Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Travel: A spot of crowdsourcing

I cannot wait to be up above the clouds again!

Later this year, Matthew and I are going to take our 'big' holiday. We've been saving up our time off to spend a fortnight in the US and Canada, and I'm starting to get really excited now it's a couple of months away (for much of the year September has felt like an age away).

Over the course of our break, we'll be visiting one place we both know and love (Las Vegas), one place we've both visited without the other person (Toronto) and two places that we've never been to before (New York and Boston). Our travel and hotels are all sorted - Matthew as always has done some epic work sorting and co-ordinating this and I'm so excited to write about our chosen hotels and transport here.

Returning to the Aria is sure to be a thrill - can't wait to write about the hotel and to get lots of pics with my newer, better camera - this is an iPhone pic!

Now, we turn to deciding what we actually want to do while we are in each city, where we want to visit, what we should eat and where has the best drinks. So this is me asking you guys for your tips, for New York, Boston, Toronto and Las Vegas.

We've already got a healthy little list going, but I also know how well travelled my friends and acquaintances and readers are, so please - have at it. I'm so excited to read your recommendations - thank you so much in advance for any favourites you are able to share!

We are flying with Virgin again for the tranatlantic portions - loved their service last time!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Happy Monday/Ten Happy Things #4

Linking up (as is becoming traditional) with Katy and Jasmin's round up of weekly fun! As someone who skews positive naturally, I love the chance to share some of the happy moments. Shall we?

1. Last Wednesday I was invited along to a lovely event at Be At One Wimpole Street to celebrate the publication in paperback of Candace Bushnell's Killing Monica. Having enjoyed the book and meeting Candace when she was over promoting the hardback I was delighted to pop along to toast the occasion! I loved learning how to make the perfect mojito, mingling with some fellow book fans, and picking up some brow tips from the Benefit experts.

2. The lovely folks at Sofa Sofa sent me some fab cushions to try out - I opted for a nautical stripe. I love how they look in our sitting room, they are so squishy and comfortable. Poppet also highly approves of the roomy box they came in - it's her new favourite thing!

3. On Monday I attended the first meeting of pizza club. A few of us had got chatting on twitter about our love for dough and the many places that do epic pizza here in London. Before you knew it dates were being thrown around and Vicky, Emma and I were off for amazing pizza at Homeslice. Sharing a giant pie and some chilly margaritas was a brilliant way to upgrade our Mondays!

A photo posted by Claire Roper (@cmclaire) on

A photo posted by Claire Roper (@cmclaire) on

4. I'm reading Emma Gannon's debut memoir, Ctrl Alt Delete. It's a good read so far, with plenty of food for thought. Some chapters have me nodding along, others remind me that I grew up in a more innocent time, internet wise. Thank heavens.

5. On Saturday I met up with an old, dear friend, the gorgeous Lou (she introduced me to Matthew, trivia fans). Lou and I have been to the Fringe festival in Edinburgh together twice, and share a mutual love of silly, funny, sweary comedy. When we spotted that Sammy J and Randy were playing a gig in London, we had to be there. It was so wonderful to catch up and to crack up at the gig. Sammy's so talented and such a nice guy, too (yeah, we did the photo request thing afterwards....).

Sammy J and Randy are playing some gigs in the UK and Ireland before Randy takes his show to the Fringe next month. I love that little purple guy. Speaking of the Fringe, beeteedubs, if you're in Edinburgh next month and are a fan of laughter, music, gin and/or boobs, I'd urge you to cehck out the divine Katie Brennan in her Quarter-Life Crisis show. Katie is such a talented and generous performer (as well as a cherished friend) and I love her performances whenever I'm lucky enough to attend. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to hug her (10/10 hugs too, would recommend).

Photo taken by Pablo on KB's phone. Totally snaffled, thanks guyz.

