Cardiff: Clucking Great!

This bank holiday weekend, I have been a hen. It was my first hen do and I was very pleased to say that it was fantastic and I loved the fact that it was to celebrate the upcoming marriage of a close friend. (see previous post Two hearts, Two rings to see how the engagement started 😉 https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/two-hearts-two-rings/) We went to Cardiff for 3 days and it was fantastic, varied and mainly just filled with girly fun!

I’ve always thought the term ‘hen’ is odd. And men get ‘stag’ – I won’t go on my feminist rant and say that we get the timid, feathered, two-legged bird that people eat on regular basis and men get a four-legged, strong beast of animal. I do wonder about the origin though. And if women are called ‘hens’ then why aren’t men called cockerels?! That is way more fitting for me 😉 ………just googled it quick and the term ‘hen’ has been used since the 1800s to talk about a female gathering of ‘chit-chat’. It doesn’t say why a hen; I am getting an idea from the cluck clucking of chatter perhaps? ‘Stag’ comes from the 1930s apparently when short pornographic films called ‘stag movies’ were shown to men when one of them was about to be married. Odd. There is also a term ‘hag’ parties,’ where both ‘hens’ and ‘stags’ attend. Messy. We got into enough mischief just us hens.

We spent the weekend in personalised black and pink T-shirts with the details on the hen do and our own nickname. Mine was ‘Samubuca!’ Pink sashes completed the look and I must say now I’m home, my clothes feel boring 😉 We had Grease dances lessons where we learnt a dance routine to Grease mega mix. That was fun and I was the hen getting picked on for my lack of coordination and rhythm 😉  We then had cocktails making lessons (cocktails is another work I’ve always pondered about but I’ll leave that for another day!) and to our delight the ‘Dream boys’ were practising for a routine at the same time. Dancing, alcohol and er ‘hunky’ men – what more could we have asked for?

A spa day perhaps, which was secretly my favourite bit. I had never been to one before and I thought it was great! You walk round in a robe and slippers and dip in and out of the pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and then lie in a relaxation room! I also got my nails done, whilst the other hens mainly had massages. The place was so relaxing and it was the calm before the storm of our night out – but it did remind me a little of an insane asylum (not that I am familiar with them or anything)  but think about it. The place is full of this calm air, people walk round in white robes and everyone in smiling insanely and whispering! And I don’t think I have ever eaten a posh two course meal with pink champagne in a dressing-gown before and still managed to feel glamorous and like royalty! Crazy place and I can’t wait to go to another one!

The evening consisted of a limo ride – this time we had all clothes on – more champagne, games and dares! The limo then dropped us at a lovely Italian restaurant and our dares were to be completed within the first hour of being in the first bar. I didn’t ‘chicken’ out of mine 😉 and I proudly and drunkenly stood on a chair in the crowded bar and did the ‘robot’ dance’ haha! The two ‘pain killer’ cocktails I had helped with this! My friend also did a dare and successfully got a man’s underwear and put them on herself! But that’s all you’re getting….. anything else is wrapped up in the term ‘What happened in Cardiff, stays in Cardiff!’ 😉

I fully recommend Cardiff for a stag or hen do – or hag do! We stayed at a travel lodge on Mary Street. It was on the busiest street and it was like we had a club in our room – which didn’t really work when we wanted some sleep the first eve before our big night out the 2nd night! But the double-glazed windows did us proud and I was out like a light and had a clucking good sleep 😉 Don’t stay at this hotel if you want a nice, quiet weekend of sight-seeing though 😉 Because the only sights you will see and hear are gangs of hens and stags out in full force with pink sashes or dressed as Tony the Tiger – you decide which is which!

Here is a poem I wrote for the occasion too:

Cardiff Chaos

Lou’s hen do is upon us,

We’re meeting at half 8,

A weekend of surprises,

But where the hell is Kate?

Sarah’s got her T-shirt,

Sian’s got her willy straw,

Tore and Karen all aboard,

For laughs and drinks galore!

