International Women’s Day: the international woman who inspires me

We’re at Euston train station, London. Your pain is so severe we’ve requested assistance to transport us through the bustle. They take one look at you – young, gorgeous – and claim there is no transport available. It will be a struggle for me to carry all our luggage, but we’ll manage because we have no choice. You pull a folding walking stick from your handbag.

Shamefaced, they decide assistance is available after all.

My best friend suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Here she is:

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We first met at a burlesque class in Liverpool. I’ve never been much of a girl’s girl, so this incredibly hot human not only acknowledging me, but actively pursuing conversation, immediately had my back up. Why was she interested in me? On noting her accent I declared my weakness for Aussie blokes, before lamenting the standard of the 100% of Aussie blokes I had dated (3 – all c*nts, and not in the banterous Aussie sense).

We became friends.

Like me, you’ve probably never heard of EDS. Here’s what the NHS have to say about it:

‘Ehlers–Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of genetic connective tissue disorders… For some, the condition is relatively mild, while for others their symptoms can be disabling. Some of the rare severe types can be life-threatening.’

Symptoms manifest themselves in chronic pain, dislocations, digestive problems and many, many other issues.

From my view, it means she breaks like a China doll. This is her again, performing this time:

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EDS isn’t particular about when it strikes. A rib can dislocate in a steel-boned corset, or simply during sleep (pssst – she snores really loudly. I was delighted to have finally discovered her flaw).

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As an EDS suffer, there are days on end when interaction with the outside world is reduced to Facebook – if you’re lucky enough to have working fingers – or the seagulls who perch at your window. That henna business you wanted to launch and the costumes you planned to sew? Yeah, not gonna happen today.

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When doctors hear hooves they think horses, but the rarity of EDS means it’s often misdiagnosed as more obvious conditions – hence EDS sufferers likening themselves to zebras. Image by ChrisMPhotos81.

It’s painful hearing someone you love refer to themselves as a cripple. When pain has driven them to the depths of despair, the words to make it better don’t exist.

This person is, in effect, grieving for the loss of their mobility; this fiercely independent soul, who sometimes can’t even brush her own hair. She recently chopped off that lovely hair.

Feelings about the wheelchair range from embarrassment to relief at simply being able to experience fresh air. I try to make her laugh by singing Weird Al and Limp Bizcit songs as we whizz along.

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My fruity sis: you are so much more than your disability. You are the only person who will watch back-to-back documentaries about serial killers with me, and be enthused about Chilling Photos of Murder Victims Taken by Their Killers. You are humble, loyal and loving. You are someone who will stop the car on a trip back to Oz just to photograph some Big Things for me.

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The Big Marlin made my day

It’s hard watching you suffer with your family on the other side of the planet. I hope you know how many people love you on this (admittedly crappier – no Big Things, or Kylie, or blokes with Aussie accents) side just as much.

You may be ashamed of your walking stick, but you are every bit as strong and beautiful as you were without it.

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Little Peaches is a comedy burlesque performer and co-producer of The Secret Circus. Keep up to date with upcoming performances via Facebook and Twitter

 

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This is the calmest my mental health has been in ages…I’m so bored.

Does anyone else who suffers mental health problems feel bored when there’s no crisis? It’s good not being suicidal or erratic and stuff, but it’s so illogically tempting to go cold turkey on medication just so something will happen.

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My life is the calmest it’s been in such a long time, despite big things going on around me. Instead of my usual meltdowns I’ve been the calm at the eye of the storm.

But I’m painfully bored.

Borderline personality disorder is often likened to being on a roller-coaster. The problem is, as terrifying as rollercoasters are – they’re also exciting. The adrenaline rush makes them addictive.

I wouldn’t wish mental health issues on anyone (much). It isn’t pretty like in films. It hurts when your parents find tissues covered in blood from when you self harmed, or seeing the scars on your stomach turn purple when it’s cold. It hurts reading the morbid quotes you texted yourself as a reminder of your sins whilst in the throes of cold turkey (‘eternal damnation!’).

