London 2016

The hustle and bustle of London is less than an hour away from my sleepy home town. London is everything that Faversham isn’t.

London 2016

It is a place for the dreamers, the hopefuls and it is rife with opportunity…yet, there is a hint of failure that hangs in the air, a little desperation, a lonely sadness. Faversham is a quiet place! People don’t come here to make their dreams come true…but it isn’t lonely.

I’ve spent time in London, before I became a mama…and not the touristy kind! Not like on this day when I came with my family. I’ve been present in a few scenes and London always makes me feel the same way about it. Like it’s the best place that I have ever been to… artistic, electric, historically superior and proud. It is somewhere that leaves me in awe and makes me feel excited in the pit of my stomach. At the same time, it could feel like the worst place… where humans sleeping rough is normal, expected in shop doorways where people walk past them and don’t notice them anymore. It’s a place where everyone rushes and nobody makes eye contact on the tube. Teenagers grow up quicker and surely, true friendships must have a special back story. I admire those who fall in love here, that’s a story I would love to hear.

Regardless of these things though, I can’t help but love it, love being there, being a part of it. Even though it is somewhere that I we could never really belong.

When we could, we avoided the tube and opted to walk, it was a nice enough day and the children wanted to see as much as possible. We allowed the buildings to tower over us. Allowed ourselves to feel small, a little insignificant for a while. We enjoyed the buskers, the different smells and the unfamiliar roar of collective sound.

London 2016

London 2016

We genuinely enjoyed the experience of The Natural History Museum. In Faversham, we have The Fleur De Lis which homes a penny farthing from back in the day (and some other local history)…nothing of this magnitude. It  was so interactive for the children and they have been talking about the history of dinosaurs ever since. It made a lasting impression and we will definitely go back.

London 2016

London 2016

We couldn’t visit London without showing Noah and Ellenah Buckingham Palace and the grounds surrounding it. It astounded them, the whole day did really. The idea that London is home to many other people threw them because it is worlds different to where we are from. They didn’t falter though, not once! Children are so resilient, more flexible and open to change, aren’t they? By the end of the day, they understood the tube, the pace and because they Noah asks a lot of questions (about the queen, brexit and what he has learned about at school) and I answer most of them… They understood how London nurtures creativity and diversity, does it unapologetically but can’t quite bring itself to welcome everyone with open arms. So forward in so many wonderful ways, so backward traditional in others.

London 2016

London 2016

London 2016

Our visit to Leicester Square was my favourite part, it always is. On this day, there was a jump rope team doing a few routines and getting the growing crowd pumped.  Further along were some Bollywood dancers filming a scene and on from there, past the little fountains, were a dance group who spun on there heads, flipped around and made fun of us all. Noah and Ellenah loved these guys. And as we started to walk to catch the tube ahead of our journey back home, there was a young girl with her piano, singing Alicia Keys songs…she was really talented. There is a togetherness about Leicester Square, a happiness…good vibes. It was the perfect place to end our family day out in London.

And, as much as we were happy to return home, to our country bumpkin lives, where we are surrounded by countryside, charity shops and childhood memories… We look forward to going back to ‘The Big Smoke’ soon. For more exploring, to have our eyes opened a little more and to make more wonderful memories, as a family.

With Love, Ria x

p.s. Do you have any recommendations on places we should visit next time. Maybe the calmer side of London? Something we are missing out on?

 

 

 

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Faversham Hop Festival is so special to me. I have grown up with it. It is a strong link to my childhood and many happy memories. Some of my earliest memories actually. I have a photograph of a young, blonde girl standing in the crowds of people singing, morris dancers jigging, stalls of wonder and joy. The girl was nervous to the core because she was holding a baby owl… that girl was me! I remember feeling so worried at the time, that it might not like me… it may fly away…scratch me even! I felt unnerved about many things back then- weary, unsure…shy! Thankfully the owl didn’t do any of those things, it was actually lovely. I remember treasuring that photograph for such a long time after that day, like it was a huge achievement, a reminder that I could be brave… And honestly, I have loved woodland creatures ever since.

