Monday, 22 September 2014

Meet 'Billy'...

Let me introduce you to “Billy Bedford”, the latest addition to our family.

Billy is a 30 year old Bedford CF2 Mobile Home, and he’s in need of some serious TLC!

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Following our fabulous weekend of music festival frivolities this summer (during which I found liberation and embraced the idea of camping, and ‘roughing it’ in general).  Also, totally inspired by George Clarke’s “Amazing Spaces”, we perhaps got a little carried away!  We began imagining ourselves spending next summer motoring around the country (who knows, maybe even Europe), in an amazing small space of our own, taking in every beer and music festival we come across along the way.

I have to say, an iconic VW camper van was more what I had in mind… that is, until I realised we would need a small mortgage to acquire one.  So, we decided to settle for our own, more affordable, version of a “classic” motor home.

And there he was… jumping out at us from the pages of Auto (actually, it was the ridiculously low price tag that jumped out more than anything), and off we went to check him out.  We were unsure at first, and in fact walked away from our first viewing of Billy saying “it probably wouldn’t be the sensible thing to do”.  Since when have we been a “sensible” couple?!

Two days later we found ourselves handing over the cash and quite literally “chugging” away in our newly acquired vehicle.  Neil, my hubby, was bursting with excitement at the thought of getting stuck in to our new project.  I, on the other hand (following behind in my trusty little Peugeot), felt a little apprehensive (understatement!).

Rightly so, as it turned out.  I’d say we got about 500 yards from the garage before Billy came to a sudden halt!  I waited, thinking he had just stalled, but no, it seemed we’d run out of diesel (dodgy fuel gauge!).  Billy, being so old, doesn’t have hazards, so we also had an impatient queue of vehicles behind us, sounding their horns in protest.  Things were not going to plan!

We managed to roll Billy back into a side street, and called the garage, who came to our rescue with a can of diesel, successfully getting us back on the road… for about a further 500 yards, until, yes you guessed it, we broke down again… whoah, whoah, whoah!!  Back to the garage went Billy. I could go on, and on, and on, but to cut a long story short… several cans of diesel, two RAC call-outs, and many an obscenity later, we eventually got our new “investment” on home territory.

On closer inspection, it seems there’s a problem with the fuel tank (you don’t say!), and despite the problems so far, my hubby remains optimistic that this is easily ‘curable’, and is a mere ‘hitch’.  Once the fuel tank is cleaned up (or, worst case scenario, replaced), we’ll realise what an absolute bargain we’ve acquired, and will be hitting the open road in search of adventure.

Despite his age, Billy’s interior is in pretty good condition, and I’ll certainly have loads of fun choosing fabrics and ‘accessories’ to personalise the space.  Initial thoughts are around a ‘Cath Kidston’ type theme, but who knows where my imagination (and Pinterest!) will take me.

You wouldn’t think it, looking at him just now, but I have a strange feeling we’ll have many a good time in old Billy.  Watch this space!

Neil and Alfie, getting acquainted with Billy

Bit of TLC and this'll be perfect for a brew and a bacon butty in the mornings!

Clean and tidy as it is, for its age... the Tartan will be going!

The 'cab' and 'high-sleeper'... still working on ideas to improve these areas - suggestions welcome!

Well, what are we waiting for? I'm hungry for adventure... let's go!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Give Your Brain a Break!

Could 'Mindfulness' be the key to your serenity?

Does our modern, technology rich, and often stress-filled world leave you with an over-stimulated mind and an inability to switch off?  Then read on…

This time of year’s perhaps not so bad, many of us have had summer holidays and time to relax in the company of our family and friends, leaving us feeling refreshed and our batteries re-charged.  However, we all know those lazy hazy summer months don’t last forever, and before we know it, it’s back on the treadmill! 

So, once the tan starts to fade and the sound of the sea gently breaking on the shore feels like a dim and distant memory, when the cold, dark winter months start to set in, and the stresses and strains of everyday life begin to take their toll , you may want to consider practising a little ‘mindfulness’.

I, for one, am a born worrier!  Add that to the fact that (like most people) I have an extremely busy life, working full time,  looking after a family and home, trying to fit in exercise and hobbies, (not to mention everything else in between), and it becomes virtually impossible to ever fully unwind.

We’re also now contactable right around the clock, every single day of the week (home or away), thanks to explosive developments in technology and social media over recent years. Don’t get me wrong, I rely on my mobile as much as the next person, but every now and again when I’m in need of a little peace and solitude, I would gladly go back to the times when we didn’t even have a landline to the house!