Dealing with mental health issues is like an eternal search for peace, but once things seem remotely peaceful you squirm and start thinking up ways of creating havoc. The future doesn’t seem exciting, because finding that happy place feels impossible.

But you keep trundling on, because maybe this time things will be better.

 

 

Goodbye for now

Last week we said goodbye to an old friend far too soon. Lucy was really supportive of my writing, so I hope she wouldn’t mind me sharing this.

Lucy was diagnosed with a brain tumour during our first year at university. After being sent straight to the hospital by an optician, having complained of blurred vision and headaches, her life changed forever.

That was over six years ago.

I admit I wasn’t a great friend when Lucy got ill. I didn’t check in as often as I should have, but the ‘what ifs’ are mine alone to live with. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the times I did get to spend with her over the past year.

She told me she’d wanted to have as many new experiences as possible, so I took her to the North Wales Burlesque Festival. I told her someday I’d be up there, and I’m sad to think she’ll never see it.

We also went to her first music festival – Festival Number 6 – based in the bonkers Italian style village of Portmeirion in North Wales.

I had gone fully stocked with neon paint, glitter and fairy lights. I was appalled when Lucy said she didn’t like glitter, and briefly questioned our friendship, but she did wear my fairy lights in case I lost her in the dark.

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One of the most intimate moments I had with Lucy was wondering through the woods with a bottle of vodka in the middle of the afternoon. I asked whether she was afraid of dying, and we talked about it for a long time.

We were having a lovely time, but I don’t remember ever feeling as angry at the situation as I did on that day. She couldn’t believe what was happening because she felt so well. The only thing that hinted at her brain tumour was that she could get lost easily and needed help finding her way around.

She told me how people kept calling her brave, when really she had no choice in the matter. But I am proud of her for achieving so much when other people might just curl up and shut the world away.

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The best case scenario, apparently, was another four years. This was excellent news to me – she’d be here a minimum of four years and not a day less – and surely a cure would have been found by then, anyway!

We caught up on normal girl stuff – I needed to know every single detail about her boyfriend – and I sent her to give the burger boy my number. We had a cracker eating competition with her friend Kevin, and when the rain became too traumatic to handle we went to my friend’s grandmother’s house for a hot shower, which Lucy was eternally grateful for.

We headed back to the festival in our freshly dried clothes, Lucy delighted with her idea to put carrier bags inside her leaking wellies. She said she would buy us lunch, and the outrage she expressed on learning that a portion of fish and chips would cost £10 (‘TEN POUNDS???’) was priceless.

Re-reading the blog post I wrote about the weekend, it feels surreal that she’s already gone. If I had realised that seven months later we would be saying goodbye, I would have made an effort to remember everything we said (and possibly put the vodka down).

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Then there are the older memories. On a French exchange trip, we stayed with a miserable elderly couple who only fed us dry pasta, overcooked carrots floating in water, and canned hotdog sausages. In our room we found a swastika emblazoned book and were horrified to realise we were definitely probably living with Nazis.

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Disneyland Paris

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Lucy’s 18th birthday

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Last day of 6th form

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Charity fundraiser soon after Lucy was diagnosed

The day after I heard about Lucy’s passing, I was at the BBC in Cardiff for work experience. On my way out the door I had grabbed any old notebook – this one hadn’t been used since 2011 – and a page fell open with the words:

‘Good things that have happened to me this Christmas:

  1. Lucy saying “I’m just happy I’m still here.”‘

I just about fell off my chair. I was transported back to Beaumaris town square on New Year’s Eve with all our friends, when Lucy said those words as we watched the fireworks. I will never forget it.

Lucy left us on Sunday March 19th. Not being able to say goodbye is difficult – I visited a day too late – but I’m glad she died surrounded by family.

That week I was at my friend’s grandmother’s house for the first time since last summer, and I could imagine Lucy curled in front of the fire wearing Nain’s dressing gown. It seemed surreal that an old lady was still here when Lucy wasn’t.

