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5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam… or in praise of crooked houses

3 Apr

5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam

So this is my mini guide to Amsterdam. Well, sort of. If you want to know about vegan food, a cat shelter on a houseboat and my now favourite flea market, skip to halfway down this post. Ignore the other stuff.

You’re still here? Ok, well, this is the bit where I have a who am I moment while looking at a crooked house. I entirely blame (and thank) Elizabeth Gilbert for that.

Or at the very least, I blame/thank her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear for that moment.

My sister mentioned this book to me first. She’s an actress, so creative living is her bread and butter. Dealing with fear (her tales of auditions give me the shivers) is all part of the job. While she was telling me about this book, we were sitting on the Overground train in London and a stranger – a Londoner even – came up to say that she had also loved this book. It’s some book that can break the first rule of London travel: do not speak to strangers.

Then at Blook Club, the wonderful Jo mentioned Big Magic too (and later wrote this fab post). Everyone should read it, she said. The first chapters are a bit hard going but then there’s so many ah-ha moments, it really changes how you see things. (I’m badly paraphrasing here as she said it much more eloquently, passionately and succinctly than this.)

After two hardcore recommendations, I decided I’d listen to the Audiobook. I had a credit on my Audible account so why not…

And yes, the first chapters weren’t my thing but they were interesting. And sort of infuriating.

But then, I reached the chapters about fear. How everyone has fears, and why fear is boring. Oh so very boring. And I did a sharp intake of breath listening to all this (probably freaking out my fellow commuters) because, oh boy, did I identify. Weird how sometimes it takes someone else’s words to identify the things you’ve been thinking.

So here’s my confession – I used to write stories, screenplays and novels (I’ve even shot a short film with the BBC, had a TV show I wrote turned into an experiential play and been published by Penguin). Since moving to London, I stopped doing that. Why? Because it’s scary. Scary to invest the time. Scary to find the time. Scary to try. Scary not to try. Scary to fail. You get the idea… and she’s right, it’s kind of boring when you write it all down.

So Big Magic really struck a chord. A big loud ping of a chord. A sometimes high-pitched, teeth-clenching chord but heard all the same. Especially when I reached a chapter called In Praise of Crooked Houses. I can summarise the whole chapter as ‘done is better than perfect’ or ‘no-one will die if you create something that’s meh’.

And wandering down the canals of Amsterdam – yes, there is a connection I promise – another thought hit me. That crooked houses are not just imperfect, they’re somewhat magical. 

5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam

I mean, how on earth are they still standing? They defy every logic going, which is why they’re so wonderful.

And looking at them, I had a moment of recognition.

It turns out that I have of late been thinking of myself and the things I want to do as a crooked house, focusing on imperfections and that falling or failing feeling. It’s a tiring thing to do.

So scary or not, I’m going to get writing again. It feels a little wonky, a little lop-sided right now, but hopefully there’s crazy logic-defying beauty in there too. We’ll see.

Back to Amsterdam… I think any city that can make you see things differently will always win a place in your heart. It might not be so transformative for you but any place that helps you to give a damn about things again is pretty special.

So here’s my 5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam…

  1. Houseboats
    Any city where you can stay on a cosy, cool boat is all good by me. We booked
    this gorgeous houseboat not far from the train station… and were smitten with it. Even in early March, it was properly snug (I can promise it really was as I’m totally adverse to being cold) and had some of the best sleeps we’d had in ages.

    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam 5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam

  2. Thrifty finds
    Forget the obvious ‘attractions’ of Amsterdam, you come here for the shopping. In particular, you come here for IJ Hallen – the biggest flea market in Europe. If the houseboat hadn’t already got us contemplating a move to Amsterdam, this place certainly did. We took the early morning ferry to the flea market – which was also a great way to get a very different view of Amsterdam. And then we wandered from stall to stall, trying not to fall for something we couldn’t get home. In the end, we of course found something that was tricky to travel with – a vintage school map of Denmark. (Which caused some confusion at the airport as to whether we could use a roll-up map as a weapon or not… Luckily, they decided not!).

