By Aislinn De'Ath

By Aislinn De'Ath
Click on my face to link to my vlog!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Move those hips!

Reader, I am a complete ding-bat and managed to do something atrocious to my back in an aerobics class full of old ladies. I've been trying to get healthy for Christmas so that I can eat like a pig and drink like a fish and not feel too guilty about it, so I've taken up doing a really long exercise class every saturday, carrying on jogging three times a week and am going to pilates tonight. God help me.

I was always that child who pretended to be ill to get out of exercising at school, pressing my head against a radiator to make me feel feverish and limping to fake a sprained ankle 'I think it might be broken Miss!' so as you might guess, exercise does not come naturally to me. But because I've worked out that it gives me the chance to be unbearably smug, I now throw myself into it whole heartedly. Sometimes too wholeheartedly, as my crooked back would tell you if it could talk. Actually it probably wouldn't say that, it would probably just groan and ask for a hot water bottle.

Apart from the back issue, it's been a great weekend. I went out for drinks with the work lot on friday, dressed in a shockingly bad wig to be Uma Therman in Pulp Fiction, got far too drunk on Tesco gin and tonic in a can, gave strangers on a train cupcakes and got lost walking back from the station at about 1.30 in the morning. Saturday I went to a friend's Halloween party dressed as a bright green demon magician and got face paint EVERYWHERE (thank god she put dust sheets all over her gorgeous designer furniture!), Then finally yesterday we hosted an afternoon halloween tea for the kids in my family (and some big kids too). My gorgeous godson AG was particularly enthralled by mine and the lad's costumes and showed off his new skills at walking and chewing place mats. He's at that brilliant stage where 'peek-a-boo' is still the funniest thing in the world, and he's just learnt that crawling away really fast is a fun way to escape family occasions. Brilliant child.

On that note Reader, I'm off to go and sort out my costume tonight, must NOT let the trick or treater's down!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Solitary traveller...

Reader, travelling alone is not my idea of a great time. I like sharing experiences, having someone to natter with and share bags of boiled sweets with on the train journey. Also, I get vaguely nervous when I travel solo, largely because I'm so dappy things are certain to go abysmally astray. To be honest, I spend roughly 87.5% of my life convinced that a big man in an ugly tie will come and tell me off at any minute and travelling alone seems to aggravate that fear.

I think everyone has that to an extent, that feeling that if they check your ticket, they'll realise that you've done something terribly wrong and you actually owe them three kazillion pounds. Well, if that had happened to me on the trip I took yesterday, I would certainly not be able to pay as I'd spent the last of my pennies on trashy books for the trip (mainly, I regret to say, about vampires. No, not twilight. Some weird rip off, which is sort of worse really isn't it?) and a family sized bag of peanut M&M's (I am a traveller who firmly believes that without chocolate, no trip is truly complete..).

The thing is, when you travel with someone else, it's a bit of an adventure getting things wrong, something you can laugh about later in that smug 'we had a shared life experience' sort of way. Whereas when you're alone, you just want to go 'look, I'm a kid, I think it's really unfair that you're being so mean to me' before you realise that obviously you're not a child, you're 23, which is plenty old enough to take responsibility for your actions. Bugger.

And even if the whole travelling malarkey doesn't end up with you in jail having uncomfortable conversations about your return ticket to Little-Bums-On-Sea, it's still all so expensive! £30 return? For three hours on a smelly train filled with impeccably boring men in suits? For that I'd at least like a gin and tonic in a proper glass. And a guaranteed seat. I had to practically knock out a woman with a pram to get mine!

Then of course there's the staying in a strange place bit. If I'd have been there with someone else, we'd have gone for dinner, played some kind of 'murder in the dark' game, cuddled up against the freezing country air and generally had a few larks. Whereas, as a solitary traveller, I was painfully aware that a) I was a young girl all alone b) In the middle of nowhere, opposite a big scary hay barn and c) wasn't that what happened in Psycho? The strangeness of the B&B I was in added to the nerves. Within ten minutes of getting there I'd found a conker in a small china pot with an elastic band and a tiny key, a book on prince William, the most old school tv I'd come across in years and lamp that seemed to have screaming faces growing out of it's china base. It probably didn't help that it's quite near Halloween and I just watched Paranormal Activity 3 this week. Or that Mum showed me all this stuff about a local poltergeist haunting that happened just down the road from where we live. I have a seriously overactive imagination, so hearing so much about ghosties and then going off to stay in a creaky old farmhouse was probably not the best idea. Especially since my room didn't appear to have a lock.

