Monday, 17 December 2018

Elan cafe: a Christmas review

Elan Cafe was my next Instagrammable hot-spot to hit, so back in late November mum and I took a trip there. There are four Elan Cafes to choose from (with a fifth just this minute opened) we opted for the Knightsbridge branch as it looked like the prettiest and was also the easiest one for us to travel to. From gorgeous flower walls to pink lattes, to divine sugary treats, I hoped it would be magical and magical it was! A total blogger babes dream. Turns out going to Elan cafe during the Christmas period was the right move to make; as we entered the cafe I was enchanted by their pretty pink Christmas tree, a sparkly tower of unicorn heaven! To say I wanted to steal it and take it home with me is an understatement. 
We took our seats by the flower wall located right next to the pink Christmas tree (lots of pictures were taken). Their sparkly Christmas menu was filled with delicious festive fun and I decided to opt for a woodfire hot chocolate which came topped with marshmallows, and a slab of their chocolate and cherry cake. Mum had the strawberry cake but couldn't be talked into getting a beetroot latte which was the pinkest drink on the menu. Despite persuasive attempts from both me and the guy working there, she went for a normal latte instead (boo!) 

Wrapped up in my pink fluffy faux fur coat, there was a fantastic friendly atmosphere that punctuated the cafe; from the Britney Spears and N*sync Christmas classics blasting out of the speakers to the welcoming and upbeat staff who were lovely and made us long to go back as soon as we stepped out into the cold. Mum and I were heart-eyed over our massive cakes, so huge in their heaven that we had to take them home. I admired all the dreamy baubles on the tree; spellbinding shocking pink, glittering angel wings, flower power and unicorns adorning the tree. 
Elan Cafe was a winter wonderland welcome that I'm sure is just as sparkly during any given season. I've seen via Instagram that yet another branch has opened which I hope to visit in the New Year, it looks like Valentine paradise! As you probably know by now Peggy Porschen is my number one cafe and pink haven in London, but Elan Cafe definitely came in at a close second for sure. 
I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful Saint Aymes cafe last week too which I also loved. Eyes peeled for a review coming sometime next year! Making it my mission to discover all the pink gems London has to offer, I hope to unearth lots more fabulous cafes in 2019. I've converted a good few people into Peggy Porschen addicts this year and I can't wait to find lots of other insta-worthy haunts soon! ♥︎

Related posts:

Have you been to Elan Cafe before?
Let me know if you've got any favourite pink cafes! 


Thursday, 6 December 2018

Moving out for the first time


Last week I officially moved out for the first time. 

After 9 long years, my boyfriend and I finally have our first home together. Nope, it's not this pink Barbie dream house (but a girl can fantasise, right?) For so long I'd started to give up hope of ever moving away from the hometown I hated so much; the ties I wanted to cut and the memories I wanted to bury. Living at home was a rollercoaster of emotions; just as things seemed okay there'd be another blazing row waiting to rise or more upset I was unable to escape. I've made no secret of the fact that I pretty much despise my hometown, it represents everything I want to forget. From the school and college that bring back bad memories of bullying and fractured friendships, to the hospital across the street from my house where both my Grandparents died, to the surrounding areas that remind me of unhappy jobs and the breakdowns that followed. Not to mention the fear of not knowing who you might bump into. I no longer need to worry about leaving the house for hours on end to avoid all the family gatherings that I find unbearable given my anxiety. This was always a major issue during Christmas and New Year; I dreaded Christmas for months before it happened in that house, only now am I seeing it in a new light. 

I hadn't wanted to be 28 when I first moved out, let's face it, who wants that? Privacy is a virtue I've never really had, and you hit that point when you can't cope anymore and need your own space. Despite sharing parts of my heart online that I chose and control, I'm a very private person and can't stand people probing or being intrusive when it comes to my private business. I often found this difficult as people always seemed to ask my mum things about me, instead of coming to me directly, which didn't sit right with me at all. Just because someone is a relative or an acquaintance, it doesn't mean they have direct access to all my personal business but it seemed so often they thought they did. Hopefully this can now change, and moving out has made me realise just how important privacy and isolation from those kinds of people really is. My mum wanted to go round telling all her friends about my move but I just felt too overwhelmed and didn't want anyone to know. It was a big life change for me, and one that took time to get used to. 

