Don’t Forget the Message

Where have those days gone where we can just sit and enjoy a television advert, appreciating it for what it is and not getting too hung up on its realism?

As a little girl growing up in the 80s, (and my mum and dad will vouch for this) I used to ask my parents to record the TV adverts for me between each cartoon I watched. I would spend hours watching them and still to this day, I remember how much of an impact they had on me. My earliest advert-related memory was sitting on my living room carpet, watching the Hovis advert.

The original came out in 1973 (ten years before I was born) so I’m not sure if I watched re-runs of the original or a re-vamped 80s version, but that’s not important. It made me want to eat bread, Hovis bread. I questioned what the music was and learned that there was music that existed that was nearly 100 years old. I questioned the voiceover and learned about where people with Westcountry accents came from and how far they lived from me in Swansea. I asked who the boy was and why he didn’t just get in a car to go up the hill – I learned about how not all families can afford cars as they can cost a lot of money.

Too much over the past week since the new John Lewis advert came out have I seen countless Facebook statuses and Tweets about how scientifically unrealistic the advert is. Being a blogger and obviously loving sharing my views, who am I to deny people of their basic human right of freedom of speech. If people want to humorously question the science saying “How can he breath in space?” and “the balloons would have been destroyed in the atmosphere!” that’s fine by me. That’s not attacking the advert, if anything it gets people talking even more which is great advertising – a cynic may even say that was part of John Lewis’ plan all along!

It’s the constant tearing down of the advert that gets to me.  …it’s sh*t!… What a waste of £7 million!… Nobody can escape commercialism… It’s too sad and depressing…

What are we teaching our young? Don’t get me wrong, I can be as cynical and jaded as the next person but this I feel strongly about.

Re the 7 million pound budget: Did you know that The John Lewis Partnership has invested £13 million on the community? Did you know that more than 120,000 partner hours have been volunteered for charitable causes? Did you know that 2,800 new jobs have been created? Not to mention their Community Matters scheme.

If you ask me, watch the Hovis Advert and take note of the slogan at the very end. It sums up my message to you all about the power of adverts and how they should still be thought of.

In my eyes, John Lewis have yet again captured public imagination whilst most importantly, raising awareness of Age UK.

I want today to be the day that a little girl sitting on her living room carpet, watching the #ManintheMoon John Lewis advert, questions who the man in the moon is and learns about literature.

She questions what the music is from and learns about an old band called Oasis.

She questions what that little girl is doing and learns about astronomy.

Finally, she questions why the little girl sends a present to the old man on the moon, and learns that elderly people living on their own can be lonely, and not just at Christmastime.

You’re right Age UK, no one should have no one at Christmas.

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Donate here to Age UK

Bad Weather? Good Wardrobe!

I know what I like.

I’m not the first person to say that a person’s clothes are an extension of your personality, but just because the likes of Valentino, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior have supplied us with some outrageous styles and designs on the catwalk already this season, does not mean that I will be exchanging my outfits for Gothic, lace dresses with high-ruffle necklines and bold-pattern jumpsuits which look more like an optical illusion than an outfit! Nor will I be walking the streets of Swansea with a supermodel hanging from my neck (you’ve got to see it to believe it)!

One colour I really have got on board with thought his Autumn is brown. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore a bold colour. It’s loud, makes a statement and when used correctly, can exude supreme confidence – much like myself… (on occasion!) But there’s something about brown, that no matter what is going on on the catwalks or what is being sold on the high street, it always feel right – maybe for the obvious reason that Autumn is a ‘brown’ month anyway. As a creature of habit however, I tend to choose browns and greys for September, October and November as a sign that I’m calming down after a wild summer. I was born in August so naturally both I and my outfits are at their most flamboyant in the summer months. Is this actual science? Not a clue! But it makes some sort of sense doesn’t it?

The miserable, wet but mild weather we’re having at the moment also seems to be having an effect on my wardrobe. There’s dressing for the weather and then there’s dressing for the way weather makes you FEEL.

