Category Archives: Experiences

I’m Vegan, By the Way, Did You Know?

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OH HAI. For the month of October, or Voctober as we’re now calling it, my work friends and I have taken on the struggle that is veganism. The idea for this came about quite randomly, we wanted to do something for October (because what else really happens, except Halloween?), but we didn’t want to Stoptober because alcohol is nice. So we thought we would combine a little bit of health aspiration with sustainability goals and take on a new dietary challenge.

Vegans are renowned for making their veganism well known to everyone they come across in their day to day life, and we embraced this vegan culture muchly. How do you know someone’s vegan? Don’t worry, they will tell you. Within a day of being vegan pretty much the whole office was aware. Hi, I’m joy, I’m vegan. Oh what’s that you’re eating? No can’t have that, I’m vegan. What did you do at the weekend? Well I’m vegan, so… We probably managed to get the word vegan into every sentence. We became so obsessed that we started asking if wine has animals in it (does it? DOES IT??) and if the shredder is in fact vegan. There were positives to this ‘raising awareness’ scheme. As well as becoming very agitated with us, our colleagues also took to bringing us vegan food and making us vegan cake (most likely to shut us up). Whatever the reason, it was much appreciated, because we actually genuinely had no clue where to start.

Like the fact that to start with we only really considered cutting out the meat and dairy. Then we remembered the eggs, dammit, but we came to terms with that. No eggs for us. Which also means mayonnaise. Like srsly what. Then we remembered gelatine, and realised M&S mints have beef jelly in them. Why, M&S, why? THEN we remembered honey. I had not even considered this because who ever thinks about cruelty to bees? BEES LIKE MAKING HONEY. And I like granola and honey in my tea. But hey, vegan is vegan, and rules are rules. Whilst on our vegan journey we composed a couple of vegan catchphrases:

1. Vegans don’t take risks.

When you are vegan you MUST read all ingredients labels. I was rather lax on this and ended up eating a digestive mistakenly, oops. We decided that ‘may contain traces of’ was allowed, just about.

2. Vegans don’t complain.

Vegan is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice. We must embrace our choices and the sacrifices that come with them. Even when the whole office is eating the scrummiest cake in the world filled with chocolate and cream and those DAMN EGGS. It’s okay, I love having fruit for my afternoon treat.

To be honest, the mealtime foods I adjusted to quite easily. I always use almond milk in my porridge/cereal anyway, and soya yoghurt is an okay-ish substitute for yoghurt. Cous cous salad is my ideal lunch, and homemade dinners aren’t too tricky if you just make them sans-everything-that’s-nice. The thing I found most tricky was snacking. I am a SERIOUS snacker. Like totally addicted to snacks. Uh-woah-woah. Mostly I’m not even hungry I’m just bored and need something to chomp on to pass the time. In veganism my choices were basically crisps, or naked bars. Which can get slightly boring after a while. I was so desperate for snacking material at home (a crisp free zone) that I ate a tomato whole. Just bit it like an apple. Not okay.

However, all hope was not lost! Somewhere along our vegan journey, we made the best discovery. Guess what is vegan? OREOS. Oh yeah baby. I mean, I don’t want to think about what they are actually made of if it’s not dairy, but score one for vegans. PLUS peanut butter is allowed so Oreo dipped in peanut butter = a parent trap dream made in heaven. After that discovery we basically inhaled our entire body weight in Oreos whenever the snacking monster inhabited us, which was great. Also not vegan, weirdly, jelly. It sounds like gelatine so surely it is? But no, jelly is a-okay for vegans. I don’t actually like jelly so no yay for me but there you go.

You think you might lose weight going vegan? You are wrong. Well unless you’re one of those types that actually has self control. Lack of meat and dairy doesn’t cut down calorie intake, it just forces you to eat more carbs. BAD. I also ended up replacing my usual foods with beans and beans and lentils and beans. And dates. All the farty foods. Do vegans fart a lot? So it’s actually not great for your digestive system either, thanks pulses you mean food group you. The one thing that made me MEGA HAPS was all the falafels I was allowed to eat. Falafel treat Friday was very much a thing, with all of the houmous. I mean I love falafels at the best of times, so this was just an excuse to eat more.

The most awkward time to be vegan is when eating with lots of decidedly meaty carnivores. I had a dinner party during this time which was okay because I was in charge, but I ended up having to eat the saddest looking tofu lasagne in the world whilst everyone had oozy cheesy goodness on their plate. My friend was like ‘where is the rest of your lasagne?’ ITS NOT THERE BECAUSE VEGANS DONT HAVE FUN. Cheese is definitely the second thing I missed most, after snacks. There is NO substitute. But worse than that is going to someone else’s house for food. Because who ever wants to be that person that’s like ‘I can’t eat anything you want to cook, soz.’ Rather not, thanks.

Left to my own devices though, I actually made some surprisingly nice vegan recipe discoveries at home. With limited eating out options I ended up cooking a lot, which also saved me money (double bonus). After pinteresting A LOT of vegan foods I came across a few meals that were fast faves, including Banana Fried Bread, Tofu Scramble, Peanut Butter Cookies, Sweet Potato with Beans & Kale, and Energy Bites (snacking saviours).

All this being said, I am sad to confess that I did not make it through the whole month. Alas, not two weeks had gone by when I found myself tempted to break free from my vegan chains. I’m going to justify this by the fact it was my sisters 21st and celebration is not at it’s most when you’re not eating a lamb shank. That’s right, shank of lamb is how I broke vegan. And also sushi the next day. After that failure debacle I decided I would at least be a weekday vegan, because at work was the easiest with the support of my fellow veganites. That lasted another couple of weeks, and then the final hurdle came and every one of us crumbled. You could say we had only one more week so why not complete it? You could also say we had rediscovered our meaty lover roots and there was no going back. I’m not really sure we can say we completed it, but we can say we gave it a good old try. My friend who actually stuck to vegan right until the last week then discovered a month old yoghurt in her fridge that had been neglected during vegan times. So she decided to eat it, because yolo, what is life without gone off yoghurt. It was apparently surprisingly yum and not of the tangy variety. What a way to re-enter the world of dairy.

