Visiting the RHS Chelsea Flower Show isn’t all about wafting around sniffing hyacinths and Instagramming roses you know – taking care of the practicalities such as what to wear, how to get there from the tube and, always important in my book, when and where you’re going to eat will all make a visit much more enjoyable.


I was lucky enough to pop down to the show yesterday, and, as well as enjoying some truly magnificent displays of flowers (including a whole wedding chapel made out of them!) I also managed to scout out some practical tips on visiting the show.

1. What to wear to the Chelsea Flower Show

Although there is no dress code, most people I saw were rocking a smart/casual combination. Some people like to treat the event as an occasion to dress up; I saw men sporting jaunty striped blazers and chinos, while many women went for outfits involving one or more floral element (coats, dresses, little jackets – you name it!)

My main advice for choosing your outfit though would be firstly, make sure you wear comfy shoes, because there is a whole lot of walking (some of it on grass) and although you might look lovely, you will regret heels when you’re sinking into the mud.


Secondly, dress for the temperature outside. I visited on a chilly day and it gets seriously cold being outside for hours if you’re not wrapped up warmly. Even the ‘inside’ areas are basically tents open at both ends, which makes them equally nippy. I recommend some kind of vibrant-printed coat if you want to be warm but still feel ‘dressed up’!
2. How to get to there

I certainly wouldn’t bother driving unless you need to. The event is no more than 10 minutes from Sloane Square tube station (which is only one stop from Victoria main line station) and as soon as you exit the Underground there are loads of signs showing you exactly what route to take.

On your way to the event, you’ll be able to admire beautiful floral displays outside some of the shops en route, and, in my case, this car with a crown. Anyone else want one?!


Oh, and of course, make sure you say ‘good morning’ to any Chelsea pensioners having an early stroll around their gaffe.

3. What time to arrive

Sorry late starters – I would 100% recommend getting there as early as possible to avoid the crowds, as it does get seriously busy. The show actually opens at 8am, and I’ve already decided that, if I’m lucky enough to return next year, I’m going to get in there with the early crowd.


Certain gardens get particularly rammed (for example, you had to queue a while to look at the see of poppies gracing this year’s show). So, do a bit of research online before you arrive and then you can march straight to these main attractions at the beginning, leaving you free to take a more leisurely pace for the rest of the day.



4. What to eat and drink

Okay so obviously I didn’t get the opportunity to sample all the tasty delights of the Chelsea Flower Show food stalls. What I will say is, if you can possibly manage it, try not to sit down for a coffee or eat lunch at the ‘standard’ times, because the queues are LONG (we went for an 11am coffee and cake and the poor girl I was with was queuing for ages!)

If you can stagger it a bit, that might help. Alternatively, you can book into one of the show’s fancy restaurants for a meal (you might have to remortgage your house) or take a more budget-friendly approach and bring your own food, making the most of the on-site picnic areas.



5. What to take in your handbag

Well, firstly, do not take a huge bag that you’re going to regret carting around all day. However, there are a few bits I’d recommend taking, including an umbrella or sunglasses/SPF (depending on the weather!), some sort of camera, a notebook if you’re a really keen gardener and most importantly, cash!

I made the mistake of taking a bag that was so small I couldn’t even fit my purse in it (#ladyproblems), meaning I couldn’t indulge in all the gorgeous shopping stalls that border the show. I did, however, get to visit the Heyland & Whittle stall to meet owners Paddy and Ursula. I already knew the brand for its lovely hand-cut soaps, which I sold many moons ago when I was a journo intern and working in Fortnum & Mason every weekend and evening to pay rent on my Brixton hovel! However they now have a huge range including dreamy diffusers, an outside candle that repels bugs (genius) and a range of ‘Clementine and Prosecco’ scented products that have done phenomenally well, which is no surprise really given that every girl my age is obsessed with the bubbly stuff.


There were loads of other stalls too, selling everything from flower-themed cards to practical gardening tools and outdoor furniture. And what will the gardeners themselves be buying? According to one exhibitor I chatted to, some Gold Leaf winter gloves – he told me he had pruned 2,000 roses and they didn’t have a scratch on them, which I think it a pretty good selling point!



6. What to do

Well, obviously look at EVERYTHING, go shopping and if possible, quaff some Champagne.

But my main tip is this: speak to people. There are so many exhibitors there with such an extraordinary level of knowledge that even someone who has very little knowledge of gardening (cough cough, me) can get a real insight just by chatting to people about what they do. Green fingers, here I come…

 

 

I find painting my nails an endless source of frustration, which is why I very rarely wear nail polish on my hands.

No matter how long I spend on base coats, top coats and clever application techniques, I always find that at the end of the performance (which also includes 30 minutes of having to sit perfectly still and not drink tea/play with my phone/do up the fly of my jeans for fear of smudging the damn things) they still chip within 24 hours.

Sometimes I almost feel as if my nails actually repel nail varnish – why do some people have these perfect little manis that last a week while mine looks like a complete mess two days later?!

