Lifestyle

Paris: In Photos And Words

Posted on 10 min read

Finally, FINALLY, nearly two months later, I congregate a summary post of my 3 night trip of a lifetime! If you read my last post you’ll know I had a mega mental setback last month and I didn’t want to do anything but sleep and avoid all responsibilities, never mind sit down to get started on a hefty commentary on my holy trip to Paris but now – whilst I have the energy and seeing as I got round to transferring and editing 100+ photos in one go (yay me) – I thought it was about time I relived and retold the French fantasy in the place I create best.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have more than likely already seen a good proportion of these photos, and you’ll have also probably wondered why I’ve been obsessing and paying homage to the city of love for weeks on end. It’s just Paris, right? Less than an hour away on the plane. A place thousands of people visit every day. A bit cliche. Sights you’ve seen on tourist and travel pages time and time again. But nope, not to me. A simple girl with simple pleasures.

Paris is a spot that’s been on my bucket list for years. Ever since I grew out of the chav stage and moved on to being the adventurous type who gets their kicks from photographing prettiness in its best light and making the most of an escape from the usual reality. It’s a city I envisioned as enchantingly magical, full of colour, charm, and character. The kind of place you’d go and feel a wave of emotions. Excitement, exuberance, astonishment, attachment. Where on exploration you’d develop a flair for feeling like you could conquer the world.

And it was.

It was everything I imagined and more. Adding exhaustion, physical strain, emotional stress, burning temperatures, and an inadvertent digest of Paris’s entire metro line into the picture, and you have my dreams in the flesh. The idyllic haven full of potential on every pavement stole a piece of my heart that will always be slotted into the lengths and depths of Paris until I’m able to head back and continue my deep love affair.

I still can’t believe I was able to experience all of this purely from a few hours of sitting down with my laptop and a cuppa, documenting my day of inspiration, education and blogger solidarity as I attended my first Blog At The Beach. If you didn’t know, my city break was courtesy of Ice Lolly as I was announced the winner, and all I needed to take care of was the spending money. (Which did evaporate pretty quickly I must admit. The only downfall to Paris is the expense at the central parts; 4 euros for a bottle of water and 2 euros to have a pee at Notre Dame, anyone?)

But it made it all the more special. It was a once in a lifetime type of trip, probably my only opportunity to tick Paris off my ‘idealistic countries and cities to visit at least once’ agenda, and that’s why I wanted to take full advantage of every moment, savour the time I had, and venture out to as many locations as possible.

I exerted myself and was knocked for six, and I absolutely underestimated just how huge Paris is and how much there is to see but I can solemnly say it was well, well worth it.

I took my mum along for the ride and although she took on the role of outfit photographer, bag holder, and a receiver for all my heat induced frustration as she trailed along with my demands, I think she had just as much as a fabulous time as I did.

When we first arrived I had all this delirium in me ready to burst. I can’t quite figure out whether that was because I’d stepped foot on glorious French ground or because we had a 7am flight and I’d not slept in about 30 hours as the day went on, but once we’d eventually checked into the hotel I was able to fight off some of that fatigue with a quick nap, a saunter to the Beaugrenelle shopping centre around the corner, and an overseas Mcdonalds – which fyi is so much nicer than back home, Britain need to seriously catch up with the times. And after a good night’s rest, we were ready and pumped to get going.

 

So, where did we stay?

Our home for the trip was the Platine Hotel in the 15th arrondissement – Rue de l’Ingénieur-Robert-Keller to be specific. Just a short walk away from the Charles Michels metro station. A less crowded area but still close enough to the must-sees and enough eateries to cater for.

It was a Hollywood themed design boutique hotel; Marilyn Monroe situated in eye view wherever you went, a-list names printed on chairs and prints, each room individual and brimmed with personality and fifties ambience, and the comfiest beds I have ever had the satisfaction of placing my worn out body in. We were in one of the classic rooms and there were absolutely no complaints from me.

Cosy and well lit but with that old school retro pin up girl feel. Unique touches running through the entirety. The rest of the place was the same. The entrance not only had a delightful fresh scent but it also had a delightful way of drawing you in. Welcoming staff, a nostalgically decorated foyer with a small mini bar, a dining room, and a spa downstairs. After a long and tiring day I always looked forward to coming back to chill and spruce up for the night frolics!

What did I wear?

I wanted to showcase my pre-prepared outfits to their best ability but the scorching heatwave became a bit of a barrier to that. I did manage to make use of all my clothing but that’s not to say I wasn’t a sweaty, crinkled mess. I’ve now vowed, if I was to ever go back, it’d certainly be more this time of year. Paris in the summer is stunning but imagining all the golden, warm shades I could rock in the cooler autumn weather is honestly spine tingling.

The Parisian style is nothing but classic and chic. I remember the first fashion based book I bought was formed on the epic street style of Paris and it’s become nothing but an original inspiration ever since. Releasing my inner Parisian came in slogan tees, diverse stripes, graceful silhouettes, an excess of polka dots, and then some casual cuts swaying away from the couture.

After-all I do believe the motto in Paris is; it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.

 

And what did we do?

We decided our schedule was gonna go like this:

Day one – a more chilled out day, wander the local area, head to the parks to soak up the sunshine, do a little bit of shopping, go for breakfast and indulge in alllll the pastries, discover those quaint, poised parts that are often hidden.

Day two – do the typical tourist thang. Engulf in the rich culture, admire the architectural masterpieces and monuments, take as many photos as possible and capture the elegant essence and sophisticated soul of this beautiful city.

That was the basic plan and we stuck to it, everything else came secondary. Our flight times were awkward so we only had two whole days to fit it all in but I think we did a damn good job.

We roamed the interior and exterior views of museums, restaurants, cafes, boulevards, public gardens, hotels, apartments,  boutiques, the numerous aristocratic buildings in the arrondissements, and some of the most iconic, recognisable structures known to mankind – my camera round my neck clicked frequently as we turned to grandeur around every corner.

People have asked me for tips on how I managed to portray the distinctive vibe in multiple locations through nothing but photos but truthfully? I don’t have an honest answer. I just went with the flow, knowing that Paris is overflowing with promise whether you’re entering the populous zone, or the more secluded. Every section tells a story and has such a vibrant buzz, whether that be a sensory overload as you tackle the midday herds, or the beguiled power radiating from the framework.

I’ve probably run out of words to describe it by now, tbh. So now the only words I’m going to type out are those giving a run down with the continued photo diary as a prompt!

On the first day we headed to the 6th arrondissement and spent a good couple of hours in that area – beginning with Luxembourg Gardens. Massive, but very tranquil – and of course, picturesque! It was about 35 degrees so we did need to cool off after that and we made our way to an Amorino just around the corner for our dose of rose sculpted ice cream. Talking of corners, strolling past the narrow streets with tasteful cafes and restaurants occupying the zebra crossings gave me all the insta-worthy feels – the kind that made me wish I had a professional photographer beside me at all times.