I'd sort of decided that I was going to make the best of things and try and make it a mini-holiday, but that didn't really work out. All the sugar I ate gave me funny hyperactive palpitations, I forgot my conditioner and I over moisturised, so I kept sliding off surfaces.Then I couldn't get to sleep, but my eyes felt so tired I couldn't read the small print of my crap book, so I spent most of the night tweeting and checking how my stuff on Ebay was doing (when I could get signal, which had to involve standing on the bed with my arm above my head, or crouched in one specific corner)Three hours sleep I had Reader. And worst of all, when I finally got up at 5am (!!!) the only cerials they had were ones designed to do things to old people's bowels. Hideous. The taxi's are different in the countryside as well. I got charged for the taxi's journey to come get me! I mean, how unfair is that? I defo couldn't do living in the sticks. I'd miss easy, cheap travel too much! I suppose I'd have to learn to drive. And take up gardening. And learn how to make my own clothes. Food is almost always tastier in the countryside too, so I'd almost certainly get fat and start wearing overalls.

Speaking of getting fat, there'll be another cake blog entry next week, so keep your eyes peeled! Am actually making cakes today (between jobs, reading to small children and selling wine to adults, must try to not get the two confused) as a sort of bonus for my workmates if they agree to coming in dressed up in halloween costumes tomorrow. I'm not sure it'll work, I may actually be the only one who comes in fully attired in costume. That would be a bit cringe. Let's hope they dress up!

Off to read to chiddlers I go!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Oh dear...

Reader, I just woke up to my mum popping her head round the door to let me know the cat had pooped all over the carpet and since she was running late for work, the task of cleaning it fell to me. And a text telling me that coffee with a friend was off due to illness. Not the best start to a day I've ever had. Now, if it was a day off, this wouldn't bother me quite so much. But I'm off to work at 11, so my morning is precious to me. I somewhat feel like I should try and force it better by having a a big greasy fry up in a builders cafe, but the thought of sitting there alone in my fake fur shovelling chips and beans into my gob is slightly sordid for some reason. If it was any other week, I'd go 'sod it!' and take the day off, hide under my covers, only appearing for a bout of SATC and possibly a trip to the shop to get ingredients for bangers and mash, but I seriously need the money at the moment.

 Next week am travelling to Newbury to do some supporting actor work (AKA prancing round in the background in a maids cap, I think it would be called being an extra if it wasn't for the fact that there are so few of us in the series), and because they'll want us on set at 7am, I'll have to stay over the night before in a B and B. Now this does mean that technically, that's my whole wage for the day gone on getting down there, but it's a great experience being on set, and I feel like by getting to know the process of filming for a tv show, I won;'t be so nervous if I get a part on one (hope hope plead plead). But as I was saying, it's going to leave me out of pocket, especially as I won't get paid for it for two months. Then we have Halloween (which will mean buying bits for my costume and booze),  followed by Christmas, which means buying for my 33 family members and close friends. Oh god. I need to earn more than what I currently do! Maybe I should turn to prostitution, that one off the telly that Billie Piper played was well in the money. But then I'd have to see hairy greasy men naked, eurgh. Maybe not. What else earns loads of money in a short amount of time? Drug trials? But then I could feasibly die, so slightly risky. Selling my hair? But then I'd be back to the Harry Potter crop, gah.

Looks like I'll just have to win the lottery. I hate dealing with money Reader, it stresses me out no end. I was clearly made to be the heir of a huge fortune who doesn't have to give a toss about bills and things. Although I bet the more money you have the harder it is, because the bigger the bills get. There's no winning!

So what else has been going on of late? I've finally done some work on getting my showreel edited (more expense! Argh!), and the other day I filmed a video blog (which I'm trying to figure out how to put together, or even make just one file. I am not good at electrickery...). Work is dull at the moment, it's the slow period before Christmas (when hopefully there'll be a massive rush on wine and we'll all be up to our necks in freebies and commission). Luckily, I like my co-workers, they're pretty much the best part of the job!

