The line, the list and the middle aged lunatic

14 Jun

I was standing in a rather aggressive line for the cash point juggling a drink, notebook, handbag and shopping, whilst having a conversation regarding the theft of Tesco’s plastic carrier bags forced upon me by the security guard on his fag break in the rain, you know the usual. Then suddenly it hit me, as these things often do when you find yourself acting out the mundane routines of life.

I am twenty six, its 2016, I have a wrinkle on my forehead which I have actually received a recommendation for, I’ve never had a spray tan or learnt to walk in heels, and I haven’t written a blog post since February 2015. Of course these momentous life epiphanies were also accompanied by a now strong feeling to campaign tirelessly for some form of carrier bag security tags, but that’s a personal challenge that Colin (the security guard) and I must face alone.

So with these realisations, some very frizzy hair and the determination to get rid of that god awful ‘redhead-angel’ email address attributed to my name and not reach twenty seven without some serious life goals under my belt, I have decided to revive the blog and of course with it, the ever infamous wish list!

I can almost hear the groans of my bewildered colleagues, as along with this blog post I prepare a list of things I want to do by the time I’m twenty eight (I’ve had to give myself until I’m twenty eight as we are like halfway through the year and my birthday is next April, with a full time insanely busy job we need to be realistic, I am going to have fit this in as and where I can).

I did create a list a few years ago placing it on my cupboard and with the help of my friends, the best boss this side of the UK and quite frankly the coolest and most understanding colleagues ever (one of my tasks last time was to hug a tree, they could have had me committed if they wanted to) I managed to complete the majority of it, and had some fairly hilarious stories and fun ticking them off one by one.

The whole idea was inspired by my ‘quarter life crisis’ but at twenty six I think we are way beyond that now. I like to think of this more as my way of ensuring that I enjoy my late twenties to the fullest! It won’t all be ‘go to Barbados’ and ‘kiss Gerard Butler’ although maybe it should. A lot of it will be those little things that I never got round to trying, or was too afraid to push myself to go for, and maybe kissing Gerard Butler will also feature if I can find a way to track him down…you could cut glass on his abs!

I’ll be putting the list up at work first to get to grips with how I’m going to achieve some of these tasks, and then following that will be posting it on here with maybe even one or two ticked off (I’m feeling  ambitious)!

I’ll try and post some updates as I go, let you know how I’m cracking on and maybe you might be inspired to get going on some of your own bucket list items. (Please join my craziness; it makes me a lot less conspicuous).

So twenty eight wishes by the time I’m twenty eight, with only sheer will power to spur me on and the acceptance of inevitable public humiliation, what could possibly go wrong?


*Side note* My blog needs some serious updating as I am no longer the twenty three year old graduate that started this blog in uni so some of my details may be a bit out of date, that includes the weird fringe I had going  on in the majority of my pictures, thats gone now thank god. I’ll be updating as and when I can but in the meantime stick around, who knows you may grow to like it here.


Chickens, carts and chainsaws

23 Feb

So here we are 2015 and already I have had a few reminders from various people regarding my very neglected blog. It’s the time old excuse that I’ve just been incredibly busy! However, with the threat of pointy weapons at my back and in general not wanting to be nagged into a coma, I’ve decided to start posting again.

Quite a few of you were interested in what I got up to when I went away last year to Spain, and although I did catch up with a few of you individually, I will admit that perhaps there was more to tell, and so at the risk of destroying any small remaining belief in my sanity, I’ve decided that this is where I should start my blog up again.

My jolly to Spain was my second holiday of 2014 (Paris being the first) but this time I was joined by my mum and nan, staying at my nan’s villa in rural Spain.

Now when I say rural please understand this is no exaggeration on my part, I’m talking still using a horse and cart, no wi-fi/phone signal, questionable traffic crossings and no English language kind of rural. The kind of place where no tourist dare venture, and where someone pale and red headed as me is looked on by the locals as some strange exotic animal (believe me you kind of get used to it after a while).

It’s one of the few places you could say ‘Facebook’ out loud and elicit a blank expression from the locals, one because they are all predominantly my nans age and two, because the only internet café in town (also doubling as a shoe shop) was closed due to lack of use and apparently (so I hear from the one person who does speak English in the area) a shoe being jammed in the printer.

It was my first holiday in over six years with my family (I usually go away with my friends) and despite being buried in my adolescence along with electric blue eye shadow and a hideous old Reebok jumper, the memories of my childhood holidays were still very prevalent in my mind. I must be a glutton for punishment, but I was curious as to whether the adult experience would be any better.

My first realisation that the holiday would be one of those ‘experiences’ I tend to ‘enjoy’ in my life, was a slightly panicky call to my gal pal Kelly (also going away that evening) at 11pm trying to cram two weeks’ worth of items into an already over stuffed piece of hand language, that once use to be a rather nice handbag. I actually took her at her word when she suggested wearing everything I could on the plane (since mum refused on principle to let me pay for my own suitcase, not wanting to ‘put more money in the pockets of those bastards Ryan Air’ as she conservatively put it’). Let’s just say I was the warmest person on a flight of the dammed.

Every family holiday we have a tradition that is somehow always adhered to whether we like it or not, we always start with an injury. On some of our more memorable holidays away, nan slipped head first on a marble floor and had to have her head stitched up with cat gut, whilst mum squealed in a corner. Another time she fell down a bunch of stairs whilst holding my hand (dragging me with her) and we were both carted off to the doctors battered, bruised and yes you guessed it, needing more stitches with cat guts. It was an odd comfort years later not to be disappointed, when mum christened our first day with a black eye after falling arse overhead. (These are two women who use to stagger around all holiday in five inch stilettos, so it’s not exactly a surprise when one of them ends up on the floor). So mum sported a fetching bloomer on her face all holiday and nan and I looked like we were beating her up.

Mum and nan continued to amuse day three in, when driving back after a nice dinner out up the dirt track towards the villa, out of nowhere mum let out a fairly horror movie like scream causing nan to slam the brakes on and knock the switch for the headlights. Leaving mum still shrieking and nan fumbling for her asthma pump in pitch black. (You really come to appreciate the UK street lamps when staying at my nan’s sometimes).