Afterwards, we were back on the Saint Sulpice metro heading to the gorgeous Boulevard Saint Germain, checking out the small local markets, and following on with seeking the shops around Madeleine and Saint-Fiacre – in particular Sezane and Chanel – so I could pretend I was a successful business woman with a platinum purse and not clutching a carrier bag with my Primark shoes in, instead.

For the rest of the duration, we progressed to the more touristy parts; roved the eye catching beauty of Tulleries Gardens, had a sit down and a souvenir purchase at the Place De La Concorde where we had our very first drop of well needed rain! Saw the famous pyramid that is the Louvre and even attempted the touching of the tip standing pose (safe to say that wasn’t all that successful). Then, when we were well and truly zonked, we headed back to shower and change before hopping back on the metro and going to the Saint Michel neighbourhood upon recommendation for some hearty Italian pasta.

Probably sounds ridiculous staying on the beige food when there’s so many savouring possibilities in the French hospitality. But aside from eating my body weight in delicious bread and drooling over macarons, we were that busy we didn’t have time to even think about food (and wine) and instead stuck to the safe option of what we know.

Saint Michel was such a lovely area, from what I could see in the dark! A sense of homely familiarity hit you once you entered, the streets alive with twinkling lights, waiters rushed off their feet, and a mix of people having fun and soaking in the atmosphere; locals having a midweek catch up twirling their wine glass in hand and tourists being tourists. I wouldn’t mind staying there in the future as the prices weren’t too bad, either!

On the second day we felt much more refreshed after a 7 hour sleep and we needed it because this was our last day to cram everything in! We’d pre-booked our tickets for the River Seine cruise and we spent half of our day on there, embracing the peace the crystal water and blue skies brought and seeing the sights in all their opulence. First up was Champs Elysees – crossing the Pont Alexandre bridge and walking the waterfront for a few refreshments, briefly catching the Arc De Triomphe (I’ve made a pact to go up there on the deck for a stunning landscape city view next time), then on to the Eiffel Tower to admire with typical globetrotter annoyance, and finally ending the tour at Notre Dame where I fell in love with how utterly French the whole ordeal was – a cathedral much bigger than I ever pictured and a busker playing the sax beside the flowing river.

Before we headed back to the hotel for another (and our last) evening meal, I insisted on visiting the Sacré-Cœur. That big white church/total castle with the million stairs. It didn’t go down too well admittedly; almost collapsing halfway up, feeling the wrath of those stairs and the warmth on my chronic pain, having a panic attack triggered and then to top it off a sliced open toe as I accidentally stood on glass; but wow the wonders of detail and view from the top was incredible, mesmerising. I was completely awestruck, even with the mishaps of the day looming over me.

Breaths now steadied, regular calm resumed, and another croissant consumed, we once again hopped on to the metro back to refresh for the nighttime adventures we had planned. We didn’t have the funds to go see Moulin Rouge but we went, anyway. To see it all lit up in action, to take some photos of my matching outfit to the backdrop, and to indulge in the fittest pizza I have ever had the honour of ingesting.

Our night finished off being cheesily seduced by various French men and plenty of giggles (I thought catcalling didn’t exist in Paris until the last night but at least it was less aggressive) and our holiday finished off on a 6am taxi journey back to the most ginormous airport I’ve ever been (honestly, Paris, why are you so EXTRA) passing by the many streets we’d walked on the days before and having my spirits fulfilled witnessing sunrise at the Eiffel Tower making it the most perfectly fitting ending to a perfect holiday.

I can’t thank the guys at Ice Lolly enough for providing me with such bliss from start to finish! You think I’ll ever shut up about this captivating city? You thought wrong.

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When Life Gives You Lemons, Bitterness Never Leaves…

Posted on 18 min read

I didn’t want to talk about this. I never want to talk about this. Mainly because I’m ashamed of this life, because society makes me feel this way, because I hate being this person; always have done, always will do.

But I couldn’t keep quiet, I just couldn’t. For my own sanity. My peace of mind. The things running through my head. The tears rolling down my face as I contemplate whether living my life and carrying on the best I can is even worth it anymore.

Right now in my mature adulthood I’m very open about my medical condition and my disability. I talk about my stroke and my chronic pain much more frequently than I used to when I thought concealing those parts of me was the only way to be accepted. What I don’t talk about very often is the ways in which it affects my ability to work. As in, I’ve never had a fixed job since the day it struck me down and left me paralysed – physically and mentally.

It’s not something I’m proud of, it’s not a fact I like about myself, it’s not a part of me I enjoy. It haunts me on a daily basis as I watch the people around me flourishing to their highest level of success, wishing more than anything that I could be one of those people. Twenty five, out earning thousands, showing the world just what I have to offer. But I’m not. There’s ambition coming out of my eyeballs but I can’t achieve even a fraction of that with the suffering I have to endure and the minor yet major factor of considering how much my health has to come first.

Looking back, I have moved forward since I was a lonely teen scared and fragile and with no hope for the future, and that’s what keeps me going. I have a genuine hobby, I have an escape, I have a group of incredible friends, and most of all I have freelance adventures that stop me from hitting complete rock bottom of worthlessness and failure.

My current situation is the one steady situation that’s been in place for years (but which is also uncertain and anxiety riddled alongside that with all the constant Tory cuts and changes). I receive Employment Support Allowance, which aids someone like me who has an impairment that prevents them from working a heavy duty full time job, whilst still giving them the opportunity to grow and develop and accomplish. I am in the work related activity group and I go for bimonthly meetings with my coach to discuss the optimum options for me. You can earn a sum of money per week whilst still receiving this benefit, and that’s just what I do – fully disclosed via a form filled in for permitted work. There’s my influencer marketing endeavours, my article writing, and most recently a freelance writing gig specifically run by disabled women (which despite the state of my mental health right now, I’m still really looking forward to my first paid piece going live next month). These are all done from home because that’s the only agenda I know I can 100% adhere to – done in my own time, with my own hours, in my own pace, by my own rules, and as and when I feel fit and well enough to do it.

Coming back home from my Paris trip I won, utterly exhausted and feeling the aftermath in the form of my burning nerve pain that knocks me clean out on one half of my body, what I didn’t need is to find a letter waiting for me to partake in an urgent telephone interview with the DWP. 1) How out of the blue? 2) A telephone interview? By someone with the biggest phone fear known to man? Oh hell no. 3) Let’s get my angel of a mum on that immediately. I was instantly upset as I had a gut feeling there was something wrong and reading up on local compliance interviews online set it in stone for me. I had to wait a full weekend for them to phone us back with a proper insight into what was going on and after an unsettled tummy, sleepless nights, and a whole lot of dread, my worst possible scenario was confirmed.

I’d been reported. Anonymously, apparently. Online on the 27th July and with accusations that broke my heart into shattered pieces. I don’t feel like I want to delve into detail of what was said but what I will say is that with the misconceived, malicious, and utterly bullshit statements that were stated, it must have been someone who knew me well. Nobody but family and close family friends knew the ins and outs of my circumstances and that’s what makes this even more soul destroying. It’s limited down to very few possible people and for me, that makes it harder to deal with. To think that somebody hates me this much. To know the hardship I’ve been through and still go through, and still be this selfishly cruel and spiteful. Holding my entity in the form of a button and pressing send without hesitation, being well aware how much it could break me. How much it has.

