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

 

 

 

 

My birthday weekend

This time last year I was on a psychiatric unit, so I was pretty apprehensive about my 25th birthday. It couldn’t be any worse, right? My boyfriend was taking me somewhere for the weekend, but I didn’t know where.

We first met back in September at Festival Number 6. Based in Portmeirion on the North West Wales peninsula, the Italian style village was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975.

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Usually the phrase ‘tourist attraction’ would have me running for the hills, but Portmeirion  is truly spectacular. I’d remarked on how amazing it would be to stay there all those months ago, and thought no more about it.

I was blown away by my surprise of a night’s stay in our special place.

Guests have a choice between the Castle, the Village, and the Hotel. We were in the Village, which I was delighted about. On arrival to our suite, we were greeted with a complimentary decanter of brandy.

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Our little flat for the night

 

After a tipple or five, we went for a wander. The only thing that reminds you you’re not on the Italian Riviera is the rain, but we were lucky. The daffodils were in full bloom.

Portmeirion is magical, with nooks and crannies galore to explore. Photos just don’t do it justice (especially mine).

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At sunset we took a woodland walk, during which my gardener boyfriend would pause every few paces  to admire a rare or unusual plant. From the viewpoint overlooking the beach and nearby town of Porthmadog, we drank cheap champagne (from the bottle, obv) in the spot we’d snogged all those months ago.

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It was dark by the time we made our way back through the forest and  stumbled upon the Dogs’ Cemetery. Let me tell you, a carving of a gigantic dog is not what you want to find in the dark. The Dogs’ Cemetery was established by one of Portmeirion’s eccentric tenants, because she preferred the company of dogs to human beings. Fair enough.

There are two places to eat at night in Portmeirion; the beachside Hotel, which is very bloody fancy, and the Castle Brasserie on top of the hill. Despite supposedly being more informal, we were intimidated by the Castle. We were starving, though, and none of the local takeaways delivered (I KNOW, RIGHT?!)

The Brasserie is deceptive. The food was great (‘these chips are the Angelina Jolie of chips’), and our meals cost less than £20 each. There was even a pianist! Very bloody fancy.

An overnight stay in Portmeirion doesn’t come cheap (I glimpsed the bill during checkout), but it’s an indulgence I think everybody deserves to experience once.  Despite only driving an hour down the coast it genuinely felt like being on holiday.

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Source: Google

The next day, we drove on to Criccieth to check out the new branch of Dylan’s. The original is based in my hometown of Menai Bridge, which with its Straitside location you’d be hard pressed to beat. Renowned for their fresh seafood, they have won many awards including the Michelin Guide 2016. Snazzy.

Dylan’n 2.0 didn’t disappoint. Situated overlooking the beach with views of Criccieth castle, according to my boyfriend ‘it looks like the building from Telletubbies, doesn’t it?’ He wasn’t altogether wrong.

On the recommendation of my friend and barman Dan, I ordered the herb & Parmesan crusted hake fillet, served with creamy mustard leeks and new potatoes. It’s been said that Dylan’s is too expensive, but at £14.95 I thought it was bloody lovely and good value.

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Sean, meanwhile, opted for the Menai Strait Pizza (crabmeat, prawns, chilli, basil, tomato & chive oil). To quote, he hadn’t had pizza that good ‘in about two years, when I went out for my birthday’. Belter.

 

 

Life: an update

Last night in Waitrose I spotted my A level Welsh teacher. Having finished school 6+ years ago, people tend not to recognise me. But I was made up when she knew exactly who I was! Imagine my mortification when I couldn’t remember the name of this woman who had taught thousands of kids across the years.

I told her I’m a writer now, and she was delighted. She remembered I’d been a good writer at school. I felt a huge glow of pride being able to tell her this. Okay, so maybe I don’t always get paid to write about the most exciting things (boilers, DIY, carpets) but I’m doing the only career I’ve ever wanted.

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…

 

France

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.

 

2016: the Lows and Highs

I won’t lie, 2016 has been tough. I hit rock bottom and spent 12 days on a psychiatric unit, and a few months later got picked up by police with the threat of a section. They were humiliating experiences that I still find hard to think about. There have also been a lot of problems at home, which I haven’t shared here.

And of course, there’s George Michael’s death. I’m generally unaffected by celebrity deaths – the last one was Steve Irwin – but I was terribly upset about poor George. I remember desperately wanting a George Michael CD one Christmas and Dad grabbing one from Asda and hiding it under his coat in an attempt to hide in from me, terrified of being pulled up by security. I decided a long time ago that Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go would be played at my funeral for the lolz. Also, can we take a moment to appreciate George nabbing the title of most ironic death of all time from Steve?

So, that’s the grim stuff out of the way! Here are some of my favourite memories and achievements:

I performed burlesque with my troupe several times, including three performances in one weekend at Threshold festival. Two years ago I would never have been brave enough. I’m even working on my own tooth fairy inspired solo!

