London Adventures: Being a Tourist

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I love London. It’s only a few hours away from my home, the train tickets are ridiculously cheap if they are booked in advance and I try and visit several times a year. As I can’t afford a foreign holiday this year I decided to make the most of it and booked tickets to The Commitments at the Palace Theatre and for a meal at The Ivy for me and my mum. 

We had a blast – the weather was great, we decided to be tourists and walk down to Buckingham Palace from Trafalgar Square as its been years since I’ve seen it and I joined thousands of people from all over the world taking photographs and speculating as to which members of the Royals were at ‘home.’ 

The food at The Ivy was beautiful (as were the waiters), and the show was ok. They were a talented cast, but the problem with watching a musical adaptation of one of your favourite films is that it is impossible not to compare. The lead actor playing the role of ‘Decco’ was good, but he wasn’t Andrew Strong, and needed to be a little rougher around the edges. 

We did intend to visit the Bond Exhibit in Covent Garden, but we unfortunately slept in and missed the opening. Instead, we went to the Abercrombie & Fitch store, where I treated myself and ogled the models. It’s a tough life…

I’m currently sitting on the train next to a rather grumpy woman who is annoyed because I made her move her enormous suitcase out of my seat. The train is 20 minutes late in departing as they couldn’t find the driver. 

How do you lose a driver???

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog.

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Train Adventures

 

It’s another glorious day and I’m on a train to London – I’ve booked tickets for The Commitments for my mother and I and we’re going to have a lovely meal at a beautiful restaurant. 

I always try and reserve seats in advance and I was pleased that for once I had managed to obtain a seat with a table and a plug outlet. Unfortunately, when I arrived I had discovered that an elderly lady had sat in it. She pretended not to hear me when I informed her that she had taken my seat so I sat opposite her instead. It’s fairly quiet at the minute and I’m quite comfortable so I’ll wait until someone tells me to move and then work it out later. I’m currently sitting next to a lovely woman from London who is on her way back from a bachelorette party and is feeling extremely hung over. She’s very nice, but absolutely reeks of alcohol. We’ve been stopped for a while now in the middle of nowhere as there is apparently debris on the track, so I’m going to be late for meeting mum, but it has given me the opportunity to be nosey and observe those around me.

Regardless of the journey I am on, there are always the same type of people in each carriage:

1. The Sniffer. It’s almost rhythmic – 1, 2, 3, sniff, 1,2, 3, sniff. I have been known to make up melodies to match the patterns.

2. The Small Talker. The person that’s desperate to get to know everyone around them because they can’t stand the silence.

3. The Old Marrieds. Obviously been together as long as I’ve been alive, and have developed the art of commenting on everything and everyone around them… “Ooh, look John, a lovely tree. Isn’t that a lovely tree!”

4. The Stag and Hen parties. It’s always possible to tell what stage of the party they have reached based on the noise level – if it’s just beginning there will be lots of shouting and laughing, if they’re on the way home the smell of stale beer will be in the air and they’ll be talking very slowly and quietly about the events of the previous night.

5. The Business Person. Dressed in a suit. Working on a laptop. Talking loudly on the phone, their conversation interspersed with loud guffawing.

6. The Stressed Out Parent. Their child simply won’t shut up, and so they’ve given up and have allowed them to run up and down the carriage just for a minutes peace.

7. The Complainer. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. They’re tired. Why isn’t the coffee machine working in the shop.

8. The Girl Who Has Just Been Dumped. Will spend the entire journey on the phone, starting with the ex and followed by every single female friend in their phone. Usually finishes with a phone call to their mother.

9. The Chewer. Chews their food loudly. Very loudly. Fond of consuming crisps (chips) in vast quantities… 

10. The Music Enthusiast. Likes to listen to music on their headphones so loudly that the rest of the carriage can hear them.

What about you guys? Do you see any stereotypes on public transport?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

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If I Knew Then: What I’ve Learned About Blogging

imageJust over a year ago I started Suzie81 Speaks as an online journal. I had been experiencing a difficult time and as writing has always been therapeutic it was the perfect solution. I had no goals – the act of writing was simply enough. However, over a short space of time, this little space of the Internet grew beyond any expectations that I had ever imagined and I found that as I began to recover, my writing style and goals changed.

