When Lynsey Instagram-ed (it always starts with an Instagram now, doesn't it?) a burger she had at Steak, Cattle and Roll I had instant meal envy. Like I needed to be where she was at that very minute and prise that burger from her hands. I feel I should probably write her cold, dead hands, because I do believe we would have had to have had some kind of fight to the death over said burger because if it had been mine and she turned up to steal it, there'd have certainly been a fight. Anyway, this is going off on a tangent and I think you've probably got the point that Lynsey Instagram-ed (is it Instagram-ed, Instagrammed, Instagram-med or instagrammed, what do we think is the proper English?) an amazing looking burger and, being who I am and not being okay with not having a burger like that in my life, I demanded we went ASAP. Luckily the burger had tasted as good as it looked and I didn't exactly have to beat her into submission to agree. (Gosh, this has been a very violent opening to a restaurant review... Ahem!)

One of the things that had grabbed my attention (other than the burger) was that Lynsey had visited with our friend Nikki, who is actually vegan and, given the name of the restaurant, that really surprised me; but it turns out Steak, Cattle & Roll actually have amazing vegetarian and vegan options on their menu. It's not just your standard one veggie burger option - they've got dairy free desserts and 'milk' shakes - both alcoholic and non alcoholic - as well as sides like onion rings coming with two options - the veggie version and the vegan version. Though I'm a carnivore and it doesn't affect me that much, I love finding places with menus big enough to cater to groups of my friends at a time and not feel like 'oh we're going to a vegan place' or 'oh we're going somewhere where the veggie/vegan we're with only has one option'. You can see the full food menu here and the drinks and desserts menu here. Glasgow has been rated the number one vegan friendly city in the UK as there are a plethora of restaurants available to cater to the veggies and vegans amongst us, but it was really nice to be somewhere were no one felt they were compromising. 

With this in mind we scheduled our visit to Steak, Cattle and Roll to be a pre-theatre trip with our friend Lauren, who is vegetarian. This was her burger:

Yep, that was the veggie option. I'm quite used to Lauren's veggie burgers coming looking a lot smaller and flatter so I was instantly impressed by the thickness of the burger. She was intrigued by the vegan chicken burger, so we'll need to go back and investigate that some other time, but for our first trip she opted for The V Burger, and it got a huge thumbs up! Also in this picture you can see her basket of fries and, believe me, the picture is not doing the size justice. The sides were absolutely huge and we made the mistake of all ordering our own chips - we should have definitely shared! Lauren opted for the sweet potato fries as you can see from the picture, but I tested out the regular chips and omg guys they were amazing! 

I don't like to review places based on one trip so I went to the Merchant City branch of Steak, Cattle and Roll (my original visit, and the one during which I had the meal I'm showing you just now was to the Sauchiehall Street branch) over the weekend and had the lunch menu, but I asked for the skinny fries to be swapped for the normal ones because they were so good. 

Despite the extreme cheapness of the lunch menu (£8.00 on a Saturday between 12noon and 4pm for a burger, chips, 2 chicken wings, coleslaw and corn on the cob, if you'd care to know - I have no idea how they're making any money whatsoever!) if they weren't going to be able to accommodate that swap I was happily going to pay the full whack to order off the main menu to get those fries. I say the full whack - even the regular menu is cheap. An average burger is  £8 - £10, the chips on the side are £3.00 (and you can definitely split one lot of chips between 2 people) and a pint sized soft drink is £2.50. And the portions are huge. But yeah, the chips are so, so good. You need to promise me you'll go and order them ASAP!

Lynsey opted for a wrap - choosing the Cheesy Steak wrap, which is home-made Mac & Cheese and pulled beef brisket in a wrap. This was her third visit and it was the second time she'd ordered this - so I'll just presume it comes highly recommended from her! 

Then it was my turn, and I opted for the Dakota burger. This is described on the menu as ' Honey batter fried chicken breast topped with cheese & smoked bacon, smothered in honey butter.' That sounds amazing, right? Think about how amazing that sounds and then multiply it by at least ten, and you're a bit closer to knowing how good this burger was. It was huge though, and it totally defeated me. I counted six full rashers of bacon on the burger. Six! The chicken breast that was used was full and tender and they didn't skimp on the cheese either. How they sell this for a measly £8.00 I have no idea, but long may they continue! 