I’m “not as poorly as I make out” apparently… like it’s a barrel of laughs having a brain injury, like I lie about how I feel and what I experience for the fun of it because I get a thrill out of the prejudice and the stumbling blocks I face, like the numerous hospital appointments, the medication, the MRI scans, and the word from my neurologist are all just a myth. I mean, why do you think I only dish out the basics?? Why do you think I put on a brave face even when I’m in agony?! Because of this. Because people like this exist and it’s not just the illness you have to cope with, it’s the attitudes around you.

I shouldn’t have to explain myself to strangers but I do, on the basis of people’s ignorance towards invisible illness. From now on it looks like I’m going to have stick a sign on my head when I’m in pain or document every single moment when I’m laid on the floor or the sofa unable to move with my left arm levered as it feels like the devil has arrived to rip my skin apart. I can’t even put into words the intensity in which my pain can reach, so why on earth does some bitter nobody think they know me better than I know myself?

My guess is they’ve constructed their false assumptions by looking at my social media pages where surprise surprise, only the positive parts of my life are shown. That’s the whole point. Do you really think I’m going to speak about and showcase the unpleasant encounters? No. Maybe I should? Maybe I’m going to have to prove myself (not to quote puff daddy) with every breath I take and move I make? I only recently tweeted a summary of my thoughts:


and that absolutely still stands. You shouldn’t be able to judge from what you see on the outside only. What’s going on, on the outside, isn’t instantly a match to the inside. There’s so much I keep to myself, where the light is on but I’m only functioning on auto. It’s so f*cking difficult trying to remain strong every day, to build a wall against my emotions and keep that facade up. This is mainly down to the lack of understanding from other people. What’s the point even attempting to make it evident when they just don’t get it?! Nobody gets it. Not even medical professionals, sometimes. At this stage, it’s not even dealing with my pain on a regular basis that is physically and emotionally draining, it’s living with a condition so rare and unheard of that everyone around you assumes all it is a slight niggle or ache that easily passes and I’m a picture of health otherwise.

That presumption couldn’t be more off the wrong scale.

My blog and my knack at creating content is not only my source of independence, but it’s my distraction, my escape, a chance for me to step away from the Bridie who cannot, and become the Bridie who can. The same goes for ordinary life activities. I never used to have a ~life~ until recently. I was isolated and neglectful and bored and that totally worsened my condition but life was finally good to me. It gave me a reason to be happy. To carry on as though I’ve not had a big chunk of my life taken away from me. Gave me opportunities to thrive. I’ve been told numerous times that finding something to focus on can help take the edge off my pain and it did, it does. It hasn’t miraculously cured me, my pain’s always there and is always gonna be there, but having a reason to get up in the morning means my pain doesn’t take centre forward position. I’m doing what I’ve been told, adapting my lifelong pain to my present life. The pain is a constant burden and there’s hurdles I have to overcome but I may as well overcome them because I’m going to be in pain no matter what I do. The only reason I may seem perkier lately is because I have that positive impact, and because it’s been warm and the sun rays do help a little (I really am dreading the winter).

The more miserable and stressed I am the more in pain I am, it’s why I try my best to stay well away from that dark pit. Now? Well now I’m deep in it. I feel like I no longer want to do anything. That it’s against the rules of the ableds and the privileged. That I should feel guilty for going out and making the most of the second chance I was given. That I should feel even guiltier if my pain gave me a break. That feeling better isn’t allowed, whether that be for hours or days on end. Like not being severely debilitated one day means I’m making it all up and the problems I face don’t exist after all. That when my pain is at its worst I should sigh a breath of thanks for confirming what my internalised ableism tries to invade my thoughts with, establishing my questioning of “am I ill enough?”

According to the person who obviously knows my routine and my feelings inside and out, because I go on holiday or out for a meal and to the shops, that means I’m perfectly fine. Guess what? Disabled and ill people are entitled to a leisurely life just as much as you are. To state otherwise, to diminish the value and quality of a life and of human rights, to act like having fun as a disabled person is an evil sin, is demeaning and offensive. That, my friend, is ableism, and it isn’t pretty nor clever. AND you know what else? You’re allowed to, legally and on your own terms. So maybe, just maybe, you should check your facts beforehand. Maybe, just maybe, you should stop discounting disability purely because I’m living my life. Maybe, just maybe, you should stop invalidating us and acting as though we owe you a divulge into our personal lives because we’re a liability and you’re kind enough to let us exist. Like what we should be doing is vegetating away indoors because that’s all we deserve. God forbid our lives contain anything like fulfilment and joy and friends and entertainment. Must we meet a daily struggle and suffering quota before we’ve achieved enough self-punishment to be allowed pleasure and happiness? Is that what it all comes down to?

Getting shamed into having a life alongside my disability is damaging and I genuinely don’t think I can take much more of this deliberate insensitivity. It’s why I always come to the conclusion that I’m better off alone.

***

What you probably don’t know is that my chronic pain fluctuates more than the British summer. It’s a perpetual roller coaster. Some days I can be relatively all right, others can be unbearable. To you, I may seem normal, but what you don’t see is the behind the scenes. What you don’t see is the preparation it takes to go out or go away. The few days of rest and early nights I must undergo to guarantee I’m going to be okay for the plans I’ve made. Even then there’s no guarantee – my pain is rigorously unpredictable and I never know how I’m going to be. But if it’s something I’ve been looking forward to?! I push myself, I push through the extraordinary pain and I try to grin and bear it, still without saying a word. If you think you know me that well, take a closer look. You’ll notice I’m quieter, I’m resting my arm on a cushion, I’m not moving around much, I’m paler, I’m dead behind the eyes, I’m snappy, I’m sleepy, I don’t have much enthusiasm, I’m not very talkative, my mood has dropped. It might not be noticeable at first sight but trust me, it’s there.

What you also don’t see is the torturous aftermath; the flare up of symptoms, the days spent at home laid down flat as I’m too wiped out to function right. What you don’t see is me debating with myself whether I should embrace the good days knowing full well I’m going to be paying for it later – whether that be hours or days later. What you don’t see is the energy it takes to complete tasks. What you don’t see is the days I’ve had to drop out of and miss. What you don’t see is everything that follows the pain. Overwhelming fatigue to the point I can’t keep my eyes open, an affected sleeping pattern because my pain tends to keep me up at night, an even bigger loss of self worth, and an even bigger rise of depression.

Am I to start listing the times my condition has troubled me whilst I’m out or whilst I’m busy and active? Would that be satisfactory for you? Like when I had to scramble for a seat to sit down walking round Primark because my left leg really was about to give way and I couldn’t take the throbbing anymore? Like when my fingers were spasming as I tried to eat my food on a birthday meal out with my friends? Like when I could barely sit on a stool comfortably because my arm, torso, and leg had locked stiff? Like when I could barely walk the next day after the busiest night of my holiday? Like when all I’ve managed to do in a day is either go to sleep or sob, losing my dignity, my mum having to brush my hair, bath me, cut my food up, because I physically cannot use my hand. Like when I am doing some writing work and I have to put it on hold because of the sensations I’m getting? The burning, the whooshing, the tightening, the hypersensitivity? The loss of concentration and motivation because my pain has decided to attack? I’ve had to separate this essay alone into about three days typing because my left arm and hand is rebelling against me. Should I have recorded that and published it within the post so you believe me? Seems that way, huh.