My nan has never been the most confident driver, particularly when abroad and unfortunately my mother is that rare combination of bossy yet shrieking side passenger. Whom on more than one occasion has almost caused me to drive into a ditch (sometimes just to end the torture upon my poor shot nerves) so you can imagine the fairly heated discussions that occur with holiday driving, especially on this occasion where she had almost given us all a heart attack over a chicken running across the track.

Twenty minutes of fruitless searching for the headlights switch in a car as foreign to us as Spain, with only the light of my ipod to help, I was sent to walk up the dirt track to the villa to get a torch, returning to guide the car up the track where they would deal with finding the switch in the morning.

Feeling a bit like an extra in a horror movie about to make a fairly grizzly end, I made my way up the track using my ipod and the clucking of errant chickens to guide me. But in the end it was my mum who got the final scare, as half way back down the track she was screaming again, an overly precocious chicken making the most of its opportunity in the dark, had paid final insult and pecked her on the leg.

Animals are very much a part of all of my childhood holidays (although I will admit chickens don’t usually feature). Some of my earliest holiday memories, injuries aside, are of going around feeding all the stray animals. My nan and I feeding stray cats in Greece, attempting to re-home a little dog found in Majorca and sneaking a stray cat into our hotel apartment in Tenerife. It’s as much a part of my childhood as school and pubs. Which is why I wasn’t surprised that on day five we adopted two beautiful dogs, (we named Rocky and Lady) the cutest dog couple South of Seville. We continued on this way much through the rest of the holiday, with nan carrying cat and dog food in her purse every outing, inciting an almost parade like following of every stray animal in town. Whilst this isn’t strange at all to myself, I always smile at the scandalised looks on the faces of the locals as we proceed to feed every stray animal in sight, happily sharing a dinner table with every stray, whilst mum waves manically saying ‘gracias’ to everyone in near sight.Dogs

Both my mum and nan are fairly opposite to me, both quite raucous live wires when they get the chance and so one evening I opted out of a night out with my nan’s friend (the only person we know who can speak English and Spanish), who occasionally occupies a villa way down the track. Two am and they both stagger in not making a great deal of sense and mistaking the lilo for a bed, but just coherent enough to tell me they had arranged for us to join a town festival the next day with my nans friend Lyn.Party

I have to admit I was at first apprehensive going to a town festival where I knew no one, didn’t speak the language and stood out like a sore thumb, but if you know me then you’ll know that’s often the case wherever I go, and so I joined the locals in celebration of one of their saints days. We made our way up to the woods on the outskirts of town where it was being held and walking around the camp I was welcomed (as far as I understood) to join the party, sharing their food and later getting up to have a dance. It was pretty special and despite the fact I had very little idea of what was actually being celebrated, it was a fairly entertaining time. Before I made my way back home, I was invited to come out for a cart ride the next day with a local farmer called Paco and his beautiful mule.

I’m a bit of an equestrian nut and so despite the fact that I probably should have thought twice about going on a cart ride with an older man I had never met, in a foreign country where no one spoke English on my own, I still accepted and Lyn translated that Paco would pick me up on the cart the next afternoon.

CartPaco did pick me up in his cart that next afternoon and before I could even question how he had known where nan’s villa was (especially considering that I know just enough Spanish to order a beer, never mind give any kind of address out or directions) I jumped in and Paco and I were on our way.

Paco took me around the farmland first and through the vineyards, stopping to pick grapes and feed them to me. I will confess that people feeding me from their hands is one of my pet hates but when in Spain and all, it was only after eating them I realised they were unwashed and I was probably now home to a very happy parasite.

We continued to make our way around the fields stopping to pick some flowers and then much to my horror started driving the cart up a very steep uneven rocky path. The cart was wobbling and jolting very precariously and I won’t lie I clung white knuckled for dear life, remembering that I never did find my E111 card before I went away.

Still we made it up in one piece and I was rewarded with a spectacular view of the surrounding land and town. Other horses cantered alongside us in their fields and I enjoyed a bit of a Kate Winslet moment (depressingly without Leo) throwing my hands out to the sky. Paco later took me around the town and we stopped for a drink in his favourite bar (whilst I pondered if it was legal to drive a mule drunk) then went on to the local church for communion. (Seriously do not even ask how I get myself into these things I don’t know, but I’m probably a catholic now or something).

Just over two and a half hours later he dropped me back off at the villa, much to the confusion of my mum and nan who were trying to teach themselves how to say ‘my daughter has gone missing with a mule’ believe me they don’t cover that one in the phrase book.

As he rode off he winked at us and yelled out something in Spanish which Lyn later translated for me as ‘long live the women!’

Hmmmm…long live the women indeed.

The remainder of the holiday was mostly relaxing, bar a few worrying moments where nan insisted on getting the chainsaw out to try and trim the hedges and mum started a full on conversation with our dog at home over the phone. Upon arriving back in the UK I felt a mixture of post-holiday blues, relief at being able to wear something other than flip flops and slight concern as to what would be waiting for me at work.

Spain held a great deal of fun for me and amusingly I have just booked a holiday with my friends for a week away in the land of flamenco again, whilst I may not be going on  any cart rides again (I hope) or breaking out the chainsaws I’m sure I’ll find something to keep me entertained.

Viva Española! me

The list, task 27, a spider infested whisk and cookies!

28 Jan

Some of you may know that at the start of 2014…I wrote a list.

I found myself New Year’s Eve on a midnight walk around the streets (bopping along to uptown girl, an obvious song choice); watching people in various states of disarray or celebrating indoors, and this led me to reflect back on my own year. 2013 had been ok, but walking around the one thing I really regretted, was that I hadn’t done more.

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they can be so vague, for instance last year my resolution was to in essence ‘get a life’ (basically have more of a social life) and to be fair I probably achieved this, as I did have some hilarious and great experiences. However it’s hard to quantify that kind of resolution and similar ones made in the past. So I decided to bypass this whole problem for this year, and make a list. The list.

This is the list that would ensure whatever else happened, as long I achieved 28 specific tasks I would have had a successful, fun and in general rip roaring 2014. Some of the items on the list are things I’ve always wanted to do or try, things that scare me or (in usual Steph Bristow fashion) are just plain nonsense.

I taped my list to the cupboard at work at the start of Jan, and have since found myself desperate to make a start.