A Little Ria (Aged 6)

Hops

Over the years, Faversham Hop Festival changed for me. It changed from a family day out where I could spend my pocket money, choose friendship bracelets and beads from the hippie stalls and somewhere that I would search out old, musty, second-hand books that I would escape in. A place that I would awkwardly bop along to the bands and tunes that would cascade over my oldie-worldie home town… somewhere that I would hold baby owls!

 

Cider Stall

Chutneys + Honey

It became one of the main social events of my year as I grew in to early adulthood. It was there that I bumped in to old friends who I hadn’t seen for ages, fell in love, danced with abandon, laughed until I couldn’t breathe, fell in love…again, discovered vodka, lemonade and lime (my tipple of choice to this day), wore flowers and hops in my hair, stumbled upon ‘Hop Fest After Hours’ when the crowds dispersed… Lock-ins were a must, flame and chain throwers hustled the stragglers gathered in the market place and conversations in to the night were had up on my old school bridge with someone special.

I’m sure grateful for that time, space and freedom to grow and learn. It has mattered somewhat, to the person who I have grown up to be.

And…

Now it has changed again.

Maria Noell

This year, I was a mama in the midst of ‘The Hop Festival’ chaos. I went VERY easy on ‘The Tipple’, appreciated the stalls once again, spent time with friends and people I truly love… I bopped along to the bands and sang along a bit, wore hops in my hair and smiled…much!

Great Friends

Katie + Me

I felt balanced out. Like I was reliving a bit of every phase of growing up, with it ending up exactly as things should be.

Noey Bon Boey

I witnessed the festival secure a firm spot in the children’s hearts and memory banks, as they played hook the duck, adventured in the fun house and ate ice-creams. All while they listened to the tunes and bands cascade over their oldie worldie home town.

They will look back on photographs of themselves and these days…much like I do the one of me and my baby owl. Their faces so innocent, fresh and excited. Their big eyes taking in everything around them and living life without a care in the world in the world.

Els Bels

They may not remember how their soft, little hands clutched mine as we weaved through the crowds or how I smiled at them for smiling at life around them…or how I stroked Ellenah’s bright, blonde hair gently off of her face so that it wouldn’t end up in her ice-cream…or how the sun beamed over Noah’s smile as he flew into the air on the bungee trampoline… But I will! They are my memories, for my memory bank…and more that I will never forget.

Els & Daddy

Springy Noah

I cherish these memories. I flourished in these times of The Hop Festival and I enjoyed them fully for every reason they should be… for that reason, I would never trade in my here and now to do it all over again.

Back then it was exactly as it should be and it was preparing me for this version of my life. And, I wouldn’t change a single thing!

xoxo

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Originally Written On 08/10/2015

We won!

Sometime before 7am the following morning, I woke up. My eyes were squinting and I was unsure whether I wanted to look around or not. I’m not going to lie, I was a little afraid of the damage. Before I fully commited to opening my eyes, I was already dreading the hassle of finding a B&B or locating a new tent, one that would hold up against the wind and rain, one that would keep us dry and from sleeping on the grass with the stars shining down on us through the night sky.

Still squinting, I touched my pyjama top, sleeping bag and blankets to ease myself in to the damage. I was expecting little puddles of rain or at least some heavy morning dew. I reached out, expecting to feel the cool morning air, result of our tent ripping in the night and leaving us exposed…but…well, nothing!.

I pinged my eyes open to find the tent exactly as I had left it when my eyes eventually closed the night before from pure fatigue… or should I say, at some point in the early hours of the morning. I couldn’t tell you the exact time that I fell asleep, I was quite delirious by that point.

Glorious!

