A day trip to Calais

This weekend, I headed over to France with my work's annual day trip. I hadn't been the previous years but this time I decided to go for it. As it turns out, there were some extra seats available so I was able to take Marie with me for a day of shopping, sleeping and attempting to speak French.

The coach was leaving from my workplace at 5:45, so Marie picked me up at 5am. I didn't even know that time existed on a Saturday! After a 4 hour journey, we finally arrived in Calais where we had a couple of hours to spend.

First Marie and I made a beeline for the beautiful town hall as we'd seen a huge Mickey Mouse figure and sparkling Mickey and Minnie silhouettes in the grounds. It turns out he was part of a Disney Christmas event but it wasn't starting until a week later, unfortunately!

Although I'd estimated the building to have been built in the 18th Century, it was actually constructed in 1911. The architecture was truly beautiful, especially the wonderfully ornate clocktower that could be seen for miles.

By now we were feeling thirsty so we went in search of a cafe. On the way, we passed my friend who recommended a pub she had just visited with her sister. To my delight, we were served Coke bottles with names on, so I had an awesome French name label (I was Garcon). 

After having a little rest in the pub, Marie and I decided to explore the area. It was an absolutely beautiful day with a blue sky that looked glorious against the quaint French architecture.

Having not eaten since 6:30am, we stopped off in a patisserie where I bought a pain au chocolat and communicated with the worker in only French. Having not studied French since I was in year 9 (a whopping 12 years ago!), my linguistic abilities are severely limited. However, I managed to communicate with "Bonjour. Pain au chocolat s'il vous plait" and then, when she started asking me a bunch of questions, "Parlez vous Anglais?" She just laughed (kindly!) and didn't repeat what she'd said, so it can't have been important. Then it was just a matter of "Merci! Au revoir!" I was so proud of myself! 

Hard-earned pastry in hand, we popped across the road to Parc Saint Pierre in search of somewhere to sit and snack. 

This fountain was the perfect place! Doesn't it look like something out of Beauty and the Beast? It was so peaceful and serene! 

Oh, and the pain au chocolat was glorious! 

After a couple of hours, we all boarded the coach and headed over to Cité Europe. By this point, we were pretty hungry so we headed to a pub for lunch. Since I was in France and all, I knew what I had to eat...

Yes, I ate snails! Or escargot, as they're officially known. I'd never eaten them before and had no idea that they would come out still in their shells! I was a bit confused at first with all the implements but Marie helped me out. They were delicious, with the texture of squid and a garlic sauce. Yum! 

Once we'd filled our tummies, we had a little browse around the shops. This wasn't the most exciting part of the day as the shopping centre just looks like The Oracle in Reading. It's not particularly big or cheap, and most of the shops are exactly the same as those we get in the UK: New Look, H&M, The Disney Store, Zara. However, I did make a sneaky little trip to Sephora!
It also had these beautiful Christmas decorations with an Alice in Wonderland theme, featuring animatronic rabbits and clocks everywhere. 

I eventually got home at 10pm, so it was a very long day but I had a fantastic time! 

What to expect from a counselling assessment

Earlier this week, I attended my counselling assessment to ascertain what would be the best approach to my therapy. Having never had any experience of talking therapies before, I was a little nervous as I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, it was a much less intimidating experience than I'd anticipated! Of course, this is just my experience so it may differ from that of others', but will give you an idea of what to expect.

First, the man I saw (I'm not sure if he was a therapist, nurse, some sort of administrator or something else but we'll call him the therapist for clarity) asked me to fill in the questionnaire. This was a little annoying as I'd already filled it out once at my doctor's surgery and once online following an email request before my appointment. My therapist looked at my answers, clarifying some where needed, and diagnosed me with moderate depression and severe general anxiety. I explained that I don't feel at all depressed and I'm glad I spoke up about it as he said my answers may be reflected by the anxiety rather than depression, so we could disregard that element. 

