Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Barcelona

Travelling the world for a year was fantastic for me, but I imagine for my mum it felt like abandonment…probably worse than when I moved to York for uni. At least then I was only 2 hours up the road. So being the heavenly daughter I am I suggest a girls trip to Barcelona. 

An early morning flight saw us leave the miserable cold of Manchester and touch down in sunny Barcelona. Thinking my mum wouldn’t be as brave as me, I didn’t bother looking into trains to the centre so we caught a taxi instead. Bad move, turns out Saint George’s day is pretty well celebrated in Barcelona so most of the streets surrounding our hotel were closed. Mum was ok she had a suitcase on wheels, I had a bloody holdall. But we soon found our hotel, the Oriente Atriam, a beautiful converted nunnery right in the heart of Las Ramblas.

Immediately after checking in we headed out to explore, walking up Las Ramblas wasn’t all that easy, thanks to the many stalls that had been put out for Saint Georges day, everyone seemed to be making and selling roses. All the red and white combined with the yellow of the Catalonian flags added to the beauty of the buildings surrounding us. Not too dissimilar to Paris, each building is uniquely built with ornate windows, some even have sculptures and artwork on the sides.

We stumbled upon a local market selling fruit, veg, eggs, fish, meat and tapas, But the best find was the fresh fruit juice, 1 sip of that banana and coconut smoothie had my head straight back in Asia, safe to say we spent a euro or two there each day on those bad boys! I was desperate to see the Casa Battlo, one of Gaudi’s buildings, and it tuns out so was the rest of Barcelona. Tourists filled the pavement on both sides of the road, it was like playing dodge the selfie stick just to get a good look…I soon learnt that this would be one of the busiest cities in the world, possibly worse than Shanghai! I wasn’t left disappointed though and it’s definitely better in real life than the photos!

Our first evening was spent in Placa Reial with a paella and an aperol spritz, at the time we didn’t know that this would become routine for every evening of our stay. With plenty of entertainment and good food we were content to sit in the square each night, watching acrobats, listening to music and enjoying the vocal talents of a young girl who came to liven the crowd each evening.

Our first full day saw an early rise and a trip to Segrada Familia. I’ll hold my hands up here and say I made a huge mistake, I booked us on a guided tour….it was as dull as shit! Even mum hated it, so we snuck off and took ourselves around. Large and unfinished this basilica was designed by Gaudi and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. The detail of the sculptures on the outside and the stain glass on the inside is stunning, you can truly appreciate the work that has gone into it. Though mum said that she did expect it to be taller. One thing I did learn from the guide is that they think it will be finished by 2026, however they do need to find 50 million dollars to buy out the flats over the road for the space to build on….good luck with that guys!

There’s so much to see and do, so once we’d finished our tour we took ourselves off to the Gothic Quarter and got lost in the streets. Stumbling across many boutique shops, hidden alley ways and little bits of art here and there. We both loved walking around finding different things to see..each day we were there we covered just shy of ten miles!

Asia made me a total beach addict, so on our second day I dragged mum to the beach to soak up some sun. Here I made mistake number 2, we’ll get to what that was in just a minute. We walked along the harbour, looking out across the ocean to the mountains in the distance…or I was, mum was looking at the boats, pretending she was in The Real Housewives! For a city beach I was surprised by how clean the beach was, the water was clear, but a little too cold for swimming. So we chilled out and people watched, our favourite past time, especially when Ronaldo 2.0 was posing for pictures and trying, but failing, to chat up the girls!

Walking back to the hotel, we decided to walk back along the harbour and all along the front, it was a nice day for a stroll. Arriving at the Columbus monument I realised my earlier mistake. To get to the beach we’d taken the tube, 2 tubes to be precise and we’d gone up, to come back down. What a waste of bloody time, all we had to do was walk down Las Ramblas for about 5 minutes, and we’d have been at the monument, whoops! Good job the tube only costs 2 euros, hey?!

After a shower and a little make up we made our way to Palacio del Flamenco. Located in the midst of all the designer shops, including Sephora, sits this little Flamenco theatre. Being a dance and theatre lover I was keen to experience something new. I’ll be honest, it just wasn’t for me. I loved the music and the signing, that I could listen to all night, and the dancers are so skilled and the costumes are beautiful. But for me the stamping is just too loud, it’s like being back at tap dance classes. 

