Friday, 13 July 2018

Favourite Places In Paris

I already wrote about how I fell in love with Paris' vibe, atmosphere and relentless beauty, but I felt that a city such as this needed more than one blog post dedicated to it. I may have only been there for a few days, but I wanted to share a few of my absolute favourite spots in this glorious city. 

View of Eiffel Tower Isle Aux Cygnes Bir Hakeim
View of the Eiffel Tower from Bir Hakeim
Boulangeries are now my absolute favourite place to eat, which isn't particularly surprising since I love bread and pastries. I've been to France before and always enjoyed the fresh bread available everywhere, but in Paris, it's on another level. Of course, there are good and bad boulangeries, but the quality of food in Paris, in general, is excellent. I particularly recommend Eric Kayser, which has several branches in different arrondissements and they're always great.

Is it shallow for me to say that one of the highlights in Paris was trying on some fancy shoes and not buying them in Galeries Lafayette? I've been eyeing up some Aquazzura flats for ages on Vestiaire Collective but have no idea what size I am, so I jumped at the chance to find out my size so I can save up for them one day. Try as I might, I couldn't convince my Mum to try on the Balenciaga platform crocs but I maintain that she would have looked FAB. 

Galeries Lafayette Ceiling
Galeries Lafayette's incredible ceiling!

Even if I hadn't indulged my shoe-dreams a little, Galeries Lafayette is an experience in itself. The stunning interior that screams opulence and the view of the city from the rooftop bar is one of the best around. We drank overpriced wine and admired the view for an hour or so, and I can confirm that the city is pretty spectacular from up high.

Paris from the roof of Galeries Lafayette
View of Paris from the rooftop bar of Galeries Lafayette

The Isle Aux Cygnes was new to my Mum as well as me, but I had read that it had a great view of the Eiffel Tower without the hustle and bustle of the Trocadero or the foot of the tower itself. We were proved right and found that we loved the little artificial island for itself, not just its views. Parisians use it as a jogging track in the mornings and a little later it's populated by dog walkers; at one end is the stunning Bir Hakeim bridge (that one from Inception!) with the view of the Eiffel Tower, and the other end features Paris' Statue of Liberty. I knew there was one somewhere in the city but was surprised to come across it while on a morning stroll. We wandered down the tree-lined avenue after a few snaps of the Eiffel Tower and I met a particularly great French bulldog.

Statue of Liberty Paris

We stayed in the Latin Quarter as my Mum correctly guessed that it would be right up my street. The roads are lined with bookshops, and thanks to the universities in the area the general demographic is a bit younger and more laid back. The restaurants in the area also cater more to vegetarians (my Mum, not me) and it's an area she loves as well. I loved it as much as I expected, not just for the atmosphere of learning that I miss from my university days, but for the plethora of boulangeries, coffee shops and restaurants that were a bit more chilled out that in other arrondissements.

View of Notre Dame

Notre Dame abuts the Latin Quarter and was top of my list of things to see while in Paris. I've loved the Hunchback of Notre Dame since watching the Disney adaptation as a child and despite being somewhat mentally scarred by the book when I was older. It was amazing to see the cathedral in real life, and I was impressed by how accurate the film was to the details. It's just bloody stunning and if I would definitely go again.

Jardin Des Plantes Paris
Botanical gardens in the Jardin des Plantes

Within or nearby the Latin Quarter are several of the city's best gardens, most notably the Jardin du Luxembourg. While enjoyed wandering around the Luxembourg Gardens in the baking heat on my last day, it was the Jardin des Plantes that really stole my heart. We wandered into the gardens after visiting a sculpture park by the Seine, and navigated our way past the copious amounts of children on school trips to the zoo and Natural History Museum contained within the grounds. We didn't get chance to visit either of those two, but we spent some time wandering the Botanic Gardens and eventually made our way into the giant greenhouse. It's a giant glass building filled with tropical plants, waterfalls and greenery of all kinds; it costs a few euros to go in and is totally worth it, but make sure you make your way up the steps hidden in the cave at the back to get as high as possible in the tiny indoor rainforest.

