Europe Travel Diary (Bruges)

Day 1: London to Bruge

I was off on my first solo travel adventure across Europe! With baited breath and a thriving cocktail of nerve-racking emotions, I tied myself into my bulging backpack. It weighed the size of a bear cub carrying a set of bowling balls.

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Over 10 days, my mission was to visit 4 countries and 7 cities. I was a little bit nervous, but so incredibly excited and curious as to what adventures await across the channel.

Dressed in cargo trousers (cutely adorned with lots of pockets to hide my possessions from European felons) I munched away on a cheese and ham baguette, constructed from the finest luncheon materials of Bournemouth Lidl. I relaxed at the train platform and was ready to head onto the train and wave goodbye to England, and to forget all about the pressures of Brexit and Love Island. I didn’t realise that there was a check-in procedure to get on the Eurostar, and had been confidently bumbling around thinking I could just jump on the train.

Panicking, I managed to find the departure gate. A stern looking french woman was standing near a conveyer, where you had to put your bags onto trays. I tried to squeeze both bags onto one, and strode off triumphantly through the security scanners. WAIT! I heard her beckon.
One tray per bag! and Push! she snappily added. I managed to get them all on again, and emptied out my pockets and belt. I went through the security scanner, dreading it beeping rudely as I went through. Instead I was greeted to two thumbs up by the security guy – phew!

I then got my passport scanned, and a picture taken of me, sadly I had not shaved nor looked in the mirror prior. I was so tall that the camera had to slide up its pole to reach me! I waved and said hi.

The journey was pretty smooth, despite me facing the wrong direction. We hit about 279km/hr – which made going to the toilet an exhilarating experience. We’re talking sit down wee’s here.

Did you know?
England was connected to the rest of Europe 10,000 years ago.
A tsunami in Norway caused it to separate from the mainland. 

The Eurostar can take you to Amsterdam.
You’re only in the tunnel for 20 minutes. 

It took 6 years to build, at 20 Billion pounds.
It’s 50m below seabed. 

Upon getting there, I went on the wrong escalator down and ended up stranded in the coach bay. The only way up was to go ‘up’ the down escalator – much to the amusement of some brits.
Oi mate, you’re going the wrong way! They gleefully declared.
After asking a man in an information box for help, I found my next train – and it was a double decker.

I arrived in the divine town of Bruges, and after 30 minutes of walking, I realised that there were 2 hostels with the same name. And of course, I was at the wrong one! I began to walk the right way, which again actually turned out to be the wrong way – my map doesn’t mention if I’m directionless clutz! An hour late, I arrived at Hi! Europa.

I met two very friendly guys – a German and an Asian. I walked to Bruge for my first European city experience. I fell in love with Bruges – It was a myriad of cobbled streets and fairtytale-like castles. It is called ‘The Venice of the North.’

I chilled out at the Lake of Love in Minnewater.

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Did you know?

A legend tells the story of a young and pretty girl named Minna who was in love with Stromberg, a warrior of a neighbouring tribe. Her father did not agree with her love and arranged her to marry a man of his choice. Minna escaped and ran into the forest. When Stromberg finally found her, she died in his arms of exhaustion. The lake was named after Minna and the bridge by the lake was considered the bridge of love, in her honour.

It was incredibly serene and tranquil. I felt an inner sense of peace that I hadn’t felt in a very long time, and inhaled the rich Belgian air.

Day 2: Bruge

Waking up from my first hostel bed, I was hungry on devouring some exciting breakfast options that Europe had in store for me. I had nuteella on toast, with ham, salami and cheese on bread.
This was a nice ensemble that sadly was THE breakfast across the whole of Europe, and I yearned and yearned for a full and fat English breakfast each day forth. My enthusiasm and sense of adventure encouraged my new found friends to explore Bruges with me.

Did you know?
Gotye came from Bruges.
The town resembles a medieval historic world with flea markets and 50 or so chocolate shops.
Most people speak French
Only 100,000 live there!

We climbed the Belfry tower – 366 steps of staggering steepness. It was extremely narrow, and my bag broke halfway down – causing me to panic in case my boxer shorts took a very long tumble.  It was a very tight squeeze going past some big people.

Famished, we went to a chocolate shop that was shown on the Discovery Channel. We close at 2! they shouted, as I perused row upon row of delicious praline. They also gave us free tasters that melted in the mouth. Absolutely delicious!  They were a lot richer and and flavoursome than a Cadburys’ Dairy MIlk

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I tried an authentic Belgian waffle- drenched in sticky, hot chocolate – it was sickly, so hard to eat – but very mourish and delectable. As I enjoyed my overpowering feast,  a guy  sat on a nearby bench was frustratingly tapping to the sound of the Belfry bells. Tap, tap, tap. Suddenly, he exploded with pee. I managed to escape this wet predicament.

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We went on a boat ride though the canals, spotting the recycle whale leaping at the water. It’s known as the Skyscraper (the Bruges Whale) that rises up from the Canal. This Skyscraper is made up of 5 tons of plastic waste pulled out of the ocean to create a 4 story tall whale: a powerful reminder of billions of plastic in the sea.

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I bid a sad goodbye to my new found friends, and got an offer to visit one of them in France. I hopped onto the train for Amsterdam, ready for my next adventure!

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Meeting the Chuckle Brothers

It was almost time.
The Chuckle Brothers were about to descend upon Bournemouth. Oh dear oh dear!

I was quite looking forward to their arrival – they were one of the few icons of my childhood that had not been investigated by Operation Yewtree.

Paul and Barry were doing a meet ‘n’ greet at Halo nightclub, an activity usually partaken by chiselled, personality-vacuums celebrities from Love Island, or ‘Gaz’ from Geordie Shore.

We arrived at Weatherspoons. Like Phil Mitchell and moaning about the weather – this pub behemoth – affectionately abbreviated as ‘Spoons  – was a staple of British culture. Some warm-up drinks were needed –  the cocktails of Woo Woo and Purple Rain were the perfect social lubrication for the mainstream Halo Nightclub – something I was unfamiliar with. I was used to Sound Circus, a rock bar which only plays 7 different songs and is inhabited by people with big beards and questionable social skills.

We exclaimed to the ‘Spoons barmaid that we were meeting the Chuckle Brothers, and her face erupted into an expression of nostalgic glee.
“Ask them to come here at 3am,” she proclaimed.
Did she wanted a threesome with them? To me, to you, to me?
I asked her if she’d be giving them free drinks – seeing as they were a great source of entertainment when she was growing up.
“No, they got paid to be entertaining!
 I arched my eyebrow.
 “Maybe a free soda water.”

After getting suitably tanked up, we ventured to Halo. Many years ago, it was a church – Aplace of God. Unfortunately, like Tesco in Westbourne, places of Christ were now the new haven for capitalist greed. We are still yet to see the day the local synagogue is converted into a Gregg’s.

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I was proud to have my £6 ticket in hand, getting my special queue jump bonus! We were one of the first to arrive and there was about 8 people queueing – but we still got to jump the queue!
We had to pass through 3 members of staff to get access to the Church Club. First past the bouncer, who squinted at the ticket. Then another person who scanned my ID into a special computer. It flashed up to reveal my ripe age amongst the horde of 18 years olds behind. I felt like retiring to bed, putting on my slippers and moaning about Brexit.

We arrived at the front desk to find one of the barmaids stuffed inside a tight cblack orset, her cleavage gasping for air. It turned out this – along with stilettos – was the dress code. Good to see objectification and  gender unequality was alive in 2017.

To my horror, I had to pay an additional £5 to get into the club that I was not expecting. My friend retorted that Barry and Paul were worth it, but I still silently seethed at this marketing trickery. Paying to go to an event, then paying to get into the building that’s holding said event? It’s like getting buying a meal at Chiquitos but paying for the cutlery and plate – before you can eat it!