So, how can we escape the constant mental chatter, switch off and tune out all those stresfull distractions?  Well, instead of turning to that post-work Pinot (which I’m the first to admit, does seem to do the trick), I’ve been trying to train my brain to focus on living in the moment , not worrying about the past or fretting about what might happen in the future, just concentrating on the here and now… in other words ‘mindfulness’.

Now I know the idea of Meditation is nothing new, but it’s often associated with sitting in the Lotus Position, breathing in incense and humming ‘omm’ to some weird and wonderful music.  Well, there’s nothing wrong with that if it works for you, but it’s not for everyone (believe me I’ve tried it!)

According to an article I read a few months ago, there is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness.  It’s simply about making regular time for yourself (5-10 minutes a day) to do nothing, to think about nothing but the moment, in fact time to just simply be!  Easier said than done?.. yes, very much so, but it’s worth persevering.

For you, mindfulness might mean simply sitting down, closing your eyes and turning your attention to your breathing, nothing else.  Concentrating on where you feel it the most, in your nostrils, your chest or the rise and fall of your upper body?

It might be that your mindfulness works best in the shower.  Focus on the sensation of the water against your skin, breath in and enjoy the scent of your shower gel, enjoy how your scalp feels when you massage in your shampoo.

Even just a good old coffee break can turn into mindfulness. Concentrate on nothing but the wonderful aroma of the coffee and the warm soothing feeling in your mouth and in your throat, really focus on each and every sip.

Bedtime might be the time for you, as you lay there, focus in turn on every inch of your body from toes to head.  Notice any feelings of discomfort or tension and try to imagine them easing away with each breath you take.

If your thoughts start turning to ‘I wonder what’ll happen in Corrie tonight’ or ‘damn I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer for dinner’, stop, and bring your attention right back to your breathing / showering / coffee sipping (I can do this for almost 10 minutes now without my mind drifting off – quite an achievement for me!)

It really doesn’t matter how or when you practice your mindfulness, all that really matters is that you’re taking time to focus your brain on tuning out distractions.  The trick is not to try and stop thinking all together (I for one would find that impossible), but to think only about the moment and the sensations your body is experiencing.

Apparently, practised regularly, mindfulness can reduce stress (in turn sharpening memory and concentration), and lead to an all-round happier brain.  Research also shows that mindfulness may support the immune system, improve sleep, lift energy levels and help with pain management.

Why not give it a go?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

All the Fun of the Festival

This summer, at the ripe old age of forty-six, I finally popped my ‘festival cherry’!

Now I like to think of myself as a kind of fun loving gal, and am always more than appreciative of a bit of quality live music, so why have I not donned my Wellies and Daisy Dukes, thrown my tent over my shoulder and headed off for a wild weekend in a field before now?

I’ve been to plenty of music concerts and one day festivals (in fact I’ve even performed at a few), and actually love nothing more than being out in the open air, dancing and singing, with the beat of a good strong drum and bass thudding in my chest.  Add a bit of sunshine (if you’re lucky), a few cheeky drinks and, well, that’s my kind of heaven.

What’s been my problem with a weekend of ‘festivalling’ so far then, and what made me change my mind this year?  Well, for a start, my ‘kids’ have been big festival goers over recent years, and I have seen the state they come home in!  I cannot begin to describe the smell of their clothes and tents (which were so bad on one occasion, we literally just binned the lot), not to mention the grey look on their faces and bags under their eyes, due to lack of sleep and a ridiculous excess of alcohol.  They’ve regaled me with tales of their “brilliant” weekends, involving activities which I won’t go into (all legal of course – well at least the ones they’ve told me about), but which are most definitely not my idea of fun. They also seemed to take great pleasure in watching me squirm as they described what had been their toilet and washing facilities for the past few days.

I did, when my family was young, dabble in the caravan thing, but I have never been a true camper (well, apart from once in a two man tent during my late teens, which resulted in tears and a last minute check-in at a local B&B, I’ll say no more!)  In fact, up until now, the very thought of sleeping under canvas has always filled me with horror and brought me out in a cold sweat!  Anyone who knows me well would vouch for this, and I think I’ve probably surprised many by taking the plunge this year (actually, no-one more-so than myself). 

So, what did make me reconsider and go for it this summer?  Well, I've always loved live music and I guess I was just feeling adventurous, in the mood to do something I hadn’t done before, something that was way out of my comfort zone… a new experience I could tick off my list etc, etc.   Yes, I know, you seasoned campers / festival goers are probably thinking ‘what on earth’s the big deal, she’s been camping not base- jumping!’, but for me, and my anxieties around camping (in particular the loos), it may as well have been base-jumping!