Jardin Des Plantes Paris greenhouse


Jardin Des Plantes Paris greenhouse

Paris completely stole my heart and I can't wait to go back, but these were easily my favourite places in the city. There's so much more to experience and discover in this city, but if you're heading there sometime soon these may be a good place to start!


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Monday, 9 July 2018

Best of the Monday Medleys

I recently discontinued my Monday Medley series after 40 weeks of sharing my favourite blog posts, books and TV shows. I don't regret it all, as I'm enjoying the reduced pressure and freedom to create whatever content I like, when I like. What I do miss is sharing the content of bloggers who are doing a really outstanding job, and shouting about those absolutely smashing it. This post is a round-up of those bloggers that showed up time and time again and I'll always go back to. 


25 of the best in the business


These are twenty-five of the best bloggers out there, and they're the ones whose blog posts I will always read as I know I'll enjoy them. They're all incredible, and hopefully this list will introduce you to some new blogs to read. I'm a little sad that I won't be sharing the content I love reading on a regular basis, but I'm more excited to create my own.


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Friday, 6 July 2018

Terracotta Skirt | How Clothes Make Me Feel

There are items of clothing that evoke certain feelings and memories, good and bad. They're deeply personal, often reflecting who you were at different times of your life, the place you lived or the people you surrounded yourself with. Lately, I've been living in a skirt that's really seen it all. It's been plastered all over my Instagram, you know the one, terracotta, pleated and knee-length. I've been swishing around in it for weeks now, reluctant to take it off and wearing it at any given opportunity, which is basically all the time thanks to this heatwave. This skirt and I have a long, complicated relationship, and it serves as a touchstone for different parts of my life. 

A skirt that gives me a lot of emotions tbh

I bought the skirt in my second year of university; I think it was early 2012. I have the same skirt in cobalt blue, and despite the fact that the blue one is supposed to be exactly the same it's actually about an inch shorter than its terracotta sibling. At that time in my life, I was living in a three-bedroom student house near the University of Birmingham, and my life was very gradually being picked apart at the seams. Perhaps the fortnightly ASOS orders and nighttime Dominos orders which led to me hiding the boxes should have tipped me off, but I wasn't nearly as self-aware as I am now. I was in the midst of an eating disorder which was greatly exacerbated by a manipulative housemate who seemed determined to turn me into her personal slave. 

That's a story for another day, and would probably end up being a tedious four-part series, but the skirt was part of one of those impulse orders that generally didn't contain anything that fitted and never got returned. I shudder to think of the money I wasted in those years. I remember loving both colours of the skirt, and dutifully tried them on for that housemate, only for her to shoot them down as being granny-like and unflattering. Eventually she said that the blue one was more acceptable since it was shorter, but honestly, did I ever think I was going to pull if I was wearing that? Deep down I loved the longer terracotta skirt but said nothing. I told her I returned it but kept the blue one, but the reality was that I hardly ever returned those ASOS orders, as that would mean leaving my post as her personal guardian, lifesaver and chef.

I rarely wore the blue skirt, perhaps once or twice throughout university even after I separated myself from that deeply toxic "friendship". By the time I was studying for my Masters degree, I was a little more secure and willing to take some slight risks with my style. I wore the blue skirt once for dinner with my Aunt and Uncle who had come to visit, with blue heeled boots and a white blouse and I felt amazing. I wore it to a seminar with an orange patterned shirt, and I felt like the blue and orange were an awesome combo. A friend described it as bright, but in that way where they pause and you know they're not keen. I didn't wear it again, and actually went home immediately after to change, as I was so self-conscious. The terracotta skirt remained hung up in my wardrobe, unworn but much loved, as I often dressed in it in the mornings before panicking and changing again before leaving, never having the guts to wear the "granny" skirt. 

View of Notre Dame

I wore the terracotta skirt for the first time out of the house at a Hogmanay dinner in Scotland, surrounded by family. They had no idea that I was terrified inside, convinced that I looked like an old lady, that it did nothing for my shape, that it didn't suit me and should probably just go and change. No one said anything at all until one of my cousins actually told me that they liked it and that it suited me. I remember being utterly stunned and sat there for a few seconds not knowing what to say. 