On our final day we took a trip to Monstserrat Monestary and Basilica, and again this tit booked a tour! Word of advice, if you go make your own way there by train, it’s well easy! Plus you get great views and don’t have to sit on a bus that’s going up a windy mountain. Anyway, we made it, that’s the main thing and it was amazing! This basilica sits atop a huge mountain, with views of the Alps and mountain. We wandered around the grounds, lit a candle for nana and bought delicious goats cheeses from a local market. Unfortunately, time didn’t allow for us to see the Black Madonna or the boys choir…which again, is why I would recommend the train so you can do things at your own pace. 

We also didn't take the "train" to the highest part of the mountain. Now, mum will tell you this because I was scared, truth of the matter it is, it was just to hazy to see that far. (It's actually her fault that I have a tiny fear of heights).

Upon our return we took one last trip around the Gothic Quarter to Barcelona Cathedral, my favourite building of the trip. Truly fitting into the gothic title the high spears and gargoyles give this building an empowering effect in the centre of the bustling streets.

We enjoyed our final aperol and paella back in Placia Real, with some music from one man and his guitar, before sneaking in another cheeky fruit juice. A perfect end to a great girls vacay….only next time i’ll take some ear plugs to drown out someones snoring, sorry mum!

Love Carrie xxx


Thursday, 19 April 2018

No Direction Home

No Direction Home.

 Co-written with David Tysall



On the night of ​Monday 16th April 2018 we gave up our luxuries and slept rough for the night to raise funds to fight local homelessness and poverty. This amazing event is part of CEO Sleepout, a charity that challenges business leaders to sleep rough for a night to help make ​York a fairer place to live and work. 

 

I’m sure by now most of you have seen the above sign off on the bottom of our emails, and with the fantastic support of our friends, family, suppliers and clients we have so far managed to raise over £2,100. (please do feel free to keep donating on our Just Giving page). So, we thought it was only fair that we shed a little light on our experience.

 

Nervous excitement was a shared feeling amongst the four of us as we made our way to York Racecourse with our sleeping bags, cardboard and tooth brushes. We had no idea what to expect, but I was grateful to have my Response family by my side.

 

Being the most organised of the group, Clare had handily packed a huge ground sheet and 12 sleeping bags. To be honest our pitch looked like a family camping trip…minus the tent of course, and it wasn’t long until other sleepers claimed their spaces around us and donned their pink Response wool hats. We of course had brought one for everyone participating to wear that night.

 

A couple of hours of chatter were followed by talks from Changing Lives, Jen (an inspiring lady who has turned her life around amazingly since living on the streets) and our favourite ladies Jo and Mary from Chill In The Community. Each person reminded us why we were there and how important it is that each of us take every opportunity to help.

 

As we settled down for the night and the outside lights were turned off, the chatter died down and we were left with the fight for sleep and struggle for warmth. We encountered wind, rain, discomfort and had little over 4 hours sleep each.

 

We went through one night of what others are experiencing on a day to day basis and it was awful. I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate the loneliness, isolation and frustrations that come with homelessness. Or the worry that comes with being one pay packet away from finding yourself without a home and on the streets. 

 

We woke up feeling disorientated and lonely, but we had somewhere to be that day, a purpose. We knew that in an hour we would be back to our loving families, a hot shower and some breakfast

 

Of course we are not saying that we know how the homeless feel after one night, but we had a taste and we did not like it. 

 

Would I do it again? Absolutely, Would the rest of the crew? They are saying no, but we are a tight knit little gang here.

 

When people criticise the homeless for alcohol problems, drug problems and the like, it is missing the point. The problem needs to be dealt with earlier, mental health is a huge problem. So the homeless find a way of numbing the pain, the loneliness and the disconnection. Before being so quick to judge, just think, any of us with three bad moves could end up in the same place.

 

I was forced to leave home at 15, and for some reason the song I listened to that got me through an awful time was Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone. The lyric in particular?

 

When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Paris

We managed to travel the world for 12 months, catching numerous planes, trains and buses with no problem. But throw a little snow down in England and we’re hit with a huge disaster.

