(aka All aboard the Birthday Boat)
Back in 2011, my birthday was spent mostly on board a 69 foot canal boat, cruising down the Kennet & Avon canal in celebration of my many years on earth (or rather, in avoidance of it.)
The decision to go on a short canal holiday was partially my need to do something different, and partially due to my friend DC's love of such things. He had done a similar trip a few years ago with friends, and had been saying he wanted to do one again for some time. I dove at the chance, because I didn't want the emphasis this year to be on my birthday (nearing death) so much as on having fun (no death allowed).
I chose Foxhanger Canal Holidays entirely for their name, because each boat on their fleet is named after a fox or fox-related thing. Sadly, of all the Foxcubs and Fennec Foxes, on their fleet we got Fox Terrier, sister to the Fox Hunter. Irony.
Still, the boat itself was gorgeous. Nearly 70 feet of compact comfort, two double beds, a set of bunk beds and a sofa-bed in the living room. DC, Luke, Sarah, myself and Moose would all be there Monday to Friday, and the plan was that Pash would join us Tuesday evening in Bradford-on-Avon for a Savage World's roleplay and a meal in the Lock Inn, a fantastic pub-café-restaurant with a lovely owner and even lovelier food.
I'll admit, I was the most neurotic of the bunch, because the whole trip was on my head and because the £200 damage deposit was on Dad's head, so it wasn't entirely the relaxing holiday I'd planned. Every bump or scrape worried me, and when we got stuck turning around on the Wednesday, I dang near had a nervous breakdown. While Pash, Luke, DC and Sarah kept calm and did all they could to unstick the boat, I was inside crying and panicking and drinking cinnamon flavoured whiskey while being comforted by a comforting Moose.
He said, or Sarah said, or Pash or someone said, that I'd look back on this and laugh, and he's or she or they are right, because looking back it is downright hilarious. Had anyone else organised the trip, I would have been laughing and rolling my eyes, saying 'oh god, isn't it all so typical that we should do this'.
A guy we'd met previously, who had Skipper on his hat and who, thank the gods, knew what he was doing, finally came to our aid. He jumped off his boat and helped us. He took control, told us what to do, and finally had his own boat tow us out of the Avoncliffe Viaduct shallows, towards victory. Or, at least towards Bradford.
But. I digress, because all that happened on the Wednesday, which meant we had had two days of clear sailing before we ran ashore. We stopped at the Barge Inn Monday night, which was only an hour or so from where we had originally set off. The food was average (duck eggs, ham and chips for me), the prices were high, we probably wouldn't do it again, but it was a nice way to see in the start of our holiday. The night was spent playing Cranium and Munchkin and eating my Team Fortress 2 decorated birthday cake.
Tuesday night was spent with the company of Pash in Bradford-on-Avon, and Wednesday we went further down the canal towards our final destination (after the turning-around fiasco) and ate a gorgeous lamb roast cooked up by the fabulous DC. It made the whole boat smell of mint and of love.
On Thursday, we travelled back alongside Foxcub, a Foxhanger fleet boat we'd shared most of our return journey with, and alongside whom we'd completed many locks and swing bridges. Moose and I discovered that one of the locks had been left open, and a mamma duck and her babies had swam right into it. The fact Foxcub and OUR boat was heading straight into the lock was enough to kill me, because the duck and her babies would surely be crushed by our boats if we went in. I panicked. We ushered MammaDuck and her babies out, but they didn't want to go far from the lock. A nearby peep peep peeping revealed why; she had a baby still in the bushes, the other side of the lock from where we'd ushered her. While someone else sorted out the lock, Moose and I hunted for the duckling. I wasn't going to let the duckling stay there alone, and eventually I found it hiding in some undergrowth, surrounded by thorns and nettles. I scooped him up and dropped him into the water near MammaDuck, but he kept swimming back to me, over and over. Eventually MammaDuck cottoned on and came over to him, which is just as well because I bloody well would have taken him home with me had she rejected him. Eventually he swam up to her and joined her brood. Only...