I looked around at my sleeping babes, looking so peaceful! I snuggled back down in to the covers and watched the wind soar through the over sheet and I flinched as the sharp glimpses of the morning sun burned through the mesh, in to my sleepy, fragile eyes. Aside from the sound of the wind, it was so quiet. I could really hear myself think…which is something that rarely happens. I’m not going to say that the night was easy, it was really loud and I’m pretty sure I only half slept. Especially as when I finally got to a place where I could dream, I dreamt of the tent flying all around the field with all of us in it. That dream was short and then I spent, what felt like the rest of the darkness checking the children to make sure they were okay. They were. They didn’t hear a single breeze. Oh, to be a kid again!

Before long, we were springing up like daisies and eager to start our day. I love the atmosphere when camping, especially in the morning. Everybody walks around in their pyjamas, fresh faced with content smiles. Everybody sys ‘Hello’ and ‘Good Morning’ and it makes me happy. The smell of fried breakfasts and coffee fills the air and you see families scurrying around with wash bags to cleanse themselves of sleeping on the ground, it doesn’t leave you feeling so fresh when you wake up, that’s for sure! The sound of children laughing and playing drifts over the fields and on the coolest morning, it warms you up inside.

On this particular morning, not long after 7am, I peeled myself from the tent. I inspected the tent which had significantly lost its shape in the night…but, it really could have been worse. My sister’s tent had completely collapsed at the front and even she felt grateful of that being the only damage. These little hiccups weren’t going to ruin our day… and neither was the incredibly gloomy cloud that was situated right above us.

I was on beans duty.

Pans bashed around and breakfast was served. We pretty much ate like savages with plates on our laps or leaning in to our hips whilst standing and holding a plate in one hand. The children ran around and kept popping back to camp for berries and sips of their smoothies. Is is okay that I could live like that? I would go as far to say that I would want to live like that…Except for maybe in winter… I hate feeling cold!

Anyway, we eventually pulled ourselves together and headed out. Our campsite was located right next to Monkey World so it would have been so very rude not to go in and look at the monkeys. We met up with the biggest sister and her bunch and went in for a few hours.

Nicola, Gems and Me x

The Biggest Sister

The O'Briens

It was fab! Honestly such a great day…busy but great! There was so many monkeys to stare at (for way longer than socially acceptable really!) and a fair few play parks dotted around for the little ones to burn off some energy. The sunshine came out on a fair few occasions too and we felt quite lucky.

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Nicola & Ellenah xoxo

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Family Camping Fun

Els xoxo

The Men xoxo

My Noah xoxo

After a late lunch in one of the cafes, We all took a stroll back to camp. I immediately changed in to my camping gear, warm and cosy and we warmed up some water for a brew. I have to mention the cute little shop on site which my sisters and I hit to get an abundance of cake and biscuits for everyone #campingessentials

And, I have to mention the honesty shop that is available when the shop is closed. It is a little wooden cart with some essentials- butter, shampoo…cake, that kind of thing. There are prices attached and little pots for people to pop their pennies in to so that they don’t get stuck. Just how lovely is that? If only the normal world could be a little more like that! Proud of community, trusting and honest. I was perfectly happy to add my pennies to the pot when we ran out of water and butter that night. It made my heart feel good.

So, after a few giggles, conversations and a random exercise session around camp, we said our ‘See You Tomorrow’s!’ again and the biggest sister set off.

We pulled together to whip up an evening meal- quinoa, vegetables, prawns, mackerel, sausages…It was all going on! There was something for everyone to eat! We filled our tummies, this time in a more civilised manner than the carnage of breakfast time. Then we marched our way across the field to meet up with two lovely girls who worked the farm and we went for a little walk with a little group of alpacas… (p.s. I sadly didn’t get any photographs of this but to see the little cuties in action, check out my YouTube Vlog of our trip HERE!) Mine was called Barny. Barny liked to race the others. Barny was quite strong. Barny liked to nudge me when he wasn’t getting his own way and Barny seemed to have enough of walking up and down the same road every day. I could sense that Barny had a zest for adventure. I can’t lie, I think Barny may have looked down on me a little for calling him ‘Bernie’ for the whole walk until I was corrected at the end of it. Noah had one called Elvis and my Sister’s one only like to eat from a certain patch of grass. Alpacas sure are funny little things but I really enjoyed spending some time with them. It was such a nice little touch to our camping experience.