When I see the little green dot pop up on Facebook to signify that her account is active, my heart stops for a moment as I convince myself it was all a mistake.

I wish I had profound words to share but I’ve been struggling to find any that seem right. Nothing I write will be as good as the post Lucy herself wrote. I remember being so proud when she asked me to help her set up a blog.

I can’t go back and recall every single moment together, because life doesn’t work that way. All that’s left to say, I suppose, is that I’m so very proud to have known Lucy and am grateful to her for reminding me to make every moment count.

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Lucy Kate, 1991-2016

 

 

 

 

I finally did it: my first burlesque solo!

Phew! What a manic ten days. A trip to France, Switzerland and Italy, two performances in Liverpool, before rushing off to Cardiff to watch Meilyr Jones perform (again).

Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I want to tell you about Lemon Tart‘s first EVER solo burlesque performance, which took place at the Jazzesque Showcase in the Buyers Club, Liverpool.

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Being a writer by trade, I’m big on burlesque which demonstrates strong storytelling. For me, an act needs specific plot points which extend beyond ‘remove gloves/dress/bra’. No matter how visually pleasing the performer, I will inevitably get bored without a quirky story and a few laughs.

I started toying with the idea for my act back in August. A lifelong fan of fairies, I’d lusted over an extremely pricey pair of fairy wings at Green Man festival and after a few too many shots I finally caved. It was the perfect excuse!

I sat in my tent mulling it over with my friend Jonny, who suggested the song ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ by Björk  – GENIUS. An idea was born. Wouldn’t it be great if the tooth fairy fell in love?

I hadn’t shown my act to a soul before the big night, which I predicted would be a grave mistake. Although I’m reasonably confident in my acting skills and comedic ideas, the thought of showing anyone whilst not onstage made my blood run cold.  My fruity sister Little Peaches got a sneak peek that very morning, but as predicted, I fell to pieces.

There was just one thing for it – I would hope for the best.

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Mandatory backstage selfie

Being first and foremost a comedy writer, humour was a must.

On the big night my pal Mike stepped in (i.e. was bullied into) the role of a bloke suffering from toothache. He did a fantastic job of setting the scene by wandering onstage gesturing at his toothache, before knocking himself out cold with paracetamol and wine.

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Image by AB Photography

To make the tooth fairy suited to an adult audience, I wandered onstage drunk (partly acting, partly thanks to three glasses of wine for courage), clutching a bottle of 22% alc. Listerine.

Other props included a giant sparkly tooth brush I used as a magic wand, and chocolate coins to chuck into the audience.

During the act I became flustered and forgot SO MANY THINGS.  My timing went to hell, and I was so eager to do my big reveal – teeth falling out of my bra – that I whipped it off far too early – WHY ARE YOU TAKING YOUR BRA OFF PUT IT BACK ON RIGHT NOW!!?!!

Yep, things went wrong. But you know what? I bloody did it.

I got on that stage and I carried on until the end. My bra didn’t get caught in my hair, I didn’t slip on my skirt. The audience pissed themselves when I used a white g-string to floss my teeth (and other regions). I came alive on that stage.

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Image by AB Photography

Afterwards, I was still shaking as strangers congratulated me. One person said she really appreciated the small touches – glitter “fairy dust” falling out of my opera gloves – which meant a lot.

It was only later that I realised I FORGOT MY BLOODY FAIRY WINGS. Raging!

There are plenty of things I can improve for next time, but I’m proud that as someone with such low confidence I actually did it. It felt great standing up there practically in the nuddy, proving that women of all shapes and sizes can be creative, witty and beautiful.

Love and Lemons,

Lowri XOXO

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Image by AB Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My trip to France, Switzerland & Italy

What a week! I just returned from a visit my Swiss-French former flatmate in the region of Savoie, France. Me being me, I was seven hours early for the flight and still caught it by 20 seconds. Should have skipped those drinks…

 

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Laurent’s parents had a house next to a busy road down in Bonneville, but we spent the week in their weekend home on the mountain overlooking the town. Isn’t the view of the Alps beautiful?