Being the fools that we are as well as our individual baskets of fries that we order, we also decided to try the onion rings. I say we. This was really my mistake, because I can't resist onion rings whenever I see them on a menu. But they're frequently the item I'm most disappointed by. As much as I left more of these on that stack than I would have liked to, it was not because they were disappointing in any way , in fact these were amazing. They were crisp and crunchy, there was a good ratio of batter to onion (for me it should be like 75% batter, 25% onion, just for reference of what I call 'good ratio') and I would order them again in a heartbeat. I'd just also be sharing the fries and not have a full basket of fries to contend with as well as the onion rings. We left so much food untouched it actually makes me a bit sad to think about! If we hadn't been going to the theatre afterwards I would have probably asked for it to be boxed for me to take away - and I never ask for that. That's a serious indicator of how ridiculously good this place was. 

Now... despite the fact I didn't finish my burger, my fries or indeed the onion rings, I had to find room for Raspberry, Ripple & Roll 'Fancy Schmanzy' milkshake I'd read on the menu the day I saw the SC&R appear on Lynsey's Insta. It wasn't an option to leave there without it. And I may have had to unbutton my jeans to sit through the play, but I have absolutely no regrets.

This was so, so good. It was super sweet - vanilla and raspberry ice cream with raspberry sauce made up the milkshake part, it was topped with a mountain of whipped cream and pink edible glitter and then a Swiss roll to, literally, top it off. This was The Dream. I was totally stuck between this and the Biscoff which is vanilla ice cream, cookie spread and banana chips so when I visited the Merchant City branch I made my friend Declan order the Raspberry, Ripple & Roll whilst I opted for the Biscoff. I'd definitely order both of them again, but if you're only going to visit once on a trip to Glasgow or something and you have a sweet tooth the Raspberry, Ripple & Roll takes it for me. 

Slightly confusingly the Merchant City branch delivered Declan's RR&R without the Swiss roll and instead served it with raspberries, which wasn't a problem but it did rather detract from the 'roll' part of the name. Had I not been at the Sauchiehall Street branch previously though we would never have known anything was amiss because there's definitely more than enough in the milkshake itself without the actual Swiss roll; just something to bear in mind though if that Swiss roll is really closing the deal for you! 

As for the non milkshake desserts - when we visited with Lauren she opted for the cheesecake, which you can see below. It was a huge slab of cheesecake, served with both ice cream and whipped cream. SC&R really don't do anything by halves!

She said she was really happy with her choice and on my second visit my friend Kim went for the Knickerbocker Glory and her girlfriend Lucy opted for the Brownie. They both pretty much disappeared before my eyes so I'm going to take a guess and say that they would both recommend their choices - Lucy wasn't going to order a dessert until the person at the next table got the Brownie and then she had to give in! I don't think she regretted her choice...

In case you can't tell, I would 100% recommend Steak, Cattle and Roll as an amazing restaurant to visit if you're in Glasgow, and with a really wide menu to suit all tastes. Just make sure you go hungry, because you're going to want to roll home!

Steak, Cattle and Roll, Glasgow.

21 June 2017

When I got the press release through for Selladoor Productions The Crucible I knew I had to put in my request for press tickets immediately. It’s one of my favourite plays, partly due to the personal joy I had in my life around the time I studied it and how much I loved performing in it, and partly because I am passionate about political theatre. As those of you who follow me on twitter (or who don’t follow me – I always lose followers in the run up to and immediate aftermath of any elections because I just can’t contain myself – #sorrynotsorry) know, I would consider myself to be politically engaged, and to be honest I have little time for anyone with any influence who doesn’t use it for something – and, with the country in the state it’s in, I think encouraging people to get involved in politics, to do research and to use their vote is something everyone should be doing.