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I held in my rage, and ordered a double vodka and coke. It was served in the same kind of tumbler that we had at school. The minimum card spend was £10 and the drink was £2.50.  This was a fair attempt to get me to buy more and help my slow descent into alcoholism.

I was then hit with the news the Chuckles weren’t appearing until half 12. I wondered what had happened, perhaps they’d done too much ‘to me, to you’ and had driven off Bournemouth Pier, and were now getting their moustached towel dried.

Going to the bathroom, I dared look up. An army of about 20 small flies flew around the tank above my head. Maybe this was a Bush Tucker Trial and they’d be a gold star inside for camp? I grimaced. As I turned to leave the toilet attendant sultrily declared to me that no spray, no lay? and he sprayed Paco Rabanne in the air. I wish all it took to improve my connection with the opposite sex was a quick burst of perfume from a bloke in a toilet.

I pondered amongst joining the others on the dancefloor. I thought about tempting to do some eccentric arm movements, but I didn’t want the people of Halo thinking that I was having a seizure. Instead I bobbed up at down in tandem with everyone else.
I looked around to see hundreds of fresh faces, and started to realise my days of clubbing were on the wane. With matching shaved side haircuts, I kept on thinking if their parents knew they were staying out late.? They look pretty joyous, knocking back their Jagerbombs. How little did they know about forever being entangled in student debt, and having to schedule a daily chiropractor after years of looking neck down l at their phones.

Suddenly, the stage was rocked by the two comedy legends from Yorkshire – the Chuckle Brothers! Paul proclaimed I wanna hear you say “To You” to the crowd! “To Me,” they chanted back.
Barry meekly stood to the side, not sure what was going on. They disappeared upstairs and I got ingested into an almighty queue all the way up to the VIP area. I waited half hour, lost in a sea of people, some people squabbling over others allegedly pushing in. I thought the British people loved queues? Just give them a cup of tea, it’ll blow over.

Time passed, and having rejoiced with several random people just how exciting this was, I finally made it up to the top of the stairs and I could see Paul. Barry came up to about 4 feet so I had to assume he was up there too.

I was just steps away from meeting the comedic heroes of my childhood. Paul looked at me, bizarrely wearing sunglasses in a club. I fanned my face.

Should I say Oh dear Oh dear? Or maybe a cheeky rendition of No Slacking?. Instead I went over, and shook their hands like they were long-lost pals. In a sense they were. It felt very weird seeing people I grew up with but had not actually met, but if felt right. I put my arms around them and posed for a picture, praying inside that I didn’t blink.

Barry reminded me of my Nan. Short, silver-haired, his eyes filled with admiration.

He gave me a hug and wished me a good night. It was.

 

Other topics:

The Craziest Valentines Ever
How I Got Catfished By My Best Friend
How I Got Evicted
How To Break Your Heart. 
How To Save Money
How To Tackle Depression
Who Wet My Bed?

Currently breaking the Internet at Facebook | Instagram | Twitter |

I’m now on Youtube !

I’m raising money for charity and achieving goals at http://rupertsresolutions.tumblr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Bournemouth to Barcelona

4th August 2017

Stunningly rich in historical architecture and breathtaking scenery, Barcelona awaited me. The city was alive with sun-drenched heat, splendid Sangria was ready to be drunk by a drunk, and playful palm trees swaying in the summer breeze.

After my horrendous time in Paris, I was long overdue a pleasant holiday experience. Sadly, this new experience would be birthed from everyone’ last favorite ivory labyrinth maze, Gatwick Airport, at 7 in the morning.

It was a Thursday night. Having worked all day in the fascinating world of administration, I boarded the bus at a yawn-inducing 00:40. It was a 3.5 hour journey to Gatwick, and my legs were all kinds of timey-wimey, squishy-squashy trying to fit in the coach seat. I’d have been more comfortable commuting in a medieval pillory.
I drifted off and began to dream about Paella, but the bumpy potholes of the M27 had other ideas, and I kept waking up in a half asleep haze wondering why I was not in my comfy bed.

We arrived at the airport at the ungodly time of 4am. I had to teach myself how to walk again after my legs had lost feeling.
The aeroplane split the 8 of us up across the cabin and we landed in Spain in the early sunny morning. It was a fairly quiet journey despite Stags, Hens and screaming babies.

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We ventured forward until the great unknown of Barcelona. Unfortunately for us, tugging around our suitcases in the belting Spanish heat was fairly punishing.  Our Air B’n’b wasn’t open until 3pm, so we had to drag our physical and emotional baggage across the marina.
Our toes fell into disrepair as we awkwardly wandered around aimlessly in search of salvation of water and ice cream.  Sweat began to bead down on our pale English foreheads, our skin glistening. The Great British summer had lasted several days, and we were not used to the relentless humidity. We were about to reach breaking point until we stumbled upon a Tapas bar, inviting us in with the tantalizing scent of Cuttlefish, Patatas Bravas and Miniaturized Burgers.

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Recharged, our next adventure was a food shopping trip. Sadly, fate had it in for us and the nearest Carrefour (the Spanish Asda) was an hour and 10 minutes walk, so we hopped onto the Metro instead to get some continental goodies for the next few days. We bought some chorizo, nectarines, cheeses, hams, bread and juice.

Our octogroup arrived at the house in a sweaty, hungry condition. With 8 mouths to feed, we devoured some snacks to keep our appetites at bay. We found cooking wasn’t easy- the main frying pan had the wrong coating and seemed to be kept purely for decoration, or simply to confuse hungry houseguests. We had a stove and a microwave, but no grill or oven.  Luckily, we managed to create a yummy, scrummy chorizo, tomato and rice mix, using a large pot, that satisfied the bellowing rumbling inside our tummys.

Despite being up and awake for an incredible amount of hours, sleep wasn’t easy. The night-time humidity kept us up, and with no air conditioning, I feel like I was being ovencooked like a Sunday Roast. We came up with the cunning plan of pouring cold bottled water onto the bedsheets, then wiggling around in them to help cool us down.

5th August 2017

Refreshed, we set off  to the Las Ramblas food market where I tried both ostrich and octopus. Despite the latter having spent it’s life ingesting more ink than a Biro, the octopus was surprisingly tasty.

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Also guzzled down were freshly made fruit smoothies, cakes and rare Spanish pastries. Aware there was pickpockets, I put a padlock around my bag zips to prevent cheeky Spanish fingers stealing my possessions.  Luckily, no one got anything pinched, despite a boy mischievously lurking around the market.

Refueled by tasty Spanish delicacies, we dabbled in some shopping and ventured toward the Sagrada Familia – an exquisite looking cathedral that is still being built 130 years in. Lazy builders huh?

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Dying for water, we stumbled into the Picasso Cafe. Grabbing some drinks from the fridge and buying them at the counter, we sat down to rest. However, it turned out these drinks were takeaway prices and we couldn’t drink these in the cafe, so we got asked to leave. For workers who deal with confused tourists all day, they were quite rude and warranted a minus star on Trip Advisor. I went to purchase a couple of drinks but having seen my group be ushered out, I decided to put one back. The waitress barked at me and would only let me buy both. I stood my ground, and another waitress let me pay for the one I wanted.

As we stood in the queue for the Sagrada, bathing in the heat, I decided to buy some ice-cold bottle water from a guy who was chanting “1 Euro 1 Euro 1 Euro”. The bottle had so much ice that it could sink the Titanic, but I didn’t care as it cooled me down in the humid sun.
We then went into the Sagrada where we got our bags checked. One security guard got funny over my friend wearing a top that exposed to much shoulder, despite most other tourists wearing a lot less. I was tempted to rip my shirt off in protest and show a bit of nipple. We fathomed it was due to being respectful in a religious place, despite allowing food, drink, selfies and cleavage inside.
Talking of which, the interior boasted some great looking emblematic design and technicolor windows, but I felt a bit dismayed we couldn’t explore any of the other levels. We also went to peruse the flea market, dodging confusing Spanish drivers on the way as we braved crossing the manic roads.