I wore the skirt a couple of times in winter over the years, always nervous and only for special occasions. I was always too nervous to truly feel confident and happy in it. Despite this gradual change in how I felt about the skirt, I still felt like it was too dressy to wear except for special occasions. I worked in retail for a long time where we could wear our own clothes and never plucked up the courage to wear it, even though in hindsight it was pretty perfect. It was also firmly designated as a winter skirt, to be worn with skin-coloured tights. Chub rub is the bane of my life, and coloured or black tights always seemed too much with the longer length and bright(ish) colour.  A few years ago I discovered bandelettes, which have improved my life tenfold, allowing me to wear skirts and dresses in the summer without being in complete agony. Yet, I still hardly ever wore it, despite often admiring it in my wardrobe and swishing around in it while trying to come up with outfits.

This year, things changed. The rise of the midi skirt has been a real blessing, although I have concluded that the mid-calf length doesn't really suit me most of the time. Knee-length is my jam, although I very nearly retreated back into my old fear after two of my best friends had a discussion in front of me about how knee-length skirts and dresses don't suit anyone. I, panicking internally that I must look like an idiot in my favourite skirt that I had literally planned to wear the next day to work, said nothing. I worked myself back up to wearing the skirt again, and for the last month or so I've practically lived in it. It's become a basic in my wardrobe, often worn with a black t-shirt tucked in, my trusty bandelettes, slightly hairy legs and either black converse or sandals depending on the heat. It works for my office as well, meaning I get to be breezy in a long skirt and shirt combo with loafers, while still being smartly dressed.

Six years after I bought it, I can finally admit to myself that I love it and feel incredible wearing it. It fits my lifestyle, my needs and my age, and honestly, fuck you to my old housemate for making me feel like I couldn't wear what I felt good in. I mean, fuck you for a whole load of other stuff as well, but that's not the point today.

I had a wobble when I first tried it on a wee while ago as it turned out that I was too fat for it. I've definitely gained (a lot of) weight in the last six years, and with a positive mindset and healthy choices it's starting to come off but in that moment I made a quick decision. Ordinarily, I would burst into tears upon finding out the zip kept unzipping itself, but faced with having ten minutes to leave and most of my clothes in the wash, I made a slightly rash decision and sewed on a hook and eye. The zip now stays up, and that was the skirt's first foray into summer dressing. I'd never sewn one before, so I made the hilarious mistake of sewing it on the outside instead of the inside so it can be seen, but I don't care. It fits, I look great and since I generally have something loose tucked in it's covered anyway.

Manchester Town Hall

The skirt has been with me through some seriously hard times, and the way I feel about it has changed massively. I finally feel like the girl I had in my head when I bought it. I'm confident in myself (most of the time) and perfectly happy to stray slightly from the norm when dressing.

Do you have any items of clothing that remind you of different times in your life?

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Monday, 2 July 2018

Paris in June

If you happen to follow me on Instagram, which is unlikely as I have fuck-all followers, you'll have noticed that it's been basically 100% Paris for the last week or so. I've visited France many times, and passed through Charles De Gaulle airport countless times, yet I've somehow never visted Paris. This year, I finally made it. 

View of Notre Dame

My Mother and I decided to visit Paris together in part as a goal for her to focus on after her knee surgery (she's fine btw) and we had a really wonderful time. I completely fell in love with the city, and while I knew it was going to be beautiful, I wasn't quite sure how I'd feel about it. I often find that all the big, famously-wonderful cities don't resonate with me. I've been underwhelmed by London, Barcelona and Sydney, preferring Manchester, Cartagena and Cairns. I often find that I enjoy a slightly slower pace of life, and I thought Paris might be more of the same. 

Instead, I found a city that is buzzing with life, neither rushing to get places of ambling along in a daze. It has a brisk pace, people making their way steadily to their destination, only to linger over a glass of wine of a cup of coffee once they get there. People are both relaxed and intense, studious and careless, making their way through life perfectly balanced between the two. It was a vibe I wasn't expecting but found that it really resonated with me. In Paris, relaxation is a serious matter.