All in all, I can now say that I fully understand the struggle vegans face on a day to day basis, and I am not jealous. It is DAMN. HARD. Especially when you are used to all the milky meaty goodness that a non vegan diet allows. Personally, I have very little self control when it comes to food, so such a restrictive diet was probably never going to be a good idea for me. If I had felt healthy benefits from it straight away then maybe I would have had had more incentive to give it a proper go, but I actually just felt more bloaty and ill (all the beans beans beans). I guess a sudden extreme change in diet is never going to make your body very happy, gradual would be a better idea. But where’s the fun and challenge in that? However, I am definitely going to take away some new habits and recipes from this, and I’m also going to be very aware of what’s vegan and what is not, so there’s that. Whether I make vegan choices is another question. We don’t have to go vegan to change the world, but we can make little changes. We can do meat free Mondays, or meat free lunches, or just choose the vegetarian option every now and then. But overall in life, I am decidedly of the opinion that we CAN eat meat and dairy because where would I be without all the Ben&Jerry and pizza nights. I need that in my life please. Ever since my sad tofu lasagne experience I’ve had proper lasagne cravings so tonight I’m treating myself to a real cheesy affair, thanks me. Here’s to NON vegan November, may we have all the cakes and turkey sandwiches our hearts desire.

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Escaping London for a Weekend: Bristol

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I often ramble on about hating London, the commute, the stress, the busy busy unfriendly people and the lack of chill time. I think one of the reasons I feel like that is because I’ve been stuck in the London bubble for a long time with no escape. I had allowed the negative aspects of London to annoy me on a daily basis because I hadn’t taken a break away from the busy city life.

This weekend I took the opportunity to go back to the city that holds my heart, Bristol. I always have this feeling when I’m driving into Bristol, like, a breath of relief. Like I’ve been holding my breath in some way the whole time I’ve been going about my London life, and then I arrive in Bristol and it’s welcoming and it’s happiness and quirkiness and me.

I think there are two sides to my happiness at a weekend away from London; on the one hand I’m just happy to have a change and I think any other city would give me that. It’s refreshing to leave your bubble of life and routine, get away from the standard places you go to and experience something different.

On the other hand, it’s being in Bristol specifically that makes me happy. I hadn’t been back in over six months – the longest since starting university! Bad Bristol lover. So returning to the city for a weekend of fun, rediscovering great Bristol hangouts, and catching up with friends, was always going to be pretty exciting.

The main purpose of my visit was to go to the Oxjam Bristol Takeover, which I was involved in organising last year. Oxjam is an annual music festival organised by volunteers in aid of Oxfam, raising money to fight poverty whilst discovering many great unsigned bands. Oxjam Bristol takes place in Stokes Croft, home to some of the most fabulous venues in the city.

My all-time fave new discovery of the weekend was the Chilli & Ginger Cider served at The Crofters Rights. I don’t usually love drinking cider on a night out because it’s fizzy and bloating, but Bristol just does cider so damn well that it’s not an issue. Plus the ginger in this bad boy has a settling effect on the belly (much needed after too many crisps and dips) which makes it even more ingenious.

We also had the good old favourite Lazy Jacks, and a lot of gin. A lot a lot. The Crofters Rights also provided my favourite dancing moment of the night, whilst watching The Rin Tins, a fabulous folky jazzy jive band (a music combination that you can’t NOT dance to). We had a hilarious time getting fully involved and I ended up being flung around the room by a randomly amazing swing dancer man. All the great feels.

Apparently when I go back to Bristol I take on a student state of mind and so thought it absolutely acceptable to purchase a large cheesy chips with lashings of garlic mayo and BBQ. It must have seemed scrumptious because the man next to me took one look and said ‘I’ll have that, please.’

Sunday gave me the opportunity for some Autumn walking around Bristol time with one of my faves. We had some Italian ‘al dente’ pasta foods from Aquila (not the best meal of my life, bad choices, always stick to what you know) and a wonderful afternoon tea experience at The Tea Birds.

Sitting outside drinking tea and eating cake in Autumn is actually a fabulous thing to do. The tea warms you, and there is much people watching to be done which is a favourite activity of ours. People also kept looking at our cake with jealousy so I’m pretty sure we created business for the cafe. They should hire us as permanent example-cake-eater-advertisers. OMG what a great job.

Having a weekend of rediscovering Bristol and my love for the city really made me realise that London isn’t me, I can’t find my place here. I’m living my life in London but it feels like I’m experiencing a city that I’m not really part of. I don’t belong in central London, I’m just a visitor who happens to work here, and as much as I LOVE my home town on the outskirts I don’t fully belong there either. In Bristol I feel a part of the city, part of the buildings and the people and the events and it’s just me. I made Bristol my home, it was the first place I lived independently and I embraced it in every way possible.

Everyone is different. Obviously, many many people love London, and enjoy it in a different way to me, and that’s great. I can see the appeal and there are so many fantastic things to do and opportunities here. But unfortunately for me personally there are too many bugbears and pet hates that I have about London that influence the way I see my life here, and that won’t change.

I don’t plan on leaving London any time soon, my life and my friends are here, but I won’t stay forever, and I need little trips away to remind me of that. London can suck you into a stress-inducing unhealthy way of living, and that’s what I don’t need. Bristol has given me a little taster of lushness, and I want more of that please.

Europe Travelling Vibes: Croatia

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Croatia. Oh you beauty you. The last stop on our interrail trip, we had a week to explore the islands and the amazingly blue seas. And boy were we ready for some chill time, most certainly. We emerged from our 15 hour train shells of our former selves, only to have the heavens open on us. Seriously Croatia what are you doing. But it was fine, because we ran to our ferry only to watch it leave the port with one minute to spare. Continuation of the bad luck and all that… So we took our sorry selves to a rainy gazebo where our bags and selves got soaked as we awaited the next ferry. Once we finally arrived on the island of Brac we discovered we were too early to get into our apartment so we had to sit on the terrace for 2 hours watching a lady clean it. All the funs. Grace had meanwhile contracted the fat-foot-cankle-erupted-blister disease and couldn’t move so Laura and I went on the hunt for medicines and foods.

