I see a fever dream before me now

I have achieved nothing these past few weeks.  I haven’t felt 100% since my terrible cold a few weeks ago, and now I’m fairly certain I have bronchitis.  I’ve spent yet another day off work in my Wonder Woman PJs coughing so hard that I’ve thrown up on several occasions.  I’m not normally an ill person, so this is just irritating me beyond belief.

I had planned to blog all about the rest of our Dungeness trip, our new car, seeing Tom Allen, and my Liberty Beauty advent calendar but I just haven’t had any energy.

For now, I’m sticking to inhaling cough mixture (the hardcore stuff from behind the counter *wink wink*) and trying to stay asleep when it wears off after 4 hours.  I miss my old life!

November Things

Working in higher education, I don’t really get any time off from August to October (no, we don’t get the summer holidays off – I wish), so November saw the arrival of my much needed holiday.  Plus, a video game addiction from the past returned, and there was a bit of TV catch-up.

Dungeness
I think I pretty much covered our stay in Dungeness in my two posts about it – both the estate and the Fog Signal Building where we stayed.  It was exactly what I needed after a busy few months.

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp
Many years ago, I remember husband coming home with a new Nintendo DS for the sole purpose of playing Animal Crossing: Wild World.  I demanded he go straight back out and buy me a DS because I wanted to play it too.  I very quickly became obsessed, and fell in love with a little blue squirrel called Filbert.

So of course I immediately downloaded Pocket Camp and have been playing it non-stop since then.  I appreciate that it’s got very bad reviews, but for a free-to-play mobile game, it’s pretty cute.  It’ll tide me over until something is released for the Nintendo Switch.

And I was over the moon to have Filbert move in to my camp.  He’s still just as adorable.

Tom Allen
I can’t remember how I found Tom Allen, but have been listening to his and Suzi Ruffell’s Like Minded Friends podcast for a while now.  We saw him at our friendly local arts venue and laughed so much that both Husband and I lost our voices the next day.  I adore him.

Audi Mania
November was the month of our new car arriving.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite ready on time so I’ve ended up driving three different Audis in November.  It’s been quite odd – I’ll be posting about my new baby soon.

Search Party
Continuing my theme of coming to TV shows late, we’ve just finished season 1 of Search Party.  We had every intention of watching it when it aired, but for whatever reason have only just started.  We binged watched the whole of season 1 in two sittings – what an ending.  Bring on season 2!

Let’s go to Dungeness

Editing these photos just now has filled me with such longing for this beautifully desolate area of the country.  I don’t think there’s really anything else I can say about Dungeness which has been said by a thousand other people – it’s stark, it’s barren, it feels like the end of the world.  I loved it.

There’s a smattering of houses, two pubs, two lighthouses, an odd little railway, even odder structures, and a power station.  Other than that, there’s silence except for the occasional siren from the lighthouse or alarm from the power station.  It really is a great place to get away from society (but not too far away).

OK, so I’ve romanticised our trip somewhat and I’m sure it’s a very different place in the summer but November definitely felt bleak.

We had a guess at what this structure was but didn’t come close to what the internet says it’s for.  As well as a wooden T, there’s also a wooden diamond further down the beach, and fisherman at sea could apparently line these two structures up to know where to navigate home.

I don’t know if we were just lucky, but as I mentioned in my post about the Fog Signal Building where we stayed, we had such beautiful light on our little walks around the estate.

There aren’t many photos of the residences here because I didn’t want to encroach on people’s privacy so we stuck to the beach.  Turn left out of our back garden – lots of abandoned boats.

And some creepy nuclear radiation detecting things (I think?)

Turn right and you come across the power station.  Somewhat unsettling for those with a propensity to overreact (such as myself).  In my defence, the warning signs around the place are terrifying, and the less said about the cloud in the sky one night, the better.

Everything was closed because it was November (of course) so we didn’t get to go on the mini-railway or go up the old lighthouse so we’ll definitely need to go back.  Hopefully there’ll be less fog next time, so the new lighthouse doesn’t keep us awake.

