A day trip to San Sebastian

On Saturday we decided to leave Biarritz for the day in search of some sunshine and tapas, just over the border from France into Spain.  You can drive to the centre of San Sebastian in under an hour from Biarritz, so it's a fun day trip to make if you're looking to experience a different culture than that found in the south of France (or practice your Spanish).  Plus it was another 'stamp in the passport' for the now somewhat well travelled Bodhi dog!

We set off after breakfast, and drove through a pretty heavy onslaught of rain, wondering if blue skies would await us in Spain.  It seemed such a novelty to be able to drive to another country, especially in our own van and with the dog.  After a slightly stressful five minutes driving around looking for parking, we found an underground car park with an exit right onto San Sebastian's most famous beach, La Concha.

Although the skies looked significantly moody in the distance, it was worth the drive just to feel sunshine on our skin and take our shoes off to walk on the sand.  A handful of people were already laying out towels on the beach, strolling along the shore or paddling in the sea (but I imagine that this beach gets very busy at the height of the tourist season).

After a walk along the beach, we then walked along to the peninsula to the right of the beach - past the Alderdi Eder Parkea, a beautiful park close to the beach with lots of benches and views over the beach.  It felt just perfect to stroll along in the sunshine, past a man playing the trumpet in the shade of a tamarind tree, with a Belle Epoque carousel gently twirling around.  Behind us was the City Hall - not a landmark in itself but a beautiful old building that used to be the city's Gran Casino.  We also took in the views of the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, which hosts the International Film Festival.

I'm sorry that I don't have any photos to add to the views I'm describing - I was just enjoying strolling along, taking in the sights and being a tourist.  As we rounded the corner to see the beautiful marina (Puerto Deportivo) - with the boats bobbing and the pretty buildings across the harbour - we felt the first drop of rain.  We would have liked to walk along to the Aquarium (though we wouldn't have been able to go in with Bodhi), but we decided to abandon that plan for another day, and head for an early lunch.

We wandered straight into the narrow streets and alleys that make up the Parte Vieja (the old town) in San Sebastian.  A real maze of food and culture, the old town is nestled around several of the major landmarks, such as the Main Square and two beautiful old churches (we walked past the Iglesias De Santa Maria, where there were street performers and people gathered having lunch on the steps - very pretty).  The streets are lined with pintxos bars (a Basque version of tapas) and souvenir shops, and have a real sense of ambience and a great atmosphere. Most of the bars are centred around the Calle de 31 de Agosto and you can spot the best ones by the queues forming outside before they open.  Pintxo bars are easily spotted by their counters, which are loaded with plates of small bites, often on top of slices of baguette (well it is only just over the border from France, after all).

It started to really hammer it down with rain when we were walking around, so we dived into the nearest bar, the Bar Restaurante Munto.  We grabbed a table and eagerly eyed the food displayed along the counter-top.  To try the pintxos, you ask the barman for a plate, load it up with whatever you'd like to try (we found that each item cost around €2 or €3) and then you hand the plate back to the barman who will take away anything that needs heating up.  We had a real spread of items, from goats cheese and honey on a small slice of bread, mozzarella and pesto, sardines, sausages (which were totally delicious) and prawns with a type of sauerkraut.  Of course it had to be washed down with a glass of the house wine - I had white and Tom had red and both were really, really nice.  In total, for about six or seven dishes and two glasses of wine we paid about €19, which is about £14.

Each bar often has a speciality and if you can muster up enough Spanish to ask, then it's good to find out which dishes they recommend.  The one we visited had lots of fish, though the dried ham hanging from the ceiling also meant there were also cured meats on offer.  The barman was friendly and helpful and there were clearly lots of locals in there enjoying a light lunch and a pint of beer.

If it feels like a bit of a minefield (and there really are what felt like hundreds of these little bars), you can go on a walking tour of the Parte Vieja and be guided by the locals and try the specialities in each place (try San Sebastian Pintxos Tours).  I think that's definitely something we would do if we came back, particularly as we loved our Porto food tour so much (what can I say, we love food!)

After leaving the bar, we did some more exploring and strolling around, but it had started to get quite chilly and the rain wasn't showing any sign of stopping, so we decided to go for a last stroll along the beach and then head back to Biarritz.