For a number of reasons we were unable to move out earlier, and countless times I had to ring my boyfriend up in tears because things got too unbearable at home. Last December I had to walk out of the house and into the cold because things got so toxic, and I literally had nowhere to go. It felt like a total ghost-town; stripped of all the souls I used to know, just a forest of trees and silence. Then earlier this year things got so bad that I had to get out; it was late at night and I ended up in a 24-hour supermarket walking round in a daze and not knowing what to do. My boyfriend could only do so much over the phone and once again it was a painful reminder that, even though we weren't miles away from each other, not living together was devastating. People love to gossip, and I was unsurprised to hear a friend of my mum's had made it her business to tell one of my closest friends that "Sophie still hasn't moved out yet". What business is it of yours, you nosy cow, I thought. One of the best and most freeing things now is that I can live my life away from all those petty people, I'm free and released from their judgement. There will always be people that check up on my blog and try and gain what they can for their own spite, but now I don't have to see them or hear about them and that's a major pro. 

Since moving out three things have struck me. One: I'm finally being treated with more respect than I was before, which I find quite strange. I haven't changed since moving out and I'm still the same person I was two weeks ago when living at home. There's a stigma surrounding living at home which I really think people need to change their attitude towards. Two: I can't believe what a turnaround in my mental health and wellbeing there's been. I feel like a different person. So much of my anxiety has lessened, it's amazing. Living with my boyfriend is a dream come true. All I ever wanted was to live with my lovely partner and our cats, now it's finally happened we've both talked about how surreal it feels. It feels like a holiday cottage at the moment, like I've scored a winning lottery ticket. We're both on cloud nine, and I'm over the moon with how the house looks. Choosing trinkets and decorations for the home is never something I've had the chance to enjoy, now I can. I used to see all the gorgeous things in the shops and feel sad I couldn't buy any because I never had my own place. I'm really pleased and proud of the house, we've already got everything pretty much sorted which isn't bad considering we've barely been here two weeks. All we need to do now is get a few homeware items to put more of our stamp on the place and we're awaiting the rainbow Christmas tree that Graham ordered which I'm SO DAMN EXCITED for! As always everyone online has been so kind, lovely and supportive to me during and after the move which has helped immeasurably. 

The third thing that struck me is that being so unhappy in my hometown and doing miserable jobs I hated for so long gave me the need to write a book as a form of escape. I also longed for an outlet to express myself which became this blog. It struck me the other day how much negative energy I got from living at home, how much I needed to channel it into writing my book and running my blog. If I'd never been so low for so many years in an unhappy environment then I'd never have discovered my dreams in the way I have now. Last week in my new home I actually felt happy that it had taken so long to get to this point. I can now see how it's the right time to move out and it feels even more worthwhile and I appreciate it a million times more because of all the waiting and hoping. All the upset, the pain, anger, the sadness and the tears brought a new-found fight in me. It made me stronger. It made me dream harder. It made me determined and gave me an inner-strength I never knew I had. It makes sense now, all these years later. Why I had to wait so long for a happy ending. Why I had to hold on for that bit longer ♥︎ 


Monday, 19 November 2018

Feeling lonely at Christmas

Christmas is probably the loneliest time of year for me. I thought this post might be a bit of a lighthouse for anyone else who, like me, struggles as November gets underway and Christmas starts to approach. Last year I only blogged once in the whole month of December and that was when I wrote a short story, stepping away from my personal thoughts and letting the characters speak to you for themselves. As Christmas nears I find it hard to have much to say. Mostly I feel quite low, often getting worse bouts of anxiety and depression. I don't like this time of year and if I'm being honest I just want the season over with. I'm already looking forward to April approaching. It might sound crazy but the lighter days and sunshine make a huge impact on my health. I find my SAD kicks in around this time of year and I don't feel as bright again until around early April time.
I ended up having a bit of a heart to heart the other week with my boyfriend about why I struggle so much with Christmas. There are a number of reasons. The biggest struggle for me are the feelings of loneliness and dread Christmas brings. If you tell someone you don't like Christmas you're treated with disdain, as if you're a miserable bastard who ruins everyone's fun. It just makes it even more isolating. Let's face it, the majority of people seem to love Christmas and the constant hype from August onwards can be overwhelming before the season's even kicked off. I always find it tough admitting I don't like Christmas because in truth you're made to feel like shit by most people about it. I've never really understood this as it doesn't seem to apply to all the other memorable days of the year - Valentine's is considered a commercial farce, Easter is practically overlooked and opinions seem to be split when it comes down to Halloween. No one guilt trips you if you don't enjoy any other holiday, so why should people do so when it comes down to December 25th? Perhaps I'm going off tangent a bit here, but this is a big factor in why I find it so lonely. 