...as we walked back to the boat, I heard another peep peep peep, and someone said "I think there's another one. Eh. Mother Nature can be cruel."
Yeah, sure she can, but had I left that second peep peep to starve and die, the whole holiday would be ruined. So I searched and searched and there he was, near where I found the first, all motionless and soft and adorable. I picked him up and he didn't move. I thought shock had gotten to him, but the moment he heard his mother's quack, he squirmed and dived out of my hand, backflipped into the water and zoomed towards her. Validated, chuffed, saviour to duck-kin, I re-boarded our boat and considered the holiday a success. We headed back to the hanger where we'd picked up our boat, packed up our belongings and finally left the Kennet & Avon canal.
I loved it. It was sad to end, despite my neurosis. I'd love to do something like it again, but further afield, and perhaps without my head being on the line should we somehow break the boat.
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It's been a long time since I posted any of my art here - and with 2020 being the way it is, I've not had many conventions to make art for lately! But, I've been slowly working on a few things here and there, and I've added a few new bits to my online shop. For those who don't follow me elsewhere on social media, I'm a pyrographer! That means I do wood-burnings. I usually burn cute animal and fantasy related subjects but when I saw these wooden coat hooks, I had to try something a little different!
The lines have been burned into the wood, and then I've coloured it in with pastels to give a really fun smooshy night sky effect. I finish all my pieces with several layers of glossy varnish to protect the colours and really make it 'pop'! This particular coat hook has been decorated with a scroll reading 'cloak hanger', which makes it for cosplayers, LARPers, or anyone, really, who might own a cloak!
As of posting this is still available in my shop! If you're interested in seeing more of my work, I have a separate website dedicated to my art and pyrography! I'd love it if you took a look and maybe had a cheeky browse around my online shop as well! I'll try to remember to post more of my art here as well as my other socials. It feels weird excluding such a large part of my life from my, y'know, lifestyle blog, after all.
For birthday way back in 2012, my friends, Moose and I all went to Disneyland Paris! It was my very first time out there - I've since returned several times! We flew out from Bristol Airport on Thursday the 5th of July and the plan was to spend one day in Disneyland Paris, one day in Actual Paris, and then flew home. It was only a quick whirlwind holiday but we crammed so much in our few days out there.
Our flight was due to leave Bristol at 4:10 but we were stuck on the ground for an hour thanks to bad weather in Paris. Fortunately, we'd come armed with Magic: the Gathering cards to play in the airport. No use sitting around bored, after all. Big tip - always take cards of some sort for airports and long journeys! Magic: The Gathering is a great one, Exploding Kittens or Unstable Unicorns are great for it too!
Landing at Paris and finding our hotel was easy as pie since my Dad had actually booked a taxi to take us directly there. I've never had someone hold my name up at an airport before! I felt Very Important. We checked in, explored our rooms (we actually had a little apartment-hotel) and then went for a wander around the local area.
Val d'Europe is an area that thrives off the Disney tourism - it was actually built in conjunction with Disneyland Paris. There's a huge American style mall there, some gorgeous restaurants and everything just looks pretty and clean and new. We had dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant just inside the mall, stuffed ourselves silly, and were pretty satisfied with a perfect end to our journey. Afterwards, we had a bit of a waddle around to walk off all the food, saw the lights of Disney's Space Mountain in the distance, and said 'ahhhh, this is already good!!'
The next day, we were up early and out the door by 8 to catch the first shuttle bus of the day to Disneyland! They officially open at 10 but I'd heard they often open the gates earlier, so we made sure we were there in plenty of time. It meant hanging out for a while outside the gates just pawing at Disneyland Studios from afar, but we didn't mind. Since the Studios close earlier than the main park, we decided to go there first. There's a ride called 'Crush's Coaster' which doesn't have a fast pass system and is unique to this park, so I was advised by Disney experts to rush straight for it as the gates opened. It was wild! The moment the gates opened, people were literally sprinting past us to hit Crush's Coaster first. The queue for the ride was totally worth it, though. In fact, it was probably one of my favourite rides in the whole two parks. It started off really peaceful and fun but the end was a swirling dark Space Mountain-esque rollercoaster that had us giggling like idiots all the way through. Totally awesome.