Another factor in my Autumn fashion choices is my three-week long trip to St. Tropez every September. I’m pretty much obsessed with outdoor markets there. Last month I visited five different markets, and each more than once. Every year I spend countless Euros on things that I know no one else will have back home. Not because they’re not stylish – on the contrary! These are clothes, shoes, scarves, bags etc. which are one of only a few ever made. What is not to love about this? Prices are low, quality is pretty good and the clothes themselves are just different enough to what we get back home to be interesting yet still fashionable. Plus, if they’re good enough for the rich folk on 30 million euro yachts in St. Tropez harbour, they’re good enough for me. I’m going to share with you a handful of my favourite, non-labelled but ‘one of a kind’ buys from this year. (Except the last one which was courtesy of River Island!

The 'Pocahontas' Dress
The ‘Pocahontas’ Dress
The dress in action!
The dress in action on the streets of St. Tropez
When Busy Floaty Met Simple Long Suede...
When Busy Floaty Met Simple Long Suede…
Mild Autumn = Chunky Browns
Mild Autumn = Chunky Browns
When Winter Comes, I'm Ready!
When Winter Comes, I’m Ready!
Finally, I couldn't finish this blog without inserting my FAVOURITE accessory from a fab summer 2015, my SUNNIES!
Finally, I couldn’t finish this blog without inserting my FAVOURITE accessory from a fab summer 2015, my SUNNIES!

This Girl Knows Her Curl

Up until the age of 14, I had long, beautiful, silky, straight brown hair. It was a dream, but then I turned 15 and my hair life was turned upside down. It was goodbye smooth, sleek hair, shampoo advert hair and hello dry, slightly insane curls! (Thanks Dad! :p) Bearing in mind this was in 1998 and straightener popularity didn’t really kick in until 2001. I look at photos of my final years in comprehensive school and all I see is hair.

Since then, I have tested hundreds, possibly even thousands of products in the hope of finding something strong enough to tame ‘the beast.’ After years of hair trials and crazy money spent, I have finally found the products that I would be happy to spend the rest of my life with. I often get compliments on my hair which is something I thought would NEVER happen to me. I’m hoping that any ladies out there who suffer this same hair issue will benefit from this blog. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

My most recent discovery is that of a perfect hair mask. The photo below shows my top 3.

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3rd Place – Argan Oil Hydrating Hair Mask (centre in photo)

I use this when I wear my hair curly as opposed to straight – you’ll know why once you’ve rinsed it. It keeps my curls tamed before I’ve even added any other product. Leave it in for 7 minutes (for optimum results) then rinse out. I don’t follow it with a conditioner because I never feel it’s needed. Price varies for this product but you can get it from Amazon for approx. £2.

2nd Place – Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Protein Pack (left in photo)

I love using this product and not just for the divine coconut smell. It’s a perfect conditioner substitute which I leave on for 20 minutes. It’s intense but you just know it’s doing you good. Plus any company that is against animal testing is alright with me! I paid £2 for it in Sally’s but you can also get it online from Superdrug. Use it before straightening you hair.

1st Place – Hask Argan Oil from Morocco (right in photo)

My all-time favourite hair mask. It’s super strength treatment works wonders on dry hair and leaves your hair smelling beautiful for days. I use this mask as a conditioner substitute and leave it on for 10 minutes – any more would be too much. Use the entire pack once a week and you’ll see how quickly your hair starts to grow! I use this mask if I’m straightening my hair as it makes it super shiny. It definitely takes the hair mask crown. Boots have recently started to stock this.

Following use of the Hask Argan Oil Mask, I run OGX Renewing Argan Oil through my hair (see below), root to tip (but concentrating more on the tips). I used to use £50 Moroccan Oils but expense issue aside, it worked in the exact same way as this little beauty.

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Once my hair is blow-dried using my favourite ever hair dryer, the Babyliss Big Hair Spinning Brush (no other hair dryer will do), I run John Frieda Frizz Ease Extra Strength Serum (see below) through my hair before straightening. I don’t actually think this serum was invented to be used in this way but it WORKS! My hair is completely protected from the 200 degree heat of my straighteners and it gives a sleek and glossy finish.