I made a video a while ago now that I want to revisit and remake called ‘In Support of The Arts’ in which I touched on how the arts are important because they give a voice to political movements and points of view and The Crucible was amongst the plays I mentioned in that video. When I made that video, although we in the UK had a conservative government in power, we hadn’t at that point had Brexit, seen the US vote in Trump or gone through the most recent election with it’s awful results and be sitting considering the disastrous potential of the Conservatives working with the DUP – who come across like a party straight out of 1692’s Salem, in which The Crucible is set.

When I got the press release through and I requested the tickets it was post Brexit and just post Trump – it was December. I knew that this play would be as relevant as ever – indeed, a quote from Miller’s autobiography which is quoted in the program says ‘I can almost tell what the political situation in a country is when the play is suddenly a hit there – it is either a warning of tyrant on the way or a reminder of tyranny just past.’ I knew sitting through this play would be uncomfortable. I couldn’t have foreseen the Glasgow part of this tour taking place under the current political situation, helped along by the surge of Scottish seats won by the Conservatives.

I’ll be totally honest and say as much as I love political theatre, what it can be used for and what it can inspire, I’m actually not a massive fan of Brechtian staging. I understand why it’s used, and the principals behind it (my undergrad degree is in Theatre Studies, I promise I know what I’m talking about) but it’s not my cup of tea, and this is a Brechtian staging. Ensemble cast with most playing multiple roles, stage directions not spoken but projected onto the back of the set, the set itself being a 3 sided box on the stage, its sides and the cast entering and exiting off of it clearly visible before the stage’s true wings. It’s classic Brecht. When the play is as on the nose with its message as this one is, I don’t think those extras are necessary, and at times I did find myself being distracted by the actors waiting to enter the stage area.

The actors themselves I thought were very good – Charlie Condou as Revered Hale in particular had a lovely journey from the man who arrives in Salem as the man who thought he knew it all, emboldened by his church, his principals and morals, and leaving knowing he carried blood on his head. I also have to give a huge shout out to Augustina Seymour who played both the snivelling, wet Mary Warren and the Godly Rebecca Nurse, and managed both parts perfectly.

Act 1 for me fell a little flatter than I felt it should have – the hysteria never seemed to reach enough of a height, and I didn’t think there was much chemistry between Lucy Keirl’s Abigail Williams and Eoin Slattery’s Proctor. Though it may be the promise a stallion gives a mare that he has given her, there’s a very short window in which Abbey and Proctor are on stage together and a lot of weight falls on that time – we have to see why she takes it as far as she does. Yes, the whole things starts from the fear of being caught dancing in the woods, but she cries for the murder of Elizabeth Proctor. It has to be believable that she would go that far, and it has to be believable that he has looked at her window, as he admits to having done since Elizabeth turned her out. Whatever was between them is over without being over, and that has to come across. I didn’t feel that it did. However, after Act 1 I thought Slattery gave a perfect performance and that final scene got me in so many ways – I cried in the theatre. So I would say the issue with Act 1 lies at the feet of the director, and what the actors has been told to do as opposed to the actors. Keirl’s Abigail never really hit the spot for me at all, but again I think that’s probably the way she had been directed as there were flashes were I started to see what I wanted to in her.

Carl Patrick was deliciously detestable as Putnum and David Delve’s Giles Corey was spot on.

Despite the Brechtian staging I enjoyed that the costumes and the stage that there was weren’t modernised. Although I think Brechtian staging generally unnecessary I did appreciate that, though the costumes were not 1692 they weren’t 2017 either. They existed in a safe, past environment. The removal of the strict puritan dress could have potentially taken away from the incredible tense community in which this play is set, but, as I’ve already said, watching it in the current climate meant that wasn’t an issue. Modernising it would have been a bit too in-your-face for me – I think it’s important to remember that Miller turned to the 1692 Salem Witch Trials as a metaphor because he himself was terrified of coming in front of the HUAC. I think it’s important to remember the metaphor was used because of a lack of free speech.

This morning we woke to the news of the fire in the London tower block. Normal people have literally burned alive because they were living in unsafe conditions. Those people had raised concerns over this numerous times and been shut down by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council. Cuts by the government to the fire services, so that the money could be funnelled elsewhere (into bombing Syria perhaps?) meant there weren’t even the resources required on hand to save lives. This is a tragedy, on so many levels. But it is, undeniably, political. This is yet another political issue which has resulted in the suffering, and, in this instance, death, of normal, everyday people.

