A trip to David Clulow for my first Ray-Bans

My name's Ree and I am a glasses wearer. I realised I needed assistance with my vision when I was 17 and at college. I complained that the OHP was out of focus, much to the amusement of my classmates. A friend passed her glasses over, and I gasped when I tried them on. The world was so clear and sparkling!

I started my spectacles journey with a bumpy start, hating my glasses, and only wearing them when I really had to. I wore contact lenses to go out in. I felt ugly in glasses, and was always reminded of the phrase "Guys don't make passes to girls who wear glasses." BOOOOO.

wearing vintage glasses 2017.jpg

Jump forward to now. 18 years on, and I adore wearing glasses. I never wear contacts, and I own a whole shelf load of glasses. I love that I'm a girl who wears glasses, and men do make passes...promise! I'd say 90% of my glasses collection are vintage frames, but I do allow a couple of brand new frames to sneak in too!

Recently I was excited to be offered a visit to David Clulow Opticians to review their eye health check service, and to try my very first pair of Ray-Bans. It was perfect timing as my last eye test was 2 years ago, and I was due another visit. So I got booked in to the Covent Garden store and prayed to the eye gods that my prescription hadn't changed much (imagine having to update all of my frames with new lenses!). The eye exam and the glasses were gifted to me as a review, but of course my thoughts are all my own.

rayban review.jpg

What surprised me about walking into the David Clulow store was how upmarket it felt. I usually visit Specsavers for my eye tests, as I've always thought they offered the cheapest eye test. I couldn't imagine wanting to spend more on one, it's just a test right!? I entered the shop, and loved how smart it all felt, less noisey and cluttered than the average Specsavers store. I was really surprised to see that the cost was about the same! I usually pay £20-£25, and David Clulow charge £25. Good to know, as I somehow presume the fancier looking opticians are automatically more expensive. They also do NHS tests, if you qualify for those!

The eye exam was pretty as expected; thorough, swift and pretty chilled. They're not just checking your vision, but the entire health of the eye. Opticians can spot a wide variety of health concerns, so even if you don't currently wear glasses, an eye check is still recommended.

I did try on a few round frames (the only shape I don't really own) but gosh no. Simply no. I loved that the they pushed me to try a few new things, but I couldn't help it. I had to go for a classic Ray-Ban frame, as its suits my retro preferences perfectly. I just like what I like!

raybans david clulow.jpg

I was impressed with how fast my glasses were made, and the staff were super friendly and welcoming. I'm definitely going to return there for my next eye test. Oh and the eye gods listened, my prescription hadn't changed at all! Woohoo!

Daily things men (and women) can do for feminism

what can we do for feminism.jpg

What with Trump, and the far-fucking right roaring their pathetic scrawny voices, and of course Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse revelations, feminism is riding it's latest wave. The recent #MeToo social campaign, led by the call "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem." Yet again the weight of change was being placed on the shoulders of women, with some 'woke' men saying "I hear you, I stand by you". We don't need you standing silently, we need you to help. To take action.

The problem is huge, and the actions aren't always clear. Do we march? Do we sign petitions? What are we meant to do?! With a challenge so huge, where do we even start?

So here is my list of 5 small things men can do to help feminism. Women, you can do them too if you fancy. These won't change the world tomorrow, but nothing will.....so we may as well try something right?

1. Consider the clothing you buy for the children in your life. Sexism is rife, before baby is even born, and is evident in the colours and patterns we dress children in, the books and toys we buy them, and how we talk to them. 

Really consider what you're buying and why. I still struggle with this, despite trying hard. I easily buy "gender neutral clothing" for girls, but still find a lot of social barriers for boys. Why are flowers, butterflies and unicorns seen as so female? 

2. Volunteer to challenge stereotypes. Today I attended a training session for a literacy volunteer programme. It involves giving children at risk of under-performing a chance to read one-on-one with an adult once a week. There were 16 women there, and one man. Children, both boys and girls need to see men reading. Both boys and girls need to meet men who are the sort of men who would volunteer at a literacy charity. Is there was a way you could spend time with some children and challenge stereotypes with them in some way?

3. Reflect on your dynamic with your significant other. Read this about the "mental load" that women often carry in relationships/households - gender wars comic. If you need some ideas on how to divide this mental load up, take a peek here - How to share the load.

4. Read. It isn't the job of feminists to educate those who have yet to learn. It's a burden, and they're busy. Read some books, some blogs, some articles. None of us are born knowing this stuff, and we all open our eyes to it at different times. Read.

