How to Go it Alone and Survive a Party or an Event Where You Know No one

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When I first started blogging nearly four years ago, the thought of going solo to an event where I knew absolutely no one would have been enough to bring me out in hives.  I’d have had some questions before predictably deciding to skip it.  Number one: Why the HELL would I voluntarily put myself through that kind of torture?  Number two: Can I bring a friend to cling onto/hide behind? and if not, then Number three: How do I get out of this and hide out at home without looking like a total loser?  The truth is that I’d have made my excuses, metaphorically shut the curtains and hid out at home – simple as.  “If anyone calls I’m not here!!!”

We’ve all been there (I hope!); at some point we all get invited to that party of a friend of a friend – only to have the friend bail at the last minute, or get sent to a networking event to mingle with total strangers (smingle?)Shudder.  I got invited to my first event four months after I started blogging and even though I was thrilled to have been invited, I was rattled.  I’d have to go alone and worse, as I was brand spanking new to the Cardiff Blogging Scene, I wouldn’t know anyone.  Yeesh.  Thankfully, I decided to be brave and went anyway, and even though – yeah – it was a bit awkward walking into a room full of unfamiliar faces, by the end of the event they became familiar and I came away realising that – actually – I wasn’t the wallflower I thought I was.  Four years on and I pretty much go solo to all the events that I get an invite to (in fact, as this post goes live I’ll be on my way to yet another one), and even though I still get those butterflies and that urge to bail – every single time – I’ve learned to take a breath and power through it and I always end up having a good time.

So, down to the million pound question: How do you survive a party or an event when you don’t know anyone?  How do you do it without clinging to a corner scrolling on your phone or choosing to keep the dog or cat company (GUILTY)?  Here are some tricks and tips I’ve picked up over the years.

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Arrive Early

I honestly can’t think of anything worse than turning up to a party or an event when it’s in full swing.  Having to walk into a room where everyone’s already paired up and chatting away is my idea of hell, so I always – if I can – try to be the first person to arrive.  Yeah, it’s a bit lame and you risk looking over-eager, but there’s a massive upside.  If you’re the first to arrive you’ll get one on one time with the host before anyone else does (and before they’re busy) – so, you can introduce yourself, offer to help out – and, when everyone else starts arriving they’ll most likely zone in on the host too, who’ll probably introduce you.  Easy, you’re in!

Pick a Bomb Outfit (and compliment everyone else’s)

Obviously you’ll want to check the dress code, but pick an outfit that you’re not only comfortable wearing, but also one that makes you feel confident.  I always like to wear one of my weird shirts because that’s usually how other bloggers recognise me (I’m the weird shirt girl) but also because they’re striking and a bit of a conversation starter.  Also, complimenting other people’s outfits is one of the best ways to strike up a conversation – a quick, “Sorry, I just had to come over and tell you how much I love your dress/bag/shoes – where are they from?” is all it takes.

Hunt down other guests who’ve decided to go it alone

One of the best tips I’ve ever read about going it alone is to track down someone else who’s in the same boat!  There’ll always be someone shy standing alone desperate to be rescued – so why not be their knight in shining armour?  They’ll be so grateful!  And don’t stop once you’ve settled in and have found a few people to talk to – always be on the look out for someone in trouble. 🙂

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Come armed with conversation topics

Don’t be the nob who reverts to chatting about the weather when there’s nothing else to say!  Come armed with questions to ask and topics to talk about.  After moving in with a compliment conversation starter ask questions about the other person’s life and the ball will usually start rolling.  At a lot of the blogging events I’ve been to there’ll usually be someone I recognise from social media – even if I’ve never met them in real life, and that makes things so much easier! If they post pictures of their dog, I ask them questions about that cute pupper – if they recently posted pictures of themselves on holiday, I ask them about it! I always feel like a total stalker, but usually I find the other person is just so happy you’ve taken an interest in them on a personal level that it never seems to come across  as stalkerish.  Maybe it’s a blogger loop hole!