Other things I find hard about Christmas are the constant crowds, our usual haunts becoming overbearingly busy, routines dashed, family gatherings you're guilt tripped into going to. The holiday never feels like "yours" because there always seems to be hassle and debate and rows over who goes where, what day you do what and who wants you to turn up when. Quite frankly, the whole holiday exhausts me. I don't want to feel obliged to go anywhere, thank you very much. I like to do my own thing, and I can't stand being expected to do something I might not want to just for the sake of "festivity". All the "traditional" food people try and force you to eat (sorry but I don't like any of the "traditional" Christmas food so why should I be expected to eat it?) The smells of cold meat and pickled onions turn my stomach. I know these probably all sound like petty reasons to dislike Christmas but it runs deeper too. I find December brings all of my anxiety and depression to the fore, already hard when SAD has usually had a good go on my well-being. I believe my first memories of anxiety come from the Christmas period and often during Christmas/New Year do I find myself feeling this panic/fright/dread that unsettles and scares me. I don't seem to experience this any other time of year and it certainly doesn't help with enjoying the holiday. New Years is the same for me, I just want everything to go back to normal and find the fact that everything shuts down difficult. 

Personally another reason Christmas isn't that special to me is because everyone it's not unique to me. I really believe that days memorable to me are more valuable. Reflecting on the year just gone I think about my own special days; jetting off to Barbados in February for my birthday, visiting the Peggy Porschen parlour for the first time in March with mum, celebrating Graham's birthday with cocktails at Frankie & Benny's in April, breezing through a beautiful butterfly house in May, getting glittered up for a shoot on the beach in June, dreaming up the end of my story in the summer, having afternoon tea with Graham then watching A Midsummer Night's Dream with pasta later on. Every December my mum and I go Christmas shopping with our friend which I really enjoy but that's more down to the company, the enjoyment of the day and the fun we have than the Christmas aspect. Days that are "mine" and not shared with everyone else's celebrations are much more important to me.
Paperchase has helped these past few years with making me feel better about Christmas. Their decorations are made up of glass gumball machines, glitzy unicorns and dolphins extending presents which are right up my street and actually make me enjoying seeing all their displays. This year they seem to have gone a step better and I couldn't resist buying the rainbow cake ornament and the pink "text me" flip mobile phone. Sass central! I've realised you can do Christmas your own way. A few years ago I bought a mini pink Christmas tree which stands in my room all year long purely because it's so gorgeous and makes me happy. Even though I find it difficult hearing a lot of people talk constantly about Christmas over social media, I've embraced Christmas my own way, ignoring things I don't want to hear and enjoying the rainbow decorations in Paperchase. Everyone's Christmas displays on Instagram cheer me up, if anything gets me in the spirit its bright, bold, rainbow and pink decorations! 

Last year was a turning point for me when it came to Christmas. I'd say last Christmas was my favourite I've had in 28 years. Graham and I went to our little "home from home", my mum's friends' lovely house which she kindly let's us stay in when she's away. Just us, away from everything doing things we love like ordering pizza and watching films, going to the cinema locally, getting cocktails and reading. That kind of Christmas was perfect to me because we actually got alone time and privacy. Living at home is difficult, there has been no escape or privacy during all of our Christmases which has been one of the hardest things to deal with. Even going to our usual shopping centre and sitting in Starbucks felt like a safety aspect which I enjoyed as it was familiar and comforting. On Christmas Eve I wore a summery maxi skirt and crop top, determined to let my summer soul shine through. Everyone thought I was bonkers but dressing so summery gave me such a lift. Graham and I went to one of our favourite haunts, and our other local branch of Starbucks gave me a brownie heated up with chocolate sauce and cream and even though they probably didn't realise it, their kind gesture actually made me feel comforted and like Christmas might be okay to get through. We went to Pizza Hut which was lovely and comforting as it's not "traditional" at all but was perfect. I put on a sparkly gold face mask later on and watched Footballers Wives. It felt for the first time like Christmas was how I wanted it. A much better improvement on the Christmas before last, where I had a god awful chest infection that wouldn't shift for months!

Most importantly of all, I think it's vital to acknowledge Christmas can be a lonely time for a lot of people. It's kind to be kind. Especially as we never know what someone is going through behind closed doors. 

Don't guilt trip people by saying things like:
  • Everyone loves Christmas!!!! 
  • How can you not love Christmas!!! 
  • Don't you like getting presents!!! 
  • What is wrong with you!!! 
  • You scrooge!!! 
I know this post isn't particularly happy or upbeat but it was playing on my mind for a while and I felt it needed to be written and out in the open. I try and be as positive as possible on my blog but as a friend told me recently "it's okay for a cloud to fall over your rainbow from time to time". I hope if you're out there and find Christmas a struggle like I then this post can help you, even if it's just a little ♥︎