Windsor Castle

Hello Loves!

Well, what a week this week has been. I’ve been absolutely floored by flu I assume (7 negative Covid tests – no fear) but I can honestly say I’ve never been so poorly. It’s the first time ever that I’ve had time off school too. But, I’m coming round the other side now which is good. If you hear someone sounding like a seal, that would be me coughing haha! Anyway, onto more pressing matters and a very delayed explorations post!

Anyway, I want to share with you today the final part of my journey for honouring the late Queen. You’ll remember from a few posts ago that I was part of ‘The Queue’ (you can see that post here). There was just one final part I needed to do and that was pay my respects at St George’s Chapel which is within Windsor Castle. This is the Queen’s final resting place where she has been reunited in the royal vault with her beloved husband Prince Philip. My dad and I queued together and it was time for us to say bye together. My mum was also here for this too!

Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. Originally founded by William the Conqueror, it’s been home to 40 monarchs which is incredibly impressive. The State Apartments are sublime, the contents are wonderful and I really liked seeing the different gifts received throughout the reign of Her Majesty the Queen. Photos are only allowed of the outside which I totally understand. You have to see it to believe it really. The one thing that has stayed with me from these state rooms is the colours: bold, vivid and flawless.

Naturally, there was a huge queue to be able to get this photo. It’s the closest you can get but we’ve all seen this on the television screens. It made me think back to the funeral of Prince Philip. The view of the Long Walk was one of my favourite bits but because this was inside the castle, you weren’t able to take photos.

It’s really quite hard to comprehend how lucky we are to have this amount of history around us. I’m fortunate in that my dad is just as interested as I am – it’s something that has been passed down through our family. It felt fitting and right to see the final resting place and to thank the Queen once again for all she has done.

I hope this little snippet has tempted you into visiting. The amazing thing is, your ticket can be validated for a whole year! And I can confirm, the gift shops are excellent. For more information on visiting, please click here.

Until next time!

Big love all xxx

The Queue: London

Morning all!

I hope you’re all well. This week I’ve been really reflective because of the events in the UK. The sad passing of our dear Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th knocked us from our core. For me personally, she’s the only Queen I’ve ever known. She’s always been there everywhere we look: on passports, stamps, money and postboxes. She’s come to feel like everyone’s grandmother. So one week ago, I joined the queue to see the Queen lying in state. I knew it was going to be an experience but I didn’t expect it to be like it was…

Midnight, Saturday 17th September, Southwark Park. After obsessively watching the live tracker all day, this was where the starting point was. There was a buzz and a sense of electricity in the air with everyone having their own reasons for this journey. All I know is, I felt an overwhelming sense of needing to be there, like it was the right thing to do. The queue constantly moves which isn’t so bad and at 2:41am we had obtained the elusive wristband. The view was equally as fitting!

In my foolishness, I hadn’t realised that the park was the queue to join The Queue so the journey hadn’t actually really begun. Regardless, considering I’d done a full day at work I was feeling positive and very much like the hashtag ‘let’sdothis’. I knew it was going to be hard so I made sure I spoke to every single marshal on route. I mean, those in the queue were constantly moving but they had to stand in the same spot, all night. They were very positive and smiley too which helped.

I love Tower Bridge but I saw this bridge for 4 hours of the wait time. It was freezing cold but thankfully blankets were being given out. Later I saw a news report saying they were from the fire brigade – so thank you for that! Regardless, this was the lowest point. When the cold gets into your bones and you question why you hate yourself so much to have done this. The queue quietened and increasingly looked crestfallen and beaten. I dread to think how I looked. I’d been up since 6am so approaching the 24 hour mark was something I’ve not done in a long time. But then, 6:30am, a miracle was performed: the sun was rising and a coffee cup was spotted. I’ve never experienced a mood shift so rapidly. People went off to find hot drinks, the queue was moving again. Onwards! 6:15am.

This is my favourite photos of the whole queue experience. The best thing was that we were moving again. Feeling buoyant, the hubbub of the queue was increasing now everyone was warm and filled with coffee (hot chocolate for me) and the can do attitude from the marshals meant that everyone felt better. Of course we can queue and keep going – it’s the British way after all! The next stop: The Globe. I cannot thank the staff enough here. They’d opened the toilet facilities for those of us in the queue. I nearly cried (exhausted, emotional, grateful tears) because they had soap and hot water. I can only imagine what we all looked like, but it gave the queue another boost.

