Wearing the Art on my Sleeve

I often get asked about my tattoos, questions like did it hurt? Do they have a meaning? Wont you regret them? So what better way to explain than to write a post answering those questions and to let you all have a good nosey at my tattoos in all their glory.

First up is the first tattoo I got (ill try to do them in order), on my 18th birthday which is located on the bottom of my back, a tramp stamp if you will.

At the tender age of 18 I had a small interest in faeries and thought it would be a good idea to get one tattooed on me forever. I found the image on the internet which was a fairy leaning on a bubble with her legs crossed however over the years many people have asked me why I have a pregnant fairy/butterfly on my back. Others have also mistaken her for a mermaid as her legs look like a tail…….needless to say I was so happy with this tattoo when I had it done but unfortunately 12 years later my tastes have changed and faeries no longer interest me. I don’t have any regrets in having this tattoo done as for me it started an amazing journey of ink. From what i can remember, it didn’t hurt too much, just like a constant cat scratch lol

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Second tattoo was really random. My first serious relationship had ended after 2 years and i had a sudden urge to do something really spontaneous…….I wouldn’t advise a tattoo to best cure this urge but thats exactly what i decided to do.

wpid-2015-07-26-20.27.22.jpg.jpegI turned up at the tattoo studio and said I wanted a small random tattoo in a random place, preferable done today so I didn’t chicken out of doing something stupidly spontaneous. I had no idea what I wanted but began to look through all the tattoo magazines in the tattoo shop until I came across this random design. I don’t even know what it is but I thought it was pretty at the time and out of no where I decided it would go behind my ear. I think the adrenaline of what I was doing had taken over because I didn’t feel a thing with this one. I would say it has been the least painful of all my tattoos and I would actually like to add to it with something so any suggestions would be welcomed……

Tattoo number 3, a little ashamed to admit this but it was partly inspired by Melanie Blatt from Allsaints (the girl band not the shop) CRINGE!!!! (she had a small dragon tattoo on her side). I wanted a dragon tattoo as a symbol of love that I have for my dad. He has always loved dragons and collects them (ornaments) that decorate his home. Unfortunately our father/daughter relationship was damaged and we didn’t speak for a good few years, in this time I wanted something on me that reminded me of the bond we once had.

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It is often said that the ribs are a very painful place to get tattooed, although I didn’t find it too painful. There were moments that were slightly uncomfortable but overall not too bad. This was the biggest tattoo I had at the time (mum wasn’t best pleased) but I loved it. I would cut slits down the sides of my t-shirts so that everyone could see my dragon tattoo, it was an important piece to me which I would say is where the addiction began. I saw body art as way to diarise my life as it happened in a beautiful way that would decorate my body. I began to plan more and more that I wanted to get…..

Number 4 came quite quickly after number 3. My Grandmothers middle name was Armina, which was also the name of the family home I grew up in. My Grandmother unfortunately died 6 weeks before I was born so we never met but I feel something very strong towards her spirit. From my mum’s stories about her, I know we would have bonded really well. I had a very happy childhood until my parents split when I was 13 years old. Me and mum moved out of our family home ‘Armina’ and I never really felt like I found a place to call home after that. I decided to get the name Armina tattooed on my foot, although I don’t have a photo of it as it has become very blurred and unreadable now to be honest. It sits just under my ankle bone on my left foot and I can tell you that it was the most painful tattoo ever. It only took 5 minutes but the pain was unbearable, to the point of where I nearly had to stop proceedings. I’m glad I had it done but it definitely needs some attention now so will look to have it re done and maybe added to

At the age of 20, I had got myself 4 tattoos that I loved and enjoyed but they were beginning to act as a sort of therapy to help me deal with life and the troubles that were facing me. Leaving home at 16, seeing my parents form new destructive relationships and trying to find out where I fitted into society was a battle, I had felt lost for a long time. I met a boy who seemed to understand this feeling of being lost, although I realise now that he was what some may call an ’emo’ and he soon grew out of it lol. During the time that I knew him, he wrote lots of poetry and one line in particular jumped out at me. It totally resonated how I felt and so became my next tattoo.