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A couple of hours later and we were on route to the beach, taking a walk past some pretty spectacular views to get there. Let me tell you, you will never have a better sunbathe than after a night of no sleep on a train and that palava of a journey. We had this feeling like WE DESERVE THIS, WE HAVE WORKED FOR THIS. I have never so much craved a salty sea to wash away all my sins and dirt and wounds. As you can imagine, we fell so fast asleep in the sun that ain’t no one in the world had a hope of waking us. Every so often one of us would awake with a jolt and a fear of sunburn, realise the others were still zonko, and succumb to sleep once again. However there did come a time where the sea decided to ruin our fun and start lapping at our feet. What about this tide thing, eh? Can’t the sea just stay the same distance always? (Geographer over here). We took the opportunity to explore the rest of the harbour, and found The. Best. Ice cream. Of life. Raspberry yoghurt, snickers, chocolate fudge, you name it they had it in glorious ice cream quality. So much lushness in a dairy product stuck on a wafer cone. We scoffed our ice creams with our fantas sat in a beautiful bar area called Yolo. Yes that’s right, we had discovered a yolo bar. It was too perfect. That evening we were in much need of a good nights sleep in our air conditioned apartment (double bed to myself, just saying. Snoring works in your favour sometimes), so after a lovely seafood dinner in a romantic beachside restaurant we bought chocolate and juice and retired for the night.

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We got into a bit of a morning routine whilst Bol was our home, Laura would wake early and sunbathe outside for a bit before walking down to the bakery to pick us up some pain au chocolat. What a babe, what would we do without her mothering tendencies. Grace would emerge at the smell of pastries, and I would crawl out of bed at the latest possible socially acceptable time. The only exception to the beauty of this routine was our extremely hungover morning where Laura ended up vomming on the road into town. If you think that stopped her mission for croissants, you are wrong. She is a trouper.

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After our first beach day, we realised we could actually get a choo choo tourist train to the larger famous Zlatni Rat beach (all the hilarious slutty jokes), which was where it was all at. The beach is shaped kind of like a horn, which means you can watch people and their wet hair walking up and down the beach from both sides. People watch what?! We don’t do that… We had a few glorious days of sunbathing on that wonder of a horn beach. It felt amazing to have the time to chill and read a book and listen to music for the first time this holiday. And work on that all important tan of course. If I went back I would definitely trial out some of the water activity obstacle courses they had, cos it looked basically like being on total wipeout. Sadly I was too much of a poor lady at the time. And also, yknow, laziness.

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The nightlife of Bol was an interesting one. We had no expectations as this was our chilled part of the holiday, but of course we had to explore the options. Aforementioned pauper status led us to purchase cartons of wine for pre-drinking on our terrace. Who are we? It got us suitably merry for the dangerous cobbled cliff walk down to town, good choices. Our best discovery was what we called the Tiki Tiki bar, because it was basically a terrace covered with Palm trees and Tiki themed things (no idea of it’s actual name). They served a multitude of fabulous cocktails, and played some banging tunes from their outdoor DJ deck. It seemed that everyone who was anyone in Bol chose to spend their evening in the Tiki bar, we met many many travellers (all the floppy hair Australians and cheeky Irish), and also a rather creepy stalker man who was the epitome of dad dancing and who decided to take grace on a whirl. The only sad thing about Tiki was the closing time – 1am! Whoever is finished with their night at 1am I just don’t know. Luckily, our previous discovery yolo bar had a late night party going on. Tequilas galore and inadvisable drink mixing, Laura and I had an extremely fun drunken time (grace was lost again obvs). We were offered some vodka from the ‘daddy bought me a boat so I flew all my rah friends to Croatia’ crew, so that was just great.

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This crew inspired us to create some alter egos for ourselves, and dance moves to go with them. Grace became the spoiled Daddy’s girl, on her tenth gap yah spending all her moneys on yachts. Her dance move looked a bit like a slut thrust with a ‘show me the money’ hand gesture. Laura became event planner extraordinaire, she single-handedly organised Glastonbury didn’t you know. Of course she employed the Laura two-step one-step dance with a festival air punch. And Joy was the hippie travel yoga retreat ladida who set up Oxfam. Y’know, that person. My move was inspired by the tree dance, combined with some interpretive inspiration. Every time we were out dancing from then on it was a case of, “Alteregos. Go.” And then commenced the spectacle that was us. People love it.

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One of these moments occurred at the beach party on Zlatni Rat. This wasn’t your average beach party, oh no. After getting the pina coladas in at 4pm (standard holiday behaviour), the music stopped and out came a man with an electro violin accompanied by dancers wearing fishnet thongs. I mean, fabulous and all, but it was slightly strange that the beach bar was still full of families who then decided to take photos of their children with the dancers whilst they had some shisha. Each to their own. Electro violin man turned out to be one of the greatest things we had observed so far this holiday. It was just wow. He leaped across the palm trees and bar seats with his crazy smiley face and performed beautiful intense Swedish House Mafia inspired vibrato tunes. Electro violin, a great night out, who knew. DJs then came out with every hit European song you’ve heard of or haven’t heard of and the crowd became rather ‘Ibiza bumbag lads on drugs’ styley. We escaped to watch the b-e-a-utiful sunset and run into the sea and scream at massive bugs and laze around on bean bags.