John McGrath is quotes as saying ‘The theatre can never ‘cause’ a social change. It can articulate pressure towards one, help people celebrate their strengths and maybe build their self-confidence… Above all, it can be the way people find their voice, their solidarity and their collective determination.’ Can we please let this chilling play serve as our call to finding – and using – those things? There’s talk of riots in Andover… 

Selladoor Production's The Crucible will run in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow until Saturday 17th June and you can buy tickets here.

*Images used throughout copyright of Alessai Chinazzo and provided by the company*

Selladoor's The Crucible, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

14 June 2017

When I started to see the press chatting about Benefit's new Hoola Lite bronzer and Dandelion Twinkle highlighters that were launching my interested was totally piqued.

I owned the original Hoola. I mean, we all did. But it just never looked as good on me as it did on other people... I persevered for ages and finally accepted that I am a pale person and bronze isn't for me.

Until now.

But Benefit, being the teases that they are, didn't just launch Hoola Lite (on a side note, I keep spelling it light and having to go back and change it!) into the collection and be done. Nope, they did a sneaky preview of it in a limited edition palette, but included in that palette was Galifornia Blush which was another new launch. Add into that another 2 full sized blush colours - Dandelion and Rockateur - as well as the original Hoola for £49.50 vs the £122.50 it would cost individually (or the £98 it would have cost me to buy the 4 I didn't already have...) and I was sold.

Hoola Lite is exactly what I wanted it to be - it warms up my face without looking like 'bronzer', or at least the bronzers of the past that just made my face look like it needed a good scrub. This doesn't make my skin look muddy or dirty and you can see it's a significant difference from the original Hoola Bronzer - they're swatched side by side in the last photo. So many brands release multiple bronzers now and they seem to be more focused on different undertones, which is important, but without bringing out different intensities in pigment and shade. Also, it's matte. I can't understand any concept of non matte bronzer, the less said on that the better.

Next to the two bronzers we have the swatch of the Galifornia blush. This is a super bright pink, and when you first open it it has a gold overlay sprayed on it. This does go within a use or two, but don't be fooled by the fact it goes because this isn't a matte blush. Although the gold speck doesn't run through and it's certainly not glittery it is very luminous - you can see that anyway by looking at the matte-ness of the Hoola swatches next to it. It imparts a lot of light and radiance onto the face, and it is pigmented but applied with the right brush and a light hand it's nothing to be scared of.

The swatch next to Galifornia is Rockateur, which is even more luminous and light reflective than Galifornia. I wore this a lot in Florida as I feel like this, combined with the Hoola Light, gives a gorgeous bronzed look to pale skin. Of all the products in the palette I found this lasted the least amount of time, but I would still say I got a good six hours out of it before feeling like I needed something more on my cheeks, with everything else fading slightly but ultimately hanging around until I removed my make up - and we're talking about a 15 hour day in Florida (don't underestimate those of us who say you need a holiday to recover after a Disney holiday btw, you're up at 6.30/7, out the room at 8 and frequently not home till nearly midnight!) so the longevity is impressive on everything except this one.

Lastly we have Dandelion, which I use as a blush but which can be used as an all over face powder to perk up the complexion if you're not as deathly pale as me! I had a travel size of Dandelion (£12.50) so I'm really glad to be upgrading to the full sized. I do tend to prefer a bit of an Aunt Sally look to my blush - I'm very much in danger of being mistaken for a clown an awful lot of the time - but for no make up days, or days when I'm going heavier on the eyes and lips and just want something on my cheeks to make me look alive Dandelion is the subtle pop of life I need.

As I said, this palette is fantastic value for money at £49.50 and is available here; but Benefit have now launched Hoola Lite on it's own so you can buy each of the powders individually if only one of them takes your fancy: Hoola, Hoola Lite, Galifornia, Rockateur, Dandelion, all £24.50 each.