I'd definitely like to head back to San Sebastian again one day when the weather is a bit nicer - I think a day of strolling around in the sunshine, eating pintxos and drinking wine would be pretty special!  PS - This is Bodhi trying to get out of the sea after Tom took him for a paddle to cool off.  He really doesn't like the water!

Have you visited San Sebastian before? What did we miss?


Life is a microwaved croque monsieur

The long curtain that hangs between the patio door and our little room in the B&B in Biarritz is fluttering in the afternoon breeze, the shutters gently rattling again the wall outside.  I keep getting up from my seat to gaze across the gardens and out to the sea in the distance just to look at the vague hint of sunshine breaking through the clouds.  I close my eyes and breathe in the fresh air with gratitude - thankful because it is not raining and today is the first day in the week that we've been on holiday so far that the morning hasn't been marred by showers or biblical downpours.  You'd think we would be outside but Tom is asleep in bed after being quite unwell yesterday (his 30th birthday) and is sleeping it off.  Bodhi dog stares longingly at me from his place half-asleep on the bed, wondering when he'll be taken for a walk.  I have just spent the last five minutes attempting to microwave a pre-packaged Croque Monsieur from the supermarket and I'm now gulping down the lukewarm ham and melted cheese like it's the first thing I've eaten in weeks - spurred on by a mix of boredom and needing something to soak up the bottle of rosé I sank last night.  Last night, last night - running through the streets of Biarritz in sodden sandals, the wind snapping my umbrella and leaving me with no protection from the torrential downpour.  The streets running with rivers of water, the most committed of smokers outside bars, huddling under canopies and watching the smoke waft up towards the turgid rainclouds.  It seems like a distant memory now - the way that alcohol and darkness blurs everything at the edges, and morning comes to renew and wash away.

The point is, I think, that life never really is what you plan it to be.  Life is a half-cooked microwaved croque monsieur when you were anticipating steak frites on the veranda (I think that's the weirdest sentence I've ever written).  Life is an early bedtime on your birthday because you don't feel well.  Life is a pair of sandals drying on the decking, soaked through and dirty.  Life is a week of rain on holiday.  Life is choosing a restaurant, walking for 25 minutes and finding out it is closed.  Sometimes life just feels like a series of things that never quite seem to go to plan.  Being the control freak that I am, I find this hard to digest (like the soggy croque monsieur).  One of the phrases I find myself most often uttering, usually whilst shaking my head and raising my hands in despair is, "Why does nothing ever go right?" or "Why is nothing ever simple?" Of course what I really mean by this is, why do thinks often not go according my plan? Why has the image in my head of how this would go, and what this would look like, not been realised?

I think in a culture of carefully tended and aesthetically created social media profiles, it's easy to strive for - and feel hopeful for - perfection and ease in all areas of your life. I've realised recently that whenever I feel an unhappiness with life it's often due to my inability to control the outcomes in a way that meets my expectations of what it should look like, on both a granular level and a big picture level. And I have high expectations. This holiday for example - I imagined lazing on the beach in Biarritz with a cold cider and a book, or lounging on the pool deck of the B&B, earning a golden tan and a freckled nose. In the evening I would don a floaty dress and wedges and we would sashay down into the town and drink red wine and eat Brie whilst a man on the corner played an accordion and we marvelled at just how wonderful France was and vowed to move here in a heartbeat. The car journeys to each hotel or campsite would be punctuated by stops at the beach and then hopping back into the van with sandy feet, wrapped in towels and eager for the next destination. At campsites we would set up the table outside the van with views of the ocean and drink wine long into the night, waking in the morning for a swim in the pool and long walks along the beach. I count down to these moments for months, I dream of sunburned noses and condensation on bottles of Normandy cider.