We’re ready for the first bit,

Lou’s got her dancing shoes,

Grease lightening time ahead,

But all Sam wants is booze!

Loz is in there getting pics,

as Sadie and Chris dance away,

The shots then keep on coming,

‘Down it’ …we all obey!

Feeling rough the next morning,

Camilla slurps her tea,

But we’re all out early again,

For Princess Lou’s next activity.

Then Monday is now here,

Fantastic hen weekend done,

Nic’s done a brilliant job,

Hope the wedding is as fun!

Writing this ahead of time was a bit of a jinx. But it did all happen and go to plan. Brilliant weekend!

XSXS

Seeing Shakespeare

Yesterday was a first for me. I finally got to see Shakespeare! My boyfriend said that I can’t actually see him -but why not? I saw people dressed as him and also his grave… good enough.

Yes, Stratford was a lovely day out and the perfect place for the complete Shakespearian geek like me. I let my inner geek out first thing in the morning as I took out my William Shakespeare bag out  – basically a small shopping bag with his head on. Haha. And I got out my Shakespeare trivia cards for the journey ; -) Luckily, my boyfriend’s Mum, my sister and good friend, weren’t put off and we all had a lovely day.

We saw four main places…. either walking or hopping on our partly open-top bus:

Shakespeare's birth place

Shakespeare’s birth place

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DSCF4584 Ann Hathaway’s pretty cottage – the place that she grew up in and where she and Will ‘courted’ as a young couple.

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Nash’s house. The house Shakespeare is believed to have spent his last days – belonging to his granddaughter and her husband. This is the beautiful garden outside the house.

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… And finally his grave in the Church of Holy Trinity.

It was all very historical and interesting. It was fascinating to see inside the houses and get an idea of what life was like then, in addition to just admiring the beauty of the outside. You could imagine Shakespeare walking up to Ann Hathaway’s cottage (which is actually a massive farm house and has fondly been referred to as a cottage because of idyllic appearance) to ‘court’ her. Would he have been nervous to see her family? And tipped his hat off to her father out of respect? We even saw the bed that Will may have had-a-way with our Hathaway 😉 The ‘cottage’ was so lovely, that I would have happily moved in (add some heating, electricity and take away the millions of nosy tourists of course 😉 ).

A personal highlight for me was the character room at Nash’s house. Naturally, a purpose built room for tourism – but it was great to see displays of the ‘top ten characters’ and you could add your own favourite Shakesspearian character to a board too.There was a quiz on the wall too! I felt like I was at some sort of Shakespeare convention – not a ‘Trekkie’ but a ‘Shakey’ if you will 😉 I added ‘Othello’ to the favourite character board. That is my favourite play and I love that Othello himself is a little different to other charcters. He is black, yet in an important position and very well-respected for the time period. He is a calm, collected and gentle character, yet jealousy results him in him murdering his own wife. I love the dramatic change in him throughout the play and shows, perhaps, that jealousy (or another strong emotion) can drive any of us to murder. Sadly Othello didn’t make their top-ten though:

Top Ten Characters

  1. Juliet (Romeo and Juliet)
  2. Hamlet (Hamlet)
  3. Bottom (A Midsummer’s Night Dream)
  4. Beatrice (Twelfth Night)
  5. Mercutio (Twelfth Night)
  6. Romeo (Romeo and Juliet)
  7. Falstaff (Henry IV part 1 and 2 and Merry Wives of Windsor)
  8. Macbeth (Macbeth)
  9. Henry V (Henry V)
  10. Cleopatra (Anthony and Cleopatra)

 

The hop-on, hop-off tour bus gave us much entertainment. One reason being, we went on the open-top section and it was freezing and blowy! We also kept having to duck when we passed trees (which was a lot), which was scary but also extremely funny! The tour guide on our bus (when we wimped out and sat inside the bus) was very informative and entertaining. She told us a few facts about general Tudor life:

  • As we drove past a road, she told us it used to be a popular highway. In wet conditions, it became very soft and poor people would come and ‘cup’ mud in their hand in order to make pots. This left many holes in the road… and you’ve guessed it, that’s where the term ‘pot-holes’ comes from!
  • Tudors used to use frog salvia to aid their sore-throats. Scientists have since found that there is infact an enzyme in frog saliva that has antisceptic in it. So they weren’t (too) crazy… and that is where the term ‘a frog in your throat’ comes from.
  • Four-poster beds became popular in Tudor times. I thought it was a warmth related reason. It comes from the fact they had hatched roofs though. There wasn’t any ceilings in bedrooms, so rubbish and bugs would fall from the hatching onto people in bed. Someone ( a man apparently -I’m not convinced!) invented the canopy like part in order to catch the bugs and rubbish. Clever! It then became a fashion statement too.
  • My favourite fact also links to the thatched roofing. When Tudors realised that thatching was a fire hazard, they all had to change to tiling. A team from the town committee went to an inn to tell the keeper that he had to change his roof to tiles. He gave them so much free ale that they forgot to ask him! So it is still thatched today:
Old Thatch Tavern

Old Thatch Tavern

 

So I had a very Shakespeare-y day and I loved every second! The nearby buildings were all named after Shakespeare quotes or plays or characters. I even had a milkshake called Much A Do About Oreo!

I fully recommend a day at Stratford to anyone who is interested in Shakespeare – even if you are not there is still so much to do. We paid £25 and this included the bus (which you can get on and off as much as you wish) and also the entry to 3 houses. There are still 2 main other houses to see and a boat trip that we didn’t do – so there is just so much! And I’ll be definitely going back….. no ‘to go or not to go’ question 😉

XSXS

 

For a recent post about Shakespeare’s birthday, take a look at this:

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/celebrate-this-23rd-april/

Moral to the story

There is a moral to every story, they say. I believe this and that a part of life is learning from things. From childhood, we learn in fairy tales that the baddies don’t come off good and that everything will be alright in the end. (We also may learn that this a bit unrealistic too 😉 ) The point is, we learn that what goes around comes around and that their are consequences to actions.

I mentioned a while ago that I have a Nook. I acted even more like a crazy book lady the other night and downloaded a load of ‘classic’ reads. Amongst them was Aesop’s Fables. I remember reading some of them as a child, having a beautiful coloured version littered with pictures. But I didn’t realise until adulthood, that Aesop was a slave believed to have lived in ancient Greece. Amazing, that they are still so well-known and relevant today. I’m sure, we have all heard of The Boy who cried Wolf and The Tortoise and the Hare? Well, there are loads more and I want to share with you, a less well-known one (well at least to me) with you today:

The Fox and The Stork
A fox one day invited a stork to dine with him and, wishing to be amused at his expense, put the soup which he had for dinner in a large flat dish, so that, while he himself could lap it up easily, the stork could only dip in the tips of his long bill. Stork, bearing his treatment in mind, invited the fox to take dinner with him. He, in his turn, put some minced meat in a long and narrow-necked vessel, into which he could easily put his bill, whilst Master Fox was forced to be content with licking what ran down the sides of the vessel. The fox then remembered his old trick, and could not but only admit that the stork had well paid him out.

The moral at the end of this one says: ‘A joke is often returned with interest.’ I think it can signify others though, like; ‘What goes around, comes around.’ Or ‘treat people as you are treated’… or we could argue that the stork was wrong to act like that as ‘two wrongs don’t make a right.’ Alternatively, we can think about the actual moral and link it to the simplicity of the story and think it how it reflects life. People play jokes; they take the ‘piss’. People then return this and ‘get their own back’. That’s life. I’m sure ,we have all been the fox at some point and also the stork 😉

I’ll keep reading the fables… I love thinking about them on a simple and then a deeper level. Fun, childhood bedtime stories, yet also so much more 🙂

fox and stork

XSXS

Ironic Writing Block

Regular readers among you will realise that I haven’t been posting as much recently. I could claim that it’s lack of time; I should say it’s because I’m busy writing a great novel; I would say both of these. But it’s not true – and I like to be honest in my blog if nothing else. I’ve had writer’s block and a lack of inspiration.