Benefit Cheek Parade

12 June 2017

I joked to my gran that this week I would be catapulted from one end of the spectrum to the other with the two shows I was reviewing – seeing Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf on Tuesday night (review here if you haven’t read it) – a straight forward play, that was serious and antagonizing and frustrating; and then seeing Funny Girl on Wednesday night. Light hearted, musical theatre comedy.
Not to put MT down, I love MT and always will, everyone who knows me knows that, but whilst a comedic musical theatre show can have moments that annoy you or anger you or make you sad, generally when you sign up for a Musical Theatre comedy, you know what you’re getting in to and it’s overall an uplifting night. Or so I thought.

I should put into context here that I knew some of the songs prior going to see Funny Girl. And I knew Barbara Striesand was the female lead in the film. But I’d never seen the film. So I went in expecting this light hearted comedy and was surprised when throughout the majority of the show I just felt really angry.

And I’m still not 100% sure if I was meant to or not.

The cast were brilliant, Natasha J Barnes as Fanny in particular was phenomenal. She was belting beyond belting, and she was a far cry from being a singer with a big voice – her acting was totally there. The nuances of the character were there and she did make me laugh at the start, then progressively make me want to shake her, then cry for her. I'll be following her career with a weather eye and having her name associated with a show in future will probably be enough to make me book tickets.

I’m a long term Darius fan, I replayed his first album on repeat over and over, I had his book (and I went to a book signing – I tried to find the photo for your amusement but sadly I have no idea where it is now), and when he was on Popstar to Operastar I watched absolutely hooked. But no amount of fangirling could get me over how much I hated his character. Nick Arnstein enters the play in a tuxedo backstage and steals Fanny’s heart. I’m not sure if at first you’re supposed to, like she does, think he’s slick and suave then have a journey of discovery with her, or if you’re supposed to know from the get go that he’s trouble and watch in horror as the car crash unfolds, but I was definitely the second option either way, regardless of what the goal was.

And that’s partly why I found it so difficult to watch. I watched this smart, funny (she definitely lives up to the title) woman, who was that rarest of things – a celebrity whose fame comes from talent – give up opportunities and run around after a man who was vile. I’ve always thought of Don’t Rain On My Parade as an empowering song, and at the end of Act 1, when I’d seen when and why she sings it, I felt so let down. I felt like the song would forevermore have negative connotations for me. Thankfully the reprise of the song at the end, in a slightly more encouraging context, means I can actually still listen to it.

Now, we’ve all gone through it, haven’t we? The rubbish guy who you’re so blindly in love with that any form of self-respect goes right out the window. And if you’re one of the lucky few who hasn’t, I’m sure you’ve watched a friend do it. I certainly have been that person, and maybe that’s why it annoyed me so much, maybe part of me hasn’t forgiven myself for taking the amount of sh*t I have done in the past. But part of it now, when that situation occurs, is that generally everyone around you can see what’s happening, and tries to get you out of there.

And this is where I come to the thing that really annoyed me – her mother. Again, the actress, Rachel Izen, was totally committed to the part, it was the character that annoyed me. The first song ‘If A Girl Isn’t Pretty’, initiated by the mother and her friends as a way of dissuading Fanny from pursuing a career onstage because she, shock horror, isn’t pretty, riled me to begin with. But then Fanny comes back with ‘I’m The Greatest Star’ which was, well, pretty great.

Moving on from the way she objectified her daughter’s looks and made career judgements based on them and not her talent, when Mrs Brice first meets Nick Arnstein she seems like she can see through that slick talk and turned on charm the way mothers can. But she encouraged Eddie, whose advances Fanny has already turned down numerous times, to go pursue her. Why would you want to encourage someone your daughter isn’t interested in to go after her? Eddie helps Fanny prepare for stage and helps her get the debut that starts it all, and it felt like the storyline was going the way of her realising glamorous, schmoozing Arnstein isn’t for her and that she should settle for Eddie. Partly because she almost owes him something after all his help and partly because he’s always been in love with her – so she should just suddenly wake up and realise she loves him too. Thankfully (in a sense) it didn’t go that way. But yeah, I could have down without the mother encouraging him.

