Royal Ascot: The Pros and Cons

‘Horse racing is one of my favorite sports’ – Elizabeth Banks

Just like the Grand National or Wimbledon, Royal Ascot is a British tradition that, if you play by the rules and know what you’re getting into before arriving, can be a fantastic day out. However, there are a handful of considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to attend Ascot.

Why you should attend Royal Ascot

The perfect excuse to get dressed up
Most of us spend our entire week working and, come the weekend, find it difficult to get motivated to do anything, including going out for a nice dinner or even a drink at the local pub, which is why you should take advantage of the British events calendar. Royal Ascot has a formal dress code which makes it the perfect excuse to get dressed up in your finest clothes, including extravagant hats, and enjoy yourself with a glass of wine in hand and a few bets on the table.

You might win big
The main draw of Royal Ascot is that it’s a chance to win some money. At its heart, Royal Ascot is a very British gambling event where betting is, in most cases, celebrated. If you enjoy the thrill of gambling, Royal Ascot is a fantastic place to place some bets and, if you’re lucky, take home a generous sum of money. No matter how much you’re betting, always bet smartly to ensure you don’t lose too much money – only bet what you’re happy to lose or don’t bet at all.

Keep an eye out for the Queen


Every year, the Royal Family descend on Ascot for Royal Ascot, including our Queen and the rest of the family. If you’re in the Royal Box, the most exclusive and, therefore, expensive of areas, you’re almost guaranteed to see the Queen and Royal Family. You may also see members of the Royal Family walking around Royal Ascot so, if you’re a royalist, it’s worthwhile attending.

Despite the thrill of adorning yourself in all your finery and placing some honest bets, there are a few downfalls of attending Royal Ascot, too.

The cons of attending Royal Ascot include:

It can be snobbish
Slowly, the attitude surrounding Royal Ascot is changing; however, we can’t deny that there is an air of snobbery at the event which may make those on lower incomes, for instance, feel a little out of place. Although, this shouldn’t be a problem providing you act sensibly, dress properly, follow the rules, and avoid discussing money with those around you – Ascot is a fantastic place to socialise, however, as often is the case, politics and finances are not topics of conversation.

Royal Ascot isn’t cheap
Ticket prices for Royal Ascot start at £37 per person, per day, however, that’s for the Windsor Enclosure. When attending, if you want to be right in the heart of all the fun, it’s best to purchase Queen Anne Enclosure tickets for £75 per person, per day. There are several higher-tier tickets, too. Once you have set aside your betting money and purchased your tickets and formal outfits, plus any food and drink you want throughout the day, Royal Ascot isn’t a cheap day out. Also, if you’re hoping to stay in Ascot during the event, hotels and B&Bs will be costlier than usual.

The rules are strict


There is plenty of room to enjoy yourself at Royal Ascot; however, the rules are strict and must be adhered to ensure you gain access to the venue. For instance, there is a dress code to be kept, and while you’re allowed to take one bottle or wine or champagne into the grounds with you, no other alcohol is permitted, ensuring you purchase your drinks from stalls within the grounds.

If you haven’t been to Royal Ascot before, the best thing to do is to attend and see what you think – different people’s opinions of the event vary, so all you can do is explore Ascot for yourself. For exploring you may consider a minibus hire.

*this has been a collaborative post with coachscanner.com

The Happiness Project One Sentence Journal

‘Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life’ – Omar Khayyam

I always liked to keep diaries as a teenager but they were your stereotypical narcissistic ‘woe is me’ ‘why won’t he notice me’ type teenage stuff that would be highly mortifying were anyone to get their hands on now. I even continued to keep a journal (sounds so much more grown up!) into my early twenties which was just somewhere I could brain dump my thoughts as a kind of stress management tool I suppose.

The older I got the better I became at managing my emotions so no longer feel the need to write essays about my deepest darkest feelings anymore however when my sister in law told me about her Happiness Project One Sentence Journal, it sounded like something it’s enjoy doing.

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The concept is really simple; we all have busy lives and simply don’t have time anymore to write pages and pages deconstructing the day and describing in detail how you feel about it all. However now life is so fast paced how do we remember the tiny little bursts of happiness that occur on a daily basis? Are they supposed to just happen, make you smile for a hot minute then disappear into the ether forever more?

The one sentence journal will undoubtedly mean different things to different people, some people may use it as a way to manage their emotions, anxiety or even depression, some people may need it because they have shockingly bad memories and don’t want to forget meaningful things. For me it’s about not being so negative all the time, that no matter whether you thing you’ve had the crappiest of crappy days, there will be something that happened that made you smile.