After Crush's, we went to get a fast pass ticket for the Tower of Terror, a ride I'd not yet been on in the American parks, and then went to ride the R.C Racer ride (which broke down as we got on it, yay!), grab food and drink and book our table at the Blue Lagoon restaurant later that evening. I asked the lady for a birthday pin even though it wasn't technically my birthday, and she obliged. There's an unwritten rule, I think, that you can have a birthday pin six months prior to your birthday, and six months after your birthday, also. Disney Magic.
Next up was the Tower of Terror and I really wasn't sure what to make of it because I didn't think I'd be a huge fan of drop rides, but of course, it's since become one of my absolute favourites, even if this was my reaction:
And after Tower of Terror, we decided to venture into the Disney Village, a restaurant-retail area between the parks, to grab lunch. We headed over to get lunch at Annette's Diner, where DC took them up on their mega burger challenge, offering you the chance to win a free shake if you finish their whole multi multi multi-burgered burger. He won!
Afterwards, we headed over to the main park. Finally! As we got in, we were just in time for an awesome little parade! We watched it from the main gazebo and then it started to rain, typically! So, we decided to hop on the train and do a loop around the entire park. I never actually use the trains and such in the Disney parks, but they're as much an attraction as the actual rides, so we stayed dry while enjoying a Disney railroad journey
We stepped off in Discoveryland, grabbed a fast pass for Space Mountain later and then went straight to the Buzz Lightyear ride since it was indoors (still raining.) I love the Buzz ride. It's so simple but so, so much fun. You're on a track, armed with laser guns and have to hit the targets. You're competing with the person sharing your buggy and of course, Moose won. Why doesn't that surprise me?
After Buzz, we went to Space Mountain, but in the queue I started getting a really strange headache. It felt entirely like the precursor to a migraine which I suffer from rarely, - but when I do get them, they slay me for days. I got completely wound up and upset and worried, so we hopped out of the queue to grab some water. Honestly, I was more upset that I'd messed up our schedule or that I'd ruined our day, but after some water and a slow walk towards the castle, it eased off, thank goodness. We only had this one day in the park and everything was on such a tight schedule, after all.
We milled around a little afterwards, rode some rides and explored La Cabane des Robinson (Robinson's Treehouse to you and me), and Adventure Isle, before finally ...enduring Small World before our dinner reservation.
We had dinner booked at the Blue Lagoon (now called Captain Jacks), which is a restaurant I'd been dying to eat in ever since I'd seen the Blue Bayou as a kid (hey, they're similar.) The menu is expensive (isn't everything in Disney?) but the food was absolutely gorgeous. I've heard that the quality has gone down considerably in recent years, which is a shame, because my three courses (prawn cocktail, Caribbean chicken and something coconutty, I recall) were delicious. I guess what you're really paying for is the atmosphere, though. Set in the middle of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, Blue Lagoon shares all the dimly lit, piratey atmosphere. You even get to wave to the ride boats as they go by. It's very lovely. I had a couple of glow-tinis too (cocktails with added glowing icecubes - Disney Magic!), because this was my official Birthday Dinner after all - a girl's gotta celebrate!
By now, it was starting to get dark, so we rode a few more rides (Big Thunder in the dark is incredible) while we waited for the firework display at the end. We actually saw that Space Mountain had a five minute queue, so we quickly bolted for it, as we'd missed the chance earlier. I was so glad we were able to tick every box of the main rides we wanted to do, even if Space Mountain kind of hurts my neck and head a whole bunch.
It absolutely amazes me that we were able to squeeze so much in to just one day, considering we managed to ride pretty much all the big ones, see the fireworks, eat two sit-down dinners (Anettes and Blue Lagoon), and catch a bit of the parade! If memory serves, we managed to ride:
I've since returned to Disneyland Paris five times and there's always something new I somehow missed last time. It's worth noting that the whole Ratatouille area in the Studios didn't exist when we first went, however! I can't wait to return again, but it won't be for a little while now. I'm waiting for their big Studios renovations to finish first, and in the meantime, I have a big Disney World trip to plan for in 2022 (er, if thing's get a little more normal by then.)