I’m angry and sad.

So sad.

Sad that capitalism stigmatises needing and getting help. Sad that ordinary people do, too. Sad that disabled people are made to feel culpable. Like, I didn’t ask to have a stroke? I didn’t want this? I don’t want this. I try my damn hardest to keep moving onwards and upwards, chasing relief and dreams because I don’t want to be in this stationary position forever. I want to make something of myself. Consider yourself lucky if you’re able to go out and do the stuff you desire without worries and hurt on your back. That’s called entitlement. Don’t take it for granted. You never know what life could throw at you, when that barrier of illness could happen to you.

If I thought I could go out and work consistently, subject to a long term commitment and hold it down, do you think I’d still be dependent on my current state of affairs? Would I balls. If I was fine and dandy I wouldn’t be going to these efforts, I wouldn’t want to go through gruelling assessments, I wouldn’t want to avoid people, I wouldn’t want to grimace at the dreaded question of “so what do you do?”.

Believe me when I say I’ve been a grafter. I really have. I’ve been to work when my mental health was terribly spiralling after the loss of my dad; when I was caught up in my own chemical reactions and bereavement. I’ve hopped from placement to placement handling the wildness of pre-school children. I volunteered a few years back, one day a week, just to see whether I could manage. I couldn’t. Did you know I’d also applied to about five work at home jobs that would really suit me recently and got rejected from them all? Nope. You know why? I don’t announce shit to the world. I’m only doing it now because I had no other choice. I had to vent somewhere. I had to get it all out into the open.

It’s not just the prospect of a job itself, it’s everything that comes with that. It’s actually getting hired. Spending most of my young days cooped up or unwell means I don’t have many qualifications or skills to put on my CV. Throw my chronic health condition into the mix and you have every quality an employer is looking for, right? Wrong. You really think with the demand of jobs, a disabled underachiever would be the one to get it? Pfft. Open your eyes. And do you think bosses would be respectful and remorseful and understanding with the amount of time off and breaks I’d need? Why do you think I want to choose the comfort and freedom of my own home as my workplace? Even if I did feel I was capable enough to venture one day I’d be so afraid of agreeing to a contract only to realise a day or two in that I’m really really not cut out for this and my body isn’t managing. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I do feel like I’d be ready to go on a good day but then I can wake up the next to the reality, crippled and deflated.

There’s the travelling to and fro, the temperatures and weather conditions as the year passes by, all factors that can have a negative impression on the influx of my chronic pain. Then there’s the health and safety. I have a college degree in childcare but do you really think I’ll ever be able to use it now?! Do you really think I’d be able to be around children when I can only feel one half of my body? For most environments, really, there’ll always be that underlying issue of well-being and safety.

There’s a huge difference between relaxing on a sunbed, or being around familiar faces and places who get that you might not be entirely okay, to operating non stop with an excessive workload on strenuous shifts; especially if that so happens to be on a day where I can only mumble in response to someone I’m in that much pain, where I can’t even use my left hand – my dominant hand. Not once have I ever claimed I’m totally incapable of anything, what I have claimed is that making use of that capability will 100% leave me with a decline. If you’re willing to find me a none physically-demanding job from a company who would be absolutely fine with me going in one day and then having a week off to recover for another enervating day, then you go ahead. Or better still, keep your mouth shut. If you’ve never suffered. If you’ve never walked a day in my shoes. Then you don’t get to comment. You don’t get to undermine me. You know how rotten you feel with a flimsy cold? You know how painful sunburn can be to the point you can’t touch it? Multiply that by a hundred and then tell me again my life is a breeze.

Whoever you are, I hope that you’re reading this. You probably won’t care about how devastating your actions have been but I hope you’re happy with yourself, I hope you’re aware of how much you’ve destroyed with your uneducated cowardliness.

You made my mum cry. You made my brother want to go out and strangle whoever’s responsible. You made my 75 year old grandma lay awake staring at the ceiling all night pondering with disgust and distress. You made me wish I’d have died rather than made it out of the hospital almost 8 years ago. It’s tipped me right over the edge. I’ve been balancing there for a while, not been in the best of places, and now? My loved ones won’t leave me on my own because they’re worried about what I’m gonna do, because I’ve spoke out loud that I don’t want to live like this. My heart’s been racing non stop. I’ve cried every single morning and night. I’m so paranoid and jumpy. I’ve had to go see my doctor. She was brilliant with me, telling me this sort of stuff makes you stronger, but we have agreed for me to see a psychiatric liaison nurse to speak about how I’m feeling about it. It was the final push. It’s set me back a good 5 years, back to where there was little to no progress with my mental state and I was pretty much housebound.

I’m empty. I’m numb. I’m at a loss at what to do with myself. I don’t even know who to trust anymore. I’m going round in circles with no finishing point. I already feel less of a person with no sense of purpose, now I’ve been made to feel completely non-existent. Am I being watched? Is everyone around me surveilling me and assuming my ability with a grudge? Walking on eggshells is all I’m gonna be doing from now on.

I’m just gutted. Completely crushed. All those questions looming. Why did you do this to me when I don’t ever do no wrong to anybody? How can you be so thoughtless and heartless? Forgetting everything I’ve battled and labelling me as a con? I know it’ll get better because it’s the only thing I’ve learned on my rocky journey to get where I am but for now all I can do is keep being honest and keep my head up.

Please just bear with me on this. It’s still a lot to take in and to reveal. Especially with how inconsiderate and savage the internet can be. I’m so so scared of getting a backlash from this post and this announcement. I’m terrified the people close to me are going to perceive me in a different light and that I’m gonna be even more judged than I was before broadcasting this part of me, but all I can do is put my faith in those who take their time to understand me, my situation, and why I had to do this. I’m still quite vulnerable. I don’t think the low spirits will disappear for a while and I don’t think I’ll want to talk much after pressing the submit button, but I had to get it off my chest. Especially today on an extremely naff pain day. It’s made me more eager to voice just how shit it can be, how shit it is.

I’m just grateful for the kind and decent people there to support me. At least I know you have my back! I don’t think I’d be keeping going without you. My immediate family have been amazing, my best friends don’t even know what’s wrong yet and still they’ve been amazing. My grandma’s sat with me and talked to me everyday this week. My grandma’s friend’s sent me some of my fave chocolates to cheer me up. My brother’s done his best to make me laugh. My mum’s provided the cuddles. My auntie’s been round with some flowers, a teddy, and a little sign that says ‘never let anyone dull your sparkle’ and you know what? I’m gonna have to listen. I’m gonna have to fight it. Everyday of my life is a fight but if there’s people out there who want to make it harder for me then all I can do is put on my armour and contest*.

