Tag Archives: england

A Truly Kentish Afternoon :: Flower Picking in the Sun

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One sunny Friday afternoon, on a day that feels very long ago now, I hopped in the car and headed out to ‘the countryside’ (near Maidstone) for a spot of flower picking with some of my loveliest lady chums.

Blooming Green Flowers is a small, independent flower business sandwiched between some working farms. On a Friday afternoons during the summer, it’s open to the public for flower picking.

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My delightful friend and co-Aussie-expat Nat suggested that we take a peek, and being the kind of person that I am, I was immediately on board. It’s £10 and you can pick anything you like, up to 50 stems, which I thought was incredibly reasonable. On arrival you’re given a tall tin vase and a pair of secateurs, and are encouraged to snip away to your heart’s content.

I’m fascinated by dahlias at the moment, which were abundant in their mathematical glory, so many were picked, as well as some eucalyptus (#Aussiesrepresent) and a few choice stems of echinacea. I love the elegance of echinacea, and picked up a few plants on my later visit to Stone Green Nurseries.

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As a slight aside, I don’t have a proper camera at the moment, and so while I save my ££ up for a DSLR,  I’m having a play with the settings on my iPhone. I know it’s a bit naff, but there is actually quite a lot you can do with an iPhone, and I’ve been particularly enjoying playing  around with the focus and depth of field. The setting provided much inspiration!

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After we’d all picked our fill, we bundled off into one of the nearby studios, which looked to be some kind of old farm stores, where an artist had set up shop with his mum, selling art, teas, coffees and cake. It was a full-on Kent afternoon, make no mistake. Obviously it was one of the best days of my life, as I like to pretend I’ve stepped out of some kind of Nancy Mitford novel. I relish these days.

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Another friend, Deb, is also a keen allotmenteer (when I say keen, I mean she is very experienced and has managed hers for about 15 years I think!) and so we did a little swap of some of our courgettes for her corn, as ours at the time was still ripening.

Although our lovely long summer days are now past, there remains much pleasure to be had in looking back, to how well those all-too-short days were spent, don’t you agree?

Our Anniversary :: Kynren

That evening we headed over to the Kynren site. The seating area, known as the ‘Tribune’ is about a 10/15 minute walk from the carpark, but it was very clear all the way down and quite a lovely view. We’d been advised to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing, and so found the walk quite pleasant!

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The volunteers on the site were absolutely amazing. All of them had such lovely welcoming attitudes, actively trying to be helpful, which is definitely not always the case with events like this! They’d obviously been very well trained, and enjoyed being a part of the Kynren process – it definitely added to the experience for us.

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The Tribune was a large wooden grandstand, and outside were a great selection of food and drink vans and bars. The atmosphere was great, everyone seemed to be a little bit buzzy waiting for the show to start, and Mr H and I definitely enjoyed taking a step back and doing some quality people watching! We went through to our seats about 40 minutes before the show started.

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Unfortunately, this is where things started to go a little wrong. I’d paid for swanky cushioned seats, and the view was excellent as we were really central. The seats themselves, however, were all jammed in next to each other, so I was practically cuddling Mr H *and* the random gent on the other side of me. This might have been ok for a short show, but having gotten into our seats early, it was Squishville for over 2  hours, which was uncomfortable to say the least!

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I couldn’t take any images of the show, and I will try and avoid spoilers, although can you spoil a show about the history of Britain, considering it’s already happened? I digress.

I will say a couple of things though. The show was visually stunning, in fact I don’t think I’ve seen anything so impressive in live performance – ever. They made full use of the landscape in which they were set, as well as the lake, and lots of technology.

There were, however, some parts of the show that I was hugely disappointed with. All the audio was pre-recorded. All of it. There was no live audio in the show at all. I can almost understand why they did this, being an outdoor show in England, but it was hugely disappointing and I felt like it almost encouraged the performers to mime more. Their physical performance became a little over-egged to match the audio, rather than them being extensions of one another.