The list has caused some interest and raised eyebrows at work; my boss for a start is now blatantly convinced I am completely crackers. If the shrine to Benedict Cumberbatch sprawling across my cabinets (and now his) hadn’t alerted him to the fact, then reading my list to him must have done the trick. The final nail in the coffin may have been when I told him that one of the items on the list was to ‘hug a tree.’ (Who said it was all work and no play at a law firm?)

So the first task on the list conquered was no 27, bake something from scratch which must be edible and yummy.

A genuine challenge for the likes of me.

Now if you have ever lived with me (the uni girls will tell you the horror stories) you will know that cooking is not my natural forte. I have literally left friends speechless as I stick forks into toasters, burn pasta to the bottom of the pot (and later use a knife to scrape it off) and explode the microwave, setting off the fire alarm with my special ‘home made hot chocolate.’

My nan often scoffs at my mum and me for our lack of cooking skill (not that she can talk really). I remember one particular occasion which sent her into hysteria, when we were moving house and found a set of pristine baking trays and cooking books, which mum had insisted on buying new when we had moved in, all shoved at the back of a cupboard along with a very bent and spider infested whisk.

Every attempt I have ever made to try and address this frankly shocking lack of feminine grace in the kitchen has always met with complete disaster, involving some sort of minor explosion, implosion or naked flame (the less said about that incident the better). However, at 23 I thought to myself that I was ready to tackle this issue head on, and so baking made its way firmly as no 27 on the list.

So it was your average Sunday, mum was out and it was just me and the dog hanging around, when suddenly an advert for ‘the taste’ inspired me, what a wonderful surprise if my mum were to return to the smell of something delicious baking in the oven! (The realistic part of me knew it was far more likely that mum would come home to the fire brigade, but I’m one of life’s triers).

Googling easy recipes (god I love Google) I settled on cookies as my choice, simple, hassle free, basic ingredients which I had in the house already and quite frankly I actually just really fancied a cookie.

I need to invest in some serious equipment!

I need to invest in some serious equipment!

I laid my equipment out on the counter and surveyed my work station; just as food tech had taught me all those years ago at school (my god Miss Fowler would be proud). Despite the fact that in the past my involvement in food tech projects had mainly been designated to washing up, (totally important but never fully appreciated task) whilst BG would handle the actual cooking portion of the class on my behalf, I felt somehow that I had been trained for this very moment.

My equipment looked somewhat lacklustre compared to the pretty Google picture, I had only a few burnt containers, the baking trays given away long ago when Nan despaired of ever making a Delia out of me, all that remained was the ever consistent spider infested whisk and a spatula.

Still I was unperturbed; I was convinced that an untested natural such as me didn’t need fancy equipment, every Sunday cooking show I had ever watched had taught me that great food came from the heart and sheer enthusiasm. My past problems had to be down to the fact that my heart simply wasn’t in it.

The real question I had to ask myself, was could one mix ingredients with a spatula? Well people…after a damn good attempt let me tell you, the answer is a resounding no.

So after five minutes attempting to aggressively mix with various utensils and two dropped bowls from a particularly aggressive mixing incident later, I gave in and called time out to disinfect my spider infested whisk (well let’s face it what are the spiders going to need it for).

I decided to become creative with my recipe, after all following instructions was for saps, real chefs broke the rules! I chose to be bold, and improvise with the measurements of my ingredients (basically there was no measuring involved because you know what, after two attempts of measuring mixture with a tape I was getting seriously frustrated).

When it came to the point that my lovely dollops of random mixture were ready for the oven, my mum had returned and after a raised eyebrow and what I must say was a very insulting bout of laughter, she helped me wrestle them in.

I have to admit I was very excited, I sat by the oven door just like our dog does when we’re cooking tea, I couldn’t stop myself from continuously opening the oven to check out my how my happy little guys were getting on in there. I felt like a parent sending their child off for a first day at school (well you know, if parents sent their kids off to get incinerated and then eaten).

Mum warned me that if I kept on my cookies would deflate, this was news to me, I didn’t even know food could deflate…I only have one setting with my cooking and it usually involves splattering.

Yum! (I hope!)

Yum! (I hope!)

So finally after much waiting there was the finished article, they were ugly looking, huge and to be completely honest probably a bit burnt around the edges, but I stood proudly telling my mother with as much condescension as I could muster, that from now on she was the one who couldn’t cook.

Mum abstained from trying a cookie, saying she felt ‘too ill to eat’ and my brother, well I practically chased him up the stairs with one and all I got was a grimace and general look of sheer horror for my trouble. I literally couldn’t give the damn things away; I guess no one in my family appreciates home baked goods!

Brave Drew taking a bite, no he isn't choking on it and nor did I shove it in his mouth...that's just how he eats!

Brave Drew taking a bite, no he isn’t choking on it and nor did I shove it in his mouth…that’s just how he eats!

Still I managed to find some willing victims at work. All joking aside there was a small part of me that was genuinely slightly concerned I would poison my co-workers and take down half the conveyancing department, but by 12pm with no ill effects reported, I gave myself a well-deserved pat on  the back.

So that’s task 27 complete, only another 27 tasks to go! I figure depending on how I get on I would blog about them along the way.

Attempting this task on my list has actually been a great deal of fun and I’m glad I gave it a go, I’ve even got some more experimental recipes in mind to try out for next time…I’m thinking skittle cookies!? (What could go wrong?)

Mind you though I won’t be baking anything again anytime soon, not until I have invested in a new whisk! 🙂

Apparently…I have abs!?

30 Oct

Apologies for this very long overdue post, as usual I have my often tried and tested pathetic excuse at the ready…I have been very very busy.

In all fairness I have genuinely been very busy. I hold down a full time job that isn’t exactly a nine to five deal, I have a post as the company social and charity officer with my lovely Lou supporting fundraising and social events, and I’ve been planning a charity auction and Christmas party for like one hundred and fifty people.

On top of this I also try to enjoy a bit of a life as well on the sly, this involves visiting my family and hanging out with my friends, making my annual trips to the cinema, doing my midnight walks and going shopping. (Hardly a chore but hey it still all requires time).