For example I was having a really tough day at work one day, the kind of day where nothing would work, everyone wanted everything done yesterday, I was making mistakes and seemed to just generally be rubbing everyone up the wrong way. Without the One Sentence Journal I probably wouldn’t have said anything good happened that day. But forced to think about it before I went to bed that night, I remembered that Cheryl bought me a cup of coffee on her way into work without me asking, just because she’s my friend. With one sentence I went to sleep happy that night.

Every day has 5 spaces so you can record all your happy memories for 5 years and remind yourself that happiness isn’t always defined by massive life altering acts, sometimes they’re tiny little simple things, that remind you you’re wonderful and that you’re loved. Or simply that someone cares about you enough to buy you a cup of coffee.

Chris Montague Photography

‘In photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary’ – David Bailey

One of the best things about writing a blog, aside from it feeding my narcissistic need to be liked, is when you get to join forces with your mates when your individual passions collide.

Steph is one of my oldest friends from school (and by that I mean I’ve known her the longest). She met the lovely Chris in 2012, they married in 2016 and since then the Montague’s as a brand have become two of our best friends. It’s always a relief when your better halves get along however it’s amazing (and very rare) that they get along so well that you sometimes forgot how or where the original links began. We’ve all welcomed each other into our own individual friendship groups and as such spend a lot of time in the pub together!

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Despite Chris being hugely successful in his day job (building clouds – actual clouds I like to believe, there’s big business for them in the north east) he’s also a keen photographer and has recently started going semi pro. I’d been wanting for a while to get some more professional pictures on my blog as the random instagram selfies of my wonky duck face weren’t cutting the mustard anymore. So I asked Chris is he would mind taking a few natural pics of me to make me look a bit more polished. As soon as I suggested meeting one Saturday afternoon in a pub with a large bay window he was there setting up his tripod before you could say David Bailey. After all pictures always look more realistic when the subject is in their natural habitat.

Despite it all feeling a bit awkward to start with, not that I’ve ever been shy around a camera of course but when you know someone’s taking your picture it’s hard not to pose or look straight at them, I’ve watched enough ANTM to know how to smize and find my light. But as the wine flowed and Steph and I got right into gossipland I forgot he was there and he ended up taking loads of pics as we all chatted away.

I concede that he didn’t have the easiest of subjects, an oil painting i’m not however I was really pleased with what he took, they were so natural and unposed and even after he kindy touched up a few of my faves, the touch ups were very subtle so I don’t feel like I’ve been airbrushed to within an inch of my life. I still look like me. Like picking the most flattering instagram filter!

Here are my 3 favourites:

Looks like I was born with that glass of wine in my hand doesn’t it?

If you’re interested in working with Chris for your wedding, family shoot or even some headshots of your own you find find out more about him and his work here!

Le Petit Ballon wine Subcription

‘Wine is bottled poetry’ – Robert Louis Stevenson

I may not be able to recite Pi to more that 3 decimal places or know the names of the last 30 British Prime Ministers but wine? Wine I know.

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It’s probably the fact that I mention wine in almost every blog post I write that French wine subscription company Le Petit Ballon got in touch and asked if i would mind them sending me a couple of bottle to review. When someone sends you an email entitled ‘We’d like to send you some wine’ it makes you about a nano second to consider and respond.

Wine subscriptions aren’t a new thing and Le Petit Ballon have been hugely successful in their native France. They’ve decided to branch out to the UK and offer two different options of wine delivery; Grape Expectations at £24.90 per month for two bottles and Age of Raisin at £39.90 per month for two premium bottles of wine.

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Each month the wine is delivered direct to your door (or office or neighbour etc) and comes with tasting notes for your monthly offerings and The Gazette magazine which is packed with information about the company, the vineyards they use, that months selections and recipes. All wines are hand selected by Jean-Michel Deluc who worked for many years as master sommelier at The Ritz in London – so you’re in safe hands!