Anyway! Thanks for coming on this little trip down memory lane with me. I've got a few more trips to finally write up, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing these older photos. In the meantime, why not check out my trip reports from my return in 2015 and 2016!
If some of my recent posts didn't give it away, I absolutely adore Halloween. I think it's such a magical, fun, silly little holiday. I'm fortunate enough to be part of a family who always celebrated it, even when the rest of our country seemed entirely reluctant. My Mum is a sucker for all things spooky and decorating the house to fit any occasion, so it's no wonder she took to Halloween the way she did. Growing up, I never really celebrated with friends. Instead, Mum would decorate the house and dress me up as a gruesome little witch - we had two cats and one was black, after all - and she'd make 'Halloween Punch' for us all to enjoy (which, looking back, I'm sure had wine in it…!) We'd carve pumpkins each and watch spooky movies on TV and we always managed to include the wonderful Disney short 'Trick or Treat' from 1952 - the tune is still sung regularly around our house this time of year!
When the evening drew in, Dad would take me out trick-or-treating, which really translated to walking me across the road to one specific neighbour in a pre-arranged visit, where I would be armed with a sweet or two. We lived in a small village, and our particular area had no children or younger families really, so even though we decorated the house, we rarely actually received any trick-or-treaters ourselves.
Still, growing up, the night was magical. I grew up in a house where occasions were truly celebrated and where everything was exciting.
When we went to Florida for the very first time, we went in October and it was mind boggling to me how full-on the Americans went for Halloween! How they decorated their houses so beautifully, and how the theme parks went mad for the season! If there's something I'd take away from the Americans, it's how they put so much passion and enthusiasm into everything they do. Coming from the UK where so much is met with a 'mustn't grumble' mentality, it really is refreshing to actually see people embracing and enjoying silly things and just plain having fun.
As a teenager, I discovered and subsequently became obsessed with the band Oingo Boingo. Known most famously in California for their Halloween Party Anthem, 'Dead Man's Party', Boingo are a band heavily associated with Halloween. I made several trips to the West Coast in subsequent Octobers to meet friends I'd made through the band, and even went to a Halloween party in Hollywood dressed as the Queen from the Boingo-centric b-movie 'The Forbidden Zone'! And though they disbanded in 1995, I was lucky enough to fly out to LA for their first ever reunion show which was, you guessed it, on Halloween!
So if I was ever meant to 'grow out' of Halloween, it certainly didn't happen. If anything, my love for the holiday only grew as I gained friends who shared my interests. In recent years, also, the UK seems to have started to embrace the spooky season, so we usually find something fun to do as a family. For example, a couple of years ago, we went to S.S. Great Britain in Bristol, for example, to enjoy their 'Spooky Ship' event and had a wonderful time!
I guess my figuring is, life is short and it can be incredibly monotonous if you allow. Halloween offers a chance to dress up, put on some crazy makeup and just plain have fun. If you're a convention goer like me, you probably don't need any excuse to dress up in a silly costume! But a lot of people don't get the opportunity very often, so why not don the silly hat, stick a bin-bag on your back and find your nan's old broom? Magic and make-believe doesn't have to stay behind with childhood, after all!
Autumn isn't just for rusts, oranges and browns, though of course those colours are perfect for the season. However, I'll never turn down the chance to wear some pretty pastels, too - pastels aren't just for Spring, after all!
I recently picked up this jumper from Matalan and it is so lovely! It's such a lovely dusty pink and it's really light, stretchy and soft, perfect for wearing over dresses, under dresses or with cute dungarees or pinafore dresses, too!
Jumper - Matalan
Dress - Urban Outfitters
Leggings - Primark
Boots - Charity shop find (no obvious brand)
As the evenings draw in, long and dark and cold, I've taken to watching a lot of Netflix. Nothing beats snuggling up in a blanket, scented candle burning away, as you catch up on a new show. Here's a few I've been enjoying lately!