The architecture made me almost angry, because every single building was beautiful. I love Manchester, the city I call home, but Paris put it to shame in many ways. The truth is really that it's just different, but it gave me an idea of how cities could be if designed with real love and care, and by the French. I strongly subscribe to the theory that everything should be either beautiful or useful, but ideally both. Whether it was the buildings themselves or the tiny touches, huge amounts of thought and care has gone into the city. I spotted catches to hold window shutters carved in the shape of a woman's face, drain covers with art deco styling and wrought iron balconies in the shape of the fleur de lys. 

I think I finally understand why so many people have falled in love with Paris over the years. It's hugely romanticised in cultures around the world and in media, and while it's not always picture perfect, it's pretty enchanting in the right circumstances. I can imagine that on a grey winter morning it's much the same as any other city, and incredible food isn't a guarantee unless you've got cash to splash, but there's no denying that it's stunning. I'll be back.

There's a whole load of Paris content coming your way soon, but for sneak peeks of my photos your best bet is Instagram. My Mum did a cracking job as my photographer so shout out to her for being completely wonderful!

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Monday, 25 June 2018

Naked Yoga

For the last month or so, I've been spending a portion of my mornings or evenings naked on my yoga mat. In an effort to try and work in some exercise into my daily routine, I decided to give yoga a shot. I've done a couple of classes at my gym before and enjoyed it, but fitting in half an hour at home every day seemed more achievable than weekly classes, in part because it's so bloody hot right now and at home I can do it in the nude. The Youtube channel Yoga With Adriene is one I've watched in the past, after seeing The Anna Edit recommend it years ago. I did the odd video a couple of years ago, but never consistently tried to work it into my life despite enjoying it. This time, I decided to attempt one of Adriene's annual 30-day yoga practices

Yoga with Adriene True
Sorry for the uninspiring picture, but y'know, it's NAKED yoga. And also I'm pretty damn chubby and not super willing to put semi-clothed photos of me trying to do downward dog with my boobs brushing the floor.

I bloody loved it. I won't lie to you, I was frequently a sweaty crying mess on my yoga mat at 10.30pm on a Friday night, but the moment when I finally nailed that movement I'd been struggling with for days was so sweet. It reminded me a lot of when I used to do Couch to 5K, something I'm considering starting again if the temperature ever gets low enough for me to entertain the idea. 

Adriene's wacky encouragement, talking me through the moves and telling me to smile and enjoy the moment without pushing myself too hard really worked for me. It was never about throwing myself around or forcing my body to move in a way that wasn't right for me; it was about stretching myself, finding my limits and gradually pushing them a little further each time. I definitely exceeded my own expectations, even if I did have to repeat a couple of days when I became flustered and failed to get through the video in its entirety because I sucked at downward dog. 

By the end of the thirty (maybe more like thirty-four) days, my body felt a little more limber, and I felt like if I needed to move my body a little after a long day sat at my desk I knew how to. It's been about two weeks since I finished the series, and I honestly miss it. I miss the downtime it gave me to put my phone down and focus on my body, to concentrate on how to move and trust someone else to direct my movements in a way that left me feeling good. Find what feels good is Adriene's mantra, and I'm really here for it. Pushing yourself is good, but pushing yourself in way that is kind and respects your body's limits. No more of this "push past the pain" that I remember from when I used to attempt Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. It's not for me at all, and I'm not sure that punishing your body is a positive mind set for anyone.

Find what feels good, folks.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

Altrincham Market

Sometimes it's just good to get out of the city, and fortunately, Manchester is one of the better-connected cities in the north-west. I've added a tab under Manchester for all the places I've written about that are day-trip-distance, and I plan to add to it over the summer. 

Altrincham Market

Altrincham is dead easy to get to from the city, with the Metrolink getting you there in about half an hour. There are two big things people go to Altrincham for: the ice skating and the market. I haven't been to the rink in years but definitely need to some time soon as I used to love ice skating despite my general ineptitude, but I can confirm the market is excellent. 

Altrincham Market
Altrincham Market

Markets and food halls are huge in Manchester, with Altrincham's Market Hall an early example of the phenomenon that has spawned Mackie Mayor and GRUB, both of which I definitely need to write about soon. Altrincham Market is split into three main areas: Market House, New Market Square and the covered market. 