    5 damn reasons to visit Amsterdam
    5 damn reasons to visit Amsterdam
    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam
    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam
    Another favourite was Kitsch Kitchen. Again had me wishing we lived here just so I could visit this shop more often. It’s possibly the happiest shop I’ve ever been in – selling bright coloured oil cloths, every kind of pinata you could ever want, Mexican cooking supplies, pencil sharpeners shaped like tiny irons, and vibrant blankets. It was here we found our Mexican blanket that we nearly had to fight someone to get. (Fight is a bit of an exaggeration – but someone did try to take the blanket out of my hands, and then looked super annoyed when it was clear that we were buying it!)

    Shopping tips in Amsterdam Shopping tips for Amsterdam, Holland
    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam
    Other shops we loved were: Wildernis (one of the best plant shops I have ever been in),  All The Luck in the World (super accessories and homeware in an utterly Instagrammable shop), Blond Amsterdam (for modern twists on Dutch pottery), Anna + Nina (beautiful jewellery and pants, yes pants!), and the amazing A Space Oddity (essentially your inner child will lose its shit in here as there’s every sort of collectable toy, from Star Wars originals to Transformers to She-Ra).

  3. Vegan food

    Amsterdam is a pleasantly vegan-friendly city. Our first night, we visited the super friendly Terra Zen where we had the vegan plate and the Jamaican plate – and forgot to take any pics as we tucked in, so we have no visual evidence of it being good but it was. For our first lunch, we hit up De Bolhoed where the other half had a croissant stuffed with tofu curry! Sounds strange but was amazing. This place also got bonus points from us for having a resident big fluffy ginger cat.

    Vegan eats in Amsterdam
    Eating vegan in Amsterdam
    Eating vegan in Amsterdam

    Other favourites included: Sharp Sharp vegan treats from Mastino Pizza (which also does vegan cheese pizzas),  Soup en Zo for amazing vegan soups with a huge chunk of bread (there’s a few of these in Amsterdam so they’re good for a quick lunch), Vegabond for smoothies and dairy-free treats, and breakfast at CT coffee & coconuts.

    Eating vegan in Amsterdam 5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam Eating vegan in Amsterdam

    And a special shout-out to the It’s Not a Dog popcorn hummus vegan hotdog at Bulls and Dogs because it was a thing of ridiculousness but in a good way.

  4. Cats

    If you’re a cat fan, then Amsterdam has a few special attractions just for you – De Poezen Boot (a cat shelter on a boat) and De Kattenkabinet (a museum dedicated entirely to cats, yes really). The cat shelter is a lovely place that’s only open for a few hours a day when you can go in and meet the residents – or watch them get argy bargy with the swans outside. (A cat hissing at a swan while the swan hisses back is certainly nothing I’d seen before!)

    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam
    Five damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam
    5 damn good reasons to go to Amsterdam

    And the Cat Cabinet museum… well, this is possibly the weirdest place I have ever been in my life. It’s debatable if it’s worth the entry fee but inside you’ll find an old Dutch house, decorating in framed pictures of cat photos, cat advertising, cat posters, cat signs, cat statues, even a really creepy cat costume. It’s supremely weird. It feels like you’re in Miss Havisham’s house, if she really, really liked cats. In the shop downstairs, they sell replicas of the best stuff, with thankfully no replica creepy costume.

    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam 5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam

  5. The craziness

    You can’t visit Amsterdam without a mention of the craziness that is Amsterdam.

    – There’s more bikes than cars and you really feel like you might get run over any moment being a pedestrian. (I think the pecking order is: bikes, cars, then pedestrians.). You even see people cycling while texting, holding flowers or even children.

    – You can visit a floating flower market – which although very touristy is still lots of fun. (If you’ve read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, it totally reminded me of the floating market in that with a little bit less craziness.)

    – They have a car park that looks like the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Yes, a car park. We see your world class museum and raise you a car park.