Emily in Paris
Okay, so this show is new on Netflix and became a big talking point on social media, so I had to check it out. Honestly? It isn't very good. It's fluffy, ridiculous, unrealistic and, quite frankly, a bit rubbish. And I binge watched it in two days. It's fun. And it's pretty. It is light-hearted and it draws you in. The story of Emily, a girl who transfers to a Parisian office and navigates the world of new workmates, new romances and new challenges - all with a language barrier - is not realistic at all. She sails through trial and tribulation, breezes through difficult encounters and wins out, every time. But, it's what I feel I needed, in 2020. A little escapism (Paris through the rose tinted glasses of a tourist who dreams to visit someday), a little hope, and a little romanticism - we could do worse than to enjoy this fluff in 2020. It wasn't a very good show, but I can't wait for season two!
Dead to Me
My Mum and I were hunting for a new show to watch together and I happened on this one a while ago. I watched the first few episodes and got completely hooked, and demanded she watch along. Every single episode in season one seems to end with a twist. It is engaging, funny, emotional and addictive. The lead characters, Judy and Jen are completely compelling (and their actors are so, so incredibly talented). The plot centres around two women who meet at a bereavement counselling group following the death of Jen's husband by a hit and run driver. I won't say any more, because honestly, you have to watch it.
I am a sucker for teen dramas. It's honestly my favourite genre. I saw Trinkets advertised on Netflix because Season two had just landed, so I figured I'd give it a go. Trinkets is the story of three teenage girls who wouldn't normally cross paths in their high school social groups, but who meet at a 'Shoplifters Anonymous' meeting. The show unpacks a lot for each character, and I honestly found myself feeling as though I knew the girls personally. Sadly, there's only two seasons, though the show does have a proper, complete ending. I very much appreciated the closure, but dang, I'll miss these girls.
Another ridiculous show, but one I've followed for a while now. Season three only recently hit Netflix so I've been catching up. It's your typical Rich Americans Are Brats show, but I absolutely love it, and love pretending I also can enjoy their fancy lifestyles. Elizabeth Gillies (Fallon Carrington) is such a talented actress and honestly, Fallon is sassy, girl boss goals. Even if she sometimes messes things up, a lot.
I know, I know. I bought into the hype. But honestly, for the same reasons I love shows like Dynasty, I love reality tv like Selling Sunset. I like to be a voyeur into the lifestyle of the rich and glamorous. It's nice daydreaming and pretending, right?
I've always loved Autumn, and oddly enough it's the time of year where I find myself drawn back to blogging. Something about the long dark evenings, warm cosy jumpers and cups of steaming hot cocoa really makes me want to snuggle up with my laptop and pour my heart out to the world. Autumn holds so much promise to me, so I thought I'd write up a little list of my five most favourite things about this beautiful season.
These days, against my better judgement, I find myself using Instagram more and more for my ‘day to day’, lifestyle blogging. It's easy, convenient and it's where all the cool kids hang out these days. Only… I swore I’d never do that. I made it my goal to turn this blog around and make it an online diary I’d look back on someday and reminisce about the girl I was. Instagram, for all its reach, connections and aesthetics, never felt like a true blogging platform. I like lots of words, backed up by multiple photos, and I like those photos at a 6:4 ratio, haha.
Still, I'd be remis to ignore Instagram completely. I thoroughly enjoy the platform, despite its questionable algorithms! So I thought, in a way to keep both places current and active, I'd do a monthly series here called 'Life in Square Pictures', where each month I'll collect together my little square photos and post them here. Who doesn't love a pretty photo collage anyway?
I received a copy of Ringfit Adventure at Christmas, Nintendo's newest fitness game that aims to make fitness fun. And even though I believed its claims - every review I read or watched on Youtube attested to as much - I didn't actually remove it from its box until, well, two days ago.