In the evening, a group of rowdy Spaniards boarded the Metro with us. Whoever decided on selling them a megaphone? I wondered.
In addition, a drunk man with his glasses hanging off his face staggered about attempting to fight and/or grope people. These attractions hadn’t been advertised on the ‘Top 10 things to Discover in Barcelona’ article I had read, so they were an unwelcome surprise.

As we survived our Metro experience, we indulged in Spain’s  most well know dish – Paella! I ordered the Meat Metze, that involved chewy chicken, oysters, prawns and calamari. Those bits were great, but the rice itself wasn’t too yummy.

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We then discovered our new vice – Sangria. After one sip, we were all hooked. From that point, we became Sangriaholics. The fruity zest of the red wine entwinned with delicious fruit sent my tastebuds into overdrive. It was cool, refreshing and for the first time in a while – I had found a drink that I can enjoy and get drunk on.

Many Sangrias and drunk Austin Powers impressions later, we headed off into the night to find the elusive Razmatazz nightclub, but upon entry, we found it was a cheeky €17 for entry. We were too exhausted to go elsewhere after a 40 minute trot, so we settled back to the house for the night.


6th August 2017

We kick-started this morning with sausages, bacon and egg, munching them down at the rooftop terrace. Our next destination was the free Picasso Museum.

Sadly, this venue only allowed a certain amount of visitors each day, so we missed out on a creative dabbling in classic artistic culture. Instead, we traversed off to the Montjuïc cable car.
A kind icecream vendor pointed us in the direction of it’s entrance. Half an hour walk away, we discovered that she had successfully pointed us in the opposite direction. With our feet still stinging after 2 days of bumbling around Barcelona, this was not good news for our toes.

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Weary and grumpy, we split into two groups. Our group deciding to give Paddle-boarding a go, but we were put off by the cheeky €50 deposit pricetag. Instead, we ventured off to a cafe for more Sangria and tapas, followed by a trip to the beach. What was intriguing was that Barcelona beach was man-made for the Olympics, and didn’t exist until 1992.

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Trying to change into trunks on the beach, without displaying a bit of nudity, isn’t the easiest idea, and involved a lot of awkwardness towel wiggling. Sam, cocooned in a giant fabric towel, did so, and was greeted by a group of Germans.
“Hey Naked Boy! You want to come party with us tonight?” They shouted at him as he awkwardly squirmed around.

As we finally managed to trunk up, we went into the cool Spanish sea. Standing on the shore, the waves ambushed us and we went flying over each other when the water smacked us. It was quite an exhilarating experience. The waves were so strong, we’d collide into the sand and often end up submerged.  The current then dragged us back in, facing us with another killer wave. My body was destroyed and soaked by the water, the taste of salt swashing around my mouth, but I gleefully kept going back in. It was the most fun I had in ages.

The beach was comprised of stones, so my swim shorts ingested about 50kg of small little pebbles. My pockets became laden with the buggers, and each time I walked, a short stream of little stones would tumble down my legs.

Spotting some amazing towel fabrics being sold across the beach, I thought I’d buy one to hang up in my bedroom. There were salesmen everywhere these, and others selling Mohitos, water and temporary tattoo’s. Knowing Sam got his fabric for €20, I was determined to find a bargain.
I asked if they were €10, and the men said there were €15. I said how about €12? They agreed. When I looked in my wallet, I grimaced, then said I only had €10, whilst I pretended to walk away in sadness. This technique let me get one for half the price at €10 as they called after me.

We arrived home so late that dinner  – Bolognese Columbo –  was served in midnight.  We played Irish Snap, and Bullshit, followed by some homemade Sangria.

7th August 2017

It was waterpark day! We were very much looking forward to this after three days of toe bashing walking around Barcelona!

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Sadly the queue system to the park proved immensely difficult. There was a queue to get your ticket signed, another to get your ticket stamped, and another to get into the park. It was frustratingly bizarre, and I felt the Chuckle Brothers may have had a hand in it’s design.
After making it through the entrance, a group of people were trying to sell us hula necklaces!
We then crammed 8 people’s worth of stuff into one locker, and went to enjoy the flumes and slides. One particular one was a long yellow slope, which would spurt water into your face and eyes as you tumble down – great for contact lens wearers. It would often pull you to one side, and you’d fly down at an awkward angle and end up hip first into the water below.
We really enjoyed the bucket. A giant bucket would slowly fill up with water. After a few minutes of tense building, it would tip over and splash everyone who stood underneath it. Despite getting absolutely pelted by cool water, it was quite fun!

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Another ride we tackled was an inflatable double ring down a flume, though we had to queue up at the end then carry the ring the hill to have a go! Why they didn’t have a conveyor belt, taking the rings back up the hill,  is beyond me. The walkways themselves were relentless underfoot – often slippy or stony, which would make walking around the park more terrifying than the rides themselves.

We all loved the wave machine, which lasted 5 minutes. After it finished, everyone would boo the staff dramatically, but they would just sit and smile. They were the Gods of the tides. We later played tag, sharks ‘n’ seaweed and did piggyback rides. I tried to do an underwater handstand, which proved quite difficult, so I ended up consuming chlorine and disenchantment.

My shoulders, despite 2 helpings of suntan lotion, developed a crispy red complexion due to the Barcelona heat. Despite the heat being double the temperature of Britain-Land, I failed to gain a tan, and merely came back with Lobster shoulders. After the park, we ascended an incredibly steep hill to enjoy the Gaudi architecture of the serene Park Guell.

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A range of architecture awaited, we explored column pillars, towers, fairtytale houses and a multicolored mosaic salamander.
We discovered a few offensive messages, including ‘Tourists go home, ‘You are my misery,’ which were ultimately directed at us, although we were probably the most well-behaved tourist group I’ve ever known. The locals were fed up of overcrowding and crazy party goers, so in retaliation they were inflicting petty crimes against tourists. Such madness includedglueing locks and slashing tyres of travel coaches. Considering Spanish employment is incredibly low, and that tourism brings a much needed cash-injection to the Barcelona economy, it seemed quite controversial.

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We had planned a Sangria- filled fiesta after out trip to Guell, but we decided after such an epic day, we retired to charge up for a last day in Spain!

8th August 2017

So this was it. The last day. How is it that office life drags, yeah holidays fade in a second?

We spent the morning being domestic goddesses, cleaning up the Casa and doing the washing up.

What followed was clothes shopping, where I got to discover the latest Spanish fashion. This wasn’t exactly trendy nor wearable- some men’s jumpers were covered in straps, which was far too bondage-y for my liking.  We begrudgingly went to a trip to Barcelona’s finest make-up store. Which would have been a breeze if (a) I was a woman (b) I was a drag queen. Instead, me and my other bored compadre, Cameron, sat on a chair and read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. S
Surprisingly, to get into the store, there was a slide which descended into the entrance! How fantastic – this should be made mandatory in all stores, oh, how I would love to helter-skelter down into Holland and Barrett.

Famished by shopping, we gorged on some tasty pastries… only to find a cheaper, tastier patisserie 3 minutes down the road.
With our bags repacked, we  waltzed to the airport, after wishing a tearful ‘adious’ to our Barcelona house. Security checks were a disaster – someone had planted a water bottle in Sam’s bag, Cerys had to take off her shoes multiple times, and I got my bottle opener taken away.