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For the days you wish to embrace your curls – and ladies, sometimes you should – Moroccan Oil Intense Curl Cream (see below) is a dream solution for your hair. Throw out your mousses that make your hair feel like something out of a Walkers packet. This cream gives me defined and smooth curls everytime. For curls, leave to dry naturally and for beach waves, run your fingers through your hair from root to tip halfway through the drying period to separate strands and calm the curl. I bought mine from Amazon for approx. £22. Trust me, it’s worth every penny and last AGES!

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Finally, I’m going to recommend Tres Semme’s Luxurious Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner. It’s not stupidly expensive but the after affects would make you think it was! It really adds moisture to dry, damaged hair without adding too much that it makes the roots look greasy. I refuse to wash my hair in other shampoo and conditioner… unless i’m using a hair mask of course!

Curly Stacey
Curly Stacey
Straight Stacey
Straight Stacey

So there we go. I’m using my 17 years of experience in tackling crazy hair and I’m choosing to share my secrets with the world. Hopefully i’ve helped you and given you incentive to get the most out of both your curly and straight looks! Now go, enjoy playing around with these products – you will NOT be sorry!

A New Me, A New Blog

Over the past few years, I have committed a cardinal sin in blogging. I have simply not blogged enough. I might as well have just TWEETED my thoughts. It’s taken me until now to realise that this blog is a tool that should be treated more valuably and with more respect. I LOVE talking to the world and although some of my close friends might disagree, I don’t do it enough! Why do we settle with just talking to the people around us – the ones in our lives? Just imagine how quickly we’d advance as a planet with all seven billion people talking to each other! OK, extreme I know, but I’m a dreamer and I like to dream BIG.

This blog so far has concentrated on all things CRICKET but with cricket season here in the UK coming to a close, my attention is turning back fully to the other things that interest me including music, films, celebs, current affairs, food, make up, hair products and styles, nail art and varnish, fashion and matters close to my heart.

Us women are very curious creatures. We love to know about what’s new and popular. We love to read about tried and tested products and scrawl the internet for ideas of how to mix up our styles, ready to impress our partners/co-workers or even just to test and stretch our creativity. Anyone who knows me or follows my @LilMissAshes persona on Twitter knows that I am a woman of many words. I have my opinions and often think I know what’s best. I will therefore be metaphorically throwing this blog into a blender to see what comes out.

Stand by for a new me…

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Shw Mae Amigos: When Merthyr Meets La Manga…

I was thrilled to read about Penydarren Country XI Cricket Club recently – Merthyr Tydfil’s oldest cricket club – heading out to La Manga, Spain for a five-day T20 competition to compete in the Tom Maynard Trust T20 Tournament from 1-5 October, 2015.

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The club are huge Glamorgan CCC fans, much like myself, and to quote their Just Giving page, “knew Tom’s skill was something special and a joy to watch. We appreciate what The Tom Maynard Trust have to offer and would like to add funds to help them in the future.” Learning about what Tom meant to them and their love of the sport makes the competition even more special.

I work for youth charity The Prince’s Trust so youth development is something that’s extremely close to my heart. This is just one of the reasons why the Tom Maynard Trust means a lot to me personally. Young people need a chance to succeed and I feel we have a responsibility to help in any way we can.

The Tom Maynard Trust was set up initially to help the development of aspiring disadvantaged cricketers and other sportspeople who require support with different aspects of their career development, including bursaries, help with training and education, financial support for overseas placements and assistance with kit and equipment. Its work now includes support for education and development programmes across a number of professional sports and the running of an annual Tom Maynard Academy in Spain.”

Following the draw, the Country XI are listed in Group B and will be playing against the likes of Westcroft CC, United CC, and even an all-Welsh affair with Menai Bridge CC.

The guys will be joined on the trip by ex-Glamorgan and Kent blonde but destructive bombshell, Mike Powell and long-time Glamorgan spinner and possible future Strictly Come Dancing Candidate, Dean Cosker, although their position on the team is not guaranteed as competition is high – Love it!

I just want to take this opportunity to wish them a huge good luck for the tournament – it would be great to see you come home with the trophy lads! Just wish you could pack me in your suitcase!

Follow them on Twitter @CountryEleven for tournament updates. I will be.

¿Como es que?

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Fan the Flames

Well a big hello again from the crazy, Welsh, cricket-loving chick who likes to parade round cricket grounds, wine glass in hand and chatting to cricketers on the boundary and randoms in the crowd. It has been a WHILE!

