Tuesday, 24 March 2015

#227. Anne Frank and the #Notsilent campaign

When I was younger I was an avid reader. I would always have a book in my hand and no matter how short the journey I would bring a book with me. When we went on holiday to France, we would visit the library beforehand and I would max out my library card, stocking up on paperback adventures to pass the long car journey. I simply gobbled up books and couldn't wait to go on my next adventure, to castles in the sky or under the sea palaces.

Image credit - source

One day, I came across The Diary of Anne Frank. I must have been about 11 or so and by that stage was aware of the World Wars that had been before, but didn't really know a whole lot. Anne's diary really opened my eyes to what had actually happened during WWII and the atrocities and prejudice that had befallen communities, all through the eyes of a girl just slightly older than me. The amazing thing about Anne's diary is how honest her writing is, even now you feel like she could be your best pal, speaking about everything from boys and friends, to issues with her family and fitting in. I remember being completely thrown when I got to the final pages and the diary just ended. Anne was completely alive in my mind, as though I had just stumbled across her diary one day and she would walk back into the room to claim it. It was hard to believe that her life changed and ended so quickly. 

The Diary of Anne Frank also encouraged me to keep my own diary for a while, I even addressed it as Dear Kitty, just like Anne. It's nice to go back to that stage of my life but my diary is filled when the immature ramblings of an 11 year old and you think about how mature Anne must have been, how scared she must have been and how brave she and her family were. She was a completely normal girl, from a normal family who horrible things happened to, in addition to millions of others, but she puts a voice and a face to all those who lost their lives and her story will always and must always be relevant. She is still alive through the words in her diary and a reminder of everything that we can't allow to happen again.

To mark the 70 years since Anne's death in a concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen, the Anne Frank Trust UK have launched a campaign called #NotSilent. At a time when many were being forced into silence, Anne kept writing and keeping a record of everything that was happening, refusing to be silenced. Everyone is being asked to spend 60 seconds reading aloud a section of the diary on or after the 14th April, to honour Anne and all those who lost their lives by speaking out loud and not forgetting what has happened in the past. 

With an alarming increase in prejudice, violence and antisemitism over the past few months, covering news channels, unfortunately it really is still so relevant. We should all try and do our bit to not be silent and speak up. You can find out more about the campaign and how you can become involved here.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

#226. Wedding Belles: The dress

Image from Pinterest
Now I was incredibly excited about getting my wedding dress. I wouldn't say I'm a girly girly girl, but I just love dresses and so the opportunity to go and try on a tonne of beautiful gowns and get a bit dressed up for our big day was really exciting. Obviously getting married to my best pal is the most important thing, but it will be nice to look my best doing it. I had spent a lot of time before that reading wedding blogs and flicking through magazines, so was looking forward to seeing the dresses in real life. 

This isn't going to be a spoiler post though...my dress will be secret until our big day, as I know Robin likes to pop by here sometimes (hi Robin!). Sorry in advance for the pictures...my wee Mum isn't so good with an iphone, especially without her glasses!

With my Mum and bridesmaids in tow we went to a couple of shops around Edinburgh and I tried on a whole range of dresses; from the meringue, to the princess dress, to the sleek and slinky, to the coloured! I'm not a fussy person in the slightest, but I think in my head I had a good idea of what I wanted, so couldn't find it. Don't get me wrong, it was so much fun trying them all on, waltzing out the changing rooms to Oooos or sometimes giggles with the huge dresses, but don't worry, I was laughing too and often came out ready to pose and prance around. Not sure how impressed the assistant was, but when you are as wide as the changing room in your dress and you struggle to find the floor and trip over all the layers, you can only laugh. Some of the shops were so so busy and there were so many other brides also trying on dresses at the same time, which was good for the chat but difficult trying to find a mirror - it just didn't seem as special. Some shops don't even let you take pictures which I think is really sad, as how else are you meant to remember what dress is which?