I’ve learned a lot, and if I could go back and do it again these are the things that I would do differently.

1. I would decide on a name that I was happy with at the very beginning. In my excitement about the prospect of starting the blog, I hastily chose the name ‘Suzie81′ – my name and the year that I was born. After a while I became really dissatisfied with my choice – it had no real reference to any of the content in the blog – but by this point everybody knew me as this name. When I later purchased my domain name, there were very few options that I could use and I ended up changing it to ‘Suzie81 Speaks’ so as not to confuse my followers.

2. I would create a set of profiles on other social media networks from the beginning. It took me about eight months to establish a Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest account, and I’ve always regretted not doing this sooner as these are now responsible for the majority of my views on my site. An important thing to know here is that none of them are linked to my personal pages on the same sites – I created a completely separate account for each, along with a new email address.

3. I would participate in link ups earlier. I participate in regular link ups on Twitter, particularly at the Sits Girls #sitssharefest on Saturdays and Rachel in the OC’s #MondayBlogs on Mondays. I’ve been able to meet hundreds of lovely people and it’s a great opportunity to share and read new posts.

4. I wouldn’t share the fact that I have a blog with many people in my personal life. I have lots of lovely friends who have been very supportive, but as the blog became more popular it has been used against me, which caused some issues. I have also found that as lots of people in my life now read my ramblings it prevents me from writing about certain issues that are very personal, which defeats the point of the blog in the first place.

5. I wouldn’t be as hasty to post something just for the sake of posting it. In my early blogging madness I posted everything I could think of. Looking back, I’ve had to revisit lots of things and delete them, simply because they have no meaning with what I thought I was trying to create.

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Here are some simple ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ that may be useful if you are starting your blog.

1. Don’t expect too much. There are MILLIONS of blogs out there. You are not going to gain thousands of followers (unless your post goes viral) simply by pressing the publish button. Blogging takes LOTS of time and effort.

2. Don’t feel that your blog should have a niche. I follow lots of great blogs that do, but I prefer to cover lots of topics within my own.

3. Do take the time to visit lots of other blogs and follow them.

4. Don’t automatically expect (or even worse, request and plead for) a follow back. This is one of my biggest annoyances – I follow about 250, but I often receive messages saying ‘I’ve followed you, now you need to follow me.’ Why? Others shouldn’t be made to feel obliged or bullied into following you simply to return the favour.

5. Do leave comments on other blogs to let them know that you have enjoyed what you have read.

6. Don’t spam comment sections with links to your own posts. This happens to me a lot, and while I always try and share, tweet and reblog posts I get irritated when others end their comment with a link to their latest post, demanding that we ‘check it out.’

7. Do make the effort to reply to comments that have been left on your posts. I read and appreciate every single comment that is ever written, but until recently I have been poor at replying to some of them. This was because work became a priority and took over life somewhat, but I always make the effort to reply when I can.

8. Do remember that content is key. I love inspirational posters, but there are only so many that you can post before your audience may start to get bored. Make sure that your content is your own – if you have used somebody else’s and images, be sure to credit them.

9. Do be respectful at all times. One of the best things about the WordPress community is that the majority of people are unbelievably friendly and supportive.

10. Don’t expect everyone to agree with you. If you choose to write about a controversial subject, it is highly unlikely that all of your audience will support you in your arguments. Listen, respond and be respectful about it.

What about you guys? Any hints and tips that you have learned in your blogging endeavours?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

Image credits:

guardianlv.com

http://www.petitemom.com

 

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The Ice-Cream Adverts Lie To Me

It’s hot. Wonderfully, scorchingly hot. In the eloquent words of Lord Flasheart (and my friend Dave), it’s as hot as my pants. The ice-cream van is permanently situated at the end of my road, tempting me every five minutes by blasting out the ‘Match of the Day’ theme tune to remind me of its presence. I love a good ice-cream cone, but it’s so hot I don’t know whether to eat one or simply face plant it.

However, as much as I love ice-cream, there is something that always annoys me at this time of the year…

The Magnum adverts. Every. Single. Year.