No one is staring at you

Unless you get naked, you’re golden.  After I attended my first event alone, one of the biggest things I realised about myself was that I’d much rather take a risk and be the loudest, friendliest person in the room than play it safe and be the one standing alone scrolling on their phone.  I’ve always thought of myself as this shy wallflower – an introvert to the core – and I still am; I always get nervous before throwing myself into a social situation and I actually get a social hangover if I’ve spent too much time socialising (It’s a real thing!).  But, I’ve realised that I can be social and that I enjoy being social.  The truth is that the party or event isn’t going to revolve around you, there isn’t going to be a big spotlight following you around and no one is trying to catch you out or trip you up.  No one will care if you make a mistake.  So relax!

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Don’t Drink

Okay, hear me out; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of liquid luck, but use it once and it’ll become a crutch for every event you attend thereafter.  All the early events I attended on my own, I drove to – which at the time seemed like madness because, “How the hell am I going to be able to talk to people without a bit of dutch courage!?”  But actually, being forced to stay sober meant that by the end of the night when I’d come away having had a fantastic time and met some great people, I could chalk it up to being completely myself.

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know anyone

You mean, admit that you’re a loner!?  ARE YOU CRAZY?  Well, look.  You can either stand around and hope someone will come and rescue you, or you can take a gamble and admit that you’re vulnerable.  I’ve done it a couple of times myself when I’ve really struggled to find someone to talk to and the other person has always been absolutely lovely and introduced to their friends.  No one is ever going to turn their back on you and tell you to go away – that worst case scenario rolling around in your head doesn’t exist.

Give Yourself a Bail-out Time

Before leaving, I always give myself a deadline – a time when I’m allowed to “give up”, call it quits and leave.  Not only is it a sensible thing to do so your nearest and dearest know what time you’re likely to be heading home, but it also takes the edge off if you’re nervous.  You’ll know there’s an end in sight.  Usually you’ll find that your bail out time sneaks up way too soon and you’ll be having such a great time that you’ll end up extending it anyway! 😉

If you’re local to Cardiff, whether you’re a blogger or own a small business or just fancy mingling with some new faces then there are loads of networking events to attend.  Definitely check out The Monday Club (most of the photographs in this post were taken at their summer garden party earlier this week), The Wonders Of Events, Warrior Women and House 21.

Bank Holiday down The Bay and around Bute Park

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It’s that time of year when practically every other weekend is a Bank Holiday – which is amazing, but sometimes I do wonder why they’re all shoved together during April, May and June rather than being spread out over the whole year.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a couple in October and November, and January? (ugh, January)  I mean, obviously they wouldn’t be for sunning yourself in a beer garden or on a beach (or down The Bay, as us Cardiff lot tend to do) – but for curling up in bed and on the sofa and watching TV and just vegging out… A Great British Bingewatch Bank Holiday.  Think about it.  Maybe I should start a petition or something…

Anyway, I didn’t spend last Bank Holiday weekend binge watching, I spent it walking nine miles around Cardiff Bay and Bute Park and back again.  The weather was absolutely beautiful and it was nice to get out and be a bit of a tourist in my hometown with my favorite people… and dog. 🙂

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You know the drill, I’ve done the barrage walk to Cardiff Bay about a zillion times.  We usually park up in Penarth Heights and then walk down the hill past the Custom House, across the barrage and into The Bay.  We always have a pitstop in Coffi Co in Mermaid Quay because they’re dog friendly and serve up the most incredible hot chocolates.  This time I went for their After Eight one… 🙂

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So, the plan was to catch the Aqua Bus from The Bay to Bute Park, but someone was too busy swigging on their hot chocolate and we missed it (naming no names, but it was me, obviously…).  So we walked there instead.  I’d always thought it was a bit of a trek, but actually, it only took about twenty minutes – and we saw a few buildings and corners of the capital that I’ve never seen before.