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The show touches on events of historical importance, such as the mass migration of Asian people to the area. This was represented in the show by Bhangra dancers, but it was disappointing to see that these were obviously not trained Bhangra dancers, and in most cases from what I could see, weren’t actually Asian people. I think it’s a sensitive topic but I thought it was odd – sure in the huge area that is the North East there is at least one Bhangra dancing group? It would have been more effective, more impressive and driven the point home more about the diversity of the area if the performers had been more diverse.

The other disappointing element was the Colliery band. They mimed. It was obvious. So instead of following the story I was thinking “Why are they miming?” and cringing. I don’t think I need to say much more than that!

Overall, the show was good fun, and as I’ve said, it was visually spectacular. I’m not sure though, that it was really worth it considering the distance we drove. If it was in Kent, I think I would recommend it, but if you’re not in the North East I think you will be disappointed. They very nearly got it right, but for me as a theatre-lover, the small things they got wrong added up to a night that was just a bit off target.

Our evening went fully pear-shaped after that, as our taxi driver didn’t wait for us and we ended up having to wait for nearly 2 hours to get back to the hotel! Luckily the ladies we ended up sharing with were so hilariously drunk that it took my mind off it!

~

We did have a lovely weekend all in all though, and it was great to see some more of the country. I’d like to spend some more time up North, and even head out to Beamish Museum, which we heard great things about but ran out of time for.

Have you seen Kynren? What did you think?

We <3 Ashford :: Happy & Glorious Blogger Day

Long time no blog, hey? I shall spare you all the mundane excuses bar one – life simply got in the way. I am now returned to the internet for fun times. Praise.

Swift segue into today’s post. Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha has long been a place where I have championed the offerings of Medway, if not Kent. I love Kent, and feel it has so much to offer. We’ve got beaches, wineries, historical sites aplenty, as well as a fair few rather good farmer’s markets. What’s not to like (I had myself at wineries, let’s be honest).

There remains, however, a vague sense of Kent being slightly down at heel, and while I can certainly attest to that, many more parts of Kent are now up-and-coming. I give you Medway, I give you Margate, and now, I give you Ashford.

I was recently invited down to Ashford to celebrate a Blogger’s Day, organised by the delightful Happy & Glorious. Truth be told, I’ve never actually been to Ashford before, save for one swift transition through the train station. It was half term, and I can now drive, so I thought, why not! Off I went.

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You will find Happy & Glorious in the Park Mall, in central Ashford. It’s an older style open air shopping mall, but there seem to be lots of lovely little independent shops popping up throughout. I popped in and was greeted by Kate, who is the mastermind behind the whole event. I picked up my fabulous little goody bag with products from all of the vendors and had a nose about!

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Those of you who remember my bunting days will not be surprised that one of my favourite stores was Emporia Fabrics and Craft. Oh how I wish we had this shop in Rochester! The perfect place to pick up a birthday gift, with enough space for craft classes! Dreamy.

I picked up some gold leather earrings. Yes, you did read that correctly. Note:

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Made in Ashford is a collective of local craftspeople who, supported by the council, run this little shop! It was full to the brim of fab little crafts, and I happily bought a tote bag with a great linocut print on it from here.

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From my little chat here, I gathered that the local council in Ashford have been extremely supportive of artists and craftspeople throughout Ashford and even further beyond, and I was greeted with nothing bud positivity. They’ve got a great thing going on down there, and it speaks volumes about the forward thinking nature of Ashford folk.

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I rounded off the afternoon with a spot of lunch in a new cafe, Stag Coffee. Hipster vibe? Check. Beards aplenty? Check. Delicious felafel panini? Check mate. It was fab.

As I packed up to head home, I pulled out of the carpark and heard a stomach wrenching crunch. Was my delightful stay in Ashford about to be ruined by my poor spatial awareness? Had I just smacked into the car next to me?

No. Turns out I just drove over a Capri Sun. PHEW.