We continued walking and queuing. I saw this now as a mission I needed to complete. I hadn’t lost the overwhelming pull towards the Queen but foolishly did wonder how on Earth I’d look when I got there. 11:24am (many hours later) we see the London Eye. Everyone outside of the queue is supportive of the queue. Strangers asking how you are, saying you can do this, helped. Kindness was at the core of the queue. 11:59am – Big Ben. Surely the end is in sight? I’d been in the queue for 12 hours at this point but the sun, the people and the pull was still keeping me going.

The Covid memorial wall generated another moment of hush. It was at this point that I too went quiet. I don’t think any of us realised quite what trauma Covid created for the world. The memorial means a lot to many people so I was thinking of them too. But then the queue stopped. If the cold of 4am was the worst part, the stopping of the queue came a close second. At this point, the world’s press were all standing there making me grumpy. How dare they look fresh and well slept. Irrational, but true. However, the stopping this time was for a very exciting reason. King Charles and Prince William had come to thank those who had queued overnight. It was incredible to be that close to royalty. You could see the pain and grief in their eyes. It was emotional to see them. But it gave the queue another boost to make it over Lambeth Bridge and to the other side where in Westminster Hall, the queen was waiting for us.

Still we progress. Over the bridge, through miles and miles of zig zag railings, excitement building because we are at the last part before Westminster Hall. We can see Westminster Hall, see the security tents. This. Is. It. And then silence. It’s very hard to describe the feeling inside Westminster Hall. It was like nothing else mattered. There she was, the coffin of the only queen many of us have ever known. The crown twinkled under the lights. The flowers stood proud. I had my moment next to her. I bowed my head, my thoughts between myself and her. I’ve never felt emotion like it. Silent tears, immense gratitude. I was proud that I did it. I stood for 15 and a half hours for this moment. I’d not slept for well over 30 hours. None of this mattered though. This woman gave her life to our service, it was the least I could do.

11 miles. 15.5 hours. One experience I will never forget. Thank you to the many many people from the queue, local businesses, police, marshals, strangers passing by and the staff guarding the queen. You’ve made the experience easier for those people in the queue. Once I’d left the hall, the lady at the gate said thank you. That’s still with me now and will be forever.

Telephone Box Libraries / Book Exchange pt 3

Hello Loves!

I hope you’re all well. I’m back in the UK now with a special post all about one of my favourite things: telephone box book libraries! I think the one I’m sharing with you today is my favourite so far! This one is in Snitterfield, near Stratford upon Avon.

What makes this one so special, I hear you say. Well, there’s books everywhere! But they’re organised and there’s a really good range too. So far, so wonderful. However, the keepers of this phone box have also added two plastic tubs for people to share seeds. I love this! I found some dahlia seeds (one of my absolutely favourite flowers) and planted them with my dad. I think it’s genuinely so lovely of people to share extra seeds that they’ve got left over.

I left a few books for people to hopefully read and enjoy but I’m super excited to show you how beautiful these dahlias are. Fast forward a few weeks and ta-da! Aren’t they just gorgeous? So whoever was kind enough to leave the seeds there, thank you. The colours bring a smile to my day, seriously! I always find it amazing that a little seed can flourish into such beautiful flowers.

These flowers are so lovely and the weather is divine. It’s made coming back to the UK a bit more bearable. The littlest things really can make the most difference. I hope these flowers bring you a little joy too.

See you next time for my book choice for August – spoiler – it’s amazing!

Big Love all xxxx

Explorations: Whitby Abbey

Evening all!

I wanted to share with you today a new explorations post! This time I toddled off to the beautiful seaside town of Whitby. I’ve never been and literally only know about it because of a) Dracula and b) Lucky Ducks made by the Whitby Glass Company. Therefore, I decided it was time for me to pay Whitby Abbey a visit and boy, it did not disappoint.

Standing tall for nearly 1500 years, this monumental ruin features everything you’d expect from a gothic abbey.

