Gin Workshop With The Botanist

A couple of months ago, I had a glorious evening trying out The Botanist’s new summer menu, so I was delighted to be invited back to join in with their gin workshop. I immediately knew this would be right up my pal/former housemate Polly’s street, and we both walked into the event expecting all good things, but not really knowing what the evening would entail.

I think it’s safe to say we underestimated just how much gin would be sent our way: imagine a makeshift production line of eager bloggers sat with their cameras poised along a lengthy table, where every ten or so minutes a different type of gin would be passed down along the line until we each had our own samplers. We were talked through each of the gins by the knowledgeable staff member leading the workshop, taught how to take full advantage of the smell and taste of them (apparently not everyone’s automatic response is ‘shots shot shots, down it fresherrrrr’, who knew?) , and advised on how best to serve and garnish them with the embellishments provided. Essentially, it was an evening of drinking gin and taking cute Instagram photos… exactly my kind of event. It got to a point where we were utterly surrounded by cute canapés and half full glasses of alcohol, with a constant stream of more heading down the makeshift blogger production line towards us. 10/10 would recommend.

If I tried to list the various types of gin and their qualities, I definitely wouldn’t do them justice. Instead, let me direct you to The Botanist’s drinks menu, where you can browse their selection for yourselves. During the event, we learned some really interesting things about the history of gin, and I really liked that it wasn’t an information overload: it was just the right balance of facts and, well… drinking. I have to admit that in the past, I’ve panicked when ordering a G&T and they’ve asked what gin I would like. Now, I can smugly say that I’ll have a Brockmans please: the sweeter, more fruity taste of this one was definitely my fave, and I’ll be looking out for it again on my next visit.

A huge thank you again to The Botanist team for another fab evening that gave me gorgeous and much-needed Instagram content (seriously, have you SEEN that place?!), lovely new blogger friends, wonderful food and drink, and actual knowledge about all things gin-related. I’ll definitely be back soon!

Find out more about The Botanist and find your local branch here.

If you liked this post, you might also like this one: Summer Cocktails With The Botanist, York!

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Using Mobility Aids When You Have An Invisible Illness

[I wrote this piece for The Huffington Post’s new ‘EveryBody’ campaign; see the original post here!]

“What happened to you, then?”

There’s no ideal time to acquire a long-term chronic illness, but becoming disabled halfway through your undergraduate degree has to be up there in the Least Convenient Life Situations list. Adapting to the student experience whilst learning to live with a painful and debilitating neurological condition isn’t a walk in the park, especially when your illness is invisible. At times, looking like every other person around me was a blessing, but more often than not, it led to some really problematic encounters. Like others in my situation, I’ve experienced all the usual judgments: people telling me I don’t look ill, I’m too young to need a seat on the bus, I shouldn’t be so lazy… the list goes on. Sadly, I was prepared for these comments. Those with invisible conditions have been facing these attitudes for years.

What I wasn’t prepared for was facing similar situations once I became a wheelchair user. Accepting that I needed a mobility aid at the ripe old age of twenty was difficult, but I naively consoled myself with the thought that at least now, maybe people would take my physical health needs more seriously. What didn’t cross my mind at this time, however, was that the person sat in the wheelchair still didn’t look ‘ill enough’, to satisfy the curiosity of the general public. During my first trips out of the house with George (the wheelchair; you always have to name the wheelchair), I was hyper-aware of the people around me. I felt people’s gazes on me as they slowly looked me up and down as if trying to identify my ailment, and I felt their shock and disbelief as I crossed my legs and they realised that no, I wasn’t paralysed. The thing that really baffled them the most though, and continues to baffle people today, was when I stood up from my wheelchair to transfer to a seat. The impulse to make light of it and exclaim ‘I’m healed!!! It’s a miracle!!!’ tempts me every single time.

Finding humour in these kinds of instances is my coping mechanism, but often this gives rise to its own problems. I recall one situation where I was viewing flats with a letting agent and my parents. I’d stood and talked to the agent for a few moments without my wheelchair and without mentioning my disability, but then climbed in my wheelchair that my dad had brought around, ready to view a property. Afterwards, I found out that the letting agent had been utterly taken by surprise by the wheelchair ‘because I seemed so cheerful’. They couldn’t get their head around the fact I was silently suffering, because I talked and laughed and smiled like any other person.

Another time, my best friend and I were out shopping, and laughing our heads off about something or other as she wheeled me around a gift shop. The shop owner took this moment to approach us and exclaim loudly ‘what happened to you then?!’. Now, this is a question I get a lot, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is because people expect a funny story: I don’t look ill, so people expect a drunken fall on a crazy night out, or maybe some sort of temporary waterskiing accident. The problem is that I still haven’t found a way to answer this question without making the other person feel awkward. So when I replied ‘haha, long-term illness!’ with a polite little laugh, they looked like they wanted the ground to swallow them whole. ‘Well’ they replied, gingerly patting my arm and trying to salvage the situation, ‘at least you’re still smiling!’. Because obviously, people who are ill aren’t supposed to be smiling or laughing or having a good time. Unless, of course, they’re one of the inspirational sob stories that healthy people use to make themselves feel better. But that’s another issue for another time.