But what really topped it off was in the second act, after Nick has left Fanny, the mother comes on and tells her it’s all her fault because, if you can believe it, she gave him too much money. She gave him too many ‘hand outs’ and sorted out every gambling problem and every lost money problem he had and, quote, ‘A man needs to feel needed.’ It’s all her fault because she didn’t make him feel needed. Here, take my sick bucket, I had it ready for you. I mean what is that anyway, and why is that coming from her mother? I just really couldn’t deal.

Of course, it’s of the times. It’s set around the time of WWI. And yes, I should probable make more allowances for that. But had this been a story about a woman who runs about after a man whilst everyone around her tries to talk her out of it, I could have dealt with that. Having her go through everything she did to be told by her own mother that the breakdown of the (awful) marriage was her fault was just too much.

I do need to take a step back here and put these thoughts, feelings and reactions into context for you, because there is a chance that, if this context isn’t there for you as it was for me, you would be able to enjoy the show a lot more. And please do remember that when you read a review of something on my blog, you read my review. Me as me writing how I felt about it, not me as a professional theatre critic or theatre studies graduate. Blogging is a different platform for reviewing than a newspaper is, and my review on here will be different from what I’d write for a traditional publication, because it’s so personal.

First up, I do identify as a feminist. Which is why I could have dealt with the story had it not been for the mother – because it does end with her seeming to pick the pieces up and although it’s ambiguous, you do leave the theatre thinking she’s going to go on from this and it’s going to get better. But add in the mother and I’m afraid that was something I couldn’t get past.

Secondly, I did unfortunately see this show on the 31st May. Just over a week after the bombing at Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman concert in Manchester happened. Young people, mainly young women, girls, were targeted at that event. What was it about that concert? Was it the name – Dangerous Women? Was it the fact Ariana Grande is comfortable enough wearing revealing costumes, as the papers felt the need to point out? Was it the fact she created a safe space for young women to feel empowered in? Or was it simply a general attack on girl culture? There was a reason that particular concert was targeted and probably everything I’ve listed had something to do with it.

Every single day women suffer sexism – whether it’s targeted abuse or whether it’s the kind of every day sexism a lot of people don’t even really realise they’re perpetrating. Every single day women are attacked for having voices, for having thoughts and feelings, for identifying as a woman. The Manchester bombing was a literal attack on a part of girl culture that encourages girls to feel empowered. And right now I don’t think we need any other stories about anyone bringing down females, especially not their own mothers.

The cast of this show were good. Natasha J Barnes was great. The sets were beautiful and the choreography was fantastic. The costume department gave sparkles and luxury. The acting was good and I enjoyed the score. But in good conscience right now I don’t think I can recommend this show at the moment. Not because of any short fallings on the team behind it or the cast in it, but because it’s a story I just don’t think needs to be told anymore. It just wasn’t that funny.

Funny Girl, King's Theatre, Glasgow

5 June 2017

It seems fitting that my first blog post, since returning to blogging, is a theatre review, because theatre will always be my first love. I do love lipstick and shoes are definitely a close second love to the theatre but if I only had enough money to buy a theatre ticket or a pair of shoes the theatre would win hands down. 

And sometimes I’d regret that decision, because you can be a theatre lover without loving all theatre (shock horror, I know!) but sometimes that decision would be rewarded with riches far beyond a pair of shoes – and that would be the case had I had to make that decision regarding Rapture Theatre Co’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? that I went to see last night at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. 

There’s a certain level of dedication required to pulling off a play as well as this one was, and so I wasn’t surprised to read in the program afterwards (I never read nay director’s notes or interviews beforehand so that I don’t get influenced in what to look for in the play) that director Michael Emans had wanted to do this play for nearly 15 years, because this is a play that is executed with precision in every single line. There’s not one dud line in this play, everything contributes something and that’s not always the way of it. Of course, in theory, the responsibility of that lies with the writer – in this case the genius Edward Albee – but in the hands of a director with less finesse, less talent and less reverence for the play any bard’s words can lose something. In this play I was hanging on to every line. These characters are characters Emans has known, has lived with, has studied, and that shows.