Anyway, how did it go?  In a deliberate attempt to avoid scenes of teenage alcohol induced carnage (which seems to be part and parcel of many of the larger festivals), we decided to go for the small, family friendly option (remember my blog is from a post-forty point of view ;-), and eagerly booked our tickets for Wickham. Where?! I hear you say.  Well, Wickham is a beautiful little village, two miles north of the town of Fareham (near Portsmouth), so it was a bit of a treck for us from up T’North, but well worth it.

The festival site itself (covered in masses of soft, glistening, golden straw - great for soaking up the mud!) is located in a picturesque rural setting on rolling farmland, which works perfectly with the general vibe of the festival, and is what I would describe as ‘Folkesque’.  Although this festival is described as a ‘Folk’ festival, the music is by no means exclusively Folk, and there really is something to suit pretty much everyone’s taste.  You may not find big names such as Dolly Parton headlining Wickham, but you will find an absolute wealth of talent and breath-taking musicianship on the main stage, including some fairly well-known acts such as James Blunt, The Lightening Seeds, The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, and Bellowhead. There were also a few other blasts from the past including Hazel O’Conner (remember her from the 80’s?!)…  I wasn’t exactly a fan of her’s back then, but I was very impressed with what she’s doing now, which is writing some fantastic music and singing alongside two amazingly talented lady musicians, one on keys, the other on sax.  I enjoyed Hazel’s set so much that I bought the CD.  There were also two other smaller stages, one featuring new, young talent and the other dedicated to acoustic sets.

As with most festivals I guess, there were loads of craft stalls, real ale tents, an international food fayre, children’s entertainers, vintage clothes stalls, a pop-up bar, a solar cinema and so on.  As I was determined to completely embrace my first time festival experience, I wasted no time in getting into the spirit by buying (and wearing for the whole weekend) a flower headband and a ‘hippy’ style hoodie, having a henna tattoo, sampling a different culinary delight every day (with plastic cutlery, from polystyrene containers, whilst sitting on the floor), and of course drinking copious amounts of alcohol. I even bought myself some incense sticks and an ash catcher.

Wickham itself (which we visited one day for some more cash – no cash machines on site), is a lovely little village and well worth a trip. There was also a local Farm Shop and Tea Rooms right next to the campsite – very handy!

If we had one complaint about our festival experience, it would be on the subject of our wrist bands.  On arrival at the festival site, we joined a fairly lengthy, snake-like queue to receive our bands.  We were expecting this to be the case though, and the queue was dealt with pretty quickly and efficiently by the friendly and welcoming festival staff. We were however rather hoping for a nice colourful fabric wrist band, as we’d seen the kids come home with from other festivals (and then not take off for six months or more!) Instead we got plain, plastic bands that scratched every time they brushed against your skin (a bit like the ones you get when you’re admitted to hospital!).  Sorry Wickham, but at £150 each for a weekend ticket, we were expecting wrist bands with a little more style and comfort… yes I know, nit-picking!

So, we thoroughly enjoyed the whole festival experience, but what about the camping?  Well, we were greeted in Wickham on day one by lashings of rain, thunder and lightning… great!  Nevertheless, we zipped up our rain coats and got on with erecting the tent (I didn’t have a clue, and it was hilarious!) Luckily, my husband is a dab hand at this camping malarkey, so I was in safe hands.  In no time at all, the rain had given way to the sunshine, and we were pumping up the air bed to the sound of the kettle boiling away on the cute little camping stove (all quite a novelty to me!)

Even though I do say so myself, I think I coped well with my first camping experience.  I’d taken a hot water bottle so I wasn’t cold and miserable at night (one of my biggest camping anxieties was the lack of central heating!), and in fact found our tent to be really quite cosy and comfortable.  I wasn’t looking forward to struggling with a camping stove either, but was to be taken aback at how territorial my hubby was over his camping gear and how he insisted on cooking our bacon and eggs in the mornings (the only other time he cooks really is when we barbecue, although he can do a mean Sunday Roast when he puts his mind to it).  However, keen to fully involve myself in this new experience I insisted that I had a turn at cooking breakfast too… just the once though!