Altrincham Market Pie
Altrincham Market

Market House consists of several restaurants in a small space, all churning out brilliant food at affordable prices. The market model allows several businesses to share the rental fees and collaborate to make running a small restaurant economically viable. It allows brilliant traders who aren't massive chains or conglomerates to compete in today's restaurant market, and Manchester definitely embraces independent restaurants.

Altrincham Market
Altrincham Market
Altrincham Market

New Market Square consists of a few smaller food retailers, usually more of the snack or picnic type rather than restaurants as well as outdoor seating, while the covered market's content varies each day of the week. There are frequently up-and-coming musicians playing live on the stage made of hay, and you can sit anywhere and listen to the music and eat from any of the independent food vendors. On different days the covered market features vintage clothing, crafts, homeware, antiques, books, stamps, ceramics and jewellery. They stock all sorts on different days so it's worth checking what's on if you're planning to visit but the food is a failsafe every day except Monday when the whole market is closed. 

Altrincham Market
Altrincham Market

I spent the morning there a few weeks ago, wandering around it with my boyfriend and eating a really great chicken and leek pie and resisting the temptation to buy all of the handmade crockery. It's a lovely little area and well-deserving of its local fame, whether you're going for the covered market or the food. I particularly recommend Honest Crust's incredible pizzas, the Great North Pie Co. and La Cucina's simple Mediterranean food. 

Altrincham Market

I'd definitely take a trip out to Altrincham if you're in Manchester for a couple of days, whether you're after some upcycled badminton racket mirrors or a great lunch, there's something for everyone. For more information on the website check out Altrincham Market's website!

See you on Friday for something different!

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Altrincham Market
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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Six Months In

We're six months into 2018 and I'm having a bit of a rethink. I've really knuckled down this year, working hard on my blog and investing a great deal of time and effort in it, but the last month or so has been really hard. 

Manchester Town Hall

I don't feel like it's quite clicking with me; I'm not writing the things I want to write, often forcing myself to hammer out a Monday Medley for the sake of it even if I've barely had time to read any blogs that week. It's not how I want to be spending my time, as it leaves me feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. I've rejigged the kind of content on this blog several times, and while some would criticise me for inconsistency, I'm actually completely okay with it.

It means I can look back at different times and different content and see who I was back then. I've been writing here for over two years, two incredibly tumultuous years, two years in which I've changed a great deal. The kind of things I like to consume as a reader have changed, and as such the kind of things I like to write have as well. I've considered leaving blogging behind entirely, but there are still aspects of it that I truly love. 

I've lost interest in things like my Monday Medleys, in the majority of beauty content and I find a lot of the more general lifestyle stuff a bit tedious. What I enjoy is travel writing, book reviews and opinion pieces. I like fashion content that goes deeper than "I got this top from Topshop" and I like explorations of society and little things I can relate to. I love writing about this wonderful city, sharing the places I truly enjoy visiting time and again. I still love a good list post, but the majority of the time I want to read something with a bit of substance. Looking back at my favourite posts of the last year or so, those are also the posts I'm most proud of and enjoyed writing.

As for social media, I've fallen out of love with Twitter, but I think I want to start scheduling tweets again properly and keeping up with it. Despite my frankly embarrassing Instagram following I'm really enjoying editing photos and posting regularly, and it's something that I want to keep up even if I have barely 250 followers. I enjoy it and that's all I really care about right now. I want to write the things I love and ditch everything I don't. Basically, I'm Marie Kondo-ing my blog which can only be a good thing.

I think I'm going to pare things back to two blog posts a week since three was becoming overwhelming even with Monday Medleys taking some of the strain. I need to do some serious planning and reorganising to get myself sorted again, but hopefully, from next week Brambling Blog will be heading in a whole new direction. Watch this space.

Peace out bitches.

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Monday, 11 June 2018

Monday Medley #40

It's Monday morning and comme d'habitude, I'm running late with this blog post. I've been struggling this last week or so to really put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and get the words out. Often I find that if I stumble with one post then I hit a roadblock for a few days and quickly become swamped. This is all coming out pretty easily though so I'm hoping to do some major multi-tasking today and catch up with myself. 


