Monday, 27 January 2014

Walking from Saltaire to Ilkley...

... Or at least walking to Ilkley WAS the plan until it absolutely lobbed it down with rain and hail on Saturday...stupid England.

It doesn't matter though, I've done it before in the sunshine so I would have been super cranky if I'd been caught in the downpour on an exposed moor. Grrrrrr.

Here's some pictures from the sunshiney walk from Saltaire to Ilkley:

*Sigh* England, and Yorkshire in particular, really can be spectacular when it puts its mind to it... but then the rain and wind comes and it's time to stay indoors...

Monday, 20 January 2014

Create Cafe, Ilkley - A Review

Last weekend five of us got the train over to the town of Ilkley for the day to celebrate my bezzie friend Lucy's 30th birthday to get down to some seriously raucous behaviour and debauchary to end her twenties.

Or not.

We headed over to Create Cafe to get messy with paints and put our creative skills to the test by painting pottery. It possibly didn't help that we'd already been drinking on the train on the way there, so we were a little rowdy, but upon entering the (fairly quiet) cafe and being greeted by a birthday party for a young teen party quietened us down quite quickly.

We were skeptical about how the afternoon would pan out, to say the least. We don't realise how much bad language we tend to use as a group until you're being frowned at by a mum of the birthday girl.

So what happens at the Create Cafe, you ask?

Upon entering, you are asked to select a piece of pottery you'd like to paint. I was completely guided by price and wanted to choose something that wasn't overly expensive but that I would use in my home. I picked up a teapot (what? I'd use that!) and put it down VERY quickly when I saw the price tag of £18. I'll just buy one from Ikea...

I selected a ceramic tile for the reasonable sum of £7. I justified it by saying I'd put a hot saucepan on it, but in reality after spending so long painting the bloody thing I'll just display it somewhere.

So, you have your piece of pottery and all the paints are waiting for you on the table, so all that is left for you to do is think of a design and get painting.

This is harder than you think. Being stared at by a blank piece of pottery when you're a little tipsy surrounded by children's birthday parties is quite stressful. "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO BLOODY PAINT!" I cried several times.

Of course I got started and buggered it up straight away by forgetting to use the white paint first as a base coat. BLOODY HELL.

I wasn't happy with mine from the start but I refused to stop, despite wanting to run away to the nearest pub and cradle a glass of red wine.

On I went, painting and ignoring my more talented friends. There was a period of about seventeen minutes where no one talked, such was our level of concentration.

Two hours quickly went by and I got my tile to a stage where I wasn't cringing with embarrassment, and actually started to really enjoy myself and relax. Ta daaaaaaa maybe I should be a painter?

Here's a shot of our finished products - take a look at our skills!

On the whole, for a two hour activity, it's really reasonably priced when you consider it cost £9 which included a slice of cake. Of course that depends on what you choose to paint, the big bowl in the picture above was the most expensive at £30. It was fun to try something new as a group, and much more productive than drinking all afternoon...

All the materials are included, but you then have to go back and collect your item once it has been blasted in the kiln, so consider that if you don't live in the area. We had a fun afternoon, more fun that we originally expected and the only advice I'd give if you're a little creatively challenged like me, is to look around on Pinterest for some inspiration before you get started. There is no EDIT>UNDO button on pottery :)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

It's been one year since my career break*

It's been one year since I packed my suitcase, ready to leave my life as I knew it to go and live in Kenya for three months.

It's been one year since I said the most emotional goodbye to The Boy and a year since he walked out the door and didn't look back for fear of not letting me go.

It's been one year since I was shaking from crying so much and wondering what the hell I was doing leaving my entire life, my marriage, my friends, my job... everything.

It's been one year since I dragged my suitcase over the road to the bus stop, crying the whole time and easily getting my own seat because no one wanted to sit next to the crying lady with all the bags

It's been one year since I stumbled my way through departures at Manchester Airport alone, called all my family and then boarded my first flight on a journey that would take 19 hours and three planes to eventually reach Mombasa, exhausted.

It's been one year since I stepped off the plane, breathed in the hot, dusty and exciting night time scent of Kenya, one year since I was met at the airport by my friend Alice and her daughter, and one year since everything slotted into place.

It's been one year since I knew I'd made the right decision. One year since realising that life was too short not to grab opportunities when they arise. Three months is three months, you have your whole life to be together at home. Mombasa is like a second home to me.

It's been a year since arriving and I still know leaving was the best decision I've ever made, I had the most amazing three consecutive months of my life and spent every day living life, feeling alive and having the most unbelievable zest for life and most importantly, steering me in the right direction.