Whilst the history is fascinating, for me it was learning about the links between this abbey and Bram Stoker. In 1890, Stoker stayed in Whitby following a gruelling tour of Scotland. Whilst staying here, he absorbed the views that Whitby offered and excited writers, artists and ‘romantic-minded’ visitors for the past century.

Gothic Literature of the time was set in foreign lands with eerie castles and/or ruins and Whitby’s windswept headland with the ruined abbey meant that it gave its own sense of horror; perfect for any story.

You may have heard just this week about the Guinness World Record attempt at Whitby Abbey to celebrate 125 years of Dracula. The challenge: to get the most people dressed as a vampire at the abbey. 1369 people did just that. Impressive!

For more information on this beautiful abbey, it’s history and it’s heritage, please chick here.

Big Love xxx

Telephone Box Libraries/Book Exchange pt 2

Hey Loves!

How are you all? Well, what a shocking couple of weeks I’ve had: flu, foot injury and then what I think was Covid (all tests were negative but I’ve never felt that ill before and I’m still coughing…) I am here to share with you another explorations post. To be honest, I should have done this before so I apologise for it taking me so long! Anyway, rather excitingly, I’ve only gone and found another Telephone Library / Book Exchange box! I am so excited. They’ve become my latest obsession to find one so full marks to my wonderful dad for spotting this one for me!

Hopefully you’ll remember my previous post where I found one of these beauties in a village not to far from my parents house. You can see my previous post here. This is slightly further away but not by much. This wonderful (yet slightly messy) book exchange is in the glorious Bearley, near Stratford upon Avon. I did leave a good 12 books for the next person to find. I love these community projects so much because I love finding some great books and I also love leaving some books for other people. We never really know when our next favourite book will come! I am desperate to find more so please let me know if you spot anymore and I’ll have to find them!

My TBR is so big that my shelves are full and I have three piles of books on the floor. Being poorly has meant that my reading has slowed right down again but I’m hoping to get back on it now! I did pick up three books thought which have been added to the collection. There were so many exciting ones, it’s really easy to get carried away. Do let me know what amazing books you’ve been reading recently – you know I like to add them to the never ending list…

I really hope to find more of these! As I said before, let me know if you find one near you! I’d love to visit and leave books for people to find. I hope as well that you all continue to stay safe, well and read plenty of wonderful books. Thank you all for being so patient with me and supporting me in my absence. I adore you all. Until next time…

Big Love xxx

Wizarding World Wand Installation Tour

Hello Loves!

How are we all? I mentioned in my last post that I’ve got a couple of exploration posts to write and today I am presenting the first one. I love finding new places and seeing new things and today’s post is super exciting for me and my fellow Potterheads!

First spotted in London back in 2018 to promote the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, eight huge wands will now be touring the country to promote the release of the next film Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets. The installation features the wands of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Lord Voldemort, Newt Scamander, Tina Goldstein, Queenie Goldstein, Gellert Grindelwald and the Elder Wand. These beauties are a whopping fifteen feet high so perfect for seeing the details up close!

There’s also a light display and music from the shows too so I managed to visit twice! The evenings were much busier with hundreds of people queuing to see them! I saw them outside the City Hall in Hull which was very exciting but they sadly departed today to head towards their next venue. You can see them here:

  • March 11–17 – Birmingham, the Bullring
  • March 21–27 – Stoke-on-Trent, Smithfield
  • March 30–April 5 – Reading, the Oracle Shopping Centre

A must see for any Potter or Fantastic Beasts fan, these really did bring a bright of joy and light into this week in Hull. I think one of the best things for me wasn’t just seeing them, but seeing all the youngsters dressed up. It shows you that over twenty years later, the magic lives on. Fantastic Beasts means that there’s another generation to continue the love!

These daytime photos were taken very early in the morning so there wasn’t anyone around, thankfully. I hope you appreciate them! If you’re off to visit, wrap up (it’s cold again!) and embrace the magic. Are you off to see them? Do let me know what you think! Take care everyone and I’ll see you when I’m back for my next post.

Big Love xxxx

Telephone Box Libraries/Book Exchange

Hi Lovelies!