This month we received our package less than 48 hours after it had been dispatched which contained a bottle of South African red called Okoma and some French Sauvignon Blanc called Chateau Le Grand Verdus Expression

The Red:

To get the most out of our wines we tried to follow the tasting notes as closely as possible so as it was recommended that this particular red went well with red meats and BBQ’s we decided to cook up some gourmet hamburgers for our Friday night treat. I love my red wine, particularly in the winter; which lets be honest in the North East of England is 10 months of the year! This was a really full bodied fruity number which smelt great and went perfectly with the meat. It didn’t taste too tanin-y like a thick Merlot would so imagine it’s pretty versatile. It also had a really rich oaky after taste so would go perfectly with a cheeseboard! Being a Leo I absolutely feel in love with the bottle as well; i imagine it’s bold design would make it a popular choice were it sold in a supermarket.

The White:

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Savignon Blanc is my favourite grape so was really pleased that’s what we received for our first month. It said in the tasting notes that it’s paired well with meat, fish and cheese so, being unable to decide what to make, we went for a bit of all of it and had some swiss cheese Fondue! This one was on the dry side of medium, which I prefer over wine being too sweet any day, it it meant that the flavour wasn’t too over bearing of all the different flavours of the food we were eating. I would never normally drink white wine with cheese however this one complimented the fondue perfectly. On first sip it’s like an explosion of flavour in your mouth, which possibly says a lot about the quality of the £3 supermarket wine we normally drink, there’s no doubt that these wines are very good quality.

When it comes to wine we’ve always been quantity over quality people and I have no shame in admitting that we always shop at the low end when just buying for ourselves. The benefit of doing that is that when you get a really good bottle, you really notice the difference. It’s nice to have your wine chosen for you by someone who knows what they’re talking about a little better than you and that every month is a different tasting experience so you get to try things you possibly wouldn’t normally. If you find a bottle that you simply can’t live without you can order additional bottles of your faves on Le Petit Ballon’s website as a discounted price if you’re already a subscriber.

You can find out more, including how to get £10 off your first subscription here

And follow Le Petit Ballon on their social media channels here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lepetitballonuk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LPBallonUK

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lepetitballon

How to be Dead: A book series by Dave Turner

‘In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?’ – Rainer Maria Rilke

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I’m not a natural when it comes to reading, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can read, i just don’t enjoy it as much as some people seem to. I’m jealous of people who can curl up on a rainy weekend and get lost in a book (ahem Ang, Bev & Ruth), for me it’s binge watching old series of The Challenge! However I did get right into Dave Turner’s How to Be Dead series of novellas (nice and short, kept my attention span!) and now I feel the world needs to know about them!

Dave actually caught my attention on Twitter (it was the naked selfies he used to post back when there were no decency filters – fnar, fnar) – he started a parody  twitter account called @itsdeath which was based around Death as a character (called Steve – obviously) think of that scene from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey when Death follows the old lady round the supermarket and you’re along the right lines.

PhotoGrid_1494753375093It doesn’t hurt that Mr Turner (right) and my hubby Dave, could have been separated at birth!

All the best comedians have the ability to make the strangest subjects seems funny. Tom Stade does a hilarious skit about market meat vans for example. And being a chronic over thinker with previously diagnosed medical hypochondria there’s nothing less funny to me than death. Dave put a face to my worse nightmare and suddenly Steve Death was someone I no longer feared but was someone I wanted to share a bottle of Pinot Grigio with. I also found myself sympathising with him, he would often complain about getting bogged down with paperwork and bureaucracy, when all he wanted to do was get on with his job. He also loves a chocolate biscuit.

So from the Twitter account came the novels, after a small kickstarter campaign (which I proudly sponsored myself) the adventures a Steve, his assistant Anne and reluctant hero, ordinary man (also called Dave) were born. Of course the great thing about social media these days is when you’re planning on a writing a blog about your favourite author, you can reach out to them in the vague hope they may wish to contribute. So, seeing as Dave himself can tell his story was more articulately and funny than I ever could, here he is:

I’d like to say that I had a five-year publishing master plan from the start, but really I started a Twitter account as Death because I was bored in a dull office job.

An outsider looking in would be a good way to make jokes about the human condition, I thought. He’d be bored, befuddled and have an odd sense of humour after hanging around us for so long. People liked it. It was also a very convenient way of making observations that I wouldn’t make myself.

Then I decided I should do something with those jokes. I had an idea for a series of 3 novellas telling the story of Death and the problems he had trying to sort out the undead. “I’ll bash them out over the course of a year,” I thought. “It’ll be a nice little project to keep me out of trouble.”

Four years later, I published the last part of that story. It all started easy enough writing the first novella. It was called How To Be Dead (after a Snow Patrol song). People really liked it. That made me very happy. “I should probably write the second one,” I thought.