I've been very nostalgic of late because we're having such a beautiful Autumn, and that always reminds me of being at school during the harvest festival and seeing the stage in the assembly hall piled with tins and us all singing 'Autumn days when the grass is jewelled and the silk inside a chestnut shell, jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled and A WIN FOR MY HOME TEAM' (you have to shout that last bit). It slightly makes me want to go back to church, because I'm sure you'd get a sense of that, only instead of a portly head teacher it would be a priest or a vicar talking about the joys of autumn and reading st. Paul's letter to the Corinthians (was it just my schools that always read that out?). I remember my school used to have this logo that I've never understood 'Zeal with Truth'. I mean really, what on earth does that mean? Be energetically honest? What nonsense. 'Work hard, eat your greens' would be better. Or 'We know what you're up to' for the more suspicious teachers. Primary school was a really mixed experience for me, I was quite badly bullied but it was a great school on the whole. We got taught how to sew and had a teacher who used to play us The Hobbit as we worked. Every year there'd be an art competition where you had to paint flowers, sponsored by the local florist, and at Christmas there'd be a service in the local church called 'Christdingle' where we'd all walk round in the darkened room with oranges that had sweets on sticks poking out of them and a really big candle. They'd light the candles (bit dangerous) then the whole room would sing carols in the glow of children's faces lit up by fire. It was actually lovely, although I remember when I'd left and my little brother was doing it, we were in abject fear because the girl in front of him had long hair and we were convinced he'd set it alight...

Ahhhhh memories (in the corner of my miiiiiiind)
On that note reader, I'm off to indulge my greasy breakfast craving!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Party girl...

Reader, I think my party girl side is coming out again. Now, this sounds a bit poncy, but it's true, since I left my BA I haven't really wanted to go party, mainly because (I think anyway) for the past two years I was doing my MA at drama school, and frankly, no one has the energy to do a full schedule of actor's training every day and then go out on the razz (unless they're on drugs, not a fabulous idea for actors, but it happens. I have friends who manage to do 20 hour days for most of the week thanks to some serious pill dropping, but their acting? Sub par.)

But now that my days are a lot less stressful, I'm finding that the urge to go party the night away is slowly coming back, a few drinks out with the workmates on Fridays are getting later each week, I keep veering towards sparkly clothes in Topshop (although there are so many 12 year olds in there that I'm starting to worry that I'm a bit old for it!), and the biggest sign that my inner night owl is coming out is that I woke up completely hangover free! It was that fantastic moment when you open one eye and try to gauge how  ill you'll feel if you turn over to grab a glass of water, and then realise that actually, you feel so good you could do the whole night again but with more dancing. It's one of my favourite things to happen but also a very dangerous thing, because it also makes me think that I can do it 3 times a week, then 2 weeks later I end up feeling very sorry for myself, with nausea only doritos and diet coke will help, out of money and with a few tragically awful  memories (or lack thereof). Anyone remember the time I vommed on that really cute blokes shoes? I don't, but he told me all about it. And never tried to chat me up again. Or the time I did a really sexy pole dance move in the local student club and knocked a girls bag out of her hands with my foot? Yeah. Party girl Ash is fun for most of the time, but after a while? She makes Sober Ash feel a bit cringe. Which is quite handy really, because it means that I can keep her under wraps for the majority of the year! I like to let my hair down a bit though, which is quite handy seeing as my lovely workmates go out nearly every friday to our local pub. Last night was no exception, although am clearly a major lightweight, after 4 drinks, I was practically falling over, was at home in bed by midnight and I'm pretty sure I showed off my 'hip hop dance'. Don't ask. Great fun though. Roll on next friday!

Today I have a day of cooking ahead, as am catering a rehearsed reading (that I'm also acting in, hurrah!) and  am making bread from scratch and two kinds of cake and a wheat free muffin (eep!). If I can work out how to use the camera on my phone, I may even turn it into a video blog entry. No promises though, Me and technology don't get along too well.

And on that note, I'm away to do something constructive! Like work out how to make bread rise! (eep!)


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Another cake day, another cake blog entry...

