28 May 2017

Holiday Book Recommendation – Mount by Jilly Cooper

It’s that time of year again when everyone’s jetting off on a plane into the sunshine & usually leave sorting out their beach/pool read a bit lastminute.com

Now let me help you out with that one, by recommending my favourite holiday read for a long time -  Jilly Cooper’s - Mount!

Rupert Campbell-Black is back & he’s still got it. If you don’t know who he is, where have you been?! He was the main character in Jilly’s fictional novel Riders published back in 1985, over 30 years ago. He’s fictions most well-known Lothario. A modern day Spencer Matthews (Made in Chelsea).

Jilly is infamous for her doorstep novels, & a few I’ve picked up in the past (Wicked & Score) I’ve struggled to get into. But, Mount even at 700+ pages is totally unputdownable.

It does help to have a bit of knowledge about the racing industry or a penchant for horses. But don’t let that put you off as its packed full of wit, glamour, sex & unforgettable characters with exquisite names such as Valent, Harmony & Paris, although the stallions Love Rat & Roberto’s Revenge hand’s down win the best names.

Pure unadulterated joy - I thoroughly enjoyed devouring Mount whilst on holiday in Fuerteventura earlier this year & escaping to the Rutshire countryside.

If you have any book recommendations, I’d love to hear them, as I’ll be booking an autumn getaway soon & will be in search of some entertaining reading.

Have you read Mount, what did you think, who was your favourite character?

21 May 2017

How to re-vamp your garden furniture

Why is it that Bank Holidays always seem like the perfect time to take on those DIY jobs around the house & garden? Maybe it’s an inbuilt British mentality or just clever marketing from savvy brands.

On a bit of a whim last August Bank Holiday, because, I had that one extra days holiday, I decided to be one of those DIY geeks, set myself a mini project & make-over my garden furniture. As you do.

My ageing garden bench was looking decidedly lacklustre & in need of some colour to cheer up the corner of the garden.

I had recently acquired a plant potter from a work event painted in Cuprinol Garden Shades forget-me-not which is a lovely cheerful bluey-lilac shade.

I decided this was my happy colour & I wanted to paint my bench. Basically, all I needed was another plant potter to position either side of the bench. It’s all about symmetry, right? Obviously, there are a few other bits & bobs you need before cracking on with a DIY paint job, so, here are my top pieces of kit for painting wooden garden furniture:

Tools for the Job:

1.    Cuprinol Gaden Shades - Forget-Me-Not
Currently priced at £22 each for 2.5 litres or x2 for £30 from B&Q.
2.       Paint Brushes
You can’t go wrong with the No Nonsense set of 5 synthetic paint brushes from Screwfix. They come in 5 sizes, which make them perfect for getting into those nook & crannies.

3.       Garden cane
Set aside a clean garden cane or stick for stirring your paint.

4.       Wooden Planters
The ones I bought from B&Q are currently £20 for the 33 x 33 cm size.
5.       Sandpaper & blocks
Thankfully my Dad always has sandpaper & blocks readily available as a true ‘Weekend Warrior’ DIYer. However, you can buy a roll of sandpaper for £9.99 from Screwfix.

6.       Newspaper & Cardboard
Save old newspapers or cardboard boxes to cover & protect your paving. If you’re anything like me, the paint will get everywhere – especially when you’re trying extra hard to be neat & tidy.

Onto the fun bit… the colouring in!

Painting Wooden  Garden Furniture:

1.       Check the weather
Sounds simple, but before you take on an outdoor painting job, make sure you check the weather & have a few dry days ahead of you so you can give your paint job the chance to dry.

2.       Clean Furniture
Depending on how dirty or dusty your furniture is, it’s best to wash down the wooden furniture with some soapy water or get a brush to remove those pesky cobwebs.

3.       Prep Area
Find yourself a good flat piece of the ground whether its pavement, the lawn or in the garage.  I chose my paving slabs outside the kitchen & covered them with cardboard & horse feed sacks which I’d cut open to get max space coverage. & make sure you wear an old t-shirt & trousers so you don’t get splattered with paint.

4.       Preparing Wood
Depending on the state of the wood, you’ll need to give your wooden furniture a quick sand down. According to my dad, this is so there is a ‘key’ for the paint to take to. Sandpapering is also a good workout for the bingo wings – bonus!

5.       Painting & Patience
Now’s the fun part! Firstly, make yourself a good brew to have while you work.

Before applying your paint, use a stick or clean garden cane to stir your paint, which will make sure you have a lovely consistent colour.

Choose a suitable sized brush & start applying your chosen paint. Don’t be too hasty & load the brush up otherwise it gets globby & paint will go everywhere. For the first coat you’ll need about an hour whilst applying your paint to every nook & cranny of the bench. Painting the plant potter didn’t take as long – more like 10-15 minutes as I was only painting the outside.