What was particularly good about this production was that this did not become the Martha and George show. That’s not a criticism of Sara Stewart and Robin Kingsland who play the sordid couple, it’s a compliment, not only to them but again to the director and also to Paul Albertson and Rose Reynolds who play Nick and Honey.

Let’s get one thing straight – this play runs for 3 and a half hours. Martha and George may be the more obviously explosive couple but 3 and a half hours of dialogue in a still set can be exhausting and draining and not altogether the best experience. In this production the surface explosions of Martha and George and the way their pot boiled from the get go until it fully brimmed over in the ending was balanced so well by the simmering Nick and Honey, whose journey from simple, easily pleased and eager to please to something darker, richer and more complicated that I was gripped for the entire time. I tweeted at the first interval that if it hadn’t come when it did I thought my heart would have exploded from my chest from beating so hard, and I stand by that.

This play was 3 and a half hours of exploration into relationships with the self and with others. Into identities and how we perceive and are perceived. Into surface and depth.  Into truth and confrontation of truth and avoidance of truth. In short, 3 and a half hours of theatrical perfection. It was so bloody good I’ve booked a ticket to go see it again on Friday. I hope to see you there.

Book tickets for Rapture Theatre Co's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow here -

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Theatre Royal, Glasgow.

1 June 2017

I purchased at the end of December 2016, yet here we are – May, nearly June, 2017 and I haven’t actually posted anything on it yet. My YouTube subscribers ( if you’re not one of them) may notice that, although I have manged to upload a grand total of 9 videos in 2017, given there have been 27 Sundays (my chosen upload day) thus far, I’ve not 100% been on that either.

So why not? I could write a series of blog posts on that but – long story short - my mental health has been in a terrible place, and I think blogging had a part in that. Not the biggest part, by any means, but for a start I think I saw so many people talking about having anxiety in the blogging world that the frequency of that, combined with my thought process not exactly being at its best performing, really let me think that I didn’t have an issue, that what I was experiencing was normal. I didn’t actually go to the doctor until April and I wish I had gone sooner, rather than tell myself that it was clearly normal to feel depressed or anxious and that I just needed to get on with it. If I had gone sooner I wouldn’t have let it get as bad as it did before I did something about it – and looking back now that I am in a better place I can see how bad it had gotten.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the open-ness regarding things like mental health in the blogging world is great but the more I retreated from real life (and the situation that was the biggest contributor to the deterioration of my mental health) the more I cocooned myself in the online world. And that meant I didn’t have any distance from it to realise that the online world was providing a safe place for people to discuss their issues and that in the grand scheme of things I did have issues that were beyond normal or okay, and that were outwith my own ability to control. Like a lot of dramatic storylines there was that big thing that happened that made me realise ‘okay, I need to seek help’ but I wish that hadn’t needed to happen.

The other part of it was that, as I spiralled into a horrible period of depression, I was retreating more and more into the blogging world and, being honest, when I was feeling like I didn’t have the energy nor inclination to wash my own hair for weeks at a time, looking at well-lit photos of tall, thin, glamorous bloggers in sunny locations frolicking in designer clothes didn’t actually make me feel all that great. But there was something addictive about it. The more rubbish I felt the more I looked at the blog posts of people not feeling rubbish – or at least, in my slightly deluded state, the people I was interpreting as being ‘perfect’ and ‘happy’.

Of course, as a blogger, I know I didn’t exactly post selfies of me wearing the same pyjamas I’d had on for days at a time without showering during the last couple of months. I know I have now mentioned that I was struggling with my mental health, but I didn’t photograph it and give that visual documentation the way that I would if I’d been feeling great about myself and had a gorgeous new pair of shoes I wanted to share. I know people share a snapshot, an image, of the best bit of their day in a blog post. And I know sometimes that’s not even a genuine part of their day – more and more bloggers are showcasing items on behalf of brands in full on ‘shoots’ where they pick a location, go with a professional photographer and take the photos purely to showcase the item. ‘OOTD’ posts may have started with mirror pictures of what the blogger was actually wearing to go do whatever it was they were doing that day, but that’s not the beast we’re dealing with anymore when we look at an outfit post. It’s not reality anymore, and even when it is, it’s an edited, well-lit, constructed reality.
But although part of me did realise that, the bottom line is I was not thinking straight. Literally. I’ve now started on a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course and I’m not that far into it, but one of the main things the program has taught me in the first few weeks is just how warped my thinking was. And I say was as though it’s suddenly not anymore – and that’s not the case. I still have what the program calls ‘automatic thoughts’ in response to things, but I at least am now in a slightly better position where some of the time, not all but some, I can recognise these thoughts as being my automatic thoughts and not actually ‘real’ thoughts. (I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to it than that but I’m not a therapist, I’m a patient, and I’m not going to try and explain how it works or why it works – I just want to cross my fingers and pray that it does work.)

