That Time I Played Graze Festival with Toyah and The Beat

Before I went on my blog hiatus – with good excuse *cough two novels cough* – I wrote about how I had picked up a new hobby. A sweet little four-stringed mini guitar type thing. Reader, I learnt how to play the ukulele. One of the most hipster instruments after washboards and mouth organs. I picked it up and I taught myself how to play that song by Metro Station. Then Junk of the Heart by The Kooks (which in hindsight was super ambitious for a novice). And then Every Other Freckle by Alt J. I picked up a ukulele and I loved it. 

Still do, as it happens. 

graze festival bunting

A little while later, I put on my big girl pants and joined Southampton Ukulele Jam. Which is a big deal for someone who gets anxious about trying new things. But it was a right laugh and the people were friendly so I carried on going. Fast forward a few months, and I’d got brave enough to start playing gigs, and last summer, I was picked to play at Larmer Tree Festival. How about that, then? Proof that good things happen when you put yourself out there. 

I didn’t get to do Larmer Tree again this year, because I took myself off to California instead, which is a story for another day, or maybe not. We’ll see. Depends.

graze festival forno pizza

But instead, I got to play Graze Festival, which was very small, charming, and in a field in Hampshire. We did a workshop in the afternoon, ate some jolly good pizza, and then got up on stage and played a set right before Toyah Willcox and The Beat.

 Just another casual Sunday, no? (That’s right, though, I said Toyah!) 

graze festival toyah willcox

graze festival the beat

I saw The Beat at Larmer Tree and loved them, and they were just as good this time around as well. Such a cool mix of reggae and ska and pop and soul. Honestly, they are a joy to watch. You can’t help but dance. Absolutely worth catching, if you can. 



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Back to School with Education Quizzes

With my two bright, sparky children gearing up to head back to school in a couple of weeks, I’m beginning to wonder what the next year will hold for them. Ruby’s heading into year four, and so is used to the general hustle and bustle of junior school. Elliot, however, has had a full year of free-flow play-based learning in reception, and year one is going to prove pretty different. I foresee a distinct lack of mud kitchen and busy bee time in his future, and a fair bit more sitting down and good listening. Not that he’ll have an issue with that; his new teacher legit looks like Princess Jasmine! 

But that’s not to say that his education is going to become boring and uninspiring. One of the things I love best about the primary school my two go to is how engaging the teachers make it. How much effort they put into making learning a very positive experience for all the children. Because one thing learning should never ever be is boring. How can you foster a love of learning new things if the teaching methods are dull? Is it not human nature to feed off each other’s enthusiasms? Is that not exactly one of the ways we get drawn to people?

In any case, I digress. 

I am a firm believer that learning absolutely does not begin and end in the classroom, and one of the ways I’ve been preparing Elliot for the dizzy heights of year one is by engaging him in a few education quizzes. He’s got smarts, that one, and sped through a lot of the KS1 material, but that said, he also found some of it trickier to manage, so I feel there’s a nice balance there. It’s good to be able to gauge how he’s doing. And anything that’s managed to successfully lure him away from Minecraft and PopularMMOs videos on YouTube for a few minutes gets a thumbs up from me. For a few brief moments I was concerned his brain may have rotted to mush in the month he’s been off school, but not so. Colour me assured. 

education quizzes

A subscription to Education Quizzes costs £7.50/month, and can be cancelled at any time. Additionally, they are keen to sell to schools as an extra learning resource for students, which can only be a good thing. 

Having proved he is well aware of the difference between capital and lower case letters, and knows all the short versions of the months, Elliot skipped off as I was writing this. It’s remarkably quiet upstairs, save for shrieks of his sister imploring him to enchant the pig… enchant the pig!

I guess we’re back on Minecraft, then. 


*Disclaimer. This post is in association with Education Quizzes. All opinions and experiences are my own, but I have been compensated for this post. 