    – The Vincent Van Gogh museum which has a portrait of the artist as Donald Duck. It’s also an amazing, informative and well-curated museum but one that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

    – Oh and you can wear A LOT of pink here and no-one will blink an eye. I know, I tried it.

    5 damn reasons to visit Amsterdam
    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam
    5 damn reasons to visit Amsterdam   5 damn reasons to visit Amsterdam 5 damn reasons to visit Amsterdam
    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam
    5 damn good reasons to visit Amsterdam

How to be a happy herbivore… or 14 fun things I discovered on going vegan

1 Nov

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

I used to think vegans were weird.

Then I became one of them.

And now the thing that’s weird is that I didn’t do it earlier.

I wish I had but like lots of choices in life, it’s only for you when you’re for it. (Like getting married or learning to like olives.)

In the run-up to going vegan, I read and watched some pretty pivotal (for me) books and documentaries. They made the decision more definite.

But once I was vee-goned… as well as feeling healthier and happier, there was a whole lot more to discover. Happy herbivore stuff. Like where to buy the best vegan donuts, how to find stylish vegan shoes, and who does the best vegan eyeliner.

So, for anyone considering going vegan, here’s my 14 fun things I discovered in my first months as a vegan…

1. Cooking so good you can swear by it. Yes, I discovered Thug Kitchen. The wonderfully sweary, all vegan cook book has some of the best things I have EVER eaten in it. The coconut rice with mango and beans is the most amazing dish ever. You will not regret making it. I swear.

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

2. The best ever ‘mac no cheese’… This recipe by Aine Carlin was a game-changer. It’s actually hard to explain how good it is. It’s proper comfort food without the grease (and extra vitamins too). We made it recently for my meat-loving in-laws and they polished off the whole lot.

3. I don’t miss chocolate or cheese. Honestly. Before going vegan, I’d worried about ‘giving up’ chocolate and cheese. But here’s the thing… you don’t have to. You can buy dark chocolate (which is better for you, double win) or treat yourself to coconut mylk chocolate (a complete revelation for me!). I also discovered Rebel Kitchen, whose chocolate orange mylk is probably meant to be for kids but I’m addicted to it!

4. Happy vegan snacks! There are soooo many wonderfully accidentally vegan snacks, like Love Hearts, Skittles, Starburst, Frazzles, McCoys crisps, Party Rings and Oreos to name but a few. (There’s even this fab Instagram account, Accidentally Vegan UK, dedicated to sharing the ones they find.)
And there’s the brilliantly ‘unaccidentally’ vegan snacks, like wagon wheels from Anandas Marshmallow Confections.

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

5. Vegans love junk food too… because everyone needs a hot dog or a burger every now and then. My favourite so far has been from the Essential Vegan pop-up in Shoreditch (which has popped away now but they’re hopefully opening a real premises soon) and The Waiting Room in Deptford (who do a mean spicy hot dog!).

But you can also get vegan pizza at Pizza Express (it’s called the Pianta), eat vegan at Nandos or at Wagamama, and even have a vegan curry at Wetherspoons.

6. Vegan cake is damn good. Ruby’s of London is my new favourite (they have a stall every week in Greenwich Market). But Ms Cupcake in Brixton is amazing too (the cookie sandwiches are AMAZING). And the cheesecake from VX in Kings Cross. Oh yeah. We’ve also been making vegan brownies at home too. (Yes, there’s a reason the hashtag #whatfatveganseat exists!)

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

7. And then there’s the ice cream too. You can get lovely deliberately vegan ice cream, like Salted Caramel Almond Dream, or go for Walls Swedish Glace which happens to be widely stocked at big supermarkets, be a bargain and vegan too. Again, winning!

8. Epic vegan Bloody Marys are the business. My other half created these Bloody Mary beauties one night and they’ve become a firm favourite ever since.