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I made a speech at a very dear friend’s wedding, after a whirlwind year-long romance. I hadn’t known Kairi too long, but she stayed up late into the night talking to me on the phone as I had a meltdown on a secure ward, and I felt the need to share what a wonderful person she is with her new family. As someone who is terrified of public speaking this was a big deal! We turned our dance studio at the back of our beloved 81 Renshaw into a secret garden wonderland. Doesn’t she make the most beautiful bride?

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I got more into my urbexing, i.e. urban exporation, having been taken under the wing of a seasoned explorer and a great friend. Meeting a ghost at Denbigh asylum and our various adventures dodging security guards have been a blast!

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I graduated with a Master’s degree in Screenwriting, gaining a merit despite my ups and downs thanks to some wonderfully understanding lecturers.

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I’ve dabbled with fire performance for a couple of years, but this year I picked up new skills that suit me better, including body burning and fire licking. If you’re in the Manchester area, Tinika over at the Manchester Fire School is a brilliant teacher (and heaps cheaper than the one down in London). I performed all on my lonesome at interactive art event INKbeat* in Liverpool and was dead proud of myself – and dressed as a humbug, no less.

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I met my beautiful boyfriend at Festival Number 6 in September during a Craig Charles set. I asked if he wanted a snog and the rest is history!

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Brother: move that ugly bag from the frame.                 Dad: Don’t talk about your sister like that.

What I’ve learned

2016 has taught me that a select few friends who have your back no matter what are far more valuable than many randomers. There was a point where I felt the need to cull a lot of people from my life for self preservation purposes – a need to close a chapter and eliminate everybody who would remind me of it.

 

New Year’s resolutions

My resolution every single year is to be kind. Although I try to be a nice person, when jealousy or insecurities rear their ugly heads I find myself thinking bad thoughts. I’ve said and done lots of things I regret. I could say my resolution was to lose weight, or win the lottery, but if I’m not a kind person being thin or having money won’t make me happy.

 

And finally…

Thank you to everybody who has read my blog this year and supported my writing even when I lost faith in myself. Thank you to my parents for making the 4 hour round trip to the hospital every day. Thank you to the random stranger on the Merseyrail train who told me I was really pretty and didn’t try to hit on me…

Wishing you all a wonderful 2017.

Love,

Lowri xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Santa Brought in His Sack

This year I was on a mission to support the local economy by avoiding the high street and giving loved ones gifts produced independently. I gave you some of my favourite Welsh-inspired Christmas Gift Ideas and was thrilled by messages thanking me for the suggestions. In return, I think Santa paid attention to my Christmas list too. But before I show you what Santa brought me, here are a few more bits I bought at the last minute:

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For my boyfriend’s family, who live in Chester, I bought Welsh-made products and painted their family name on a piece of slate I “borrowed” from Bethesda Quarry.
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It was an old pal’s birthday on the 23rd, and he now lives down in London. I bought three cards for the Janet Bell gallery in Beaumaris, with the intention they be framed as a reminder of home. He loved the gesture, having recently moved into a new place.
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Signed prints by Niki Pinkington to join my ever-expanding collection. Read my previous post about Niki’s work here.

I’d been dropping serious hints about this necklace by Lora Wyn, and Santa didn’t disappoint.

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He also brought me two pairs of hand crafted silver earrings, including these seashells.

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And of course, there was plenty of Toffoc flowing!

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Despite my lovely Welsh-inspired gifts, I did receive plenty of stuff you could find on the high street. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, to be clear. It’s the thought that counts.

Because I’m Welsh, a necklace made by a Welsh jeweller will obviously mean a lot to me. Likewise, I go out without knickers more than I go without false eyelashes, so I was chuffed with a replenished supply from Mum. I’ve tried so many pairs in the past, but have realised you’re generally just paying for glue quality rather than the lashes themselves. This cheap winged design from B&M is my absolutely favourite.

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Dad treated me to some Gucci perfume, which smells nice but pretty much any perfume will do for me as long as it covers the stench of clothes I’ve worn three days in a row because I’m too lazy to carry dirty washing down four stories to the basement laundry room.

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I also got this funky beanie, hand made by Barts.

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To fuel my duck obsession, family friends gave me duck tumblers by Next.

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My lovely boyfriend gave me a FREAKING MERMAID TAIL, and this bag and jewellery box which I’m amazed he chose all by himself. On point, boyfriend!

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And finally, my mum made me a personalised cook book in honour of my learning to cook at the grand old age of 24.

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Although receiving gifts is lovely, my favourite part of Christmas is carefully choosing presents for loved ones. I like thinking back over what I’ve learned about people throughout the year and coming up with something relevant. Running to Tesco for a box of chocolates is so easy, but for me the point of Christmas is showing that I really care. The cheapest, most thoughtful gifts often mean the most.

What did Santa bring you? Let me know in the comments!