And this was the other way in which blogging was really not healthy for me during the past few months – the automatic thoughts it was triggering for me and then the feelings that came as a result of the thoughts and the actions that I took as a result of those feelings.

I felt awful about myself, I felt hopeless, I felt inadequate. I felt like my existence was pointless because I’d retreated so far from real life that online life was genuinely what I was seeing as my ‘main’ life, and I felt like I was never going to be successful with that because how the hell could I be when I was up against these perfect, model-like bloggers who got sent all the latest clothes and beauty products and lives in warm, sunny countries where it didn’t rain all the time so they could easily get out and do a photoshoot of them wearing their beautiful gifted clothing? How could I step up to the plate there? How could I keep up and how could I compete? Answer: I couldn’t.
And I still can’t. I still live in Scotland, where it’s grey and overcast a lot of the time which isn’t ideal for photos and thanks to my issues with food I’ve managed to pile on about three stone since January because I responded to feeling awful by trying to eat to make me feel better, then forcing myself to eat as a punishment for not being strong enough not to eat the first thing in the first place, so even if I did live in some perfectly lit place that was ideal for photos I can assure you I don’t particularly feel like taking any right now…

But a few things have changed. Firstly I feel so much more engaged with my offline life that I’m no longer seeing my online one as my main one (god, all these lives, how do I keep up with myself?!) Yes, it would be bloody lovely to amass a great following and be able to turn my YouTube and blog into my career, but I don’t feel like I’ve totally failed at life because that hasn’t happened anymore.
The other thing is that, by feeling less like I’ve failed at life every minute of every day, I’ve managed to regain some feeling of worth. Don’t get me wrong, I still have extremely low self-esteem, and I still feel like there are huge areas of my life I’m failing in, but it’s not the over-whelming sense of failure and pointlessness that it was. So I’ve started to feel again that my opinions have a worth, and that’s a nice feeling to have.

I’ve been feeling for a few weeks now that I’m interested in blogging again and that I was ready to start again with it. But I didn’t quite know how to start again, or what to do – should I just go straight in with a product review or should I be like ‘hello and welcome to my new blog’ and just pretend like the last few months hadn’t happened.

So in the end I decided to just go for the truth. It’s not glamorous, or aspirational, and it doesn’t come swathed in a £4000 Burberry trench coat, but, as much as I say I found being in the blogging world detrimental to my mental health, blogging has, in the past, made a hugely positive impact on my life. The majority of my friends now are ones I’ve made through blogging and I started a new job a few weeks ago, which I wouldn’t have gotten had I not been a blogger. Although I may never receive a PR package with Dior Bags, I have had some amazing opportunities thanks to my blog. And although I may never get free trips to New York, being part of the blogging community has let me discover a million NYC tips from other bloggers that I wouldn’t have known, and I’ve been able to document my holidays so that, even if in a few years time I don’t want to do YouTube anymore, I can always have those vlogs to watch back and relive my own favourite holidays.

So yes, there’s been some negatives and for me stepping away from the blogging scene was definitely the healthiest thing for me to do for where I was a few months ago, but thankfully I’m not there anymore and I’m in a place where I think I can be back here.

And it feels good to be back. 

Sorry for my absence, my mental health has been shit.

25 May 2017

Latest Instagrams

© Rose Keats - A Scottish/UK Fashion & Lifestyle Blog By Roisin E. Keats. Design by Fearne.