…Some better than others.  There’s been a massive surge in student accommodation blocks popping up in and around the town centre and – while I get that accommodation is needed – I don’t get why it has to be so damned ugly.  I mean, the new Zenith building looks straight out of the Eastern Bloc.  Who the hell in the planning department is signing off on these???

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Next we had a lovely stroll around Bute Park – which is beautiful any time of the year, but definitely at its best during the Spring and Summer when all the blossom and flowers are out and everyone’s either barbecuing or sun bathing on the lawn.

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Finally, we hopped on the Aqua Bus to head back to The Bay.  Poor Bungle was absolutely knackered; it’s the longest walk he’s done in a while!  If you’re in Cardiff then it’s definitely something to tick off your list of things to do; the boat heads down the River Taff from Bute Park and out into Cardiff Bay, finally docking up in Mermaid Quay.  It sails right past the Principality Stadium (although, I think you’d get a better view of it if you did the trip in reverse) and there’s a voice over telling you all about the history of Cardiff and the docks, as well as a few interesting facts.

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Back in The Bay we stumbled on a Welsh Armed Forced event – with the Royal Welsh band playing.  I don’t think you can claim to be a Cardiff resident until you spot their mascot – Goat Fusilier Shenkin IV – out and about!  He’s a bit of a legend.

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Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

My Thursday: Blossom Walks, Perfect Scrambled Eggs and Violet Gin

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I feel like I haven’t done a photo diary in ages; sometimes it’s nice to throw things back to blogging back in the day – you know, when it was all a bit more low key and just about the things you did on a random day of the week.  I did want to put an Easter-inspired recipe up today buuuuuut I’ve been a bit busy and came up empty.  So here we are!  This is what my Thursday looked like.

Most days right now begin at 6am when Bungle stomps into our bedroom and barks until one of us either budges over or gets up.  He loves our bed at the moment; he’ll disappear at random times during the day and we’ll find him sprawled out snoozing in the middle of it!  Sunny usually gets up first so Bungle will usually hop in with me for a bit while I scroll through Twitter and Instagram and put off getting up myself. 😉

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Once Sunny leaves for work, I pull on a pair of yoga pants and a hoodie and take Bungle for his morning walk around the block.  You’d think him having the snip a couple of weeks ago would have calmed him down a bit, but honestly he’s even more excitable than before.  He still drags me along and only stops to mercilessly hump my leg.  Buuuuuut, at least on Thursday the weather was nice; we walked around the block and had a sniff around the bluebells and the blossom.

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After his walk, Bungle went back to bed (…alright for some) and I made myself some breakfast.  I’ve been trying to perfect some egg recipes recently and high up on my list was scrambled egg.  I mean, usually I just crack a couple of eggs into a saucepan with some milk and butter and stir until they’re solid, but I wanted to see if I could go one better and make those super creamy, special scrambled eggs.  On Thursday, I think I cracked it (har de har).

Most of my morning was spent ticking off jobs on my to do list, planning a couple of blog posts and answering emails, and then after taking Bungle for another trot around the block I had a quick lunch and then headed into Cardiff.  But it turned out taking me an hour longer than usual because the traffic was a nightmare!

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Had a quick prowl around the shops.  There’s not really a lot I need in terms of Spring/Summer clothes, but I love looking anyway!  I’m still in lust with this pink polka dot shirt from Zara… but I’ve got a lot of shirts (and a lot of polka dots…).  I’m determined to wait it out and see if lust turns into love.

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At Gin o’ Clock I met up with Lottie from This Girl Is.  We went to Gin and Juice in Castle Arcade which serves up a massive selection of gin (and smoothies) in the most beautiful way.  We chatted about blogging and our beautiful but bonkers doggos.