And so, to what was without doubt my biggest camping fear and anxiety of all… the loos!  On arrival at Wickham we had opted for the ‘quiet’ campsite, one of the reasons being that on this site you could park your car next to your tent, much more convenient than hauling your belongings over half a dozen fields.  However the quiet site did not have the ‘Posh Wash’ toilets and showers that were advertised on the festival website.  Instead our site had just four, 'Loos R Us' cubicles (you know the type I mean), and no showers. The loos were fine for the first day or two, but by day four were quite literally stomach churning!  Did I cry? no, not once.  Instead, armed with my own loo roll, wet wipes, and taking a very deep breath before I entered the cubicle, just got on with the job in hand.  Although we had read that the other campsite had “posh” loos and showers, it was a little bit of a walk away from our site, so we decided to just make do with the facilities at hand.  That is, until the last day when we decided on our way to the arena, that we’d check out these so-called posh toilets … wow, sheer luxury!  Beautifully clean, serviced toilets and showers equal to the standard of your average budget hotel, we had missed out, big time!  Ah well, lesson learned for our next visit, and I could take pride in the fact I had conquered my anxieties and survived the grotty loos!  In fact, speaking to one lady (who was a regular at Glastonbury), and said the toilets that we had been using were some of the worst she’d ever seen, strangely left me actually looking forward to my next festival and camping experience (not even the loos will spoil my enjoyment!)

And so, my new motto in life is going to be ‘to never again close my mind to anything, however fearful I am, without first giving it a go’.  Actually, I have tried to adopt this philosophy on life before and it’s not easy, but this time I’m determined… bring on the next new experience!

If you're looking for a gentle, family friendly, talent packed introduction to summer music festivals, Wickham could be just for you!

Thanks for reading

Monday, 21 July 2014

TheTrue Price of a "Good" Tan

What's the real cost of being bronzed to perfection?

So, it’s that time of year again when, if you’re lucky, you’ll be shopping for bikinis and sunglasses and looking forward to chilling out on a beautiful beach or pool-side, returning home in a week or two with that fabulous tan... but at what cost?! 

We all know how good that feels, we’ve worked hard all year round, dealt with the stresses and strains of everyday life... and we fully deserve more than a little R&R!  Lying on a sun lounger, head in a good book with the beautiful sun burning down on our skin... bliss! 

There’s no denying that a bit of a tan makes us look and feel great.  Our limbs look more slender and toned, and our skin has a ‘healthy’ glow, indeed everyone tells us how ‘well’ we look, in turn making us feel fantastic.  And the downside to beautifully bronzed skin?... well, if we’re not careful, and I mean ever so careful, some of the more negative effects of that fabulous tan may well stay with us way beyond the summer season!

On the one hand I feel this post may be a little patronising, I mean who these days doesn’t know about the massive risks of over-doing it in the sun?! Yet on the other hand, the evident naivety and ignorance of some people around sun-safety never ceases to amaze me. “Oh I never wear a sunscreen in this country, only when I’m abroad’”, "I only ever wear factor 6 or 8, well I don’t want to stop the sun getting through altogether do I?’, “I just apply once in the morning, it’s such a nuisance to have to re-apply, that stuff leaves me feeling all sticky and I’ve got better things to do on holiday”, or ... “I’m gonna go have a few sunbeds before my holidays, it’ll get my tan on its way”  Aaagghrrr!!

Despite extensive research, resulting in lots of sensible advice on a range of preventative measures, and an endless choice of really great ‘fake’ options, people continue to take unnecessary risks.  In the short-term, over-doing it in the sun will lead to de-hydration, sun-stroke, sore skin, blisters and horrendously ugly skin-shedding (attractive!).  In the longer term, too much sun will without a doubt lead to leather-like, prematurely aged skin, and can potentially, if you’re really unlucky, lead to much more sinister complications!

As someone who used to, in my younger years, carelessly allow the sun to abuse my skin with its rays (indeed I’d positively encourage the frying of my flesh by applying oil based sun ‘screens’),  I even used to partake in the activity of having the odd sunbed (a method of tanning I now strongly believe should be illegal), and having had four moles removed (almost certainly as a result of sun damage), I feel I am somewhat qualified to write this post, and to say DON’T DO IT!

I do get it, I know having a tan makes us feel great.  It makes us look great too, that is until we reach a certain age and realise that (apart from going under the knife) there is no way we’re going to reverse the effect of that sun damage on our skin – you can spot a forty plus lady who’s enjoyed a little too much sun-bathing over the years a mile off (crinkly cleavage, vertical cheek wrinkles?!)

So why risk it? Aside from the moles, I’m hoping that I ‘saw the light’ just in time – around my mid thirties – and began to take much greater care in the sun, if I hadn’t, my skin may well have started to resemble the hide of an elephant by now!