Well, the response from my entry on mine and SJ's cake exploits has been fantastic (thank you all for your messages and tips!) so we've decided to make it a semi-regular occurrence! This may mean that by the end we'll be as fat as hippos (hippopotomi? That sounds vaguely sciency.) but will be delightful degrees of fun. And guess what? We did another one this week!

So here it is

ASH AND SJ'S SOHO/COVENT GARDEN AUTUMN CUPCAKE SHOP ROUND UP! (bit of a long title but oh well...)


First and foremost, I think it's important to point out that we love Patisserie Valerie. It's not only pretty, but it's cosy. And they do really pretty pastries, which we've really enjoyed in the past (indeed, as much as we love love love cupcakes, when we went in it was all we could do to not gobble up their flaky goodness instead).
And when we saw this cupcake, we were just as excited. I mean, look at it. It's blue. It has a white chocolate star on it for crying out loud. Someone's casually but professionally drizzled a cheeky bit of chocolate over it. Even the paper casing had a little frill. It was a bit like seeing a fittie on the tube that you know is a bit out of your league but is looking at you with sultry eyes none the less. But like in that situation, you know that there must be something slightly off, like an STD or a girl's dodgily tattooed on their bum that sours the deal. After all, surely something that looks that good can't taste as fabulous? It's like a trap or something.

And in this case, our theory was right. When we ordered it, our server looked a bit shocked, like 'Seriously? You only want one? You're crazy...' Which was a pretty great way of up-selling because a) we felt instantly guilty and b) we thought that meant that the cake would be so good we'd want way more. But we managed to resist. Now, it is also important to point out that we didn't actually know what the flavour of cupcake was when we got it. Our choice was made by going 'oohh blue, pretty!'. The cakes weren't clearly labelled, not that there was much in the way of choice of colours anyway. When we tasted it, we were both confused as heck. I tasted what I thought might be lemon, SJ picked out a grape flavour, but we were both in agreement that it was sickly as anything. The server was the one that told us what it was supposed to taste like, but neither of us could actually taste any blueberry in the icing. The sponge was almost brioche-like, on the verge of savoury, which turned out to be a good thing because if the icing had been any sweeter we'd have lost teeth. It balanced it slightly. Because of the sickly nature of the icing, it would benefited from some fresh fruit like bitter blueberries rather than chocolate as a decoration to offset the sweetness. We agreed that we'd probably not have been able to finish a whole cake ourselves, and we're pretty greedy.

So although the cake was aright, it didn't set us on fire like some have in the past. A resounding 'MEH' for Patisserie Valerie! In the end, it got 20 and a half out of thirty.


SJ had sent me a link before we'd set off, that led to the Crumbs and Doilies website. I've got to say, I was pretty excited. They seemed passionate about their cakes, a passion that I recognised pretty darn well. And I loved the sound of their cake flavours. I mean, who could possibly have a problem with salted caramel right? And when we got there, we were excited to see that they had a seasonal cake. Pumpkin and cream cheese! How twee! How fabulously autumnal! With visions of smokey bonfire flavours and that lovely sharp tang you get with pumpkin flavours, we dug in our pockets for the £2 required (a little steep for a stall cupcake, but it sounded so great we thought it would be a bargain). The guy running the stall hadn't actually tried it yet, but was about to sink his teeth into one as we arrived. We can only wonder what his response to it was. 

But before we talk about flavour, we have to mention a bit of a pet peeve of ours you may have noticed from our previous blog entry. No box. Ok, so they included a paper doily. Which was a nice touch, but the paper doily was no excuse for the cake being just put in a plastic wrapping (not even a flat bottomed bag!) so we had to carry it around all day like a bleedin' newborn. Luckily the cream didn't smoosh up in the wrapping. 

Right, now we've got that out of the way, we need to move on to the next problem. It looked a bit boring. Which isn't a massive issue, because grown up, boring looking cupcakes can be seen as elegant (although we prefer ones that look like cartoon pictures by a five year old, with lots of glitter and nicely piped icing). But this one had icing that had clearly just been spooned on and some half hearted pistachio (why not pumpkin seeds by the by, it would have kept with the theme far more!). It looked like the cupcake equivalent to water crackers. Yeah they're minimalist, but we prefer sparkles thanks. Or at least a small flag.

