Supporting Small Businesses Safely

blog, budget, essentials, finance, instagram, life, lifestyle, lockdown, reflection, social media, socialdistancing, trend, twitter, UK, Uncategorized

Whilst the enforced closures of theatres, cafes, pubs and other venues is a welcomed step in the right direction to getting us through Covid-19, the decision has left businesses and those that support them looking for ways to adapt.

As someone who is taking social distancing seriously *click here for previous post*, I am aware that many shops and venues will struggle to cope with closures and want to find a way to support them safely during this time.

The Milking Parlour is a Yorkshire based ice cream shop that my family and I have loved since moving up here. Based in the quaint market town of Kirkby Lonsdale, it is the must visit location in town! This family run business offers a whole host of flavours, changing on a regular basis. Seeing on their Instagram account that they were moving to takeaway only, like many others, we felt it was only right to take a trip this weekend. milkingparlour

Anybody who knows the area will know that even on the rainiest of days, Kirkby Lonsdale is a bustling location with locals and tourists alike making use of the dog friendly pubs and cafes. Today, the town felt quiet. Signs in shop windows told of closures lasting indefinitely. It was a sad sight to behold and I suspect that this is a small representation of the nation for the forseeable future.

For many, switching to takeout only isn’t an option but for The Milking Parlour and others that remain open, this is the time for us to turn up. Concerns about social distancing have been addressed clearly on the sign post outside asking for customers to patiently wait and limiting numbers of people in store at one time. These are easy requests to adhere to and in doing so, not only are you keeping yourselves and those that are serving safe, you are able to continue to be there for those who need us.

When this is all over, I have no doubt that we’ll all be wanting to get straight back to normal life. Spending weekends at our favourites restaurants, going to the theatre and alcohol fuelled nights out are going to be that much sweeter, but we must do everything in our power to ensure that they can survive these times in order to thrive later.

I strongly hope and believe that this unprecendented journey we are on will lead to a new way of life for many of us. Appreciating the small businesses who take time to care for their customers, the arts industry who provide us with a much needed escape and the bigger brands who chose to make staff welfare a priority. So if you’re going a little stir crazy and are safe to take a quick trip out, why not make it to your local bakery or coffee shop for a takeout?!

In order to limit contact and allow these businesses to remain open, for now leave the reusable cups at home, pay with contactless card where possible and head straight back home. Let’s get this over with as fast as we can so that we can make way for a better way of living!

Sophie x

How To Keep Busy In Isolation

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Okay, so it’s been about three days since my place of work was closed for the forseeable future. At this point it feels a lot closer to three weeks. The days have all blended into one and weekends are but a social construct that fail to exist in this modern world!

Basically, I’m hopeful but deluded. I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet that this is just the start of a minimum, 6 week ‘holiday’. I keep waiting for Boris to pop up on the telly at 5pm and tell us we can all go back to work, Covid-19 has magically cured itself.

Of course, the reality is that this is a prolonged period of unknown and unnerving times. I fully expect it to be a rollercoaster of emotions. In preparation for the weeks ahead I’m following advice from Joey in that episode of Friends when he spaces out his to-do list over a full week. *I honestly don’t have the desire to find a quote or clip so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, take it up with Google*.

Over the next few weeks my priority is RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m currently working my way through Season 10 and expect to be up to date within the week. Not only is it light-hearted and funny, the repetitive nature of the show provides my take on a routine. Let’s be honest, we aren’t all going to be setting our alarms for 7am or colour coordinating our calenders with frivilous tasks like showering!

I have begun to investigate online courses but I’m apprehensive to rush into something just for the sake of it. Whilst I want to value this time and make use of it in order to better my life and skillsets, I think it would be easy to pick something and then find it of little value past keeping me entertained. Like I said, we are in this for the long-haul so save the books and crochet and have something to look forward to in two weeks from now.

Baking. I’ve already seen so many people on my instafeed turning to their ovens in this hour of need and I think it is a fabulous way to occupy your mind and master a new skill! This leads me seemlessly into what is arguably the biggest part of this social distancing palava. Social media.

In recent years, social media has been the subject of much debate and argument. We’ve seen how it has transformed from an exciting new form of communication to a complex maze of mental health issues and cyber bullying. From my own experience, I can say that in the last few days I have spent more time enjoying the likes of Instagram than I have in years. Seeing friends and colleagues rally round to support eachother, share silly memes and spend time standing up for their industries and fellow workers has been nothing short of wonderful. It has demonstrated to me how we can use our pages for good. I can only imagine how difficult it would be if we were to remove the internet from our lives in these trying times. Despite being in ‘self isolation’ we are arguably more connected to one another and our emotional well-being than ever before.