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Our time in Bol had to come to an end at some point, and sad as we were to leave, we were very excited to venture across the sea to the famous Hvar. We had a 2 hour boat journey which consisted of sunbathing on the roof and a spontaneous jump into the sea, the most refreshing way to start the day. With only one full day in Hvar we wanted to make the most of it, so on hostel mans advice we took a taxiboat over to the small island of Jeromin and spent the day on a beautifully secluded rocky beach. You had to walk through a foresty area which had a hippie bar with bucket flush toilets and hammocks that we just cannot. Falling through holes like beached whales. We lay on our rocks eating our ham and cheese sandwiches (the girls wouldn’t allow me to bring gherkins to the beach. Like, what.) and took a swim over to the pontoon which was the pinnacle of sunbathing glory. Our people watching tendencies led us to discover that we were alongside a nudist beach, with people very much in the nude showing off for all to see. Lovely sights. And then the people watching took a new level…

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Joy: “That looks like Curtis.” Laura: “Oh yes, from that angle it does.” Grace: “He is actually in Croatia you know. OMG ITS CURTIS.” Joy: “I’m going to shout his name so we can see if it’s him.” Grace: “NONONONONONONONO. I am not stalker.” Laura: “Lets go swim over to him for lols.” Grace: “NONONONONONONO. I am not stalker. Well okay.” So much laughings, what is life, we are life, the world is a small small place. Hi Curtis, bum slaps, “That MUST be Grace Shellard.” Wowsa.

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Our night out in Croatia had been planned meticulously from the very beginning of our holiday, but fate and the weather decided to get in our way so sadly we did not experience the Carpe Diem club island. We did however go to ‘frat bar’ Hula Hula and danced on tables and chairs whilst drinking cocktails. Stereotype it may be, but it was genuinely full of Americans who genuinely swam over to the bar from their yachts. And who then genuinely bought prosecco and sprayed it all over everyone, many times. All the frat vibes. We did a little bar crawl to Nautica and Aloha, got some free shots and did some dancing. Then the heavens opened so the one sheltered bar became a very sweaty and claustrophobe affair. Sacked that off, dancing in the rain is much more preferable. I decided I was a hippie and demanded everyone must take off their shoes and feel grounded to the earth through their feet. Who am I? We got very wet. Attempts at other bars were made, but postcodes were lost down throats and the rain just would not let us have more funs so afterparties and gins were the only options. Being us and having no shame, we got Curtis’ friend with a fabulous narrative voice to read out his claim to fame through my blog, How Not to Date in 10 Steps. It was an overall embarrassing and cringeworthy experience for all involved, but obviously hilarious.

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We definitely did not have enough time to experience Hvar fully, so leaving on the morning ferry was a sad moment. However we had one more day of Croatian loving on the coastal town of Split. With optimum tans being of the highest priority, we spent the entire day on a little local beach, reminiscing and sleeping and swimming in the gloriously blue shiny salty sea. We had been recommended a quaint little restaurant called ‘Buffet Fife’, where the waiter decided to set us up on a blind date with two nerdy Oxford boys, thanks. The menu consisted of many many fishes, as well as “Beans” and “Boiled Meat”. Croatian delicacies? The fish came looking very much whole and alive, but was scrummily delicious, so well done Buffet Fife. I would recommend you to all Croatian travellers. With a 5am wakeup for our flight home we weren’t after a mental night, but we had to see what Split could offer in the way of drinkies. After 3 hour showers (“I have to moisturise”) and beers on the balcony, we walked through the pretty Palace walls to a cheap and cheerful alleyway bar called Charlies. The vibes weren’t quite right so we ate some pizza on the harbour and then chased after the bright lights and fabulous music we could see in the distance. Turned out to be an amazing outdoor Ibiza style DJ bar, good finds. We kept trying to leave because sleep was calling but then another great song would play and we ran back because MORE DANCING PLEASE. Don’t ever let it end. We are so not ready to go home.

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But the time had come, after two wonderfully adventurous and yolo weeks of Europe vibes, to catch our flight back to the UK. The adventures weren’t quite over yet, we had a stop over in Cologne and although we didn’t get to leave the airport we ate German sausages and pretzels in the airport so I’d like to say we can add that to our list of country experiences. Interrailing, you are the one. You ruined my liver and voice, and of course bad luck came calling at many moments because this is us, but you gave us hands down one of the best experiences of life. As great as it is to venture halfway across the world, Europe has so much to offer any traveller and every country has its own little thang that makes it exciting or crazy or just plain great. We squeezed so many experiences and adventures into two weeks, and I could do it all again tomorrow. Next stop….?