Of course, when it comes to burning, the darker your natural skin the less at risk you are (although you're by no means immune) - however the ageing effect of the sun on your skin doesn’t discriminate – you dark skinned ladies are as much at risk of premature wrinkles as the rest of us.

There are so many great ‘fakes’ out there – I know, many of you say I’m useless with fake tans, they go all streaky - but if you exfoliate, moisturise and apply carefully (not in a 5 minute rush), you can obtain some really convincing results.  My favourites are Xen-Tan Lotion (although this one’s a bit pricey). A more affordable option but still with great results is St Moriz Lotion – (use a tanning mitt so you don’t end up with orange hand palms!)  Of course, there are the gradual tanners too – the moisturisers with a hint of tan, which are great but just take a bit of building up (I like the Garnier one). And, I guess it has to be acknowledged, that with pretty much all fake tans comes ‘the smell’ – unavoidable I think ladies, however the Xen-Tan and St Moriz mentioned above, are not too bad at all.

If you need something instant, I would highly recommend Soap & Glory’s ‘Glow Getter’.  This spray on, wash off option also has a bit of coverage and is like a foundation for your legs (great if you have a few skin imperfections you like to conceal) - Rimmel do a really good instant too.

Of course, that fake tan is not a sun screen, so your additional high factor screen is still an absolute must if you're out in the sun (I always use at least a factor 30, 50 if it’s really hot) – super cool sunnies and a pretty sun hat are a really good idea too!

There’s loads of information and advice out there but, if you’re still not convinced it’s sensible to go easy in the sun, here are just two useful links you might want to check out:

Stay safe, stay beautiful!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

What a Difference Ten Years Make!

This year is quite a milestone for me in many ways,
and lately, I’ve been doing an awful lot of reflective thinking.

Between 2002 and 2004 my life was quite literally turned upside down, or at least it felt that way at the time.  During those two years my first marriage took a turn for the worst and ended in divorce, I moved house twice, changed jobs twice, began a relationship with my present husband, which outside influences were to make extremely difficult for many years to come, and I lost my dad who died suddenly of a heart-attack aged 70.  I was a single mum of two and an emotional wreck!  My confidence took a real dive and I seriously doubted whether or not I could ever pick myself up from the events of the past few years.

I think most people who knew me through these times would be surprised to hear all this.  I hid it well, and coped... on the surface!  I sorted a new home for myself and my children, successfully applied for and held down a full-time job, painted my slap on each day and faced the world with a smile, it was only those closest to me who knew differently.

Anyhow, the reason for this post is not to dwell on those bad times, but to acknowledge and reflect on how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown as a person, and how good life is feeling right now, 10 years on.  I also hope that any readers who are going through, or have been through similar events, will be able to relate to the post, and perhaps be encouraged that things can get better, given time.

I know many people face tough times, in one way or another, and mine may seem trivial in comparison to some.  However for me the events described above were life-shattering at the time and have had a profound effect on my life this past 10 years and also on the person I have become.

It has been a difficult and emotional 10-12 years for me, with many changes in circumstances, relationships and lifestyle to come to terms with, and it is only this past 12 months or so that I have really turned a corner – that’s not to say I don’t still have some way to go – the 10 year anniversary of my dad’s death this summer set me back a little, a reaction I really hadn't anticipated, I still can’t quite believe he’s gone!

This time last year, unhappy in my work, no prospects of promotion and feeling undervalued (and underpaid!), I decided, after 8 years with the same employer, to explore pastures new.  Turns out to be one of the best decisions I ever made!  My new job is not perfect by any means (is any job?) but I love it anyway, and have recently been promoted way beyond any hopes I may have had 12 months ago – so glad I went for it!

My children, despite being from a ‘broken home’ (something I have felt guilty about since their dad and I split), have turned out to be exemplary young adults, of whom I am so proud I could burst. They seem to be completely unaffected by their parents' divorce, and in fact at times see it as a total positive  (double Christmas and birthday pressies, HUGE extended family and support network etc, etc,) - Seeing what well rounded, adjusted, confident and capable young adults they've become warms my heart, and I am proud beyond belief.

Despite many difficulties, including disapproval and lack of acceptance from some around us, my present husband and I have a strong and happy, albeit sometimes turbulent (we prefer to call it passionate!) marriage.

I have managed and coped with difficult situations, as well as negative, judgemental attitudes over the past 10 years that I never in a million years thought I would have to manage and cope with, and there were times when I quite literally thought I couldn’t cope any longer!