Fog Signal Building, Dungeness

We like staying in weird places.  In the past few years, we’ve stayed in a Pineapple, a 200 year old fort, and a 16th century Scottish tower house.  So when looking for somewhere to stay for our winter mini-break, I typed various synonyms for “quirky” into Google to see what I could find.

And I found the most perfect UK holiday rental that I have ever stayed in – the Fog Signal Building in Dungeness.

I knew a bit about Dungeness, but haven’t ever explored that area of the UK before so was really looking forward to days of peace and quiet, and that’s what we got.  More about Dungeness in another post (and also more about the random car we had for the drive as well) – but first, more on this amazing building.

The Fog Signal Building is on a plot of land which housed a number of old (and now some new) buildings that formed the Experimental Station – a former Trinity House research station.  It’s a bit hard to find historical details, but one book notes that it was built in the 1950s in order to test telemetry and fog detection.

The Fog Signal Building has been renovated to an extraordinarily high level by Johnson Naylor – beautiful limestone flooring, very cool furnishings, fancy kitchen appliances, and two (yes TWO) different types of teak baths.  There’s one main room for living, dining, and sleeping with separate kitchen and bathroom and it’s all stunning.  This is my dream home.

The light in Dungeness is incredible and almost other-worldly, so at numerous points during the day, we’d run outside to take photos of this iconic building. 

Almost every door and window has a different view – the two lighthouses, the Coastguard Lookout, the beach (and yes, the Nuclear Power Station which was only occasionally unnerving).  My favourite?  Sitting on the sofa looking out towards the new lighthouse, especially at night.

Although looking out over the shingle beach was pretty perfect too.

As our stay was in November, there weren’t many people about and we’d go hours without seeing another soul.  At times, we felt like we were the only ones left at the end of the world, which the Dungeness setting really helped with.

We had amazing sunsets every night.  I’m fairly certain we had amazing sunrises as well, but I was too lazy to get out of bed.  In fact, we slept really well the whole time except for one foggy night where the lighthouse fog siren blared for a while.  Oh the irony.  Of all the things to be kept awake by in the Fog Signal Building, I didn’t think it would be an actual fog signal.  Admittedly, I did convince myself it was a siren from some sort of nuclear disaster next door first but I soon figured it out.

At the end of our few days, I didn’t want to leave and I am already so desperate to go back.  We booked through Mulberry Cottages who have other amazing Dungeness properties as well (there are a few different websites where you can book this including Airbnb).

This is everything I want in a home, and if I won the lottery tonight, I’d drive down there to try to buy it from the current owners.  I’m sure they wouldn’t sell though – you’d be crazy to let this go.

October Things

Good lord, what a wash out.  October started fine, but ended with me bedridden for an entire week with a mystery virus which I’m still trying to get over.  Nice.

Little Lord Stinky Butt
Over the course of a few weeks, we’ve had an adorable vulpine visitor to the garden.  He set up house for himself behind our shed, but would come out to stretch his legs and catch some sun every so often.  He didn’t seem fazed by me peering at him as he snuggled up in his temporary den, or by Husband and I taking a million photos.  We think he’s moved on now, but we’ll remember Stinky Butt for a long time (so named because… well…. he smelt quite strongly).

Buffering the Vampire Slayer
I’m trying to remember how I found the Buffering Podcast – I think it was a recommendation on another blog – but however I found it, I am now OBSESSED.  It’s a weekly Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast hosted by real life married couple, Jenny Owen Youngs and Kristin Russo who are just precious!  If that description alone is not enough to get you listening, I don’t know what’s wrong with you to be honest.  They love Cordelia to the same degree I do, give awards for sexual tension of the week, and are people I desperately would love to be friends with.

All this, plus an original song each week – I don’t usually like silly made up songs, but these are slices of genius because Jenny is a brilliant musician.  I’ve bought the albums for season 1 and 2, and will no doubt buy season 3 as well.  All together now – When Daryl was in high school he played football, till he fell from some rocks and died…

Everything Everything
Speaking of music, I have listened to the new Everything Everything album a million times this month.  Can’t Do is a phenomenal song, and it’s firmly placed the band in my top ten bands of all time list.