To get over my loss, I bit down into a tasty McDonald’s near the Duty Free. As usual, I was probably the only person in the establishment to order a salad. My theory is that if I pour the salad into the burger, making it bulge with greeny goodness, than the fatty badness will be neutered slightly. Or something. Well my stomach was convinced anyway!

The flight back was fairly smooth, thought it was slightly delayed. Our bus back was at 22:15, and we touched down in England at 21:35. Plenty of time right?

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Oh no. We were running out of time and fast.

The walkway from the plane to the exit of Gatwick was a never ending labyrinth vortex of horror. After every corner, there was another corridor. As time ticked down, I grabbed my suitcase and ran down the travelators, terminals and check ins.
We then got to passport control. On the right was UK/EU passports, the other side said UK border all passports. I wasn’t sure which one to go in, but my friend confirmed it was the left hand one.

Oh how wrong she was!

20 minutes in the queue, I stood there looking gormless. Our other friends – who had left the plane much later than us – were casually strolling into the other queue, which turned out to be the right one. I was in the queue for Americans and Russians. ублюдок.

I flipped into the right queue, only for the passport reader not to register with my brand spanking new passport (my old one had got lost in the post on the way to the Passport Office…)
At 22:08, the minutes were ticking away! I was ushered to another check-in desk, got through, rushed up to the next corridor, turned left, ran up the stairs, went out the arrivals area, turned right, went down in the lift and finally got to the coach with a couple of minutes to spare!

The journey back was a mere 3.5 hours, where I attempted to watch EastEnders (you’re not my mother…yes I am!) on my phone, but National Express Wi-Fi was temperamental at best!
Adious.

 

 

 


Other topics:
The Worst Job Ever
The Craziest Valentines Ever
How I Got Catfished By My Best Friend
How I Got Evicted
How To Break Your Heart. 
How To Save Money
How To Tackle Depression
Who Wet My Bed?

Currently breaking the Internet at Facebook | Instagram | Twitter |

I’m now on Youtube !

I’m raising money for charity and achieving goals at http://rupertsresolutions.tumblr.com

 

 

 

 

40 ways to save money

40 Ways For You To Save Money

Feeling the economic pinch? Recently opened your wallet or purse, only to find crumbs, with no sign of coppers? Times are tough – just look at the humble Freddo and his outrageous 25p price tag. I mean – what is this madness?

So for those feeling money strains, here are some up tried and tested  ways to save money – so you can spend it on stuff you love!

1. Charm

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Befriend everyone you meet – particularly catering staff. They deal with demanding managers  and your disregarded lunch remains. Most customers are grumpy or consider eye contact a crime.
So why not engage staff with small talk and a smile each lunch time, it could make a big difference. They might accidentally throw you some extra Baked Beans along the way because they like you.

We love to feel appreciated, so a compliment or chat can make our day. This applies also to bar workers, bus drivers, taxi drivers and shop workers. They may even let you off if you’re 5p short!
Oh and thanks for the free banana the other day, you know who you are 😉

2. Student Cards, Wowchers,  O2 Priority Moments, Tesco Clubcard points, Parking Tickets with McDonald’s Vouchers on the Back. 

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Fancy a meal with loved ones? Or bagged yourself a hot date?

Then I recommend researching which tasty eatery in your area has the best offers that will give your purse a breather. Simply perusing the web beforehand can save often help you save money. I recently had 40% off my bill at Pizza Express due to a flash of my NUS card.

For those dollar-free diners, check out this bad boy : http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/cheap-restaurant-deals

 

3. Drink Water When Dining Out

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I know you want Pimms, Prosecco or a Pineapple Juice with your meal, but drinks really add those extra digits to the bill. A main course is roughly about £10, so I recommend hiring a jug of water for your table! It’s refreshing, healthy and helps you digest your food. Tips optional :p

4. Become the Yellow Sticker Warrior

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You may have to fight off some fellow bargain vultures, as most supermarkets have a discount section. Find out the time the stafft reduce their stock and get to the aisle for some cheeky reductions.

If you can’t find this area, look out for a pimply teen Tesco worker, equipped with a handheld sticky-label machine. He will likely look terrified whilst surrounded by a swarm of discount-frenzied shoppers.

5. Use your Freezer, Your New Bff.

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You can freeze pretty much everything. That 99p mince you bought with the Yellow discount sticker? Bung it into your Hotpoint or Polar G595. Which leads us onto our next tip…

6. Make Mega Meals, and Spread Them Across the Week.

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Fancy a good idea to save time, ingredients and energy? I once made a cauldron’s worth of Bolognese. I threw in 2 boxes of mince and 3 can’s worth of chopped tomatoes, mushrooms and sliced onion (not as healthy as the gif above sadly). I then split these into several different Tupperware boxes. I popped these into the freezer to save them for another day or week. Tupperware can be your secret weapon in saving food for another day. There was Spaghetti Bolognese, Jacket Potato Bolognese and even Bolognese wraps. While you’re at it, make a…

7. Food Diary

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Plan out what you’re going to eat across the week. This really helps when purchasing ingredients, and thinking what other dinners you can create with them.
This website helps you create new meals based on what leftover bits and pieces you have in your kitchen. http://myfridgefood.com/

I’m having bacon and cheddar potatoes tonight…

8. Buy in Bulk

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Take advantage of supermarket offers. Toothpaste for £1 ? Buy 5. Herbal Tea, buy 1 get 2 free? Get 10!
You won’t have to stock up on Toothpaste or  Tea for a long time, and you’ll also beat the inevitable inflated rates of Toothpaste of the future.  I once scoffed at a friend who had 10  Listerine bottle stocked up, but now I’m thinking he was actually being quite clever.

Caution this does no work on items with short sell by dates. Obvs.

9. Don’t Fool for Supermarket Manipulations

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Millions are spent by supermarkets to strategically drain the money out of your wallet.
Whilst waltzing through Waitrose, look high and low to find out supermarket bargains. The items that are most profitable for them tend to be in your direct line of sight, whilst the offers aren’t eye level.
Have you ever noticed bright and nice smelling fresh fruit and veg is stocked near the entrance, whilst essentials – milks, egg and cheese are hidden at the back. Checkouts strategically place cheap small things next to them. These innocent things are part of their big scheme to keep you in there for as long as possible. The longer you’re there, the more you will buy! Stick to your  shopping list. Get in, get out, done.  

10. Say ‘No’ to Ice

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Oh hey. Is that you at the bar crying at the price of a £5 vodka and coke? A lot of clubs and pubs love filling up your beverage with enough ice that could take down the Titanic. It keeps it chill, but heavily diluted and remarkably content free. Even in the sheer cold of winter (or summer in our case), they’ll happily turn your cocktail into a Slush Puppy.

Say no to the ice. If you’re really hardcore, say no to the mixer as well.

(Please drink responsibly by the way!)

11. Become Your Own Personal Accountant.

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I know this may seem lame, but keeping track of your ingoings and outgoings can really pay off. You can find where the big bucks are going to. If you collate all your direct debits, your bills and memberships, it will give you an idea on how to keep prices down.

12. Buying Online?

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Here’s an interesting technique to save money whilst online.
Add your purchases to your online basket, and click through the various stages of the checkout process. Before you click BUY – stop, maybe even go to bed. Chances are, you may receive an email from the website, who are flummoxed by your indecision. They will send you a discount to make sure you follow through and complete your transaction!

13. Haggle With Your Providers

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If you’re thinking of leaving an Internet, Satellite or Insurance service provider due to increasing high costs, then play hard ball. Contact them to say that regretfully you will be looking elsewhere for a cheaper deal with a rival company.
In a lot of cases, they will try to keep you on board by cutting your current price down and possibly throwing in extras. You have proved your loyalty to them, and they won’t want to lose you to a competitor.