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Formerly a small hamlet, Chantal and Rene now own the surrounding 19th century buildings.

On my first day we visited the medieval village of Yvoire, situated alongside Lake Geneva. Visitors aren’t permitted to drive, which keeps the place looking as it always did. Because it was February most of the shops and restaurants were closed. Known for its beautiful flower decorations, I missed out on seeing it in its full regalia. However, the colder season meant we had the place to ourselves.

On day two we went hiking into the Alps. Despite the snow, I didn’t need a cardie and even caught the sun! In winter the mountain goats are kept indoors and their milk is made into cheese. Such a magical place.

I was eager to try as much French food as possible, so Laurent’s mum Chantal made beautiful meals every night. What struck me the most about my stay was that all our meals were fresh.  Tarts and jams was made from the abundance of fruits growing in the garden, mushrooms were picked from the forest, and INCREDIBLY smelly cheese made by local farmers.

I’m not a city girl by any means, but I felt vaguely ashamed to be British. Every meal has a ceremonious feel in France; a world away from the one day a year  – Christmas – my family eats together. Nobody fiddled with their phones, or absent mindedly watched the TV. We lingered for hours, muddling through in broken French and English,  drinking  spirits René had made with plants from the garden.

Because Laurent and me were staying in the chalet usually reserved for tourists, the shelves were packed with books. Before bed I would skim through a book of ABCs, with pictures of objects apparently essential to toddlers. These included shallots, whiskey, and and artichokes. Are you messing? In fact, I saw my first ever artichoke in France.

Laurent was adamant I couldn’t visit the Alps without giving skiing a try, so I reluctantly headed to La Croix Fry, which is a small part of the La Clusaz ski station. I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I might be really good at skiing. Well, it turns out I am MERDE. I drank wine and ate beautiful tartiflette to console myself.

Later in the week we visited Bordeaux, which  I liked but Laurent and his family weren’t fans of. When pressed, they explained that tourism – which primarily relies on the ski  industry – has changed the region a lot over the years.

On the way home our car was caught in a pollution protest; we couldn’t work out the reason for all the dirty looks!

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A little less cultural, we We went bowling and to a pizza party at a friend of Laurent’s house. Incredible pizza with plum tart and even more incredible chocolate mousse! Anyone would think I didn’t have to perform a burlesque act in a few days…

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I’ve often heard it said that French people are rude. I’ve never found this to be the case. Whenever I go abroad I make the effort to learn basic words and phrases, meaning locals are always appreciative and enjoy your efforts, because who wouldn’t be charmed by ‘I am a toilet?’ If in doubt, just grin and hope for the best!

 

Geneva 

As the nearest airport to Savoire is Geneva, it was easy to pop to Switzerland for a visit.

Laurent kept banging on about the Jet J’Eau, Geneva’s answer to the Eifel Tower in the form of a 140 meter fountain visible throughout the city. Situated alongside Lake Geneva, it’s the pride and joy of Geneva. When asked whether I could touch it, Laurent replied that ‘someone once touched it and got their arm blown off’, which endeared me to it immediately.

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After the excitement of spotting a €1400 pair of pantalons (ARE YOU MESSING?), we passed an afternoon wandering around Geneva’s lovely old town.

We went on a hunt for some sort of sacred tree, but gave up and admired the world’s longest bench instead.

Switzerland is expensive, so I wouldn’t go there for a holiday. Also, how unreal is this cake?

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Italy 

Poor Laurent made the mistake of telling me just how close we were to Italy, and after a lot of badgering I got to visit my third country in a week!

I wasn’t prepared for the 55 euro fee to take the tunnel through Mont Blanc, let me tell you. But once I laid eyes on the quaint hamlet of Entrèves, I fell in love.

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Our destination was the pretty town of Aosta.

I was keen to eat as much as possible during the visit, but had to think strategically consider which foods would physically fit in my stomach. Can I tell you a secret? The pizza wasn’t that great.