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Beach Days at Calshot

Calshot beach hampshire

I like to go to the beach when it’s sunny. Who doesn’t, though? Even when the tide is in and the waves are crashing loudly against the shore, it’s peaceful. I can happily spend an entire day at the beach, and I think possibly my favourite thing about living on the coast is that it’s pretty easy to do just that. 

Calshot beach hampshire

This week, my sister-in-law and I took my children, and her puppy, to Calshot. It’s not necessarily the prettiest part of the local coastline – in fact, Lepe, just down the road, is prettier and sandier. Calshot is a spit, and it’s stony and narrow. It gets a lot of wind from the Solent. But it’s charming, with its multi-coloured beach huts, bright and cheerful in the sunshine, and I am very fond of it. 

We ate ham baguettes on a blanket I pilfered from a Virgin Atlantic flight I took years ago (it makes a great picnic blanket!). The kids jumped off the groynes and lobbed stones into the sea. The dog barked at people passing by, and then curled up in the sun. Kathryn and I caught Pokemon and chewed the fat for a couple of hours. 

Calshot beach hampshire

Calshot beach hampshire

Later on, we ambled up to the end of the spit. Watched a few ships sail down the inlet, caught a lot more Pokemon, and made headway on my son’s summer holiday homework. Extreme reading. 

Calshot beach hampshire

Calshot beach hampshire

Days like this are absolutely what the summer holidays are made for. 

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Skincare In Your Twenties vs Your Thirties

This year marked my thirty-second revolution around the sun, and the one thing I’ve really noticed over the last couple of years is just how much time, effort, and money I have to throw at skincare. 

When I was in my twenties, I didn’t really put much thought into my skincare routine. I used to sling a bottle of Garnier scrub in my shopping trolley and call it good. I’d dab synthetic cucumber-scented toner over my eyelids and across my cheeks. I’d rub some Olay into my cheeks and be done with it. I wore inexpensive makeup that I often didn’t take off quite as well as I could have done come the end of the day. It’s fair to say I put my skin through the mill a bit. 

But it was fine. It bounced back. I had youth on my side. And I had more money to spend on high heels and having a good time. 

Now I’m in my thirties there is no way I’d be so lax. I’ve become acutely aware that these days my skin is slightly less plump. Dries out quicker. Looks less youthful. I’m seeing wrinkles around my eyes that were categorically not there five years ago, and I’m not a huge fan of all this inevitability to be honest. These days I try to lock the moisture in with facial oils. I use a different moisturiser at night than during the day. These days, I spend more time researching products I want to put on my skin, and it’s thanking me for it. 

So in the spirit of there being a point to this post, here’s what I’m using to keep my skin looking as fresh as possible. On the whole it’s Lush skincare products, but I’m a huge fan of Rose Otto facial oil by Balance Me as well. 

lush skincare

Clockwise from left:

  1. Breath of Fresh Air toner water. This stuff has actual sea water in it, so spritzing it on your face feels super fresh. 
  2. Smuggler’s Soul. This is a fine scrub and I use it twice to three times per week to exfoliate – generally when I’m showering. The scrubby texture comes from bamboo, so you don’t need to worry about microbeads killing off marine life. I really rate this, as it doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight and it smells great. In fact, I also use it to exfoliate after a wax. I’m *told* this is limited edition, so if you see it, grab it! 
  3. 9-5. My daily cleanser of choice. How I love this product. It’s milky and moisturising. You can smooth it on and wash it off with water, or if you’re pushed for time, you can use a cotton wool pad. Plus, it takes makeup off really well, and anything that can get off my Stila eyeliner is a win in my book.  
  4. Celestial. I use a dab of this mainly as a day cream – because I tend to use the facial oil at night. It’s vanillery and sweet smelling and light, and sits well under foundation. 
  5. My only non Lush product – Rose Otto facial oil by Balance Me. No beating around the bush here, at £32/30ml this stuff is not cheap – and certainly not the most inexpensive facial oil out there. But you only need a couple of drops so it lasts ages – and I eek it out by limiting it to night use only. It’s incredibly moisturising and the rose oil is calming, so again, great for relaxing when you get into bed. In short, I’m a huge fan of facial oils. Plus, they are great to use on long haul flights as air conditioning on a plane is not a friend to the skin! 

