Little Outdoor Kylie

Readers, Meet Sunrise!

January 15, 2015

Did you know that my Fiat 500 Joanie and I have been together almost eighteen months? In that time we’ve had a lot of adventures, but Joan doesn’t often explore the city with me. She prefers long-distance adventures like our trip to Scotland, and does her best to stay out of central London. But recently I’ve been dreaming of exploring my city in much more depth.

So today I’d like to introduce you to the lady I’m hoping will make my London adventure aspirations a reality. Readers, meet the aptly-named Sunrise!

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Sunrise is a lovely, bright orange hybrid Raleigh bike who has been living the quiet life in my parents’ shed for a few years now. She and I have been friends since I was about twelve or thirteen, and since I haven’t grown any taller since then and can still ride her, I decided it was time to liberate her and give her a taste of the London life.

But I was aware that perhaps my choice of relocation time was a bit awkward. Deciding to start biking on the approach to the chilliest part of the year, when the roads are frozen solid under layers of black ice? Perhaps not my smartest idea. How do I stay safe in bad weather? What happens if I get a puncture? Do I need to get a new set of lights?

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As luck would have it, just as I was pondering these very questions, an email pinged into my inbox from a rather lovely chap named Shaun at Joe Blogs. Working alongside LV, Joe Blogs were running a campaign for safe winter cycling, and would I like to be involved?

I couldn’t think of a better way to get Sunrise ready for winter, so I jumped at the chance!

Many of you will know that I work in the city as a graphic designer and illustrator, so when Shaun began by sending me these winter cycling tips infographics I had a bit of a design nerd moment! I love the simplicity of the illustrations in this contrasting colour theme.

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Shaun also sent me a links to a whole host of easily-digestible hints and tips LV had put together to help those wanting to cycle safely and sensibly in the colder half of the year, including this brilliant one offering basic winter biking guidance and a more specific offering on cycling nutrition. If you’ve fallen head over heels in love with life on two wheels, then these short and succinct guides really are a must-read.

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And finally, Shaun and LV were sweet enough to surprise with Sunrise a “welcome to winter” gift pack! She’s got a new set of lights, a phone frame bag, a puncture repair kit and even a high-vis backpack cover for me to wear when cycling late at night. What lucky girls we are!

So be sure to keep your eye on the blog over the next few months as Sunrise and I start to explore the city from a whole new perspective. I can’t wait to tell you how we get on!

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A huge thanks to Shaun at Joe Blogs and the kind folks at LV for the wonderful winter cycling goodie pack, plus all the hints and tips. If you’re a blogger and you’re reading this, you could do much worse than dropping Joe Blogs a line; they’re lovely genuine folks with a passion for connecting writers with good quality sponsorships. Top chaps indeed.

Posted in Just Kylie under

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10 Goals for 2015

January 5, 2015

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Photography credit: Dyaa Eldin via Unsplash

Last January I wrote a post called 10 Goals for 2014. At the time, I apologised for jumping on the blogger bandwagon, and even cringed a little bit that I was writing such a clichéd post, but in hindsight, it’s one of my absolute favourite personal blog posts.

I’ve referred to it multiple times, shared it even more voraciously and for the first time (possibly in my life), actually committed to achieving most of what I set out to accomplish. So it was with a different perspective altogether that I set about writing 2015’s goals down on paper, and today I’m excited to share them with the big wide world once again.

Before we begin… what about 2014’s goals?

I’ve peppered this post with mini reviews of 2014’s targets too, in order to see what I achieved and what’s still left to accomplish. It would be a lie to say that I smashed everything out of the park, but I’m okay with there being some things that didn’t happen; that’s life!

In a nutshell though, I think it’s fair to say I had a good crack at almost everything.

I took up yoga, had the most marvellous time in Australia, became happier with myself and my strange quirks, opted for packed lunches much more frequently than expensive Soho dinners, found a programmer who helped me redesign the backend of my blog, formed a much stronger bond with my sister, posted more in the Out and About category than any other and climbed many personal mountains as the months rolled by. Not a bad little lot, really!

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Photography credit: Michael Dorausch

1. Correct my posture

Easily the most important on the list, and probably the hardest too. For the last two or three years, I’ve had an ongoing neck problem that’s mostly caused by poor sitting posture when I’m working. Being a designer by trade, I often end up slumped lazily at my desk and as a result, my neck muscles have become weak and unable to support my head correctly.