Glossier
Thank goodness Glossier has finally launched over here, as I was experiencing some serious fomo.  Despite going to NY twice this year, I somehow managed to forget to visit their showroom, so snapped up their phase 1 set and some Cloud Paint on launch day to see what all the fuss was about.  So far, I’m really enjoying their moisturiser and Birthday Balm Dotcom.  Not so keen on the Milky Jelly Cleanser, although that’s mainly because rose scent makes me feel a bit queasy.  I now need to figure out what to try next.

Lurgy
I always boast about how quickly I can bounce back from an illness.  Not this time.  I spent the overwhelming majority of the last week in October under the duvet, only emerging to watch Strictly and The Defenders finale.  The prolonged recovery time has been quite unnerving for me – I know I’ve been run down so that’s probably part of the reason but I’m genuinely not used to being out of action for so long.  Nearly time for our holiday though, so that will give me some more time to get over it.

Touring the South Bank

Two years ago, almost to the day, we went on the most amazing tour of the Southbank Centre.  It involved donning high vis vests to visit closed off spaces and I loved it – an absolute highlight of 2015.  I can’t even remember why I was on the Southbank Centre website a few weeks back, but I noticed that they were advertising more tours and being the efficient nerds we are, Tim and I decided to combine this with a backstage tour of the National Theatre.  What an excellent Saturday.

We met our guide in a very peaceful National Theatre foyer where we were immediately given high vis vests again.  YES!  I now know this to be the hallmark of a brilliant tour.  There were about 10/15 people on the tour, a mixture of ages, quite a few Americans, but a nice respectful bunch who asked (mostly) sensible questions.  After hearing a bit about the history, we were taken into the back of the Olivier theatre, where crew members were going through a tech rehearsal.  I did try to make an effort in listening to the wonderful tour guide as she talked about the drum revolve and the fly tower, but it was so fascinating seeing the action on the stage.

It’s a beautiful theatre and brought back great memories of seeing Everyman there a few years ago.  From the Olivier, we went over to the Lyttelton theatre which was all set up for Jane Eyre.  It’s really odd being in a brightly lit and empty theatre, but you really get to experience the venue, rather than the performance.  We were taken around the back of the stage (where the photo at the top was taken from), saw the props all laid out, costumes hanging up, and a Henry Hoover ready to go. 
From there, we walked down the main ‘road’ behind the stages, visited the carpenters shop, and peered down into the props department from the walkway.  Even though it was a Saturday, staff were still busy at work creating amazing sets and props, including very realistic looking pizza.

The final part of the tour took us through the offices and dressing rooms, where we saw Bryan Cranston’s name on a door, reminding Tim that he has tickets to see Network, and enabling me to snag his spare ticket.  Back to the Olivier I will go in January.
The second tour of the day was the architecture tour of the Southbank Centre, sadly without high vis jacket.  The tour mainly took us around the public areas so it didn’t really add much to the one we did a couple of years ago although we did get to go into the empty Royal Festival Hall where some musicians were hauling instruments on stage for that night’s performance.  What a treat.

I was able to boast about my stay at A Room for London which I am always happy to do for a willing audience (can’t do it enough to be honest) but the rest of the tour wasn’t ‘backstagey’ enough for me.  They do have a bunch more tours scheduled for the rest of the year, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to go on the actual behind the scenes tour.

After we said goodbye to our tour guide, we went back to the National Theatre to try to catch a glimpse of something referenced on our tour.  We were told that the dressing rooms have windows that overlook a private courtyard and on press night, the actors all stand at their windows banged on the glass as part of a longstanding tradition.  According to the guide, you can just about see the courtyard from one of the outdoor terraces.

Off we scampered, and whilst we didn’t find the courtyard, we did find a secluded garden, great views over the south bank (and also people trying to work with two idiots running around outside).  Every time I visit the Southbank, I discover something new.