The gelato though – wow. Because the Italians were So. Bloody. Cool, I opted for pistachio flavour to help me give out very-bloody-cool-vibes. It was unreal and I am fully repentant for telling my Italian friend that gelato couldn’t possibly be better than Ben & Jerry’s.

Italy was cheaper than I expected. No doubt the big cities are more expensive, but here I bought a big bottle of Limoncello for less than 7 euros.

For the final couple of hours before sunset we drove aimlessly through the valley, overlooked by the Italian Alps. We had done so many things during the week, but wandering through about 48  of those tiny villages set on impossibly high mountaintops was the most I’ve laughed in a long time.

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As darkness fell we stopped at one final town with actual civilization, Villeneuve, which lies on the Dora Baltea river. We drank at the only bar in sight, which was full of Italian men Laurent was intimidated by and a barmaid who seemed perplexed by what on earth a vodka with orange juice could be.

I am very lucky to have such an accommodating friend who will willingly drive me hundreds of miles (sorry – I mean kilometres). Staying with locals as opposed to in a hotel is such an enriching experience. Without the Dumonts, I would never have learned so many facts: how French people pour milk BEFORE the cereal, and how washing powder boxes contain toys for kids, and the effect global warming is having on the ski industry.

Instead of a hotel where the only conversation would be about the crap water pressure, we spent hours comparing idioms. ‘I have the peach’, I explained, was the French equivalent to ‘I’m full of beans.’ The Dumonts stared blankly, before bursting into a five minute fit of laughter. Beans?! Being full of Mexican jumping beans, I argued, made sense. But peaches? Give me three peaches, and maybe we could talk.

It was no use, so I chuckled into my home made peach jam every morning.

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I hope you enjoyed un petit peut of my trip! I’d love to hear your travel tales in the comments below.

 

My Feelings About Graduating Tomorrow

So at 10:30am I’ll be graduating with a Master’s degree in Screenwriting. To start with, let me explain how much I really, really dislike mornings. I’m contemplating staying up all night to make sure I get there in time.

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I’ve spent several years getting to this point: I studied Welsh and English at A level, then a Creative Writing degree, then a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design because, according to my CV, I wanted to ‘gain a more thorough understanding of the production process’. And now, finally, we’re here.

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Creative Writing, class of 2013

I was so excited to start my two-year course. All was going well – I was getting 60+% grades, which at Master’s level qualifies as a Merit.

…that is, until March, when I ended up in the nuthouse. Since March, I’ve felt like a deflated balloon. I just stopped caring. It’s been a couple of months since I received my results, which I still haven’t opened because I don’t want to face the guilt of dad spending £4,500 on a degree that I barely managed to pass.

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I had so many good ideas inside my head, but what came out on paper was half-arsed. I don’t feel like a master of anything.

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I’m sad that I’ve let myself down. I’m nervous to see my lecturers because I let them down. I’m annoyed at myself because I was supposed to be more, but instead I’m only just making enough money to eat through my writing – forget rent, and the general cost of being alive. And I’ve had a bad week, which prompted me to scratch my arms and I don’t have a long sleeved dress to hide them.

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I went to the pub with Dad, and tomorrow I know I’ll be okay, because I don’t have a choice. I’ll keep applying for jobs I might get rejected for, and keep writing about boilers and safe sex so I still have the right to call myself a freelance writer.

The one thing that comforts me is this blog. Right now I should be dying my hair, ironing my dress, finding unladdered tights, and maybe checking what grade I actually got for my degree. It reassures me that I’ll always be a writer, because all I’ve ever wanted to do is write. I’m guessing around 10 people will read this blog post, but that’s okay, because it will be out there in the universe, existing, regardless.

*vom*

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Welsh-Inspired Christmas Gifts

There are plenty of traditional Welsh gifts out there. Love spoons, slate coasters, salt… but to be honest, as a 24 year old female who isn’t a grandmother I wouldn’t be that impressed with a spoon, no matter HOW MUCH?!?!? it cost.

Instead, here’s my pick of Welsh-inspired Christmas gifts, which prove that Wales can be cool…right?