Europe Travelling Vibes: Budapest

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Budapest was one of the cities I instantly fell in love with. It probably wasn’t as traditionally pretty as Prague, but it just had such a great vibe of fun and life, and felt simultaneously busy and chilled. It was the kind of city I could see myself living in, as opposed to just visiting. The streets are all so wide and the buildings have an old school feel to them, not in a crumbling dead way but in a hip and happening way. Yes I just said hip and happening. But one of the main reasons I loved it and need to go back, is that after 3 days I felt like I’d barely scraped the surface. We saw and did so much but I have the feeling Budapest has a lot more to offer…
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Our arrival in Budapest felt like the hottest day yet, if that’s possible. Having checked in to our hippie hostel (we love them hippie places), we decided a trip to the spa was the most obvious choice of activity. The supposedly amazing Szechenyi baths were ridiculously busy with mile long queues, so we sacked that off and went to the Gellert baths. This turned out to be an indoor spa but we were so boiling that it was a blessing in disguise. We spent a luxurious amount of time going from heated pool to heated pool to OMG THIS IS COLDER THAN THE NORTH POLE plunge pool. It was very refreshing. Especially when Laura decided to throw ice at us. Such children. The whole experience of chilling in the spas was so nice and relaxing, that at one point I actually fell asleep. In the water. Napping in all of the places just went to a new level…
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One of the great things about Budapest was the nightlife. However we made an initial error. Having had amazing bar crawl experiences in Prague and Vienna, we thought the same should apply here. So we tagged on to a bar crawl just off the main square, only to experience the worst vibes of all bar crawl vibes. No fun was being had, no music was being played, and when I asked where the night would be taking us not one of the places we had heard of was included. Lesson learnt: Budapest doesn’t need bar crawls. The bars are good enough themselves. We ran away from those boring people and went to find Szimpla Kert, which had been described as a Glastonbury bar. It did not disappoint. Lots of the great bars in Budapest are called ‘ruins bars’ because they are in old ruined buildings that have open skies. Szimpla was one of these, but also had a million different rooms and alcoves with quirky decor and great R&B music.
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We didn’t even get to explore the upstairs sections because we got stuck showing our party tricks in the main courtyard and then wandered off for, guess what, tequila. Tequila was definitely the drink of choice this whole holiday. You just can’t beat it, plus the measures in Budapest are veryy over generous. Szimpla was not the be all and end all though, oh no. After the ruins bars was the ruins club, instant. This was like an actual maze, made all the more confusing by additional tequilas. We eventually found our way into a dance room with a heat that hits you like a ton of bricks as soon as you enter. I’m talking sauna heat. The music was so good we decided to tie up our hair and get over it. All of the sweats, hi attractive. We are life.
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Our second day in Budapest we spent out of the city, on the island of Sziget. Isn’t that a festival I hear you say? Damn right it is. Everyone in Budapest and Prague and Europe had been talking about Sziget festival, so we decided we couldn’t not go. As if we weren’t squeezing enough into this interrailing trip, now we had a festival to add to our list. Of course we went full out glitter tattoos and flowery accessories, because all the yes. We were there by 2 and so had the whole day to wander and eat festival food and drink cheap wine (thank you Italian Sziget bar). Music-wise there wasn’t much going on before the main acts but we found a DJ area with sprinklers which was our idea of heaven so spent a good hour dancing and making fools of ourselves there.
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They had a cool art zone with nifty crafty things and gorillas (why not), a ‘Sziget beach’ which sounded exciting but looked skanky, and a cultural folk stage with flower and mushroom statues that played wonderful Hungarian music. One thing we learnt from walking around the camp was, we could not have camped. Imagine the heat and sweat magnified a million times plus no sleep. No no no. But it’s so near the city you could definitely get a hostel/apartment for the whole festival, best of both worlds. Once the music properly started we decided it was tequila time (always). We then discovered that we do know songs by Awolnation, and Kasabian are great men to jump and dance to. The next couple of hours were a bit of a stressful blur, we met people (‘these girls are everywhere’.. Not stalkers promise), we lost people, we saw Avicii and sat on tall men’s shoulders (best) and we generally loved festival life.
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But the best part of Sziget and my most happy discovery was the after hours DJ in the woods. Now I don’t expect any words I can give will do him justice, but I’m going to try. Imagine all your old school gangsta R&B dreams come true, so much getting low your legs hurt, every song teasing and surprising and better than the last, and The. Most. Addictive. Wiggle. Remix. You have ever heard. I want to wiggle right now just thinking about it. It was that kind of random situation where we stumbled across a good song and dancing in the woods and it ended up being better than all our expectations. Every song he played was a STOP IT moment. I sat on the floor it was too good. I was overwhelmed and drunk don’t judge me.
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The weird thing was this area wasn’t even busy, and the people who were there seemed mainly weirdos.. One man tried to stroke Laura’s face, another guy had ripped shorts and a glittery hat and had the nerve to judge our bumbags (shh), and one man tried to feed us dodgy Mojitos. I was like DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THIS IS THE BEST DJ EVER LEAVE ME ALONE I JUST WANT TO DANCE. Such a dancing diva. We took a short interlude to have a shot of Palinka, a lethal Hungarian alcohol, and make a video record of this momentous moment. Camera says yes (video montage will be made soon, don’t worry.. Embarrassingly great things to come). At 5am we said a sad farewell to our DJ love and lost grace (again) so thought we would give the dance tent a try. By this time only the proper hardcore scary people were left and the boomboomboom-no-melody stuff just wasn’t cutting it for us. So we laid our knackered bodies to rest on the grass and waited until we could gather together at 7am to return to our hostel. Great, great day.
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On the night of the infamous Sparty (spa-party in case you were wondering) I unfortunately got ill due to too much partying. Slash fortunately depending on if you believe the STI stories. So whilst I ran home from the station to be sick and die in bed, Grace and Laura went on an adventure. From what I gathered, the general vibe of the pool party was a slash between sausage fest / malia style party / amazing fun drinking and let’s get wet time. They gave you a card that you put money onto, and then the baths were your oyster. The main learning that was taken from this experience, was that all important proverb ‘Boys look good with wet hair’. This does not necessarily mean that they look good with dry hair. Having spent all evening with some supposedly ‘hot’ boys, wingmanning and having all the funs in the baths, they arranged to meet said boys outside afterwards. At first sight of the boys and their blow-dried hair, Laura and Grace could do nothing except collapse on the floor in fits of laughter for an unacceptable amount of time. One boy had curtains. CURTAINS. It is not 1990 and you are not in A1. The other boy didn’t have the most terrible of hairs, but he was wearing a button down beige T-shirt, three quarter length trousers and green converse. Yes green. All there was left to do was pretend father Julian was calling (at 3am, obvs) and run out of there…
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Most of our days we just spent wandering. We stumbled across a few lovely squares and green areas and a water feature that we sat and dangled our legs in. Let me tell you, that is exactly what you need on a hungover day. None of this dominos in a dark room watching films, out in the sun with your legs in a cool pool and you’re dandy. We even managed to lay down and do a little sunbathing. Until it got too hot so we tried wading further into the pool, only to have scary Hungarian policemen shout at us. The sights and buildings that you would want to see are quite spread out over both sides of the river (Buda and Pest) so we decided the only way was to bike it. Bear in mind that I hadn’t cycled for about ten years, so I was basically bambi on a bike. I was almost run over multiple times. Grace took it upon herself to be the bike leader and ding the bell whenever people got in our way. Which was unfortunately on the pavements most of the time, when it was actually our fault, but hey ho.
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We took our bikes along the river to see the Royal Palace and the old beautiful buildings, and then across to parliament. I loved the fact that you can see the sights up close and also have amazing views of the other sights from either side of the river. We stumbled across the Jewish shoe memorial which was pretty humbling. And then we had a tyre-defeating journey across many cobbled stones. That’s right, I got a flat tyre. Because why shouldn’t more challenges be added to my first-bike-ride-in-ten-years? At first I just tried to ride it anyway, but that resulted in squelchy bumbly unhealthy noises that scared me. Which meant I had to partake in the ‘I promise I can ride a bike I just like to walk alongside it in this awkward way’ look.
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The day went from unlucky to unluckier, as we attempted to book our sleeper beds for the 15 hour journey to Croatia only to be told by the train lady that not only were there no beds left, there were no seats left. We had two options: stay another night in Budapest and risk missing our ferry the next day, or stand. For 15 hours. Of course we went for the sensible option. We chose to stand. We presumed that there would be something vaguely resembling a floor where we might be able to rest our bodies and use our backpacks for pillows, classy. Rough and ready… From there, we took the metro to the main train station only to be stopped by train officers who discovered that our 3 day passes were expired by one hour.
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They had no mercy, they fined us 8000 HUF on the spot. The evil woman even followed Grace the whole way to the cashpoint to make sure she didn’t run away… I mean, seriously. And then the evil man had the cheek to give us back our train pass and say “you can keep the ticket as a souvenir.” PISS OFF TRAIN MAN. It was like they wanted to antagonise us because we are stupid British tourists. So yeah, you could say that wasn’t the best day of our entire trip. Entering Keleti station was nothing like it’s been in the news recently, but it was still a bit of a shock to the system to see so many refugees basically living there, playing football and hanging out. We weren’t expecting it at all, and it took us by surprise to be faced with real world problems having lived in our interrail bubble for so long.
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We were actually massively lucky once we got on the train (and sneaky), we fought our way on first and took the only unreserved seats left so we wouldn’t die from 15 hours upright. Laura ended up having to pay for hers but some Italian men charmed the train operator for us so we got away with it, score. As much as we had been dreading the overnight train it ended up being quite fun. We played Italian card games called ‘shit’ where you collect shit and clean up the shit. Italian humour? Italians were replaced by blond Swedish men. We attempted to sleep for a few hours which ended in awkward shoulder leaning moments and legs entwined everywhere. Naughty. The only negative/hilarious part of the journey was when we reached the border and passport control came stomping onto the train in a very aggressive manner. Grace just so happened to be in the toilet at this time (of course), but they would not accept this. They banged her door down and shone a light in her face, demanding she get her passport out immediately. A crime to go to the toilet? Whoever knows. All of the eventfulness. And then the scenery changed and we saw hills and coasts and THE SEA. We have arrived. Croatia you beauty, oh how ready we are.