Once you’ve applied the first coat of paint, leave your garden furniture to dry for about an hour, enough time for your knees to recover & make another cuppa!

I found the garden bench needed 3 coats of paint as it’s an older wood, whereas the plant potter only needed 2 coats to reach my ideal shade of blue. This is where the patience is needed & a few more cups of tea!

6.       Voila!
I love my re-vamped garden furniture, it really brightens up the corner of my garden. All I need to do now is buy some plants for the planters this Bank Holiday!

What do you think? Do you have any projects coming up over the Bank Holiday? Or if you have any questions about re-vamping your garden furniture – get in touch!

10 May 2017

Shappi Khorsandi - Oh My Country

I know as a female I really shouldn’t say what I’m about to say… but sometimes female comedians are just not that funny. Sorry. They can be a bit hit or miss, mainly because they’re trying too hard. Excluding the genius that was Victoria Wood! I saw Jenny Eclair a few years ago, who based her entire show around the menopause & made crude jokes throughout that a 57 year old just shouldn’t be making. Maybe I just wasn’t her target audience.

When I spotted Shappi Khorsandi  advertised in the Dorchester Arts Centre booklet I let my friend decide between Shappi & Russell Kane who was performing at the Electric Palace in Bridport. We’d seen Russell who was hilarious last year at the Octagon in Yeovil & so the decision was made to pay Shappi a visit at the Corn Exchange in Dorchester & best of all it was only 5 minutes from where we lived.

And Shappi didn’t disappoint. To start with, she was her very own warm up act, with a raw & laid back approach, as if you were in a sitting room having a cup of tea & a good old chin wag. Which instantly made you warm to her ditsy charm. Thankfully, we didn’t sit in the front row, as pretty much everyone got picked on! Surely, that’s the number one rule of attending a comedy show, especially when you can choose where to sit?!

After the interval, ‘professional Shappi’ came back with her show ‘Oh My Country’-  a celebration of living in England for 40 years after moving from Iran as a refuge. It’s pretty disturbing to hear some of the torment she’s been through over the years & even more recently on Twitter. Mainly because she’s a POC – person of colour & wasn't born in England. & cringeworthy to hear some of the stories & things people are still saying in this day & age. The highlight had to be when her 9 year old son Cassius made an appearance on stage. Without giving too much away, he’s definitely a comedian in the making & Shappi's show will most definitely make you feel happy!!

Shappi is currently on tour across the UK – with lots more dates coming up in June & the autumn.

07 May 2017

All Change....

It’s been a good month since I last blogged at the end of March about my sunny surf holiday in Fuerteventura. And it makes me sad to think I started the beginning of the year full of gusto & good intentions to get my blog back up & running & already I've hit a brick wall so early in the year.

April was a strange month & one of change which sent me into tilt. I know through my blog & social media channels anyone looking in would think I’m this happy go lucky girl with an amazing life - horse riding, dog walking, surfing & running. But sometimes I hit that brick wall & think what the f**k am I doing with my life?!

There were a number of emotional changes I was juggling. My secondment in PR & Social ended at the end of March, it was one of the best years in my working life & left me feeling on a high. Obviously there were some lows, but the amazing highs outweighed those & I’m grateful for that opportunity. I then started a new job looking after Change Comms where there was no job description, no clear path on what to do. Which on the one hand is amazing, as it meant I’m ‘the master of my own destiny’, but on the other hand also scared me stepping into the unknown.

I ended a relationship which after 2 years was going nowhere - our goals & beliefs weren’t aligned & there’s no point in just plodding along in opposite directions.

& thirdly we made some changes with Jonty’s education. I took advice from our physio to try out an instructor who would be more suitable & help get us back on track. & so far, just after 2 lessons – she’s been spot on.

I could go into a lot more depth about my work & personal life but that would be a pretty boring post & my blog would turn into a big therapy session. I guess, what I’m getting at, is that it's okay not to be okay, & as long as you recognise your emotions & use that energy in a positive way.

So, I’ve signed up to Tough Mudder with my work colleagues in August & started running again. & not just a little jog, I want to get that competitive edge back &I’m gradually getting my running mojo back through the help of Weymouth parkrun. Both horses are in work, after nine months off Barley is back on the road. At the moment he’s just in walk & trot, but it’s a start & gives me hope of normality again.

Like most bloggers when going through an emotional phase, we turn to Pinterest for inspiration. Here are some of my favourite ‘change’ inspired quotes saved in my Quote's board [for credit] which I take comfort in & hopefully will resonate with some of you. Thanks for reading... & apologies for the downbeat blog post, I feel normal upbeat Country Bumpkin Service will resume shortly.