14. Compare the Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerkat

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Thank you Sergei! Always check your comparison sites when looking up contracts or buying big purchases. This works with all types of contracts and insurances, I think it’s a fantastic idea to shop around. Don’t be be fooled by advertising such as DON’T MISS OUT and LIMITED TIME ONLY – it’s marketing twoddle that convinces you that offers are urgent.

15. Online Shopping

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If you’re buying something online, a Google Image Search might do you great steed. An identical product on Amazon might be cheaper on Ebay. Simply right click and choose ‘Search Google For Image.’ On the search, it will come up with a list of different websites to buy from.

Take Mr Root’s sauce above for example, right click on that Saucy stuff.
With a Google search by image, one retailer offered it at £1.60, another £1.49 and one supermarket has it at just £1! It doesn’t hurt to be a little crafty!

16. Have a Dinner Party, Bring a Dish

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Instead of going out for a meal with friends, why not have a little cook off session at home?  Get all your guests to bring something to contribute to the dinner (perhaps a bottle of Blossom Hill Wine or a box of After 8’s) and you can cook something truly wonderous for a fraction of the price.
You can choose the furniture, the music, and there is no tip required! Some friends might even be open to do the washing up after.

17. Don’t Use the Gym, Park It!

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Don’t fancy being tied into a scary gym contract? Then channel your inner Phoebe!

Many people I know are still in year-long contracts, and end up going twice. Instead, I recommend turning your  outside world until your own fitness kingdom. Most London parks have equipment which you can use, whilst there is plenty of greenery (or beaches if you’re really lucky) where you can run through and build up your stamina. It’s a lot more exotic than literally going nowhere on a treadmill.

18. Share Lifts With Colleagues

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This is a good way to shave petrol costs and bond with Arnold from Administration. Share rides to work with a colleague, and contribute towards the mileage.  As long as there’s no impromptu singing whilst in a traffic jam, it’s a fantastic way to half the costs of driving and save fuel and resources.

19. Get On Yer Bike.

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Another way to save petrol is to get a bicycle. Drivers may hate you, but as well as saving you cash, it is keeping you fit.

Just make sure to take off the stabilizers once you’ve mastered it.

20. Book Train Fares As Far In Advance As Possible.

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We know train privatization is an absolute bugger, and some fares are horribly expensive. Bournemouth to London single fare at £54? No thanks. Well, unless I can go using First Class or actually have a go at driving the train myself.

You can get much better prices if you book in advance. Some trains journey even have 75% off their price if you know what time and date you’re going. Also, consider National Express coaches for a sometimes cheaper alternative. All aboard the Coach Trip!

21.  Track Down Cheap Parking

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Cheap parking is a road based miracle. Luckily these guys have constructed a website which lists paid parking spaces in your area, as well as how much they cost.

https://www.justpark.com/

22. Feeling Penniless at the Pumps?

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Again, the Internet has saved the day. Find out which Petrol Station is cheapest in your area, by researching who is giving you the best rates. It finds you the cheapest, average and most expensive price for your petrol needs. https://www.petrolprices.com/

23. Sell Old Belongings Online.

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Remember that old Tamogotchi you bought for a £5 at Toymaster back in the Nineties? Some oddball out there might pay you over £100 if it’s in mint condition. Collectors love all sorts of stuff, and the better the state, the more they’ll spend. Classic comics, McDonalds toys, Pogs, Furbies, Movie Posters… someone out there might want to splash their cash in the stuff lingering in your attic.

Also, there are some interesting people out there who like to buy  well-worn and battered old shoes… click if you dare.
http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/how-emma-made-2000-selling-8378729

24. Never Buy Food at the Cinema.

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Avoid those tasty treats being promoted outside Screen 9. Prices are often trebled for the luxury of being in close proximity to your movie. Consider getting some cheaper snacks beforehand (we’re talking Costcutter Toffee Popcorn 200g)

This also applies to expensive snacks in trains, planes and events. Beware their ‘tax.’

25. Go Dutch on Dates.

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Splitting the bill 50/50 is a fantastic way to save some cash. There is no need to splash away your fortunes when sharing a romantic evening with candlelight. You shouldn’t need to treat someone to a full-blown meal when your company is amazing enough….right?

26. Stockpile Sachets, Hotel Soap, Freebies and Samples.

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Take advantage of every free little thing you receive. Hotel shampoo and bodywash mini bottles can be taken home, and condiment sachets can be stockpiled so you don’t have to fork out for a bottle of Heinz.

27. If Travelling Through London, Rent a Boris bike or Get an Oyster Card

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When going to London, you will be faced by many things – blocked traffic, swarms of tourists and possibly a rotating Boris Johnson. Yet the most scary thing you will discover is how expensive everything is.
One common mistake new travellers make is to fork out for a All Day Travelcard, which is a hefty £12. Instead, buy yourself an Oyster Card, which will give you a lot more control over what you spend and a lot of the journeys prices will be capped.

Another idea  is to rent a Boris bike to ride across London. An activation free costs £2, and the first half hour on the bike is free! It is £2 per half  hour thereafter.

28. Get Friendly With the Neighbours.. Split the Internet bills and Share the Wi-fi Costs/Netflix

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This is an interesting one. Providing you have a good relationship with your neighbours (consider not buying a drum kit) then you can save money by sharing the connection costs. As long as the Wi-fi signal is strong enough, you could share it and pay a certain amount towards it. Netflix accounts allow up to 5 people to sign in, so again, maybe you should make a deal with the people next door.

29. Run Out of Call Credit? Skype, Facebook Calling and Facetime Provide Free Calls.

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People often forget that video calling on the above channels is free. Just don’t forget to put some clothes on first before your call Auntie Glenda in New Zealand…

30. Youtube Teachers- Music Instructors, DIY, Recipes etc.

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Instead of forking out for a teacher, plumber or chef, consider using YouTube.

There is literally a video on how to do anything – from how to apply makeup, or how to dance in a nightclub, and even how to make your own origami Yoda.
Try must you should!

31. Shop Out Of Season.

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Buy your Christmas decorations in January, and your Halloween goodies in November. (Caution: Don’t try this with Valentine’s Day, the other half might not be amused)

A good time to buy your coats and jackets for the Winter is on the cusp of Summer, where clothing companies are trying to clear this stock.

32. Learn to Sew

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Instead of replacing clothes that have formed holes in them (what have you been doing?) then simply stitch them back up again. Clothes can be given a new lease of life despite some accidental wear and tear.
What happens if you don’t know how to sew? Look for a YouTube tutorial of course!

33. Marry a Rich Person

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‘Fall in Love’ with a wealth Oil Baron or Rich Property Developer. Simply marry them, get a quickee divorce and don’t sign a pre-nutial agreement.

Only joking about this of course, we all have morals. Yet I’m sure we’ve all thought about it, right?

34. Libraries: Your New Entertainment Hub.

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Have you been to your local library recently? All the cool kids hang out there.

There are thousands of free books to borrow, so instead of buying your latest Mills and Boon novel, head down to the local library to rent it out for free. This also applied to CDs, games and DVD’s. Heck they’ve even got free Wi-Fi if you haven’t managed to cut a deal with your neighbour yet.

35. Charity shop

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Yes, if you live in England, no doubt they will be a charity shop somewhere within the next square mile.  Who needs TopMan when you have Oxfam ?
Yes, the shops often have a musty scent, but a lot of them have hidden treasures that someone used to love. You might even find a nice suit there if you thinking of dressing like Dr Who.

36. Fancy Free Education?

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No, I’m afraid Tuition fees haven’t been scrapped :/

However, you can do a variety of courses online for free. From Physical Theatre, Film Making to Robotics, there’s something to learn for everyone, and you can go at your own pace. Have a look yourself at https://www.futurelearn.com/

37. Use a Spare Change Piggy Bank

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Keeping your spare change in a box or piggy bank is a great way to save some money if you need some coins urgently. A technique I used was to empty out a Whisky bottle (not hard) and use it to hold the coins I had collected for a few years. Eventually, it amounted to over £50, which I was very pleased about.