Cheeky nails summer collection Hollywood review Stiletto La La Land Pink Perfect Bloody Mary Pink Fizz
However, I’m nothing if not optimistic, so when I was sent the new Cheeky summer nail collection I decided to give the products a whirl, if only because I adore the colours (I’ve written before about how I only wear brown eyeshadow, and my taste for nail paint is similarly traditional – red, pink, orange if I’m feeling cray cray).

The range, which launches today, is inspired by Los Angeles. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to L.A., but I have to say my main memories of the city, colour-wise, are blue (sky, sea), white (building upon building stretching out forever) and grey (endless, ENDLESS roads and motorways). However, I’m willing to accept that at aged 15 and on a family holiday, I wasn’t really experiencing the Hollywood glamour side of things, which is what inspired these shades.

Cheeky nails summer collection Hollywood review Stiletto La La Land Pink Perfect Bloody Mary Pink Fizz
From left to right: Stiletto, Peach Perfect, La La Land, Bloody Mary, Pink Fizz. 

As you can see the colours (which, according to the press release, ‘perfectly capture the kitsch glitz of La La Land’) are all very vibrant and perfect for summer, my fave being the orange-red Stiletto.

One thing I really rate is that the polish provides solid, dense colour with one coat – I can’t be dealing with products where you need to keep painting hundreds of layers until your nails are four times as thick just to get good coverage.

Obvs it’s what’s on the inside that counts in EVERY aspect of life (except butlers in the buff), but I also love the packaging – if you’ve ever been to one of Cheeky’s nail salons on London you’ll know it fits right in with their bold, fresh vibe.

But the most impressive thing for me though is that the polish ACTUALLY STAYED ON MY NAILS. To the point where I was going round at work like ‘Can you BELIEVE this?’ to my long-suffering colleagues. I didn’t get the standard 24-hour chip; in fact, even two days later the nail polish was still intact, which for me is something of a minor miracle.

Cheeky nails summer collection Hollywood review Stiletto La La Land Pink Perfect Bloody Mary Pink Fizz
Could this be the end of my ‘bare nail chic’, also known as ‘I can’t be arsed to paint my nails if it’s just gonna chip off in 5 seconds’? Quite possibly. And, because I have the opposite regime with my toes, i.e. I actually freak out at the sight of them naked because they are PERMANENTLY polished, these colours will be living on my feet this summer.

Thanks Cheeky, I’m impressed!

Cheeky nail polishes 3 for £10, website here.

 

Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and last weekend I got to go there with some of my best mates in the world (#SoBlessed etc).


When I got back lots of people asked what occasion we’d been celebrating, which I found odd – don’t lots of people swan off with their girlfriends for the weekend just ‘because’?!

After all, while trips with partners or family can be fun, there’s nothing quite like a girly holiday. So here are the reasons why I NEVER need an excuse to go away with my laydeez…

1. No one will tell you off for needing the toilet once an hour. You know how city breaks with guys involve them frequently saying ‘You need to wee AGAIN?’… That will never happen on a girls holiday. In fact, you just accept that you are permanently on the lookout for potential loos, given that at least two people will need it at any one time.

2. Drinking in the sunshine. No woman is ever happier than when she’s sitting on a sunny terrace, glass of booze in hand, putting the world to rights at an ever increasing volume. This possibly explains the toilet sitch above.

3. Sharing rooms. The adult equivalent of all those girly sleepovers you had as kids, except with less Truth or Dare and more discussing how you probably didn’t need that last bottle of Prosecco.

Our actual AirBnB!

4. The ‘squatting down in the middle of a piazza crying with laughter’ moments. The light-hearted mood of a girly holiday, coupled with all the comedic potential of being in a totally unknown environment, means there will always be at least one moment where you laugh until you genuinely need a gin and a lie down.

5. No one wangs on about their diet. Too much of women’s lives is spent thinking about what they should or shouldn’t eat, or hearing about what everyone else is or isn’t eating, so indulging in a collective ‘screw that’ moment is awesome. Question: Shall we get dessert? Yes, we bloody well shall.

More-zerella. Always.

6. Girls understand the difference between getting ‘ready’ and ‘ready ready’. You can say nonsensical things like ‘So are we doing faces today?’ to your girlfriends and they’ll instantly get what you mean.
7. If you suddenly realise you’ve forgotten lip balm/sun cream/brown eyeshadow someone else will have it. Although there will be a collective panic when you realise that everyone expected someone else to bring the hairdryer and straighteners, and therefore no one has.

8. It’s a bit like old times. Many of us meet our best friends at school or uni, where you spend half your lives in each other’s pockets. Then work, boyfriends and living more than a stone’s throw apart get in the way. Although I still see my friends at least once a week, I miss climbing into each other’s beds after a night out for a gossip or munching our morning cereal together. God I loved the old times *sob*


9. It forces you to relax. The more people who are on your holiday, the more you have to accept that you can’t have your own way and need to go with the flow. As someone who has literally never been described as ‘laidback’ in my whole existence, it’s quite nice to be forced into ditch my hour-by-hour life plan for a while.