If you have any suggestions for decent online courses or things to do, please do share them with me. You can find me frequently refreshing on Twitter and Instagram @sophieaiken.

Sophie x

Why It’s Time To Start Social Distancing.

budget, essentials, finance, life, lifestyle, lockdown, news, question, socialdistancing, UK, Uncategorized

Over the last week, life in London has been pretty much thrown into turmoil. We are living in unprecedented times and there seems to be a lot of confusion as to where we go next. Whilst I don’t have all the answers, I have made the conscious decision to take part in social distancing and here’s why you should too…

Social distancing requires as many people as possible to put measures in place to slow down the spread of Covid-19. By avoiding pubs, clubs and social gatherings, we are helping to delay the spread of the outbreak.

I have seen many young, fit and healthy people on social media in the last couple of days continue to defy government advice. I find it ironic that we are so quick to criticise our government when they fail to speak out on climate change and other large social issues but refuse to make positive changes for the masses during a global pandemic…

We are not doing this for ourselves but for the good of those who are likely to require medical intervention. We all know how much pressure the NHS has been under in recent years and in order for those who need help to receive it, we need to control the rate of transmission.

Social distancing is not something that we all have the option to actively partake in. But if we do, why shouldn’t we at the very least give it a go? For the sake of missing a few weeks of normality, we can choose to stay at home and protect our nations most vulnerable people. It’s about your parents, grandparents, family who suffer with chronic conditions or friends with asthma.

This isn’t about buying into mass hysteria. The shops will remain open. Having a twenty pack of toilet roll isn’t going to save your grandma when her lungs give in!

If you have the option to work from home, consider this a luxury. There are many of us for whom this isn’t an option. We face financial difficulties, job losses and an anxious wait to see what the Government will be able to offer us. By all means support small businesses but do it in a safe way, consider buying vouchers or ordering online where possible.

I think at this time, it is most important to acknowledge those who continue to provide services for us all whilst dealing with the same mental and emotional pressures. Emergency service workers, small business owners, retail and care workers, delivery drivers and postmen, bin men and every other industry worker who is continually showing up for us all.

The biggest thing I have noticed in the last few days is how each one of us is facing our own struggle or financial dismay as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Whatever career we have or place we reside, these are uncertain times and it is ever more important that we make decisions for the good of each other. We will come out the other side of this. By acting now through social distancing, we can slow down rates of infection and speed up the time that this pandemic will take from our lives.

Here is a link to the latest government updates for those in need of employment guidance.

If you’re struggling with your mental health or just need a bit of extra support, this page from Mind Charity is full of useful information.

 

 

 

The Truth About Universal Credit

blog, budget, finance, life, lifestyle, london, reflection, Uncategorized

Having spent several years working in retail management, last year I found myself at a crossroads. Wanting to move back to London from Bristol, I accepted a role in a Surrey based branch. Without going into loads of detail, three months in I had reached my limits. I knew I had to quit, but with nothing lined up, I was taking a risk.

Sometimes, for your own mental wellbeing you have to take a step back and re evaluate. Our jobs play such a massive part in our lives, that it’s important to acknowledge the overwhelming impact they can have on us. Taking all things into account, I fully stand by my decision to leave. I could barely make it through a day there, let alone another few months! So what was next?

I began applying for jobs having no clue of what it was I actually wanted to do or be. This meant my search was vast and unfocused. **We’ll skip past the 3 month internship as that’s a story in itself!!** I plan on writing a post on job hunting in the next week or so if that’s of interest to you. At the end of my internship, I was left back where I started except this time I had no savings to fall back on. I will say that I am lucky to have a supportive family with whom I lived during this time. I can only imagine the struggle for those without a network to rely on. So, it was off to the job centre!

Now the main reason I was keen to write this post is this, I realise now how completely naive I was to the system. I still am in many ways, but this was for sure an eye opening experience. I can’t refer back to Jobseekers Allowance as I never received this so I’ll only be talking you through my time on Universal Credit.

After signing up online, I received confirmation of my first appointment time which was roughly one week after originally expressing an interest. For reference, this was in a Yorkshire location, I’m not sure what the wait time would be like in other parts of the UK.