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

9. Vegan bags are brilliant. I’ll admit here, I used to wonder about vegan bags… I wasn’t going to eat the bag so why did it need to be vegan? (Yeah, I know.) One of the first things I did on going vegan was treat myself to a Matt and Nat bag. (You can find them in lots of local boutiques, but also in Urban Outfitters and online at ASOS too.) I also treated myself to a SkinnyDip bag, again happily vegan. For more vegan bags ideas, I’ve been Pinning away when I find something nice here.

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

10. I put some new shoes on, and suddenly everything’s right. I love shoes. Like more than I really should. And again, it was something I worried about before going vegan. How would I find shoes I love? Quite easily as it happens. Turns out that Urban Outfitters do vegan leather boots. Miss KG does lots of sparkly, shiny shoes that happen to be accidentally vegan too. ASOS even have a ‘non-leather’ filter that you can use to only look at vegan shoes. I even found amazing jelly brogues when I was in Lisbon. They smell of lemons. Yup, they’re very happy shoes.

In fact, lots of high street places have vegan shoes, you just have to check the material symbols on the bottom of the shoes – little diamond shapes are good, little stretched out hide shapes are, eh, not good.  Also, you’ll probably save money too as faux leather tends to be cheaper. Win-win!

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

11. More treats! The Vegan Kind subscription box is now my favourite post of the month. Based in Glasgow, they send out a treats box filled with sweet and savoury snacks (and the occasional beauty or lifestyle product). Through their box, I’ve discovered Lazy Days dairy-free Scottish millionaire shortbread (again stocked in Sainsburys). This shortbread was a hit with the in-laws too!

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

12. Bunny friendly and vegan friendly make-up…  In the first weeks of being vegan, I was doing a lot of thinking about what I ate and this graduated to thinking about what I put on my face. So I did a beauty bag audit. I looked at the ingredients of my products and if they were cruelty-free. (It was shocking how many things I’d assumed were that turned out not to be.)
So I made a pile that I would use up and not buy again – and then when I ran out, I would replace it with something vegan and cruelty-free. So far, my new favourites are Lush’s eyeliner and Soap and Glory’s mascara (as someone who has flicked eyeliner everyday, I’m a harsh critic of eyeliners and mascaras!). But I’ve also discovered Superdrug’s B Makeup which is super affordable and cruelty-free too.

13. It’s even better when there’s two of you. Around the same time that I went vegan, my other half decided he was going to do it too. Since he went vegan, he’s done his first half-marathon and discovered an immense love for veggie Colin the Caterpillars.

14. Micro pigs = maximum fun. It was my birthday recently and my other half took me to meet Charlotte and her friends at Kew Little Pigs. We spent a fun two hours getting to know the little quirky characters. And we got to give them some guilt-free hugs too. (Even though Charlotte wasn’t so sure she wanted a hug from us!)

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

14 fun things I learned on going vegan | Conversation Pieces

For anyone who wants more vegan ideas and recipes, I’ve been Pinning anything I’ve found useful, insightful or just yummy here.

Follow Zoe Pearson’s board INSPIRE: GOING VEGAN on Pinterest.

Or if you want any advice, then I’m happy to help too. It took me a year of figuring things out, doing research and talking about what I wanted to do before I went vegan – so I know it’s not the easiest decision if it’s one you’re thinking about making.

And if anyone has any shoe recommendations or amazing vegan snacks I should try, then I’m all ears.  (And tummy too!)

London is the place for us… the blog post with its own theme tune

3 Jun

photo 2

Last Sunday, we were listening to 6 Music and having a discussion about living in London…

Mainly we were talking about that only one of us was living here full-time (me) and one of us was having to spend half the week in Edinburgh still (him).

It’s not exactly been ideal but we knew it wouldn’t be forever. It’s one of those topics that swings from excited to stressy and back again.

Then this song came on the radio – London is the place for me.

photo 1 (2)

And we both agreed it should be our theme tune for the next while.

(Does anyone else ascribe themselves theme tunes?!)

It’s such a cheerful little ditty, that we’ve been playing it non-stop all week.