10. Reaching a new level of ridiculousness. It’s a well known fact that girls en masse can reach higher levels of ridic than girls alone – hence why we ended up bombing round the park in this weird rickshaw contraption…


Need I say more?

It’s impossible for me to hide the fact that I’m a super competitive person. When I was younger, I would be quietly furious at losing a game of Ludo, and as an adult I spend my mornings jogging round Clapham Common trying to overtake all the blokes in front of me.

You can imagine, then, that a spinning class involving trying to beat everyone else in the room is right up my street.

Virgin Active’s new group cycle class, The Pack, involves three teams (yellow, pink and blue) going up against each other in a series of challenges covering speed, power and steady RPM.

When I went along to try the class at the Mayfair club, I obviously decided which team to be in based purely on which T-shirt colour I thought would suit me best, which of course was a massive error.

What I should’ve done as I entered the room was looked around and clocked which team looked the most goddamn fierce, but still, that is a lesson learnt (victory over vanity, every time).

Virgin Active the pack review

Anyway, the class itself starts off like your standard spin class, with thumping tuuuunes and lots of flashy lights, except in this case you have a big screen at the front of the class telling you what speed to cycle at, plus how long you have left on each track.

Interspersed with these more familiar spinning sessions you have a series of group challenges, which include ‘Sumo’ (where your whole team cranks up the resistance until you can barely push your feet round) and ‘Speed Freaks’ (by far the best – this involves each team racing round the track by cycling as fast as possible).

The entire class is 45 minutes long, with each sweaty second counted down on a clock in the corner of the screen. The name of the song playing is also displayed, which is useful if you want to go and Spotify the crap out of it afterwards.

Virgin Active the pack review

Getting my sweat on

Everyone is prompted to whoop along with their teammates/scream at them encouragingly if they’re not putting in enough effort, and I have to say, the competitive element is very motivating. After all, there’s nothing like a combative spirit to make you push a little harder when you might otherwise turn your resistance right down and chill at the back of the class.

By the end of the session I was sweating my face off and, according to my Fitbit, had burnt off around 280 calories (the monitor on the bike said more, but however much it was, it totally justified my post-workout Ben & Jerry’s).

I was definitely impressed with The Pack, although as I said before, if your an ultra-competitive weirdo like me, you might want to pick your team wisely, because it can be frustrating when you’re trying REALLY hard and still losing. Or maybe I just need to grow up a bit…

Virgin Active the pack review

You can find out more about The Pack here.

Another day, another AW16 press day – this time everyone’s fave for a bargain: New Look.

Apart from the most amazing breakfast canapé ever (teeny tiny Eggs Benedict) these are the other bits and pieces that caught my eye…

1. Dusky pink coat 


For ultimate nonchalance, I’ll be wearing this with my (p)leather trousers and a grey jumper.


2. Embroidered black dress 


From what I’ve seen so far, you’ll be NO ONE this winter if you’re not wearing something black emblazoned with colourful florals. You have been warned.


3. Black bag with gold stars 


I haven’t really worn star-print since I was about 21, but I feel like this black and gold bag could turn me. 

4. Silver shoes


We all know New Look shoes are the actual bomb, and I feel like these silver ones fall the right side of that tricky glamorous granny/fugly frump divide. Need. 

5. Metallic stripe sweater 


Glittery knits were BIG at the New Look press day (see below) and I’m enjoying the thought of this stripy one teamed with a sassy pencil skirt (really, is there any other kind?)

6. Cleopatra-worthy earrings 


I’m kinda known for my Pat Butcher-esque approach to costume jewellery so these are obviously going in my imaginary shopping basket. 

7. Chic grey coat 


For quite a while now I’ve wanted to be the type of girl who wears a coat like this because, as we all know, she’s cool. Although I feel like I need to perfect the dream ‘just thrown this up into a casual bun’ hair first. 

8. Silver witch shoes 


One of the benefits of having incredibly weird shaped feet is that cool and creepy shoes like these beauties actually fit me perfectly. WIN. 

9. More metallic knits 


Sparkly jumper of joy alert! And proof that the polo neck is going to be hanging around for another winter…

10. Embroidered bomber 

Where Mary Berry goes first, we all follow – at least that’s what I must assume from the amount of elaborate bombers I’ve seen popping up in AW16 shows. Tbh I don’t think I can pull this off, but I love the attitude. There’s also a denim option: 


11. Camo backpack 


Utterly ridiculous. I love it. 

12. Pleated silver skirt 


Another trend that’s going to hang around is the pleated skirt. Hooray if you’ve already got one then, if not, how about this little fella? SO shiny.

13. Leopard print coat 


Going to press shows and perving on leopard print coats is basically my job, and here is my latest love. Mmm, leopardy…