*disclaimer: with only one good side of my body and pain to follow, of course.

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AD | The Birthday Gift Guide For Men

Posted on 4 min read

I don’t talk about men a lot on my blog. Not because I’m anti male company, or because I believe the secret to a long, stress-free life is to ditch any contact with them, or because I just don’t get the species as a whole (okay maybe a little), but because they’re simply just so bloody hard to integrate into my gift guide niche. So, what I mean is, not just difficult to understand and unravel the layers of, but a complete riddle when it comes to the topics I speak about; personal style, health, and most of all, beauty.

It’s my brother’s birthday this weekend; the big 2-1, and as I’m trying to calculate my brainstorm of ideal gifts that will make an impression, it got me thinking about the lack of potential there is – and that got me ready and willing to create a handy guide. I think when a birthday arrives for an important man in your life – whether that be Dad, Granddad, Husband, Boyfriend, Brother, Uncle – there’s always that mini panic of ‘what do I buy for the man who already has everything’ or ‘how do I keep it distinctive when typical gifts can be so humdrum’ but to me it’s all in the detail; the multi facets and the practicality. This is where the first item on the list comes into play. A perfect pamper present by Panasonic in the form of their new unveiled range of combination shavers, beard and facial hair trimmers, and clippers. This ultimate 4 in 1 masterpiece Men’s Trimmer with super sleek design and technology is sure to be a pleaser for your everyday average man who likes to keep a fine eye on their appearance (and if they’re anything like my brother, likes to take a sudden stop in the  mirror to admire themselves). A preened beard is all the rage these days so to feed their vanity is most certainly my number one option!

To go alongside that, a gift set of some kind would be convenient to continue the self care session. Whether that be a body care set; shower gel, soap, lotion, a skin care set; face wash/moisturiser, aftershave balm, spray, or a simple haircare set with shampoo, conditioner, and any other luxuries. I’m an advocate for washing away that toxic masculinity with a good grooming and it’s always appreciated from your every day man on the go! Not forgetting the finisher, of course. An ample aftershave with a scent that ticks all the boxes.

If beauty is a no go, then it’s on to the initial subject of discussion: style. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a trendy pair of trainers or a basic brand of t-shirt. Although it’s best to try and discreetly get a heads up first before you go out shopping and end up buying the complete wrong thing. Staple colours are my secret to success – black, white, grey – I don’t think I’ve ever heard a grumble instead of seen a satisfied smile with a sporty polo piece in this shade.

Food and drink. Another winner in the book of a growing 21 year old whose life revolves around that lean muscle and those strenuous gym sessions. I remember one year my brother got given a protein style hamper to feed his zest for nutrition and he was absolutely thrilled. It proves something so understated can still be so unique… but if all fails just opt for chocolate and booze!

A gift doesn’t even have to be physical. A shopping voucher or a gig ticket or even a booking for a day out somewhere is special and exclusive for your loved one. It shows you listen and take note of what they enjoy and all it usually takes is the click of a button! Speaking of personalised choices, I love the engraved gifts that you can get made especially. Wallets, mugs, ornaments, pens, even a pair of boxer shorts. There’s extensive variety to suit every kind of bloke!

Failing that, a quirky gadget to provide that geeky, techy fix or a console to keep them occupied so they don’t have time to bother you when you crave some quality me time without disturbances (double bonus!) and finally, a handover with a smidgen of comedy. There’s nothing better than stifling a laugh out of your loved one, your family, or your friend and if it shows you’re taking into consideration their personality quirks then it’s brownie points all round.

I really do idolise my brother. Despite being my baby bro, he’s still the authoritative male figure in my life. The one who has my back, who helps me out, who keeps our circle of three intact. I don’t know where I’d be without him bailing me out when I need it, to be honest. I don’t know where I’d be without him there to cheer me up, to reminisce on old times with me, to stick up for me, to act as my personal photographer and cope with my specific demands,  and most of all, to maintain our close knit relationship that has been bonded since day one.

I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who feel the same about the men in their life and I know that sometimes a gift doesn’t feel adequate enough. But trust me when I say it’s just a small fraction of the token of your appreciation. Hand a gift over on their celebratory day, and hand yourself over for the rest of time!

What are your go to gifts for men?

*This is a collaborative post but all words/opinions/ideas are my own

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25 Things I’ve Learned In 25 years

Posted on 12 min read

25. Twenty five. Halfway to 50. A quarter of a century.

It doesn’t matter which way I dance around it, it’s not going to change the fact I’m officially in grandma mode.

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!

And there’s no going back now. There’s no avoiding mid June like a lurgy because the daunting thought of moving further and further away from my youth is clouding my discernment that age is just a number. Thankfully I don’t feel any older (or any older than the 100 year old decrepit I feel on a daily basis thanks to my fragile body) but it is kinda sad that the older you get, the less meaningful your birthdays are.

It’s no longer the exciting parade of parties, jelly and ice cream, beaming smiles, red cheeks, a stream of new toys that can occupy you for hours without a care in the world, and a wild imagination to go with it.

The wild imagination is still there, just probably not how it was when you were five.

Instead, it’s analysing your progress obsessively, it’s comparing your sorry life to other people your age, and it’s drowning in self pity when you realise you don’t even fall close. It’s avoiding being centre of attention instead of basking in it. It’s doing everything you can to prevent wrinkles, and it’s worrying about future saggy boobs. It’s a juxtapose of sheer disappointment and sheer joy when you peak at 11pm on the night of celebrations not even halfway through pre-drinks, and it’s the sigh of dismay the next morning when the reality of adulthood hits. There’s no mum there to make you breakfast and do your hair, just giant bags under your eyes and a busy schedule on deck to greet you.

It’s a scary thought, really. Having the years fly by and not seeing much for it. Or at least that’s what it seems like; the same old, same old. I don’t like to be too pessimistic and crestfallen over still being depressed and lonely and pretty unfulfilled halfway through my twenties so I thought I’d take the next step – reflection.

In all honesty, I’m not who I thought I’d be at 25 but in some ways, I’m glad, and I’m proud. Every breath I’ve taken, every beat of my heart in those 9125 days is significant to my learning curve and the road I’m still travelling on. My mind, my body, and my soul have been through some drastic things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy but it’s also been on the awesome rollercoaster ride they call life. Ups, downs, highs, lows, flying at an uncontrollable speed, even being stuck in the middle for a long period of time. Here’s 25 lessons I’ve learned in my 25 years on earth.