So here’s the lyrics plus some random snaps that almost, sort of fit with them in a not really kind of way!

photo 1 (1)

London Is The Place For Me

London this lovely city
You can go to France or America, India, Asia or Australia
But you must come back to London City

photo 2 (1)

Well, believe me, I am speaking broad-mindedly
I am glad to know my mother country
I’ve been to traveling to countries years ago
But this the place I wanted to know

photo 2 (4)

London That’s The Place For Me

To live in London you really comfortable
Because the English people are very much sociable
They take you here and they take you there
And they make you feel like a millionaire
So London that’s the place for me

photo 4

At night when you have nothing to do
You can take a walk down Chapri Avenue
There you will love and talk and enjoy the bridge
And admire the beautiful sceneries
Of London, that’s the place for me

photo 2 (2)

London That’s The Place For Me

Yes, I can not complain of the time I have spend
I mean, my life in London is really magnificent
I have every comfort and every sport
And my residence is that Hampton Court
So London, that’s the place for me

photo 2 (5)

And the happy ending to this post… yes, the other half got offered a new job (in London) so London really is the place for us!

 

1. Snapped in Drink, Shop & Do 2. Skyline from the National Theatre’s pop-up bar 3. Pocket Pops London guide and gold dinosaur 4. Foxes and cherries in Brixton 5. Tiny London skyline street art spotted in Shoreditch 6. Dapper gable end in Deptford 7. Pocket Pops London guide 8. Possibly my favourite street art ever, snapped in Shoreditch (but gone now!) 

Gonna write another travelling song… 6 weeks of London, Edinburgh, Aviemore, Dublin and San Francisco

12 May

london to the highlands.jpg

 6 weeks ago, I moved to London. It seems like no time at all and like forever all at once.

To put it all in perspective (for my own sanity really), here’s the last 42 days in numbers…

  • 400 miles driven to London, with 30 boxes, 2 sideboards, 2 Parker Knoll chairs, 3 suitcases of vintage china.
  • 2 cats transported; number of times they yowled/objected, only 2.
  • 1 flat, left behind, all empty, ready for someone else. 1 flat found, so very different, but falling in love with it anyway.
  • 13,226 miles travelled back to Edinburgh, to Aviemore, to Dublin and, eh, San Francisco. (Yeah, spot the odd one out there.)
  • 55 Underground journeys, 84 Overground journeys, 36 normal trains, 1 boat ride down the Thames and 1 bus journey.
  • 2 weddings attended, 
  • 3 books read on my morning commute, only 1 one of which made me tearful in front of a carriage of people. (Note to self, sad books are not for reading in public.)
  • 28 days without a bed, 42 days without a wardrobe, 41 days without a mirror in the flat, 41 days where I’ve had potentially crazy hair or wonky eyeliner. 
  • 28 days without wifi, spotify, netflix. 42 days without blogging, the longest break I’ve had in 4 years. 
  • 1 day wearing a fake fur coat; 3 days wearing sunglasses and sunscreen; 38 days wearing summer clothes with black tights and winter boots.
  • 1283 photos snapped, 96 of street art, 9 of random neighbourhood cats, 6 of our local fox.
  • 36 hours spent catching up with old friends, 149 hours meeting fantastic new people.
  • Number of times it’s felt odd living in London: 0. 

And for those who prefer pictures to numbers (that’ll be me then), here’s some random snaps of the last 6 weeks.

adventure guide

Adventure Guide…

  neon legs

My neon legs at the Meridian Line…

san fran up and down - convo pieces

 San Francisco… and my shockingly long hair

shard shadow - convo pieces

The shadow of The Shard on a sunny morning…

mindthegap-convopieces

I read a story about the widow of the actor who was the voice of the ‘Mind The Gap’ announcement… one of those beautiful, bittersweet ‘Up’ style stories that makes you smile and sad at the same time.

dear face – convo pieces

 San Fran street art… and the Google bike (which I fell in love with)

photo 5

InstaMax photos of a epically beautiful wedding

london eye - convo pieces

The London Eye snapped from the middle of the Thames (I was on a boat!)