What I didn’t realise at the time was that these events and situations would make me stronger, wiser and ultimately more appreciative of what I have in life now – that is a loving husband, wonderful children, an inspirational 83 years young mum, a cosy comfortable home, a job that I enjoy, creative hobbies including steel pan playing and blogging, a sweet natured cat, a grumpy but loveable dog, and a knowledge that I can cope... with pretty much anything.

I realise that at a mere 46 years of age, life probably has way more challenges and difficulties ahead than I have been through already.  However, I take comfort in the fact that I have lived and learned, and that I feel prepared (and in fact excited) at what life has in store for the future, good and bad – bring it on!

I would also like to add that in addition to all the above, I have, over the past 10 years or so, had great difficulty in coming to terms with my ageing face and body!  Call me vain, but the onslaught of silver hair, beginnings of bingo wings and the appearance of fine lines have caused me almost as much distress as did my divorce all those years ago (that is not to trivialise divorce, but to express the significant effect of ageing on my well-being – wow, that really does sound vain doesn’t it?!)  ;-)

But seriously, what I'm trying to say is that whilst these things did (not so long ago) fill me with horror, the 'more mature me' is something (or someone) else I have actually come to terms with and, dare I say it, am learning to love! Don't get me wrong, I will always try to make an effort to keep healthy and look after myself, but I have accepted that I am what I am, and no longer feel the need to try and achieve a Cheryl-Cole-like body, heaven knows that would involve waaay too much effort and pain!

I realise this post sounds very middle aged, and is a little more deep than my usual blog posts, but realising exactly what you've learned through experience (good and bad) and accepting yourself for who you are today (not what you were in the past) is a real revelation.  As I say, I’ve reached a bit of a milestone this year and I guess I just felt the need to share!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Familiar Fragrance?

Love the heavenly scent of Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle, but don’t care too much for the price tag? Then read on...

As with most things in life, when it comes to fragrance, I have champagne taste and a beer budget!   Oh yes, almost every perfume I take a liking to, comes with a reasonably hefty price tag – and I don't think I’m alone when I say my favourite at the moment is Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle.

That being the case, I usually have to wait for birthdays and Christmas to top up my expensive fragrance supply.  I don’t know why, and maybe some of you are the same, but perfume is just one of those things that I can’t seem to justify buying for myself, especially when the price tag is in excess of £50.

But it’s not just fragrance.  So many of my favourite products are, shall we say, on the expensive side, and it doesn’t help when everything seems to run out at once.  This week alone, I squeezed my last drop of cleanser out of its tube, my mascara decided to dry up, I have (at the most) another day or two’s worth of foundation left, and worst of all, my Coco Mademoiselle bottle is well and truly empty (and my birthday’s not ‘til November!)

Then, as if to rub salt into my wound, a colleague swept by my desk the other day wearing, yes you guessed it, Coco Mademoiselle.  I actually got up to follow her to the photocopier, so the divine fragrance could hit my nostrils for just a little longer (not quite as sad as it sounds, I did also have some copying to do myself).  So, chatting whilst we copied, I complimented my colleague on smelling so wonderful, to which she replied ‘oh yeah, it’s that Eau Nude by Next’. What?!  Actually, (and perhaps subconsciously as a result of having just been enlightened), I did notice that the smell wasn’t exactly the same as Coco Mademoiselle, but it was pretty damn close - it certainly had me fooled.

You know what happened next... yes, I went shopping on my way home from work and bought myself some perfume. But instead of a £50+ price tag it was just £7.50 for a gorgeous little 30ml bottle of Next’s Eau Nude.  I just bought the small bottle to try, in case it didn’t smell the same on me, but I will definitely be going back for the 100ml version, which costs just £12.  After just a week of wearing Eau Nude, I've already been told several times how nice I smell, and had comments such as 'oh, are you wearing Coco Mademoiselle?'... not just me then.

As with most cheaper perfumes, the smell doesn’t seem to last as long as the more expensive stuff, so I find I need to carry it with me to refresh the fragrance once or twice during the day.  However, at a fraction of the cost, if Coco Mademoiselle is a fragrance you love, but like me, you can’t actually bring yourself to splash out (or wait for Christmas), this very reasonably priced alternative is well worth a try.  The bottle’s a really pretty and stylish design too. Well done Next!

Another of my favourites at the moment is Chanel's Allure - If you  happen to know of a good copycat version of this one, I'd love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading  :-)