Welsh Girl Problems

I once had a fictitious Facebook profile named Welsh Chick Issues. Then Welsh Girl Problems came along who was much funnier. I catch up with her posts on social media when I’m feeling homesick, and now she’s got some lush merch on offer.  I actually bought the ‘Tywysoges’ jumper a couple of months back.

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Gemwaith Lora Wyn

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I am head over heels with this pendant! Alternative colours available, whilst alternative location for heart can be requested (Rhyl will be rejected). Anglesey shape also available. Buy here.

Dwi ‘di mopio. 

Bolycs Cymraeg

Translated to Welsh Bollocks, the social media persona aims to re-tell our country’s history, picture by picture, word by word:

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And now there’s a book, which I’ve already ordered Dad. And not just cos it costs a fiver.

Naiswon!

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Dwi am brynu’r ti-shyrt yma i’r brawd ‘fyd:

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Niki Pilkington 

Regular readers will have caught my previous post about Penllyn-raised illustrator Niki Pilkington. Despite now working from the Big Apple, having been commissioned by everybody from Paul McCartney to Topshop, much of her work still draws themes from Welsh culture and language.

These are a go-to when my parents need to find me a gift, and my collection contains about 10 prints right now.

There are some gems in the ‘Merched Cymraeg’ collection by Twinkle & Gloom as well:

 

Monopoly 

If you have to be stuck in a house with the fam for an entire day, some regional monopoly will help kill a few hours. The Sir Fôn and Wales editions cost upwards of 80 quid on Amazon, but this Cardiff edition is available from John Lewis for £21.99:

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‘Sgynai’m byd doniol i ychwanegu. ‘Sa well ni herio’r Saeson? ‘Sgwn i os ‘dyn nhw’n gwbod fod popty ping mond yn air i’w difyrru nhw, ag mai meicrodon yw’r gair cywir? 

Cawl

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I met author Siôn back in 2012 at the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Awards in Swansea (shudder). After I read aloud my work he came over to tell me it was funny, so obviously I liked him immediately.

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                                                     Siôn yn dysgu’r bychan sut i gyfarch Saeson

Siôn is himself a highly entertaining writer, unfortunately even more so than me, and I can’t wait to read this collection of essays, short stories, cartoons, poems, comics and a recipe for cawl. Nice one mun!

Toffoc

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Toffoc is the ffocin one. Like having a big toffee-flavoured cwtch.

The Little Chilli Shop

I visit Wales’s first chili shop in Beaumaris whenever I need a present for Dad. The owners are fab and customers are free to sample the huge range of products available, and conveniently there’s a legendary ice cream shop situated across the road.

I like the Cheeky Girl, whereas the boyfriend prefers the Bad Boy. Reckon we’re a bit wrong for each other if you ask me.

The chili marmalade is surprisingly moreish, and there’s even chili jewelry.

Fydd dy dîn di ar dân.

And finally…

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Angan rwbath romantic i’r fodan? Sorted.

I would say you’re more than welcome to buy me this for Christmas but to tell you the truth I impulse bought it at the Electric Mountain gift shop in Llanberis several years ago. Tidy.

 

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If you’re wondering what else I’m giving this Christmas, Mam’s getting this vaguely overpriced but had-to-have-it bunting by Elements Crafts (£15), whilst I bought soap containing world-renowned Anglesey Sea Salt for the boyfriend’s mum (£4.50 wrapped), in the hopes she’ll like me cos I’m exotic. And for Dad, an album by the true love of my life Meilyr Jones, partly so I can steal it.

Even if my suggestions are too ridiculous for your tastes, I hope I’ve inspired you to shop local.I’m a firm believer that unless you’re gonna put thought into presents, you may as well not bother. I love searching independent shops for Christmas gifts, especially around Beaumaris and Betws y Coed.

Now that I spend most of my time in Liverpool, it can be lonely without anyone to speak Welsh and discuss sheep with. I personally would love any of these gifts to remind me of home.

Swsys a snogs,

Lows xoxo