On the morning of my 30th birthday all I knew was that I had to pack a bag and be ready for 8 in the morning. I was ready at 8 in the morning and so was the Beast from the East apparently. The snow was deep and still falling, and traffic in and out of York was at a stand still…not quite the start Kyle was hoping for, only things were still to get worse.

Not even 2 miles down the road the car gave up hope, she overheated to a major lack of engine coolant, the tank was actually empty. Combine this with all traffic moving at 40mph on the M62 we were massively late for my surprise. 

Half way into our journey I’d guessed that we were heading to the airport, 40 mins before our flight time and a detour to the wrong car park (thanks Google maps), we both guessed that we were going to miss our flight. 

I learnt the destination of my surprise in the dullest way, through no fault of Kyle’s, and all thanks to the check-in clerk when he handed us our “chance only’ tickets to Paris. I mean I was buzzing to be going to Paris, but devastated to be missing the flight!

We were given priority check in, what an absolute waste of time! Since when did hand luggage mean 3 suitcases and 10 handbags per family? Hand luggage is a small bag that fits in this little compartments, not a bag big enough for the contents of your kitchen! Why does nobody check these things when people get their boarding passes? So yeah, “priority” was actually slower than normal thanks to the family in front and we were far too late for our flight, we did get to see it sat on the runway though.

I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed Kyle so mad, I thought this is it birthday surprise over! But seen as we had a return flight and Kyle had paid for the hotel, we got over it, booked new flights and boarded the next plane 3 drinks and 2 hours later!

One hour later we landed in Paris and caught the subway into Paris, all going well…..erm, well it was until the subway line we needed was closed and Paris has the most confusing underground system ever! Even China was easier. However, we were soon at our hotel, The Kensington, and staring at the Eiffel Tower from our bedroom window. Boy did good, hey?

Keen to explore we wrapped up in our woolies and found ourselves alone under the beautifully lit up tower. Neither of us expected to be as impressed as we were, we have spent 30% of our lives in Blackpool, but the Eiffel Tower blew us away! It is stunning and the light show is not one to be missed, especially when it’s so cold nobody else can be bothered and you have the whole tower to yourself! We walked round it, underneath it and thought about going up it, but somebody is still afraid of heights. I’ll let you guess who.

After a lovely first meal, obviously a cheese board and a cheeky glass of wine, this is Paris after all, we were quick to bed after a fairly stressful morning ready to start a fresh and face the next day head on.

We walked 10 miles on our first full day, and to be honest we probably would’ve walked more if it wasn’t so cold. Paris is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, I am in love! We followed the river to see the main tourist attractions, including the Concorde, the Louvre Pont Alexandre and Notre Damn Cathedral. Everything we saw was so impressive. I felt like my head was thrown in so many directions, there’s bits of gold here, palaces there and statues that are so well looked after. You just get lost in the vibe and comfort of the city.

What made the day more magical was the fact it had snowed over night, so everywhere had a sprinkling of white and I couldn’t help but feel that this is how Paris is meant to be seen.

Of course we lit a candle for Nana in Notre Damn Cathedral, making sure she had prime position for people watching and services. I liked the Cathedral, though not overwhelming in size, the architecture and stained glass windows are unique, and it was interesting to see how the building had developed over time.

Our evening meal was enjoyed in the Latin Quarter, a place I could quite happily move to next week. We had a delicious cheese fondue and of course followed this with a creme brulee and a little more wine. We walked for hours in and out of the little streets in the Latin Quarter, getting lost in the tiny streets, appreciating every different building, looking in boutique shops, drooling over patisseries and wishing we had more time to visit each Bistro.

Drunk and excitable, we spent another night at the Eiffel tower light show, walking around the gardens and stumbled upon the Wall Of Peace. Built in 2000, this monument is made of wood, steel and glass and is dedicated to world peace. A simple yet effective, beautiful piece of art.

Our final day in Paris was a wet one, but not ones to be deterred we set off in search of the Arc de Triumph. Which we found by accident and would’ve completely missed if I didn’t look left. After our epic day of walking the Champs Elysees was tough. Who knew when your watching the Tour De France that this is actually a bit of an incline? Not only that I had to avoid looking in any shops, including Sephora, as I didn’t want to break my own, one bag only, hand luggage rule. So let that be a tip for you if you ever go to Paris, book baggage for the way home if you like shopping, because you’re going to need it!