I even went to a vintage shop to see what I could find as I love older style clothes and their glamour and chicness. There were some absolutely stunning dresses but I just couldn't find any that I could actually get into, which was quite depressing. There were rows of dresses from across the decades but women used to be so tiny(!) and I was devastated that my curvier self couldn't squeeze into the most beautiful Edwardian silk dress and I had to leave it in the shop. Real gutter! It is an antique after all, but it is quite a sobering experience not been able to fit into anything in a shop. Not quite the best experience of wedding dress shopping ever. After that, we went to All Bar One and had plenty of prosecco and I soon forgot all about it. C'est la vie. If that dress and I were meant to be waltzing up the aisle together, it would have fit like a glove. Besides, my actual dress is a perfect match.

So after a few weeks of searching and going to a few shops and trying on a good few dresses, we went to visit Ribbons and Lace in Kilwinning. It seemed a really unlikely place for a shop but it was featured on the Glasgow Wedding Collective and I had had such good luck with them in the past (both our photographer and florist came from their listings) that I wanted to try and was the BEST experience of wedding dress shopping ever. 

The shop is in a little converted bungalow off the high street in Kilwinning and is owned by one of the nicest people ever, Laura. Laura made me and my Mum feel at home right away as we took a seat on a comfy sofa with a cup of tea and spoke about what sort of dress I was looking for. We had the whole shop to ourselves, Laura deliberately does it that way, so we had 2 hours of chilling and trying on dresses and having a good laugh and a giggle. It really was the perfect atmosphere to try on dresses...free run of the shop choosing dresses, drinking tea and being made to feel really special. And the shop was full of dresses that we exactly what I was looking for. It was the most relaxed appointment and though I didn't choose my dress completely that day, after a think and another appointment I was good to go. If you are looking for your dress, I would highly highly highly recommend Ribbons and Lace.

I am making some slight changes to my dress, so I haven't had that whole 'this is the one' moment just yet but my Mum got teary which can only be a good thing. My dress arrives in the shop at the end of this month and I can't wait to go and try on 'my' dress. With similar dresses, I absolutely loved them and had a definite wow feeling. I think my dress is perfect and I feel beautiful in it, it is flattering and defines in the right places, it will be so good for dancing and I can't wait to see Robin's face as I walk down the aisle towards him. Hopefully he will like it as much as I do! I will be so sad though only wearing it for the one day...I might need to consider dying it, so I can wear it again!

So, that's my experiences of dress shopping - 17 dresses later and I had my one. Does the dress matter to you on your big day?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

#225. Review: The Slab Boys

I had never seen this Scottish classic by artist John Byrne, so was very keen to go when I seen that it was touring to Edinburgh. The Slab Boys is the first in a trilogy of plays, with this production produced by the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. Set in a carpet factory in the 1950s, the play is set over one day in the slab room of the factory, where all the paint colours are mixed and ground to be passed onto the carpet designers. The Slab Boys are the young guys who work in the slab room; Spanky, Phil and Hector and the play is based around them, their relationships with the rest of the factory staff and what they want from life. 

Production shot from The Slab Boys. Credit

The set, designed by John Byrne, is just beautiful, with Byrne's trademark colourful offbeat illustrations everywhere. The slab room is covered in paint as you would expect, on the floor and walls, layers upon layers from years of mixing, piles of dirty pots filling the sink and Spanky, Phil and Hector's work benches, personalised with their names across them and framed with murky skylights above. The room has a sort of timeless essence to it, as though whatever year you visit, it will always be the same. The characters have really made the workroom their own, with do not enter signs and hazard tape across the door and a huge picture of James Dean on the wall. The set is really open so you feel like you are in the slab room with them. There is also a corridor stretching along the front length of the slab room, so the audience can see Mr Curry, Lucille, Sadie or Jack coming towards the workshop, but the slab boys themselves can't, which allows for plenty of comedic moments. The costumes are of the time and I was a big fan of Spanky and Phil's teddy boy outfits, with their graffitied long brown overcoats, white tshirts with braces, skinny black jeans and brightly coloured creeper shoes, as well as a curly quiff, very Danny Zuko from Grease. 