I love Magnums – they’re one of my favourites, and I make it my mission to have at least one of every flavour over the summer months. The adverts are all over the television. Each advert usually follows the same conventions – one or more beautiful model-type girls bite into a magnum while walking around a beautiful city. It’s a simple concept.

Alas, as much as I would like to buy into the idea, it never fails to make me so annoyed I always loudly complain the The Bloke, who knows me well enough to nod, smile and carry on with whatever he’s doing. Why? Because the Magnum advert lies to me.

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Lie 1: When the girl bites into the Magnum, the chocolate stays in tact around the bite mark and she maintains a certain sexy quality.

Truth: When I bite into a Magnum, the chocolate explodes everywhere. It’s on the floor, on my clothes, down my cleavage and in my hair.

Lie 2: The girl is able to eat the ice-cream without getting any on her lips.

Truth: Any attempt that I have ever made to eat the ice-cream in a Magnum will always leave me with melted vanilla lines at the side of my mouth. The late Heath Ledger clearly saw me doing this before he took the role of the Joker in the Dark Night film – the resemblance is striking.

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Lie 3: The Magnum stays perfectly frozen.

Truth: It’s an ice-cream apocalypse. It’s running down the stick and onto my clothes and the floor. I’ve got melted chocolate on my hands, my face and in my hair. It’s a race against time to consume it before it disappears.

Lies, Magnum, lies. Or perhaps I just eat like a pig?

What about you guys? Do certain adverts annoy you?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

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Twenty Time Shaving Tips

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I was approached by The Dollar Shave Club who asked me to create a list of time saving (or in their case, time shaving) tips that others may find helpful. As the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Procrastination’ I have found it difficult until recently to prioritise my time effectively, prefering to leave things until the last minute and then feel stressed and overwhelmed when deadlines become imminent. Life is busy and fast paced, but here are a few little things that you could adopt to save some precious minutes during the day.

1. Put down your phone, turn off your computer and stay away from the internet. Social media sites have the ability to make hours of our day disappear. Instead of checking and updating things in the morning, reward yourself at the end of a day when all your jobs are done.

2. Turn off the television. Whenever I am around a television, I can’t help but watch it. If the television isn’t on, the temptation won’t be there.

3. Keep everything in a place. When you’ve finished with it, put it back. This will stop items building up.

4. Plan your weekly menu. Shop for the necessary ingredients in one trip. To save even more time, have your food delivered – most supermarkets offer a delivery service that allows you to select a specific date and time that is most convenient for you.

5. Cook in batches. Some meals can be prepared and frozen, ready to be reheated later on. Double up on recipes and freeze half of them.

6. When cooking, keep a small bowl at the side for any peelings. When you’re finished, take one trip to the garbage instead of several.

7. Do your banking online where possible. This could save lots of time instead of standing in line at a counter. It may also make the experience more pleasant – I am always stood in front of the people who have colds and end up coughing and sneezing into my hair. Save time, save money on shampoo!

8. Share the responsibilities with others around you. If there are more than one of you in the house, divide the chores equally.

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9. Get your children to help out! Give them responsibilities that are age appropriate – tidying up their own toys, doing the washing up, taking the garbage out, walking the dog. You could make it a fun activity – create a sticker chart that they can update regularly.

10. Pre-sort all the washing. Have several linen baskets for different types of material and colours. Teach your children how to categorise their clothing.

11. Send out birthday cards once a month in one go. This may mean that some may get theirs a few weeks early, but it will mean just one trip. This also means that you are more likely to remember everybody’s birthdays (something I am guilty of forgetting on many occasions). You can shop for birthday cards in bulk, saving even more time.

12. Get everything ready for morning the night before. Have clothes clean, ironed and laid out, make packed lunches and organise bags before going to bed. It may also be useful to check the weather reports to decide on appropriate clothing.

13. Try and avoid rush hour. I often arrive at work before rush hour starts – this means that my journey takes ten minutes instead of thirty and I can get my work done in a morning and leave a little earlier without feeling guilty.

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14. For those of you without a dryer, cut down on ironing time by hanging certain items of clothing up as they are drying. Stop ironing socks and underwear!

15. Once you have started a task, make sure that you finish it. Avoid answering calls and emails while you are working on it. Even if the job is so boring you find yourself repressing the urge to poke yourself in the eye, an unfinished job will inevitably take much longer to complete than if it had been seen through right to the end.