Here is the story of my holiday so far.  Biblical, torrential rain every single day.  Rain in Quiberon, rain in Ile De Ré, rain in Biarritz, rain in the Dordogne. My holiday wardrobe has been my raincoat, jeans and trainers. I brought five bikinis and they sit crumpled and buried at the bottom of my bag. My umbrella broke in the wind. Our journeys have involved watching rain stream down the windscreen, the wipers working overdrive. On the one day of beautiful sunshine in Capbreton I sat on the beach with Bodhi watching Tom surf. A woman shouted at Bodhi and swiped at him as he ran past her, and he quickly got too hot and had to come back to the van for shade. We tried to re-book the ferry tickets to come home earlier but we weren't able to. And oh how I have whinged and whined and riled against the sheer unfairness of it all. This wasn't supposed to be what our holiday would be like. But there is no such thing as supposed, is there? If there is a grand plan or a higher being, it probably isn't concerned with whether I get to wear my new ASOS bikini teamed with the perfect red nail varnish I picked up in Sephora.  And so - if life isn't a perfectly curated Instagram feed, if life is, instead, a microwaved Croque Monsieur or a broken umbrella, or a wet holiday, or an injury in the warm up of the football game, then how can I stop being so bloody disappointed and whingey all the time?

Here's a thing - maybe it's enough just to go to France. To experience the world (even in the rain). Maybe the moments that really matter are the messy, unexpected ones that make you grateful and help you grow.  I started writing this blog post a week into our holiday when we were in Biarritz, and I thought I couldn't take another day of rain.  We're now ten days in and I finished writing this in the Notes app as we drove through the pouring rain towards our penultimate stop.  It's gutting, it's disappointing but it's just the way it goes.  France is pretty beautiful even in the rain, and there will be other holidays, other bikinis, other beach days and other opportunities to get a freckled nose.  And that's worth being grateful for.


A Sephora France haul

Sephora France haul

I'm currently in Biarritz in France, and I wish I could say I'm laid on the decking next to the pool where we're staying but unfortunately it has literally been torrentially raining since the moment we got to France (almost a week ago).  I've probably whinged just about enough about the weather on twitter, instagram and snapchat, so I won't spend too much time on here waxing lyrical about how gutted I am, and how this holiday was supposed to be about al fresco drinking of wine and lolling in the sunshine, and not watching Netflix marathons in the van and watching the rain fall outside.... On the plus side we've discovered Peaky Blinders which I'm really enjoying, AND I made Tom detour a few miles off the autoroute towards a Sephora, so yesterday I got to pick up a few things which I thought I'd share here in case anyone else loves Sephora as much as I do...

Sephora Haul Sephora Haul

sephora avocado hand mask, $6 // £4.20 | sephora express dry nail drying spray,  €8.50 // £6.70 | sephora professional nail file {not on website} - similar >> nail buffer block
sephora highlight lowlight face contour duo, $20 // £14  | sephora color hit nail polish in 'dinner for two' {not on website} €3.90 // £3.10 | sephora nail varnish corrector pen {not on sephora US website}, €7.95 // £6.30
sephora bronze powder, $17 // £12 | sephora must have angled liner brush, $14 // £9.90

As you can probably guess from this selection of products, one of the things I decided I might do whilst we're stuck in the B&B is give myself a bit of a manicure, so I bought a nail file, nail varnish and also two products I'm very intrigued about - a corrector pen for tidying up mistakes (I make A LOT of mistakes when doing my nails, Tom always ends up in hysterics at just how terrible I am) and a quick drying spray to stop me waiting 30 seconds, hoping it's dry and then smudging it all over the TV remote.  I already use Seche Vite but I've found that lately my nail varnish is chipping a lot or peeling off, so I thought I'd try something different - I will report back when I've used this as to how effective it is (fingers crossed!)

I also can't wait to try the contouring stick - I was immediately drawn to this as I'm about as good at contouring as I am at painting my nails, so I'm hoping this will make it easy; it gets really good reviews on the Sephora website and there's a few YouTube tutorials on how to use it, so hopefully I can master it as I really envy people who can contour like a boss.

You can order from the Sephora US site and pay £6 shipping if you spend over £75 which I can see myself doing when I get home as there's a few things I have my eye on that they didn't have in the Sephora here (Kat Von D makeup I'm looking at you). No doubt I'll also be going to some French pharmacies whilst we're here so let me know if there's anything you recommend I grab - I already need to get more Caudalie Beauty Elixir and Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse but I'm sure I'll find a reason to treat myself to a few more bits!

Have you shopped at Sephora recently?


