Trip of a lifetime - part two

Early on Monday morning on the 7th of January I'd flown from Newquay to Gatwick arriving just in time for breakfast. I was on my way to the South African Visa Office to apply for a work visa for my upcoming trip to Cape Town. Directions were in my phone and also printed off along with every other document I could possibly need to cover the three weeks I was away from home. The trip to London was a real whistle-stop affair. At the last minute, just as I landed at Gatwick in fact, my friend Ann invited me to join her at home for breakfast. A couple of hours later she accompanied me across London to the visa office where the deed was done. We had a late lunch nearby after which she shepherded me back across the city to deliver me to Euston Station. By teatime I was on my way to Manchester for my Wardrobe appointment the next day. Newquay to London, apply for visa, then London to Manchester all in one day, check!

I spent the night in central Manchester at the Abode Hotel. The sight of this super king size bed, three pillows wide was heaven. Lay a bit of luxury on me baby, if you must!

And yes, a big echo-y bathroom is fine with me too.

After breakfast the following morning I went to find the venue for the wardrobe appointment which was only a few minutes walk away from the hotel. Next, well of course you know what would be next ... a bit of retail therapy! First a couple of charity shops and then TK Maxx. I was very restrained, but found one or two things that were bargains enough to warrant being squeezed into my bags.

I can always find room for another pair of shoes, or two!

It was great to meet up with Paulina again. We were both equally excited about the forthcoming photo shoot. Like me, Paulina works full time (she runs her own cake making business in London), but she has staff and therefore she too had cover for the trip. 

The wardrobe session over, it was time for the creatives to look at shots of the permutations of outfits on all of the models (there were five of us in total) and make some decisions. The tweaking and pinning are part of this session too, although the fitting of an outfit here doesn't always mean it will be worn by that model on the day. See? I'm gradually learning how very fluid this whole process is. Scripts too, can change right up to rehearsals so you never really know who, which and where never mind what is going to happen. By the time I got to the end of the trip to SA I felt I had learnt a lot more about the business than ever before.

By teatime that evening I was on Manchester station on my way to Scotland.

I arrived in Edinburgh about 10pm to find that my hotel, Motel 1, was only 50 metres away from Waverley station. The crisp white sheets were calling, and I didn't resist for long.

This is Milo, guard dog at my sister's house in St Andrew's my next port of call. Don't be deceived by his size - he's a loud and ferocious little fella. Entering or even approaching her house can be a noisy affair, but I can say that once the barking stops, he's a bit of a softie really. Between Wardrobe and departing for Cape Town, I had 10 days to while away so it was a great opportunity to visit Dianne and also see my other sister, Sandra for a couple of days too. Dog walking, charity shopping and lots of talking was how we spent our time together, plus taking a few blog photos too, of course.

I thought the plan was for my shoes to be the star of the show, but Milo had other ideas.

On the 14th of Jan I had another little train journey to make - back to Edinburgh for the night so that I could catch an early train to London to collect my visa. It was obviously vital to the whole trip that I had a visa otherwise I wouldn't be able to travel. I therefore arrived with sweaty palms and a feeling of dread deep in the pit of my stomach. These kind of things have a habit of going wrong for me and I can't help thinking that the pungent aroma of doom precedes me. Sure enough, on arriving at Reception I was tackled about why I was two hours early. Not only that, but why had I altered my appointment time on my paperwork? My response was that this was done by the Manager who had interviewed me as she agreed to an early collection due to the fact that I would be travelling all the way from Edinburgh. The ensuing phone call to her department announced that the woman at the desk (me) had altered her appointment time and was the manager there to substantiate my claim? No, of course she wasn't. The accusation was repeated to other operatives and my countering followed each time. Increasingly I protested, she objected, I became slightly more forceful, and somehow this resulted in my being allowed into the inner sanctum and directed downstairs to the interview room.