On the taste side of things, we actually had to double check what the flavour was. We'd been really excited about this one, thinking it was a truly unusual flavouring. But firstly, the 'cream cheese' frosting, didn't taste anything like cream cheese. It tasted like soap. We decided that this was probably down to too much icing sugar being used, an easy mistake to make but it was cloying and quite unpleasant. The cake itself tasted of carrot cake, so much so in fact that we got SJ's sister to come and do a blind tasting so we could see what she thought. Like us, she was pretty sure it was carrot cake. Which was nice for her, she loves carrot cake. But since we were expecting pumpkin flavours, we were seriously unimpressed. Saying that, even though the cake had been carried around all day, it still tasted fresh, with great texture. Overall we gave it 13/30. It would have got more if we'd thought it was a carrot cake, but Reader, it lied. IT. LIED. 


Oh. My. God. We want to live in The Hummingbird Bakery. We want to bathe in the Hummingbird Bakery icing. We frankly, quite like it.

Walking in, the décor was lush. It was like seeing where good cupcakes go after they die. Lovely wallpaper, a calming atmosphere, a glowing pregnant woman behind the till. And the cakes! Wow. They looked like you could have got them from Tiffany's, like they were carved from clouds. They were a bit pricey, but for what looked like luxury items, it was a brilliant deal. Plus, even though we personally ate in, we noticed that they provided individual cake boxes should we have wanted them. Heaven! 

The choices were sensational, but we decided on the caramelised nut flavour because it looked so shiny and it was the 'Taste of The Day'. The nuts were golden in their caramel casing, the icing fluffy and soft. When we cut it in two, the sponge slid apart like Moses parting the sea. And the taste. Oh man. The taste was so glorious that it left us speechless, our eyes wide like saucers. It passed SJ's goosebump taste. They were so wonderful that they made us think of childhood Christmases, sugar plum fairies and  bedtime stories about royal banquets. They were really generous with the icing and nuts and in the buttercream, there were tiny flakes of caramel which melted on the tongue with an electrifying crackle. And best of all, although the icing was super sweet, it managed to not be sickly! For the first time, we awarded a cake 10/10 for price, and it ended up only being marked down on price (because it was pretty pricey) and staff (because they didn't really make any effort with us).


When we first talked about doing a cake blog in SoHo, the sin district of London, Cox, Cookies and Cakes was one we knew we had to try. We'd walked past it many times and had seen the queues of people buying rude cakes and the dance beats streaming from it. Patrick Cox, the fabulous shoe designer, started the firm, and we are so so glad we did. Cox Cakes is like the Sex and the City of the cupcake world. It's risqué, camp, urban and utterly charming. When we walked in, we were greeted by the (frankly adorable) server who donned a pvc studded apron and made great recommendations. Unfortunately, they were out of their famous mint chocolate c**k cakes, so we decided to go for a banoffee man cake instead. It was gorgeously decorated with fudge bits around it and the pink chocolate torso poking salubriously out of the saucy icing. We were slightly outraged at the £4 price-tag but our shock was MUCH lessened when the server told us we got a free hot coco each for eating in, served elegantly in tall shot glasses. If you look at it that way, for two drinks and a cake, £4 seems paltry. The cream was particularly wonderful, whipped cream cheese tasting with a buttery edge. We couldn't taste much in the way of banana, but we didn't really care. The cake had style, it tasted wonderful and the texture was to die for, and just eating in the shop was an out of this world experience. Patrick Cox is one of our new heroes, he's clearly put his stamp on the place and we're so glad he did. At 27/30, he was our winner for the day (and props to the server, who got the place a score of 10/10 for staff!)

Plus of course, I was even tempted into bringing a cake back for the lad, which he hugely enjoyed...Bravo Cox, Cookies and Cakes. Your naughty cakes have brought joy into our hearts and fat into our arteries.


As you might recall Reader, we are very interested in finding a cake that's more available to the masses nationally, one that you can try whether you live in London or Liverpool. So we always make sure we test a high street variety. This week, we decided upon Gregg's. After all, they make a damn fine cheese and onion pasty, so why wouldn't they make great cupcakes? We were excited by the prospect of the chocolate and chilli cakes in particular, with thoughts in our minds of the glorious film Chocolat and Heston's brilliant creations. Then, we noticed that there was a special deal on where you could also get the Halloween cupcakes (in orange and purple) for 70p a cupcake! So, loving a good deal as we do, we got one of each.