Teami Detox and Skinny Tea Review

I've always been cautious to not mention weight loss on my blog, even though I won't deny that in the last few months it's been one of my goals (alongside getting fitter, toning up and improving my general health and fitness).  I don't think it's healthy or productive for bloggers to push the 'weight loss' message in blog posts, and so I want to say from the start of this that when I decided to review Teami Blends and their 30-Day Detox, I approached this review from the perspective mainly of creating healthier habits and exploring how their teas could be a part of my routine, as well as with a good dose of curiosity, and a commitment to being totally honest about the results.

Teami Skinny Tea Review

Who are Teami?

Teami as a brand make a variety of different teas, from energising ginger, lemongrass and honey teas, to relaxing sleep inducing teas made from lavender, valerian and and camomile.  Their teas are loose-leaf, all-natural, dairy free and GMO free blends that are targeted to specific health benefits or concerns.  There's no denying though that one of Teami's most popular products is their detox plan - a 30 day or 3-month program that promises a boost in metabolism, reduced bloating, less appetite and cleansing and detoxifying the body, but their range extends much larger than that, and they aren't focussed on being a 'weight loss' tea brand like some others (albeit the tea that I chose to review does have that as a possible benefit).

What does the detox involve?

The 30-day detox involves a 30-day supply of their Skinny loose-leaf tea and 15 colon cleanse tea bags.  The idea is that you have a skinny tea every morning, and a colon cleanse tea every other night.  The skinny tea is a blend of oolong, mate, lime leaf, dandelion root and lots of other ingredients that give you energy, reduce bloating and aid digestion.  The colon cleanse tea is a blend of senna leaf, hawthorn berry, psyllium husk seed and several other ingredients.  As you might expect, you have the colon cleanse tea just before you go to bed, and in the morning it has a mild laxative effect which is said to clear the body of toxins, strengthen your immune system and boost your metabolism.

I'm not convinced by the colon cleanse tea - tell me more?

Colon cleanse teas (as well as similar products like enzymes, senna tablets and other products) claim to help the body's natural colon cleansing functions and improve its ability to rid it of toxins in the colon, the build up of which can cause fatigue, difficulty in absorbing nutrients, low energy, bloating and weight gain.  As someone who does get very bloated from a variety of foods, always feels tired, and has a pretty poor immune system, I thought it was worth a try.  Without sharing TMI, I definitely don't go to the toilet as regularly as other people I know, and I've often suspected that this is one of the reasons why I find it incredibly difficult to lose weight even when eating a relatively healthy diet, and why I find I often hold a lot of fat and bloating around my stomach even when I slim down in other areas - something that I have seen a GP and other health professionals for in the past.

I should say here that the jury is still out on whether colon cleanses are beneficial - with strong opinions on both sides of the argument (as you would imagine).  There are die-hard advocates of colon cleanses for all of the reasons listed above - and you can find many studies that say that they are beneficial, and there are also people who say that the body is capable of performing all of the functions required of the colon and bowel without needing a cleanse. Personally, I thought I would give it a try to see how it benefited my overall health - of course I can't speak for anyone else as part of this review and I'm not a Doctor or Nutritionist so I can only go on what I've read on their website and others when reading up on cleanses.

Tell me more about the Skinny Tea? 

The Skinny Tea doesn't have a laxative effect, so you can drink as much as you like.  I had a skinny tea in my Teami Tumbler every morning on the way to work.  I must say that the tumbler is amazing and is now a key part of my morning routine - it's so convenient to use, especially when you're on the go (I'm writing this from France where I've also been making a Skinny Tea in the morning and having it in the van on our journeys to our next campsite!).  The loose leaf tea comes dried and you put a spoonful in the tumbler and then top it up with boiling water, at which point the dried leaves all expand and the tea infuses.  There is a strainer in the lid so you don't end up with a mouthful of leaves! You can drink the tea with honey or agave if you like but I found it sweet enough without any additions.

Teami Skinny Tea Review

What effect did the Skinny Tea have?