Spend a week with me and it’s easy to see why amongst the hectic pace of my life, there is a pile of books in the corner of my room that are waiting to be alphabetised and placed on my overflowing bookshelf. Why the candle that kind of exploded still hasn’t quite been dealt with yet, why I still haven’t found the mysterious absent partner to my favourite sock, and why despite knowing that the wiper blades and the electrics in my car have been causing some genuine concern to both me and other motorists, I still haven’t had them fixed.

Look at my to do lists at both work and home, and they are populated with tasks that range from the ludicrous and small, to the large and random. For example, at the moment my list at home has tasks ranging from ‘move that spider in the corner to outside’ (it’s more likely to be plural now…I have a dodgy feeling it may have nested or something…) to visit ‘Tresco Abbey Island’ and ‘bleed radiator.’

I often joke with my boss (who luckily seems to share my cavalier attitude towards life) that we currently function in a state of barely organised chaos, we both laugh…I am deadly serious. 🙂

Mind you, this week I finally got one thing off my to do list that has been on there for over three months, ‘get back in to the gym and attend bootcamp with Becca.’

I wouldn’t ever say that the sporty streak runs through my veins. My cousin is a silver medallist European champion gymnast, with more medals and titles under her belt than letters in her name. My dad is an ex body builder/copper who has a professional home gym in his renovated garage, and my brother despite his twenty a day fag habit, is still fairly fit from his manual job and football training.

I have never been, and in all honesty am never likely to be a fitness fanatic. At school the ever famous BG and I were notorious, and would take it in turns to come up with inventive excuses as to why we had to be excused from P.E. that week. (They slowly became more and more outlandish).

Since then however I’ve grown up a bit. By the time A- levels went by and university came along, I began flirting with fitness.

My flirtation with fitness has been an on and off love affair from the beginning. When I first joined the gym I was so self-conscious I could have died. The girls treated it like an opportunity to model spandex based sportswear, and there was not a chance in hell I was ever going down that route. My faded baggy t-shirts and paint splattered jogging bottoms certainly made me stick out like a sore thumb, but they were staying.

At one point I was down the gym three to four times a week and I was fairly pleased with myself. I would never look like the girls I use to aspire to, but I was lifting weights I hadn’t been able to and I was working out harder and longer than I ever could before, and because the gym was wearing me out physically, my usual bouts of insomnia were less frequent.

Anyway, life happened, unemployment happened, crappy part time jobs and volunteering happened, no money happened, living between houses out of a suitcase and a bunch of other stuff happened in between.

By the time I had sorted out a proper job and some life stability, I had completely lost touch with the gym, and my level of fitness had decreased to the point where even I couldn’t even recognise it, as for the insomnia, it was worse than ever.

I started going walking for an hour every day after work but it still wasn’t enough to de-stress, feel fitter and control the insomnia.

Later on in the year Becca joined Taylor Rose and had enrolled in what sounded like some sort of military fitness conscription, and knowing that I wanted to get a bit fitter, encouraged me to join her. Now those of you who know me, will get that I always have a to do list a mile long and I barely manage to keep on top of it, which is why ‘get back into the gym’ had never really materialised even after months of trying.

Still, Becca kept gently (I use that term loosely people, very loosely :)) encouraging me to come along to bootcamp and so finally after a month of reminders every day, I decided it was quite literally now or never. (I am actually very grateful that she did, so cheers mate).

At the time, making the commitment to attend seemed so far away and as a ‘here and now’ kind of girl, it never really occurred to me that eventually it would be Wednesday, and I would have to attend.

I spent most of the day terrified; surely classes like this weren’t made for people like me? Just the word bootcamp sounded so intimidating. I had visions of a how Steph Bristow visit to bootcamp would most likely go…a man dressed in khaki yelling directly in my face ‘drop and give me twenty’ whilst I got on the floor, handed over my purse and put my hands over my head crying silently. It didn’t help that when I casually commented to my mum where I was off to that evening, she replied ‘are you sure?’

Would I actually be able to even participate in this class? At least when I worked out in the past I set my own pace (even if that jerk rowing next to me always did make it a competition).

However as I continually seem to find in life, what I imagine is rarely reality.  (An example would be when I imagined electric blue eye shadow looked good, the reality was somewhat different).

So Wednesday evening…

Becca and I arrived at the gym and after my third attempt to make it through the pod, (something everyone else seems to manage first time by the way) we made our way upstairs and I was introduced to the regulars.

It was surprising yet reassuring, that although some of the girls looked scary fit, there were others there similar to me as well as Michele and Massey, all of us instantly recognisable by that mix of terror and anticipation on our faces as to what was in store that evening.

Christian (who runs the bootcamp alongside Andy) had promised that he would go easy on me, the newcomer to this world of fitness, and after seeing him push the others I have to say he kept his word!

The truth is that I found the class challenging on every level. We did circuits of various cardio and weight exercises and although I found the weights just about manageable, by the time we were on the second round of the circuit, the cardio exercises had transformed me into something which I imagined closely resembled a highly unattractive human lobster.

At one point I leant over to a woman on the mat next to me, who reassuringly looked equally out of breath and said ‘I think I may throw up.’

Still Christian persevered with encouragement and enthusiasm for getting exercise out of me, which can only be described as admiral considering the hundreds of PE teachers who have tried and failed miserably. He ensured that I made it through the class with the knowledge that at least I had managed to do an amount of every exercise on the circuit.

I walked out feeling exhausted, clutching on to the banisters along with Massey as our legs went to pieces wobbling down the stairs. But I also felt a small sense of pride and achievement, that I had conquered my fears and taken my first step back into a world which I would usually avoid like the plague.

On the drive home, I sat in the car with a strange aching sensation in my stomach, which provided a distant reminder of my past excursions to the gym long ago, telling me I had worked hard. Becca said to me that tomorrow I would experience muscles aching I didn’t even know I had, identifying what apparently appeared to be my aching abs (I had abs…who knew?) I expected she would be right.

It won’t be easy, but I’ve agreed to go every Wednesday from now on, and considering Becca works with me…there really is no escaping it! 🙂

For anyone out there like me who has always flitted in and out of fitness I encourage you to get back into it again, and if you want details on the particular bootcamp that I attended let me know, no sergeant majors screaming at you in this one I promise!