6. Speaking opf the divine Miss B, on Friday I got to go have pizza and gossip with her and a bunch of the Bangarang beauties. I am so, so grateful to have bloggy friends like them and laugh like a madwoman whenever we get together. One thing that always worried me about working from home was not having colleagues to chat to, learn with, and grow alongside - I'm thankful for these girls and all the other great friends I've made through this little space. Blog colleagues, yay!

A photo posted by Claire Roper (@cmclaire) on

7. Salads, sandwiches and sushi. Hurrah for meals that require little or no cooing in this heat. Yuki Gomi's cookbook is proving a godsend!

Fry loves the fan!
8. Cats! My little buddies have been getting lots of attention and fusses as we try to keep cool in the heat wave.

Nap goals

A photo posted by Claire Roper (@cmclaire) on

9. A new haircut came at just the right time, leaving my mop feeling fresh and kempy. My hairstylist (shoutout to Keiran at Headmasters Soho) has been doing my hair for three years now and is so great at given me a stylish, versatile 'do. He's also got the best chat.

10. Yesterday I got to go play on a boat (sorry, ship) with Katy and Charlie, thanks to Royal Caribbean. We had so much fun exploring the facilities, looking around, getting mildly lost and getting properly into our mini-golf. Full report to follow, but I adored a day in the sun exploring a kind of holiday I've never done before.

How was your week, lovelies? Hope your Monday has started well!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Theatre: Jesus Christ Superstar

One of the many, many things I love about living in London- yes, I know we all complain about the city from time to time/pretty much daily, but it's pretty awesome overall - is the sheer range of things available to do and see. Whatever your passion is, from food to wine to modern art to trapeze, there will be plenty of it here in the city. As I mentioned in my post last week, one of the things I love the most is musical theatre, and London never fails to delight with the range of shows and productions available to enjoy. If I had an unlimited budget and a free schedule each evening, I'd be in theatres pretty much non-stop, enjoying the many ups, downs, and beautiful moments which a musical production can bring.

In my post last week I was getting very excited about go to the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre to see Jesus Christ SuperstarThis has long been a favourite musical of mine, and when I saw that it was to be produced at this jewel of a theatre nestled in the heart of one of my favourite London parks...I snapped up tickets immediately. JCS is both a great show and a tricky one to stage well, so as the date approached I was filled with excitement and not a little nervousness. The songs in this show are like old friends, and I was hoping that the production would do them justice.

It turns out that my nerves were for naught. This production of Jesus Christ Superstar is imaginative, vibrant, and moving. In the outdoor setting the show feels intimate and involving - without the barriers another theatre would provide, the cast feel accessible and the connection you feel as an audience member is rawer, realer. As we entered the second act the summer night began to draw in, and the fading of the light as the story reached it's peak added an extra note of sombreness and pathos to proceedings.

The production team have created a beautiful version of the show. From the laidback costuming with a nod to the R n B style of the nighties and noughties (at points the ladies of the ensemble looked like All Saints or Destiny's Child, cool and edgy, a pleasant change from the usual costume decisions made in this production), to the industrial set softened by the greens and browns of the surrounding trees, it all felt organic, innovative. Timothy Sheader's direction and his use of space and minimal reliance on props or special effects leaves the stage clear for some real emotion and resonance. Tom Deering's musical direction is crisp and concise and the band were tremendous - on stage at all times and at times being a real focus. Amongst all this greatness, I also adored Drew McOnie's choreography - modern, interesting, with nothing I've seen before in JCS. The rounds, where moves spread through the pack, were excellently executed and really gave a sense of the fervour and contagion amongst the mob.

There were plenty of good performances from the capable cast, but four great ones which have really stuck with me. Declan Bennett as Jesus interprets to role in a fresh, introverted way - as the Last Supper unfolds there's a real sense of the sorrow and conflict within. His Gethsemane may lack the showstopper high notes of some former Jesuses (Jesi?), but it's moving in its desperation and its sheer humanity. 