One of the sections of the questionnaire was related to phobias. After discussing my fear of using the telephone and other social situations, he also diagnosed me with social anxiety. We then discussed my experience with panic attacks, and he asked me what brought it on and how I felt before and during the episode. After talking about my feelings regarding my anxiety in different situations, and a brief history of when my issues started, it became clear that it was brought on by feelings of being overwhelmed and fear of not meeting my own expectations. Having confirmed I was a perfectionist (which is actually where my horrendous procrastination comes from, I was surprised to find out!), my therapist explained that this is probably the root of a lot of my problems.

Once we'd got a greater understanding of my conditions and the impact they have on my life, we discussed possible approaches to therapy. My therapist suggested CBT would be the best option as it would also treat my dermatillomania. He recommended stage 3, which is the more intensive treatment, and on a one-to-one basis rather than group therapy because of both my social anxiety and the complexity of my anxiety-dermatillomania combo. He asked me to set goals to work towards during my therapy and explained that the waiting list is currently about 8 weeks. He was also very accommodating towards my troubles with the phone and wrote a note so the relevant people would know to contact me by email (after saying "They'll give you a call to.... oh, wait. That's not going to work!")

The experience was a lot less scary than I'd expected and I'm really glad I've taken this next step. I'll be posting about my experience with CBT when that happens too so keep your eyes peeled.

Camera Roll

After explaining how much difficulty I was having trying to think up a name for this series, I've just settled on Camera Roll since, you know, that's where the photos have come from. I have a notoriously bad memory so I can't for the life of me remember who suggested it but thank you!

In love with my hairpiece from Annabelle's Wigs// Gorgeous faces at Gerard Way's gig
Pikachu hats!// Cuddling with Rex. 

For some reason, there are also a bunch of Halloween photos I didn't feature in the last post and I have no idea why!

Meow! I'm a cat// Atmospheric pumpkins
More cat ears// Gore central at Thorpe Park

This beautiful face I paused on while editing videos// Poppies at the Tower of London
I finally met Megan at MCM// Spraying graffiti with Emsy and Sarah

My Harry Potter graffiti// The London Eye all lit up
South Bank at night// Houses of Parliament


Kaelah has some great tree decorating tips
Stephanie's photos from her wedding party are beautiful! 
Kirsty's photos from Croatia are stunning!
How delicious does Claire's white hot chocolate recipe look?!
Andini's post about the Woman Fashion Power exhibition is awesome.  

Other Favourites
Danny's post about finding your inner confidence is fantastic! 
This is the sweetest pregnancy announcement
How well do you know the words to A Whole New World? I knew them all. Whoop!
Ok, I cannot wait to ride the world's tallest rollercoaster in Orlando
Want to find out what my worst Christmas present was? 

Book review: Ian Brady and Myra Hindley- Murder on the Moors

By now, I think I've reviewed enough serial killer books to stop with the "trust me, I'm not a psycho" introductions. Of all England's 26 modern serial killers (yes, I know this stuff), these are the two that I know the most about and I have read quite a lot about the case of the Moors Murders. After being horrendously disappointed by the Harold Shipman book of the same publishers, I didn't have particularly high hopes for this. The introduction certainly confirmed my fears and was one of the most terrible pieces of writing I have ever read. (Funnily enough, the worst book I've read in my life was about Myra Hindley. What is it with serial killers and terrible writing?).

There is no author attributed to this book although, judging by the horrendously inaccurate use of commas, I assume it's Mel Plehov, the writer behind the Harold Shipman book. Somehow they manage to spell Hindley in three completely different ways within the space of 3 pages and repeatedly give Ian Brady the middle name Thomas instead of his actual name Duncan. As well as the erratic use of commas, misspellings and inaccuracies, there is also the problem with completely incoherent sentence structure. Here is a genuine quote for you, copied out word for word:

The way that so much pain, which doesn't diminish over time, could in a vile way provide a continuation of the sadistic pleasure, and reminder of his actions to the one living person who knows where the remains of the victims are.

That's not even a sentence! How did that get published? Did anybody proofread the book?