I can say with total honesty that I loved the Skinny Tea - the taste is like a green tea but less bitter, and I found that it instantly gave me energy and made me feel alive and awake in the morning.  I'm hesitant to sell this as a benefit but I will say that having even just one tumbler of the tea in the morning would often mean that it got to lunchtime and I realised that I still wasn't particularly hungry.  I'm not a big breakfast eater and when I've been intermittent fasting this has been a useful aid in keeping me going until my first meal around 1pm.  I will totally re-buy the Skinny Tea and I love the way it made me feel in the morning. (Also, if you only use a teaspoonful, which is all you need, it lasts much longer than the 30 days).

How did you get on with the Colon Cleanse tea?

The first night I tried the colon cleanse tea I blatantly disregarded the instructions on the back of the packet to steep the teabag for around a minute and left it in for about ten minutes.  I also took it about 9.30 rather than just before bedtime.  Both of these things turned out to be major mistakes, as I discovered when I woke up at 05.30 with quite painful cramps and an urgent need to dash to the loo.  I chatted to Teami about this and they were really helpful, recommending that next time I just steep the teabag for around 30 seconds for a more gentle cleanse.  A couple of days later I tried this approach and it worked much better - no cramps and only one, much more natural feeling toilet trip (TMI again - sorry!) that wasn't uncomfortable or painful.  I haven't been undertaking the cleanses every other night as the detox recommends but I've just used them on the odd day (probably about five or six times throughout the 'detox') when I felt particularly bloated or I felt that things needed some movement (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence).  That way it felt more natural and less regimented than a regular cleanse (though Teami do state that there are several health benefits of a detox of this nature).  I must admit that on the days after I did the cleanse I had a much, much flatter stomach and felt less bloated and 'full'.  Whilst I don't think I would personally use it as a sole method for weight loss or reducing bloating and stomach fat (which really is my target area), there's no doubt that undertaking the colon cleanse did make me feel more trim.

Teami Skinny Tea Review

What results did you get from the detox?

As I mentioned - I only used the Colon Cleanse teas around four or five times, so I didn't do the full detox as recommended by Teami (though I did have a Skinny Tea every morning).  I can't deny that overall I had more energy, was less bloated and definitely found that I had less of an appetite.  I have lost weight in the last month but I would attribute that more to the personal training, nutrition plan and how regimented I have been with diet and exercise, though there's no denying that both elements of the detox have helped.  What I wouldn't say is that people ought to purchase the detox in total isolation and expect to drop pounds without getting off the sofa, but I do think that there is a place for a detox and for natural, loose leaf tea with health benefits alongside a diet and exercise programme.

So, would you recommend Teami tea?

I would have no hesitation in recommending the 30-day detox and I’ll continue to use it myself in the same way that I have done, by having a Skinny Tea in the morning and using the Colon Cleanse as and when I feel bloated and uncomfortable or that my digestion needs a little help. I know that some of these teas capitalise on making weight loss claims and I don’t necessarily want to buy into that, as although my goals do involve feeling a bit more confident in a bikini whilst away in France (and being a bit trimmer does play a part in that), what I’m always searching for is long term health benefits and developing healthy habits that will help long-term. I can definitely see Teami teas being part of my morning routine going forward, and there’s no doubt that when I’m undertaking intermittent fasting (which I generally do try and stick to - and there are lots of studies that having periods of fasts does have health benefits) that having one of their teas in my tumbler in the morning really does help to keep me feeling satisfied and kickstart my morning without having to have a meal when I'm not ready to eat.

If you want to grab any of Teami's fab products you can use the code ROSIE to get 10% off.  I'd definitely recommend the Skinny Tea (£19.99) and I'm going to try the Alive Tea (£14.99) next as that sounds like just what I need - I feel like the reviews must speak for themselves with that tea, gimme those nutrients and vitamins please!

Have you ever tried a tea based detox? Are you a fan of loose leaf teas?


Father's Day Gift Ideas

Impending important day klaxon - it's Father's Day on June 19th, have you got anything for the most important man in your life yet? I'm so lucky to have an absolutely amazing Dad who I'm totally reliant on for advice (particularly job advice - my Dad always knows the right thing to say when I'm in a work pickle), DIY help, belly laugh inducing comments (usually at the expense of my Mum) and  excellent emoji usage over WhatsApp.