How are we all? I really hope you’re all doing well and taking good care of yourselves and your loved ones. Naturally, I hope you’re all reading amazing books that I’ll want to add to my pile but I absolutely cannot buy anymore books…

Today I want to share with you a very exciting post based on something I stumbled across over my Christmas break. Now, the title of this post gives it away but it’s the first time I’ve ever found myself one. I’ve become so obsessed that before term started I visited three times making various donations too!

I stumbled across this telephone box library in Shrewley, Warwickshire when I was visiting my family over the Christmas break. I didn’t even realise it was there! I spotted it as I was driving past and now I’m desperately trying to find more. I think the thing I love most about it is the sense that my books are sitting there waiting to be discovered and loved by whoever picks them up next. I love the sense of community behind it too and the fact that they are there for everyone. This particular one has a whole range of exciting bits inside: fiction, non-fiction, cookery books, children’s books, DVDs, CDs and jigsaws.

Here I am, perusing the shelves! (Clearly I have no shame…) I did take three novels, one of which I’m reading now and will be reviewing next, and dropped ten off for others to enjoy. I’m really looking forward to going back there and seeing what treasures I find. I guess this is where the beautiful blogging community comes in… where are more of these gems? I’d be so keen to hear about where they are and the delights you’ve got from inside them. Here’s what I got!

If you love books as much as I do, keep an eye out for your own telephone library / book exchange when you’re out and about. You just don’t know what lies inside waiting to be discovered or quite realise what impact this will have on you.

Let me know about your experiences with telephone box libraries.

Big love all xxx

Lockdown Secrets – Eleanor Tattersfield

Hello Lovelies!

After ending 2021 on a high with regard to reading, I found myself feeling so much pressure for this year which has meant that my reading has slowed right down. However, after work yesterday I went to collect a book as a present. My New Year’s Resolution was to not buy any books… but I failed all because of this amazing book I read and wanted to share with you straight away. It’s something I knew absolutely nothing about, the cover just caught my eye. We all know how it is with a beautiful or eye catching cover! They usually end up in our possession eventually. Anyway, I really hope this book gets to you as much as it does me. Enjoy!

What’s it all about?
This book quite simply is genius. If you know London, you may know Marby & Elm in Exmouth or have seen their super cute website here. However, back in February 2021, Eleanor Tattersfield came up with a clever idea following inspiration from a radio show for people to document their own lockdown confessions. After finding some postcards and seeing it as a sign, the project was born. Using the power of Instagram, followers could send their own confessions on postcards to the shop to be shared anonymously to unburden themselves. Literally anything and everything was shared and Tattersfield knew that these had to be seen. Using social media, these are still being shared today as well as within this book.

“As the secrets poured in, prominent themes emerged: food fetishes, masturbation, loneliness, breaking the rules, sex, love and surprisingly, the love of lockdown.”

I think the reason why I adore this book so much is because it is brutally honest. Part of me really wishes I documented my life better (or more) during lockdown. I look back and know that I baked a lot and sent a few thousand emails but I could have done so much more. This book is that. I also love the fact with it being anonymous, people will be absolutely honest and open. It really takes some nerve to share some of these confessions I must admit! The one below made me laugh so much because I had my own animal friends in lockdown. To be honest, they’re still around now! The only difference is mine are squirrels…

“Their wit, sincerity, creativity and diversity are completely and utterly compelling.”

As I was reading this, I just had an overwhelming feeling of pride really. That may sound silly but for people to share their lives with the world, to share their inner most fears and worries really is something. The postcards about family naturally made me think of my own and appreciate how much I did miss them in lockdown. This then led me to think about those people without family and people who were completely isolated from everyone. This one below really hit me…

Final Thoughts
Overall, this book is pure joy. I read it in one sitting and found myself wanting to be a part of this too. I also really appreciated the fact that there is a template in the back of the book to send my own. Maybe, one day, I will consider doing it! If you’re interested in sending your own, you can find out more information here. The next time I visit London, I absolutely will be dropping by this store. I couldn’t not!

“A unique record of the lockdown: sometimes amusing, often surprising, and occasionally heart-breaking.”

It’s relatable, believable and utterly memorable. What an incredible little book!

Until next time everyone!!

Big love xxx

Reading Challenge 2021: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Hi Book Lovers!