If I, a self-confessed fitness phobic can do it then you certainly can, it’s a great deal of fun, there’s a real sense of community and you always leave feeling unusually exhausted and energised at the same time.

I fully expect to be crippled tomorrow, and have to beg my colleagues to roll my chair around the office like some demented fairground ride so I can move about, but hey…we all have to start somewhere right?

The Crazy Bear

18 Aug

I know I haven’t posted in a while and I am afraid the only deplorable defence I have to offer, is that I have been incredibly busy recently.

Its rare that I have a social life that matches the intensity of work, but currently, my life is divided between working my butt off five days a week, and using the weekend to see my favourite people 🙂 Oh yeah and sleeping, I do a lot of sleeping as well.

If you work in an office with me (god help you) or happen to be friends with me (equal sympathy for those poor souls) then I will have been driving you all crazy with my excitement at the visit to the Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield, which  is truly one of the most unique and opulent restaurants/hotels I have ever visited.

Happy 30th Adam!

Happy 30th Adam!

My uncle was turning 30 and has a certain taste and flair for experiencing life’s events with style, so he invited the now countryside located branch of his family down to London with the rest to celebrate.

The weekend before the meal, my nan and I were walking around Queensgate agonising over what on earth we would wear. Doing our homework, I checked out the Crazy Bear website to get a feel for the place, and my immediate impression was that I would fit about as well in that setting as a Skittle in a bag of Malteasers.

My uncle and friends in the Moroccan waiting room

My uncle and friends in the Moroccan waiting room

Initially, nan and I had shrieked with laughter at the mirrored ceilings in the hotel rooms (kinky), at the £200 caviar on the menu as an appetiser and the clay pigeon shooting, whilst at the same time awing over the general prettiness and luxury of the place (I make us sound like the Beverly Hill Billies, but we’re not I promise).

The Crazy Bear is certainly luxurious

The Crazy Bear is certainly luxurious

However, faced with the prospect of arriving and being turned away at the door, we suddenly became motivated to do some shopping.

I settled on an Oasis dress (literally the most expensive dress I have ever bought myself, I love designer but my bank account only accommodates the more homely and down to earth of dress sense).

Pleased with the general appearance of the dress on me as I’ll ever be when standing next to my stunning and modelesque like cousins, I found a bag that matched thanks to the suggestion of Jenna, and was feeling much more prepared.

Sunday morning and I was standing in front of my mirror giving myself the last look over, making sure I hadn’t tucked my dress into my knickers or left bread or tinfoil in my hair again (yeah you laugh but it does happen) and surveying my appearance with a sense of acceptance and general satisfaction, I got in the car to pick my grandparents up.

We had only been on the road for less than half an hour before the usual Steph Bristow calamity took place. At the time it seemed fine that I had selected a wrap dress with a button securing the top half. However in hindsight, I should have taken into account the normal disaster variables that tend to surround any choices I make, however small they may be. The button securing the top half of my dress had broken, leaving me incredibly exposed. I’m insecure about my appearance at the best of times, but the idea of essentially continuously flashing 25 dinner guests, giving them a prime view of my bra, I think is a lot for any girl to handle. Particularly when half of them are family members and the other half complete and utter strangers.

Cursing a great deal in my head, and desperately trying to fool myself with the illusion that the button on my dress was still functioning, I tried everything I could to pull it together and keep it that way. But without that button, essentially it was like going out in only a skirt. However, let no one say that I am not inventive in a crisis, taking out my earrings I pinned my dress back together and after a few attempts managed to get them to hold. Moving anything other than minimally and with incredible caution was going to be dodgy…but I decided at that point in the car that it was best to address that issue later for my own sanity.

I may not have looked the part but I enjoyed the Crazy Bear all the same

I may not have looked the part but I enjoyed the Crazy Bear all the same

So we arrived, and despite the dress debacle I was still fairly excited to be there. The entrance was strangely hidden adding to the allure, mystery and exclusivity of the place. Stepping in it was like a different world, a handsome man in a suit was playing a piano, the marble floors, chandeliers and lush purple curtains elicited thrills from the snob that apparently lies inside me.

Even the bathrooms are an experience! Its mega dark and mirrored in there!

Even the bathrooms are an experience! Its mega dark and mirrored in there!

My nan and mother however had more pressing issues than just admiring the surroundings, mainly, where were the facilities. Pointed in the direction of a staircase that would have looked at home in a grand ballroom, the three of us made our way down the twisting stairs only to find ourselves met with a dead end and four mirrored walls. Thinking we were obviously in the wrong place we checked and no, apparently somewhere down the staircase were the bathrooms. Reaching our hands out against the mirrors, my nan began to feel her way to the bathroom, finding a mirror that gave way we charged into the dimly lit (and I mean it was bloody dark in there) bathroom (also covered ceiling, floor to walls in bloody mirrors) that was when nan charged straight into a man and began shrieking. In the end I found a mirrored door hidden behind a purple curtain that turned out to be the ladies ( so obvious really) and after we found the actual cubicles (again covered in mirrors) we had a great time experimenting with the falling water from the ceiling, that ran into ornamental bowls.

The Staircase

The Staircase

Laughing ourselves stupid, we joined the rest of the party and then made our way past more luxurious surroundings to the ‘library’ themed room, where our private party would be eating. It was lovely, we had our own private waiter, and the meal was marred only by the fact that I had to keep getting up to re-adjust/re-fix my dress every time I lent forward to reach my wine glass. Despite the fact that my body movements were limited from the neck down, I still managed to enjoy myself.

I have to admit that even though I have visited some luxurious hotels, restaurants, countries and places in my time, I can still occasionally feel fairly uncomfortable in expensive settings.

I think its because I always feel as if someone is going to find me lacking some required quality, tell me I’m not good enough and kick me out. I’m definitely the original ‘she must have climbed under the fence to get in’ girl.

The library was a beautiful setting

The library was a beautiful setting

But I did enjoy myself, seeing my family is always fun and the Crazy Bear is both a beautiful hotel and restaurant. I would recommend going just for the experience, it is a wondrous place 🙂 I have included the website here in case anyone does fancy doing something a bit different and would like to go. As long as you are sensible, the menu and drink aren’t too expensive either.