Usually the week before Father's Day I'd be planning to go and see my Dad and take him for dinner or for a drink (with a stack of car magazines and a pack of beers in tow) but on this occasion we'll be away in France over that weekend so I'm having to plan my gift buying in advance.  My Dad is basically impossible to buy for as his main loves in life are helicopters (and I can't buy him one of those) and cars (and he already has one of those) so I'm usually a bit stumped.

My Dad is actually pretty trendy so I have in the past bought him shoes, clothes or nice accessories and that's the route I've gone down this Father's Day too (though I can't share exactly what I've bought as I haven't popped it in the post yet!)

Recently Updated1-2

1. Ralph Lauren, Belt, £49.95 // Ralph Lauren, Boxers, £39.95 // Barbour, Tartan Shirt, £74.95

2. Paul Smith, Cufflinks, £79.95 // Clae, Chambray Shoes, £54.95 // Ralph Lauren, Shirt, £84.95 // Paul Smith, Wash Bag, £94.95 // Jason Markk, Shoe Cleaning Kit, £15.95

I think all of these would make fab gifts for my Dad - particularly the items by Barbour and Paul Smith as they're both such classic menswear brands that work for men of any age (even 40-somethings like my Dad - ahem).  All of these bits can be found on Infinities Menswear - my favourite thing about this site is that I managed to get birthday presents for my brother and Tom, as well as a Father's Day gift for my Dad, so I'm chuffed that I've got all of those ticked off before we go away on holiday.  I hope that none of them see this blog post before Father's Day and their birthdays...

Barbour washbag
>> Barbour washbag, Infinities {sold out}
Barbour washbag and Ralph Lauren t-shirt
>> Barbour washbag as above, Ralph Lauren t-shirt, £44.95

Do you find your Dad a hard person to buy for for Father's Day?

* this is a collaborative post


It wasn't to be

"All that worrying, and stressing, and preparing, and then fate stepped in and took away my chance at football glory," I joke to my friend, as we wander through town on our lunch break.  He scoffs and furrows his brow a little - "That wasn't fate Rosie," he said.  "That was the fact that you kicked a ball really hard without warming up."

Turn the clock back a little further though - Tuesday evening.  It's 6pm, and I'm stood on the sidelines of the football match, decked out in shin pads, football socks and Nike shorts; stretching and pushing my palm into my thigh to try and stop my leg seizing up.  Kneading the swollen muscle like it's dough, gritting my teeth through the discomfort, the shame, the anger, the stupidity of it all.  Our team, my team, dressed in red and white stripes (the shirt I put on and then pulled off, over my head and balled up angrily, passed on to someone else with more than a tinge of resentment).  The evening sun still hot - red faces, the slick of sweat, the pound of trainers on the astro-turfed pitch.  I pull self-consciously at my ponytail, re-adjust my socks, make small talk with the other spectators.

                      >> img credit: death to the stock photo

I am suddenly so tired - tired of talking and thinking about this whole thing, tired of feeling out of place and suddenly more so; the black t-shirt in a sea of red and white, the player who didn't play, the joke at half-time, the sympathetic hand on the shoulder, the 'told-you-so' side eyes and nudges from others.  In the second half I pull off my socks and shin pads and stuff them in my bag.  At the full-time whistle I grab my friend's car keys and get changed in the back of his car, biting my lip hard as I pull on my jeans and feel that involuntary white heat of pain as I exacerbate the injury.  I feel petulant and helpless, I huff in spite of myself - in spite of being in the back of a car alone with my jeans bunched around my hips and my Nike shorts strewn in the footwell.  'What a pathetic sight,' I think to myself, knowing how many different pairs of shorts I tried on the night before to find the perfect pair; knowing how I slathered on fake tan to try and make my legs look better in my shorts, knowing how I packed a little pouch with my inhaler, blister stick and spare hair ties in, knowing how I tried so hard and it was all for nothing.  I watch as the players shake hands in the car park and joke and laugh and make arrangements for the next match and I curl my lip, zip up my jeans and look away.