I hope you’re all well and had a brilliant Christmas. I’m sure you all got plenty of wonderful books that I’ll be keeping an eye out for, that’s for sure. I thought I was making a good dent into my reading pile but then more arrived… I love it though!

Today, I finished my Reading Challenge of 2021! I honestly had the best time with my Reading Challenge reading things that I wouldn’t normally pick, revisiting books that have been living on the shelves for far too long and for finding books that have changed my world. December’s book is no different. I’ve read the wonderful The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. This was gifted to me far too long ago because of its gorgeous cover so I’m glad I’ve finally got around to reading it. The theme for December was: Read a book with a beautiful cover. There are just not enough words for how stunning the cover of this book is. If you’re wanting to review the themes for my Reading Challenge this year, please click here. I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got planned for my Reading Challenge 2022, but more on that later! Time to crack on with my review of this brilliant book.

What’s it all about?
This is one of those books where all is not as it seems… Along with that, it’s one of those books where you can’t really give it the justice it deserves because there literally aren’t enough words. Regardless, I’ll give it a good go!

The novel centres around Cora Seaborne who I immediately fell in love with. She’s a widow but her husband, despite being wealthy is also quite abusive. With her new found freedom, she decides to ignore the constraints of her London society life and decides to take up amateur palaeontology. Whilst on holiday in Colchester with her son, Francis, and her companion, Martha, Cora is fascinated by a ruin caused by an earthquake which was rumoured to have awakened the Essex Serpent, a mythical sea dragon. Over time, the children and the locals become increasing convinced that the serpent is real and waiting to attack them. This irritates Will Ransome, the local reverend. The two frequently disagree about his faith and his refusal to believe in the serpent. However, the regular arguing brings them closer together.

“Cora, you cannot always keep yourself away from things that hurt you. We all wish we could, but we cannot: to live at all is to be bruised.”

This doesn’t go unnoticed by Dr. Luke Garnett, Cora’s friend whom she invites (well, begs) him to visit following a disaster at school whereby after Cora visits, the children fall into fits. With permission from Stella Ransome, Luke hypnotises Joanna, their eldest daughter. Unfortunately, Will walks in on this scene and is furious. As a result, a serious rift is caused between him and Cora. As if things aren’t complicated enough, both Cora and Will realise that they are entailed within an emotional affair, as do Martha and Dr. Luke. To make matters worse, Luke has been in love with Cora for some time.

Will decides to confess his feelings to Cora in a letter shortly before he learns that Stella is sick with tuberculosis, where she is rapidly approaching the end of her life. Meanwhile, Luke also confesses his love to her via letter too. Cora, naturally very cautious and wary of men because of her turbulent time with her husband, is angered by both letters. She ignores the letter from Will and writes an angry reply to Luke. Sadly, Luke received the letter the very same day that a knife attack maims him permanently in a way that ends his medical career.

Later, a mysterious stench envelopes the town, making everyone physically sick. Thoughts soon fly to the Essex Serpent and panic starts to rise. Will and some other villages go to look where they find a gigantic fish on the shore that’s dying. The smell comes from that and its death means that the villagers rejoice and celebrate because the serpent was obviously never real. Cora is persuaded to see her friends and returns. This creates an opportunity for Will and Cora to patch things up. This is just the starting point for the both of them.

“We both speak of illuminating the world, but we have different sources of light.” 

Whilst Cora and Will result in consummating their relationship, Joanna discovers that the serpent actually turns out to be an old boat previously thought to have been washed away. This discovery leads to another: Stella, whilst delirious and confused from her illness, has gone to the boat to die. Thankfully, Cora and Will are able to rescue Stella and return her to safety.

The novel closes with the Ransome children living with their friends, the Ambroses, whilst Stella awaits her death. Will finds himself in a sense of flux – he is happy with Stella whilst still in love with Cora. Luke meanwhile finds peace living with his friend Spencer and Core moves to London. She now lives alone as her companion, Martha, has fallen in love and her son has gone to boarding school. Cora is happy living in solitude but she does continue to write to Will, urging him to reunite with her.

“CLEAVE. To cleave to something is to cling to it with all your heart, he said, but to cleave something apart is to break it up.”