  1. It’s okay to put your health first. Mental and physical. You have to put that before anything else because once you’ve lost your form, that’s it. Making that decision happened to me a lot sooner than I ever expected and it took me a long time to push away that guilt and shame but I discovered to make my well being my priority is an essential to how I cope with my condition. Yes, I sometimes ignore the warning signs, carry on exerting myself, and overdo it because I’m having too much fun but afterwards I do take those self care steps. There’ll always be that voice telling you you aren’t ill enough to put everything else on the back burner, to place stable regularity second on the hierarchy, and to take a direction different from the ordinary and the able; the internalised able-ism telling you you’re faking it, you’re exaggerating, you’re mooching – but you aren’t, you’re surviving. Only you know your own body, your life is important, and you don’t owe an explanation to or have to please anyone else.
  2. Life isn’t built on materialism. It’s built on moments, and adventure, and laughter, and love. It was only a few years back that I came to the realisation I was buying my way to happiness and that owning a collection of goods is nothing compared to what’s on the outside, available to fill your senses with genuine satisfaction. The finding of spiritual matters away from movements and physical possessions, is priceless!
  3. Being problematic doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. I’ve had my fair share of trial and errors over the years, and cited my fair share of ignorant remarks, too. Looking back, I cringe and curse myself for how dismissive, uneducated, and ill-mannered I was but it also means I can look back and learn from it. It’s bad at the time, yes, but to consider how much you’ve advanced in maturity and durability is rewarding. You’re taking the bad and making it good.
  4. Finding your friendship group doesn’t always happen straight away. Two years. That’s how long I’ve been friends with my platonic soulmates for, and I know hands down they’re the only true friends I’ve had. I found them in my twenties and it really does give a real perspective on how I’ve struggled to fit in, to manifest a girl gang, and how time after time I’ve accepted fake and troublesome when actually I should have drifted far away. The wait is worth it if you don’t force it and don’t let ‘friends’ walk all over you. Authentic friendship will present itself naturally and you’ll feel it from your heart to the tip of your toes when it does.
  5. And finding yourself. The same goes for finding yourself. I still think I’m on that journey with my identity, in fact I don’t think there’s a time limit on when you stop. Everything from your personal style, to your beliefs, to your personal decisions, to your opinions, to your all round disposition, to who you are; it can interchange, it can differ, and it can get stronger, but it’ll always be in your favour.
  6. Inspiration may strike at 2am. In fact, it probably will. You’ll be laid awake fruitlessly staring at the ceiling and becoming frustrated with yourself and suddenly a ping of the lightbulb in your head will go off. Usually they end up being some of the best, innovative ideas you’ve ever exhibited and the dark circles you’ll be sporting the next day are worth it for the epic dissertation you bang out.
  7. You’re never too old. To fangirl. For a cuddle with your mum. To think you’ll get eaten alive by a monster if your feet are stuck out the bed covers. To dance around the room to S Club 7. Nostalgia feeds the soul and fun is what keeps you young – and sane!
  8. You can cope more than you realise. When the world seems pointless and coping feels like the last thing you can do, you’ll still do it. You’ll get up, you’ll hold your head high, and you’ll wonder just how ever you managed to get past it. That’s because you’re powerful, you’re brilliant, and you’re built to pursue every hurdle, every task, and even every dream that comes your way. It began like this. Separated parents. Watching your dad slowly wither away and decline in health and in personality. Losing him. Losing my final father figure two years later. A mental breakdown at 13. Another one at 16. And another at 18. Having a rare form of stroke at 17. Being on the edge of death. Wanting to be on the edge of death. Left with incurable debilitating chronic pain and brain damage that turned my life upside down. Recovering the best I can and becoming who I am today. I’d say I’ve done alright and sometimes I have to remind myself I am in fact a warrior. You are stronger than you believe and you have to keep telling yourself that. You have to hold yourself higher than your brain tells you to!
  9. Your body is a temple. So look after yourself. That’s all I have to say. Your body is precious but it’s also open to extensive energy and freedom. Treat it well but don’t restrict yourself. Utilise it to your advantage. Give it the credit it deserves. Embrace your flaws. Have fun, enjoy the body you’re in, and it’ll love you right back.
  10. Your teenage crush is not the love of your life. Those nights you’ve cried until you had no tears left? Those songs on the radio you instantly related to the person you’re lusting over? The one you couldn’t have? The one you couldn’t talk to? The one you eventually did connect with? The one you fell for? The one you thought you couldn’t live without? News just in: you can. At the height of your twenties you’ll probably laugh about it but it’s all part of the structure in your love life on the pathway to your happy ending. I haven’t found mine yet, but I still have faith.
  11. The people in your life play a crucial part in how you flourish. Choosing the people you want to surround yourself with is a major part of how your life will pan out. It’s an absolute waste of time trying to make people who don’t like you, like you. It’s also an absolute waste of time trying to make the effort with those who don’t care. I’m at that stage now where if someone is a hassle, then I don’t even bother. Remove toxicity, don’t be around people who put you down, drain your spirits, or make you feel like crap. Life really is too short to spend it being dragged down by the wrong clique.
  12. Adulthood isn’t as easy as you think. When you’re a naive 10 year old, planning your life out, thinking about how you’re going to be settled and married with kids in your own home by 25. Earning thousands, living your best life, sipping champagne on a rooftop balcony, it’s easy to get lost in the notion of fantasy but it’s only when you reach adulthood that you start to realise it’s not as brilliant as you first thought. A let down, yes, but also a slice of reality you need.
  13. Say yes more. Take risks out of your comfort zone, tackle obstacles, keep going even when you think you can’t. There’s never been an occasion where I’ve regretted doing something I was apprehensive about doing beforehand and it’s almost always resulted in me being pleased I went there, plucked up the courage, and gained some wisdom.
  14. It’s okay to be different. Whatever you think, there isn’t no normal or abnormal. I have to keep telling myself this even now. Everyone leads an individual pathway; some may be a bachelorette still living at home with not many former or foregoing encounters happening (aka me) and some may be out there with ample expertise in being the picture perfect person on paper. You can’t like the exact same things as others. You can’t act the exact same way as others. You can’t all lead the same life at the same time because it would be a boring place if you did. Society likes us to believe there’s a specific timescale to achieve things but truthfully everyone has their own personal timeline. You’re not a failure or out of the loop, you’re you!
  15. It’s also okay to change. Who you were at 20 doesn’t define who you are at 25. Your mentality can change the more you explore those corners of life. I believe you’re constantly a work in progress until the day you die – all these segments you uncover along the way make up the pieces of the final puzzle.
  16. Do what you love. Overused, but life really is too short. It’s too short to let people put you off what you enjoy. It’s too short to allow judgement to burden you. It’s too short to pretend. It’s too short to be miserable. I’m Bridie, I spend half my free time meeting celebrities, I prefer to binge watch the soaps than any popular American drama, I like to go food shopping with my mum and grandma on a consecutive Saturday, and the rest of the time I strive for magnificence on social media but hey, I ain’t even sorry. I look at people my age who are steady and sturdy and living the quieter, simple, ordinary life, and tell myself maybe I should be in that position? But I’m still making the most of being unattached and free; expressing myself, my hobbies, and the life I want to build for myself.
  17. The experience of life matters most. it’s what you make of it that determines your happiness and steady contentment. There’s so much pressure on you to aim for the top but I truly think when you become independent then that’s when you blossom most. Despite what people think, general sociology has taught me life lessons school or college or uni never would. The importance of humanity, compassion, acceptance, open mindedness, being a person in a world where there’s so many issues, so many ways you can be a decent person, and so many ways in which you can fuse felicity.
  18. Those impromptu plans will always be the best. The unplanned days and nights out, spontaneous road trips with the wind in your hair, random trips to the seaside, last minute decisions and actions; they’ll all be the most memorable periods in your prime.
  19. Always listen to your intuition. Trust your gut, follow the vibes your instinct gives you as your suspicions and thoughts will always be proved right. It’s okay to give something or someone a chance but it’s also important to allow that wise voice in your head to lead the way. Karma will take control!
  20. Think before you make beauty mistakes. There’s been plenty of them over the years. Shaving my forearms. Straightening my hair until it breaks. Plucking off every single brow strand. Yikes @ my old self but also, thank you for guiding me because when I now feel like making a rash decision with my appearance, I always think twice.
  21. Always take plasters on nights out. Your feet will take a bashing, you’ll accumulate scars and blisters and wonky toes. It’s the price you pay for beautiful shoes, but plasters will save the day. They’re the answer to all evil. Pretty much the equivalent to a paper towel in primary school.
  22. The solution to almost all problems is a bubble bath, a good cry, a face mask, and a playlist on repeat. Music is a healer, crying your heart out is so therapeutic to the inner and outer soul, layering your face with clay and pretending you have your life together provides maximum zen, and laying in your own bodily grime with the smell of Lush awakening and unwinding your every move somehow manages to wash your woes away. Short term at least.
  23. You need to embrace your quirks. They’re what make you distinctively you, so why shouldn’t you? Be true to you, be as weird or as timid as you want. Take those traits and paint them in a positive light. The day you accept yourself and quit hiding behind a mask is the day you officially feel at peace.
  24. Kindness goes a long way. It’s cliche but the quote ‘be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about’ sticks with me more than any other. Probably because it resonates with me but also because I’ve become so aware how suffering isn’t always visible – no matter how large or minor. A generous gesture, a passing compliment, helping someone in need, just making a human feel human – it’s selfless but it’s also beneficial to you as a person.
  25. You’ll be grateful for your never changing baby face in another ten years. People tell me this all the time and I think it’s only just sunk in. I’m gonna be one of those people who still gets ID’d for the lottery at age 40 and instead of complaining about it, I’m gonna be smugly grateful. Hell yeah to that!