My GBF text me today and said he had listened to a debate on Radio 4 about writer’s block. I am not sure what what was said in detail – but it would be great to hear your theories and what you do when you have it? Like an illness in the writing world really! Stopping us doing what we need to do…

So, this inspired me to write a block and naturally, I picked up on the fact that a subject of writer’s block had helped to cure mine. This also led me onto the other topic of this post: Irony. I love irony, and I think it is a great tool that helps us laugh at the world and life when things go wrong.

When kids at school ask me what irony is, I rarely try to explain it without referring to Alanis Morrisette’s titled song Ironic I think it sums it up perfectly… one of my favourite lines being;
‘10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife…’

Love it! And with other lines like ‘It’s like rain on your wedding day…’ (but I don’t think this can be classed as ironic in the UK – since it rains most blooming days!) …. ‘It’s like meeting the man of your dreams then meeting his beautiful wife!’ Fantasic lyrics and so true that the one thing you don’t want to happen, or don’t need or you don’t think will happen – does.

The actual dictionary definition of something being ‘ironic’ is as follows:
‘Happening in the opposite way to what is expected, thus typically causing wry amusement.

So go on and spot the irony in your life. It helps to make the hard times a little more bearable, if not slightly funny. And yes, I love how the first thought of writer’s block (thanks to my GBF) gave me an idea for this today….. love the irony!

P.S if you do have writer’s block, just tell people. I have had a million ideas thrown at me now (thanks to another good friend!) so my writing mind has become unblocked 😀

Spot the irony in the apple!

Spot the irony in the apple!

Journey to a licence of frustration

18 months of lessons

4 instructors

5 tests

A range of 7 years

Approx. £2040….

..later…. and I finally achieved the piece of paper boasting my driving licence! This was a few years ago now, but we were talking about this at work yesterday and it made me think of this time of practical torture for me. Naturally, by the figures above, I have a lot of stories to tell on the subject! It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I would happily do my degree again and open my arms wide to the thought of child-birth!

I am not practically minded or bodied, as you may have gathered if you are a regular reader. I am also not very coordinated. I am also a bit of a wimp. Combine this and I made a perfect learner drive for an instructor, who is more bothered about getting lots of money; rather than passing their students quickly 😉 And… the amount of instructors I had, some of them must have thought this!

I just found it all so difficult. I struggled with clutch control, road awareness, other cars and the maneuvers! Whereas,  the theory past of the test, I passed easily the first time. I just couldn’t put the knowledge into practice. I was so nervous the whole time too and I used to physically dread my lessons. Hence, why I went through so many instructors. The first one, whilst I was at sixth form, was recommended by a few friends and fellow students. They were all fine with her but I had a really bad experience. I don’t know if it was the reason I said above, and she did just want to take advantage of my fragile learning state and pocket my pounds, or if she just didn’t know how to handle a really nervous student. We would get onto a main road and she would say things like;

‘just drive…’

this freaked me out. Wasn’t I paying her to tell me how to drive?! If I knew that, I wouldn’t be having lessons! She also used to book me in for 1 hour and a half lessons and tell me she only had time to give me an hour and still charge me the full amount. The naive 18-year-old me paid this this. Only for so long though, until I quit her services a few weeks later. I wanted to report her, because she also got very impatient with me and almost angry at times… but I was aware that she knew where I lived and seemed to have permanent PMT and she did know how to drive a fast car…. I didn’t want me parents to have to pay for new brick work.

My neighbours did have to pay for new brick work, however. Not because of me funnily enough! A few years after the PMT instructor, my sister was going through the same traumatic experience of learning too. We both bought KAs to learn in. She went out in hers to practise with my Dad for the first time (she had had some lessons already) and

…. she drove straight into the house at the bottom of the road!