blossom, blue sky - convo pieces

Blossom and blue skies in San Fran

aviemore - convo pieces

Mountains and blue skies in the Highlands

in love with a lamb - convo pieces

Falling in love with a lamb at the Southbank, London

travelling cats - convo pieces

Two cats leaving Edinburgh…

mydreamhadyellowinit-convopieces

Snapping street art in San Fran…

tube... conversation pieces blog

Waiting in the Tube…

wishyoumissedme-convopieces

Bittersweet street art…

courage... conversation pieces blog

Positive advertising…

london sun set - convo pieces

The sun setting on a glorious London day…

new home card - convo pieces

Our first new home card…

P.S. If you’ve been so lovely as to send me a message about meeting for tea/vintage shopping/general hello-ness, I’ll be replying soon!

P.P.S. Extra points if you recognised the title of this blog post was inspired by Bright Eyes’ Another Travelin’ Song. It’s been stuck in my head now for 3 days straight!

P.P.P.S. Photos of me in San Fran by Miss_Glassy.

Dinosaurs, cameras and vintage… a look book & magazine photo shoot

20 Sep

Hannah Zakari shoot with Lauren McGlynn | Conversation Pieces

Some Sundays, you have pancakes for breakfast. Maybe go car booting. Maybe go on a day trip. You know the usual…

Then some Sundays, you find yourself being snapped by the lovely Lauren McGlynn for a lookbook and a magazine.

And what a wonderful Sunday it was too.

If you’ve not come across Lauren before, she’s an American wedding photographer in Scotland, soon to be based in Edinburgh. She’s also all kinds of wonderful. Super talented. And damn good fun to boot.

Typewriter going for a walk from a shoot with Lauren McGlynn | Conversation Pieces

Now, anyone who’s known me/this blog for a while will know that I’ve said I’m not a huge fan of getting my picture taken. Heck, I think I’d even told Lauren that on several occasions. (So I think she was somewhat surprised when I first mentioned the shoot!)

But I’ve learned to let go a bit lately. I just decided to stop being so hard on myself. It’s strange but that’s all it took. Who knew?!

Anyhoo… so Lauren came round to shoot a lookbook for Hannah Zakari. (Possibly one of the sweetest shops in the entire world). I had a stegosaurus print from Hannah Zakari – by the super Robbie Porter – so I’d spray-painted some toy dinosaurs gold to go with it…

Natural History Museum print and sprayed gold dinosaurs | Conversation Pieces

… and then Rachael from Hannah Zakari also gave me this ace brainbow camera necklace to model.

(You can actually look through it which is pretty cute!!)

Zoe and the camera necklace | Conversation Pieces

And at the same time, it so happened that I was writing an article about car boot sales for the ever so pretty 91 Magazine – so I needed a pic or two for that as well. You can read my car booting tales/tips in Issue 4, page 70 onwards – inbetween Anna Weinreich‘s beautiful home and The Seventy Tree‘s Kerry’s super illustrations.

Singer sewing machine in the spare room | Conversation Pieces

So Lauren took shots for both… including in my never seen before on the blog (I think?) spare room. Yes that room that you normally pile all your random stuff in and just close the door when guests come round… yip, that room. That’s my recovered 60s daybed I’m sitting on… one of my prized (furniture) possessions!

Vintage china and tin globes in the kitchen | Conversation Pieces

We even took off a cupboard door in the kitchen… just so you can see what’s inside my kitchen cupboards.

Surprise, surprise, it’s more vintage china!

Juggling gold dinosaurs | Conversation Pieces

And Lauren was polite enough to tolerate me doing lots of silly things like juggling the dinosaurs… and pretending to do the congo with them. (The things you do when you’re nervous!)

  Vintage sideboard and polka dot floor | Conversation Pieces
Oh yes and we took some shots of me with my cameras… It has to be said, I’m giggling in a lot of these. This was my only straight faced one. And why was I giggling so much? Well, because I was taking pictures of Lauren.