16. Learn to say no. Don’t be deliberately mean, but avoid becoming involved in tasks and activities that you have no interest in. It took me thirty years to learn to do this, but it has saved me hours of boredom over the last few years.

17. Leave the snooze button alone! Nobody wants to get up when their alarm goes off, but if you do so immediately you’ll inevitably save lots of time that would be spent waiting for the snooze alarm.

18. Set filters on your email. I have several email accounts and The Bloke (who is an IT Technician) set up filters so that emails are directed to specific folders. This has saved me lots of time instead of trawling through thousands of emails to find the one that I actually needed. While I’m on the subject of emails, turn off the notifications from social networking sites where possible that will send you an email every time that somebody interacts with your accounts.

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19. Stop trying to imitate Mary Poppins. Handbags can be like Doctor Who’s tardis, and I used to spend lots of time rummaging through mine looking for my keys. Now, I have certain items in designated compartments. To save even more time, instead of searching through a large make up bag, keep your collection down to five or six essentials.

20. Have less. I’m guilty of hoarding things over periods of years, but after moving house twice in the last ten months I have realised that large amounts of the ‘stuff’ that I have accumulated was neither useful or necessary. Be ruthless – if you haven’t watched a film, listened to a CD or worn an item of clothing in the last two years then bag it up and take it all down to the charity shop. You’ll de-clutter your life and your surroundings, leaving you with less to worry about, and you’ll be helping a good cause too!

What about you guys? Have you got any useful hints and tips for saving time?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

Don’t forget to check out the Dollar Shave Club – have you see their viral video? Click on the image for their site…

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Image credits:

quartz.com

classroom.peorioud.k12.az.us

kimconstable.com

Mary Poppins still, Disney.

 

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10 Things I Love About My Country #1: Music

I’ve teamed up with the lovely Steve from Steve Says to compile a comparison set of lists about why we love our country. He’s Scottish, I’m English, and even though we are currently both part of the United Kingdom we thought it might be fun to see the differences between the two…

Our first topic in the series is Music.

I’m proud to be English, and I’m proud that England has produced some of the greatest musicians and songwriters of all time. Steve’s list was very patriotic, but I couldn’t stomach listing things like ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ and ‘Jerusalem’ – they’re brilliant pieces of music and I’m always uplifted when I hear them, but I wanted to branch out a little. My list (that isn’t in any particular order) represents songs that I feel are quintessentially part of English culture and performed by English artists.

1. Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen

This frequently tops music polls as being one of the greatest songs ever written, performed by one of England’s greatest bands, selling 7.5 millions copies worldwide. (Yes, I know that Freddie Mercury was born in Tanzania before anyone points this out…).

2. London Calling: The Clash

Written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, this song alludes to the the BBC World Service’s station identification: “This is London calling …”, which was used during World War II, often in broadcasts to occupied countries. The song, written during a time of upheaval and unrest throughout English society is a classic.

3. Life On Mars: David Bowie

Ah, Bowie. I love this song. My friends love this song. My family loves this song. Everybody loves this song. Why? Because it’s a great song. I went to the Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum last year and saw the suit that he wears in the video, which was surpisingly tiny.

4. Paranoid: Black Sabbath

I love the fact that I live in the city where Black Sabbath were formed. Ozzy Osbourne’s house is a tourist attraction, to the point where the front door of the house keeps being stolen by fans. I’ve no idea how it’s possible to steal a door, but the story always makes me smile.

5. Hey Jude: The Beatles

It wouldn’t be a list without The Beatles. No English music list should ever be without The Beatles. My problem was with which song, and for this I had to ask those around me. Hey Jude topped the list of nearly 100 songs that were suggested, possibly because this is the song that Paul McCartney performs during every major event that they drag him out for.

6. You’ll Never Walk Alone: Rodgers and Hammerstein (Gerry and the Pacemakers version)

I’m taking liberties with this one. Yes, it was written by two Americans for the musical ‘Carousel,’ but this song is so intrinsically linked with English culture that I couldn’t leave it out, so I’ve taken the Gerry and the Pacemakers version. It is the main football (yes, football, not all this ‘soccer’ rubbish I’ve had to read about over the last few months) anthem for Liverpool Football Club and is consequently sang in every match by the fans and has been done so since the 1960′s. The song’s title adorns the top of the Shankly Gates, which were unveiled on 2 August 1982 in memory of former manager Bill Shankly.