Europe Travelling Vibes: Vienna

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Second stop on our interrailing trip (first stop was Prague), Vienna was the place we knew least about. We hadn’t been given many recommendations on where to go and what to see and so after a whirlwind 3-day adventure in Prague we were looking forward to seeing where the next couple of days would take us. We had a rather eventful journey where I accused a man of stealing my phone then found it in my bag (highly embarrassing). First thing we did when we arrived: got lost. Of course we did. Because this is me, and we decided not to take a cab but to navigate the tram system to our hostel which just so happened to be on the longest road in Vienna. Our first mistake was listening to the little boy on the information desk who hadn’t a clue, our second mistake was going in the wrong direction and getting off by some kind of industrial estate. We wandered into the only establishment nearby, a half closed fake Irish pub where an Austrian family stared at us like freaks and then mumbled at us in broken English to go back the way we came. By the time we got back to station we were so hot smelly and knackered that we gave up on walking and backpacks and got in an expensive cab. No regrets, I needed a shower so badly I would’ve paid a random car to take me to one.

I’ll be honest, I’m not certain that Vienna has a whole lot to offer tourists and travellers in the way of sightseeing, unless you’re into opera and museums and that. Granted we were only there for one full day so there was probably a lot we missed, but from our perspective we walked around the city in a day and felt like we saw it all. The buildings are very pretty and grand and have a Greek/Roman vibe to them which was different, and the views from the Stephansdom church were pretty great. We wandered down to the river and sat on a boat cafe looking at fake beaches and drinking fake appletiser. We then got the train to the Naschmarket and had several falafel men shouting at us and elephant material sellers chasing us which was all the funs. We were so hungry because we kept forgetting to eat that we caved in and bought oodles of falafels and olives and mango houmous (I know right) and ate a much deserved spread back at our hostel. All in all, a nice day but nothing majorly thrilling to report that would make me go ‘omg you MUST go to Vienna now’.

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However whilst our sightseeing experiences may not have been that exciting, our discovery of one of the best bars in Europe definitely was. Grace had googled Vienna nightlife and found a place called Travelshack down the road from our hostel so we thought we would check it out… best decision of our life. It looked like a little quirky bar when you first went in with a line of bras hanging from the ceiling (standard) but had so many hidden secrets. One room had beer pong and table football, one room had the Austrian hammer game where you have to hit a nail into a tree stump with the sharp side of a hammer – more fun than it sounds and is done with compulsory tequila shots. #nailedit. When it gets busy enough they open up a garage-style door to a dancefloor with a pole and you can only enter once you do the conga and have tequila poured into your mouth; and a karaoke room which is where we spent the end of our night screaming into a microphone that comes from the ceiling with 30 strangers.

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The best thing about the Travelshack was their bar crawl, ‘The Mission’. This is no ordinary bar crawl. You are given a card before you start with missions that you must complete over the course of the evening in order to win 4 free shots. These include: swapping clothes with someone of the opposite sex, being cable tied to someone for an hour (I needed the toilet during this hour so made my partner stand outside the door in the girls toilets), getting a rubber band from your forehead to your neck without using your hands, winning at the limbo, doing a scavenger hunt, performing a talent (cup song, obvs), performing a booty dance and streaking around a church which was surprisingly liberating (the fact it was a church had no significance, it was just the nearest building). I’m always an advocate for organised fun so obviously I was loving the challenges but I think they genuinely added far more hilarity and enjoyment to the night for everyone involved. The free buckets of sangria before we left probably helped too.