**I know this post is a lot longer than my usual, but i think it’s important to cover all bases and provide a bit of context for you so bare with!**

Walking into the job centre, I felt totally out of my comfort zone. I took a seat and made eye contact with the security guard, a sight I was taken a back by. It was a few minutes before I could fully process the fact that this centre would have a need for a full time security person but let’s be real, when the work they’re doing involves peoples ability to live, you can see why things might get heated at times. I sat down and waited to be called. As I looked around I listened in on a man being told he’d need his account details in order to access his Universal Credit. This confused me. He told the woman it was written in his other notebook, one which he’d left at home. It was also clear that this man was under the influence of drugs. I mention this with no judgement of him but of the system. How can they expect a man who writes things down by hand and is not communicating coherently to login to a website regularly, searching for work and completing the accompanying forms? It felt sad to watch him leave, knowing he’d potentially be missing out on a payment simply because of a reliance on technology.

Meeting with my work coach Sam gave me the boost that I needed to really get back into job hunting. It’s so easy to lose ambition after the umpteenth application form. We talked a little about my CV, previous experience and future wants. I was then sent away with some helpful tips and the instruction to return once weekly until I had found myself a job. Sam made it clear that this was about getting me back into work as oppose to finding my dream job. I really respected this outlook and took his advice on board. One thing I was suprised by was the lack of pressure, I’d gone in thinking I’d be told to apply for a set amount of roles per day, report back on outcomes and take anything that was offered. This was not the case.

In my opinion there are two trains of thought to this that most people will fall into. Firstly, it’s a trusting approach which works well for someone like myself who was genuinely trying to get back into employment quickly. The work coach is providing positive reinforcement and a brighter outlook to job hunting. On the other hand, if you are to look at the wider, much debated issue of unemployment in our country, you could see why this might cause upset. Essentially, I realised right away that, had I wanted to, I could’ve very easily spent the next few months, maybe even years playing the system. One 15 minute session per week and a handful of second rate job applications is all it would take to keep the money coming in. I understand now why for some, it’s a more viable option to stay on benefits than it is to take on a minimum wage role. Not only do you get payments, there is potential for help with rent, medical care and transport amongst other things.

For me, I think that the ‘Nanny State’ debate is far more complex than just job seeking. It’s a deep rooted issue that comes from years of ill treatment, class divisons and government cuts. If we really want to solve it, we have to provide equal opportunities to every citizen from birth. If that means giving a little extra help to those with less, surely  that’s what we should all be willing to do? I was lucky enough to find a job pretty quickly after signing on and now view my taxes in a different way. I’m more than happy to pay these as a working member of society and yes, there are those who cheat the system but I think it’s more important to give the benefit of the doubt to the system in order to ensure that those who do need support have access to it.

I realise that this is probably a little more sensitive of a conversation than my usual content, but it’s important for me to not shy away from life events and if my experience can somehow influence or help others, I’m more than happy to share it. I also think it’s important to share this because there seems to be a stigma attached to being on benefits, so much so in fact that they’ve been renamed ‘Universal Credit’. As someone who has been to university, worked in various roles and never dreamt I would’ve ended up in a job centre, it is perhaps okay to admit that we all go through ups and downs in life and sometimes we need a little extra help to get us back on our feet.

Like always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and views @sophieaiken.

Sophie

Sophie

What I learnt from posting every day for a week

blog, celebrity, inspired, life, lifestyle, london, makeup, mindfulness, question, reflection, review, self improvement, social media, trend, Uncategorized, writing

If you’re up to date with my most recent posts, you’ll know that I set myself a goal to upload content every day for one week. I’m pretty proud of myself for managing to stick to it! Here’s how it went…

Previously I’ve been somewhat inconsistent with blogging, a wave of inspiration every few months passing quickly by. Setting this goal gave me the kick I needed to dig a little deeper for content ideas.

Going forward, my aim is to post twice a week. Whilst it was fun to focus on writing each day, I found that I was compromising on the quality of content I was putting out. Being particularly proud of this social media piece, meant I felt like other topics couldn’t compete.

Having hoped to find a little more direction in terms of the type of content I want to create, I think I’ve found this but am keen to continue to write about whatever it may be that comes to mind on that day. Essentially, I’ve settled on the concept of a lifestyle blog in order to be able to cover a broad spectrum of interests.

Mostly, I found it rewarding to have a focus each day that was soley for my own personal gain and enjoyed the sense of fulfillment that came from completion. A little bit of structure can be a great thing and I’d like to redo this challenge further down the line, perhaps with a little more planning next time though.

What do you think? Are you a Queen of procrastination like me or is your diary brimming with tasks? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for staying on track!