We had been pleasantly surprised by how quiet Paris had been UNTIL we reached the Arc de Triumph! All the tourists in France must have been there at the same time as us waving their selfie sticks around it was crazy! I’m not shocked, again it is another great site, a roundabout, but still a bloody brilliant one! We used our heads and walked underneath to the other side, where we could view the detail without being barged out of the way!

For lunch we found a cute little bistro for more coffee and cheese and pastry, I couldn’t say no, and revelled in the Parisian life…getting only mildly jealous watching the workers enjoy their lunch breaks with a bottle of wine! I could seriously get used to that?


3 days just isn’t enough, I am desperate to return to Paris, I still want to head to Montmare, eat more of the food on offer and visit the Moulin Rouge, see the parks in Spring. So without a doubt we will return, maybe setting off a little earlier or using the Eurostar next time. But for now je’taime Paris!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

I’m Just a Girl

I’m just a girl…..

 

A recent episode of Peaky Blinders got me thinking, what has changed for women in the last century? Resulting in an interesting conversation with my mum, who’s not that old by the way, but knows a thing or two thanks to my nana and her gran.

 

I mean, imagine not being able to go to the pub alone and having to make sure you were escorted by your husband. I know myself and the girls in the office would find this impossible, we’re partial to a bottle of fizz on a Friday! Mind you some of the bars in York could adopt this policy on a weekend, that would reduce the massive onslaught of hen parties in our favourite establishments. 

 

Another issue, just think not being able to get a credit card unless you were married and your husband was willing to co-sign. This I think is ridiculous! Especially, when you combine it with the fact that most men waned their wives to stay at home. How were they supposed to do the weekly shop with no credit card? Pay the bills down the post office? Talk about contradiction.

 

We all know about the voting situation, so I won’t go into too much detail. But we all should take the opportunities that we’re offered when it comes to voting, otherwise surely the suffragette movement was a waste of time.

 

Something which is still the same but not as openly advertised is differentiation in salaries. At least way back when they had the balls to say if you work here as a man you’ll get paid way more than a woman doing the same job. Now, you only hear about these things if someone walks out of a job over gender pay. I don’t really understand how this is legal, or who gets to determine why said man is worth more than said women…salary should be determined on role, and ability, not what sex you are.

 

I’m lucky enough to work in a place where “-isms” don’t matter. Nothing is about age, race or gender, we simply just roll with who has the best idea.

 

“Why do women have smaller feet than men….so they can get closer to the sink”

 

 

 

Thursday, 18 January 2018

In Defence of the Fence


I’m not a vegan, I enjoy sausage and mash as much as the next person, but I do choose to use cruelty free products and find myself forever checking if my favourite moisturiser is on the approved list. We must save those rabbits after all.

 

This obsession stemmed from watching a video online, where a poor young girl was subjected to the same tests lab rats go through just to see if your favourite mascara is going to turn your eyelashes the correct shade of blue.

 

Cruelty free products are a favourite of mine, but I would never introduce myself in the following way, “Hi, my names Carrie and I believe in cruelty free”. As I’m a firm believer in the fact that everyone can make their own decisions, have an opinion or sit on the fence if they want to.

 

We stereotype and categorise, but that man with the nose ring and an arm full of tattoos could be the best doctor we’ve ever known. We eat organically because we’re told that processed food will cause cancer. But in the future, we’ll probably be told that eating clean causes cancer too.

 

Buying a hybrid car so we look like we’re saving the environment, but taking an opportunity to switch to petrol to gain some speed and sound like a “bad boy” racer on the motorway.

 

Sitting on the fence is the inability to choose between two sides, or a lack of courage to decide. I mean most people have no issue supporting their favourite football team, but struggle in reference to political discussions. 

 

Striving for knowledge for a better understanding of a situation. But does that just make it more confusing?

 

I was once told that only truly intelligent people can see both sides of an argument. You don’t have to agree, you just have to see the other point of view.

 

In light of this I’m in agreement with Tim Minchin, who once sang,

 

“You can’t see which grass is greener. Chances are it’s neither, and either way it’s easier to see the difference, when you’re sitting on the fence”

 


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Happiness is a Hot Bath

I’ve never had to share a bath with a sibling, or use second hand bath water with the concern that it contained a little more than the days dirt. I’ve never not had central heating or a hot a shower, apart from the one winter when the boiler broke, but that’s a different story.