5. Listen for the low-key sexist language that slips into our conversation, pull yourself and others up on it. There are so many words we generally only use to demean women; bitch, bossy, fiesty, frumpy, bubbly, pushy, nag etc. These may seem harmless but they're part of a huge weight of sexism that limits all genders. We may as well start small right?

These won't rock the world, but they are changes that need to happen, and things that are all in our grasp. I'd love to hear if you have any more ideas for small daily things men and women can do to challenge everyday sexism.

Lanzarote Vineyard Tour with Eco Insider

lanzarote eco insider review

I've enjoyed a lot of wine in my time. Now that I'm in my 30s I've even developed a taste for wine that I prefer, and wine that isn't as nice. I'm not yet a red wine drinker, but I'm all about a cheeky white, rose or fizzy. Wine provides a different 'tipsy' or drunk feeling than other alcohols, and it suits a lazy pub catch up, or a moment to unwind after a hard day. But I don't know much about wine. I don't really understand what I like and why I like it. I am led by pretty labels at the supermarket shelf. 

wine tour lanzarote

So, while on holiday with a best mate who is currently studying for her wine exams, and visiting Lanzarote, a place that makes a lot of wine, I was more than happy to be offered the chance to review a vineyard tour with Eco Insider Tours Lanzarote.

The day started with Jose collecting us from our hotel, which takes all the stress out of an excursion doesn't it? Not having to get yourself somewhere for an exact start time, in a place you don't know. We made our way to collect a few more guests from other hotels, and then headed to our first vineyard. 

vineyard tour lanzarote

La Geria was our first stop, and we met our tour guide Ed, who helped give us some basic knowledge about the industry's history. The vineyards here don't look like other vineyards I've seen, for example the winery in Menorca had the traditional vines, the plants are grown in large crater-like holes in the ground, surrounded by little walls, to protect them for the harsh winds. It created a landscape that feels pretty moon-like!

We tasted 3 wines here, a white, a rose and a dessert/sweet wine, and there was definitely no hard sell to buy anything. In fact someone on our tour had been interested in purchasing the rose, but was told that there wasn't even any available to buy - I believe it was online sales only. So you don't need to worry about any awkward pressures to order a ton of wine to ship home! They do offer that service though, which could be fun if you found something you were keen on.

eco insider tour review

Our second vineyward was the oldest winery in Lanazarote, El Grifio, which amusingly for me has a logo that seems like a cute Welsh dragon (it is of course a griffin). We had a tour of the museum, and again had 3 wines to sample, a white, a sparkling and a red. Lanzarote isn't famed for it's reds, so don't come expecting to try a lot, they're all about their white, sweet and sparkling, which is still plenty to get your taste buds around. Ed helped us understand how the process, why wines taste how they do, and his passion for enjoying a cheeky glass was clear to see. It's always great to learn from someone passionate about their interests. 

The third vineyward was the complete opposite to the first two, it was a new winery with very modern branding, and we had very new wines to taste. So new in fact, one of them had been bottled 2 weeks ago. It tasted so different to other others we'd tried! Here we had a white, a rose and a dessert/sweet wine to sample. It was so interesting to hear how our tastes varied around the table!  I definitely wasn't keen, but it was fascinating to taste!

Julio our driver was so great at using the drives between vineyards to give us extra information and understanding about the area, and he was so enthusiastic and helpful. We really enjoyed hearing from him.

lanzarote wine tour review

The tour ended with lunch, at a local restaurant, with the wine still flowing! They were very accomodating of my vegetarianism (I'd advised them ahead of time), and even though I was wine-d out by then, the group were still enjoying topping up their glasses! 

Given I'm not really a wine buff, I really enjoyed being able to experience some types of wines I'd never had before. I felt the knowledge was detailed enough without being overwhelming and boring, and I definitely came away understanding the process of wine making. The wine industry is really important to Lanzarote, even though they don't seem to be that big on importing it to the UK. They say they're more than happy to keep it for themselves! 

Learning BSL (Sign Language) with Remark Training

My secondary school was unusual in two main ways; firstly we didn't have a uniform, and secondly we had a deaf unit, basically a school within our school for deaf students. This meant that many of our lessons had an interpreter in, standing alongside the teacher, translating for a small group of students who used BSL, British Sign Language.

As teens, me and my friends learned some basic sign, and used the alphabet to talk secretly when we were out clubbing. Yes, we went clubbing when we were at school.....London wasn't very strict on ID back then! When I left school, my interest in BSL stuck with me, and I wanted to be an interpreter myself. I ordered a Sign book, and attempted to learn more. Without youtube, or a class, I hit a brick wall. At 19 I became an aupair in Germany, in an attempt to learn German instead.