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‘We can be surrounded by a sea of people and yet still feel totally alone’

At times I think everyone can experience this to some extent, although you will be pleased to know that I don’t feel this way often nowadays. As the tattoo is in the inside of my right arm, it has faded making it not that clear to read, however again I do not regret this tattoo as it marks an important part of my life.

Whilst having the above tattoo done, I spoke to the tattooist about having a sleeve tattoo. I didn’t have any ideas what I wanted yet but knew that I wanted to get covered in tattoos. The tattooist showed me a design he had drawn up which was more of a feminine piece with roses and swallows around a blank script. He told me that if I wanted it done, he would only charge me for the cost of the needles and ink, in return that I would attend tattoo expo’s and conventions with him to show off his work. At 21 years old, this offer sounded amazing and so I agreed to go ahead with it. Unbeknown to me at the time,  my left arm would become rather popular and to date has had 4 different artists work on it. I will leave this tattoo until last to show you as it is still a work in progress, 9 years later.

Ok so the next tattoo was my brother’s name. My brother and I have also been very close, despite being separated when our parents split up (he lived with dad, I lived with mum). I am big sister by almost 5 years and so always felt like I needed to look out for my little brother. We had always said we wanted to get a joint tattoo to mark our friendship and love as brother and sister. When I was 23 years, I rented a house with my then boyfriend and my brother. It was so cool living back with him, even if he never did any housework. One day he came back from work with a tattoo on his wrist, he had my name tattooed on him. I was so touched with it, that I decided I would do the same and got myself booked in for my next tattoo.

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This tattoo is on the back of my neck and didn’t hurt at all. I love it so much even though it is just his name, it is and will always be the only name tattoo that I will put on my body.

In 2010 my dad had began to tattoo himself. He had been an artist for many years and so this was a natural progression for him to be honest, although he says using a paint brush is completely different to using a tattoo gun. It was in 2011 that I agreed he could tattoo me. I had seen the kinda of work he had been producing on others and was happy that I would end up with a nice piece.

wpid-2015-07-27-19.46.23.jpg.jpegIt’s not perfect and I want to add more to it over time but i love it. It is on my left side over the ribs and a little higher than the dragon on the other side. I decided this place as I felt it complemented the reasons behind the dragon. On one side is a tattoo for my dad and this tattoo is by my dad. This was felt a little more uncomfortable, perhaps because it is slightly higher up on the ribs. My dad was super nervous about tattooing me as his daughter too which I don’t think helped, but i’m really pleased with it. I wanted to get something to represent my love for music, as a dancer, music as been a huge part of the passion. For me, there is nothing better than to be chilling of an evening just listening to music, really zone out and chill. Music has been my best friend through so many situations in my life, so this tattoo was another important piece to my canvas.

Tattoo number…….ok i’ve lost count but this next one is possibly my favourite tattoo and it gets quite a lot of attention when it’s on show.

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I had now got tattoo’s for my dad and my brother but I wanted something amazing for my mum and this was it. As much as I respect memorial tattoo’s, for me I think it is as important, if not more so, to tell people how much they mean to you whilst they are still alive. In my eyes my mum is my wonder woman. She is the strongest woman I know who has come up against some real difficulties in her life but she has always pushed through and given her best to right her wrongs. She is an inspiration to me and as much as she does my head in at times, I will always love her

This next tattoo was the second one to be done by my dad. The idea behind it was to mark a new chapter in my life, a new job, a new direction, a chance to put things behind me. It took a while to get fully adjusted but things are beginning to work out.

wpid-2015-07-27-20.47.42.jpg.jpegGanesha is one of the most recognisable Hindu gods. He is seen as the remover of obstacles, the deva of intellect and wisdom, along with symbolising new beginnings. The photo doesn’t really do the tattoo justice to be honest. It is placed on the top of my left thigh and looks awesome with cut off denim shorts. I’m going to add some beautiful henna inspired mandalas underneath him to fill the last bit of space on my thigh.

At the beginning of every new year, I get an urge to re-invent myself. Not to extreme levels, but i like to start the new year with a new hairstyle/colour rather than a resolution. At the beginning of 2014 I dyed my hair orange and got knuckle tattoos…..like you do.