What skincare products do you really rate? 

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hamble white dms

Today was a beach day. We went to Hamble, and I took my camera. I’m going to go back at twilight one day and take photographs of the refinery at Fawley, across the water, all lit up.

hamble white dms

I wore my beautiful new boots. 

hamble waves

hamble stone shell

Elliot enjoyed picking up enormous rocks and bits of concrete and lobbing them into the sea. 

hamble elliot

hamble shell 1

hamble shell 3

hamble stick

Someone put a stick in the sand and I liked it. 

hamble shell 2

A dinky shell. Perfect. 

hamble gun

There is a WW2 anti aircraft emplacement on the beach

hamble to fawley

The sky turned a dark grey and the sun shone through the clouds. Snap, snap. 

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ukulele love

Here is something not a lot of people know about little me. 

I like to play the ukulele. And by like, I mean, I bloody love it. And by like, I mean, out of all the stringed instruments out there in all the world, I think I have found the one I like the best. This is a fairly new hobby, and I reckon my friends thought it would be a passing phase, as so many of my hobbies turn out to be. So I can’t really blame them for that.

I am flighty. I pick things up, and if I can’t do it easily I give up pretty quickly. Take, for instance, knitting. That was a pretty short-lived hobby. Hand me a crochet hook and I’ll crochet you up something pretty (in basic crochet stitches, natch, hard ones are too tricky) but hand me a pair of knitting needles, and I’ll maybe poke you with one of them. 

Or, here’s another example: a regular, six stringed guitar. I just couldn’t do it. God knows, I tried. I really tried, for a couple of weeks. I even managed to learn how to play that Metro Station song.  Badly. When I played it to my sister, whose guitar it is, she looked very confused. Maybe even baffled. 

“Megan” I said, “It’s Metro Station! It’s bloody Metro Station! Shake it! Can’t you hear it? Look, like this.” And I played it again. I’m playing fast and loose with the word ‘played’ here. 

In my head I looked like Courtney Love (complete with big hair and smudged eye makeup). My sister looked blank. I called it a day. As it turns out, even Metro Station can’t play Metro Station songs well, so I don’t feel so bad about that. It’s the extra two strings, they blew my mind. 

I did, once, try to play bass guitar. Just once. I went into a shop in Denmark Street in London and pretended I knew what I was doing because basses are cool aren’t they? They are such a “I don’t give a fuck” instrument with everything they have going on, and I was about fifteen. The staff straight up knew I was an impostor, my friend looked at her feet, and I haven’t picked one up since.

See? Flighty. It’s okay, I am aware of my faults.

So, I surprised myself when I picked up the ukulele. I only did it because there’s a ukulele in my novel, which I wrote in on a whim. There’s also a bass guitar (or two) and I wanted something pretty much opposite sounding to that. So I picked one up and had a go and haven’t really put it down since. It’s fun to play. It makes a nice sound. It’s not at all scary, and it really isn’t at all hard. I think I’m all right, in any case. I can play a few songs now without even having to look at tabs. Including Post Break Up Sex by the Vaccines. Oh yeah, and Shake It, by Metro Station, because I wasn’t going to be defeated by Miley Cyrus’ brother, no sir. Today I taught myself how to play a Maximo Park song, and now I feel badass.

Last night I went along to Southampton Ukulele Jam, which obviously means I am well serious about ukuleles, doesn’t it? It was great. Hilarious. A lot of fun, and we played some cool songs. Everyone was friendly, and I didn’t even get picked on for being new. I’ll go back, for sure. Plus there was beer. My friend Liv and I walked home in the rain, puffing away on fags and generally enjoying life. It was a good evening.

ukulele love

And look! They come in pretty colours! 



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