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Once I got home, Sunny took Bungle for his evening walk and I made dinner.  I’ve really been enjoying making these Burrito Bowls recently.  It started as a solution to those times when “ugh, can’t be arsed to make Quesadillas” – but actually, I prefer it!  And not just because it’s easier.  Last night I served them up with a cheeky side of Nachos – which went down very well! 🙂

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After dinner I started reading my new history book all about the women in Mozart’s life and then Sunny and I broke into some Easter Chocolate in front of Into the Badlands – which is quite possibly the most ridiculous show I’ve ever seen.  Steampunk meets Kung Fu… with Nick Frost.  I mean, what the actual hell?

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Enjoy the long weekend! 🙂

Women’s Guide to Cardiff

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Last month I completely freaked out when I had a little flick through my diary and realised that I was long overdue for a smear test (Cervical Cancer was in the news, screenings are at 20 year low, I’d missed a period and I’m generally just a bit of an anxious wreck when it comes to my health).  I booked in pronto-tonto, got it done, a letter dropped on my doorstep a week or so later letting me know that everything was hunky dory (phew!) and so I took to Instagram to encourage everyone else to do the same.  When a follower messaged me off the cuff to ask where the nearest Family Planning Clinic in Cardiff was – so they could ring up and book their own screening – I came up completely empty.  I had absolutely no idea!

But not just that, when I sat down and thought about it, I realised that I’m a bit clueless in general when it comes to services in Cardiff that are available to women.  You know, for example: where do you go when you’re looking for a bit of careers advice?  What sports teams are there?  Are there any open mic events?  There needs to be a Women’s Guide to Cardiff – a Little Black Book for women of The ‘Diff to stay clued up.  A directory of listings for local networking events, places to go for advice, the morning after pill, or when you’re just in a jam and desperately need a bit of help – whether that’s for mental health counselling or refuge from violence.  Let’s stay safe and in the know, ladies.

And so, here it is.  Or the beta version, anyway.  I’m going to keep adding to it to keep it fresh and as up to date as possible; so if you’ve got any ideas or suggestions I want to hear them.  I’m a woman and I live in Cardiff, but I’m not an authority on the matter.  You are.  Got any recommendations?  Know of a service that the women of Cardiff need to know exists? Just send me a message or let me know in the comments section below. 🙂

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Health

Need to book in your smear test?  Need the morning after pill or some advice on contraception?  Trying for a baby?  Here’s where to look.

Sexual Health Clinics:

♥ Butetown Health Centre
02921 833257
♥ Cardiff Royal Infirmary
02920 33 5355
♥ Park Place Surgery
029 2087 0660

*Don’t forget that you can book in smear tests at your local Doctor Surgery as well as chat to the nurse about contraception and other women’s health issues/concerns.

Family Planning:

♥ LWC Cardiff
02920 236 301
♥ Centre for Reproduction and Gynaecology Wales
01443 443 999
♥ BPAS Cardiff
03457 304 030

Postnatal and Antenatal Support for Mums and Mums to be:

Parentline Plus
PANDAs Foundation
(support for pre and post natal depression)
Listing of local Mother and Toddler Groups in Cardiff
♥ SANDS (Cardiff’s Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity

Networking

If you’re thinking of starting your own business or a blog, or just want to meet some like-minded ladies then there are so many incredible networking events in and around Cardiff.  Just check the Cardiff Eventbrite Listings to see what’s happening, or snag some tickets to one of these!

♥ House 21 Events
Workshop and Brunch for Bloggers and Brands.
♥ The Wonders Of
Networking events for local bloggers, creatives and business owners.
♥ The Monday Club
Weekly newsletter and networking events for women bossing it in and around Cardiff.
♥ Warrior Women Events
Monthly meetups to inspire and empower local women.
Little Birdie Events
Networking events and workshops for women and small businesses in Cardiff and South Wales.

Arts and Crafts

If you’re a creative gal and fancy putting your artistic eye to good use, then check out some of these events, groups and classes.