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These were done my dad and are my families star sign symbols. Pinky finger is my brother, Capricorn. Ring finger is my mum, Virgo. Middle finger is my dad, Aquarius and Index finger is me, Aries. You’ve probably guessed that family is super important to me and although we do not exist as one unit anymore, they each individually hold a special place in my life. Knuckle tattoos are really scratchy but over the years i’ve discovered that I have quite a high pain threshold lol.

The last tattoo that is still a work in progress is the Ox that I have on my right thigh. This is a memorial tattoo for my granddad who passed away last year. My Granddad was an Aries just like me, although symbolised by the ram, he was stubborn, head strong and passionate. Whilst he was in hospital, the nurses said that he was a strong as an Ox, determined to get home to his garden (his favourite place) but unfortunately after 13 long weeks fighting ill-health in a hospital bed, he passed away. The Ox is to symbolise his courage and determination, even in his last days, he wanted everyone to know his strength by taking a selfie with everyone round his bedside.

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The next stage for this tattoo is to add colour. My Granddad was a bit of a maverick, he was creative, inventive and always bright spirited. I want to add bright vibrant candy floss colours to this piece so that it really stands out, almost with a psychedelic feel to it.

and so to the sleeve tattoo…..

So as I explained earlier, it was a design from a tattooist who was willing to only charge me for the cost of the needles and ink. I would go to the studio for my first 4 hours and when we finished up I asked how much I would need to pay. He said oh don’t worry about paying me for it, we will just showcase the tattoo at conventions. I couldn’t believe my luck but didn’t grumble about it. I then had another 2 sessions on it and was really pleased with how it was coming along. I called the tattooist to book in for my fourth session and couldn’t get hold of him. I visited the studio and they told me he had left, he had moved back to Wales without telling anyone……..what was I going to do? I had half a tattoo on my arm of someone else’s design. I left it a good few months before I contacted another studio to see if they would be happy to finish the sleeve for me. Lucky for me I found an amazing tattooist called Leigh Oldcorn, owner of Cosmic tattoo studio in Colchester. He explained to me that he could finish the sleeve but that he would be charging me full price….obviously lol. I was delighted when my sleeve was finally finished, Leigh did an amazing job with it and after 7 years of having the colour put in, it still looks as vibrant as on the day it was done.

The sleeve also incorporated a tattoo I had done back when I was 21. I had ‘what goes around, comes around’ written around my forearm like a band…..still had a little teenage angst inside me at the time lol. The sleeve was also originally only a 3/4  sleeve but last year I decided to make it a full sleeve by getting my dad to add a few more butterflies to it. We just have a bit of shading left to do.

So that’s me and my tattoos…..for the moment, although I still have space left for more. I will always love my ink even when i’m old and wrinkly because they are my experiences of life. We are only here for a very short amount of time, why not bring art to life by carrying it with you, it’s the only thing that you can physically take with you when you leave this place. As for most painful places, I would say it really is down to each individual. For me, the foot tattoo hurt the most but i’ve known other people who were not bothered at all with foot tattoos. Tattoos are completely individual and people get them for all sorts of reasons, regardless of if they are meaningful or not, tattoos, to me are as beautiful as the people who have them.

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Rhythmotyze Dancehall Essex

So some of you may not be aware but in my spare time I am a choreographer at Rhythmotyze Dance Studios in Essex. Dance has been my biggest passion since forever and nothing comes close to how it makes me feel. I love sharing my passion for dance and teaching gives me this opportunity.

In January of this year my friend Hannah Knight opened her own dance studios in Essex teaching street, contemporary and fitness classes. Since moving to Basildon in December, I was desperate to get back into dance within the local area. Hannah was looking for teachers so I jumped at the chance and in early February I introduced Jamaican Dancehall to Rhythmotyze Dance Studios.

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My love for Dancehall and reggae music stems way back, listening to my step dads music collection as a girl. Whenever the sun was shining, the reggae would be playing in the background. As soon as I was old enough to hit the clubs I was in there shaking my tail feather with the best of them.My friends and I would be getting down to latest tunes from Beenie man, Mr Vegas and Vybz Kartel, loving every second of it. I met my other half in a club and although he is black British his family stem from Jamaica and Barbados. Ironically though he cant stand Dancehall music lol.

