Southern Yacht

My little take on plus size fashion, life, travel and smurfs

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Townhill Park House and Gardens open day

Townhill Park House and Gardens

There's a little hidden oasis in the middle of Southampton. I've walked past it, driven past it and even flown over it but until this weekend, I'd never set foot in it. What am I talking about? Townhill Park House and Gardens. Now part of The Gregg School, the gardens are only open to the public four days a year and the house one day a year.

The house has an interesting history. Formerly the home of Lord & Lady Swaythling, it has entertained royalty, been a convalescent home for British and American Soldiers during WWII, a home for underprivileged children, a base for marine cadets and since 1994, has been the home of The Gregg School.

Townhill Park House and Gardens

On Sunday 15th as part of the Heritage Open Days, the house was open for guided tours. As you toured the house, students from the school were on hand to tell you about the history. It might just be me, but I was quite amused at the thought of present day students learning algebra in the former Lady Swaythling's bedroom!

There was also a classic car display plus entertainment from Uke Box Gory (a ukulele band) and bell ringing from the Bishops Bells. I even got a chance to get hands on and try a bit of bell ringing for myself. It's safe to say that I gave an interesting performance...!

Classic cars at Townhill Park House and Gardens

Uke Box Glory at Townhill Park House and Gardens

Finally, we went for a lovely stroll around the grounds. The gardens are designed by Gertrude Jekyll, one of England's finest garden designers. I was amazed to learn though that she never actually visited in person. All of her designs were done from plans.

Townhill Park House and Gardens

Townhill Park House and Gardens

Townhill Park House and Gardens

Townhill Park House and Gardens

Townhill Park House and Gardens

Townhill Park House and Gardens

It's so hard to believe all of this is so close to me yet I've never seen it before. In previous years, I've always been away on holiday or working on previous open days. This time though it was perfect timing with the best weather. I'm already looking forward to going back in March to see the daffodil displays.

Townhill Park House and Gardens

Thanks for reading



Sunday, 11 August 2019

50 things I've learnt

Hello 50

It seems like 2019 is the year for turning 50. I can now say I'm a 50+ blogger (gulp) but I do have good company.

The Moon Landings, Sesame Street, The Hungry Caterpillar and even Primark are just some of the things that have also reached the big 5 0 this year. Not forgetting The Stonewall Riots, The Beatle's Abbey Road, Woodstock, and David Bowie's Space Oddity as well.

The moon landings, Abbey Road, Woodstock. Just some of the things that happened in 1969

It seems then that 1969 was the year to be born. So you'd think I'd have a few words of wisdom to share upon reaching this milestone...

Well - no, not really. But I do have a few do's and don't, 50 of them in fact. They're in no particular order and some are very tongue in cheek, but hopefully one or two might make you think:

  • Replace FOMO with JOYMO
  • Get a pension
  • Learn to understand ISAs etc
  • Learn to budget & save money for a rainy day – there’ll be a monsoon one day and it’s good to be prepared
  • Know where the stopcock and fusebox is
  • Change your passwords regularly
  • Do the things that scare you
  • Keep your CV up to date
  • List all the skills you have, you’d be surprised at what you can do and how skills are transferable
  • Say hello to all the dogs and cats you meet on your travels
  • Go to the dentist
  • Go the dr
  • Learn how to check the oil, tyre pressure etc in your car
  • Find a friendly garage - they'll save you a fortune
  • Cook!
  • Don’t save things for best
  • Tackle grumpy people with smiles
  • Please and thank you will go a long way
  • Watch/read the news
  • Learn about politics, if nothing else it will be handy for the pub quiz
  • Vote
  • Learn to say no
  • Don’t waste time comparing
  • Remember those who ask after you & cheer you on
  • Know your self-worth and don't take any nonsense from anybody

(You're half-way through - keep going!)
You're halfway there - well done!