And a bonus: Nobody will ever get your name correct. Even when it’s written down right in front of their very eyes. Mispronunciations and anagrams will occur more than actually being called your legitimate name, and there won’t be a day where you don’t have to spell it out. So, thanks mum. You birthed me and blessed me with this life but you also gave me an atypical name along with a bizarrely uncommon surname so for that, I hope today you’re feeling just as ancient as I am.

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Spring Tapas Menu @ Iberica Leeds

Posted on 5 min read

I think it’s safe to say spring has definitely sprung. With all these warm spells gracing our existence it actually feels more like summer arrived as soon as the clocks went forward, but if that means we get to enjoy more sunshine than our usual two days then who am I to complain?

As it happens, it was a beautiful, bright, and blissful day when I headed into town for my evening reservation with Iberica; the atmosphere feeling more like a night abroad – the humid air, choir of chants and laughs, and the whiff of food drifting making me all the more excited to get tucked into our treats. I’ve visited the plush restaurant before and absolutely loved every part – from the ornate interior, to the authentic feel, and the unusual yet delicious dishes that tempted my taste-buds to jump out of their comfort zone. This time, however, it had a more personal touch, as I experienced a proper dinner date with one of my best girls.

Amazing company, super attentive service, a platter of yummy tomato bread and Spanish meats to kickstart our feast, a palatable bottle of Castillo Perelada Rosé Reserva NV that I actually enjoyed (I’m admittedly not the biggest wine lover), and possibly overly deep conversations to be having in public once the bottle was empty and the tipsiness was flowing!

What more could I have asked for?

We were able to pick any six tapas dishes to showcase the seasonal stars on their newly launched spring menu, followed by any desserts and coffees of our choice, and my belly was just as pleased as the content smile spread on my face. The smile soon turned to concentration upon deciding which courses to go for! We were pondering for a good 15 minutes as there were so many inviting concoctions that had my mouth watering just by reading the title, but eventually we settled on an assorted variety of meats, salads, and typical carby sides.

First up we opted for a firm favourite of mine and the signature dish, Croquetas. I raved about the crispy potato and ham goodness right away and thankfully Hannah trusted my verdict (and of course I was proved right so it was 1-0 me).

Secondly we went for the Warm Lentil Salad as a lighter dish that contrasted the rest of the piping hot and heavy dishes with the refreshing mix of textures; soft cooked egg and those healthy greens.

Thirdly, we went for Spring Vegetables, once again to balance the options out. The cauliflower, carrots, asparagus and tomatoes came with a topping of melted cheese which gave it that extra tasty tang, and they were sauteed just right – not too soft nor hard and with that firm, fried zest.

Fourthly, we simply savoured the Chorizo, thick cut, cooked in cider and topped with chickpeas. The rich sauce really gave it that punchy flavour and added to the smokiness of the meat. Chorizo is my absolute number one garnish – throw it on kebab skewers, in a chicken dish, with a shit load of cheese, and you have a winner. But it turns out it works just as well on its own!

Fifthly, was the Crispy Chicken, small pieces of confit thigh with romesco sauce and hazelnuts. These were finger-licking good – quite literally. Just the right amount of soft, melt in the mouth, meat with a crisp, chargrilled edge and a succulent base sauce. Hazelnuts are another beloved topping of mine so I much appreciated this added touch!

We definitely saved the best till last with the Albondigas. I’m not usually a meatball kind of girl but these – wow – these were out of this world. The mini potatoes and distinctive Vizcaina sauce blended within certainly upped the vibrancy but it was the quality of the meat that had me mumbling inhumane noises. You could instantly detect the tenderness and it had such a juicy, pungent taste – I was actually sad when it came to an end but Hannah kindly let me have the last one. True friendship.

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The dishes all arrived separately straight from the kitchen as soon as they were cooked to perfection which meant I wasn’t able to snap the complete polished foodie flatlay I desired, but it was worth the loss with being able to enjoy and relish in the from-the-oven-freshness. I loved every single dish and the recipes really complimented the summer vibe (and I’m sure if we’d gone for others I’d say the exact same) but there were a couple that stood out! If there was a most delectable dish award, the chicken and the meatballs would be a definite tie!

I really underestimate tapas. As the plates arrive in small bits and bobs you tend to set the mindset that it won’t be enough to fulfil your appetite but every single time I end up full to the brim. I don’t think you’d even need as many as six to satisfy your stomach which makes the menu not only diverse but also great value.

There’s always enough room for dessert, however! Even if I have to sit back and unbutton my trousers, my eyes widen with the mention of afters. My sweet tooth was gagging for the Churros with melted chocolate sauce and they really didn’t disappoint – the portion was really generous and the gloriously warm, spongy, doughnut consistency was a pastry lovers dream. Han went for the Caramelised Rice Pudding and by the sensual reaction I’m guessing she very much relished in it. She said it was the best rice pudding she’s ever had in her lifetime and as she passed some over to me – as a non rice pudding expert – I can claim the sweetness was absolutely amazing.