It has only been in the last 5 years that I have really tapped into the Dancehall choreography. I would watch Youtube videos from a dance school in Paris called Studio MRG and Sensuafro dance troup, wanting to find somewhere that I could learn this stuff. A friend of mine asked me to come along with her to a local dance school one evening unbeknown to me that this school would in fact teach Dancehall along with other styles. This is where I met Saana Jay. I instantly fell in love with her Dancehall Choreography and was soon putting routines together myself at home. As my interests in this genre grew more and more, I wanted to explore the Dancehall choreography scene in the UK. I quickly realised that there were only a few classes being held in London and that in fact the UK scene was relatively small in comparison to countries such as America, France and other European countries like Poland for example. It was then I decided to make it my mission to get Dancehall choreography out there to anyone and everyone, share my love for this fun, energetic and sexy dance form.

I could not be happier with the response I have had to the Dancehall classes I am running at Rhythmotyze. Originally the plan was to just teach a fun weekly class where I would teach Dancehall moves and routines but before I knew it, I had a Dance troupe in front of me ready to perform and spread the Dancehall love. We performed for the first time as a group last week at Essex Pride festival in Chelmsford . The experience was fantastic and I was so pleased with the energy and love that we got from people. Within the last week everything has gone a bit mad with plans for more shows and performances, so watch this space……Exciting times ahead

Our next gig is at Miya nightclub in Chelmsford 31st July for the ‘2 Damn hot’ Bashment party, look forward to seeing you there 😉

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Dishing up a Caribbean favourite

Ackee and Salt fish

So number 2 on the 30 for 30 list is to learn to cook a Caribbean dish. My partner’s family hail from Jamaica and Barbados so I have had the pleasure of eating some amazing Caribbean food but I wanted to learn to cook some of the dishes for myself. With a little help from the ‘Nan in-law’ I decided on Ackee and Salt fish as I absolutely love it.

The Ackee fruit is the national fruit of Jamaica and Ackee and Salt fish is the national dish. A good dish to get started with I think. Perfect for a breakfast meal served with Plantain, or for dinner served with rice.

Ingredients I used were:

  • 1 Pack of Salt fish
  • 1 tin of Ackee
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
  • red and green peppers
  • sprinkle of dried crushed chilli

First job was to soak the Salt fish in cold water over night to take off a lot of the salt from the fish. I then rinsed it off and boiled in hot water for about 20 minutes. This makes the fish a lot less salty and more tender so I drained away the water and let the fish cool.

Once cooled, the next step was to shred the fish by literally just pulling it apart so that I ended up with flakes of fish (take out any bones if found). The onion and peppers that I chopped earlier are now ready to go in the frying pan.

I heated a little bit of oil (you can use butter) in the pan and then chucked in my chopped ingredients. Next in was the chopped tomatoes (you can use fresh if preferred) and let that cook for a few minutes

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I then added in my flaked fish and gave it all a stir. That then cooked for a further 5 minutes and by this time was smelling amazing. The last part was to add in the Ackee which needs to be done very delicately so not to mush up the Ackee. Rather than stirring, the Ackee needs to be folded very carefully into the mix.

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I let it cook for a few more minutes, sprinkled in a few chilli flakes and it was ready to eat. Served it up with some rice and demolished the lot (not before taking a pic and sending to the ‘Nan in-law’ for her approval of course)

wpid-2015-06-12-17.23.00.png.pngI will definitely be cooking this again 🙂

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion…..

So the first city to visit from my list has been Bristol. I was lucky enough to have my best friend surprise me with this trip for my birthday and what a great first trip it was.

We stepped off the coach having arrived in Bristol and  naturally found our way to Primark, which might I add, was massive. It was then decided that in order to have a proper nose around this city, we needed to unload. My friend had booked us into the Travel lodge (Bristol Central) where we were booked in by a friendly member of staff. The room was of Travel lodge standard, perfect for what we needed it for, so we left our luggage (and Primarni goods) and headed off out to explore the city.

First stop was Bristol Cathedral…..

.wpid-20150418_133716.jpgThe cathedral was stunning inside and out with beautifully stained glass windows and perfectly detailed ceilings. I love the spiritual sensations I get whilst walking around a Cathedral. The calm stillness, as if the world outside has stopped, the space to free your mind and remember loved ones that have passed on.