I blogged about all of the stress and indecision that went into deciding whether to play on Tuesday, and I can't avoid the bitter irony in dedicating quite so much thought into a decision that never even had to be made.  My friend is right though - it wasn't fate, or irony, or a sign, or the universe.  It was the fact that I swung my right leg back, pointed my toes and booted a football with all my strength, yanking a muscle that hadn't been warmed up and is rarely used.  On the way to work on Monday I spent the entire drive mentally kicking about the decision - to play, or not to play; to take that step forward, or to metaphorically sit on the bench.  And as I thought about it, I had to literally swerve to avoid a huge toy football in the road (one of those Ikea footballs - more like a cuddly toy than anything that could ever belong on a football pitch).  I smiled to myself, grateful for the sign, sitting in communion with the universe that had nudged me out of my comfort zone and towards what must be the right decision.  I allowed myself the indulgence of imagining myself scoring a goal, or pulling off a great pass or tackle in the final few minutes.  My cheeks flush now at the thought of it all, my mind running away with itself.

To me, there's an obvious similarity with a few weeks before, when I was asked if I wanted to play a little five-a-side match at lunchtime.  I thought about it for so long, eventually said yes, and then found out that they had too many players.  It reminds me of a Mark Twain quote - "I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened".  If there is a message from the universe out of all of this, a subtext, a moment of clarity amongst all of the gritted teeth and flushed cheeks, it is this.  The worry, the indecision, the rumination and the reflection is often immaterial.  (I think of that word now, immaterial - and I think, not material, not real, not tangible.  Not cloth or concrete that you can hold or mould.  Ethereal, non-existent, air - nothingness).  To spend days or weeks deciding whether to push yourself out of your comfort zone is not truly taking the brave step forward.  It's lavishing in the comfort and then taking a tiptoe out.  Right now, all in from the start would have felt a little better.  Maybe, maybe, maybe, yes, no is the painful part, because in the end, it didn't really matter.  So, next time, a bold yes.  A sling of the trainers into the bag, the shorts that are at hand - no discussion, no foam Ikea footballs.  And if it doesn't work out, then a shrug, not self-flagellation.  Life is too short to dissect everything into minute detail and then have it disintegrate in your hands.  All in.  Yes or no.  Yes or no.


Why I love camping - and my favourite campsite

It's no secret that I absolutely adore camping.  Although camping for us means sleeping in the van rather than in a tent, I still think there's something incredibly special about waking up, sliding open the door and immediately being greeted with fresh air and (hopefully) beautiful views across a field or coastline.  I just love how much time you spend outdoors when camping - sat in a camping chair sipping on a cold cider, cooking on the stove, stringing your washing to dry from a tree, walking to the shower in the morning in your flip flops, staying up after dark with a mug of hot chocolate and gazing up at the stars.  To me, it is total perfection.

In a week or so we'll be off to France in the van (with Bodhi too!) for a mix of camping and Air-BnBing (and a lot of eating cheese and wine).  I can't wait to load up the van and be out on the open road - it gives me a sense of freedom and relaxation that I'm really yearning for at the moment.  We're going to Quiberon, Ile De Ré, La Roque Gageac, Biarritz and Tours, amongst a couple of other places.  We spend the longest period in Biarritz and we're there for Tom's birthday (I'm sure he'll be going for a birthday, and every other day surf - I plan to take lots of books!) I'm going to write a separate blog post about planning a road trip across France as this is the second time we've done it now and we learned a lot of lessons the first time round so I'm hoping this trip will be just as amazing.

This week I was asked to contribute a short piece on my favourite campsite, for the Decathlon Blog.  I had no hesitation in picking Eweleaze Farm, where we went for my 30th birthday.  You can read why I chose that particular campsite over on their blog (TLDR: piglets, pizza, bakery, Turkish bath house in the woods).  Of course the views of the Dorset coastline make a significant contribution too...

There's also lots of other awesome campsites mentioned in that post that sound like they're definitely worth checking out - I've already bookmarked the Dune du Pilat campsite mentioned to see if we can cram that in during our trip; being nestled amongst the sand dunes with views across the sea sounds like something worth rearranging the itinerary for!

Are you a fan of camping? What's your favourite campsite?


