Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Reflecting on mental health awareness week

A side profile shot of me sitting on a doorstep in blue jeans and a floral blue crop top
Mental health awareness week has passed, and I stopped myself from publishing this post last week because I wanted to continue the conversation. I shared the story about my battle with mental health over on twitter and I will be sharing it here, once I’ve found the strength to write about it in depth.

There’s a lot of cliché things I can say in regard to mental health, I’m sure you’ve heard it and you’re sick of hearing it. This post is not that. The theme for this year's awareness week was kindness and I struggled to put my thoughts into words that make sense to someone living outside of my head so, I wrote a poem.

I feel my lungs fill with air,
heavy hands press down onto my shoulders.
I feel myself begin to sink,
as it takes over.

My limbs are not working.
I’m stuck.
My ears are full of water.
I can’t hear.

Can you see me?
Can you hear me?
If I scream louder, will you notice me?
If I don’t scream at all, am I still valid?

It has my thoughts under lock and key.
I am trapped.
I have the ability to breathe but I can’t.
I feel suffocated.

Its hold is stronger than I.
“Give up”, it whispers,
I nearly give in.

I fall,
I’m saved.
I fall again.
This time,
I shatter

I fall one last time,
I overcome
I stand tall-
For now


Wednesday, 20 May 2020

How to curate your Instagram feed

A screenshot of my instagram feed
While we've been in quarantine, I've noticed that a lot of us have become more creative. Before lockdown, creating content was a lot easier because backgrounds, locations, tools etc were more accessible and now, we've been forced to make do with what we have and adapt to our new reality. 

I've taken this time to sort the mess that was my Instagram feed and I thought I'd put together a post with all the resources I've been using and would recommend to anyone trying to curate or clean up their feed. 

How I take photos:
I take my photos on an iPhone 11 in photo mode, older photos from March 2020 or earlier were taken on an iPhone 8 plus or Olympus pen E-PL7. Please note, a camera is not necessary for taking good quality photos like they say, a good workman never blames his tools. 

How I edit:
I mainly shoot using natural light but if I want to edit a photo e.g. before and after shots when I'm playing around with my camera, I edit using Lightroom, there's a free mobile version in the app store and I play around with all the different features until I get the desired look. I also use Unfold (app) and the FF1 templates (£1.99) to create photos like the CDG converse one on my grid. If I want 9 photos in one post like the one where I'm wearing a pink dressing gown on my grid, I favourite the 9 shots that I want to use, screenshot and crop the border. 

How I plan:
You see how all of my photos blend well together? To achieve this, I use Feedr (app) to plan my feed to avoid posting and deleting it immediately after. I try to plan each row at a time to keep the same vibe across a row. To schedule posts, I use buffer but usually, I publish automatically.

And that's it, nice and simple. 


Wednesday, 13 May 2020 / Hinton Airfield, Steane, Brackley NN13 5NS, UK

What skydiving taught me about fear

A black and white landing shot from my skydive
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” - Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I remember watching Will Smith’s video on what skydiving taught me about fear and I was left feeling inspired. Will said, “God placed the best things in life on the other side of fear” and now I can confirm, he’s not wrong. Think of all the things you want to achieve in life but your fears are holding you back, the things that would leave you feeling more fulfilled are on the other side of your fear-filled thoughts. This video is how I came to say yes to doing a charity skydive.

Back in September, my friend Ibraheem asked me if I would do a sponsored Skydive for charity, I said yes despite being petrified of heights. On Saturday, I jumped out of a plane from 13,000 feet to raise over £3,000 for British Blind Sport.
A black and white falling shot from my skydive
I may come across as being brave and fearless on my socials but I actually have a lot of fears, I’m just good at masking them. The art of faking it until you make it has got me this far in life but there are still so many things that I want to achieve that my fears are likely to get the better off and stop me from doing. One of those fears is heights, don’t take it lightly when I saw I am petrified of heights, those who know me in real life will tell you that I am the biggest wuss, I don’t do rides or anything more than a few cms off the ground.

You don’t register what you’re about to do when they’re strapping you up, taking you through safety procedures and you board that plane. The shutter goes down and that’s it, the plane is getting ready to take off and before you know it, you’re 13,000 feet in the air, above the clouds and the only way down is by jumping out. Your instructor goes through the safety procedures with you again, the shutter goes up, the light turns green, you slide forward, hang your feet over the edge of the plane and it's your turn to jump. For about 45 seconds, you’re freefalling with no parachute at 220 mph through the sky. I can’t describe the feeling, it doesn’t feel like the way falling feels in a dream or that feeling you get in your stomach on rides. The best way to describe it is a euphoric sense of freedom, at this moment, I burst into tears and said “Keith, I just jumped out a fucking plane, I can’t believe it” and he replied with “You did it, Fran, you’re amazing”. 

My nerves started to kick in as we got closer to the ground because you realise just how fast you’re going and the fear of death starts to kick in, “what if we don’t slow down enough to land”, “what if Keith accidentally steers us into a building” and then you land and you’re overcome by a feeling of relief, happiness, tears - a real mix of every emotion. 
A black and white shot with my tandem instructor smiling with our thumbs up
From a girl who had a panic attack at the top of the Manchester eye to jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet. I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement of Keith and Simon, even if they were taking the piss that I was going to slip out the harness.