Richard Ayoade and Adam Buxton

The last week of September was pretty insane.  There were a couple of days where I clocked in 11 hours at work and when I wasn’t in the office, I was asleep.  It always is madness at the start of semester, so goodness knows why I arranged two things to do in London.  I’m clearly a masochist.

The first event was seeing Adam Buxton interviewing Richard Ayoade for a Guardian Live event where they discussed Richard’s new book The Grip of Film by Gordy LaSure.  Richard is a fairly introspective and reticent interviewee, but it feels like Adam and him have a genuine friendship so it made the evening a very intimate and relaxed chat.  I’m a huge fan of Richard’s films

I hadn’t heard of the venue before – the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster, a church-like building with very dramatic mood lighting.  Whilst is was a beautiful looking building, we did suffer from sitting in pews for 90 minutes.  Husband lost feeling in his legs, my butt was in a lot of pain, and Tim’s spine turned into the spine of a much older man.  Pews are not build for comfort.

In those 90 minutes, Richard and Adam chatted about his book, his films, and other random nonsense – fans of Adam’s Podcast would have recognised this as a classic Dr Buckles ramble chat.  There was also a lot of talk about film, and I was pleased to hear Richard’s cinematic journey was much like my own.  He didn’t watch films as a child – neither did I – so hasn’t seen a lot of the ‘classics’ that almost everyone has seen, a good example being Jurassic Park.

There has been a lot of historical Ayoade/Buxton crossover, with episodes of Gadget Man, Travel Man, Adam’s own podcast, and most recently The Crystal Maze so Richard did seem quite comfortable, but he did seem to tense up a bit when it came to the audience Q&A, particularly as the first question was a bit mean spirited for comedic value.  The rest were really good questions however, which I genuinely wasn’t expecting.  The audience clearly had a lot of respect for the talented filmmaker.

And at the end, a bonus book signing which I felt terribly conflicted about.  It was clear Richard wasn’t looking forward to a queue of needy strangers… but I did want my book signed.  I thought long and hard about what to say to him.  As a fellow introvert, I could feel his discomfort and I didn’t want to add to it so simply told him I really enjoyed listening to the talk, and he promised to pass this on to Adam as well.  I couldn’t have empathised with him more.

I’m looking forward to reading his book – his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade was surreally delightful and this one promises the same.  It will have to sustain me until his next outing as a writer or director.

September Things

There has been a distinct lack of posts this month, due to the fact that in my industry, September is crazy times.  That’s not to say it’s been all work and no fun and there were two particularly awesome things I did which I haven’t had a chance to blog about which I’ll briefly mention.

They’re back
As already mentioned, this month is start of academic year madness.  At least we were expecting the madness though – it happens every year so it’s doesn’t take us by surprise.  I did have a last minute meeting at another university which I had to fly to however.  That was definitely unexpected, and involved me getting up at 4.30am, driving to Heathrow for my 7am plane, 4 hours of meeting, then flying home at 8pm.  It felt like a long day, but I did manage to squeeze a facial into the afternoon whilst waiting for my flight home so it wasn’t all bad.

Green hair, do care
I’ve always scoffed at people who accidentally turn their hair green.  I’ve been dying my hair since I was 18 and believed myself to be a bit of an expert.  Which is why it came as a bit of a shock when my hair went from reddy-purple to godawful green a few weekends ago.  That’ll teach me to be smug

Grown-up perfume
I’ve never really worn fragrance, other than the old cliche of Vera Wang on my wedding day, but having experienced Byredo scents in the many Liberty advent calendars over the past few years, I started to become a bit obsessed with them.  I’m a semi-frequent visitor to their counter in Liberty and can never resist a spritz, and fell in love with Velvet Haze when it was released, so my Mum bought me some for my birthday.  My first grown-up perfume.

Richard Ayoade
One of the fun things I managed to do was see Richard Ayoade interviewed by Adam Buxton for Guardian Live.  I’ll be posting about that at some point.