Luckily, the rest of the book is of slightly better quality. There are still basic errors but the majority of the facts are accurate and it's not appallingly written for the most part. The chronology is bizarrely inconsistent, jumping from the pair's imprisonment, to their trial and then to Myra's death back to her time in prison.

However, my main problem with the writing is that, although we can all agree the crimes were horrific and abhorrent, the author loses sight of professional distance and ends up becoming far too emotionally involved. Phrases such as "both these people personify the word EVIL" (capitals included) and "women around the world still hate her, hate what she represents, and hate what she allowed to occur" reveal a sensationalist bias which makes it difficult to find any credibility. 

For anyone who is interested in finding out more about the Moors Murders, especially Myra Hindley, I'd recommend steering well clear of this sensationalist account, seemingly published only with the motive of easy money-spinning, and instead try the far superior One of Your Own by Carol Ann Lee. 

Sponsor Shoutout: November

Pink Confetti
Nicola, the blogger behind Pink Confetti, is incredible. She is both a teacher and a police officer (and is very open about her career dilemmas) but has also recently undergone jaw surgery, documenting the process to help others who are going through it. It's not all hard-hitting posts on Pink Confetti, though. You can also expect lots of book reviews, beauty, fashion and trips to amazing places like Iceland. Oh, and Nicola's blog design is really cute!

Beth Tinkerbell
Beth may be becoming a regular on my sidebar but I don't think I could ever run out of lovely things to say about her! Recently she's posted photos of herself in her (adorable) Olaf pyjamas as part of a Children In Need Bloggers' PJs campaign and made her own Lush gift set for £10. If recipes (especially veggie gluten-free ones), beauty and books are your thing, check out Beth Tinkerbell. I count her as a friend too, so that's a good reason! 

Lipsticks and Lashes
Gemma, of Lipsticks and Lashes, is a superwoman! As well as juggling two jobs, she is a carer for her mum, runs a small jewellery business (Pearl Divine) and still found time to blog every day in October! Whether it's an honest post about her life as a carer and the realities of every day blogging, or beauty reviews and motivational messages, Gemma always writes from the heart. I also love the cute garden-effect she gives her photos! 

#SimplyBeReal Moments

I am so excited to share this with you! A couple of weeks ago, the lovely people at Simply Be contacted me to ask if I would like to be involved in their #SimplyBeReal campaign, reflecting the fact that fashion doesn't always go to plan. Rather than moping in our embarrassment, the campaign is a way to use those real moments as a funny anecdote to share with others and Simply Be have teamed up with a number of talented illustrators to depict these moments. 

Straight away, I knew the moment that I wanted to share because it is still something that makes me laugh whenever I think about it. As you may know, I am a primary school teacher and I work very hard to develop a supportive environment in my classroom where every member- children and staff- are almost part of a family unit. We are loyal to every member of the class but also share jokes and tease each other.

One day, when I was wearing an outfit much like this one, I was working with a group on a reading activity. Most of the class were quietly reading while I listened to my group read The Enormous Crocodile. I was encouraging the children to think of words to describe the crocodile and gave them an example: "Big, fat tummy!"

From across the classroom, the most mischievous of my boys shouted "Miss! Are you talking about yourself?" After that, "chubby" became a class injoke, and when the children left my class in July, I even got cards thanking me for "being a lovely chubby teacher"! 

After sharing my real moment, Simply Be told me that they were asking Anke Weckman to illustrate it as she has a childlike quality to her drawings. I checked out her website, loved her style and couldn't wait to see the illustration. However, nothing prepared me for the most adorable illustration that was sent over. Are you ready?
Isn't it amazing! It actually looks like me and I love all the little details, like the crocodile book cover. The way she has captured the friendly, fun environment of my classroom is incredible. I absolutely love it! (And wouldn't a personalised illustration be a fantastic gift for a teacher!)

I'd love to hear all about your real moment, and don't forget to use the #SimplyBeReal hashtag to share it on social media!

I wrote this post in collaboration with Simply Be in exchange for the personalised illustration.
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