I hope my story encourages one if not all of you to push yourself and conquer your fears. Now I’ve conquered my fear of heights, what should I do next? I’m thinking a bungee jump.


Wednesday, 6 May 2020 / Dublin, Ireland

Dublin travel guide

A shot of Guinness storehouse in sepia tone
I have a list of places that I want to visit over my lifetime for specific reasons e.g. Croatia to do a game of thrones tour, Finland to see the northern lights, Rio de Janeiro to see the Christ the Redeemer statue, you get the gist. Ireland was one of the places on my list that I wanted to visit so I could experience St Patrick's weekend and see Giant's Causeway in the flesh.  

Last March, Sian and I hopped on a plane to Dublin for St Patrick's weekend. We were there for a total of 3 days, 2 nights and managed to see most of the tourist sites and do a day tour to Northern Ireland. 

Where to stay
We book our trip in October and a lot of city centre hostels, Airbnb's and hotels had already been taken for St Patrick's weekend so our options were very limited. We managed to find a good deal on Premier Inn for €171.50 roughly £151.81 (£75 each). The hotel is a 5-minute drive from the airport and there's a shuttle for €2 roughly £1.73, that takes you directly from the airport to the hotel and vice versa. 

Things to do
A collage of two photos. Photo 1 is a shot of me infront of the Guinness storehouse gates and photo 2 is a shot of me under a statue of a man holding two beers
We discovered that there was a lot more to do in Dublin than we expected. Here's a list of a few of our discoveries: 
Guinness storehouse
River Liffey
St Stephen's shopping centre
National botanical gardens
Dublin castle 
Oscar Wilde's house (Merrion square)
National Gallery
Temple bar
Henrietta street
Fitzwilliam square
Abandoned prison of Kilmainham Gaol
Paddywagon Tours (specifically to Giant's Causeway & Belfast)

After checking into our hotel and freshen up, we hopped on a bus to the city centre and took the Laus from Abbey Street to the Guinness Storehouse for €4.80. A piece of advice to anyone planning a trip to Dublin, make sure to get lots of change if you're planning on using public transport as drivers only accept exact change. Tickets are roughly €2.15-3.30 each way. 

We booked our tickets for the storehouse online for roughly €50, a drink voucher is included with your ticket. I was expecting the storehouse to be floor upon floors of Guinness but it was so much more than that. There was music, interactive stations, video explanations of the history behind the beer, artwork and so much more to see and get involved with. At the top floor, there was a rooftop bar overlooking the city and this is where you can claim your drink voucher. This was my first time trying Guinness and I can confirm, it was disgusting.

Our next stop, Temple Bar. Again, I wasn't sure what to expect but I wasn't expecting for Temple Bar to be more than just one bar. It's actually an area bursting with pubs, restaurants and galleries. If you're looking for somewhere with a proper Irish feel, this is the place to go. Please note, it can get very crowded so if you want to get good photos, I'd suggest going earlier in the day. 

A collage of two photos. Photo one of the interlocking basalt columns and photo two is of sea next to carrick-a-rede rope bridge

For our penultimate day in Ireland, we booked a Paddywagon coach tour (roughly £55 each) from Dublin city centre to Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

First stop, the Dark Hedges. If you're a huge game of thrones fan like myself then you may recognise this road, its the King's Road in Season 2. The hedges are two centuries old and were planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century to impress visitors approaching the entrance of their home. I was certainly impressed, that's for sure! 

Next stop, Carrick-a-rede. A famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. The was a long walk from the car park to the actual bridge and due to bad weather conditions, we weren't actually able to go across the bridge but we stood by the edge, close enough. 

Giant's Causeway, possibly my favourite stop of the whole tour. I have a list of natural landforms that I want to see and Giant's Causeway was one of them. Giant's Causeway is an area 40,000 interlocking basalt columns as a result of a volcanic fissure eruption. The views here are amazing and if you're like me, you love physical geography then you'll love this landform. 

Last but certainly not least, Belfast. Our stop in Belfast was very brief and there wasn't enough time to properly wander around the city. Across the road from where we were parked, there was a Greggs so I took the opportunity to lose my Vegan sausage roll virginity and I was not disappointed.

Our last day in Dublin was St Patrick's day. There was a huge parade in the city centre, public transport is limited or usual routes are diverted as you'd expect but we hadn't planned properly so nearly missed our flight as we were cutting it close to get through security. 

Places to eat
A shot of a raspberry hot donut
Anyone who knows me in real life will tell you that I love food and going out to eat. So, naturally finding good eateries was my top priority. 

If you've got a sweet tooth, The Rolling Donut and Hot Donut have got you covered. I had the Kinder Bueno rolling donut and a classic raspberry doughnut from the latter, solid 10/10 and would highly recommend. 

A few other places that we were recommended and tried were:
Gelato d natura
Yamanori Tengu
Cookes restaurant 
Eat Yard
Fire restaurant and lounge 
Clever East
Vintage cocktail club
Elephant and castle
House Dublin
Blushing healthy food coffee
Esquires Coffee
The Hungry Mexican
Thunderroad Cafe
Pitt Bros
The Merchants Arch 
POQ Cafe
Umi Falafel 
Kimchi Hophouse
Eat Okyo
Yamamori noodles
Brother Hubbard 
The Happy Pear

We had the best time in Dublin and it is definitely on my list of places to revisit. There is so much to see and do, you can easily find something for everyone to enjoy.

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