The point is that invisible illness is an ongoing issue that there can never be enough awareness of. Even when visible mobility aids are added into the equation, if you don’t appear to be miserable and suffering, or have an obvious physical impairment, people are inclined to doubt your condition. I hope with everything in me that one day this won’t be the case, and those with chronic illnesses, including those without mobility aids, will be able to sit in reserved disabled seats, or move their legs in their wheelchair, or God forbid, laugh and enjoy their life, without judgment from others. But for now, we need to do all we can to help the healthy population to understand; just because somebody doesn’t appear to be ill, it doesn’t mean they’re not suffering.

You can find out more about me and my chronic illness story on my About page. Are you a fellow invisibly ill person who uses mobility aids? I’d love to hear other people’s views/experiences!

 

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FRIENDSFEST: Sheffield 2017

[I wrote this pretty lengthy blog post over the course of a couple of weeks, in between university deadlines and other commitments, with an extra helping of brain-fog. It’s not my best ever piece of writing and I debated not posting it at all, but I hope any fellow die-hard Friends fans enjoy it regardless!]

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the TV show Friends. I’ve been obsessed with that programme ever since first stumbling across it, there isn’t often a day that goes by where I don’t watch at least one episode. I can quote whole chunks of dialogue by heart, answer more random trivia questions than anybody I know, and I relate to Chandler Bing on a spiritual level.

Anyway, I first became aware of FriendsFest a couple of years ago. I’ve been waiting patiently for it to come to a location where attending would be do-able for me, so I nearly actually dropped dead when the 2017 dates were announced and the only venue in Yorkshire was… wait for it… Hillsborough Park, Sheffield. The same Hillsborough Park, extremely classy place that it is, is literally five minutes from the house I grew up in.

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Summer Cocktails with The Botanist, York

There are many, many things I love about living in York, one of them being the huge selection of cocktail bars that the city has to offer. Whilst everybody who knows me is aware that I’m a die-hard Evil Eye fan, it’s time to reluctantly admit that I have a new favourite: The Botanist.

I’m not gonna lie, I was hooked from the second I read the phrase ‘bring some theatre to your drinking experience’ on my invitation to their cocktails and canapés evening, and the event itself did not disappoint: delicious food and excellent company, and the drinks were just FABULOUS. We got to try out four different cocktails, and I can one hundred percent confirm that they taste as good as they look…

Strawberry and Elderflower Bellini: this is exactly the kind of thing I usually go for in a drink. Lengthened with Prosecco and served in a flute, it was the perfect summery drink to kick off the evening.

Raspberry Disaronno Sour: my favourite recipe of the evening; the combination of raspberry, lemon and pomegranite with the Disaronno tasted like tangy, sour sweeties. And it comes in a plant pot (A PLANT POT, what a time to be alive!!!) complete with steaming dry ice and decorative greenery; this is definitely the one that will make it onto your Snapchat story and make all your sober friends envious.

Velvet Green: this one is a bit less in-your-face, with more subtle flavours and presented in a Martini glass. It combines apple, kiwi and lemon flavours with gin, and is topped with a botanical elixir: the pigment that allows plants to absorb light. Proper fancy. This one wasn’t my favourite since I’m not an apple-flavour fan, but I can imagine it being a really refreshing choice on a summer’s day if you do happen to be a fan of those flavours.

Pimms Teacup: and to finish with a bang, a good old brew of Pimms. Combined with cranberry, lemon and poppy liqueur, this drink was absolutely delicious; if it wasn’t socially unacceptable, I reckon I could happily put away as many cups of this as I do of English Breakfast tea. And there’s just something about being able to pour a cocktail out of a teapot that’s absolutely blummin’ adorable.

Whilst consuming all of these amazing creations, we were also served some amazing little snacks, including bitesize burgers and mini fish and chips. Why is it that tiny food always tastes like the best food?! If the standard of these nibbles matches the rest of the menu, I can’t wait to bring my friends for a meal. And best of all? Clear allergy information, hallelujah. After chatting to the chef, I even found out that the kitchen is willing to modify specific dishes on the menu to give more choice of suitable meals to those with allergies like mine, yay!

 

I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to The Botanist for hosting a fab event and catering towards my allergy requirements, and to Ellie and the rest of the bloggers for such an enjoyable evening. It’s a tough job sitting down and chatting whilst an endless supply of incredible food and drinks are brought to you, but I sure as hell volunteer as tribute.

Find your local The Botanist here!

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