I don't regret a thing. I don't regret changing my flight twice and paying through the nose for doing so (screw you, Emirates). I don't regret getting a tattoo to mark the significance of everything I risked to go there. I don't regret quitting my job to try something new (sorry i-to-i, it's true!) I don't regret spending everything in my savings account on the trip, because it's just MONEY. You can replace money, I can't replace the experience I had.

Oh, Kenya *sigh* what is this hold you have over me and when can I see you again? Am I being too clingy, Kenya? Are you thinking of me too? Call me.

Until next time... here's shitloads of some photos.

 *Disclaimer - my tenses are all over the place in this post and I don't care.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

What I hate about tourists...

If there's one thing that bugs me about tourists, it's how much they stick out.

I know some things can't be helped; for example, my skin feels luminous when I'm in Mombasa and I can't help but stick out... but there are things I do to try my very best to blend in:

* Not wear skimpy shorts and string tops in rural villages
* Learn as much of the local language (and use it as much as possible)
* Not shout when I'm angry
Err... like I say, blending in... ANYWAY
You know what REALLY pisses me off when I'm abroad?

Seeing a money belt. There's something about money belts that just make me see red, I HATE them. I'm talking about those really ugly beige affairs that wrap around tourist bellies... URGH.

I know there are opportunists abroad who might try and steal from you, but don't those people exist back home too? I don't wear money belts walking around Leeds, so it offends me when I see people wearing them overseas. Please don't assume everyone overseas is out to get you! In some places you're actually under less of a threat than in your home town!

I can somewhat understand backpackers wearing them as they're carrying their lives around with them, but I still think if you act in an obvious way then it makes you more of a target.

Take my handbag for example, whenever I go abroad I take the tattiest handbag around with me. It's a few steps up from a beach bag and it's made of cheap fabric. It looks like I couldn't give a shit about what is inside the bag. My (possibly wrong) theory is that if I LOOK like I don't care what's in there, someone will be less likely to think there's anything worth stealing in there.

Make sense? Completely insane? Perhaps. But it has worked for me over the years and (fingers crossed) I've never been the victim of bag theft or any kind of theft.

Now remember, I'm talking about if you're walking around a city/beach destination... I'm not talking on the road long term travel, but it could apply to that too! If you make yourself a target inadvertently, you ARE a target.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

You don't HAVE to wear head to toe khaki on safari, asshole

I saw the funniest thing on my latest trip to Kenya while staying at Shimba Hills National Park.

I was sat outside our banda having breakfast overlooking the whole park, here was my view:

Sa-weeeet view man
Breakfast was going down very nicely until a safari jeep pulls up and a family of German tourists jumps out and I see that they are ALL wearing HEAD TO TOE KHAKI clothing. Including the toddler they had with them. They looked like idiots quite the sight.

I think when they read the 'Visit Kenya' guide there must have been a line in there saying they should wear khaki on safari, so they went to town and bought EVERYTHING KHAKI. There must not have been anything khaki left in the store after they visited.

It makes me laugh how some tourists stick to the 'rules' on holiday. I'm sure the guidebook only suggested wearing khaki coloured clothing on a walking safari to avoid scaring any animals because let's face it, when you're in a loud, rickety, white safari vehicle... it doesn't matter if you're wearing a turquoise top REALLY.

I could imagine Kenyans laughing so hard at them in their wake "hahaha these tourists are so funny, we are so glad we wrote in the guidebook about wearing khaki to see who would actually do it!". I've met many hilarious people from Kenya and they do enjoy practical jokes...

This was especially hilarious to me sat at the breakfast table wearing purple shorts and an orange top (shut up, it looked better than it sounds...) I guess you could call me a rule breaker.

Friday, 3 January 2014

How to do some (feasible) good in 2014

Oh hi 2014!

I'm not making New Year's resolutions. I hate people who only appreciate their lives at the start of a new year. In my mind, you should have a zest for life ALL YEAR ROUND and not just when you buy a new calendar (or get a new one for Christmas).

I try to do good deeds as much as possible. Just small ones, unexpected and not brag about them on Facebook or tell the world that you're a great person. You should like yourself, not do things to get other people to like you. I do feel that if you like the person you are, others will enjoy your company naturally.

I was thinking about good things to do the other day that can help others without costing you loads of money (which no one has these days...) and here's my good deed feed:

1. Foster a cat

Admittedly you have to like cats A LOT to do this one.

We're fostering this cat right here :)
We couldn't decide whether to commit and get another cat after our little cat was put to sleep earlier this year. We're away a lot and it was a big decision, until I came across Cat Fostering. You take a cat in to your home and the cat is displayed on the charity's website until a new potential owner comes forward.

The charity pays the vet bills, food and litter (although we just decided to pay for the food and litter ourselves you don't have to) and in return you give a cat a safe and loving home. There's no guarantee you'll have the cat forever, although our cat is almost ten years old so she's unlikely to be adopted at this age; which is good because I'm already attached to her!