However, things didn't improve much at the next stage. I was called forward to the desk and asked for my receipt. This was a photocopy of my passport, plus a printed receipt with my appointment details attached. Why had I altered my collection time? Not me, your Manager did it. Have you had a text to say it's ready for collection? No. The passports don't come in untiI 4pm. Then why was I told to come at 2? I don't know. Neither do I. Much muttering to operative in the next booth. I was then asked for proof of identity.  You have my passport - that's my ID I chirruped. No, she responded, I need your ID, something else, your driving license. I don't drive, I don't have a driving license. You must have ID to collect this. But you have my only ID - you have my passport. I need something else with your photo on it. This wasn't going well. My passport has my photo on it - the receipt has my photo on it - and here's my face. You must show me photo ID. I proffered various other cards (senior rail card, Scilly Travel Club card) and in the midst of this heated exchange a mumbled voice came from the next booth. The interviewer's attitude changed from full on battle-mode to resignation to acceptance.  At last common sense had prevailed - my face did in fact match the photocopy of my passport and I was allowed to receive said passport with visa which somehow had magically appeared. Hurrah! I had defeated the idiocy of bureaucracy and Cinderella was indeed going to the ball!

I virtually skipped around the corner to the Montcalm Hotel where I had arranged to meet up with my blogging friend Jacqui aka Mummabstylish

We spent a lovely couple of hours together, chatting about all things blogging of course and then about my forthcoming trip. We've met before and it was great to catch up with Jacqui in person on her latest news - she's a grandma, being one of the most amazing things, as she looks so blooming young! Or is that just a sign of me getting old? We got the waiter to take some shots of us, but he missed my fab new shoes!

And there was the obligatory selfie of course!

I'd arrived early in Edinburgh the day before and what a super surprise it was to find a huge branch of TK Maxx only minutes away from my hotel. Somehow I got bit carried away and bought a whole new outfit to wear to my lunch date with Jacqui! 

Yes, these were too much of a bargain to be left on the shelf. So very me, I can hear you cry!

The next evening I was back in St Andrews for a couple of nights before it was time for me to make my final journey south. The day prior to leaving,Thursday the 17th, was a busy day for me as I had received a message from the client to say that they wanted me to have my hair cut and it took until the very last day for the instructions to come through. I had done my homework in advance though, and found a swish hairdresser in the town where I'd made an appointment with the salon owner Sophie Butler to style me up, ready for the shoot. 

Sophie did a great job, giving me a very sleek do which she assured me could be roughed up for a wilder look. I had to send some shots through to the client for approval before I left the salon. The cut really enhanced the colour too - no rinses or filters required, hahaha!

I'll be honest with you. I had deep reservations about this haircut. The fringe left me with nowhere to hide and felt very severe for my strong features. I think the style looked fabulous on the model in the proposal, but she was the right side of 30 with a heart shaped face with a button nose and cheekbones you could hang your coat on. Anyway, the deed was done with no time to think about it as I was due to catch a train to Edinburgh within the hour.

I spent the evening of the 17th of January in Edinburgh once more, this time out at the airport. 

Friday the 18th of January had at last arrived! I had an early start for the 8.30am flight to catch from Edinburgh to Gatwick and then a later flight from Heathrow to Cape Town. OMG, my adventure truly was about to begin!

Anna x


My London mini break

A few days off-island and I've taken the train to London for a couple of nights to stay with a friend. The main event of the trip was a dental appointment on Friday, but when Ann suggested I come to visit her in Borough there was no good reason why not. I'm looking rather pleased with myself after not only successfully navigating the underground, but also having come away for almost a week with only this tiny suitcase. No shopping sprees planned therefore no holdalls or bags within a bag this time.

This is the view from the guest bedroom - what a wonderful profusion of green. Ann had told me there was a fox that visited sometimes, but I didn't realise it would be bold enough to snooze on her shed roof!

There was a fox cub too which is a bit more inquisitive, coming all the way up to the patio doors to peer in from time to time. Sod's law meant that I never had my camera to hand to capture that though.

A fifteen minute walk from Ann's home is the Fashion and Textile Museum, currently the venue for the Orla Kiely "A Life in Pattern" exhibition - what a treat for me! 