See, there was always a convenient excuse. I'm quite busy with cons throughout the year and travelling to different events usually involves lots of food away from home, lots of drinking and very little time for fitness. So, y'know, where's the point in starting a fitness regime if i'm going to Japan in a few weeks, right? And where's the point in starting in February when I have Secret Cinema around the corner. And then there's MCM Birmingham right after that, in March. Silly getting into it only to blow it all on post-convention Nandos, right? I'll do it some other time, when I have more time.
And then, well, 2020 got into full swing, didn't it, and gave us all far more time than we'd ever hoped for. Lockdown happened, every event and convention I had planned got cancelled, and suddenly I started running out of excuses.
On May 4th, the force was very much with me, and I finally picked up the box and strapped the joycon to my leg and started my Ringfit Adventure. And, guys, it really is very fun! I initially set it to level 2 because I'm a baby and selected a 'casual workout', but after two days of being kinda-sorta out of breath, I upped it to a moderate workout at level 8 and started again. I repeated World 1 and 2 and boy, oh boy, did I feel it this time. I'm incredibly unfit! BUT, not for much longer!
The game is great. It combines aspects of an RPG with HIIT-style training. So, you'll jog on the spot to progress through levels and attack enemies using various exercise moves, all the while collecting coins and powerups and all the other goodies you'd expect to find in an adventure game. It doesn't get boring, which is something I really struggle with while running or doing aerobics. You're too distracted with the course, with the powerups and with the bad guys. By the time you've progressed through a world, you're sweating buckets and you've not once glanced at the clock. It's great.
My goal is to lose 3 stone and 3 lbs. My weight has crept up and up the past few years and I really don't know why. As an artist/blogger/gamer/insert sedentary lifestyle-er, I'm putting it down to lack of exercise, as I eat and drink pretty much the same as I ever did (in fact, I drink a lot less cider than I did at Uni!)
Losing those 3 stone and 3 lbs would get me back down to my Uni weight, and I'd like that very much indeed, right now! I don't think I'll ever get to my thinnest ever - I can't imagine being a UK size 10 again - and I've made my peace with that, even though I did shed a tear as I threw away my lovely H&M skirts, corduroy flares and raver pants!
I'll be updating my blog here of my fitness journey, and I'm excited to share it with you all! I truly hope the game keeps me entertained for long enough to reach my goal, and considering they've just updated it with a new rhythm game and various extras, I'm sure that will be the case!
Boy, it's been a minute, huh? And the worst part is, my New Years Resolution all those months ago was to make sure this didn't happen anymore. In December, folks started sharing 'then and now' posts on Twitter, detailing the last decade of their lives, and I realised with such sadness that I haven't really been documenting my life very well since the migration from Livejournal. I used to post so much to my blog back then. I'd share my thoughts and feelings on anything and everything, from the trivial matters of Doctor Who drama to the very real moments of heartache and bereavement.
Looking back now, I have a beautiful archive of the life I lived from 2001 to around 2013, when I stopped using my Livejournal as often. The site had started to dry up and people had moved away, so I did also. I moved here, to my own blog, and while I'm happy that I've got my own little home on the internet here in Dream Somehow, I'm also incredibly sad that I just ...stopped sharing as much as I did back then. With the lack of the active built-in blogging community that Livejournal supported, it became so easy to just post a little snippet on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, where engagement was constant, immediate and fulfilling.
But, I deeply regret turning entirely to Social Media, because your words get lost to the ether, and there's no easy timeline to look back through.
So my resolution, because I'm silly enough to make these things each year, was to 'blog more, vlog more, document more'. I wanted to force myself back into the habit of keeping this place a diary of my life and the adventures I embark on throughout it. I wanted to ensure that I don't look back at another decade and wonder where the heck those days all went.
And now we're approaching May. And I've very much not kept to my resolution at all.
So this is me, again apologising for the lack of updates, again promising it'll change this time, and that I mean it this time! No, really. I truly do. I have so much to share with you!
Hi! I'm Selena an artist, blogger and gamer!
Dream Somehow is my little corner of the internet where I talk about life, the universe and everything! Here, you'll find travel, adventures, vintage style, life in the South West of England, a little bit of Disney dreaming and a whole lot of geeky nonsense. If you'd like to learn a little more about me, click here!