2015 has to the be the year this changes, as my physiotherapist told me that if it’s not fixed by the time I’m 28, it could be something I have to deal with for the rest of my life. Now that’s a scary thought. I have until December 1st to get this sorted.

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Photography credit: Paul Birnie

2. Lay my foundations in Richmond

Up until recently, I was desperate to get out of London. I couldn’t do it anymore: the commute, the crowds, the people. The going home to a place you were too tired to enjoy in the evenings and the weekends. I wanted out altogether, Bristol, Cardiff, Bournemouth, anywhere would do! But then I moved to Richmond, and something changed.

I’m in love with Richmond. It’s totally and utterly stolen my heart, and it’s where I can see myself settling for a good few years. I want to make more of it in 2015: enjoy its little cafés and shops, take in more of the beautiful park and be thankful that I found such a wonderful place to return to after a long day in the office.

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Photography credit: Galaxies and Hurricanes

3. Welcome the greys

It’s happening. I’m beginning to notice more and more grey hairs creeping in every time the lovely Elbie gives my mop a chop. At first, this frightened me a little bit and I pulled them out, but then I realised how silly that was. I’m getting older, it’s a fact of life! And just because my hair is changing colour doesn’t mean that I have to be any less beautiful! On the contrary, I’m starting 2015 feeling more beautiful than I ever have before.

And if I get more greys, I’ll get Elbie to dye the whole lot. Silver vixens are a thing too, right?

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Photography credit: Flood G

4. Grow my graphic novel collection

This is a goal I’m really excited about! When I was away in Australia at the end of September, I rediscovered a long-lost love of graphic novels which culminated in me (and my partner in crime, Mia) each buying a whole stack of lovelies from Minotaur in Melbourne’s CBD.

What is it about graphic novels that I love so much more than ordinary ones? Well, the pictures, of course, but it’s also how daring they can be. Graphic novels aren’t afraid to go there, often tackling taboo subjects in a completely unique way.

In 2015 I’m looking forward to collecting (and perhaps even sharing) my favourites.

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Photography credit: Andrea R

5. Screw finding someone else! I’m rebuilding this blog myself!

Although I did achieve last year’s goal of finding someone to tidy up the backend of my blog (and that person did a sterling job in the face of my annoying emails!) I still feel like I could be more involved with the technical side of Little Outdoor Kylie.

The truth is, I’m more than capable of mastering the behind the scenes stuff too, and even though it’s a scary thought, I think it’s time to learn the ropes. I’d like to take an HTML and CSS course this year, and learn how to create a WordPress page from scratch. Expect fireworks!

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Photography credit: Amélien Bayle

6. Drive on the wrong side of the road

Oh yes, it’s back again! This was goal #6 in last year’s list and it’s still waiting to be achieved. It was the plan for Livs and I to surprise Mum and Dad in Italy last spring by turning up mid-way through their holiday, having driven my little Joan all the way to Palanza. Sadly, money was a bigger issue than I’d originally thought, and we just couldn’t afford to make it happen.

This year, I’m starting smaller. I’m desperate to see more of Europe and I want to drive rather than fly, so Joanie and I have made it our mission to hit Paris before spring.

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Photography credit: Elena Kalis

7. Start swimming

Last year, it was all about using my body more, and I can happily say that I managed that! Despite having the luxury of my own car, I’m still walking more than ever, and I also took up yoga (although I sadly had to give up the classes when my hours were cut at work).

Once I’m back working a 9-5 job, swimming is something new that I want to make sure I have time for in my weekly schedule. Not only is it a fantastic form of exercise, it’s also an ideal way to achieve goal #1 on my list, and get that spine nice and supple and straight.

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Photography credit: José Manuel Ríos Valiente

8. Trust myself to fall in love again

Last year was all about leaving judgement behind and accepting people for who they are, as well as learning to seek approval from myself. I took a big step in that direction right at the end of 2013 by making the choice to live alone, which threw me in at the deep end for the first time in my life. It’s a tired old cliché, but I really did learn so much about myself.

I also needed to learn to let go of past hurts, and after taking time to do that, I’m opening myself up to the idea of new relationships. It’s a scary thought after a year of being single, but I’m almost ready to share my life with a friendly fella again (should the right one come along!).

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Photography credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

9. Dedicate more time to volunteering

When my life did a bit of a backflip last September, lots of things I’d been dedicating time to beforehand had to go. One of these things was the volunteering I’d been doing for Richmond Park and The London Wetlands Centre.

