Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Northern Christmas

Had a lovely day Christmas Shopping in Manchester with my mum and daughter. 
I wasn't looking forward to the trip as I hate crowds but we spent most of the time in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols where it was quiet but festive. 
I have to say even though our purchases were quite modest we we were treated so well by the staff who couldn't do enough to help us. 
We enjoyed it so much I think it will be an annual event. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Five Year Flashback: Part Five

And the final flashback to a year ago today when my eldest son graduated from Liverpool John Moores University. Today he is in his second year teaching at a local primary school where I help out with an after-school Yoga Club. Five years gone in a flash. What will the next five years bring?


So proud of my Big BA (Hons) Boy.




The magnificent Anglican Cathedral.


A proud mum, dad and grandma.


Sam has some catching up to do - his dad has three degrees!





Dad and his Grad.

 


Just the three of us




A pensive dad.




Looking smart.





Get me to the Cathedral on time.



I wore:
Shoes - Clarks
Dress - Boden
Coat - Four Seasons
Hat - Asos

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Five Year Flashback: Part Four

Celebrating five years of blogging with part four 2012.
I can't believe it is more than two years ago since we held our street party.
The good news is that many of the organisers still come together to arrange events in the street - the next one is in December with 'Carols by Candlelight' - such a lovely legacy.


The big day dawned for our street party and guess what?
The sun came out.

There may have been a chill wind blowing but the sun shone from the time we started putting out the tables, through the festivities, and finally setting at around 8pm when we packed away.


It was a wonderful day, organised on a whim by one of our neighbours who pushed a piece of paper through everyone's door asking if anyone would be interested in having a street party.


That was three weeks ago and more than 20 people arrived for the first meeting.



My mum was one of the chief organisers and I helped her out on the craft table where we helped the younger children decorate bunting and make crowns.




We even got a visit from our Olympic Torchbearer, Nick Giles who patiently waited while everyone in the street had their photo taken with him and the torch.



Every child uner 16 was given a medal to remember the event.



Overall, a wonderful day.
Here's to the next Jubilee in ten year's time.

I wore:
Trainers: Converse
Trousers: Zara
Top: Top Shop
Bodywarmer: Primark

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Five Year Flashback: Part Three

Celebrating my my five years blogging with this post which appeared in 2011.
The Capsule Wardrobe Challenges were such fun with entries from across the globe.



The Fourth Annual International Capsule Wardrobe Challenge drew contenders from across the globe.
Fourteen of us worked our wardrobes to the max to create an admirable assortment of collections.
I was impressed with the creativity of contenders and I felt I learned a lot by the way everyone mixed and matched.
I hope everyone who took part enjoyed the challenge as much as I did.
Thank you so much to:

1. Meli
2. Kasmira
3. Franca
4. Cara
5. Sheila
6. Biba
7. laniza
8. Kate
9. Fi
10. Lorena
11. Lyddie
12. Emma
13. Tess
14. Madam Owl
15. TigerLily

The winner will be announced tomorrow as I am still torn between several collections.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Sunny Afternoon

I am still here - just been frantic with work and family over the past few months.
We did get some time off last weekend when Paul and I went down to London for a few days to stay with our friends and celebrate a big birthday (not ours!).
We visited the poppies at the Tower of London, had a meal and went to see a new West End Show - Sunny Afternoon - about The Kinks.
It was brilliant - the best show I have ever seen.
Hope everyone is well and I hope to resume some sort of normal service soon. 

Five Year Flashback:Part Two

Celebrating my fifth year of blogging here's one from May 2010 which was published as a travel feature in The Liverpool Echo on May 5th 2010.




I hear them first. Clip clops of horse hooves echoing through the narrow streets of Seville.

And then out of the darkness I see a silvery glow as a white horse ridden by a straight-backed young man emerges.

The man is suited and booted in traditional Traje Corto (short jacket, tight trousers) and draped around his waist is the long elegant arm of a beautiful young senorita riding side saddle in her red Flamenco dress.

And as they emerge from the shadowy lanes I see another horse and then another. Six couples in all.

They walk slowly and rhythmically to the tall table outside the Bodega de Santa Cruz where I am enjoying a final midnight glass of red wine. And then they are gone.



This is not a dream nor a ghostly flashback to Spain of old.

It is La Feria de Sevilla of the 21st Century.

The annual celebration of history, culture, food and Flamenco which takes place two weeks after Easter in Seville.

My husband and I are enjoying a second honeymoon in this most passionate of Spanish cities to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary.

La Feria or Fair dates back to 1847 and began as a livestock fair. Since then it has become one of the most symbolic festivities in Seville, a meeting place for Sevillians who sing, dance and enjoy all the fun of the fair for five days and nights.