Skip forward 15 years, and I've always returned to BSL in small ways. I watch youtube videos, and me and my ex-boyfriend used to use some together too. So when I was offered the chance to review an intensive course with Remark Training I leapt at the chance. As ever, all views are mine, and are not influenced by the fact I was reviewing it.

The Level 1 training at Remark is generally 20 weeks long, one evening a week, but they also do an Intensive Course, which is 3 full days a week for a month. They are based in London and Birmingham, and I attended in their London office, which is a short walk from Farringdon Station.

I actually missed the first day, so when I arrived on day 2, I was immediately impressed that our teachers were native users of BSL. I remember at school my German teacher pretended to be German for a long time! Luckily I was able to sign "Sorry," and my name, and I settled in. Apparently on the first day they had an intrepreter who was speaking in English, to help with the transition! The class size was small, definitely no hiding at the back! We had a total of 7 people in our class.

It's always fascincating to meet people who are trying to learn another language, as the reasons often vary so much. Generally people were learning for career reasons, teachers of the deaf (TOD), medical professionals and speech specialists. I was the only person doing it for 'fun'. 

As with any language, you have to start with the basics, which can get frustrating but I appreciate there is no way around this. Numbers, colours, your family, how you travel to work etc. During class we used only sign, and during breaks we got to know each other better with English. 

BSL Level 1 has three assessments within it, conveniently called 101, 102, and 103. These assessments are official, and verified by a nationwide body called Signature. They last about 5 minutes, and are a filmed conversation between you and an assessor. You are shown the marking criteria beforehand, and have lots of opportunity to practice beforehand. 

We got our 101 scores back a few days after the assessment, and it is out of 18, with a passmark of 15. One person failed, and needed to pay to retake it. For the 2nd and 3rd assessment we were told they could take 5 weeks, but we got them about 2 weeks after the course finished. These were scored out of 40, and had a 50% pass mark. They are harder, but more allowance for mistakes!

I passed all 3 of my assessments and therefore have successfully acheieved my Level 1. You can move on to level 2,3 and 6, as well as doing additional inprepreter qualifications. Becoming fluent in another language is a huge undertaking, and BSL is no different!

So what did I think of Remark? I loved the small class sizes, and that they used teachers who were deaf and native BSL users. I found all staff to be friendly, welcoming and genuinely lovely. The location was modern, clean and easy to get to. And I passed, so they did something right! I do wish that they'd modernise their teaching materials (I'd love to do it for them!), as the powerpoints are very clipart 2001, which aren't super inspiring. I'd also love to get some more teaching activities going. For example in one lesson I suggested we play 20 questions, which worked really well to practise our vocabulary in a different way. There are so many games and activites that we could use, from 'Who am I' to Guess Who etc. We did get a little bored at the end of just repeating the same information and conversations over and over. 

I'd love there to be a course aimed at more social use, I'd like to learn more things that I'd use meeting someone in the pub, rather than the traditional 'school' type topics. For example, there is a big focus on hobbies, interests and sports. We struggled to even grasp the idea that a hobby was different to an interest or sport, as we generally don't do many hobbies as adults! We also got bored of describing commutes and journeys, and describing our homes. Ideally I'd have loved to skip those, and learn things like, "What drink do you want, "What did you do last night?". "What do you watch on TV?", and "Which celebrity do you fancy and why". You get what I mean!

I have seen a few classes pop up recently, that teach people sign songs, as these are having an increase in popularity on youtube, and while I understand there is a small amount of controversy with these as a genre (they're often SSE, sign supported English, rather than BSL) they at least allow access to the language in a more fun setting. Sadly I've only found ones that are too far away for me to visit so far. I'd love to join one though, and even better if it was a BSL choir, rather than an SSE one. 

I'm really glad I've finally had some official teaching, and BSL is still something that I enjoy learning. For now, I'll stick to youtube videos, but who knows in the future!

I was amazed at how many people were interested in this, when I was sharing on twitter and instagram about my progress. So many of you have learned BSL, or are interested in doing so, and I didn't hesitate to recommend Remark. 

