t tried this yet, get on it. It is genuinely life changing. I’ve got a mascara post coming up in the next few days and you can bet your ass it’s playing a starring role. So, in honour of the new mascara, the second floor of the parlour is dedicated to heaven.

Sorry, did I say heaven? Slip of the tongue. I meant Benefit makeup.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendThe beauty parlour offers a range of treatments, including brow shaping, makeovers, faux blowdrys, fabulous discounts on Benefit products (yes, including Rollerlash. Get on it) and a photobooth to enjoy the fruits of the team’s very hard work. This tiny pink room is what dreams are made of. I may have shed a silent tear.

After gawping at the parlour for a good ten minutes, we headed back downstairs for a final glass of champagne to toast Francesca’s birthday. And Rachel confirmed her status as national hero by bringing us some cupcakes for the birthday girl.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendBasically, go here. Get a cupcake. Try both cocktails. Take a selfie with the Rollerlash sign. I command it.

I had an absolutely amazing time at the bar, it was the perfect way to while away a very rainy Saturday afternoon. In fact, I’ve already booked a table to try out the late night third floor Noir Bar…

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Wintery Wanderings

Since I moved to London, Clissold Park has been one of my absolute favourite hangouts. Before I got my job, it was the perfect place to get out of my flat and out of my head for a while. Big enough to spend hours wandering around, and busy enough that you could people watch forever, it’s an amazing free place to hang about in London. I enjoyed sitting on the warm grass in the summertime, collecting the biggest conkers I’ve ever seen in autumn, and now that winter is here, the park’s charms haven’t lessened one little bit.

The butterfly dome is closed for the winter, but you better believe I’ll be first in line when it reopens, elbowing five year olds out of the way wherever necessary. The rest of the animals are still out and about though, with a whole family of fallow deer, if you’re looking to get Christmassy.

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I wish I could claim that I didn’t shout “BAMBIS! BAMBIS!” when I first saw these, but I cannot, in truth. The park boasts a pretty cafe in Clissold House, with a delicious looking selection of cakes, snacks and hot drinks. Wrap up warm, grab a cup of tea and sit outside if you can bear it…these early sunsets may be unwelcome, but those long winter shadows are beautiful.

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The park is also always full of the best dogs ever, so if you’re a dog person, get on down there immediately. Seriously, there was one wearing a Christmas jumper the other day. Top notch. Whether you’re out for romantic walks, with clasped gloved hands and cold nosed kisses, some end of year contemplation or just some excellent dog petting, Clissold Park is an amazing place to be. Besides, to get there, you pretty much have to walk up Stoke Newington’s glorious Church Street, which is constantly buzzing with vintage shops, pretty boutiques, cafes, florists and pop up fairs and markets. Just you try and walk down that street without popping in somewhere. God knows I can’t. And with christmas trees starting to pop up outside every florist, it makes for a very festive walk. I hear there’s a Christmas market on in the park this weekend…it’s beginning to look a lot like…

Wrap Up London

Those of you who know me well will know that I love my bed. Seriously, for me, sleeping could be considered a hobby. I am the least morningy person you’ve ever met, and generally need a good eight hours sleep and two cups of tea before I’m even vaguely conscious in the mornings. So what, in the name of all that is holy could possibly prompt me to get out of bed at 5:30am on a normal working day?

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This week is Wrap Up London, an amazing event run by Hands On London, where coats and jackets will be collected at tube stations all across the city and donated to people in need. After my recent experience with one of London’s homeless people, you better believe this would get me up at 5:30am.

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A Wrap Up London volunteer braves the commuter crowds.

The campaign doesn’t collect money at the tube stations, they just take those old coats that are gathering dust at the back of your wardrobe and give them to someone who might get cold this winter – whether they are homeless, women fleeing abuse, victims of trafficking or suffering from fuel poverty. A simple, but beautiful idea.

I caught up with Volunteer Coordinator, Alice to chat about the campaign.Alice has been part of the Wrap Up London campaign since it began four years ago, joining as a lowly intern and staying part of it ever since! The great thing about Wrap Up London, she says, is that it’s a charity with such an immediate, tangible benefit. Wrap Up London volunteers are collecting coats that the owners no longer need or want and giving them directly to the people who need them. Every single coat donated means that one more person stays warm this winter. She’s right. That’s amazing.

For the record, last year’s campaign collected just under 17,000 coats.

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Team leader Louise bags up one of many generous donations.

I ask her about her most inspiring Wrap Up London moments, and I challenge your heart not to warm at them. She told stories of people collecting coats from their whole streets and driving them to collection points. Others collected in their work and showed up with entire shopping trolleys bursting with coats. But her favourite story was that of a man who walked past the collection point, backpedaled, took off his coat and handed it to the volunteers, saying, “I need to buy a new one anyway”. Upon seeing this, the man behind him remarked that this was a great idea and proceeded to do exactly the same. For a city with a reputation for being cold-hearted, London, I am damn proud of you.

There are collection stations all over London this week, running from 7am until 11am, Wednesday – Friday. If you have an old coat that you’ve been meaning to get rid of, please do consider donating it to this amazing cause. Drop it off on your commute, get your good deed done before 9am, feel awesome all day and help someone get through the winter.

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This photo was taken at 8:30. Look at the bags already full behind them.

For more information on Wrap Up London collections, click here! You can also follow Hands On London on Twitter, and get involved with the campaign using the hashtag #WrapUpLondon.

Give a coat. Warm a heart.