Photographer polaroids | Conversation Pieces

Um yeah… there’s a reason Lauren’s the photographer and not me!

Mollie Makes, Japan and me (and tales of a cat cafe!)

1 Sep

So I’m guessing by now most of you know I have a thing for Japan?

Well before we went earlier this year, the lovely Mollie Makes commissioned me to a do piece on crafty, cool and fun places in Tokyo and Kyoto.

As you can imagine I was over the moon… until I realised I was about to do only my second ever photography/write-up piece in one of the most amazing places on Earth. How on earth could I do it justice? (Yes, cue massive stress on my part!)

But I have to say I’m really proud of how the feature has turned out… thank you Mollie Makes for giving me the chance to do this!

As well as my ramblings, you can also read about Ebony from Hello Sandwich who’s photo collage workshop I went to… she’s uber nice, one of those people who instantly makes you feel comfortable, and super crafty in a way I can only admire!

Anyway, the magazine was out yesterday so if you pick it up, let me know what you think! (In a ‘I hope you all really like it’ kind of way!)

Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you might (most likely not really!) remember me saying I took a ridiculous amount of photos in Japan… thousands in fact! Yes, it’s probably my most documented trip EVER. So I wanted to share with you a few things that I didn’t get round to blogging and didn’t end up in the feature… outtakes if you will!

And when I say outtakes, what I really mean is… pictures from the Cat Cafe we went to!

In Shimokitazana (probably my favourite area in Tokyo we went to) as soon as we left the train station, we spotted this sign… cat cafe!

Now I can’t remember if we knew about cat cafes on our first trip but it was on our ‘to do/only in Japan’ list so we decided that now was the time.

So we went up the stairs, opened the door and well, there was a man with a desk who politely told us that you pay by the hour and you pay when you leave (in case you love the cats so much you want to stay longer). Kind of like karaoke but with cats instead! He took our drinks order and then directed us to the cat room…

Now… anyone who has cats knows they quite clearly have a mind of their own, and the cats at the cat cafe were no different. First up, was this guy – ignoring all the comfy bedding put out for him and sleeping in a plastic bowl.

Then there was this noisy powder puff of a cat… yes also ignoring the beds/bedding and napping in a box.

One of the Japanese customers was intent on getting this cat to like him… putting a cosy blanket on his knee, rattling cat toys, making kissy sounds… the cat was having none of it! I wanted to explain to the poor Japanese man that this is the real cat experience… they do what they please!

My husband made friends with this stripey purr machine and was quite chuffed that he’d won over at least one of the cats!

And me… well, I happened upon a cat who looks like an even more freaked out version of the Fox Owl Cat!

Oh gosh, look at that expression! I felt rather bad for giggling every time it looked at me!

And here they are for comparison… though now I put the pictures together, I think the Fox Owl Cat might be the weirder of the two! (In a nice way!)

I guess the strange but maybe not too surprising thing about the cat cafe was that it just made us miss our own fluff balls. The Japan cats were cute but not a patch on the Velveteen Cat and the FOC!

Anyway, that’s it… that’s me done with Japan posts!

(Well, until my next trip of course!)

Gratuitous cat post… oh yes!

9 May

Last night, I sat down to put together a post on my Japan trip…
and realised I have approximately 3000 photos.

Um…

So I started trying to sort them out
and hours later, still no post
but a whole lot of reminiscing.
(Is it too early to reminisce yet?)

So in place of that post, I thought I’d treat
you all to a ‘gratuituous cat post’.
(Don’t say I’m not good to you!)

*******

So… cats. I have two.
Though sometimes two feels like three.

We got them a few years apart.
It was not exactly love at first sight.
But they seem to have reached some sort
of spacial agreement on how they hang out…

They’re both shelter cats. Which means along
with having their very own distinct personalities,
they also have their own distinct issues!

Our grey cat came first.
She’s half-pedigree, half-feral.
(The pedigree part is Russian Blue.
The feral is Berwick-upon-Tweed tabby.)