And the rest of our night went something like this…

Fires, blankets, stars, tired eyes, conversation, peace, family, wondering what tonight would throw at us and tomorrow would bring… goodnights and sleep tights.

To Be Continued…

xoxo

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Originally Written On 10/09/2015

Nobody has just a ‘Hen Night’ anymore, right? 


So when I was in full Hen Planning Mode for my bestie, I knew that I wanted it to be a two-day kind of shindig. As previously mentioned, my friend Katie is not a party girl. She LOVES to dance but falling out of clubs is not her bag. 


After deciding on her ‘Bridal Shower’… I wanted the event for the next day to compliment the relaxed atmosphere from the day before and I wanted ‘The Bride-To-Be’ to come away from her Hen Weekend feeling like a million bucks and ready to tie the knot.


I think that I always had a spa in mind. It just felt like it would offer everything that I wanted for my friend and also (and quite selfishly) for a super busy mama like myself. A spa just seemed like the perfect treat for a lovely group of women to escape their to-do lists and duck out of normality for a few hours for some well deserved relaxation and pampering. 


I can’t believe that I have been living so close to such a wonderful little secret in the shape of Sheldon Spa (Located Lees Court Road, Faversham, Kent)


When we arrived on Sunday 31st May 2015 at around 9.45am, we drove in to what felt like someone’s driveway. We thought that we had the wrong address at first but as we edged closer we realised that we were exactly where we were meant to be. It looked idyllic and it didn’t feel like we were anywhere near our local town…AT ALL! It was so pretty and serene. 

From the moment that we stepped through the door, confused and a little ditzy- nothing felt like too much trouble and all of us girls felt immediately at ease…and ever so comfortable. 


We were taken through health and safety straight away but nothing about it felt too harsh. I’ll be honest, it was thorough… but, nothing about it felt like anything more than being shown around your girlfriend’s house and having a bit of a chat about beauty and general girl talk. The therapists were professional but human. They felt like old friends.


Inside, it was absolutely stunning. The attention to detail was on point and for somewhere that looked so modest from the outside, it was incredibly spacious.

I LOVE this decor. It is so fresh looking and subtle but so very sweet. A perfect, girly haven. Although, next time I come back, I want to come with Matt and I know that he would appreciate how gorgeous it looks too.

Considering that we were at the spa for five hours in total, I didn’t pick up one magazine but I loved knowing that they were there. Before I left home that morning, I shoved a book in my bag but next time, I’ll leave it at home… I wouldn’t need it.

There were so many places to sit and relax and I’m sure that I lost a fair while gazing out of the windows at the beautiful garden.

 I’m not going to lie… Before we left the spa, I made sure that I used each and every one of these products on my face and body. I love Clarins products and it was such a nice touch that they were complimentary. I love lotions and potions but I have quite sensitive skin, it was nice to see them use a reputable and trustworthy brand which I love. Huge thumbs up!

Do you see what I mean about attention to detail? These personal touches make such a difference and really set them apart from other Spa’s. 

Sometimes in life, you have to make time to shut yourself out of the matrix for a few hours because when you do, you can really achieve so much. 

You can spend real time with the people who raise you up, support you and who make you the person that you are. These people are invaluable to your happiness.

You can use this time to write. Letters and notes of encouragement to the people who may need it, will appreciate it and will love to re-visit monumental moments in their lives when your written words exploded from your heart on to paper. 

You can spend this time dreaming, deciding, believing, planning… Just being! 

These moments are even better with fizz…

And even better when you get to drink fizz with friends and your loved ones.

You can smile.

And not for anybody but yourself.

Simply because you can and it is absolutely okay to.

You can be kind to yourself, your soul and your body.


You can appreciate the fleeting moments of solidarity to remind yourself that you, just one person in this big, wide world…are pretty amazing.

