23 May 2024

Three Low-Key London Hen Do Ideas

London hen do

Basically, for the last few months, a job interview and a hen do have been taking up most of my headspace. I don’t have much else to talk about. And I assume you’re not that bothered about hearing about my interview prep? 

My sister is getting married in the near future, and when she asked me to organise her hen do, the brief was essentially – one afternoon/evening, central London, low key, not too expensive. My final plan was: three activities in the afternoon and then dinner & drinks in the evening. 

We had a mix of people, and I am loathe to force people out of their comfort zones or push too much organised ‘fun’ because I have been there, done that and did not enjoy the t-shirt. (Just to give you an idea of how low my tolerance is, my blood runs cold when someone suggests we play a board game, much to the exasperation of some of my friends.) So, making sure my sister had the best time and appealing to everyone else as much as possible were my main priorities. Here’s what we got up to:

Afternoon Tea @ Brigit’s Bakery, Covent Garden 

I gotta say, I had medium expectations for Brigit’s Bakery and found myself happily surprised. My main reason for settling on this spot for afternoon tea was it was the only place I found that ticked all my criteria: central location, decent vegan options and a private space that did not cost a fortune (it actually didn’t cost anything extra in fact, we just had to pay a 50% deposit up front). I was a little worried it was going to be too touristy – one of their main attractions is that they do afternoon tea tours on London buses – but their main bakery only really hints at this. Our private space was tucked away downstairs, simple but cosy, and allowed us to have our own area so I could decorate the table with funny photos of my sister (she did not thank me for this) and play a couple of bridal-themed quizzes (I was not expecting the levels of competitiveness that emerged!) without disturbing anyone else. 

Also, I was pretty impressed with the food itself. I have had a lot of overpriced and disappointing afternoon teas in recent years; the amount of places that serve you two dry sandwiches, two boring cakes and then, weirdly, about five scones and then charge you half your monthly wage for the privilege…  but anyway, that’s a rant for another day. The point is, this wasn’t like that at all. It was tasty and interesting and actually had some variety. I liked that there was more savoury options than the usual cucumber sandwich, including a salmon pretzel roll, mini quiche and a feta & red pepper muffin. Sweets included a Biscoff choux, chocolate & pistachio tart and lemon sable. Also, the scone came out as a separate course and was the perfect little size after eating all the above. It was just all really good. 


London hen do

London hen do

London hen do

London hen do

London hen do


Candle Making Workshop @ Yougi, Shoreditch 

This was just too cute, and I would highly recommend as an easy crafty group activity that can appeal to anyone, even if they are not a crafty person. Obviously, my main motivation behind this was because my sister really likes candles, but I also felt it would be a relatively easy win because I predicted most people in the group would probably be more than happy to go home with a new candle. The space was very zen; it smelt amazing, the host was friendly and informative and we were all served little cups of peppermint tea on arrival. 

It turns out making candles is surprisingly easy? It was fun smelling all the aromatherapy oils and seeing the difference in everyone’s sense of smell. We each got to mix the wax with our chosen oils and pour our own candles, and then take them home with us. It was a cute and relaxing activity and worked for everyone – even if it wasn’t someone’s natural first choice, everyone could take part easily. 


Electric Shuffleboard @ London Bridge 

So I had never done electric shuffleboard before and, quite frankly, couldn’t really tell you what it involved even as I booked it but my sister had mentioned really enjoying it in the past and it looked like a game that everyone could enjoy without it being high pressured. I was right; even I can get on board with electric shuffleboard. It’s low-key, you can play it whilst still holding a glass of prosecco and discussing Baby Reindeer, and it easily gets people bonding and having a laugh. I would definitely go back. 


Our evening was dinner, drinks at a rooftop bar, a game of bride or groom (including masks of their faces which sufficiently freaked my sister out) and then I left where they went onto next up to the more youthful members of the party because I was happily tucked up in my Premier Inn hotel room by 11pm obvs. Oh how times have changed (hangovers with a toddler are just not worth it and every parent knows it). 


15 May 2024

April Journal | Hen Dos & Interviews

April journal


Hen dos and interviews is a pretty accurate summary of the last month. The last four months, really. It’s a long story that I’m not going to bore you with - I’ve known that there was an interview looming on the horizon since January, the outcome of which would decide whether I either received a promotion or lost my job. Extreme ends of the scale no? I also had my sister’s hen do – which I was organising – on the horizon. Obviously, a hen do is very much the opposite of an interview but there’s no denying that organising one has its stresses. So, of course, of course, interview & hen ended up being the same week. I actually found out the outcome of the interview the day before the hen, so let’s be grateful it was a positive one because I’m not sure bride’s-sister-lost-her-job-yesterday would have been the best of hen do themes. 

I expected to be on some kind of high at the end of that weekend – promotion at work, successfully-organised hen do, no longer having to lie awake at night wondering how we would pay the mortgage should I lose my job etc. But, in truth, I just felt very, very tired (probably not helped by the 4am wake-up’s Alfie had been treating us to). For the last couple of weeks, I have still woken up with a heavy feeling of stress sitting in my belly and have repeatedly had to catch myself and remember that there is no need for it anymore. I can only assume that after four months of worrying, it was going to take longer than one day for my body to catch up with my brain. 

(Either that or it was purely a result of watching Baby Reindeer which was far more stressful an experience than preparing for an interview and planning a hen do combined, quite frankly. Have you watched it? Can we discuss?

Anyway, I’m getting there now. Perhaps not on a high, but the ball of stress that has been residing in my belly is dissipating. The sun has finally appeared, we have booked a summer holiday and everything is feeling just that little bit brighter. Here’s hoping it continues. 


Moments 

A night out in Cambridge for Gary’s birthday. 