7. Never Gonna Give You Up: Rick Astley

Lots of you may associate this with the popular internet meme ‘Rik Rolling.’ However, for me, Rick Astley was one of my favourite pop stars in my childhood and early teens. To this day, I can guarantee that during any party and in an English nightclub the DJ will play this song at some point throughout the night. For me, it represents the ‘Stock, Aitkin and Waterman’ era of English pop ie. the time just before shell suits. I had a shell suit.

8. White Cliffs of Dover: Dame Vera Lynn (Robson and Jerome version)

This is a popular Second World War song made famous by Vera Lynn with her 1942 version – one of her best-known recordings. Written in 1941 by Walter Kent with words by Nat Burton and was designed to lift the spirits of the Allies at a time when the Germans had conquered much of Europe and were bombing Britain. It was created about a year after British and German aircraft had been fighting over the cliffs of Dover in the Battle of Britain. And for you non-Brits out there, here’s a bit of trivia. You may recognise the blonde singer, Jerome Flynn, in Game of Thrones. He plays the character Bronn. Yes, my friends, Bronn was a pop star. A pop star.

9. Wannabe: The Spice Girls

I met The Spice Girls, just before they released ‘Wannabe.’ They were performing at ‘Party in the Park’ in Preston, and I went over afterwards to say hello as they were signing autographs. I didn’t have a pen or anything for them to sign, so I didn’t bother staying around for long and walked away, remarking to my friend that they would be ‘one hit wonders.’ I walked away from The Spice Girls without getting their autographs. When there were five of them. Before they became the biggest girl band of all time. Sh*t.

10. Back For Good: Take That

Before One Direction, there was (and still is) Take That. These down-to-earth English working-class men swept the UK charts in the 1990′s and late 2000′s, turning myself and millions of teenagers into screaming mush. They’re still the biggest selling boy band of all time, they’re still touring to sold out stadiums and they are the perfect representation of how a boy band SHOULD be done. I still can’t get over the fact that there are people out there who haven’t heard of them – they’re as famous as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Jonny Depp, Robert Downey Jr and George Clooney over here (ooh, now there’s a boy band I’d like to see)…

11: Baggy Trousers: Madness

Like Paul McCartney, Madness are dragged out and shoved on stage during every major event. It’s a great song, and is guaranteed make grown English men start dancing like the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins every time it is played.

12. Back To Black: Amy Winehouse

I was obsessed with the Black To Black album. What a talent, what a voice, what a loss.

13. Anarchy in the UK: The Sex Pistols

I couldn’t leave out the Sex Pistols. They were crude, rude and basic musicians, but they were brilliant performers and continue to be hugely influential on modern day musicians thirty years later.

14. The National Anthem (performed by Brian May on the top of Buckingham Palace).

During the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 one of England’s greatest guitarists of all time stood on the roof of it’s most famous palace to play the National Anthem. I still get goosebumps even now. The only thing that would have made it more English would be if Brian was wearing the flag, eating fish and chips and drinking a pint of beer…

I’ve made some almost musically blastphemous emissions from the list – The Who, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Led Zepplin, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, UB40, Muse, Adele… so please avoid shouting at me… I’d love to hear your thoughts – what songs should be included?

Do you want to join in? Simply link to mine and Steve’s posts and tell us what songs represent your country and nationality!

Stay tuned for the next installment!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

 

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United We Stand: 10 Things I Love About My Country #1…

suzie81speaks:

I’ve teamed up with Steve Says in a ‘Why We Love Our Country’ series. He’s Scottish, I’m English and here’s the first installment! Stay tuned for mine tomorrow!

Originally posted on Steve Says...:

scotland_640As it’s coming closer to the Vote For Independence campaign in Scotland I’ve teamed up with Suzie81 Speaks to compile a list of 10 things we love about our own country. She loves England (for some reason) and I love Scotland. Politics aside, let’s enjoy our country!

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