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Having checked quite a few off our list, we decided for some reason that The Mission wasn’t enough and we should add our own challenges. So we performed some kind of foursome straw sipping contest for which we were rewarded with a disgustingly great shot activity of sorts. Another thing about the Travelshack – they provided a vast assortment of shots. Tequila fire shots that made the bar smell like cinnamon, body shots, slammers which involve a hard hat and a hammer, and many more unmentionables. The whole experience of Travelshack meant we met a lot of random people including twins called Storm and Lightning (surely not), smug face friends, and fellow karaoke singers/mission completers from many different nationalities. The night ended with regrettable shots of absinthe, games of pool (grace is a lad), beanbags and yolo. The word has never been more appropriate.

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The Only Drink is Water

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For the past 10 days I have undertaken the H2Only challenge. This is a fundraising campaign for the RNLI and the idea is you drink only water for 10 days whilst raising money to help the RNLI save lives at sea. People get really into this challenge and there are even cafés that pop up solely dedicated to water (don’t entirely see the point of this but hey-ho). I’ve been wanting to do a water only detox for a while and so when some colleagues decided to do H2Only I thought I would jump on the bandwagon. But boy has it been hard. Okay I’ll admit it now, I did cheat a lil bit at the weekend and had a few cheeky alcohols (but then realised I accidentally started early so don’t feel TOO bad). But other than that I have been strong and I have resisted caffeine for the whole 10 days, yes me hello healthy.

Part of the idea behind doing this was the hope that after depriving my body of caffeine for x amount of time I wouldn’t be reliant on it anymore and I would naturally have more energy. Sounds like the ideal right? No. If there’s one thing this water malarky has taught me it’s that I don’t just crave coffee and tea, I enjoy it. There’s nothing more satisfying than an indulgent coffee shop latte in the morning, and there’s nothing that gets you over that afternoon slump quite like a good cup of English breakfast tea. Each day it’s come round to teatime in the office I’ve had that sad little moment where instead of doing a tea round I go and fill up my bottle and drink yet more water. To be fair I’m probably mega hydrated right now because whenever I crave other forms of beverage I just drink water. And more water. I’ve been going for a lot of wees. I’ve also definitely saved money through the lack of coffee purchases so there’s that. But I just can’t see these traditions continuing once the challenge is over. I’m a woman of little self control and if I want a nice drink of tea or coffee I will have it. (Come at me Saturday morning tea.. Who’s turn is it?)

To be honest, I talk about saving money but when I think of the coping mechanisms I’ve employed I probably haven’t saved much at all. The first day I had such afternoon caffeine withdrawal that I had to go buy a bar of chocolate (any excuse..) I had the same problem the next day but forced myself to be semi-healthy so instead I bought chocolate covered rice cakes. Totally justifiable. This pattern continued for the majority of the ten days and I found that my mantra became ‘I can’t drink, but I can eat food’. If you want a surefire way to a fatty joyjoy, deprive her of all the beverages. Let’s hope the snacking stops once I’m back to my teas…

Other than caffeine, I haven’t found the water challenge toooo difficult. I never drink fizzy drinks or juices anyway so that wasn’t a problem. I know I cheated on alcohol but I genuinely believe that if there was a 10 day period with no weekend involved I could do it easily. Weekend activities are just too damn tempting. Maybe I’ll try the water challenge again… Jks, I need a coffee cocktail like asap.

If you would like to donate to this worthy cause and make us feel good about our commitment to water then have a look at our fundraising page:

https://www.justgiving.com/zaranotea

Kthxbai.

A Month Of Sevens

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1560551_10153322577214804_291400234273021532_n I’ve never been a particularly sporty person. In fact, I’m probably what you would call distinctly bad at sport. Worst hand-eye coordination in the school, I would be the most failing person even in simple throw-and-catch. Don’t get me started on actual sports. Myself and my equally unsporty friend would pair off so we didn’t have to cripple others with our pitiful serves and flailing attempts at hitting anything. A low point came when we played Quaser laser. Not a sport, right? Still defeated us. We came like a thousand points behind everyone else. But hey, everyone else had fun destroying us so great birthday obvs. Despite this aversion to all things sport, I decided to devote two of my weekends this month to sporting events. What’s the attraction if I don’t like sport? Fancy dress and alcohol mainly. But also the great festival atmosphere – sports teams are a crazy bunch in general and to be honest I just love joining in with the antics. That’s not to say we completely ignored the actual watching of sport involved in these events, we spectated many a rugby game and many a dodgeball match. But cheer as we may have done, I still have virtually no clue what the rules are. Here’s how it went… 11181923_10153305396154804_5740782064364700179_n Our first sporting event was the Twickenham 7s. Having never attended before, I had heard a few stories but for the most part had no idea what to expect. We put on our ‘out of this world’ get-up involving galaxy leggings, far too much silver spray (old lady hair) and armbands, arriving around 1pm (only 4 hours after the games had started). I was still drunk from the night before so of course the only way was onwards and upwards with the beers. Ladsladslads. I have to say I was slightly disappointed with a few of the outfits we observed. As soon as we arrived we noticed many groups of lifeguards. I’m sorry, but how are lifeguards out of this world?! I know you might want to look like a sexy baywatch character but you don’t, you’re just a twat who didn’t understand the theme. Well done you. Rant over – besides the offending lifeguards the fancy dress effort was pretty strong, although loads of people had copied our leggings. Way to be original guys. 10408568_10153305396474804_772150164610592041_n   11236428_10153305396904804_6977475632897524385_n