The Last Five Years :: Life as an Expat

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10 points to the Norbert Leo Butz fans

Very soon I shall have lived in the UK for 5 years. FIVE WHOLE YEARS. 6, really, if you count 2014 where I flew back and forth while studying, but generally I don’t.

When you live away from family I think it’s ridiculously easy to become used to living life at a relentless pace.  The years tend to be remembered by the immigration paperwork that was filled out in them.

  • 2010 was The Year I Arrived, with my Youth Mobility Scheme visa stuck neatly in.
  • 2012, The Year of the Returned Unmarried Spouse Visa (I’d used an old form that had been changed the day before I sent it), before getting the actual visa ID card.
  • 2013 was The Year of Figuring Out How to Stay in the UK, and more to the point, did I want to?
  • 2014 was The Year of Finding Mysterious Paperwork To See If I Can Get Polish Citizenship.
  • 2015 was The Year of Day Trips to Calais to Re-Enter on an EU Passport.

What immigration delights will 2016 bring? It may well have something to do with an upcoming Referendum. (Please dear God let them stay in the GD EU – I spent an awful lot of money on this).

I feel as though I can spot an expat at 50 paces these days. We all have the same characteristics:

  • You have an intimate knowledge of visa applications.
  • You irrationally fear the Border Control at any airport, even when you’re not flying!
  • You laugh in the face of people who think they deal with a lot of ‘paperwork’ – they don’t know the meaning of the word until they’ve tried to decipher what in the world the Home Office is actually asking you to prove.
  • You smile and nod blandly when friends start reminiscing about a TV program they grew up watching. Absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
  • You still think you’re quite good at a quiz but in fact have no clue about 75% of the questions.
  • You’re not quite sure if you’re allowed to vote in any of the many  elections, but turn up anyway, just in case.
  • When you meet another expat, your first 5 minutes of conversation involved working out by which convoluted means have each of you managed to emigrate.
  • You’ve forgotten which friends know each other, only to be reminded when you’re greeted with a blank look from your partner.
  • You get the guilts from booking any holiday that isn’t back to your country of origin.
  • You’re not even annoyed when Skype automatically opens each time you start your computer.
  • You never go to School Reunions, choosing instead just to stalk Facebook photos.
  • At least once every six months you have a weird few days when you’re pissed off at everyone because they’re not your family and it’s their fault.

There is something quite unique about living in a foreign country that you just don’t experience when you’re travelling through. You end up seeing such a lot of the mundanity of life that you thought you’d escaped when you left home. But somehow it’s different, because you have just a tiny bit more distance – it becomes more quaint mundanity.

You have a marked card as an expat which can sometimes feel awful. Other times it’s a bit of insurance – I can always go home if I want to.

But, all things considered, I don’t want to. 5 years in and my relationship with Ol’ Blighty is stronger than ever. At this point, going home would mean starting all over again, and to be perfectly frank, I can’t really be bothered. I feel settled and while I’m sure the next 5 years will bring plenty of events that make me feel less so, I want to enjoy this feeling while it lasts.

Plans for Life

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Mr Hello and I have spent the weekend making grand plans. Grand, extension sized plans.

You may remember that we’re renovating our Victorian terrace in Rochester (part 2 of the series so far is here). The thing about old houses is that they are always a bit of a money pit.

More than needing you to spend all of your money, however, these old houses simply demand that you spend all of your time on them as well. That is what is breaking our metaphorical bank at the moment – where is all this time supposed to come from? I’m in time debt to myself and my home and I can’t seem to make the repayments.

Instead of housework, or pottering about on the allotment, or marking the several thousand school books I always need to mark, yesterday we simply curled up on our sofa together, got our laptops and measuring tapes out, and spent the day planning what we want our house to look like in a few months time.

We have a rather snazzy set of drawings that Mr H pulled together, and now all we need to do is find the people we want to turn those drawings into their wonderful, life enhancing reality.

When the house is all said and done, surely, surely then I will have some more time? That’s the way it works, no?

Until then, let’s just take small comfort in the fact that the blue in our small lobby is deliciously on point.