I’m really keen to return to my volunteering commitments when my job situation is a little more stable. As I get older, and begin to fully appreciate the things I value in life, I’m especially keen to move towards spending more time helping others learn about the importance of nature and why we should be working together to conserve it.

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Photography credit: Daniel James

10. Take a poi spinning course

This is something I’ve been dreaming about for such a long time! I’m very much a beginner spinner, self-taught and helped along by others, and I would love to improve my skills by taking one of Perfect Circle Poi’s evening classes. I can’t say when I’ll be at the fire spinning stage, but who knows? Maybe this time next year I’ll have run away to join the circus…

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The Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick

January 3, 2015

Berwick Holiday 2014

In the midst of winter, it’s always hard to remember the warmer months. It’s impossible to believe we’ll ever be walking around in anything but hats, scarves and winter coats ever again! Bundled up in my onesie and writing this from the cosiness of my bed, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share a memory from less chilly days gone by.

One of my favourite excursions of last summer was an unexpected trip to the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick, where I was invited by a lovely lady named Laura to visit their wonderful facility, catch a ride on one of their seabird cruises and witness the spectacle of over 100,000 pairs of gannets raising their young on the cliff face of Bass Rock.

Let’s put it this way: I didn’t take much persuading!

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Readers with good memories will recall previous posts I’ve written about beautiful Northumberland and its hidden gems: the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Cocklawburn Beach and The Farne Islands to name but a few. For the last three or four years my family have spent a week in this beautiful part of the country every summer, and in 2014 we added the nearby Seabird Centre to our list of excursions.

The Centre is just a hop, skip and a jump over the border into Scotland, and after a short drive we were greeted by the uniquely designed building and stunning views across the sea towards neighbouring Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth.

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The staff at the centre were wonderfully polite and couldn’t do enough to help us, ensuring our tickets for the seabird cruise were ready and waiting as soon as we arrived, and they’d put together a little gift pack for me too! It was stuffed with information about the centre and the ongoing conservation projects they’re running.

We were shown down to the little harbour, where we boarded a boat that would take us out to Bass Rock. Mum isn’t the biggest fan of boats (especially on choppy seas), so she opted to stay behind and I stepped up to the adventure with my dad and sister in tow.

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Dad was at the ready with his trusty cam, and Livs and I couldn’t resist a sneaky selfie whilst we waited for departure! With my binoculars swinging around my neck, I was almost falling out of the boat with anticipation; I’d never seen a gannet before and here I was, en route to see thousands of them! It was an exciting day to be a birdnerd.

And I tell you what, when we reached Bass Rock, it certainly did not disappoint.

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I’ve never experienced a sight as breathtaking as the one looking upwards from the base of the rock. Gannets as far as the eye could see, their huge wings stretched out and riding the thermals with effortless ease. They were much bigger than I thought they’d be, some with wingspans up to two metres! So graceful for such big fellas!

Watching them dive into the water to catch their dinner was awe-inspiring; their technique involves plummeting towards the water at up to 70mph and then folding their wings in and disappearing completely under the surface. Just incredible.

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Dad was on hand with his camera as we rounded the island, snapping away like mad as the three of us gawped in disbelief. We circled round for a good twenty minutes whilst our guide brought everyone’s gannet knowledge up to date. If you’re interested in learning more about these guys, I’ve written a Bird of the Week post about them just for you!

My favourite part of the island trip was when our little vessel rounded the side of the island and we spotted the lighthouse. It’s fully automated now, controlled by a station all the way over in Edinburgh, but I couldn’t help imagining what it must have been like to live there in days gone by, surrounded on all sides by incomprehensible numbers of birds…!

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And it was only really as we were heading back to land, when the island came into view as a whole that I could truly appreciate that number. Bass Rock looked like it was covered with a dusting of snow… in the middle of August!

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Mum was waiting for us in the café when we got back, all three of us grinning ear-to-ear with rosy red cheeks! We shared our stories excitedly and Mum dutifully listened. She’d explored the gift shop whilst we were on the boat, and having noticed it myself on the way through the centre, I decided to check it out too.

It was a very cute shop, stocked floor to ceiling with cards, prints, paintings, books, souvenirs, clothing, trinkets, knick-knacks and of course, plushie gannets.

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Well, I couldn’t leave the centre without one of my very own, could I? We named this little guy Graeme, and he’s traded in his seafaring life to be a river-cruising gannet of leisure in Richmond. I think he’s quite pleased… it’s a lot warmer here than in the chilly Scottish waters.