  • Travel
  • Learn a language – even if it’s only a few phrases it’s often appreciated
  • Learn to drive
  • Learn to swim (confession - I can't swim)
  • Exercise - you don't have to be a gym bunny, just a walk around the block is better than nothing
  • Buy all the bath bombs
  • Use those damn bath bombs
  • Don’t think you’re too old
  • Wear what you like and find your style
  • Learn when to fight and when to let go
  • Carry a notebook
  • Take a pen for said notebook!
  • Carry wet wipes
  • Carry tissues (public toilets – say no more)
  • Carry power packs (and the right cables) 
  • Drink more water
  • Eat more fruit and veg
  • Don’t feel guilty if you ate all the chocolate
  • Explore where you live, you'll be amazed at what's on your doorstep
  • Learn to read/understand timetables
  • Understand the buses (I know, they confuse the hell out of me)
  • Ignore labels – so you’re a 16 in one shop and a 20 in another, unless you’re planning on wearing your clothes inside out – it really doesn’t matter
  • Friends can be family
  • Chances are – what’s important now won’t be important in a year/5 years down the line
  • Nothing lasts forever – that includes the good and the bad times. So make the most of every moment
And never forget:

Eleanor Roosevelt quote

Thanks for reading



Friday, 19 July 2019

My blog is 5 years old

I can't quite believe it - but my little blog is now 5 years old! And what better way to celebrate than by buying a ridiculously over sized balloon from Amazon and prancing around the garden (btw - buying a balloon when it's windy outside... not a great idea)

What started as a hobby all those years ago has now become such a huge part of my life.

It all started with me googling ways to remove gel nail varnish (a long and disastrous story for another day). I stumbled across so many blogs with hints and tips and consequently spent a lovely evening falling into a rabbit hole of blogs, twitter and instagram.

One though really caught my eye, Leah wrote about plus size fashion amongst other things and wow! Being plus size myself, it was amazing to see such a confident blogger wearing exactly what she liked and looking great. So for the next 6 months or so I stalked her blog and found as many other plus size bloggers as I could to follow.

In the back of my head, I kept thinking, I'd like to write about that, I could talk about this. So one day I just did. I'm sure like most bloggers, my early posts and photos were, shall we say, interesting? But you know what, I've kept them all live because at the time I loved them. And all of those early wonky photo blog posts help make the blog I have today.

And so, because there's nothing I like better than a list, here's the top 5 highlights of my blog.

Number 1 - Remember I mentioned Leah and other plus size bloggers? Meeting them in real life, becoming friends with them and working together makes this whole blogging thing real and worthwhile.

Some of the many lovely people I've met over the last 5 years

Number 2 - walking the catwalk at Style XL in 2015. This was such a scary and exciting day but so glad I did it, even if I did have a severe case of resting bitch face in most of the photos (tbh, I was concentrating on not falling off the stage).

Wearing Voodoo Vixen at Style XL 2015

Number 3 - sharing opportunities with family and friends. One highlight that comes to mind is being able to take my other half on a day out on the Watercress Line last year. A day riding steam trains? He was in his element.

War on The Line - a day out on the Watercress Line

Number 4 - confidence. Not just with going to events (years of working in the Civil Service and endless meetings and conferences helped sort that) but confidence with clothes and personal style. Generally just being me - a plus size, 50+ person finding her own style.

Finding my confidence as a plus size blogger

Number 5 - numbers. This seems an odd one. I know in the grand scheme of things, I'm a very little fish in a very big pond. But seeing viewing numbers and interactions rise over the years makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I'm doing ok.

On holiday in Devon

To everybody that has read my ramblings online - a very big thank you. Here's to the next 5 years!

Thanks for reading



Friday, 12 July 2019

Daily Goal Setter Planner - my review

Daily Goal Setter Planner from Mål Paper

Do you ever find you need a helping hand to focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative, maybe the whole process of setting and prioritising goals is feeling like a bit of an overwhelming task? If you're like me and the answer is yes (and even more so since returning from holiday!) then the lovely people at Mål Paper have the answer.

They kindly offered to send me a copy of their Daily Goal Planner to review. First impressions on receiving the planner was just how professional it looks. I opted for the black finish as I wanted something smart enough to use on the go and at meetings while still being small enough to fit into a tote bag along with a laptop. It also has a sturdy back pocket perfect for keeping receipts in or any important keepsakes.