From the outset, there was just funny Glasgow banter which had the whole audience in stitches. Jamie Quinn in particular stood out as Spanky, a  bit of a wide boy who thinks of himself as a comedian, who along with his partner in crime, Phil, treat everything like a joke. They don't seem to take anything too seriously, but which you learn later is bravado on some counts as they have other things going on in their lives. I thought the pairing of Spanky and Phil was really good, the two actors worked well together and sparked off one another, although there were some points were the laughter and banter seemed a bit forced and not as natural as it could have been. You really did feel for Sammy Hayman's character Phil, after his rejection from art school, I thought he played this beautifully with the right mix of anger, sadness and indifference. I loved any point when Kath Howden was onstage as Sadie, bursting in with her tea trolley and thought James Allenby-Kirk was fun to watch as Plooky Allan in his mustard cardigan. Scott Fletcher really came into his own as Hector, particulary in Act 2 where you really empathised with the character and wanted all to turn out well - he is such a poor wee soul! Overall the cast was strong, had great comedic timing and worked well together.

Production shot from The Slab Boys. Credit

I also really liked the way the audience were immersed in the action. All the staff at the theatre were in period clothing and the house music was 1950s, really getting the mood right before the show even started. I love this era of music and was happily sitting dancing in my seat.

Robin and I both really enjoyed the play and thought it was a great production, which looked good and was filled with both highly comedic and poignant moments. The cast were really good, although there were times when the action seemed a bit forced. Overall it was a fun and very entertaining night at the theatre and I would be really interested to see the other two plays in the trilogy and read the whole lot.

Did you catch The Slab Boys? What did you think of the show?

**Disclaimer - I was invited to The Slab Boys in return for a review. Whilst my tickets complimentary, I was under no obligation to write a positive review and the post above reflects my true and honest opinion of my experience of my visit.

Friday, 20 March 2015

#224. Friday Fitness: Les Mills Grit Strength

I am a member of Pure Gym and enjoy going to their range of classes. I have been to the classic Legs, Tums and Bums a few times and tried a hand at the spin class once (loved it, although I did get tired knees and everyone around me was like a machine!) but there were a set of classes called Grit, which intrigued and scared me at the same time. All I could think about was gritting teeth and if it makes you do that, it must be ridiculously hard and not for me! 

Look at our sweaty wee faces. Photo link

I've been trying to tone up recently so decided to give Grit Strength class a go as it promised to increase strength and build lean muscle. I have no upper body strength at all, so anything that would help that could only be a good thing. I've also found I really like the mentality of working out in a group and when I see others do something, I find an extra boost of energy that keeps me going that bit longer and makes me push through. You are all in it together. The instructor is also really motivating as well and the high intensity classes are only 30 minutes long, so you do a lot in a short space of time.

The class is split into weight, body weight and cardio exercises, so you are always on the go and are encouraged to expend as much energy as you can for each short set, all to punchy music. There are weights to lift on bar bells for arm workouts and for leg workouts whilst you squat. I swear I have done so many squats over the past few weeks, I should be a sumo! Hut hut. I was a bit apprehensive at the start as I have never lifted more than a dumbell, but it wasn't as hard as I thought and more about toning than building muscle for me. I have often got to the stage when my legs and arms feel like jelly, but that only shows I am working hard. Some of the moves I find so difficult, like the pressups circuit...considering a few weeks ago I couldn't even do one press up! Now I can do a couple, but find I need to be on my knees most of the time as I just can't hold myself up for that length of time. Hopefully soon, I'll be able to keep going for a bit longer.

I've now been to the class three times and although it's really tiring, I have been enjoying it as you really do feel like you have worked out afterwards and with all those endorphins whirling around my body I can't help but crack a huge exhausted smile. I do feel like I have been getting stronger which is great, so will keep trying to go once a week.

#Leegetshealthy overall thoughts: So so tiring but man you feel good afterwards...keep pushing through!