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Once outside in the sunshine we noticed a crowd gathering on the college green. As we got closer we saw a group of Morris dancers performing but it appeared there were more than just one group. As we walked around the city we saw many more groups of Morris dancers. I began to question if they did in fact originate in Bristol. Turns out it was in fact the JMO aka Joint Morris Organisations day of dance. Over 500 Morris dancers took part in this one day event that happens in a different city every year to celebrate the tradition of folk dancing.

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We then walked down towards the harbour where the sun was shining down onto the water making it sparkle, it looked so pretty. There was a really cool feature where water cascaded down steps towards the harbour. People were sitting alongside the steps eating ice creams and catching some rays. It felt like the height of summer apart from the cooler April breeze. We took a boat ride down the river to get a better look at Bristol’s harbourside. We passed the M Shed which i wish now we had visited. It’s a museum full of Bristol’s history through galleries showcasing the people, places and stories of Bristol. We also passed the S.S Great Britain, the first iron steam ship to cross the Atlantic built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It’s now also a museum and is docked on a glass platform with water underneath to give the impression that it is sailing. On the opposing side of the river were cute pastel painted houses along the backdrop of Bristol. They looked like something from a fairytale, so picturesque.

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After the boat trip, we were in need of some lunch. We stopped at a falafel van (like a burger van but with falafel) then sat by the harbour side amongst the ice cream eaters. There were lots of brave pigeons who clearly had a taste for falafel shuffling round our feet in hope for any leftovers but we demolished our wraps, they were delicious.

With our bellies full, my friend and i were recharged and ready to explore the Old City area of Bristol. We headed up towards St Nicholas Market where people had stalls selling wooden furniture, bespoke jewellery and crazy hats. It had a real bohemian feel to it and I loved snooping my way through. Further on we discovered a few big shopping malls with all the high street shops in (Broadmead and Cabot Circus) however we weren’t here to visit the shops that we could go into back home so we decided to head back to the hotel, after stopping off at a cool little bar for a cheeky rum of course.

For dinner, we headed out again and found a tapas place Pata Negra in the Old City (that we had spotted earlier). Staff were really nice and although there wasn’t a table available when we got there, they were happy, as were we, for us to sit at the bar until a table came up. We ordered some Sangria, got chatting about our day and were then seated at a table shortly after. The food was yummy and after polishing off a dessert between us, it was time to head back and get ready to experience Bristol’s night life.

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After some pre-drinks at the hotel and plenty of pre party selfies, we jollied ourselves off out to party into the early hours. First stop was the slug and lettuce off explore lane (fitting name for our trip). I love a good slug and lettuce cocktail combined with good music and fun atmosphere, felt like the best place to start our night…………..WRONG.  I was really disappointed to find the place quite flat….it was half 10, the music was playing but no one looked to be enjoying themselves. There were quite a few people queuing at the bar so we shimmied our way in and waited to be served……..and waited …….and waited. The girl behind the bar had obviously had a tough day and the signs were in full view of everyone waiting. I swear she yawned every 3 minutes and she was so slow on the bar. You may think I’m being slightly critical but I myself have worked a busy bar and that is definitely not the way to do it. I was getting quite frustrated when I thought surely we are next to be served. I made eye contact with the girl behind the bar and smiled politely then she just left……she just walked off. I turned to my friend and suggest that we go somewhere else, after all this was our precious party time she had been wasting. We left the bar and walked up a bit further where there seemed to be more of an atmosphere. We noticed a bar that looked pretty lively playing decent music with plenty of people enjoying themselves so  we thought ‘that’ll do’. After showing our I.D to the doorman (always a bonus when you’ve just turned 30) and paying, we went in, only to realise that the bar was actually part of the club PRYZM lol. Now we had paid for the club, we decided to stay the night and check out the different rooms of music. MYU (the bar downstairs) seemed to be the place for hen parties which was quite entertaining but there is only so much cheesey 80’s music I can handle. Upstairs was much more my scene. A huge room playing RnB, hip hop and even a bit of bashment, it definitely got me shaking my tail feather so we spent most the night in there. Felt a bit disappointed that we didn’t really get to experience more of the bars in Bristol but I’m sure I will visit again.