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Wednesday, 8th July was a great day. It was it Day 1 of the 2015 Ashes – a cricket competition I fell in love with 10 years ago, almost to the Test. Not only was I lucky enough to have a ticket, but I was asked to speak on Jason Mohammad’s BBC Radio Wales Ashes Show, talking about what the Ashes coming to Cardiff means for us here in Wales. As a huge Glamorgan Cricket fan, naturally I had plenty to say! The debate went well, the host was happy, not to mention my Nan, listening back home in Neath.

What has sparked this particular blog however came very swiftly after the radio interview had finished. A 40-something England fan who was sitting in the pub we were broadcasting from, had obviously been listening in as he strode up to where I was packing up my things and rather angrily asked me to reiterate my statement of when my interest in cricket began.

“2005.” I answered. “After we regained The Ashes.” I answered simply to what I KNEW was a loaded question. My suspicions were confirmed when he exploded into a tirade of abuse.

“How many Test matches have you been to see?” He asked me.

“Four, I think.” I replied, rather proudly. In the next few minutes, this man, single handedly, portrayed everything wrong with people’s attitudes towards the sport I love so much – I just WISH it had been caught on camera.

According to him, 4 Test matches seen ‘in the flesh’ does not qualify me to have a view on cricket or talk about it in public, regardless of the many Test Match DVDs I own and many hundreds of Tests I have watched on the TV or listened to on the radio, regardless of the hundreds of county cricket matches I have watched, not to mention local teams, regardless of the CRICKET BOOK I have written and had published four years ago, regardless of the hours of cricket chats I have had with my fantastic cricket-loving Twitter followers, regardless of the times I’ve spent in the commentary box with BBC Wales, BBC Essex and BBC London, regardless of all the time I give to publicising the sport that always comes second to football!

Even after all this, because I haven’t followed England to every Test match, he believes me to be a fraud. If time and money were no object, then I would happily follow England round the Globe, but I am happy the way I do things. I have a life, a job I love and I’m saving for a house. I simply cannot afford it! And neither can most! Does that make us any less of a cricket fan than this guy?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

People were listening in on this conversation and if they weren’t cricket fans before, they’re certainly not going to become one now! It’s a FACT we need to start filling cricket grounds, and it’s this unwelcoming attitude that puts people off. I call them ‘The Crazies.’ The Crazies claim to know everything about cricket and look down on anyone who hasn’t watched it as much as them or for as long. I class myself as the total opposite. I love chatting to people with a ‘mild’ interest. They’re still unsure about calling themselves ‘cricket fans’ but they’re open-minded enough to give it a go, even if you can watch it for 5 days and still not get a result. We should be encouraging people, not scaring them off, making them feel inadequate and not ‘qualified’ to be a fan. In a word, I was disgusted.

What makes the situation even worse is that I know for a fact that he saw me as young(ish) girl, on her own, and therefore an easy target. I would bet my Ashes tickets that he would not have said anything to me if I was a man. As a writer of a cricket book aimed at getting women into cricket, I saw red at this point and called him out on it. He quickly walked back to his table. His poor wife apologised to me but all I wanted to do was apologise to her. At the end of day I wasn’t the one who had to live with an elitist arsehole.

The irony however, was that for all his bragging about all the England Tests he had been to, he was sitting in the pub next to the stadium, watching the Test match on the TV, two tickets short. I however, having just completed my radio interview, was standing there with three Ashes tickets in hand, when I only needed one.

No prizes for guessing what I did next…

That’s right, walked straight out the door and didn’t look back!

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I’m going to finish this blog on a positive and tell you a true story. A story which I want this idiot from the pub to read. It’s about a cricket fan helping a cricket fan, and is a great reminder to all that cricket should be for everybody.

There is a gentleman who lives in Cardiff who can’t afford to go and watch Glamorgan play. He can often be found on the path by the River Taff that runs alongside the stadium. He can just about see the scoreboard and hear the faint sound of leather on willow. Cricket makes him happy and he would give anything to go in and watch a match, but he just can’t afford it. The mother of a good friend of mine, another big cricket fan, took the time to speak to him one day about what he was doing. She learned how much he loved the sport so she took his contact details and is going to provide him with tickets and take him into the ground this summer to watch Glamorgan play.