If you do go though, take a fashion tip from the wise…don’t wear a wrap dress you’ll only regret it…and if you do, make sure you have your sowing kit handy!

A lavender themed dessert

A lavender themed dessert

Diary of the disaster prone

11 May

Since my return to blogging, a few people including my lovely friend Megs have asked me to create a blog on the daily crazy incidents I often experience. Well to be completely honest, my life is so utterly ludicrous at times that I could spend 24 hours a day writing and still wouldn’t have enough time to record it all.

So I’ve come up with a compromise, just this once I am going to reveal some of my more embarrassing disasters. Reveal the whole truth, not just the Steph Bristow edited version that most of my friends and family enjoy.

For the record, I don’t set out to get myself into trouble (or fall head first into calamity as my friends say) but if it’s going to happen, then you can be assured it will happen to me. Personally I’ve always just been of the opinion that when the dear Lord was handing out luck, I was at the back of the queue (probably facing the wrong way).

I am the unfortunate product of clumsiness, awkwardness, curiosity and good intentions.

Some of these events you may already know, some you won’t. Either way you’re reading an excerpt from what would be the diary of the disaster prone, and here are some of my less than shining moments.

Pro driver                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Well any disaster diary would have to start with this event, as it was probably the most dangerous of all my ‘incidents’. Most people know this story so the shortened version goes like this…on a visit in the car to a friends house, foolishly I took a bit of a wrong turn on a slip road and found myself hurtling down the wrong side of a dual carriageway. Luckily I managed to find a section of pedestrian pathway not fenced off and crashed my car onto the narrow walkway, avoiding a head on collision. I made mistake number two putting my hazard lights on alongside my headlights which quickly left my car battery dead, I was later reported to the police who were total sweethearts, stopped traffic and jump started my car. They even came back a second time when my car battery went flat again five minutes further up the road. Embarrassing? God yes, but also potentially fatal.

Cocktail carnage                                                                                                                                                                                                                          To celebrate Kelly’s graduation and new job, my friends and I selected a restaurant that wouldn’t usually make it on our radar for a bit of variety, the food was… different, the service wasn’t fantastic but we were still pleased with our choice. Kelly and I went to the bar for some cocktails, encouraging the barman to show us his skills. Going all Tom Cruise on us he was shimmying and chucking shakers in the air, it was all very impressive, I was ready to start fantasising I was Elisabeth Shue and unfortunately that was when he proceeded to chuck the drinks over both of us. Suffice to say that my fantasy was over; we both spent the evening smelling like winos and went home soggy.

Morrisons mishap                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This incident is a testament to why you should always look where you’re going. I was doing a bit of after work food shopping, as usual attempting to nonchalantly do ten things at once. I was texting Kelly, pushing the trolley and fiddling with my Ipod, then before I knew it I had walked slap bang into a toilet roll display. There was a kind of toilet roll avalanche, they all scattered across the shop floor and I was desperately trying to pick them all up. I’m not going to lie, I was tempted to just jump onto my trolley and roll around the corner; I wish I had when the shop assistant arrived. 23 years old and scolded by a shop assistant…I am the child people need to attach to buggy reigns.

Hungry hungry hippo                                                                                                                                                                                                              Back in the depressing days of unemployment I spent my time jumping through hoops on the whims of mean employers and attending interviews. One in particular was a complete nightmare, no I’m not talking about the interview where I was asked to put food colouring in my eyes, this was worse. My train was delayed pulling in to Kings Cross and I was in such a rush I didn’t have a chance to grab something to eat, I just raced straight to my interview. It was all going ok and then halfway through the interview my tummy must have caught on to the fact that I was hungry and started rumbling really loudly. Well I just wanted to die, as it was so noticeable and continuous. In the end I just had to be straight with my interviewer and interrupted them mid question saying ‘ I’m ever so sorry, but I’m starving as you can probably hear.’

Buried alive                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Some of you may know that for six months I did a stint as a sales assistant at Next. I enjoyed some of it but ohhh those were mainly hellish days, the Christmas rush, the literally insane shoppers and bi polar managers…it was a learning experience! The shifts I dreaded the most were spent in the stockroom, a massive warehouse where I was expected to climb up cartoon like tall ladders to reach rails of clothing. Christmas Eve and full on clothing chaos was in progress, managers were screaming for stock, one girl was standing in the corner in tears, and I was up a ladder sweating it whilst three girls below hassled me for stock. I panicked and picked up one item too many making my fingers buckle and leaving the girls below buried in the latest range of fashion. The girls were fine about it once they untangled themselves, but I took some major stick for that incident.

Lean on me                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Unlike the flamingo I am unable to stand on one leg and look blasé about it, although it’s a skill I now wish I had mastered. It’s your average scene; I’m in town hunting for a pair of work shoes and make the mistake of leaning on the shoe display for balance whilst trying on a pair. Well Jack and Jill have nothing on me, I almost took a fall and the rack and shoes…they came tumbling after.

Wrong place, right time                                                                                                                                                                                                                The first disaster I can honestly say had nothing to do with me, but is still fairly hilarious. A group of us decided to brave Go Ape and we had our friend, the ever famous BG book it for us. I agreed to drive us all up there (I know, my friends are courageous souls being in a car with me) and surprisingly we arrived without incident. So we went to check in and start getting the gear on and found out that we had booked the Thetford Go Ape, which would have been great but we were standing in Sherwood Forest. Two places in the opposite direction and no free time slots in Sherwood. Still it was a brilliant day and the long walk around Sherwood was amazing, sadly gorgeous men in tights were absent.

Cool runnings                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sometimes I question my younger brother Aaron’s intelligence, but never more than the day he left the front door wide open allowing both our dogs to escape. With only my pyjamas on, I hot footed it out the door in pursuit; I didn’t even have shoes on (that bloody hurt as well) I managed to grab Remy before he got to the field round the back of our house, but Koda is harder to catch and had jumped down a ditch into a field of startled cows. Trying to crawl down a ditch in your pyjamas avoiding a herd of cows is no easy feat. When I finally did get Koda back with the help of reinforcements, I walked through my estate shamefaced and feeling very much exposed.