The Sevillians even get a public holiday on the Wednesday.

It begins with a horse-drawn parade from the fairground to la Plaza de Toros – the bullring - where there are daily bullfights throughout the festival.

And there is a fairground which would rival even Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach in size.

The permanent Feria site is located on the banks of the River which runs through Seville and from where Christopher Columbus (whose bones are buried beneath the 16th century cathedral) began one of his epic voyages to the Indies.

The Feria  site is filled with hundreds of lavishly decorated “Casetas” (little tents) where the gatherings begin around 9pm each night and continue until 6 or 7am every morning.

During the week the local women from seven months to seventy years wear elaborate Flamenco dresses which you can see on sale in the local shops – starting at around 600 Euros apiece.

The men too are not to be outdone and it is not unusual to see men of all ages from teenagers to pensioners striding out in their smart suits throughout the day.

The only downside about visiting Seville during The Feria is that there is so much to do it leaves little time to see the impressive sights which detail the history of the city; once the  fourth richest in the world thanks to its location as the European gateway to the New World.

Seville is one of the hottest and historic of all the Spanish cities.

It was once the centre of Islamic Spain where North African Moors would migrate and a popular home for the Jewish community.

But in 1477 the mood changed when the Spanish Inquisition began in Seville after a Domenican Friar persuaded the Queen Isabella that some recent converts to her Catholic faith were not all they seemed.

Today the rich history of the Islamic, Catholic and Jewish cultures is still very much in evidence in both the fabric of the city – the Catherdral, the pretty Santa Cruz quarter which was once home to the Jews, the palaces and the general architecture not to mention the spiritual heartbeat of the city – Flamenco.

There is a whole museum dedicated to the history of Flamenco in Seville which is well worth a couple of hours and where you can take part in a dance class and watch a show.

I had it on great authority that the best Flamenco Show to watch in town was at Los Gallos in Santa Cruz, a traditional Flamenco house or Tablao which has been a sell-out venue in the city since 1966.

For 30 Euros a head you can experience the passion of Flamenco through a team of ten singers, dancers and guitarists.

Flamenco is  believed to have begun around 1447 and has its roots in Hindu, Arabic, Jewish, Greek and Castillian cultures - each clap and foot stamp an act of defiance by the oppressed groups from where this tradition began.

In its earliest form the only instruments used were those of the human body – the voice and the claps to establish a rhythm and the dance - a physical response to the passion.

The guitar was later incorporated and if you  want to see Flamenco in its most stripped down form then Los Gallos is the place to go.

The rest of our weekend is spent wandering through the historic streets and resting in the squares, most of which boast mosaic-tiled seats and elaborate fountains and strolling through the honeysuckle-scented parks where horses and carriages carrying beautiful Sevillian senoritas trot through the walkways.

We enjoy long lunches al fresco in the old town of Santa Cruz washing traditional Iberian stews and tapas down with the local sherry.

It is only April but already the temperature is above 30C which make Spring the perfect time of year to enjoy the city as the mercury rises to above 45C during the summer months.

We spend the final night of The Feria strolling through the fair and enjoying “Bunuelos” (Spanish doughnuts with hot chocolate) before the midnight firework display marks the end of The Feria for another year.

And as we stroll slowly back through the Sevillian streets hand in hand our thoughts become one and the same: “How many days until next year’s Feria?”





We flew to Seville from Liverpool Airport with Ryanair. A bus outside the airport runs every 15 minutes and it costs just over two Euros for the six mile journey into the heart of Seville.
We stayed at Hotel Dona Blanco www.donablanca.com, a  20 minute stroll to the Catherdral which marks the centre of the city. Our three night stay for two cost 345 Euros during The Feria but prices start at 50 Euros a night the rest of the year.
If you want to know more about Flamenco visit the museum website on www.museoflamenco.com or to see one of the Los Gallos shows online visit www.tablaolosgallos.com
The Feria takes place between the 3rd and 8th of May 2011.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Five Year Flashback: Part One

As I missed my five year blog anniversary I have decided to pick out some flashback from the past five years.
Here's one from November 2009.




Remember the project I was working on a few weeks back?
I was tasked to lead three workshops to inspire a group of homeless youngesters to write about what life was like for them.
Last night the event was launched in the wind and rain.
Skelmersdale Library was turned inside out as the stories were beamed across the outside of the building.
It caused quite a stir and lots of comments from passers-by - which is exactly what the project was all about.
I loved it when a group of teenagers skated over when they saw "The Skate Park" and stood and read all about it!
It also gave me the shance to wear my other red jacket.
But before I went to Skelmersdale I led a PR Workshop in Skelmersdale advising a group of small
 business owners on how to do their own PR.