Sophie

Theatre Etiquette

blog, celebrity, life, lifestyle, london, Musical Theatre, reflection, review, Theatre, trend, Uncategorized, West End

As a fan of theatre, I was pretty shocked when this article landed in my inbox the other day. With reports that Ushers are being fitted with security cameras in an attempt to deter angry theatre goers, it got me thinking about general theatre etiquette. So let’s take this journey together on how to behave at the theatre…

  1. Preparation – The only thing worse than being stuck behind someone in a queue who isn’t ready, is being the person holding everyone up! Have your tickets out and your bags ready for searching so that we can all get in a little quicker. Just like at the airport, you know security is coming so be ready for it.
  2. Timings – It’s pretty common knowledge within the theatre world that most shows have a ‘latecomers point’. This means, if you arrive once the show has begun, you’ll be taken to a viewing screen until you’re able to take your seats. If this sounds a bit shit, the solution is simple, get there early! Go to the bar, explore the store or take a seat and scroll through Twitter. If timing is within your control, don’t be the one who has to awkwardly shuffle down a row to a symphony of shushing.
  3. Food & Drink – This isn’t the cinema, let’s skip the crunch of popcorn and rustle of packets for something a little less distracting. Recently, I’ve noticed just how loud a plastic water bottle can be. It’s 2019, why not try a reusable option like ” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>this one?!
  4. PHONES/FILMING & PHOTOGRAPHY – I could honestly devote an entire post to this topic. Nothing is more infuriating as an audience member than being distracted by the bright lights of a phone. If it’s that important, step out of the auditorium. Not only is it a distraction for those around, you also look a total tit to the actors on stage who see your face lit up in all its Facebook obsessed glory. Turn it off and enjoy two hours of peace. And if you have the misfortune of being sat near someone on their phone, remember that you have every right to tell them where to shove it!
  5. Alcohol – I think this is the thing I found to be the biggest takeaway from The Stage article. As a country, we are particularly bad for binge drinking. Friday night comes around and everyone is ready to get on it. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, but is the theatre really the place to be doing this? Personally, if I spend money on a ticket, I’d like to remember the plot. If alcohol makes you aggressive towards ushers or anyone else who is simply trying to make a living, it might be time to re-evaluate whether you should be drinking at all…
  6. Home Time –  By all means, go to the toilet, cloackroom etc on your way out. Do what you need to do. But spare a thought for those who work in the theatre and can’t go home until you do. From my supermarket days, I can tell you how frustrating it is to wait around for the last customer to leave.
  7.  Stage Door – I’ve seen so much debate surrounding this element of theatre recently. It’s a real shame when actors have to publicly ask for respectful behaviour at Stage Door. Utimately, you pay for a ticket to a show. There is no prerequisite for a meet and greet. Stage Door can be such a fantastic way for fans to connect with performers if it’s taken for what it is, an added bonus! Basic courtesy and understanding are key as is the respect for every performer who takes their time to say hello. Swings and ensemble are just as important as leads and deserve to be treated as such!!

I feel like this has been a theatrical rant of epic proportions. If you take one thing from this post, it’s this…Don’t be a dick. A night at the theatre should be a special occassion, one that leaves you with that amazing buzz. Yes the toilet queues may be long and the interval may be too short for you to smoke, drink and touch up your lipstick, but just enjoy the show for what it is and see everything else as the cherry on top.

Rant over!

Sophie

*This post contains affiliate links*

Why are we so afraid to die?

blog, celebrity, event, inspired, life, lifestyle, mindfulness, music, reflection, self improvement, Uncategorized

I won’t lie, I’ve kind of gone down the clickbait route with this blog post. After admitting to writer’s block yesterday, I felt I’d better come back with something a little more interesting.

This may sound strange to some of you but I have a funeral playlist saved to my Spotify account. Obviously I’d like to hope that this won’t be played for many years to come but it’s always good to be prepared! I’m not someone who considers death a lot, I don’t really pay much thought to what will become of me once I’m gone but it’s nice to appreciate the many different beliefs offered to us by religion, spirtualism and science. I also love seeing how much comfort the likes of heaven or reincarnation can bring to people in their moments of need.

To many this may be a morbid or upsetting topic and yet ultimately death is the one thing that we all have in common. It’s the only guarantee in life. As I don’t own a house or expensive jewellery, there’s really no need for a written will so I guess this is my one specification. Personally, I’d like to think I’ve found the perfect balance of humour, sorrow and sentiment to leave my loved ones with.

I know the suspense is killing you *if you’ll pardon the pun*. So without further a do, here is my funeral playlist as of July 2019…

What are your thoughts on creating your own funeral playlist? Have you got any of the same songs as me or am I just a morbid music maker? Tweet me @sophieaiken and let mw know!

Sophie

Writer’s Block

beauty, blog, inspired, life, lifestyle, mindfulness, question, self improvement, Uncategorized, writing

In case you hadn’t realised, I have been attempting to post content every day this week. I spent today trying and failing to write several different posts and couldn’t seem to complete any of them.