It's funny that you only have to see things once to know that you really, really need them.

What an absolute joy it was to see the master of pattern play at work like this. 

I'm not sure if it were the clothes or the handbags which were the most exciting aspect of the show. Although I do know that the handbags caused me to have the most longing. I didn't count them, but as you can see they spanned every colour of the rainbow. A genuine Orla Kiely handbag is now on my bucket/wish list.

After much deliberation, I decided that this was my number one handbag. If you come across this on eBay, do please let me know. I've already done a search there of the 129 OK bags on offer and nothing sparks joy as this one does. I'm not going to settle just for the sake of it, but will be keeping an eye out too on the Orla Kiely website to see if a new style appears that makes my heart do somersaults as this bag does.

These oversized frocks were the masterstroke of the whole show, suspended in huge space, halfway through the exhibition for maximum impact. The scale of them is difficult to comprehend until you see them like this...

I'm not really sure if my pattern play comes up to scratch in this environment. Getting dressed that morning I was happy with my outfit, but compared to all of this, I'm dwarfed by the competition and quite rightly so. Anyhow, just for the record I'm wearing an H&M jacket, trousers from TK Maxx by Carolina Bell, shoes from TK Maxx by Head Over Heels, cardi by Atmosphere, handbag by Superbia and necklace was a gift from Sasha.

The exhibition runs until the 23rd September and if you can get to it then I'd say "Do!" For details of opening times and prices see the Fashion and Textile Museum website here.

Ann and I did a bit more gadding about in London together which I'll share with you on Wednesday. In the meantime, I can report that I'm home again and that I've survived the trial of another tooth extraction with only a bit of facial swelling to show for it. The year of the teeth continues apace! 

Anna x


Sightseeing in London

Hello, long time no see! I'm back from my jaunt to London, harbouring a scratchy throat which may be the price to pay for getting up close and personal with the crowds on the tube, but such is life. For our week in the city we were staying in a friend's flat in the Barbican; one of those right at the very top with a rooftop view (see it on my instagram here). Steve took these shots on our way back from breakfast one morning - eating out is a treat, but eating breakfast out every day seemed quite decadent. 

I have to say that I was really happy to have included the red boots in my last minute packing. I wore them four times in the course of the week which isn't bad going.

St James Park was looking very autumnal.

Buckingham Palace always draws the crowds - I'm surely not the only one who hopes to see the Queen peeping out to give us a little wave?

As we crossed Horse Guards Parade in the late afternoon sun I noticed that the London Eye wasn't so far away. I was heading there for one of my bloggers meet ups later in the week.

We finished our walkabout day at Trafalgar Square where we stopped to watch the street performers before taking in a movie at Leicester Square. 

Next day I'd arranged to meet up with fellow bloggers Ashley and Laurie outside Selfridges and while I was waiting I popped in for a little browse. The cafe in the basement was cake heaven!

And this is what happens when you put a clutch of bloggers together - lots of pointing cameras at each other!

In between all the photos we talked. And talked. And talked some more and most of it was about blogging. Ashley and Laurie both do a lot of work with brands so I was keen to hear how that ties in with their everyday life. It turned out I was the only one to be in full time employment and yet they are both so busy with family commitments as well as attending blogging events that we all seemed to be equally rushed off our feet. Our common mindset is very much of seize the day with everything that comes along. They met up for the first time during a project earlier on this year and their friendship has blossomed as they support each other on their blogging journey. They now host a joint link up - take a look here. Ashley's son was designated photographer for the day and did a great job.

My outfit details - jacket: Michael Kors, sweater: H&M, shirt: Sainsbury's, tights: H&M, skirt: Gap, boots: Primark, sunglasses: Quay Australia.

Coming up on the blog on Monday is the monthly 5 Over 50 challenge of which Laurie is part. Later on next week I'll cover my second bloggers meet up along with some more London sights and stories. 

Laurie couldn't pass up this photo opportunity.

Anna x

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