A girl out of her comfort zone

Though it feels like a breach of 'girl code', I often find that I feel more at ease when amongst groups of men than I do groups of women (I sometimes find large groups of women a little intimidating).  I don't know why it should be that I often feel more comfortable around men - I don't subscribe to the generalisations that men are less 'bitchy' or 'complicated', I just find that, apart from with my close female friends, I feel that I can be more authentically myself around men.  It probably helps that I've grown up around my brother and my Dad, both of whom are great role models in different ways (and great company to be around), and when I was younger I always enjoyed playing Street Fighter and climbing trees with the boys more than I did combing Barbie's hair.  (I know this is total gender stereotyping - but I'm just recalling the activities that felt more 'me' as a child).

I never felt excluded by the boys when I was younger and never questioned that there was anything that they could do that I couldn't.  I knew that I was just as good at football as them, I could destroy them at Street Fighter (Ryu forever), I always got picked for the Man Hunt team and everyone knew I had the best collection of Mountain Biking UK magazine stickers.  Except for not being able to play in the football team at school because I was a girl (which I mentioned in this awesome article I was asked to contribute to about women in business), I never felt counted out, or treated differently, for being a girl.  At work, I'm part of a women's network to address the imbalance of women in leadership roles, and it's my genuine belief that one of the best things we can do to support this is to improve women's confidence and help women achieve their potential at work - I don't think there is as much of a sense of overt discrimination as there was in the workplace five or ten years ago (though I can only speak for my own workplace, and I'm well aware that things differ across organisations and especially across industries).

But this week has been a challenge to me.  This week has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into an area that has made me feel out of place and excluded.  This week I have felt a range of emotions, and all because of... a football game.  I won't go into it in too much detail here because it's more of a real-life situation than I would normally blog about and I don't want to be seen to be airing dirty laundry, but essentially I thought it would be a bit of fun to volunteer to play at a football match between two of our offices next week.  I thought it would be a laugh; a good way to get a bit more fitness activity into my week without slogging it on the treadmill and something different to do on a Tuesday night.  (And when I was asked if I wanted to go and watch, my first reaction was no, I want to go and play).

img credit: danielledowling.com

But it hasn't felt fun.  The more people talked about the fact that my name was on the team list, the more sensitive and self-conscious I felt.  The more people said they were surprised that I would be playing, said they hoped I wouldn't get hurt, asked if I was fit enough, or asked how many other matches I'd played in (with a raised eyebrow), the more I wanted to pretend it had all been a joke, and walk away.  I decided to ease myself in gently and play in a little five-a-side game with some other people from work on Friday and it just left a sour taste in my mouth.  I enjoyed it, but frankly, I just wasn't very good.  I wasn't as good as the boys, and they knew it.  There was the odd exclamation of surprise when people passed to me, the laughs as people said 'man on', a lot of apologies from me when I panicked and lost the ball to the other team, and a lot of time spent with a knot in my stomach wondering what I was doing there, and feeling like everyone else was probably thinking the same.  All of a sudden, those feelings of comfort and normality I usually found in groups of guys, were gone.

When I got back to work after lunch, I saw a girl in the lift who I had spoken to that morning about playing.  "I heard your team lost," she said with a wry smile.  "I don't think anyone was keeping score," I said.  But she was insistent that she knew someone else who had played, and that the team I was in ended up several goals down.  Because it was the team with the girl in.  That's what I felt the subtext was.  I'm sure it was my own paranoia, but I felt talked about.  The butt of a joke.  The girl who tried, and failed.

Even now, thinking about potentially playing on Tuesday gives me an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Half of me wants to prove something to the people who asked if I am 'fit enough' or said they were surprised to see a girl on a list of 25 boys.  But half of me is worried that if I do go, I will prove them right - prove that my name doesn't belong on that list, prove that girls who haven't played football since they were kids should stick to kickabouts in the park.  For now, I'm watching my football socks fluttering on the washing line and wondering if I should count myself out, before someone else does.  And another part of me is thinking about all of the people who feel like this all of the time - the one person in a group of others who is different, who never feels good enough, who never feels like they 'fit'.  It has made me realise that for some people, this isn't the emotions caused by a silly, casual Tuesday night activity, but the reactions they get from the major choices they have made in life.  There are women all over the world who are constantly told they are 'brave' and asked if they will 'be okay' or 'be able to keep up' for opting to choose a career or a life path that is usually dominated by men.  It's just a football match, I tell myself.  It's just a football match.  I'm still not sure.