The planner is split into monthly, weekly and daily pages with a rating score on each page. The daily pages have a section to note down great things that happened that day. This is such a good idea - it's all too easy to focus on the negatives in life and this really helps you to focus on the positives whether they're big or small. You could have finally got that long awaited promotion or simply had lunch with a friend, either way, they're all positive things in your day.

Daily Goal Setter Planner from Mål Paper

At the front of the planner is a very helpful section on getting started. We all have dreams and ambitions but sometimes they feel a bit overwhelming and unreachable. By breaking them down into realistic and achievable goals - it helps you declutter your mind to reach those goals.

It talks you through setting effective goals:

  • Identify the goal
  • Identify it's importance/value
  • Write it down
  • Review your goals

Are your goals SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Daily Goal Setter Planner from Mål Paper

There's also a section on routines, helping you to rate your tasks using the ABCDE method which prioritises tasks from A (must be completed) to E (no consequence if task isn't completed that day). Also suggested daily, weekly and monthly routines so that you can get into the habit of practising daily gratitude and daily affirmations. All of which helps to create a positive mindset.

Daily Goal Setter Planner from Mål Paper

One feature I particularly like is that the pages are undated. There's no pressure to make an entry every day and if you forget, go on holiday or are ill, you don't start again with blank pages making you feel bad about what you missed! 

Daily Goal Setter Planner from Mål Paper

The planner is available in black, grey or pink from Mål Paper for £20.95. Perfect if you want help to focus on a more positive outlook and realise your dreams.

Daily Goal Setter Planner from Mål Paper

Thanks for reading


(Planner was gifted for the purpose of this review)


Friday, 31 May 2019

The Audience at Nuffield Southampton Theatre, City

The Audience stamp image

Last night I was invited to the Press Night* of The Audience at Nuffield Southampton Theatre City, to spend the evening with the Queen and 9 prime ministers (which isn't something you can say every day). On arrival we were met with a red carpet and the royal car - I could get used to every evening at the theatre starting like this!

The Audience at NST City, red carpet and royal car

The Audience tells the story of the weekly meetings between the Queen and her prime minister. No-one ever knows what is discussed, there are no minutes or records of the meetings. But wouldn't we all love to be a fly on the wall and know what they talk about? Do they get on? Is there tension, laughs? Does she, or did she have, a favourite prime minister?

This award winning play by Peter Morgan (writer of the TV series The Crown and the film The Queen) comes to Southampton in a new intimate version directed by NST Director Samuel Hodges. The production is bought right up to date and even incorporates the very recent resignation of Theresa May.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

With only 5 actors and a double sided stage, you feel like you're right there in the room looking over the Queen's shoulder. Paul Kemp plays all of the 7 male prime ministers and what a task that is. Quite how he shifts seamlessly from one character to the next is mesmerising. Especially the transition between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the same scene. No fancy prosthetics are used or needed - as soon as Paul Kemp walks on (or glides, thanks to the moving walkway) he perfectly captures the physical traits of each prime minister from Churchill's bent gait to Blair's smile.

The Audience - Paul Kemp (Harold Wilson)

Likewise, with Faye Castelow who plays the Queen, no prosthetics are needed here either. From just her style of clothing, movement and speech alone you could tell the age and era of the play. Ranging from youthful exuberance during her first meeting with Winston Churchill where he affectionately calls her by her childhood name of Lilibet, through to the slower, cautious movements of a Queen in her senior years meeting David Cameron.

The Audience - Paul Kemp (Harold Wilson), Faye Castelow (Queen)

I found the scene with Harold Wilson where he tells the Queen of his decision to resign very moving. He was a prime minister I remember from childhood and I didn't appreciate fully the difficulties faced during his second term. And although we never know exactly what was discussed, I can truly imagine the conflict portrayed in the scene with Margaret Thatcher (fiercely played by Lizzie Hopley who in a stark contrast also plays the gentle role of Bobo, the Queen's nanny).