She panicked when a car was coming and froze. She couldn’t brake and my Dad’s attempt to yank the hand brake didn’t work either! So, I guess it runs in the family 😉 My sister also took 5 tests to pass and this house crash incident also made me even more nervous in my process (if that was possible) as I was afraid it would happen to me too! My Dad still hasn’t recovered to this date 😉

I would just like to add, that it didn’t take me 7 years to pass. I put a ‘range’ of 7 years above. This is because after the PMT woman and an old man, who couldn’t remember what I had done from week to week….

‘shall we go on the A38 again this week?’

‘Erm, we haven’t done that yet!’ *Panic, Panic*

…. I decided to leave it for a few years, whilst I was at university. I didn’t need a car for that anyway and I knew I would be broke enough as a student anyway to pay for lessons, let alone a car! So I stopped. No more nightmare lessons.

I started again after uni as promised but it wasn’t any easier. My 3 years of maturing at university hadn’t aided me in any way; I was still a nervous wreck behind the wheel. I had a great instructor next, though. He had passed my boyfriend, his twin and their mum. This instructor had patience by the bucketful. It was with him that I got through my theory test; learnt all that I needed to. A dangerous driving fault (going round a mini roundabout the wrong way), nearly crashing into a lorry and nearly knocking a cyclist off his bike later and I was ready for my first test! This was also to be my instructor’s last test because he was retiring. I really wanted to pass for him just as much as me. I didn’t. In fact…

I failed before I even left the test centre!

Yup. I did a bay park and was so far out the lines that I wanted to  scream ‘don’t even bother!’ at the examiner who went out to inspect it. Surely, she could tell we  were more at an angle than a parallelogram! Very annoying. But, I did the rest of the test because

  • 1.) I’d paid for it
  • 2.) It was good experience
  • 3.) There was still a glimmer of hope that she’d let me off if I did the rest well. I did (only 3 minors) but she didn’t.

I failed.

I always made sure, after each fail, that I booked my next test straight away. It wasn’t just my bad driving that got in the way of me passing though. Sometimes I felt that the driving universe was against me. One time, the instructor’s car broke down the day before my test. I had to take the test in my KA, which was fine but the thought of me panicking and there being no dual brakes, terrified me! I survived that test, but failed because I cut up a lorry on the A38 😉

Another time, I arrived for my test and it got cancelled due to bad fog. Just what are fog lights for!?

But in the end… I passed! I had an instructor fondly referred to as the ‘mirror man’ on that day. I had him for my 4th test too but he had to fail me. (I can’t remember why that time; by this point they had all blurred into one!) For this, I knew his nickname so I checked my mirrors as much as Peter Andre does every morning. I was looking in them every few minutes ,more than checking the road 😉 I even did my maneuvers… yes I snaked round the corner in my ‘reverse round a corner’ but he said it was OK (he probably thought ‘god, just get her passed and out of here!’) I was so happy to pass that I cried. But it turns out, that was just the start…..

Driving is still a nightmare to me. I don’t go doing all those stupid things anymore. I like to think I am quite a careful driver. But I still hate it. Whenever, I go onto a new road or have to drive to a strange place, I get really anxious. If there were no other cars on the road, then I would be fine 😉 When I started my new job – the first time I had actually needed to drive to a place on a regular basis – I went down the A38 the wrong way! I am getting better but I don’t think  I will ever like driving. I do it because I have to and the increased independence it gives me. When I am on holiday from school, I rarely use my car and will happily walk everywhere when I can.

… so I now have it. My licence of frustration… and what a journey it has been!

I hope that has made you smile, or even possibly laugh. If you are learning at the moment – don’t let this put you off, but just think ‘you can’t be any worse than me and my sis!’ Oh and it helps to leave lorries and cyclists alone and to go around roundabouts the right way 😉

xsxs