♥ Twinmade Workshops
♥ Cardiff Illustration Club
♥ Cardiff Book Festival
♥ Milieu Spoken Poetry and Fiction Sessions
♥ Ignite Cardiff (5 minutes of fame!)
♥ National Museum of Wales Drawing Group
♥ Cardiff National Novel Writing Month Boards (November)
♥ Llanover Hall Arts Centre (run looooads of classes!)
♥ Cardiff Writer’s Circle

Sport

There are so many women’s sports teams in the capital (including the awesome Tiger Bay Brawlers!) – so if you’re interested in signing up with a new squad, just check the list below.

♥ Cardiff Athletic’s Club
♥ Cardiff Basketball Club
♥ Badminton Clubs in Cardiff
♥ Tiger Bay Brawlers Roller Derby
♥ Cardiff AJAX Cycling Club
♥ The Cardiff Valkyries (Women’s American Football)
♥ Cardiff Bluebells Women’s Football
♥ Cardiff Golf Club’s “Ladies New2Golf”
♥ Cardiff Comet’s (Women’s Ice Hockey)
♥ Whitchurch Hockey Club
♥ Cardiff Harlequins Lacrosse Club
♥ Play Netball
♥ Llandaff Rowing Club
♥ CDF Runners
♥ Cardiff Ski and Snowboard Centre
♥ Cardiff Ice Skating Club
♥ Cardiff Lawn Tennis Club

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Careers Advice and Guidance

Everything you need to get your career moving in the right direction, from advice to working spaces and where to look if you fancy doing a bit of volunteering.

Where to go for careers advice and help with job searches and CVs:

♥ Careers Wales
♥ Women’s Equality Network Wales (WEN)
♥ Chwarae Teg
Women Connect First (Advice and support for Black and Minority Ethnic Women in and around Cardiff.)
♥ Big Ideas Wales
(supports anyone interested in starting up their own business!)
♥ Young Women’s Trust (women in Wales can access their free careers coaching sessions as long as they’re under 30)

Creative hubs and co-working spaces for freelancers:

♥ Rabble Studio
♥ The Sustainable Studio
♥ Tramshed

Volunteering Opportunities:

♥ Volunteer Cardiff
♥ Volunteering Wales
♥ New Link Wales

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Magazines and Podcasts

If you’ve been living in Cardiff for a while then you’re bound to have come across some of the local mags hanging around on the window sills in coffee shops and in the waiting rooms of local salons.  They’re full of information about special offers and events in and around the city. 🙂

Podcasts:

♥ Wicked Women’s Institute
“Real conversations by strong, brave, empowered women on topics from body, relationships, to sex.”
♥ Hank
Monthly podcast exploring the Welsh capital’s food and drink scene!

Magazines:

♥ Buzz Mag
Cardiff’s What’s On Guide. Find a copy @ Central Library, The Hayes
♥ Cardiff Life
Lifestyle magazine showcasing life in Cardiff and the Bay
♥ Style of the City
Fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazine for Welsh Women.

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Help and Support

If you’re struggling, whatever the circumstances, there are plenty of amazing charities and services in Cardiff and South Wales that can help.  Dewis Wales is a good place to start – they have an online database of local organisations and services that focus on well being.

Help for Women suffering domestic abuse and sexual violence:

♥ Cardiff Women’s Aid Resource and Recovery Centre
Counseling, support, accommodation and recovery services for women experiencing domestic and sexual violence.
BAWSO
Specialist support and intervention for Black and Minority Ethic Women in Cardiff and South Wales, including victims of trafficking, forced marriage and FGM.
♥ Hafan Cymru
Floating “in home” support, housing and refuge for vulnerable women and families.