So in the end, I decided to write this one. Basically, I’m cheating my way into being able to say that I’ve posted every day for a week. I felt this was the only way to really get myself back into blogging on a regular basis. The truth is, it’s hard to constantly be coming up with new content whilst simultaneously finding a direction to take my site in. I think moving forward, a realistic approach would be 2-3 blog posts per week.

Do you ever struggle with motivation when it comes to hobbies? It’s a strange thing to not be able to come up with content when a million ideas hit me on an hourly basis! The difference between that initial thought and actually sitting down to write a post is vast to say the least. I’m keen to know what you guys do to get yourselves out of a ‘writer’s block’ or whatever your equivalent may be. Help me out and give me some suggestions!!

Hopefully tomorrow will be a little more interesting.

Sophie

Lust List: The Skin Edition

beauty, blog, face, highend, inspired, life, lifestyle, london, look, makeup, review, skin, skincare, trend, Uncategorized

So I know my posts recently have been a bit mixed in terms of content but I thought I’d get back to a bit of beauty today. Recently, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to use up my current products before buying new ones. Of course there are a few exceptions, but for the most part I’ve been pretty good at ‘shopping my stash’.

Whenever I discover a new product that I’d like to try, I add it to the notes on my phone. By doing this, I can refer back to it once I’ve used up a current favourite. So here are the skincare/makeup items I’m lusting after right now. Let me know of any others you think I should try!

Glossier Skin Tint – As a self confessed lover of full coverage, this may be somewhat of a suprise addition. Having seen Anniecherrymakeup feature this lightweight foundation regularly in her videos, I am keen to give it a go.  Perfect for evening out discolouration, this appears to be the solution to no makeup makeup. One downside to point out is the small shade range. Whilst it does appear to cater to a range of skintones, there are only 12 shades within the range, minimal compared to the likes of MAC and Fenty.

Ole Henriksen Bananna Bright Face Primer – This particular product has been raved about by a number of successful influencers over the past few months. Packed with Vitamin C, it promises a ‘dewy, healthy-looking glow’.As someone who isn’t massive on primer, this product appeals more so for the promise of radiance. This is one of many products from Ole Henriksen that I’m keen to try.

Khiels Daily Reviving Concentrate – Admittedly, I have used this serum before but at £38, I haven’t yet been able to justify a repurchase. As a massive fan of the Midnight Recovery Serum, I was hopeful that this would deliver on the same scale and it did. Definitely time to add it back into my routine!

Do you own any of these products? Anything you think I should be trying instead? Tweet me @sophieaiken.

Sophie

Boots First Feel Good Session

beauty, blog, celebrity, event, inspired, instagram, life, lifestyle, london, reflection, review, self improvement, social media, trend, Uncategorized

Last week I was lucky enough to win a ticket to the first ever Boots Feel Good Session thanks to an Instagram competition ran by the wonderful Megan Jayne Crabbe *bodyposipanda*.

Upon arrival I was greeted by some lovely ladies who pointed me in the direction of a wall of positive quotes. I grabbed one of these in exchange for a free drink at the bar and readied myself to take part in a Body & Image Workshop.

This particular workshop was hosted by Natasha Devon MBE. Natasha is a body image activist, writer, speaker, campaigner and all round genius to be honest with you. In just fifteen minutes, she gave us a run down of how our brains work and the ways in which we view ourselves. In my last post, I told you all about how I filter my social media, below is a list of body positive influencers composed by all those who attended the workshop. So if you feel like you want a bit less filtering and facetune and a lot more real life, check them out.file-2

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend thePhotography Workshop hosted by Alex Cameron. Alex is a renowned confidence photographer who focuses on the use of natural light in her work. She has a beautiful portofolio and is well worth a follow!

We then moved on to the main event in which Megan, Natasha and Alex were joined by Youtube sensations Hannah Witton and Gary Thompson as well as Scottish footballer Claire Emslie. The panel spoke all things confidence with a particular focus on social media. The discussion was open and varied and really reflected the common concerns of six prominent figures. A big take away from the day was about learning to live in the present and making the most of where you are right now. As I mentioned earlier, there was also a focus on the use of social media and the ways in which we can make our own platforms as positive a space as possible.file-4.jpeg

And now for the best bit. The goody bag. As I looked through the contents, I couldn’t help but feel like some kind of trendy influencer. Full size products from the likes of Urban Decay and The Ordinary. Absolutely over the moon with that and I cannot wait to give them all a go.

I’d really recommend taking the time to watch the full panel discussion here.

If you do watch, let me know your thoughts!

Sophie