We left the club around 2 am and crashed out back at the hotel (not before taking a ‘we are fast asleep but not really’ selfie)

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We got up fairly early Sunday morning as Claire had booked us one last surprise in Bristol. We filled up on breakfast buffet, packed our bags and got ready to check out, not before unwantingly hearing a couple having very loud morning sex (gotta love a travel lodge). The weather wasn’t as nice but I didn’t mind I was having such a good weekend. To top it off, the surprise was a street art walking tour.

We met our guide on the college green along with the other people that were coming on the tour and set off to explore some of the most amazing street art Bristol has on offer (including some Banksy originals). The guide (a graffiti artist) was really informative, giving us an insight into the history of the scene in Bristol and indeed street art itself. The first piece he showed us was called The well hung lover (a Banksy piece) explaining that Banksy was commissioned to do the piece by the person that owned the building. In order to get it right in the middle of the wall, scaffolding was erected covered by sheeting. Banksy posed as a builder going up on to the scaffolding everyday to keep up his anonymity. When the scaffolding came down, this was on show……

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The blue spats you can see were actually from a rival group that wanted to deface the work but luckily it didn’t ruin it completely.

We then walked up through an area of Bristol called Stokes Croft. This area is a real hub of creativity and freedom of expression, filled with small independent shops and cafes. Nearly every wall of every building was alive with a story to be seen.

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Of course not all street art is created with a spray can. This building  was an old police station that was no longer in use. The build up of pollution on the walls make a perfect canvas for what is known as ‘clean art or green art’. These pieces were created using a stencil and a power washer…..I think they look so cool.

The sense of community is felt so strongly in Stokes Croft that it actually sparked off riots in 2011 due to a Tesco express opening in the area. The community felt that the chain supermarket store was out of place and they did not want it taking business from the independent shops that were pillars to this community. Police raided a squat where it was believed petrol bombs were being prepared for an attack on Tesco. Over 300 hundred people came out to loot and wreck the store casing thousands of pounds worth of damage. Although Tesco remains in the area, the people of stokes croft seldom use it . There is a prominent piece of street art featured as a constant reminder of the views of this community…..

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We finished the tour outside the canteen in Stokes Croft where we were treated to the now world famous breakdancing…………Jesus!

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An amazing piece of street art by Cosmo Sarson painted in 2013 that took a week to complete. It actually sparkles in the sunshine (although you cant see it in my photo) due to a kilo of gold glitter being use.

Claire and I were almost at the end of our weekend in Bristol but before dragging our heels to the coach station, we visited Turtle Bay for lunch. A must if you love Caribbean cuisine and super sexy cocktails.

I hated saying goodbye to Bristol but I WILL no doubt visit again. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone as it really does cater for all

My next city to visit is Gloucester, happening this coming week with my mum. Keep your eyes peeled for the write up coming soon.

Peace out for now x x

30 for 30

So this is my first ever post……feeling quite excited about it all really

Let me start off by explaining why I’ve decided to start a blog. It all began with turning 30 earlier this year. I decided to put together a list of 30 things i had never done before that i would need to complete by the time i turn 31, kind of like a bucket list but on a smaller scale. I’ve always loved an adventure and felt that this would be the perfect excuse to get out and experience the world in all its many glories.

The list is as follows:

  1. Visit 30 cities in the UK
  2. Learn how to cook a Caribbean dish
  3. Get my hair braided
  4. Read a classic novel
  5. Write a blog
  6. Visit Paris
  7. Visit the Greenwich Observatory
  8. Spend an evening at Ronnie Scott’s
  9. Visit the London Ice bar
  10. Knit a scarf
  11. Get a tribute tattoo
  12. Have dinner at the top of a skyscraper
  13. Learn to speak Spanish
  14. Visit Iceland – The country not the supermarket
  15. Run for charity
  16. Give blood
  17. Visit a haunted house
  18. Weekend in Amsterdam
  19. Give up something for 30 days
  20. See a fortune-teller
  21. Send a message in a bottle
  22. Take family (that i don’t see often) out to dinner
  23. See a West end show
  24. Have afternoon tea at the Ritz

As you will see, I have only written up to number 24. This is because i am leaving 6 spots to fill spontaneously over the year.

I hope to record all my experiences in pictures that I will share with you and once I have completed the list, I’m going to make a scrapbook to hand down to my children to inspire them to live life to the fullest.

I really hope you all enjoy my blog x x