The devil wears other people’s coats                                                                                                                                                                                     Once at an interview I was invited to leave my coat in a cloakroom whilst being interviewed, the actual interview went ok but I was in no hurry to stick around once it was over, I swiftly grabbed my coat and was on my way. Half way down the staircase the receptionist was chasing me calling me back, (no unfortunately not a instant ‘you’re hired’) I had taken my interviewers coat! The worst part was their coat looked nothing like mine, as I returned to collect my actual coat the receptionist gave my interviewer a look that clearly indicated she thought I was a moron, the interviewer must have agreed because I was not called back.            

BG and Kelly at Sherwood

BG and Kelly at Sherwood                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Men only please                                                                                                                                         I was on my way down to Birmingham International for Crufts and went to change at Birmingham New Street. I had been holding myself for two hours and was desperate to use the facilities. Unable to wait any longer, I rustled through my purse praying I would have change to use the toilet (completely insane that they charge to use the bathroom but that’s a rant for another day). A rarity for me I actually found some coins and went through the barrier. I didn’t really notice it until I tried to exit the cubicle but there were urinals on the wall, and I thought to myself ‘that’s bloody strange.’  Then a group of guys walked in and I retreated back into my cubicle shrieking crap over and over in my head, I tried to wait until there was no one around but I didn’t have the time before my next train, so in the end I just braved it and walked straight out to meet the gaze of at least ten very hostile confused men, some of whom had their trousers down. I stood there for a few secs frozen with embarrassment and said the first thing that came into my head which unfortunately was ‘ I’m a transvestite’ and walked out.

Dog snatcher                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 My friends know that I am a bit animal crazy, in fact the last holiday we went on together they spent a great deal of time restraining me from feeding and stroking the stray cats and dogs around the hotel complex. This was a joint mother and daughter disaster (nice that my mother and I have something in common).  Mum and I were driving back from town and we saw a dog wandering down the street by itself, we pulled over and after a cursory glance around put the dog in the back of our car intending to take it to the vets. Then an angry man breathing heavily and running up to our car asked us what the hell we were doing stealing his dog. In our defence, the dog was miles away from its owner! How were we to know? It was worse than the time we tried to rescue the swan and herd it out of the road using coats. (We have strange mother daughter bonding time).

Baby blues                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 When my step mother was pregnant with my baby sister I accompanied her to quite a few doctors’ appointments and classes (my dad despite having four children still claims he doesn’t like kids and never really got involved in that kind of stuff). One appointment I was waiting for Lisa to come out and was sitting in the waiting room reading a magazine, when the receptionist asked me what time my appointment was. Shaking my head I smiled and replied that I was waiting, she looked sympathetically at me and said ‘you don’t need to be shy love we get a lot of young single mothers here.’  Kill me now.

Fuel for thought                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Another car related incident. I still consider myself new to driving, but a month or so after passing my test I was still struggling to remember which side of the car my fuel cap was on. One particular time I spent a good twenty minutes reversing and positioning the car as close to the pump as possible, much to the amusement of the surrounding people. When I finally did get out of the car I discovered the cap was on the other side…cue laughter. Not learning from that incident that you should pay attention when at the gas station, the following month I went up to the till and tried to pay another person’s bill, until the person in question timidly asserted that actually they were pump number 3.

A day at the spa                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My mum got a great plug in foot spa one year for Christmas and after a long day at work I felt I needed a bit of TLC, so dragging it out of the box I poured in the water and bubble bath, got it going and then went to put on a face pack. By the time I got back it was far too late, water and bubble bath were everywhere, my bedroom carpet was soaked and foamy, but smelt pleasantly of mangos (the bubble bath). We were all a bit worried the floorboards beneath the carpet would go bad, and for days the carpet was really damp. However I can still stand on my bedroom floor without falling through the ceiling, so my mum really didn’t have to shriek like a banshee for over half an hour.

Private property                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Occasionally I tend to fancy myself a bit of an explorer, and when I moved up to the countryside with my mum and brother I use to go off looking for adventures. It’s also no secret that I occasionally tend to revert to a childlike state, and one day after a revert back to childhood I did some exploring down a place called the wash. It’s a big open field with lots of little side tracks and mini forests, great for a wonder round. So I’m walking down a bit I’ve never been before, and I see this pretty bridge with flowers and a gate over a separating water ditch. I go over and start looking around and there’s a little wishing well and seat. I began walking a little bit further and find myself face to face with a guy staring at me out of his patio door windows. Yes…I had trespassed into someone’s extensive garden (damn rich people) and they were not best pleased. It took me some time to explain that I was not trying to break in and rob them; I merely mistook his garden as part of the wash. He just looked at me suspiciously and said he had never had this problem before. A few weeks later, I walked past the bridge again and saw a freshly hung sign with large letters stating ‘private property.’ My handiwork. 🙂

Keep it down please                                                                                                                                                                                                                         I have been trying to be a very good girl recently and make it the gym as often as my work load allows. Apart from the obvious health benefits, it is great for a bit of de-stressing and I often come home feeling shattered but a bit healthier. My gym has tiny television screens attached to most of the machines and whilst everyone else is being sensible and watching the news at 6pm whilst working out, I’m watching The Simpsons. Forgetting where I was one day, I watching The Simpsons on the treadmill and I burst out laughing really loudly (I love The Simpsons, still has me laughing) startling the guy next to me into almost falling over.

So these are just some of the moments that spring to mind. I’ve left out a lot I guess as this post is long enough already, but believe me there have been plenty of others, like the time I left dinner in the oven forgot about it and the kitchen filled with noxious smelling smoke. Or the time I spoke to that stranger on the train and he began following me through the station. And then there was the time I took three faulty phones back to the Carphone Warehouse in three consecutive days, almost driving the sales guy over the edge.

This post shows that I can be a bit of a disaster and although I know this puts people off me and means I spend a great deal of time apologising, as well as has me occasionally wishing I was a bit more normal and put together like my girlfriends…my life is always interesting.

I have unusual experiences, I can always laugh about these incidents later and I stay true to the kind of person I am.

If my life has taught me anything so far, it’s that there are some of us who don’t always get it right, but have the knack of enjoying getting it wrong.

I suppose I’m that person 🙂

By the time I’m 24….the quarter life crisis continues!

10 Apr

Just over 1 year ago I did a blog post about turning the dreaded 22, that scary time in life when you begin creeping into your middle twenties.