Thank you so much to Jeanne for inviting me down to try out the menu! I had such a wonderful, relaxed evening to match the summery feel outdoors. Soaking up the luxury decor, spacious setting, and of course the most Instagramable toilets in Leeds – it was a fitting ending to a lovely day, and just what we both needed. I’ll definitely be back to make the most of these hot days!

Have you been lucky enough to experience the tapas at Iberica?

p.s. my stomach was rumbling just editing these photos, that’s when you know the food was faultless!

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A Guide To The Perfect Flat Lay

Posted on 6 min read

Yes, you read right. I’m sufficing to the millennial culture and getting down with the kids with the most cliche title of today’s society. Flat Lay is now just a regular word (or two words if you’re doing it properly) in my vocabulary, and I’m sure urban dictionary would agree to disagree – but it’s not because it’s the in thing, it’s because it’s a way of life.

Like for real.

My inner psyche is always (and I mean always) on alert mode. I can’t pass an aisle in the shops without scanning for potential subjects, having a visionary on what little bits and bobs would complete a photo display, and forming a prop filled image in my mind on what would look best in the enhancing department.

Buying an item purely because you know it will add idyllic structure to your set up opposed to the actual practicality it serves is standard behaviour for bloggers now and I’m well and truly sucked into this blog prop potential mentality. It means your rooms are filled with random furnishings but it also means you can experiment and change up until you’re happy with the final result, and that’s exactly what I’ve done over the years.

Flat lays are a big part of my Instagram agenda, especially when I can make money from the photos I produce when fabricating a flat lay is on the brief. I like to play around until I get it spot on to my aesthetic desires and I can’t deny there’s a sense of self satisfaction when I reach that objective of telling a story through the art of random objects.

Not to say there’s certain rules in how your flat lay should appear, because there absolutely isn’t. Everyone has different styles and tastes and the arrangement you curate might not work for others – but as a basic starter pack I thought I’d give my intuition on what I find is the secret tactic to getting that layout into the spotlight.

Choose your background | before you start constructing and dressingthe base layer of your photograph is going to be the cornerstone to the final masterpiece, so you need to choose your background wisely and according to the whole undertone you’re aiming for. For me, you can never go wrong with plain cotton bed sheets, fluffy rugs, wood flooring, or even the cheaters way to obtaining the classic vinyl look – self adhesive plastic planks, and that typical marble sticky back. Investing in some fabrics or surfaces is always a great place to start, as is stocking up on coloured card. I always like to stash a distinctive selection of cardboard materials to work with! The main thing to remember is that you want the background to complement the pieces and not distract you from what you are presenting; so the simpler, the better.

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Colour coordinate | it’s ideal to consider, to plan, and to prep what colour palette or theme you are going for before you proceed with the next steps. Not that you have to think too deeply to the point it becomes a debating matter, but a simple clear idea of what hues you have in mind will help you decide on what to surround your image with. My personal favourites are neutrals, minimalistic greys, and your go safe black and white but I also tend to think about the subject of the photo and the colours within that. A pink razor needs to be advertised? You bet I collate the same or similar coloured rosiest accessories I own to emphasise the colour pattern and really set the shades in stone!

Centre topic | when you’re scrolling your feed and spot a photo that catches your attention, take notice of where your subconscious darts to; it’s always the middle! You don’t want your featured product to be overshadowed by the neighbouring assemblage which is why you should ensure your centred topic is instantly and strikingly visible as the focal point. It doesn’t even have to be directly central, as long as it’s in pinpointing distance. No matter what the collection, whether it be food, fashion, makeup, and so on, the rule is to parade the essence by capturing it with the elevation of design, and not with an upstaged replacement.

Props | there is no such thing as too many props. You really could go on forever when it comes to decorating your photo with all sorts of pretty but the important thing is to use them to your advantage, to up your game with the help of a selection of diverse homely pieces that can make all the difference just by adding it to an empty space. Mixing your props up will always make a more visually stimulating photo as they contrast each other and add dimension. So by that I mean different sizes, textures, and height – those that can be seen easily from a birds eye view. My idea of prop heaven is anywhere between blanket throws, trays, trinkets, sprinkles, pins, candles, cups, jewellery, magazines, stationery, fake flowers and plants, and quote cards. I sometimes like to find a quote that links intrinsically to the theme, for e.g. I’ve ensured the words ‘in the framework’ from an old Vogue mag are shown in my original photo to boost this post. Then there’s those little bits and bobs that immediately bring charming clarity with inviting font and graphics, like the *C’est Bon Card, the *Hello Coaster, and the dinky *Pineapple Pin. Discovering one singular site that provides all is a useful tactic to buy those bulk props, and Old English Company have it all!

Don’t overcrowd | although an apt amount of props is useful to bring an image to life, it’s handy to keep in mind that the best flat lays are always the tidiest ones. You don’t want it to feel too heavy or look too busy so to place strategically and consistently space the props apart is the most convenient road to go down. I’d say a minimum of 3-5 props is an average number to warrant a neat and nifty format.

Spend time | unless you’ve set yourself a strict time limit because you’re a busy boss on the go, there’s absolutely no rush when it comes to perfecting your flat lay. Unless you’re an expert wizard, you’ll never get it right first try, and it’s worth moving, swapping, arranging, and playing around with your objects to see what you’re more drawn to, to see what physically looks symmetrically balanced, and to see the proficient highlighting of your hero piece. Whether you like to lay them logistically, or overlap your items, there’s an art to presentation and it’s all about individual organisation and styling. I find placing larger items in the corner of the frame paints a more subtle picture, as does leaving a small gap between each adjacent space. You’ll find yourself picking up your own tips the more you practice and play around!

Composition | it’s not just the snapshot position and precision of the photo that you need to bear in mind, it’s how you are going to keep it compact and in place. By this point you should have decided on whether you will be shooting in portrait or landscape  (I prefer portrait or square if it’s taken on a phone) so you’ll have an idea on how you are actuating the fit of the framework, but it’s good to mentally note the tips and tricks that may just save some stress whilst doing so. A couple of mine are making sure you leave room to crop once taken and edited, and aiming to hide the cornered edges of paper with your props to give a more natural feel.

Keep test shooting | along with the manoeuvring of the props, it’s also functional to repeatedly keep clicking that shutter button. Not just with the alterations of your camera settings, but with the alterations of your situation; how you are stood, where you are stood, and the distance from (I find the floor or bed is most appropriate as it’s just right – not too close and not too far). You’d be amazed how moving slightly to the left or standing on a box to lean over to shoot from above improves the photo! It may expedite some weird, messy encounters, aching arms and near falls but you’ve aced the flat lay so what’s a broken leg, right?!

(Just kidding, obviously. Safety always comes first.)

Have you got anymore guidance to add to the list? I hope I’ve lead you on the right track to gaining some first world advice and inspo, and to influence you to slay that flat lay, of course.

 

*Items marked with a * were sent to me for review purposes. Please read my disclaimer for more information.

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