As Pilate David Thaxton is an utter scene stealer - all Brandon Flowers styling and emo turmoil, it's a big, brave take on the role. Pilate feels like an intelligent, flawed, worried man, a chess player who can see the moves unfolding long before they are played. I loved Thaxton's interpretation and have been thinking about it frequently in the week since I saw the show. On the other side of proceedings is a character entirely convinced of his rightness and of what he needs to make happen, the Pharisee Caiaphas. Here I enjoyed Cavin Cornwall's combination of cunning, intelligence, and those rumbling basso profondo notes.  

The absolute showstopper though, was Tyrone Huntley's Judas. His performance was searing, dark and vocally amazing. Every time he sang the audience was rapt. Whether pacing the stage like a panther, calling out Jesus for perceived hypocrisies, or reflecting on his role within a bigger, more eternal plan, I could not take my eyes off him. In a great cast and company he commanded the stage whenever he was on it.

While not perfect (what show ever is?), this is gritty, wonderful, soaring theatre. If you can get a ticket I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, along with the rest of the audience. Rarely has a standing ovation felt as natural as it did after last Saturday's performance.

Jesus Christ Superstar will play at the Open Air Theatre until the 27 August.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I Love Your Blog: The Mayfairy

This series continues to be a joy to co-ordinate. In a blogging world with so many funny, interesting, talented writers and photographers, I love the chance it gives me to talk with them about what makes them tick.

Today's featured blogger for I Love Your Blog is the brilliant Frankie, who writes at The Mayfairy. Bright, sharp, and properly funny (her posts regularly have me doing the eyes-crying-laughter emoji and trying not to snort-laugh on the overground), her blog is truly one of a kind, and the content she creates is unique, fresh, and a real pleasure to read. As I would have predicted, her interview is a delight - take it away, Frankie!

Photo courtesy of Frankie, who entitled it 'Frankie Meeting The Person Who Reads Her Blog'. She really makes me laugh!

How long have you been blogging?

Christ. Start with the hard questions, why don’t you. I suppose The Mayfairy has being going two and a half years, but before that I wrote blogs for various businesses. I came across a few the other day. My god. The less said about those the better. 

What do you blog about?  Do you have a specific goal with your blog (i.e. reviewing products, promoting a business, transitioning into a writing / media career), or is it more a record of your life?

I’ve dipped my toe into every genre of blogging; food blogging, fashion blogging, beauty blogging, travel blogging, rant blogging; I’ve done review posts, tutorial posts slice of life pieces, the works. 

After all that I’ve finally figured out that my love for writing is in the narrative. I like to tell a story, to weave a tale around whatever prompt I’ve been given. Send me to a restaurant and I will treat it like a writing prompt. I’ll tell a story about my night, my experience, or how your menu reminded me of punk weasels. I won’t do a proper “review” as that’s better left to the professionals. I don’t get my jollies in telling people how to create a “lifestyle”, I get them by entertaining folks with a good yarn. 

I’m not quite sure what I should do with that in a professional capacity, but I’m working on it. 

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

It’s a tie between meeting new friends and having a fun, creative outlet that actually makes me feel like I’m achieving something. Nothing big, I grant you, but it’s nice to look back and have a giant depository of stuff I’ve created, all with surprising validation from the strangest of places. 

What is your least favourite thing about blogging?

I feel that there is an expectation of success amongst bloggers, which can sometimes feed into a pressure structure that we all experience. Like, there’s an underlying feeling that we could all be Zoella if we just work hard enough. No mention of the fact that it’s not 2010 anymore and that the blogging climate has changed, but we all feel guilty regardless. Like, we can’t justify this hobby unless we are super successful and super success is measured in clicks.

Do you have any favourite posts on your blog – pieces you’re really proud of, which document something special, or which seemed to strike a chord with your readers?

The things I like are the weird little pieces that don’t necessarily get all the click love. I don’t do click bait titles. I don’t do last minute trend pieces to jump on bandwagons I do shit about ladies’ toilets and Spanx and childhood flashbacks. Way to grow an audience, Frankie.