Even if it doesn’t amount to anything,  having a bundle of coins is great for parking ticket machines or for buying a bus ticket.

38. I am the VIP / High-Vis man

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Ever wanted to get into a club or event for free? Then play dress-up and pretend you’re part of the action. Whether that be coming with a professional looking camera, or wearing a lanyard or sexy High-Vis vest, bouncers or staff don’t often bat an eyelid if you look official enough.

39. Print Me Baby One More Time.

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If your printer is depleted of black ink, then just change the text color of your document to dark blue. This method means you’ll be able to print a few more times before you need to replace the ink cartridge

40. Get Cashback When You Spend.

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Some sites offer cashback when you spend money. An example is Quidco, a website which takes the commission usually paid for by retailers and referrers,  and instead gives is straight to you!

Have a look yourself: https://www.quidco.com/

 


What else do you recommend to save money? Comment below:


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5 Things To Do When the Rain Hits Bournemouth

Bournemouth.

Miles and miles of glorious, legendary beaches.
Imagine yourself walking barefoot, playfully feeling the silky sand envelop your toes. Feel the cool sea water lapping over your body, and then  splash around the Dorset coast with glee.

You start inflating your dinghy, it feels like a great chance to float off down to Poole and play Sailor.

Suddenly, the sky opens with an unapologetic roar!
There’s rain. Cold. Wind.
Everyone is running off the beach to fearfully huddle under a shop doorway. Knowing our country, this could be November weather… or June.

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What is their to do in a town, famed for it’s sunny beach, when the weather gets a little wet and wild? Here are top 5 alternative things to do in Bournemouth when it’s raining.

The Oceanarium

This aquarium is a home to all kinds of marvellous sea creatures, without having to bring yous scuba gear to see them. Behold a variety of marine life including tropical fish, stingrays, crocodiles, iguanas, starfish and even some bearded dragons. Down in the depths of the Oceanarium is an underwater glass walkway, which gives the opportunity to look at some of the Ocean’s finest creatures. Look up with awe whilst inside tunnel, as you may see a shark swim right over you!

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The Oceanarium was recently upgraded with the creation of the Penguin Beach Encounter, so why not waddle your happy feet over to meet them. This custom built environment was designed to replicate the Penguin’s natural surroundings, with plenty of space for them to nest and play.  The Oceanarium also provides feeding experiences for a variety of mammals,  enabling visitors  to prepare some tasty special snakes to feed these penguins, as well as otters and turtles.

A cafe serving up refreshments, including hot and cold snacks, is the perfect epilogue to a fantastic voyage of all things under the sear. There is also a gift shop where you can buy furry versions of your favourite aquatic friends!

http://www.oceanarium.co.uk/

Rock Reef

Have you got what it takes to get to the top?

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The Rock Reef consists of 4 exciting areas, the Clip ‘N’ Climb, the Pier Zip Line, The Pier Cave and the Highline. It’s the perfect opportunity to show off to your date your amazing climbing abilities. The Clip ‘N’ Climb is an Adrenalin pumping experience, involving 28 climbing walls, each with their own level of difficulty.  The Highline features Swing Logs, Free Beamer, the Cross Logs, Hi-Low Steps, Cargo Net, Tunnel and the Slope Walk. It tests your agility, flexibility and climbing prowess, with different activities to engage with for an exhilarating vertical experience.

A sheer vertical slide allows people to choose how high they want to slide down from. There is also the Leap of Faith. For the brave, a jumping challenge to a hanging beam awaits.

http://www.rockreef.co.uk/
Splashdown

Feeling wacky, wild and wonderful? Make a splash at The Splashdown Water Park, which is something for all the family to enjoy, from little ones to big kids. This leisure complex boasts 13 thrilling flumes. From the relaxing inner tube ride of the Mississippi Drifter, to the exhilarating thrill jaunt that is The Screamer, there is an experience for all fun seekers. Other rides include the Zambezi Drop, the Tennessee Twister and Nefarious Dragon’s Lair. For the more cultured, there is the Infinity ride, where sliders spiral inside a bowl to music of their own choosing.

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For the more relaxed individual, there is the bubble bench and jacuzzi, where you can unwind in a warm, inviting environment.

https://www.splashdownwaterparks.co.uk/poole/
Laser Quest

Billed as ‘Serious Fun with a Laser gun‘ this immersive experience certainly lives up to the hype.

The concept is to zap the other players with your futuristic laser super gun, accumulating points with the goal to amass the best score. Don’t dance with delight though, it might be the chance for revenge from someone you zapped earlier.

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Before entry, you are given a full safety briefing. You are equipped with a body pack and a state-of-the-art laser gun. Once you enter the arena, the music starts and the adrenaline kicks in. Set in a labyrinth style are with turrets, lighting effects and swirling fog, the stage is set for a legendary laser battle.

There are several game types including Solo, All Against All, and team battles.

http://www.laserquestbournemouth.co.uk/

The Russell Coates Gallery and Museum

Step back into a century’s worth of history.

A wealth of art and sculpture adorns this museum and gallery, whilst the knowledgeable staff provide expertise and knowledge of its classical heritage. With a beautiful, contemporary Victorian design, it is quite simply an architectural triumph that has stood the test of time. The buildings were an illustrious gift from Mr Russell – Coates to his wife (husbands, take note!) and is one of the last Victorian houses to be built in England. The couple collected fantastic artworks during their marriage, as well as artifacts and souvenirs from their adventures in America, India and Egypt, of which have come to reside at the museum.

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Collections have included sculptures, a wealth of British art, pottery, glass plates and the Venus Verticordia.

The museum holds events throughout the year, including tours, exhibitions and fayres. Such occasions give you a rich insight of the past as well as provide an educational and entertaining environment for all ages.

http://russellcotes.com/


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5 Top Tips on Tackling Depression

It is estimated 1 in 5 of us will be affected by a mental health condition at some point in our lives.  Depression is one of the most common, and some have described  is as feeling helplessly alone and even numb to emotions, whilst joyful things may no longer even raise a smile. Sometimes they lack the motivation to get up in the morning… or even the afternoon.

Thrust into a digital society, adverts gleefully tell us how communication and technology are bringing us together, whilst social media drives home the notion that instant gratification and likability are the key to a successful life. Hmm.

A simple Google search will reveal that there has been a steady rise in mental health concerns, particularly amongst youngsters. Surprisingly, many often do not communicate this to their loved ones due to fear of the isolation or stigma for seeming ‘weak’ or ‘crazy.’  Yet what causes this? Job stress? Breakups? A significantly bad life event? More often than not, sometimes there seems like there is no cause.

 

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How does it feel to be depressed? Some have described it to me as if they were drowning in a negative rip tide, whilst I feel it is more akin to a ravenous, hideous monster. It is constantly nourishing itself on me, absorbing my glee and positivity in it’s hunger for happiness. I punch, kick, karate chop and shout obscenities at it. Startled and bemused, it bellows out a laugh and then consumes me even more.  I’m probably not even that yummy, yet I just feel so trapped in it’s jaws.

Have you ever felt like you are trapped by a depressive beast or you are somewhat sinking into the abyss, then I think it’s time to get you the happiness you deserve! Here are some tried and tested ideas. There is no ‘be yourself’ style rubbish , or ‘patience is a virtue’ type sayings that come sputtering out the lips of a know-it-all relative. I’ve done my time in the metaphorical temple of doom, and I want to share with you how I began to find my escape.