Final Thoughts
Firstly, and most obviously, this book is stunning. The cover is beautiful, the flowers ornate and the gold oozes opulence. However, for me it is the writing style that I absolutely love. It flows, it’s seamless and the description is divine. I wish I could write like that. I also thoroughly enjoyed the many letters which make up the narrative too. Letters provide a more intimate experience, we tend to see true emotions within them and these really added to the narrative. As I said at the start of this post, I genuinely don’t have the words to give this book the praise it deserves. But, it is clear to see why this book has won many awards. I urge you all to read it. You won’t be disappointed. What a brilliant way to close my Reading Challenge!

See you next time loves!

Big love xxx

Cinderella – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Hello Loves!

Happy summer! I’ve finally made it to my summer holiday where I can rest, relax, read and catch up with my wonderful blogging friends. I hope you’re all well and enjoying the summer vibes. We’ve been having some beautiful weather but a splash of rain yesterday has been really welcoming.

Today I want to share with you a theatre review. When I say today, I mean, this morning as it’s 4:30 am in the UK. Regardless, I’ve not had the opportunity to do one of these for ages so I’m really really excited to be writing this one today! You may have seen in my previous post that I was lucky enough to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, Cinderella, on the second night of previews. We booked it last year for my birthday but it was one of many things to be postponed. Like everyone, we were feverishly absorbing any pre-released songs, desperate to see when restrictions would change so we could be back in the theatres once again. I really hope you love this review as much as I’ve loved seeing it and sharing it with you.

The Plot

We all know and love the tale of Cinderella. Without spoiling anything for you, this Cinderella is very different. Webber takes the conventional Cinderella and literally turns it on it’s head. Everyone in Belleview is exactly the same: tall, blonde, beautiful, in love with Prince Charming. Cinderella is alternative, different and loud mouthed. Her best friend, Prince Sebastian, has to step up and marry when his brother, Prince Charming, disappears. What happens next is a fairytale but a tale with a difference.

The Cast

The cast for this production have been widely shared. Cinderella is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Prince Sebastian is played by Ivano Turco. There’s also Rebecca Trehern and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the Queen and the Step Mother respectively. I also have a huge soft spot for the step sisters too. The cast are simply wonderful. Carrie Hope Fletcher is a perfect Cinderella and Ivano Turco is a dashing prince. They also have such chemistry between them – they really do come across like best friends. In fact, the whole cast seem like a genuine group of friends which really helps. It was a privilege to see them all on stage together.

Staging

When I was a very little girl, I went to see Cats at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Home to The School and Rock and now Cinderella, I remember how magical I thought it all was. I still do. I don’t want to ruin the surprise but there is a surprise with the stage which means you’re all the most closer to the action. It takes place at the ball as well, meaning the beautiful dresses are closer than ever!

Singing and Dancing

It’s a musical, so singing is an integral part of the show. There are a huge number of songs, all as catchy as the next. You can guy the album now (I’ve had it on repeat ever since it was released…) Bad Cinderella is arguably the song we all heard first as it was released as the show was announced. However, I really love Unfair by the sisters and also Beauty Has A Price. Carrie Hope Fletcher has three solos within the show, my favourite being I Know I Have A Heart. We absolutely have to give credit for Only You, Lonely You which is Ivano Turco’s solo song. It’s tender and moving and sung beautifully. It’s honestly an incredible album. I urge you all to buy this at least! More information can be found here!

Overall

I can’t tell you how much I loved this show. Being back in a theatre was an absolute joy. Being surrounded by likeminded people too really meant that the atmosphere was electric. I have so much awe and admiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber for making this show in lockdown. It’s got everything – singing, dancing, laughter, emotion, a fairytale, modern twists, excitement, love. It’s a show I’d go back and see in a heartbeat. I obviously made full use of the merchandise shop and left with t shirts, hoodies, face masks and key rings. I’ve missed the arts so much.

On the opening night of previews there was a standing ovation. On the second night where I attended, there was a standing ovation. And it was so deserved. Theatres are alive again! It’s such a joy to see, hear and feel it’s heart beating. This show is the perfect antidote to Covid 19, lockdowns and restrictions. It’s brilliant in every way.

Continue to enjoy the summer weather lovelies. Big Love to you all!!