Whose blogs do you love?  I’m always looking for recommendations :) 

Look, let’s be blunt here, Claire. You and I know a lot of the same people. We love a lot of the same blogs. Let me not waste your time by listing off a bunch of blogs you already read. Here a few that you should check out, and no I don’t know everyone on this list, I just love their blogs:

Need a restaurant recommendation? In Her 30s, Connie Consumes and Cheese n Biscuits are my go-tos. All incredibly well written, food-god level knowledgeable about their subject and passionately munching away.

Love history? Plodding Through The Presidents gives me giggle raptures.

Want a recipe? Sophie Loves Food has the best brownies, They Called It The Diamond Blog will give you cheese and Bowie puns in one tidy package and I’ve Got Cake is a hilariously wonderful woman who combines fashion with food and no nonsense social commentary. I love her. 

Writing about writing: Across The Hog’s Back is uber talented and I love to read her blog because writing is her thing. She’s also clever and I have this theory that every time I hang out with her or read her blog, my IQ jumps 5 points. I usually hammer it back down again later with wine and bad decisions.  

Want some lols? Try Ericka Clay, the Tipsy Lit girl. Inside The Life of Moi is also riding the lollercoaster. Obviously if I’m looking for super famous lols I find myself heading back to 27bslash6 and The Oatmeal time and time again. They are deities in my world.

Your humour is a huge part of why I love your blog, so I'm curious - what makes you laugh?

My husband. No matter how much I think I know him and can predict his every move he can always pull something out of nowhere. He makes me laugh out loud daily. When everything else is on fire, exploding and spitting poison in my face he is there to make me smile. Usually with cheese on toast.

What is your favourite area to blog about? There's such a range of content on your blog, is there one area you're especially fond of? 

Funnily enough, I think I’ve tried so many different genres at the expense of what makes me happiest and what would probably have been the most successful. 

I have near enough 140 posts in drafts and I’ve frequently put off finishing these to blog about events and stuff because if a PR invites me someplace the requisite blog post hangs over my head sword of Damocles styles, so they get published first. 

It’s such an amazing feeling as a newbie blogger to be invited to an event, or to review something. it makes you feel like you’ve “made it”, and you’re “successful” and on the right track as people are reading and reacting to your blog. You get the validation of this PR person who’s offering you this cool perk because of your influence. It seems silly to turn that down, especially if you don’t have a clear life plan for your blog.

So you take the pat on the back. All fine and good if this is what you want from life, but I don’t want to write what is essentially advertising copy in exchange for a couple of glasses of wine. So how did I get here?

To answer your question, I like the funny, ranty stuff that makes me feel like I’ve worked through some of life’s angst. I want to get back on the lollerskates.

What are your favourite social media apps, and why?

I went to the Instagram dark side for a while but Twitter is my jam. Especially with all the news and political shizz going on at the moment. I need to get back into chatting more instead of just reading though. Naughty Frankie.

What tips do you have for bloggers growing and nurturing their blogs?

Fuck bitches, get money. 

No, in all seriousness I think it depends on what you want from it.

If it’s just a hobby, follow the fun. You’ll make lots of good friends and most likely still get offered many cool perks and opportunities along the way.

If you want to make it your professional life, I think that takes more serious consideration, because the stuff that actually makes you money may not be the same stuff that makes it fun for you.

If you start out with a defined niche, then great, your path will be a lot clearer. Otherwise you need to make yourself your niche and stay true to that to avoid a lot of headaches while you figure your direction out.

You want crazy click fame and success? I think that only comes if you are either amazing or interesting (preferably both). We’re no longer part of the first wave of bloggers, so you’re no longer a pioneer if you’re creating average content. 

Your content might be perfectly fine, but if you turn up to events every week and 250 other bloggers are all writing about the same things to the same standard, why would yours stand out? You need to take it to the next level, which is much harder now than it was five years ago even.

Can you tell I’ve been having a serious word with myself?


I can, Frankie. Thank you so much for taking part in I Love Your Blog and for such a rich and interesting interview (and some great bloggers for me to check out, several of whom I haven't 'met' before!).

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About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

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