1. Talking to someone.

When you feel isolated, depression deepens. When I’m alone in my room, I feel that is when the mental darkness gets its foothold on me. I lie on my back, void of feeling and I don’t know what do. I don’t want to go out. I feel like my motor of life has burnt out and I simply have no future.

Experts have found that spending time with loved ones and people you care about enhances general self esteem and keeps negative thoughts at bay.  Through my experiences, embracing time with friends who are warm, comforting and understanding have really helped raise my spirits. Avoid the ones who say, “You’re just in a bad mood. Get over it.” Also, sarcastic acquaintances aren’t the best ones to open up to.
Opening up to people you trust can really support you in a time of need. A metaphorical shoulder to cry on can really help the burden of life and the feeling of overwhelm.

Ideally, we’d have these people on standby each time we feel down. However, life happens, meaning they might be not around when you need them. There are many charities available to support you such as The Samaritans, It’s Your Choic and Steps 2 Wellbeing. They give you the opportunity to talk freely and confidentially, and provide emotional support when life gets tough.

2. Listening to music

Did you know music has been used as a survival technique? Many years ago, native tribes sung and danced in a collective which raised group morale and built loyalty amongst the tribesfolk. It also warded off possible outside threats.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to live around a camp fire or wear feathers in your hair to get the full musical affect.  Instead, load up the Ipod, switch on the vinyl or check out a Youtube playlist to listen to your favourite songs. Enjoy them. Loud.

How do tunes help tackle depression exactly? Music releases dopamine in the brain, a feel good chemical, that reinvigorates a saddened soul. Music also works on the automotive nervous system, which affects both your blood pressure and heart beat. Studies have concluded that the health of those who suffer from high blood pressure or anxiety has improved after listening to music.

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I made a playlist on my phone which features my favourite tracks, most are circa 1995. This features Oasis, The Cardigans, Magic! and more embarrassingly, the musical talents of Cindy Lauper and Aqua. Cheesy music I find the most effective from my experiences and if you are feeling really brave, then singing along to your favourite song can really boost your spirits. Experts say that engaging with your music releases endorphins, whilst the deep breathing required to sing draws more oxygen into the blood and causes better circulation. Actual talent not required!

3. Physical Exercise

When you wallow in the darkness of depression, the least thing you might want to do is slip on some Lycra for a 5k sprint down the high street or dare go to a ‘Calorie Cruncher’ class. Fitness however, can do absolute wonders for your brain. Ideally 3 days a week of exercise (I know, I know) can really pump up the body and improve breathing, stamina and mental wellbeing.
Doing something physical again releases endorphins and triggers a positive response from the brain. The focus of building muscle, trimming fat and staying in shape redirects attention from negativity and enhances general productivity.   Taking part in a sport also allows you to meet new people, whilst the activity can regulate the nervous system and help prevent the destruction of brain cells that are caused by depression. It’s a win-win.

How can you not have a big goofy smile on your face when doing a star jump?

4. Shiny Happy Post-it Notes

Refrain from chuckling, but  little notes of positivity can really go a long way in getting you through the worst of the day.

I have used a motivational quote on my phone background, as well as a series of cleverly placed positivity packed post-it notes.  (Try saying that out loud.) Humans (that’s us) thrive on appreciation and acceptance, and sometimes the people (i.e. bosses/significant others) don’t always remind us how amazing we actually are.

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I have found writing down a positive thing I do each day, really helps me identify fantastic things that I have done, whether that be giving some pennies to a homeless person or donating my last Rolo to Renarto in the office. The mental power of depression deviously trains the brain to funnel out  positiveness from the past. This leads us onto the next top tip…

5. Remember Positive Memories More

When I feel depressed, all I can feel is moany, miserable thoughts. “I’m not going anywhere in life,” or “I feel so alone,” or even, “I’m not good enough.

When these bad boy thoughts are swirling in my head, I start to believe them, which has led to self destructive behavior and a symptom that I call ‘moping’. I feel I’m completely oblivious to some fantastic and positive memories that have happened in the past.

I r recommend building what I call a memory wall. Add in photographs, motivational mottos and souvenirs of events that really make you smile and think fondly over past achievements.  For instance, I have a large collage of my time at Camp Starfish, where I spent a brilliant summer in America working at a summer camp for very unique children. I even have a can of Axe (a US version of Lynx) that I bought over there, it’s scent reminds me of one of the happiest few months of my life.

However low you may feel, don’t forget how much of an amazing person you really. Appreciate yourself, and remind yourself of all the things you have achieved so far!

If you want to share your experience in tackling depression, feel free to write in the comment box below.


 

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Never EVER Work In A Call Centre

 

Do you remember the last time you went to a job interview?

You stand there looking a little gormless in the mirror. You’ve wound, then rewound your tie to the point it looks more like a hipster scarf, of which is now limiting your supply of oxygen. Your digestive system is being slightly rebellious. Was it last night’s dodgy takeaway coming back for revenge? A xenomorph in the belly? Or maybe just a big bundle of nerves?

For me, in September 2009, it was interview nerves.

My hair was slicked back like James Dean or James ‘Arg’ Argent. I had fit into my smart size 30 trousers by taking in a deep intake of breath.  Any bending over, and there could be a split.

I was going for an interview as a sales advisor at Sky Repair Services.

I didn’t know that much about Sky. Back at school, Sky was this mysterious concept that only the cool rich kids had – you know – the ones with Super Mario watches, Nike Air trainers and hair gel. They’d exclaim around the schoolyard they had spent the weekend watching Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, their faces swelling up with excessive boasting.
My television entertainment consisted of me fighting with my TV aerial in an attempt to watch a grainy Channel 5.

I digress. I was going to give the world of call centres a try, working shifts from 2 ’til 8. Sadly I didn’t realise it would be my work nadir and my  sanity would be sapped away. My voice would be the most reviled in teatime history.

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There is a smile, but Kirsty is actually dead on the inside.

Call centres, I discovered, were a rite of passage for many a new adult.  Somewhere in between liberating traffic cones and buying your first Glen’s Vodka at a seedy looking off-licence
As I arrived to my interview, I was looking around for a handle on the door,  all I can find was a lonely buzzer. I pressed it,  and some distortion spat at me through an intercom. ‘Push the door,’ then the buzzer crackled, the door clicked and I pushed on through.

As I entered, the floor seemed like a glass tank of desks, ties, pencil skirts and heels. There was little colour, just black chairs and beige desks, all accompanied by clunky phones that belonged in the last century.

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The iPhone of 1983

The interview was easy. The lady simply asked about my skills and competency. She explaining how amazing the company was and all the money that I could earn. The more sign-ups I would get, the more income I could take home. Simples.
Money! I silently exclaimed. My only source of income previously had been birthday card cheques from forgotten relatives or selling PlayStation games to my schoolyard chums when they weren’t talking about Sky.

I must have made a really good impression at the interview, I fathomed. Either that or the lady was swayed by my post teenage scent of optimism and Lynx Africa.

Afterwards, I went to see my girlfriend at the time. She prepared lasagna at the ASDA café, my charms had won her over by complimenting her on her decorative name badge and culinary acumen. Halfway between our embrace, I got a call saying I had got the job!

I began on Monday, where I was greeted to the office by a man named Tristan. He looked like like the Devil merged with My Family thespian Kris Marshall. Or just a twat in a black suit.

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Dressed in a black shirt, black tie, black trousers  and a head of streaky peroxide white hair. He had scary bulging eyes with a sinister gaze that would pierce through your soul and into your nightmares.
His own soul had been buried underneath years of PPI sales jobs and sophisticated phone begging. He strode around the office, checking up on people to make sure they weren’t slacking. The day would start with his cringey motivational speeches.
Tristan would get everyone to stand on the feet and demand a roll call.