When drinking all night and being up the next day for work is not only impossible but a death sentence, when all nighters mean a heavy movie and pizza session instead of Redbull and out till dawn, and your taste in music is now considered retro by your younger siblings. (Hey Steps is cool whatever generation you come from?!)

To placate the brewing ‘quarter life crisis’ I decided to do a list on my blog of ten things I wanted to achieve by the time I turned 23, and to see how far I could get in a year…well a hell of a lot happened in that year and my blog was sadly neglected, then a few days ago I hit 23 and my friends took me on a wonderful surprise night out. It was then that my good friend Beth reminded me that I promised to do a recap blog post and I hadn’t delivered the goods.

Since I quit blogging quite a few people have approached me and said they missed my posts, which was really sweet and flattering…so for Beth, the bloggers and because I am just generally a complete mental case getting myself into the most random trouble and impossible situations, the blog is back up, I’m back in town, and the perfect place to start seems to be the birthday recap post.

Me on my birthday (I'm the girl by the way lol)

Me on my birthday (I’m the girl by the way lol)

(You seriously don’t know how close you came to not even reading this; do you know how many attempts it took me to remember my password? I almost chucked my computer out the window!)

So how much of my list did I manage to accomplish?

1. Pass my driving test

You can check number one right off the list! I passed my driving test first time last September and got my own car in October (my credit card never knew what hit it!) Yes, the self-confessed driving disaster on the roads, terrifying isn’t it! I still stolidly maintain that it was a fluke, or my examiner was a lesbian and passed me in the hope of sexual favours or something.

It certainly hasn’t been all driving along with the window open bopping along to ‘Uptown Girl’ at volume, in true Steph Bristow fashion I’m not happy until I get myself into some form of trouble, and driving has been no different.

I was driving to a friend’s flat following my SatNav and made a tiny error in judgement, which unfortunately led to me driving down the wrong side of a dual carriageway into oncoming traffic, luckily for me I’m a quick thinker (I mean you’d have to be if you’ve been in as many disasters as I have) and I targeted my car to a small patch of pavement, narrowly avoiding a head on collision. However putting my hazard lights and headlights on at the same time was a bit of a mistake on my part and so my battery went flat. I was then reported to the police (try talking yourself out of that one) and luckily for me they were very nice about it, jump started my car, stopped traffic and turned me the right way round. The real low point of the evening was when they passed me on the other side of the road after getting my car going, only to see it break down again and then have to stop traffic a second time to jump start my car. How am I still alive? Good question…I’ll get back to you on that one.

2. Be in employment, working towards a career

Another one I can tick off my list, last July I was offered a job as a copywriter for a marketing agency, they were a lovely bunch of people but the job wasn’t quite right for me for various reasons, then just as depression started to creep back my old favourite adage kicked in (when it rains it pours for those who don’t know) and I was offered another job at a solicitors. I now work in marketing and business development. I’ve got to say my job keeps me very busy, but I’m lucky because my job has also given me the opportunity to meet some truly hilarious and fantastic people who make every day fun.

Who would have thought that the year of hell working part-time at Next, and attending crazy job interviews asking me to put food colouring in my eyes would lead to this? I certainly couldn’t have predicted it!

3. Visit a Karaoke bar and sing Ne-Yo’s ‘Never knew I needed’

Regrettably this is something I haven’t managed, I’m way too chicken to go to a karaoke bar by myself and I still remain unable to get friends to go with me. Still I have done a lot of singing in the shower, and in one unusual occasion I did burst into song as I walked through a car park, attracting quite a few wary stares from passers-by…does that count?

4. Have another amazing holiday with my friends

Another tick for me! This May I am going to Crete with my very lovely friends and my god I’m looking forward to it! I don’t know about you but the weather in the UK is a total drag and I’m way overdue to seek warmer climates. We even managed to drag reluctant traveller Tom on holiday with us this year, it will be the first time he has left the UK, so if you hear screaming echoing on the wind towards the end of May don’t worry, that will be Tom saying goodbye to England for a week.

5. Have my own house/flat/space

I would give my right arm or any other body appendage you care to claim for this to be true, however in case you hadn’t heard the recession, combined with insane mortgage deposit requirements and greedy landlords capitalising on generation rent, makes for life in the parental home. I figure if I’m still living with my mother by the time I’m 40 I’ll have a problem…mainly because I’ll either be dead from shame or she will have killed me.

6. Visit in the UK

I have and haven’t achieved number 6…while I have visited some places in the UK, I haven’t visited the places I listed last year. I am a bit gutted I never did make it to Tresco Abbey Gardens (maybe next year) but my faithful girlfriends have promised that the Harry Potter Studio is on the cards for this year, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

7. Learn to swim

Ok so I have to be incredibly honest here and own up to the fact that if you do chuck me into a lake/the sea/a deep puddle I will drown. I never did learn to swim, I really hoped that this would be the one point I would manage to achieve but no such luck, however I still do dream of the day when I can at least float in the water in a direction of my choosing.

8. Be Dora the explorer

Another tick on the quarter life crisis check-list, this year  I’ve done a lot of exploring off the beaten track (got into a bit of trouble for some exploring, I mistook someone’s back garden for a kind of small forest/nature/pond thing and was caught throwing coins into their private well, they were not happy) I’ve been to random festivals, visited free art exhibitions and seen street theatre,  just call me Dora please.

9. Shop till I drop

Well we all knew this was going to be the one point I definitely achieved didn’t we, in fact I’ve probably overdone this aim. I went to the Bullring twice and to Westfield’s, as well as popped down to Bond Street when cheap train tickets were going. The fact that a Primark has just opened where I live also probably contributes to why I spend a great deal of my life shopping. Still a girl has to keep the economy going right?

10. Spend some time

I don’t know how well I’ve achieved this point but I’ve certainly done my best to try to spend time with friends and family. I suppose I could always do more, but I like to think I’ve made the effort, and that I will continue to maintain relationships with the important people in my life long into the future.

So there we are, first blog post of 2013 (yes I know I am a blogging disgrace) and 6 out of 10 isn’t bad on the quarter life crisis check list! So guys for those of you who have been reading my blog and have been patient through the months of neglect thank you, hopefully I will have more for you soon. 🙂

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