Before bidding adieu for the day, there was just enough time to explore the interactive Discovery Centre. Both information point and hands-on activity area, we marvelled at the Flyway Tunnel and watched conservation videos in the Wildlife Theatre.

My favourite part was peeking through the super-powerful scopes that zoomed us right back in on the island again. Even though Mum hadn’t been on the boat trip, she almost didn’t need to; the views were that good! It was the perfect way to finish off a most marvellous day trip.

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A big thank you to all the staff at the Scottish Seabird Centre for organising a wonderful day out. Such warm and genuine welcomes from everybody I met on the day and emailed beforehand, I couldn’t have hoped for better! I’ll most definitely be back.

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Five Reasons why you should Ditch your Handbag for a Backpack

December 18, 2014

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Photography credit: Steven Lewis via Unsplash

I work in a pretty nerdy industry. It’s mostly full of men, geeking out over render engines and the download speed of their FTP. These fellas carry their laptops and hard drives and a cacophony of cables wherever they go, so it’s no wonder the majority have long since ditched the “man bag” in favour of a good old-fashioned backpack.

But what about my fellow media ladies? It’s a bit of a different story. For the most part, I witness a lot of lasses in the centre of Soho struggling with tote bags, handbags, lunch bags and shopping bags, spilling their morning coffees whilst they run for the bus.

So today I’d like to dispel the myth that backpacks are the ultimate nerdy accessory. Here are five reasons why you should embrace this wonderful bit of kit.

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Photography credit: Kate Elliott

1. You can organise and find your stuff with ease

How many times have you delved into your handbag, knowing it’s going to need completely emptying before you’re able to locate your lip balm? Or had to rummage your Oyster card at the bus stop, muttering “I know it’s in here somewhere…!”

Backpacks are crammed full of useful pockets, hooks and zippered sections: I have a separate section for all my cosmetics and girlie bits and bobs, another for my cables and chargers, then the largest section for my laptop, book, lunch, flask etc.

And as a result, I never have to struggle to find anything!

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Photography credit: Adam D

2. Spreading the weight you carry with you keeps your back happy

We all know it’s true, and yet we still ignore it. When I last saw a physiotherapist about an ongoing neck problem, she told me if I didn’t get my posture sorted before the age of twenty-eight, I’d effectively be hunched-over for the rest of my days. Now that’s a scary thought!

A properly fitted backpack will ensure your back is looked after in the best possible way. Extra kudos if you pick the Fjällräven Kånken, which takes extra care to hug the natural curvature of your spine, alleviating any natural tendency to be lazy and throw your shoulders forward.

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Photography credit: Gioia De Antoniis

3. There’s no excuse anymore… backpacks are fashionable now

Gone are the days of groaning and complaining as your mum dragged you unwillingly through the shops before the start of term, trying desperately to meet your unreasonable demands for a cool backpack: not pink, no out-of-fashion brands, not too big, nothing that sat too high on the shoulders…

Back then it was like fighting a losing battle, but these days we’re spoilt for choice! There’s a perfect partner for everyone, and to help you get started, I’ve shortlisted six of my favourites in a range of colours and styles to pique your interest.

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Mariposa Daypack Sweat by Chums

When I arrived in Japan for a three-week holiday back in 2013, it became all too apparent all too soon that my current backpack was losing the will to live. I needed a replacement, fast, and this was the option I plumped for. Beautifully coloured, with quirky detailing and as strong as an ox, this bag fights the morning commute with me, reliably protects all my kit and still looks as bright as the day I picked it up off the rail.

Kånken Classic by Fjällräven

The bag that’s making waves in London right now, this unusually-shaped and specially-designed backpack is a fond favourite in its native Sweden, where the style was developed back in 1978 to help straighten out the backs of schoolchildren who were struggling under the weight of too many textbooks.

Little America Backpack by Herschel Supply Co.

It’s the bag that all the hipsters want, and you’ll be hard pushed to walk anywhere in the city without passing someone carrying one of these on their backs. Taking their company name from the sparsely populated town in Saskatchewan, Canada, Herschel’s range is smart, stylish and effortlessly cool. Whether you’re in need of a hard-wearing, single-colour design or something just a little bit quirky, the selection on offer is both adaptable and varied…

Heritage Backpack by Herschel Supply Co.