Then I was diagnosed with a seriously massive heart condition. You know when a footballer drops dead on the football pitch? That’s the bad boy I’ve got. There were hospital visits. Medication. Implants. Wires stuck into my heart. But I’m now technically a cyborg. Which is actually the childhood dream come true.

I’ll be honest, there were grim days contemplating my own mortality. What would my wife and kids do if I wasn’t around tomorrow? Who’d remove the Billy Joel albums off my iPhone before people discovered them?

Then I thought, “Hang on. I’m writing comedy books about death. I can probably use this.”This may go some way to explaining the number of Billy Joel jokes in the books.

When you stare in to the Abyss, sometimes the Abyss stares back. So you wave to the Abyss. Then you realise the Abyss was actually staring at something over your shoulder and it all gets a little bit awkward. And then you just bloody well get on with it.

An agent got in touch to say that he loved the first novella and did I want to turn it into a novel and be represented by him? “Yes! Of course!” I said. So I signed with the agency with ideas that I would be An Important Novelist. And I wrote a novel. Which I wasn’t

completely happy with. Then the agent decided he didn’t want to be agent anymore.

So I was left agent-less and holding a novel I didn’t knowwhat to do with. So I decided that since I’d had an idea for 3 novellas, I’d better start the second one. That was called Paper Cuts (after songs by Nirvana and The Boy Least Likely To). People seemed to like that a bit more than the first one. “I’d better write a third one,” I thought. So I did.

It’s called Old Haunts (after a song by The Gaslight Anthem).

After I’d dragged a story that’s been banging around my head for half a decade kicking and screaming into the world, I didn’t know what to do next. So I’m writing a fourth story. Simple as that.

Writing. It’s basically about just bloody well getting on with it

I’ve read all 3 books (twice now) and I change my mind every time about which one is my favourite. How To Be Dead is all Steve Death, and that’s what I loved so much about the twitter account, you can see him sitting in his office on Crow Road in London rolling his eyes and talking about the good old days.

In Paper Cuts the story is developed more and we’re introduced to Deaths old mates (the other 3 horsemen of the apocolypse – naturally) who also have their own personalities. The banter between the 4 of them is hilarious and reminds me of my own Dave and his 3 best mates (I won’t go into who i think is who though!)

And I love, love, love Old Haunts. Mostly I think because you learn a bit more about Anne, Death’s loyal PA and how she  came to be Steve’s loyal sidekick. Having worked as a PA myself for doctors, surgeons and professors in the past, working with people who believe the fate of mankind lies solely in their hands is something I can relate to.

Oh, there’s also so zombies and suicide cults thrown in there for good measure too! If you’re looking for something to read this summer, the HTBD series won’t disappoint. All i’M waiting for now is for it to be turned into a TV series then I need never read another book again!

My favourite quote from the series:

Dave: Some people say dreams are visions that you can predict the future or see into the past
Death: Yeah well some people say that a rich tea is a good biscuit. People are stupid

You can buy all three books here

And find out more about Dave here:

Twitter: @MrDaveTurner

Instagram: @MrDaveTurner

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mrdaveturner/

How many times a day do you check your phone?

‘Technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream’ – Steven Spielberg

I’ll be the first to admit I’m on my phone a lot, probably more than I should be and I am a bit of a self confessed social media addict. It gets a bad press and there are certainly negative aspects to social media, for one I’m extremely thankful it wasn’t around when I was a teenager as I think I would have made what was a patchy high school experience even worse. I do however love the social aspect of it, I like that you can find out what Harry Styles had for breakfast (should you want to) and there are ways of keeping in touch with people or making you self heard that were never around 10 years ago.

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The flip side of that is of course that it stops you being actually social in real life, if you’re looking at life through your phone screen all the time then you’re never really seeing it, or living it or experiencing it. So I read about a fun app called Phone Checker, which logs how many times in a day you check your phone, so you can see in black and white actually how much time you’re using it.

I downloaded the free app on a Sunday night with the hope to keep it on for a month or so. When you first download it you’re really conscious it’s there so purposefully don’t check as often as you might. So I figured eventually I’d forget it was there so the results would be more honest.

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What would be really interesting would be to see how many checks are you reacting to something, like receiving a phone call or a text message and how much is just idly checking for the sake of checking but I suppose that kind of technology if probably a bit too much to ask of a free app!