Faye Castelow conveys a true portrait of a woman dedicated to a lifetime of service despite the conflicts and doubt in her youth. Fay Burwell and Maddie Farmer who share the role of the young Princess Elizabeth portray the sense of duty through a child's eyes.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Fay Burwell / Maddie Farmer (Princess Elizabeth)

The Audience - Paul Kemp, Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

The Queen's vulnerability is demonstrated during the costume changes on stage scenes aided by her equerry (Sharon Singh, the lynch pin of the whole play). With haunting music and balletic movements, the shift between scenes was beautifully choreographed.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

The Audience is at Nuffield Southampton Theatre City until 22nd June and I would definitely recommend going. I took my partner who normally shows very little interest in politics and I could hear him chuckling away (and without giving away any spoilers, let's just say we will never forget Theresa May's moment on the stage!). There really are some laugh out loud moments.

Thanks for reading


*Tickets were gifted for the purpose of this review

Friday, 10 May 2019

Welsh National Opera - The Magic Flute at The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

WNO The Magic Flute

I was invited by The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton to watch The Magic Flute* performed by The Welsh National Opera. The Magic Flute is an opera with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that was first performed in Vienna in 1791. The Welsh National Opera's current production gives us a quirky and modern twist on the timeless story of love and friendship.

WNO The Magic Flute. Tamino played by Ben Johnson

The story starts with Tamino fighting a monster and being rescued by Three Ladies who work for the Queen of the Night. Tamino meets Papageno the bird-catcher and together they go to rescue the Queen's beautiful daughter, Pamina who has been abducted and imprisoned by Sarastro. Guided by Three Boys and aided by a magic flute and a set of magic bells, the two friends start their perilous journey.

WNO The Magic Flute. Tamino played by Ben Johnson, Papageno played by Mark Stone

We soon learn though that all is not as it seems. Sarastro is not the evil character initially portrayed and instead invites Tamino to join his Brotherhood by undergoing a number of trials. Together with Pamina they succeed and they are united in love. Even Papageno, the comical bird-catcher finds his own true love Papagena at the end.

WNO The Magic Flute - Pamina played by Anita Watson, Tamino played by Ben Johnson

WNO The Magic Flute. Sarastro played by James Platt, Monostatos played by Howard Kirk

Sarastro's guard Monostatos played by Howard Kirk is gloriously evil and judging by the applause and boos he received at the end, he relished the role and the audience loved his portrayal.

The production is wonderful visual feast. The sense of depth on the stage and the use of deceptively simple props all helped with the surreal feeling of the show.

WNO The Magic Flute - Papagena played by Claire Hampton and The Three Boys

The Three Boys are played by young singers and their self assurance and confidence shone through in whichever scene they were in. I can't imagine that singing and performing while on an elevated cycling fish was the easiest of tasks!

WNO The Magic Flute - The Three Boys

This performance by The Welsh National Opera really does change your perception of what a traditional opera is. It's a performance for all ages and I noticed both young and old in the audience. I think as a child I would have been mesmerised by the effects and costumes on stage and I hope the children in the audience were too.

WNO The Magic Flute - The Animals

This was a magical and playful performance with plenty of humour. You could hear people chuckling throughout with some laugh out loud moments. The bird-catcher Papageno played by Mark Stone had some of the best lines and interaction with the audience and even when wasn't singing, still stole the scene. Samantha Hay's portrayal of The Night Queen, as my friend commented, gave you goosebumps. Her voice was beautiful in what seemed to my inexperienced ears seemed to be an extremely difficult role to sing.

I have to admit, this was only my second opera and although it was sung in English, I did worry a little about how I would keep up and understand all that was going on. I needn't have worried though. The singing was loud and clear and above the stage there was a discreet digital sign with surtitles (lyrics and dialogue projected above a stage). Certainly for me, this really helped and meant I could concentrate on the music and the story line without worrying about what I was missing. I'm excited to explore the world of opera at future shows.

A big thank you to The Mayflower Theatre and Southampton Bloggers for the invite.

Thanks for reading


*Tickets were gifted for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat

Have you ever owned anything as an adult that you wish you could have had a child?

When I saw this raincoat on It's Em's insta stories, I knew I had to have one (and that younger Cathy would have loved it and worn it 24/7).

Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat

To start with, I was looking for a new, lightweight raincoat. Something that would pack up fairly small and not be too heavy to have in the bottom of a rucksack while on holiday. I so nearly went with a floral option on the Pink Clove website but I'm glad I held out and chose this star print.

It's from the Brave Soul range and I ordered the 22/24. Definitely long on the arms and big in the body, but it gave me the extra space to wear it over a jumper - which in the British summer is pretty standard.

Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat

The stars look white with a hint of colour, but the minute they get wet, they change colour. The other half suggested using a watering can to demonstrate this for the blog photos - I'm not entirely sure he was joking so opted to wait for a rainy day instead!

Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat
Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat
Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat

It's not going to keep me super dry in a very heavy downpour, but it's perfect for a light shower and enough to keep you dry until you get under cover. Unless, if you're like me, you stay out in the rain watching the stars....

Thanks for reading


Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Remains of the Day at Nuffield Southampton Theatre

The Remains of the Day

I was invited by Nuffield Southampton Theatres to watch The Remains of the Day. Now, like many people, I knew the Merchant Ivory film and the book, so I was intrigued to see how it would translate to stage. Originally written by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, the play has been adapted by Barney Norris and is currently touring the UK

Set in the 1930's and later the 1950's, the play centres around the memories and current experiences of Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall (Stephen Boxer). He's reserved, strict and unendingly loyal to his employer. Working along Stevens is the housekeeper Kenton (Niamh Cusack). Together, they run Darlington Hall and despite a rocky start, they soon form an effective working partnership with respect (and more) for each other. You can feel the tension and disappointment Kenton has with Stevens when he acts on a decision from Lord Darlington.

Stephen Boxer and Niamh Cusack - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Rumbling in the background throughout is the pre-war tensions of the 1930's. With political references to government and Europe that wouldn't be out of place in today's Brexit confusion (and much appreciated by the audience) you watch as the characters move inevitably towards war and the sadness of wrong decisions made.

Stephen Boxer, Stephen Critchlow, Miles Richardson, Pip Donaghy  - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Add in the fact that parallel time lines are running throughout the play you really appreciate how the cast keep everything flowing. Some play several characters and although it seems on paper that it shouldn't work, it does. Sadie Shimmin plays an innkeeper one moment, Madame Dupont the next and makes the change seamless.

Sadie Shimmin and Stephen Critchlow - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Stephen Boxer, Patrick Toomey, Miles Richardson, Edward Franklin, Sadie Shimmin - credit Iona Firouzabadi

I realised partway though that the character Stevens is on stage constantly, I cannot think of a scene which he wasn't a part of which must be exhausting for Stephen Boxer. From beginning to end, you really believe he is Stevens. The end scenes with Niamh Cusack were poignant and beautifully acted. Without giving too much away - I did have a tear in my eye.

Stephen Boxer and Niamh Cusack - credit Iona Firouzabadi

An added bonus to the evening was a Q&A with the cast afterwards. To do the play and then spend time answering questions was much appreciated by everyone who stayed to listen. It's a story that has lots of different messages and each audience member will draw from that what they want. Some will say it's a story of lost opportunities, lost love, misplaced beliefs. Others will see a political insight into the mindset of pre-war Britain and how loyalty changes over the years.

As I drove home, I was trying to think of ways to describe the evening. One word that comes to mind is elegant. It really was elegant and stylish and captured the pre-war elegance of the 1930's perfectly. The stage set was minimal but effective and even the simple act of moving props was choreographed like a ballet. As you walked into the theatre before the play started, the scene was set. With atmospheric mist and the illusion of rain on the stage you couldn't help but notice how many people in the audience had a 'wow' moment as they walked in.

Afterwards, I compared the emotions as being the same as when you finish a good book. You become invested in the characters and you feel sad at knowing your time with them is over. I wonder how Steven's story will end during the remains of his days.

*Tickets were gifted for the purpose of this review

The Remains of the Day is showing at Nuffield Southampton Theatres until 6th April 2019.

Thanks for reading

Blogger Template Created by pipdig