Reader, we've never been so gutted over a cupcake before.

The service, first and foremost was dreadful. The server didn't know what cakes we were talking about, nor about the deal, then tried to shove them into a far too small paper bag (they're cream topped for crying out loud!) before we intervened and begged him to put them in a box. From the way he acted you'd think it was the maddest idea ever.

Now when we got them home, we got the chance to really look at them. Well, the past the pretty test at least. They were nicely piped, unusually decorated and we liked the novelty of the colours and flavour ideas. That's about where the good things end.

We'll start with the lesser of two evils, the Orange Halloween cupcake. Well, for a child, who likes bright things, this cupcake might work. But the icing is acidic tasting and extremely artificial, with a sharp overly sherberty taste to it. If we were kids, this was a cake that would probably have ended up mashed in our hair rather than settled in our bellies. The sponge was slightly salty and dry and even the gummy worm on top tasted of bland sadness. Saying that, it might keep a child entertained for a few seconds. And at 70p, it's not that big a deal if they don't eat it. We wouldn't recommend trying it though, it tasted of cheap penny sweets, the kind that you find at the very bottom of the cinema pick n mix bag after you've eaten all the gummy worms and quality street and you can't remember why you got them, because they even LOOK poisonous.

 And now for the second one. Reader, a cupcake has never made me feel physically sick before. This one did. The cake was ridiculously hard to cut, which is never a good sign. And as soon as we put the thing in our mouths, the reaction was visceral. Words like 'argh!' 'No!' and 'Wrong!' were bandied around. We could only compare the flavour to a misguided pizza attempt, or mouldy monster munch. Not only did the cake contain chocolate and chilli, but also red pepper and lime (???) and for some reason, the makers had decided that rather than combining the chocolate and chilli in the sponge and then making like a chocolate chilli ganache for the icing, the'd make a dry, almost sandy chocolate sponge with an icing of chilli, red pepper and lime. It was so wrong. Naughty Gregg's. Naughty. 70p may be cheap, but it got 0/10 on our scale. Why? Because you should have been paying US to eat that monstrosity. In fact, it was so awful that our faces couldn't even possibly show how terrible it was. We had to ask a friend's cat to come and do it for us. So here are our scores, and Oscar the Cat's reaction on our behalf.

Next time on our cake travels, we'll be testing Department stores in London for their cake stakes!

Sugary kisses
Ash and SJ
X           X

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A week to weep in

Reader, a truly terrifying thing happened at the beginning of this week. My younger brother went off to uni. Now, this was scary for a number of reasons.

1) He left his room a complete and utter pit. My brother is the sort of teenager who owns t-shirts that can stand up on their own, shoes that even the cat won't rub itself up against, empty casserole dishes that he's used to make a sort of supernoodle-pasta-bake and then never taken out of his dwelling and random receipts for cheese puffs and cigars just thrown everywhere. Since he left, we've been in a fit of cleaning, which has taken a whole week and still leaves a lot to be desired.

2) To my knowledge, when he left he'd never a) cooked himself a meal with veggies that weren't previously frozen and b) had yet to work out how to use the washing machine and tumble drier. However, somehow, the day he got there, he helped his new housemates make a veggie curry. Which he ate. He has also never eaten anything I've ever made with veggies in. And when mum called earlier he couldn't talk because he 'had a wash on'. OMFG,

3) For a Lahndahn lad, he's not very streetwise. He went out jogging at 2am once and got pelted with eggs. Yeah. I know.

4) He has never had to properly budget before, apart from 'what shall I spend my Christmas money on? Games? But which games? Ah the decisions!'

5) He's not the most organised lad in the world. He famously once got kicked off a train in Bristol, and had his ticket taken off him because he didn't think he needed his young person's railcard as proof. He's also lost so many oyster cards, we were pretty sure somewhere, someone was taking full advantage of his student discount (of course, we then found all 3 cards in his room while cleaning it...)