January Joy :: Done and Dusted

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This January has, far more than any since I moved to the UK in 2010, been about hunkering down and getting through. I’ve really suffered this year from the January blues, which I think is a combination of being halfway through my academic year, not exercising at all enough because of the pants weather, and oh yeah, the consistently pants weather.

Admittedly, however, it hasn’t been all bad. Here’s a minute collage of some of the nice bits of the first month of the year. Clockwise from top left:

  • An extreme buffet of cheese, crackers, veggie sticks, hummus and scotch eggs. A couple of episodes of Graham Norton with my husband and my Dad. Say no more, agreed?
  • Heading back to the allotment after a few weeks’ break. It’s grassy now, instead of muddy, but a lot better than we expected after such a mild winter. We feared our hard work in October might have been in vain. Once I’m on half term we’ll start terracing!
  • Achieving a goal: 30 days without a drink. As I said in my Dry January post, I don’t usually drink during the week, but when I found myself in social situations this month, it did take a bit more oomph to opt for a 0% lager instead of my usual glass o’ red.
  • ENGLAND vs AUSTRALIA. The Aussies won, by 15 goals (CCCCC’MOOOON!) and an English player was sent off! Never seen that before in a pro game. It was a messy game for both sides, but I really enjoyed introducing Mr Hello to my favourite sport.

I’ve got plenty of things to look forward to in February as well – a week’s holiday (which is 2 days in teacher-speak as I’ll spend most of it in my classroom!), a couple of friends going public with some GREAT NEWS, my first V-day as a married woman, which co-incides with 6 months of marital bliss!

So here’s to a great February. If you’ve had a kind of crap January as well, fear not, we’ll stand together in solidarity and flick the bird to it.  Then we can have a drink to celebrate! Yee-haw.

Wedding Roundup: Portraits on The Pier

There’s no point having your wedding reception at a venue called Sun Pier House if you don’t take advantage of the actual Sun Pier. After we’d downed a drink and had a bit of a natter with the guests, my wonderful maid of honour and sister T rounded us up for some formal portraits on the pier.150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0065150801_Sam+John_0208

Mr Hello and I aren’t generally a fan of staged wedding photos, however we had seen some great examples in Hector’s work and so were quite happy to spend half an hour getting a bunch of photo frame ready shots.

This is something I would definitely recommend to someone in the midst of wedding planning. Find a photographer whose work takes your breath away. Don’t choose someone and then ask them to take photos in a specific style – find someone who is an expert in the style you love. We did, and I couldn’t be happier. In fact the day we got our wedding photos back was the first thing that broke my Ice Queen heart and had be quietly crying on the High Street. I adore our photos.

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Both the bride and groom’s party wore navy blue. We asked our friends to choose whatever they wanted to wear, as long as it was navy blue. Some were a little hesitant, because they didn’t want to choose something and then realise I hated it, but after I reassured them that I was not fussy at all, they went ahead with the idea.

We both just really wanted our friends to look like themselves, and feel comfortable in what they were wearing.

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I am actually yelling at our nephew R here saying ‘get him right in the face!’. Nothing like a fresh bunch of flowers in your chops, hey?

 

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I really adore these photos of Mr H’s family. I think they sum up the family I’m marrying into so well!

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Classic Dad shot. He thinks he’s being a comedian by blocking me out of my own wedding photos. (I actually think this shot is hilarious, so perhaps I have actually inherited his sense of humour).

 

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I think my Mum looked absolutely wonderful. This suit is pretty much exactly what I imagined her with and she totally rocked it. My sister kept getting called ‘Liz’ by Mr H’s family, because they thought she looked like Elizabeth Taylor – I actually have to agree!

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T was chief joozjer. She kept barking at me to move a piece of hair (much appreciated) and would also spin around and show her knickers to all of Chatham just to make Mr H laugh in the photos. What more could you ask for in a bridesmaid?150801_Sam+John_0244 150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0086 150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0085 150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0082 150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0079

I really love these photos against the exposed brick wall. I may be about to totally break the wedding mystique here, but this wall is actually the back of Staples in Chatham. Very glam, very cool.