Theatre Nerds Day
The final day of September was spent wandering round the South Bank on two tours – one of the National Theatre, the other of the Soutbank Centre.  Blog post to follow about this as well.

August Things

August is birthday month in the Untold Blisses household.  And what do birthdays mean?  A trip to the…

Celtic Manor!
Our new birthday tradition – a trip to my favourite UK hotel which this year included afternoon tea, a trip to the spa, and much booze.  WIN.

We bought a car
I adore my car.  His name is Kasper and he is my favourite possession.   But he’s getting on a bit, and I feel like he needs to retire to a nice farm in the country, so Husband and I took a trip to the car shop to look for something new.

The new one won’t be here for a couple of months yet so I have plenty of time to find a name for it.  And also to say goodbye to Kasper.  Oh no, I can feel the tears coming already.

Jessica Jones
I have resisted Jessica Jones for such a long time, dismissing it as too similar to Veronica Mars, or too superhero-ey.

I was wrong about that – it’s amazing and there are not enough episodes.  We’ve now moved on to Daredevil to see if that gives me the same feels, after which we’ll get started on The Defenders.

Bicester Village
I do feel bad for Husband this year, as I haven’t really helped him figure out what to get me for my birthday.  We’re both still trying to do this mindful/purposeful shopping thing so he didn’t want to buy me something for the sake of it.  So we took a quick drive up the A34 to Bicester Village to see if anything took my fancy at the Liberty Outlet store.

It turned out to be the quickest visit I’ve ever made as we just dipped into Liberty and Kate Spade, I decided on a Liberty purse, then we were back on our way.  We’re nothing if not efficient.

Much skincare
I’ve talked enough about my first online Sephora order but this month I also managed to scoop up a silly amount of K-Beauty from TK Maxx, and bought the Net A Porter On The Go Beauty Kit which has an awesome amount of fun things to try.  I really do need to start using this all up (what was that I said about mindful shopping?).

Ordering Sephora from the UK

Us UK folk have been able to order Sephora for a while now, but I’ve always resisted.  Sephora has always been a holiday treat for me, since my first trip to America a long time ago (sidebar – my first visit was actually to the UK store on my 18th birthday.  I made my Mum drive me all the way to Bluewater where I spent all of my birthday money.  Why did they leave us?!?!)

After three visits to the USA this year, my Sephora addiction has reached new highs, and the temptation of a birthday gift and 3x Beauty Insider points got to me so I placed my first online order.

It’s made incredibly easy as Sephora use Borderfree, so shipping is only $6 and all the customs and taxes are sorted on purchase – no guessing the upcoming bill or having the parcel held up at the border.  Not only that, but my parcel arrived only 6 days after I ordered, which is faster than I receive most stuff I order in the UK.

As you can see from my photo, my order was largely sheet mask based, but I also picked up two sets – one of the reasons I love Sephora so much as it’s a great way to try products out.  I picked out a Christophe Robin set as I’m trying to convince myself I don’t want to by a full size of the Regenerating Mask (I really do though – it’s so good).  I also picked up a Peter Thomas Roth Cult Classics kit and am already a huge fan of the powder SPF and the cucumber eye patches.

But my experience wasn’t all positive.  That birthday gift I talked about?  Not available to me because I’m in the UK.  I understand that some items are restricted for various reasons, but it’s super sucky that I can’t get my gift!  Not only that, but none of the codes on the beauty offers page worked for me (all restricted), and those 3 free samples they rave about was bloody impossible – 12 to choose from, and only 3 were available to me.  So I ‘chose’ those 3 only for them to ‘forget’ to include them.

When I raised this with them by email, they almost shrugged.  I know it’s only free gifts, but I’ve almost reached VIB Rouge so I kind of expected more.

Still, I’ll carry on enjoying the many sheet masks I bought.  Freebies aside, it was a good experience and I’ll probably end up making another purchase before the end of this year.  Those Peter Thomas Roth eye patches are calling to me already.