The fact that he is not a Glamorgan member like me does not make him any less of a cricket fan than I am. For all I know he could love the sport more I do – I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the patience to stand outside a cricket ground for hours listening and not watching!

I just hope that people reading this blog embrace every type of cricket fan they come into contact with. If their love for the sport is just embers, don’t put it out with angry judgement, help fan the flames until they can burn brightly on their own.

#CricketFamily

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Zombies Stop Play Pt 8

Friday, 13th June 2014


19:30, Swalec Stadium, Cardiff

“Mate, what the hell is that?!” Asked Sammy, looking rather unnerved.

“I’m really am sorry mate, you’re gonna turn. You’re gonna become… one of them!” Answered Jackson, already filled with regret from what he was doing. Beads of sweat started to pour down Sammy’s head as he faced the person that was ready to end his life with a flick of a finger.

“I don’t understand, how can you even know that? I feel fine!”

“He was in the toilet when you told everyone about the blue-eye rule, Jackson. He doesn’t know. Maybe you were wrong?” Suggested Mossy, putting his hand on the gun barrel and attempting to lower it. Jackson was too strong for Mossy, and the gun didn’t budge. It was still aimed directly between the Aussie’s bright blue eyes. The rest of the team didn’t quite know what to say or what to do. They trusted Jackson, with their lives, and weren’t about to argue with him over something he seemed to know more about than they did.

“Sammy, close your eyes.” Said Jackson quietly. Sammy quickly reached for his bat and picked it up. He looked ready to attack Jackson.

“I’m not gonna let you do this!” Shouted Mossy next to him. “If he turns, then fine, paint the walls with his baggy green brains but until then, I can’t let you pull that trigger!”

“Don’t you see?” Shouted Jackson back at his best friend, turning his head to look at him. “I’m doing this for us. If he turns, he’ll kill us. I shoot him now and we have a chance!” In that moment, Sammy swung his bat hard at the gun. The shock made Jackson pull the trigger, and the bullet flew straight through Mossy’s shoulder. Jackson dropped the gun as Mossy fell to the floor, pushing down on the wound tightly with his hand.

“Shit Moss I’m so sorry!” Jackson pulled his T-shirt off and wrapped it round the wound, tying it hard to control the bleeding. The wound was deep but thankfully not fatal. Bridgey picked up the gun in anger.

“From now on, I’m the only one who uses this gun!” Jackson felt awful. Considering the current, apparent apocalypse and the fact that his best friend had just shot him in his batting shoulder, Mossy was in reasonably good spirits.

“I guess I really am like Inspector Riggs in Lethal Weapon now, eh Jacks?” Jackson smiled. Before he could respond however, Sammy’s ‘change’ had already begun. He doubled over in searing pain with one hand holding him up and the other hand tightly gripping his hair.

“Jacks, I think we’ve got a problem, boi!” Shouted Obvious-Lee, pointing at Sammy who was now kneeling silently, staring at the floor.

“Has he changed?” Asked Milo. Picking up a cricket ball from the bench behind him. Sammy slowly lifted his head, with glowing red eyes staring straight at Jackson.

“Nevermind!” Screamed Milo, launching the ball at Sammy’s head. Unfortunately, the ball flew straight past him into the wall behind.

“You never could hit the stumps!” Shouted an injured Mossy from the floor. Sammy leapt up from the floor, and pounced at Jackson. Jackson gripped his neck as tightly as he could so he wouldn’t be able to bite. Sammy was strong however, in his new, undead form and his head got closer and closer to Jackson’s neck. Milo realised that he now needed to step up for his brother. He picked up his bat and took the biggest swing at Sammy’s shoulders, sending him flying out of Jackson’s grip and into the changing room door.

“Shoot hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiim!” Yelled Jackson, backing away on all fours.” In that moment, Bridgey lifted his gun and shot a bullet straight between Sammy’s eyes, killing whatever he had become.

The group sat silently, staring at their former team mate. The scene flashing through their minds as if they were watching a replay. Jackson decided that the silence needed to be broken.

“That’s it, I’m getting out of here!”