“I wanna hear a HELL YEAH”
“Hell Yeah!” We replied.
“Come you can do better than that. Let’s try again.  HELL YEAH!”

“HELL YEAH!!”

Hell, no, my brain thought, as I looked down in disdain of my glorious leader.

The first two days were training us, a group of mostly acne-ridden recruits, on the system. Sadly, there was an inane dance track in the background, possibly composed by acne-ridden GCSE Music Tech students. Pumping through the office stereo, I couldn’t actually make out what Tristan was saying. I asked him to turn it down. He walked over, pretended to press a button on the stereo and then started the training again.

We learnt the art of pestering people by not actually given them a choice to say no, through role play. Normally I enjoy role play particularly when I dress as a Fireman and use my hose…

I had to pretend to phone another colleague, Wilma. My face went bright red, burning with embarrassment as I had to act it out in front of our group. My memory has intelligently repressed it of existence. Wilma didn’t come back the following day.

Despite the training, I’d not a clue what I was doing. By taking on so much information, my brain, like a popular bacon crisp brand, was Frazzled. Combined with anxiety about even picking up a phone, I dreaded to make my first call. Sadly for me, calling people was the aim of the job.

I was shaking when Tristan slammed a list of hundreds of phone numbers onto my desk. I was given a a multi-page script, with an objection leaflet, where I’d be directed to say previous paragraphs over and over again and hammer home the benefits of Sky Repair Services.
Such included why am I giving you my card details ? The response being this is the easiest way to do things.

I put the receiver to my ear in fear. Luckily, my first few calls rang away and no one picked up.  I eventually got through to someone:
“Hello,” I meekly spluttered.

My recipients were frustrated about being cold called, demanding where I got their number. Despite attempting to memorize the script, I was thrown already.  It wasn’t a good start and I hated the thought of annoying innocent people.

Some were friendly and would say no thankyou. Being shy and  young, with not even a flicker of chest hair yet, I felt self-conscious hearing my voice read out the script. I was effectively bulldozing my way through their afternoons with hundreds of salesy words in the vain hope they would be stupid enough to relinquish their card details to me.

Each call only had one question,  we didn’t even stopping for a breath. This limited the chance they would say ‘no’ by not giving them the chance to answer anything:

“Hello Mrs Brady Bean

This is XXX from Sky Response Services. On our records you have a cover plan for your sky satellite package. Is this correct?

Um, urr yes

Excellent. We are calling you to inform  you can now pay just £4.12 per month… that’s just £16.50 per quarter. All you have to do is cancel your current direct debit at the bank. This is a simple process,  you will have peace of mind. We have a speedy response service team, if we can’t see to you today, then we can definitely see tomorrow. 

We cover everything that might happen to your sky box, including accidental breakage, cable problems or damage to the remote control. The only we don’t cover is swinging around on your satellite dish, which I’m sure you don’t do Mrs Brady Bean.

We can replace all parts with items as good as new. Now before we set you up with this cheaper option, we just need to take the long card number on the front and the three digits on the back. Now if you can read out those numbers for me…”

Their numbers came to us as they had previously not ticked a box about third party companies. There were fuming when they found out. Further snarling was caused by the fact we were Sky Repair Services, they had nothing to do with Sky.

If they dared to question us,  we would just repeat how amazing we were. They could say ‘no’ up to three times. I felt bad calling people up. I didn’t get any sales in the first few days, and Tristan started hammering down on my script with his fingers . Tap tap, whilst his devil eyes were glaring at me.

I dialed hundreds of people per day, my fingers losing feeling. Most people were annoyed, or if I was lucky, I’d get a reprieve by hearing an annoying array of answer phone messages.

My favourite was the Martins, who couldn’t come to the phone right due to an invasion of enlarged and enraged hamsters, but please take a message and we’ll get back to you once we’ve fended them off.”

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Sound familar, Martins?

Some customers would be pensioners who’d tell me various  life stories as I was their first human contact all week. I can probably still recount tales of how Hitler didn’t seem that bad at the beginning of the war or how Snickers used to be called Marathon Bars.

Another guy I called, who couldn’t move off his bed due to an immense back injury. He was was trying to desperately fumble for his bank card, which was on a nearby table,  to tell me his card details.

My soul was being consumed by the money-making machine of this company. When we made a sale, we would announce it to the team leaders with a swift hand in the air, like a prefect in the classroom. A white board with a red marked tally next to our  names would display the most sales. Seeing a couple of measly dashes compared to an army of them was quite humiliating. I felt disenchanted and alone.

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My only acquaintance  was Darren, a ginger haired chav. He looked amiss in smart clothes that he had probably bought due to a day in a court. He sat kneeled on top of his chair like an orang-utan, swinging, ass in the air, phone in his ear. I sometimes joined his cigarette crew outside, the threat of lung cancer would be less scary then spending more time in the office. Darren admitted to the smoker’s clan that he bought his girlfriend a rabbit vibrator, but was jealous that she was squirming to it more than his own personal services.
I was relieved when we finished at 8  that day.

I accumulated some sales, I felt I was leading the high life. Sadly, they had run out of prizes. Normally if I got 2 sales I could earn a bag of fruit, 4 sales, chocolates. 10, wine.

Monday and Thursday were for the new starters, and staff would mysteriously disappear each day.  There was also the big leagues table, for those who amassed great sales. The fabled floor above was only for the sales kingpins, we could not set foot up there.

The best day, I got a sale before each smoking break – clawing a total of 4. Sometimes, a sale was deleted – a slip of paper was left on my  desk in the morning with a big stamp in red saying FAIL/DECLINE.
Basically, some people had cottoned onto the fact we weren’t actually Sky. Or we had unwittingly phoned up teenagers. They had  decided to become captains of the household to prove how adult they were, but weren’t actually thus when Mum and Dad found out.

I felt lifeless and drained of all feeling very soon. A bit like daytime television. I was feeling anxious each time I picked up the phone and embarrassed at my lack of points on the tally chart. Not even Tristan’s sinister glaring or his rousing Hell Yeah’s could help me rise above it.

My mood lowered further when my girlfriend texted me saying that day saying, ‘We need to talk about us.’ Apparently she was going through a crossroads in her life and just wanted to be single whilst she sorted her future out.
I’ve used that one since.

Darren had enlisted his chavy mates to the call centre, and he were talking about football and all things Darren, how amazing he etc. His missus met him outside and he proclaimed out to everyone – this is my girlfriend, she’s well fit isn’t she!
l couldn’t take it anymore.

download.jpgIt was Friday, the dirty data day. It was all the scraps from people on the call list that we had previously harassed and received no reply. I didn’t make any sales. I was disheartened further by seeing bags of fruit and chocolate bring thrown around the office. Someone had won a casket of champagne. I started to imagine myself in a casket of my own.

My last call of the day, a truly fiendish customer decided to emit a sharp siren-like noise down the phone. If it was an attempt to deafen me, it worked, and I winced in pain and held on to my poor ear in anguish. I don’t know if this was to ward off potential cold callers.
Luckily, it was then the weekend and I could get some TLC from the likes of Peep Show and Lost.

Tristan phoned me up on the Monday morning. He told me that things weren’t working out. I didn’t need to come in anymore and that I would get paid for the work I had done.

I had lasted a total of 7 days. I wanted to jump with joy and I truly felt that the world of the call centres was not for me.

Luckily my next job was a lot better, mentally and tastily. I worked in a sweet shop (HELL YEAH! ), and was allowed to try a few samples.

It left a sweet taste in my mouth… and a filling!

 



Other topics:
The Worst Job Ever
The Craziest Valentines Ever
How I Got Catfished By My Best Friend
How I Got Evicted
How To Break Your Heart. 
How To Save Money
How To Tackle Depression
Who Wet My Bed?

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