She was 6 weeks old when we got her and
so tiny you could pick her up with one hand.
(That blue bed lasted all of a day before
she puked and pooped on it. Lovely.)

She likes: fake chocolate ice cream sweets,
scratching our neighbours’ doormats,
her faithful friend (and toy) Mr Mouse,
snuggling, cuddling and Quorn ham.

She loathes:
other people, being picked
up unexpectedly, the hairdryer,
and when the fox-owl-cat steals
her stuff (see depression expression).

******

The fow-owl-cat we got a few years later…

She was found in a barn as a kitten,
duly rounded up and put in a box…
(We always imagine this to be like the start
of ET when he’s being chased through the woods.)

As a result, she has a pathological fear of boxes,
loud noises, strangers, people she’s met but
has forgotten she’s met and me wearing hats.
(Honestly, the fear in her eyes when she sees
something on my head is unreal!)

She likes: her food, watching TV
(polar bears are her favourite),
being brushed, the grey cat’s stuff,
snoozing, and hunting spiders.

(The fox-owl-cat watching TV!)

She loathes:
boxes (a lot),
the doorbell, loud sneezes,
sudden movements,
and being cold (she likes to sit
on the radiators when it’s cold).

For more cat-ness, feel free to follow me
on instagram (I’m convo_pieces).
Yes, I do post other pics there
but a whole lot of them are cat-related
just like the one above!

And if you’re ever debating getting a shelter cat,
I’d highly recommend it… yes, our cats are
a little (ok, a lot) weird but that’s
what makes them great.

Plus you get amazing cat cuddles
if you ever go away to Japan
for a couple of weeks!

I left my heart in Tokyo…

20 Mar

November 2008.
I’m standing in Tokyo
as a huge parade comes up
a street in Asakusa.

I can barely breathe with excitement.
(I am in Japan! I am in Japan!)

I stand at the back of a crowd and try to peer
over people’s heads to see the parade…

Someone glances round, smiles at me,
says something I don’t understand,
then gestures for me to move forward,
then another person does the same,
and another, and another…

Until I’m right at the front,
with people smiling at me,
nodding, being so lovely
that it almost distracts me
from taking pictures.

******

It’s now 2012. And I can barely breathe with
excitement… because we’re going back to
the land that invented washi tape!
And I can’t wait! Here’s why:

If you’ve ever seen Lost in Translation,
you’ll have an idea just how magical,
mysterious, zany, crazy and cute Tokyo is.
Except in real life, it’s even better.
It’s overwhelming but in a brilliant way.

There’s just so much colour everywhere in Japan…
from old shrine gates in Kyoto to paper
cranes in Hiroshima to this little girl in Tokyo.

Even the signs are cute…
yes, those are helpful raccoons
telling you not to get your hand stuck!

And the randomness… a calendar based on brushing your teeth?
Well, of course! Diet tights? Yup, you can get those too.
And an arcade game based on zombies… and eh typing?


As well as Tokyo, we spent time into Kyoto…
with its cute trains, Golden Pavilion, and the Geishas.
Wherever we went in Kyoto, I seemed to attract lots
of school children who wanted to take my picture…
We suspected this was because of my 2008
inclination to dress like a children’s TV presenter!
I have never been so excited to go back somewhere…
Honestly I’ve been causing myself near heart failure
while trying to plan this next trip.

My number 1 tip for Japan is to wear slip on shoes,
not Converses. I swear I spent 1/3 of our last trip,
lacing and unlacing my trainers.

Oh and this time, if I can, I’m drawing a fox wishing plaque
at Fushimi Inari (possibly the most magical place ever)
and buying a giga pudding. (It has the craziest video ever
and was everywhere we went in 2008!)

*******

Maybe once I’m back from the trip
I might do a proper guide?
If anyone has any recommendations
of places to go, I’d love them!
Or if you share my love of Japan,
do let me know! *Super excited!*

*******

{P.S.} Ok, not so much of a P.S.
as an extra bit of this blog post…

[…]

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