Lanzarote in October vs. Menorca in May

lanzarote in october

2017 ended up being the year of the Spanish holiday. Back in May I was lucky enough to be sent to Menorca with the Spanish Tourist Board, and then I took myself off for some October sun to Lanzarote. It seems the trip to Menorca was successful, it opened my eyes to the idea of European holidaying. I'd previously written it off, as perhaps not exciting enough, or a little too "Brits Abroad", and considering I could get to far flung places like Bali for the same amount of money (and spend less while there) it just didn't seem to make sense to stay so close to home. Do you know what changed for me though? Realising how fucking miserable a flight to Bali could be. I definitely found the 13 hour flight to Sinagpore pretty heartbreaking, and you needed to the 2 week holiday in the middle to get over the journeys both way. So when you just want a week away, going too far is just a lot of effort for not enough reward.

lanzarote hot in october.jpg

So, in my search for October sunshine, I ended up choosing Lanzarote, a Spanish island off the coast of West Africa. Sounds a pretty safe bet for sunshine if you ask me. We'd toyed with Greece or Turkey, but it being that little bit later in the year I didn't really trust the weather. I wanted to be as south as possible, for a decent flight time. I figured south meant less likely to suffer from clouds or rain. 

I adored Menorca, in a way that I hadn't expected. It was stunning; really picturesque, and so charming. Not at all 'Brits Abroad', it felt really Spanish. It was quiet, and relaxing, with the most turquoise seas I'd seen in a long time. I came away from it excited and refreshed. 

lanzarote review.jpg

I wasn't really sure what I expected from Lanzarote, I'd heard more about it certainly, and a lot of my travel blogging friends suggested it as a European break for October. I didn't expect it to be as pretty as Menorca certainly, as I just knew it was bigger and more established as a holiday resort.

what is lanzarote like.jpg

The landscape in Lanzarote is dominated by the vocanic mountains, and the black soils. It makes it rather moon-like, or at least what I imagine the moon to look like. The weather was a tad cloudy when we arrived, and I was a little nervous, but by the time we'd arrived at the hotel it was lovely and hot with blue skies. Phew.

lanzarote landscape.jpg
lanzarote or menorca.jpg

On neither holiday did I venture too far to find bars or clubs, but in Lanzarote we decided to try Puerto Del Carmen, just for one evening. We took a 40 euro taxi to explore the busy strip, and to investigate an interesting cocktail bar I'd found on trip advisor. As soon as we were dropped off, we knew we wouldn't be staying long. It was what I'd feared I suppose, a huge street of Irish pubs, Chinese restaurants and sports bars. It was rather odd; it was busy but no one really seemed to be having fun. We drank one drink and quickly hailed a cab to return back to our hotel. Everyone wants different things from their holiday, and we didn't want Puerto Del Carmen.

I didn't return to Menorca, as I was worried it wouldn't have been hot enough, but taking a peek at the weather for this week, they seem pretty similar. Lanzarote did what I needed it to do; it provided a week of sunshine and swimming pools, but it didn't grab my soul in the way that Menorca did.

My knuckle tattoos are 6 years old today

read more knuckle tattoos 2017

Back in 2011, I was working at the London Tattoo Convention. I impulsively decided to see if any tattooists had any spots to tattoo my knuckles. I found a guy who did, and he said he'd come find me when he was ready. Cue a few hours of mind-dumping 4/4 letter combinations, via stall holders and twitter trying to decide what I should get done. Clearly this is not how I'd advocate getting your hands tattoos, just as an FYI.

do hand tattoos last.PNG

Due to the thinness of the skin, and the exposure and wear and tear that hands suffer, hand tattoos are generally deemed as not super durable, they fade, and ink can "fall out". I've been lucky, and I do have people comment that they can't believe how well they've held. I've obviously added some more along the way too.... 

do knuckle tattoos last

I'd almost ended up with WINE TIME, and I imagine I'd have covered them up by now if I had, so I'm pretty fricking grateful my sensible brain took over, and I went with READ MORE. Timeless advice that will never get old.

Oh, and I didn't really learn....my bottom knuckle tattoos were equally as impulsive when I got those two years ago ---> Read about that here.

Heidi Klum at Lidl - I went shopping

heidi klum lidl.jpg

I was doing my daily shop, and happened upon the new Heidi Klum range in Lidl. I'd seen some whisperings about it on the internet, so I had a quick browse. I like Heidi, from what I see of her online, and doing a range in a budget supermarket is a brave move.

lidl heidi klum.jpg

Lidl doesn't have clothing racks like other supermarkets, so they boxed it all, which I thought was rather smart, although I bet it was chaos at the end of the day.

So I treated myself to a leopard print hoody, a leopard print camisole and some skinny jeans.