… which explains the reason why two of their bags are popping up in this list! I love the more traditional style of the Little America, but this slightly smaller and more feminine mid-volume offering is available in a range of gorgeous colour combinations and patterns to suit all tastes.

Back Country Pack by Drifter

If your main concern about having a backpack in place of a handbag is carrying extra unwanted weight, I’m going to squash your worries with this option from Drifter. When the company was established in 1977, it originally traded as a parachute rigging business. Their specialist technology was then developed into producing extremely lightweight and durable sport and travel bags, of which there are now a huge range to choose from.

Backpack to the Future by ModCloth

And finally, if your handbag tendencies are just too strong to resist, what about this neat little number? ModCloth wins the award for sweetest and girliest handbag with this offering, which has all the practicality of a bulkier design: pockets, compartments and secure fastenings, but is stripped down to an elegant, feminine finish in a lovely pumpkin colour with chestnut accents.

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Photography credit: Eric Loeffler

4. Your shoulders, arms, wrists, elbows and hands are free!

Don’t underestimate this one! There’s nothing I hate more than trying to navigate a crowded shop whilst juggling a million things in my hands. With a backpack, everything is tucked away and you’re free to browse at your leisure.

And if you do you buy something, you earn extra brownie points for saying “no thank you” to an offer of a carrier bag and popping your new purchase straight into your backpack!

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Photography credit: Lulu Lovering

5. A good backpack encourages your inner minimalist

I wonder what my blogger pal Xandra over at Fashionably Light might have to say about this one, but I believe that ne’er a truer word was spoken than this sentiment! Whilst it might seem that you can shove much more into a backpack than you can into a diddy handbag, the solid structure of a backpack means that once you have your filing system in order (see point 1), things stay in place and therefore, easier to find.

Minimalism isn’t always about trying to exist on fewer things, it’s also about ensuring your belongings are necessary and useful. Because I know where everything in my backpack is, I quickly notice when I’ve put something in there that’s not serving a real purpose.

NB. Whilst this reads like a sponsored post, it isn’t. I really am just a big backpack nerd!

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You Are Not One-Dimensional

December 1, 2014

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On holiday in Devon aged seven months, apparently overjoyed by this rich tea biscuits box…!

Pinch, punch, first of the month, happy Advent and here’s to the start of the Christmas countdown… Ladies and gents, welcome to December in all its chilly, frosty loveliness!

And as it happens, today is also my birthday!

As such, I thought it was only appropriate that I shared a few pearls of wisdom (and just a few snaps from the dreaded family photo box!) as I wave goodbye to twenty-six and welcome the ripe old age of twenty-seven across the threshold.

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Rawr! Testing out the grandparents’ new cat flap! (aged one)

One morning last week, during a particularly windy and rainy commute into Central London on the District line, I started thinking about hobbies and interests.

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for longer than five minutes, you’ll know how much of a fan of nature and birds I am. These days they form a big part of my life, but it might surprise you to know that for many years, I was actually quite a hobby-less person.

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Style icon at eighteen months (just look at that hat!)

I would pick things up, obsess over them, then drop them when I thought I wasn’t dedicating enough time to be taken seriously. I would try and adopt every aspect of that hobby and let it define me completely, even if there were some parts that didn’t really interest or excite me.

In hindsight, I see now that my approach was all wrong. It isn’t a fraudulent thing to pick and choose what you like. It’s okay to mix and match, and it’s 100% groovy to enjoy other hobbies and interests on the side as well. You’re not one-dimensional, after all.

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Wearing quite possibly the world’s greatest anorak, no question… (aged five or six)

Just because I like birds doesn’t mean I can’t like other things too.

Consider how boring it would be if you were only defined by one thing: “hello, I’m Kylie and I like birds… only birds” doesn’t have a patch on “hello, I’m Kylie and I like birds and going on long walks and eating Mexican food and attending pagan-inspired festivals and wearing patterned clothes and writing long letters and reading graphic novels and being a Richmond tour guide to all my friends and riding on public transport and spending too long in stationary shops and playing online games whilst eating custard out of the tin…”.

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Getting my gardening nerd on, aged eight or nine

And that’s okay, because that is me, and that is what I like to do.

We are all individually a sum of our own parts, and the weirder, wackier and more diverse the parts, the more beautiful and complex the end result. You don’t have to be more authentic, you just have to be authentically you.

Have yourself a wonderful day!

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Out and about in Oxford this weekend – my last few days of being twenty-six!

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