 

I don’t remember black and white TV and I’ve always had a remote to save myself from getting up and changing the channel using the huge buttons on the side of the TV that I’ve heard so much about. There’s always been over 600 channels to choose from, and Netflix on weekends.

 

So, in an age when life is documented on social media, I often find myself aimlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and wondering are the people I follow truly happy?

The latest gym selfie, a night out with the best people which resulted in a bad head and an empty wallet, ever changing relationship status’ and pictures of the worlds cutest dog fill my screen and are seen as representations of a perfect life.

 

But was life not more perfect when families spent time together, with their heads up looking at each other and talking, instead of down, looking at a phone and telling the world what they’re having for dinner? Playing outside, not on an Xbox? Talking, not tweeting?

 

When did it become normal for kids to watch videos of other children opening presents? Where’s the excitement in an ever-growing impatience to watch their favourite TV show at any time thanks to the presence of OnDemand? I remember eagerly awaiting The Queens Nose at 4.30 followed by Biker Grove at 5. If something wasn’t in the TV Guide you weren’t watching it, simple.

 

Am I guilty of sharing too much on my Instagram? Probably. Would I rather have had the chance to be the first in that week’s bath water? Should there still only be 4 TV channels, rather than 600? Would that simple life be better than an unrealistic version of perfect?

 

We do some work with Age UK, and I recently heard about their new scheme where they ask for volunteers to call or visit an elderly person once a week. Such a simple yet great idea I thought. Not only does it provide somebody with comfort and company, it gives us a chance to see a person without the use of social media and bring someone a small moment of true happiness. It’s things like this that should be documented on media.

Though I was nervous about suggesting this idea to my colleagues, I needn’t have worried…we’ve got a new activity to keep us busy next year.

 

To quote The Smiths,

“It’s easy to laugh, it’s easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind”

 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The pursuit of health and happiness.

So we've been back a little over 9 weeks now, we're both in full time employment, we've both voted for the first time ever, we've caught up with friends and family...and I'm left thinking, what now?

Coming back from a year away has been a roller coaster so far. For the first few weeks I felt settled and happy. I mean who wouldn't of, I went out for food about 9 times a week, spent time in the sunshine and caught up with some of the most important people in my life. But as I've got back into the 9-5, started going out less and visiting the doctors more I'm left wondering if there's more I could be doing with my life.

Take volunteering for example, just 1 day a week could make so much difference to a short staffed care home, an under privileged school or a child who needs taken care of on an evening. Is there more we could be doing to support the families and friends of those effected by the recent events in Manchester and London? Would retraining in a new field help me feel like I was doing more? Do i want to pursue a new career in the care industry or spend an evening or two a week helping out?

This is what made me vote in this years election, I wanted to make a difference. So I voted for a party I thought could. Who did I vote for? Well that would be telling. I'm not relying solely on my vote or any political party to make a difference mind, I am researching what I can do to help.

I'm still having tests on my stomach, a stool sample, a blood test and an ultrasound has revealed nothing, yet I still find myself, on occasion, weeing out of my bum! So it's a 6 week dairy free diet (which in all honesty is not going great, a girl likes the odd milky way) and a return trip to the doctors, to be booked in with the "tummy specialists' next.

On a positive note, I've found myself reconnecting with friends I thought I'd become distanced from whilst I was away, and time spent on these relationships has really been worth it. We've become Uncle Pyle and Uncle Carrie to the little ball of energy that is our niece Paige, and spent a lot of time with her, Scott, Emma and the rest of our families. Both having realised that family is the most important thing, and appreciating the time we spend with them.

We've got a few mini adventures planned, all in England of course our budget won't allow us to travel any further, and we're saving all our hard earned money for a new house...surprisingly, in the UK. I know, I thought we were moving to Japan too.

So, whilst Kyle's happy and healthy I'm having what I call a Travellers lull, with days where I'm left thinking "if only i could rant to my nana". But fingers crossed the next batch of tummy testing shows up something, and I can get sorted and fart without fear. And hopefully I'll soon find myself an evening activity that leaves me feeling like I've made someones day that little easier. Hopefully, we all can hey?

Love Carrie xxx