Counselling and Mental Health Services:

♥ Cardiff Concern
Free charity counselling service run by christian volunteers, offering a listening ear and helping people in need regardless of their religious views.
 Relate Cymru
Relationship counselling and therapy.
♥ Breathe
Created by mental health charity Gofal, Breathe offers talking therapies, counselling and mental health workplace training.
♥ YCS Wales
Affordable counselling sessions in Cardiff and Bridgend.
♥ Kooth
Anonymous support for 11-18 year olds.
♥ Meic
24/7 support line for under 25 year olds

Support for homeless and at risk women:

 Llamau
Help and support for young people and women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
♥ Shelter Cymru

Support for those in financial difficulty:

♥ The Discretionary Assistance Fund
The DAF gives a one-off grant to anyone of 16 who is in immediate financial difficulty and meets their criteria.
♥ Margaret’s Fund
Not sure this one’s Wales-based, but it’s worth mentioning.  It’s a charity that offers financial help to women struggling due to illness.
♥ The Speakeasy

Offers free and impartial legal advice to anyone struggling with social welfare issues including debt.
♥ Turn2us
A national charity helping people to get back on their feet financially.

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Useful Websites and Blogs

I could spend all day listing the many, many amazing local bloggers based in the Welsh Capital, but if you’re looking for something or someone super specific then check out the Wales Blog Network. (And if you’re a local blogger yourself, make sure you sign up!) 🙂

Websites About Cardiff:

We Are Cardiff
Website sharing interesting stories, arts and culture from in and around Cardiff.
♥ Visit Cardiff
Visitor Information site showcasing what’s on and what’s to see in and around The ‘Diff.

 

Phew!  What a list!  And honestly, I really want it to keep on growing; so if there’s anything you think the women of Cardiff really need to know about, comment below or send me a message so I can get it added to the list (similarly, if there’s anything you think shouldn’t be on the list, do let me know).  Happy #InternationalWomensDay you beautiful lot! ♡♡♡

*A Festive Afternoon Tea and Ice Skating

It feels like that festive feeling’s been cranked up a notch, now that it’s finally December.  I’ve already heard The Pogues about ten times (…not through choice!  I’m not a fan!), the advent calendars are out and…  and why the hell am I starting every single blog post at the moment like a bloody Christmas newsletter?!  There’s something in the water, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m full of Christmas cheer (read: food and booze) after spending a very festive afternoon up at The Celtic Manor over the weekend.

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I had absolutely no idea that The Celtic Manor were opening up a little rink in their rooftop garden this Christmas until an email popped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago inviting me up for a festive afternoon of ice skating and scoffing.  I mean, the last time I went ice skating was around ten years ago and I ended that session flat on my back with my legs in the air (…easy now), but I conveniently forgot all about that small fact right up until I stepped (/slid) out onto the ice.  Luckily, the rink isn’t too big and it isn’t too busy either – much quieter and cosier than the one at Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland – so there was no worrying about clawing my way around the outside while I found my feet or fears of getting clipped by a cocky Torvil and Dean wannabe (I’m not jealous at all).  It’s also covered, so come rain or shine (or snow?) you can skate until you slip.  There’s also a bar serving drinks and food (the Currywurst with sauerkraut was really good) if you’d rather watch the slip-sliding rather than partake in it yourself… 😉

As for me, I didn’t end up flat on my back like last time, but I was very wobbly!  If I wasn’t holding onto the barrier then I was crashing into it! 🙂







Après Skate, Sunny and I headed to The Mulberry Bar just off the lobby for a very special Christmas Treat.  On weekends running up to Christmas, The Mulberry Bar is serving a Festive Afternoon Tea for groups of up to eight.  I’d never had a normal afternoon tea let alone a festive one, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect – soggy cucumber finger sandwiches and teeny weeny cakes, maybe?  I definitely wasn’t expecting to come away feeling like I’d just scoffed a three course meal, but the funny thing was, I pretty much had!  After three courses of beautiful finger food (from smoked salmon éclairs and truffled hen’s egg brioche rolls, to fig and armagnac tartlets), including hot tea (Danish Pastry flavoured, of course…), a festive cocktail and mince pies to finish off, I was stuffed (…There was totally room there for a Turkey/Stuffing joke, but I’m going to spare you this time!)… Sunny pretty much had to carry me out.  And not a soggy cucumber sandwich in sight!



Thanks so much to the lovely lot at The Celtic Manor for inviting me – it was such a lovely treat!  🙂