I suspect that in post-production Hector picked out the blue of Mr Hello’s suit, the blue in the wall and my eyes. The photo of me looking over his shoulder makes my eyes zing! Such precious photos.

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We could not have been luckier with this mural – it was painted perhaps a week before we were married! Talk about timing.

These formal shots to me show the love and joy that we felt on our wedding day. I don’t find them saccharine or overly romantic – the romance was there, we didn’t need some carefully posed shots to remind us of it! The main point is that I don’t look back at these photos and cringe. I look back and my heart sings.

That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, isn’t it?

 

This post is made in loving memory of my Uncle. He very generously helped our wedding day to be exactly what we hoped it would be. Vale.

Kent: Europe’s Best Holiday Hotspot?

HSGS goes to Broadstairs

 

I had a couple of work colleagues choke on their tea on Wednesday morning as they perused that morning’s Guardian!

You see, dear friends, my lovely adopted home county of Kent has been listed as the best family holiday destination in Europe – I kid you not. I confess I’m rather proud!

As a matter of fact, I don’t personally find it that hard to believe as I totally adore Kent, and think it has a lot to offer culturally. More importantly the people from this county are some of the best, sexiest and most marriage-able in the world! You say biased, I say subjective. Ner ner.

We went down to Broadstairs a couple of weeks ago with the extended Hello family. A surprise visit for my soon to be Father-in-Law’s birthday. We had a wonderful time, mostly digging big holes that filled up with water, and terrorising the resident 3 year old King. It was pretty great.

It’s just occurred to me that the photo could almost have been of a beach in Australia. Funny, isn’t it, how life pans out?

Renovations Update: The Study

The HSGS Study

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The HSGS Study View 2

I’m currently teaching three days a week and doing bits and pieces of cover work to fill up the rest of my week. This morning I fully expected to get called in to a school, but by 9:00 the phone had remained surprisingly silent and I found myself with a surprise day of writing on my hands. It was a pretty great feeling. I got to spend the whole day at my own desk, in my own house.

Mr H recently spent a couple of days putting up new shelving (customised from IKEA) in our study and it’s made an incredible difference to the feel of the room. While we’ve always had shelving here, somehow by taking out a free-standing book case and replacing with something more permanent, the room feels so much bigger!

I never have been and never will be one for a perfectly minimalist, styled home. We love art and books and so my hope for this wonderful home of ours is that we somehow manage to get it to all work together. I’m starting a new trend, it’s called the ‘maximalist home’. It’s the latest thing.

You may have noticed in the corner of the last image that I’ve done a swatch of white paint. The plan is to paint the study all white, *hopefully* before the wedding but we’ll see. I love the look of white houses that are filled with artworks, and so that’s the kind of style we hope to emulate. I quite like the idea of living in an art gallery!

It often feels like we’ve got years to go before the house is done, but then, when I get a moment to look back at what we’ve achieved in the first six months of this year, secretly, I think we’re doing ok.

Splendid.

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Some splendid things have happened to me.

Firstly, my sister came to visit when I was in Perth last year, and after she left, I found this gorgeous Bernie Dexter Dress left in my wardrobe. I’d made several jokes about how it happened to be a perfect Christmas present for her favourite and only sister, but I don’t know whether she agreed and left it on purpose, or forgot and then relented when I claimed it as my own. Either way, it’s now in the UK, so…mine?

Secondly, last night I went out to celebrate the pending nuptials of a dear friend (one week to go L!). We had food, wine, the odd martini, and a spot of dancing. I had a wonderful time, and I confess to a teeny tiny headache this morning!

Mr H and I woke up ridiculously early this morning, then went into town to get some new glasses (spectacle not wine) for me. He’s out tonight and I am at home indulging my hangover by spending the evening on the sofa watching period dramas and drinking cups of tea.

Rather splendid indeed, no?