6) The scariest thing of all though, was that I thought I'd be massively cool with him going. 'Peace and quiet!' I thought. 'Heaven!' I was looking forward to coming home to a clean house, no one interrupting my TOWIE watching time, and nicking any treats I got myself from the fridge. I was pretty sure I'd be waving him off with a skip in my step and a song in my heart. But the second I hugged him goodbye, I started welling up. After all, he may be 6'2 and built like a boxer, but he's still my baby brother and the thought of him having to be a grown up was pretty devastating. I managed to hold myself together until he got into the car, then flood of tears set in. The Lad, cruelly, thought it would help the little bro to see that I was sad to see him go, so picked me up (in my dressing gown might I add) and dragged me into the road. Tosser. I'm dealing with it a lot better now, especially since we've had frequent calls from the brother telling us what a fab time he's having and how much he loves uni and his housemates. Plus, he's coming back this friday, which I think probably means he needs money.

After all the stress, it was lucky that my mother, my nan and I had planned to go to a health spa. It was largely for my gran's birthday (but also somewhat of a treat for me and mum, let's face it) and woah. Pure awesome. We had three days of being pampered in the luxurious surroundings of Ragdale Hall, where we were massaged, moisturised, sauna'd and steamed within an inch of our lives. We literally didn't have to lift a single finger for the duration of our stay (apart from to ask for more butter for our home made bread at dinner). While we were there, it was proved, yet again, what a hilarious lady my Grandmother is. She's an Irish lady, and while I'm not at liberty to disclose her age, just be advised that she looks fantastic for her years. And she's hysterical. She came out with some complete classics during the stay, so for your reading pleasure, here are a few of them.

1) On the way there, we stopped off in a rest stop for lunch and some magazines. My nan went 'Oh, Ash, I'll get you some sweets', Me: 'Don't worry about it nan, I'm fine, really', 'Oh no, I'll get you some, just a couple', 'Really Nan, I'm fine, I don't want to pile on weight while we're there', 'I'm getting them now!' When we got to the room, she told us that she didn't want any, and made us take big handfuls, before popping them in her bedside cabinet. Then, as soon as the lights went out for bed, we heard a rustling noise. She was only dipping into them when she thought we wouldn't notice! Well, I know where I get that from now.

2) On the first night, we popped on the telly. The first thing on was a sort of 'accident and emergency' reality show/documentary and at that moment there was a bloke on who'd 'fallen' onto a loo brush. Bristles first. Just as the nurse was saying how cringe it all was, my nan piped up with 'Was it as part of a game?'. I could only reply with 'Yes Nan. Well, sort of.'

3) My nan is a very generous woman, and as the car was being loaded up, she was in the gift shop trying to find a pressie for my little cousin Daisy. I went to fetch her and she said 'Oh, good, I was just trying to find you a little bracelet as a present'. Knowing that she's actually on rather a tight income, and noticing that the gift shop was VASTLY over priced, I wouldn't let her get me one, but she was so determined that she started pointing out everything in the shop, going 'Do you want that?'. Including a dummy set (she thought it was a key ring), a pair of men's slippers and at one point, an ornamental statue that wasn't for sale. Bless her.

4) She's also a woman who knows the brilliance of good luggage. When she opened up her (three!) bags, she showed us the many other bags inside them she'd decanted all of her things into as a form of organisation. My nan loves a good bag. This resulted in much hilarity. On the first day, she lost a bag in between all the other bags. On the next, she got worried that the cleaning lady would sit on her bags, or move them, so she made a sort of bag mountain behind the table. On the last day, she realised that she somehow had one extra plastic bag, so she spent ages deliberating on how to put it to best use, before placing a single water bottle in it and looking immensely pleased with herself. She then proudly put the little plastic bag next to all the luggage for the bellboy to take down, before we told her that it would probably make his life a bit difficult and she grudgingly put it inside one of the main bags.

It was, all in all, a brilliant few days. Which made it especially hard to come back home, especially since the day after the day after we got back, I came down with the most dreadful flu, that had me stuck in bed all day, surrounded by kleenex and day nurse. Luckily, it was only a 24 hour thing and now I only have a bad case of the sniffles. Helped along by a lot of banana loaf and a day of board games with The Lad and two of our wonderful friends from university.

Ok Chaps, that's all for now!
Hope you're enjoying this mad October sun we're having!