Blossom on the trees, giving the illusion Spring had arrived, even if the temperature suggested otherwise. 

Alfie coming home from nursery with his fringe in a ponytail because he was absolutely not missing out on playing hairdressers. 

Alfie ‘counting’: his fingers, his cars, before he throws himself backwards on the bed. He only knows about three numbers but that ain’t stopping him. 

Alfie calling vehicles by their ‘sounds’ – trains are ‘choo choos’, cars are ‘ne-naws’ and planes are ‘neeeeaows’. The exception being lorry’s – ‘loddys’ and buses – ‘ba’. Toddler languages are so bloody cute, I will be devastated when choo choos one day just become ‘trains’. 

The annual family party, 20+ of us including several little ones, an excitable dog and a hell of a lot of easter chocolate. 

Going into London to meet my friend’s new baby (me broody? Dunno what you mean…) and having a good catch-up at a very tasty newly-opened waffle place – would recommend

Bright pink jumpsuits (‘you look like a children’s TV presenter’ – my mum). 

Asking my sister’s fiancĂ© if he had any funny photos of her and the sheer number of priceless gems he sent through. 

The Shard lit up on a foggy night.  

The view when walking across London Bridge. 

Not losing my job! 

A pay rise!
 

Hen do!


Further reading


Come with us to a glass house on Camber Sands.  



1 May 2024

Come With Us To A Glass House On Camber Sands

 Sea Gem, Camber Sands

I am about to reveal my age here, but have you ever watched Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toskvig? If not, and you also have a penchant for property programmes, I would highly recommend. It’s basically women (often older women which is really refreshing to see) going on mini breaks in really incredible houses. It’s wholesome and heartwarming, and the houses are always drool-worthy. 

All of this to say: we went and stayed in one of the houses and I think it has ruined all future holidays for me because I doubt I will ever have the budget required for such good accommodation. 

Sea Gem in Camber is literally on the beach. And what a beach. The house is mostly made of glass with the most spectacular views from nearly every room. I believe the architect designed it to feel a bit like you’re on a ship and when the tide was in, I really felt this. Stood back from the windows, the view would be pure sea and it was easy to convince yourself you were floating out in the water. 

Sea Gem, Camber Sands

Sea Gem, Camber Sands


When the tide was out, the beach stretched out for miles and miles. It was wild and expansive and gave you the sensation of being a long way from civilisation; I found it very soothing. It helped me switch off which is something I have struggled to do on holiday since becoming a parent. It was a reminder that nature and landscape can make a real difference in feeling whether you have ‘got away’ or not. Of course, being away with a toddler is still hard work; you still gotta change nappies and battle through nap times and have limited periods to sit down but, this was the first time I felt like Alfie was having a holiday as well and that was really lovely. He loved the beach and could have quite happily spent all day kicking a football around or throwing stones into the water. By the end of the week, he tottered off in his wellies onto the beach by himself if you didn’t keep an eye on him. And he loved having all the space the house had to offer – in particularly, the giant sofa which made a great running ground for his tractor selection. On our last day, we literally had to drag him away from the house kicking and screaming because he did not understand why we could no longer go in. I think in his little toddler brain, he just thought that’s where we lived now. 

Sadly, that wasn’t the case, but for one week I was very content to sit in bed with sea views, to have an enormous, nearly-empty beach as our garden/playground, to roast marshmallows in the firepit, to watch glorious sunsets, to lie in bed at night and listen to the wind whipping around the house, and imagine the tide creeping up to the window (not far off to be honest!). I even went for a run along that huge, empty beach, despite a problematic ankle, because it was too tempting not to. I’m pretty sure if that was on my doorstep, I’d run all the time. It was also just really nice to spend an extended period of time with my family, people we normally can only see for short weekends. To watch them spend day-to-day quality time with Alfie. (Although I think everyone would have happily spared the sight of him continually dipping garlic bread into his water whilst trying to eat.)  

I’ll be honest, Camber itself did not come across as a particularly inviting or friendly place (shout out to the pub that had a very passive aggressive sign on its door saying that children under five were not welcome, ‘no not even in the garden’) but we were there for the house and the beach, and if we did want to head out, Rye was only five miles down the road with its cobbled streets, old buildings and cute independent businesses (all of which were much more welcoming to Alfie). 

Sea Gem, Camber Sands

Sea Gem, Camber Sands

Sea Gem, Camber Sands


Here’s what I like to do when exploring a new place (admittedly a certain kind of place): find a bakery, find a bookshop, find a chocolate shop and find a decent brunch spot. Rye ticked all of those boxes and it ticked them well. I think the bookshop is technically owned by Waterstones but it very much gave off independent vibes, and the chocolate shop had a very impressive range of flavours (I came away with one bar of roasted hazelnut and one of grey sea salt)

We had brunch at The Whitehouse three times (would recommend their pancakes or their fancy bacon roll) and inevitably fell into their bakery on the way out (the enormous banana muffins were so good). Would also highly recommend The Fig, although the menu was less child-friendly (unless your child eats vegetables, in which case, please tell me your secrets). Their veggie tacos were worth the visit though. Rye also turned out to be the location of the first ever Knoop, so it felt rude not to grab one of their delicious hot chocolates. There was likely a lot more history to the place, but I’ve accepted that trying to do anything cultured with a two-year-old is the definition of madness. Accept you can’t go in the castle and take him to eat pancakes. Everyone will be happier. 

It was March so the weather was changable but it really didn’t matter. Contrary to popular opinion, I think a beach is actually better when the weather is a bit mixed and there is no way the views in that house could be anything short of spectacular, regardless of whether it rained or shined. 

All in all, a lovely holiday. If someone could lend me the money to stay in places like this all the time, that'd be great.