Phone Tracker is really simple with very few interfaces. All it every shows you is how many times you’re checked your phone that day, how that compares to how many times you’ve checked on previous days, and an option to share to social media. That’s it. You get reminded every morning to check the previous day’s views – and if you don’t it doesn’t log them and will add them on to that days views, which is an annoying feature. Also clicking on the graph icon just seems to take you back to the the play store rather than show you any data analysis – and i’m a real graphs and stats geek so find that frustratingly odd. Aside from that it pretty much does what it says on the tin.

The results were interesting if not that surprising. I check my phone almost double the amount at weekends that I do on week days, which will largely be due to the fact that my phone usually stays in my handbag whilst I’m at work, but also, at weekends you’re doing stuff you want to take pictures of/text someone about/tweet about so it makes sense you’d be on your phone more often.

Nottingham Trent University did a study where they monitored a group of 18 to 33 year olds and found that they checked their phone on average of 85 times a day, so when you compare that to my weekly average of around 60 times a day It doesn’t make me feel so bad, then again I am two years out of their research age so perhaps that’s high for 35 year olds?!

Has it made me more wart of looking at my phone so often? To be honest not really, all its done is made me aware. It has made me think more seriously about having a social  media ban for a weekend though, which is an idea I’ve toyed with for a while now however I’m not quite sure I’m ready for that yet!

If You Can’t Be Positive Be Quiet

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted’ – Aesop

I feel like I need to get something off my chest that’s been bugging me for a while now. I appreciate that a while back I wrote about how I hate open letters to people and I feel this may be veering down that path but bear with me for a moment.

Whilst this isn’t an open letter aimed at one person or indeed to anyone specific rather a group of people. I’ve been seeing quite a lot of negativity on social media recently and it’s really starting to wind me up. I’m not talking about people moaning about Brexit (it’s happening, get over it) or the new GBBO line up (it’s a TV show ffs) I’m talking about sly digs or shared memes having a unsubtle pop at someone specific. Despite it being *totally* obvious who you’re aiming it and it’s also, well it’s not very nice is it? And quite frankly women are the worse culprits because a lot of us seem to have an inability to be happy for someone else.

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I saw the worse of it back in January when we’d all eaten and drank ourselves into oblivion and some of us were trying so hard to get something that resembled a vitamin back into our bodies. My Instagram was awash with pictures of sweet potato and avocado and sweaty selfies and I loved every single one of them, why? Because I *like* those people. I follow these people because they’re my friends (or at least I wish I was friends with them). Why wouldn’t I show them support by liking a picture of their bland looking dinner which probably tastes like cardboard but will be helping them get back to where they want to be.

I don’t want to come across as some humourless crusader who can’t take a joke because believe me I love a good meme as much as the next person. We all have those groups of people on social media who rub us up the wrong way, the duck faces, the food snappers, the gym rats, the mummy brigade, not everything’s for everyone and of course it would take too much time to like or favourite every single thing you see.

But if you roll you eyes every time someone posts picture of themselves in a bikini or their hot dog legs on a beach or the massive slice of cheesecake their about to tuck into, then that’s on you not them. Because all of those things are cool, and well deserved and if you don’t like it then bloody unfollow them!

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I also don’t to claim to be spokesperson for everyone who posts a gym selfie on Instagram but if I could pick just one all encompassing word to describe myself it would be ‘average.’ So as your ‘average’ girl who posts gym selfies I’ll let you into a secret. I post gym selfies because I’m not confident about the way I look and I like the motivation or validation from other people to remind myself that I’m doing OK and I’m doing a good job. I work bloody hard to stay even remotely in shape and when you work hard at something, however narcissistic it may seem, you want everyone to know about it, because being told ‘well done’ by someone, even in the form of a like, feels good. And doing something, anything is better than being a sofa dwelling negative knobhead who sits behind their keyboard criticising everyone else.

We don’t know what pain other people have had in their lives and we don’t know what makes people happy, so in times where countries are trying to declare nuclear war on each other, how about we all just be a little bit kinder to each other, yeah?

I guess if this is an open letter to anyone, it’s an open letter to you; the person who posts sweaty gym pictures, or your big old bowl of pasta, or your finished dissertation, or a selfie of you voting, or are flogging your new business. Because you know what? Bloody well done you, you get the ultimate thumbs up from me, you go Glen Coco!

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Thanks to the gorgeous Pixie Tenenbaum who let me stalk her instagram account for pictures to use for this post, who helps me out in all manner of ways blogging and in daily life and who is a general all round badass chick!