We had all that we needed to relax and let go…

And plenty to do while we awaited our treatments. I had a Weleda facial and I still struggle to find the words to describe how amazing that was. I’ll be honest and say that during the treatment, I hardly felt like I was in my body and that is for real. It was such an incredible experience. My skin felt great and for a week after, I didn’t put a scrap of make-up on my face. I felt completely zen and just so happy and comfortable in my skin.


All of the ladies were impressed with their treatments. From pedicures, to back, neck and shoulder massages- we all felt so relaxed and at ease. One of the bridesmaids couldn’t stop smelling her skin from the massage oil and there were a lot of sad faces when it was time to leave.

Saying that, we didn’t leave before indulging in a delicious cream tea to finish off such a wonderful day.

And delicious it truly was.

 

I honestly can’t say a bad word about Sheldon Spa and I’m just kicking myself that I didn’t find it sooner. As a woman, it is important to feel comfortable in our surroundings and able to embrace our different body shapes and sizes. At Sheldon Spa, it felt a lot like home…seriously, I wish I lived there! There was such a fabulous atmosphere and I couldn’t recommend that you visit there enough. 

You really will come away feeling amazing about yourself and like you are seriously winning at life. I can not wait to go back, with the ladies again and hopefully before then (and sometime soon!) with Matt, the man of my dreams.

With Love

x Ria x

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Originally Written On 06/06/2015

This will be a date that I will always remember. For many reasons.

London Baby

This was the day that I trotted off to London with one of my best friends, had a marvellous day and went to a concert in the evening.

London Baby

Doesn’t that sound simple? To me, it really is not so simple.


I am a Mum, a wife, a blogger, a vlogger, a business partner in a retail shop, a friend and somebody who worries non-stop over things that I probably can’t change.


A day trip to London would usually have me feeling very anxious. Anxious about getting bombed or stuck on the underground somewhere… All crazy and incredibly neurotic thoughts! It has been such a long time since I shimmied around on the tube without a care in the world. Back in my single days, I was always on a bloomin’ tube but now it all feels like the scary realms of the unknown.


I was setting myself up to feel a panic for a few days prior but for the first day in a long time, the day came and I didn’t feel anything but excitement! I got myself ready and armed with my lippy, I rushed to catch the train and to embark on a wonderful day out with my girl friend. My heart didn’t race, I didn’t need to catch a breath and for a change I really felt like I was in the day. Wingin’ it without the constant haze of questions that would usually plague me when feeling out of my depths.

London BabyI felt so proud of myself.

London Baby

I didn’t search for constant reassurance that everything was okay back home. The kids were with Matt. They were all okay. Without me their worlds did not crumble and fall apart. It was absolutely okay that I took a day to be me in the city, looking around at the magnificent buildings, marvelling at the history, posing in a red phone box and ahem, falling out of a bar door, oblivious of a step after what, one cocktail?… It wasn’t so grim, in my embarrassment, I turned my little stumble in to a dance move and moved on. It’s a bit sad that it had to be somewhere as thriving as Leicester square though, that sucks a bit haha.

London Baby

London Baby

We laughed all day.

We were even mistaken for Londoners on three occasions and were asked for directions like we knew where the fudge we were. Most happy in our comfies and particularly me, in my wellies- we were a little phased as to why people would think that us country girls knew anything about anything at all. Especially as we seemed to be the only people in London waiting for the green man to ping up at the traffic lights to cross the road and on the occasions we crossed with everybody else, dodging traffic… we held hands…like that would stop us from getting ploughed down by a truck, haha.

Honestly, the whole day was amazing… but then… it was Usher O’clock! Words cannot express how surreal it was watching him perform. Laura and I have grown up loving his music. Hearing him sing and dance his songs back to us… in an arena with thousands of other people… it was just crazy insane. It took us back to our teenage years in a heartbeat and needless to say, we screamed like teenage girls, loving every second of such an incredible experience.

London Baby

I can’t believe that London, The O2 and Usher was a week ago. I can’t wait for what adventures are coming next for us girls, in whatever place we end up in next. If I can handle London… I can handle anywhere- no matter how scary it may seem!

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Originally Written On 01/04/2015