The fact that it was a beautifully sunny day definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the rugby, plus the fact that games are only 14 minutes – why can’t all sport be that short? My favourite part of the games was the tuneage everytime a try was scored, we cracked out many a dance move. Having missed the England game we took it upon ourselves to support a variety of nationalities, most of whom lost. Underdog what you saying. After we got bored of sitting in the stands (and considerably drunker) we ventured outside to discover a festival-like DJ stage which was definitely one of the high points, all the tunes. 11150468_10153305396809804_9039014153943563027_n Speaking of high points, this day had many. It also had many low points. Mainly to do with travel. Trying to get that many people onto a train at Twickenham at the same time is just never going to work. The poor people who just wanted to get an innocent train to clapham would have had an explosion of space people forced on them. Luckily I wasn’t too aware of these struggles as I had reached my drunkest and was a slightly half asleep walking zombie. The one saving grace of this journey was our transformation into the song-starters. Oh yes that’s right. We got the entire train singing Whitney and R. Kelly. There’s not anyone who can’t join in when they hear ‘my minds telling me nooooo…’ After a cheeky KFC in clapham, travel disaster followed travel disaster – I directed my friends to a bus going in the wrong direction (standard joy behaviour) and by the time we realised, no ubers would come and get us so we had to trek it to another bus. Suffice it to say my friend was less than pleased with me and sat at the front of the bus ignoring me for the entire ride. Stubborn drunks that we are. 11010504_10153286689434030_4538813055353027617_n You could say that once we arrived at clapham high street we had been defeated by the highs and lows of the day and should have gone home. We certainly felt like it. But instead we decided to check out the queue for infernos. We made the right choice, obviously. We had the best night three ridiculous dancers dressed like space mermaids can have. There was interpretive, there were routines, there were fistpumps out of respect for our bumbags, there were random props being found on the floor and presented to us, there was the cheesiest music in the land, and there was the fact that we were all perfect drunk. Always. We ended a beautiful day of beautiful rugby and fabulous outfits with a second takeaway. You can’t go to infernos without getting maccies, right?! So that was Twickenham. Bournemouth was a slightly different experience given that we attended a whole weekend of sport and camping amongst sporty sportspeople. You could say we were immersed into sports culture and that’s why we have this new found love for all kinds of sevens. I’m ashamed to say that we reused fancy dress outfits for this occasion. This was not out of laziness, but simply because our fancy dress efforts have been so great we wanted to experience them again. We slightly changed our space costumes to become ‘tight and bright’, and for ‘superheroes’ we chose our old New Years Eve favourite. That’s right, I was Ron Weasley. Don’t even think about suggesting that Ron is not a superhero. Did you not see his chess game? So much sass. 11261582_10152912877273457_3396595336378410903_n The weather was beautiful again (the sun has been loving all of the sevens this month) so we pretty much just loved life for the whole of the first day watching rugby men and drinking beer. One of the most entertaining parts of the rugby game (in my opinion) is watching their warm ups on the side beforehand. It’s like they try to emit as much manliness as possible to macho themselves up but in actual fact they are just doing yoga. I’m not complaining, in fact the yoga-rugby collaboration gave me a higher appreciation for the game. Being camped near a Scotland rugby team and having embraced Scottish rugby on our trip to Edinburgh, we ended up taking it upon ourselves to support them through the cup. We may have unwittingly become Scotland groupies. I promise we’re not stalkers we just love Scotland and rugby. And they did win the cup so our choice of stalkering was rightly made. Of course the sport watching was fabulous and the main reason for the festival, but after the games had finished was when the fun really started. The alcohols we sneaked past security came out and the campsite became a place of dancing, banterous conversations, rope skipping, cartwheels, selfie sticks, and colouring in. That’s right, a man came up to me with a drawing and some crayolas and asked me to help him colour it in. Not gonna lie, my colouring was on point and we made ourselves a great giraffe picture (which I was allowed to keep as a token, thank you strange man). Once we were suitably liquored up we ventured off to discover the tents where our dance moves would be most appreciated (after some mash and the best ride of our lives, obvs). Turns out many. The music was so great that we found ourselves hopping between the 80s tent and German tent in equal measures. The 80s brought us great opportunities for wand dancing, getting low, congaing, and being all round ridiculous. The German tent brought us dancing on tables which let’s face it can’t often be beaten. If that wasn’t great enough we had the music man, the superman song, the Macarena, and at the end of the night especially for us ‘I will always love you’ to which we performed the best interpretive dance you could ever have seen. You wish you were there.

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We trialled the other hipster tents but other than a brief moshing session to Sandstorm surrounded by mental people we returned to our faves. When you’ve got all the cheesy music on offer why would you ever leave. I’ll admit the whole experience may have made us a bit too excited and crazy and one of us may have become a bit of a naughty girl. You know who you are. All the guys and all the arms. Even a few cuddles. And a rather scary experience of being lifted up and over the railings of the stage.. Smart decisions are always made in the 80s tent. If I have one complaint it’s that the music stopped at 1am. Like seriously what is this, we just found our grooves. No one seemed willing to let the night end so a chant of ‘Yaya Kolo Toure’ was started and went on for half an hour. We loved it. Didn’t you know we’re football louts now too.

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Eating all the foods is a standard part of any festival, but this time we really excelled in our food traditions. Burgers, chips and then hog roasts were all had in an ashamedly short time period. We were so committed to our food moment that we decided to take our foods into the tent to allow ourselves the freedom of ugly eating. Always a necessity to full enjoyment of foods. One of us took it upon herself to become wingman for the night, and apparently the way to wingman is to parade around saying to everyone ‘I. Am. A wingman. Guys. I’m a wingman. HELLO I’VE SET IT UP I’VE WINGMANNED YOU COME ON NOW’. If nothing else at least she wingmanned herself. All the cuddles. IMG_3370 If there is one thing to be said of spending an entire weekend surrounded by rugby lads, it’s that they like to get naked a lot. We saw far too many willies and sights that should not be repeated ever. Let’s just say there was a lot of pissing, some group stage performances, and some initiation activities involving licking. I’m not sure if they were traditions or just lads being lads, and actually I’m not sure which would be more worrying. One rugby team near us who had recently been getting naked and making twats of themselves sent someone over to pick me up and carry me into the middle of their circle. I’ll be honest, I was scared for my life. However I ended up having a beautiful moment whereby the whole team got on their knees and serenaded me. And then drew a scar on my head. Seriously such a lack of appreciation for Ron. HARRY HAS A SCAR NOT RON OKAY. 11262991_10153326131554804_1661886916005252984_n Reminiscing on the best of our sports related fun makes me feel that we need to seek out another sevens activity soon. We may be the least coordinated and clumsiest people ever but this shouldn’t mean sporting events are off limits for us. So what if we end up making fools of ourselves in various ways (when do we not), we get to unashamedly act like lads for the day or the weekend and always end up the drunkest. No regrets.

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…. who knows. Vlog to come, be ready.