Platt Fields Manchester


WATCHING

Once again, I haven't watched very much this week, my free time generally being consumed by books or PS4 games. I've finally got round to starting Dishonored 2 and I'm loving it. It's difficult in way that isn't discouraging as there's always a different way around a problem, and since I'm terrible at the fighting element of the game I'm basically dependent on sneaking, climbing and distractions to get by. It makes for a very tense gameplay situation, and the elements of horror in the game mean I'm frequently scared to death as I inch past a terrifying clockwork robot, desperately hoping it doesn't see me.

READING

Sophie might as well have her own section on my blog by now for the amount of times I've mentioned her in Monday Medleys, but she consistently produces brilliant content that I want to read and share so I'm not remotely sorry about it. She's currently on a road trip on America's Pacific Coast and I am insanely jealous. It looks absolutely stunning and she's having the most incredible time, meaning that I'm thinking that I need to get saving for my long dreamed of American road trip.

On a more sombre note, I wanted to share Lauren's post about her experience with domestic abuse. It's an emotional read, but is ultimately uplifting and positive, demonstrating the recovery process at its finest. 

Cherie genuinely has one of the best blogs out there, her writing is top notch and her photography is dreamy. This week she talks about the phenomenon of unhappiness in our twenties, easily capturing the heart of the problem as a struggle between time and money. This was probably my absolute favourite read this week and is definitely worth a read today.

And that's a wrap! Only an hour late but shhh it's fiiiine.





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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Low Key Gothic

Okay, confession time: unlike basically my entire generation, I never had an emo phase. I never had a "chavvy" phase, a sporty phase or really an anything phase for my entire teenage life. The closest I ever got was when I convinced my Mum to buy me a pair of those chequered vans in pink and black, which I wore to death paired with jeans that didn't fit and (probably) pink t-shirt. I never had the cool backcombed hair and sweeping emo fringe with a dyed stripe, and I have literally never owned a tracksuit or hoop earrings. My teenage style was a basically cat-lady/librarian-in-training, and I didn't pay a great deal of attention to what I looked like.

Casual goth style in Manchester

I could say that I miss those days of not giving a damn, but the truth is that I cared a lot about how I looked but didn't know how to figure out what I wanted to look like or how to get there. Even today, my style isn't particularly out-there and doesn't have a strong aesthetic. Sometimes I see goth girls dressed to the absolute nines and looking incredible; I love the intricacies of the aesthetic. Whether it's the huge stomping boots, the tattoos peeking out from sleeves or the heavy makeup looks with black hair, I just admire anyone who pulls off a strong look. Occasionally, I want a little piece of the action.

I'm extremely pale. Pale to the point that people think I'm wearing white tights from a distance when in reality I just have my legs out. Light bounces off me and can blind drivers. So I reckon I'm halfway there for the whole gothic vibe, but I could never commit to it by dying my hair. I think black hair is gorgeous but the dye is incredibly difficult to get rid of and I'd end up spending years growing it out; I've considered buying a black wig just for fun, but the reality is I would never be bothered wearing it and I get pretty sweaty even without a load of extra hair. If I fancy channelling a little bit of that emo vibe I have to do it with my clothes and makeup. I wore this outfit for a friend's birthday night out, which involved going to Manchester's big emo club, Satan's, and I decided that I fancied dressing the part but in a way that still felt me.

Casual goth style in Manchester

I though this dress, which I've talked about before, could be dressed a little differently to fit the purpose of the night, and when combined with about four times as much eyeliner as I usually wear and a lipstick so dark I think I've only ever worn it on Halloween, and I felt pretty prepared. I straightened my hair for the first time in about six months, and altogether I felt cool enough to convince my boyfriend to snap these photos of me before we went out. 

Casual goth style in Manchester
Sorry for the crappy photo quality on this one, I was already drunk when I took it!

In the end, I ended up feeling like I fitted in with the group aesthetic while still retaining my fairly vanilla self. I'll never be a full-on emo and I'll never get back my lost days of teenage experimentation, but I feel a little more confident about incorporating a few stronger vibes into my style. Now, time to find some hoop earrings...


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Casual goth style in Manchester
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