Check out for more information.

2. Give blood

You have loads of blood you selfish beast and you're keeping it to yourself locked away in those veins!

I'm signed up to be a blood donor, and it's only for the fact that I'm currently on medication that I haven't yet given blood. I can't wait to do it though, although I'll probably pass out right away, I'm hoping to be excited about doing something to help others.

Find out more about becoming a donor here

3. Shop at charity shops

I bloody love charity shops, I can't get enough of them. You find things you never knew you needed wanted in your life! Like for instance, that old chipped jug, or that book you were going to buy full price, or maybe a dress you've never seen anywhere else!

And the best part? It's a CHARITY shop. You can GIVE to charity and GET stuff in return! Everyone wins!

Plus, you can walk along the high street and decide which charity to support - Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation... Jackpot! Cats Protection League!

Help the cats, people.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

5 top moments from my latest trip to Kenya

My last trip to Kenya was full of surprises. When I booked my last minute ticket, I promised myself that seeing as I was going back for a FIFTH TIME, I would try and do as much as possible that I'd never done before in Kenya.

I wanted to try new things, go to new places, meet new people, learn even more Swahili and try new foods.

As a result, I'm close to saying that I think I enjoyed my two week trip to Mombasa more than I enjoyed my three month experience there earlier this year... I think the attitude you have when you're only there for a few weeks is more intense and appreciative.

Consequently it's hard to narrow my experience down to five top moments but here we go:

1. Going to my first Kenyan wedding:

On arrival in Mombasa, I was invited to a Kenyan wedding ceremony and I was so excited! Saturday rolled around and I realised it was going to be OUTDOORS. In the SUN. At the HOTTEST part of the day. Uh oh - I was going to get back-sweat in my pretty dress. We turned up a little late to the location (pictured) and grabbed a seat in the shade (hurrah!) and chatted among ourselves while the wedding party had their photos taken in another location. So far, not so different from other weddings I've been to in England. 

Then the wedding party arrived and everything changed. Car horns blared, everyone cheered and ran over to the bridal car. The bride emerged from the car and performed a dance with all the women from the wedding party. Then all the women attending the wedding had to trail behind the bride dancing and I got dragged up to dance (and sweat). It seemed I something of a novelty as the only foreigner there... I didn't even know the bride but she welcomed me so warmly, it was great.

It was an amazing afternoon to be a part of and a real highlight of my trip.

2. Karaoke. But better.

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS. You might already know that I'm obsessed with karaoke, to the point where it's not even funny. So when my friend took me to a Go Kart track saying we were going for karaoke, I was skeptical to say the least. Never fear. When I arrived, there was a live band who gave out laminated sheets with songs on them THAT YOU COULD SING WITH THEM WITH THE BAND. Jesus, for me it doesn't get any better. I went three nights in a row and sang my heart out. I'M WITH THE BAND Y'ALL.

3. Sleeping in Shimba National Park

When I finally put the microphone down, I got out of Mombasa central and away from the humid coast. After I camped in the Serengeti once and FREAKED OUT, I told myself I'd never camp in a national park again. So this was a little different.

We stayed in a wooden banda cabin in the middle of the park, the picture above is the view directly outside the bandas - pretty special eh? We all had so much fun sitting around a campfire, listening to music and drinking whiskey right underneath the stars. It was the most special night of my trip for sure.

4. Overhearing a conversation in Swahili and UNDERSTANDING it

Who's a clever girl then?? Now I wouldn't call myself a Swahili speaker as such, I understand one in every 25 words but I really enjoy hearing people speak Swahili, it's such a fascinating language. I was in a bar with one of my friends who was on the phone. I had nothing else to do BUT listen in to the phone conversation (I'm nosey, ok?) and when the call ended, I made an enquiry about the conversation. My friend was like 'Oh shit, you really are starting to learn a lot of Swahili, I can't talk about anything private in Swahili around you anymore!'

Oh yeah. Listen in to people's phone conversations people. You learn stuff!

5. Learning how to make Ugali. Win.

Sukuma Wiki & Ugali- Delicious and Healthy Kenyan Food
Ugali is a curious thing. The white food in the photo above, it's a food staple in Kenya because it's cheap and filling but it's mostly tasteless. I really love it and I ate so much of it on my three month trip there that I'd easily sink in the sea. But when I got home, I thought it'd be easy to try and make myself but I I failed. I ended up with a big white lump with powder in the middle.

This time I knew I wanted to learn how to make ugali with success. I watched a pro and then had a go myself and I did it! My muscles ached from all the stirring needed, but it tasted gooooood. Now I need to try it back in England...

Overall, I wish I'd set myself goals and challenges during my three month trip to Kenya. I don't have any regrets per se, but there's a lot more I could have achieved in that time.