Helene Darroze At The Connaught: A Tasting Menu To Remember

If you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, you may have considered delving into the world of Michelin starred restaurants at some point in your life. Although it can be incredibly overpriced at times, there are plenty of lunch menus that don’t have to break the bank, with dozens of 1 Michelin starred restaurants offering 3 course meals for as low as £30 in London. With 2 Michelin stars, Helene Darroze at the Connaught is not one of those places, but celebrating a special occasion can often justify a ‘treat yoself’ moment, which this certainly was. Although Chris and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary in lockdown, we vowed to go to a fancy joint once we were free to do so, and Helene’s ‘Summer Tasting Menu’ definitely fit the bill.

Advertised as 7 courses, this tasting menu actually ended up being about 14 courses with all the little treats on the side. Though I was never quite able to guage what a restaurant would have to do in order to receive the coveted second Michelin star, after experiencing this menu, I now understand. With impeccable service and clever flavours, it was certainly a gastronomic experience I’ll never forget.

Below is a picture of every course, as well as a link to the menu at the bottom:

The dish that stood out to me was the lamb main, which despite the surprisingly dainty plating, was packed full of strong, well-balanced flavours. I also really recommend the raspberry pre-dessert which you can’t get as part of the five course version of this menu. Whilst reviews online highlight how filling the seven course menu is (and it really is!), not trying the sorrel sorbet with various elements of raspberry (an absolute revelation) would be an incredible shame! I could probably go on and on about how amazing the spiced scallop was, and how the saltiness of a kalamata olive paired with chocolate is an absolutely sensational idea, but I really don’t want to ruin the little surprises the chefs have in store for you.

The dinner lasted for 3 hours in total and we definitely left feeling very satisfied. But a word of warning, the drink prices are a tad extortionate and can definitely bankrupt you if you’re not careful – a bottle of VOSS water is a staggering £13 and a standard glass of wine starts at £20. If you’re intending on drinking, I’d go to a nearby bar prior to your reservation. 🙂

If you do visit, let me know what you think in the comments!

The Perfect Socially Distanced Holiday: Camping on the Isle of Wight

Although lockdown seems to be easing globally, most people are still quite apprehensive about travelling – I certainly have been! Aside from falling ill or infecting others, which is essentially the worst outcome, the potential of arriving at your destination and having little to do due to most locations being closed or even experiencing a lockdown whilst you’re away is more than enough stress to put a damper on your holiday.

But of course, we all want a chance to get away from our daily routine and enjoy summer somehow. That’s why going on a camping trip is probably your best bet: you can safely drive to your location, pitch up a tent far away from other people and enjoy the novelty of minimal living, as well as wander about the gorgeous forests, lakes and beaches your country has to offer! If anything, a nature retreat is an excellent way to shake things up, especially for those of you that have been residing in bustling cities during the pandemic, have been overusing technology and have been struggling to find ways to stay active.

For those in the UK, I’d definitely recommend the Isle of Wight as a destination. Only a 3.5 hour drive from London, this little island is packed full of beautiful landscapes and quaint little towns to soak in. If you’d like some inspiration on where to camp, what to see and what to do, check out the list below!

1. Camping at Grange Farm

Grange Farm is a sizeable plot of land on the West coast of the Isle of Wight: with plenty of tent and caravan space to pitch on this gorgeous cliff side, access to the beach, cute animals on the farm, clean facilities and a farm shop, all your needs will undoubtedly be met here as your base. The Isle is incredibly small, and from one side to another is often no more than a 30 minute drive! This spot is excellent for getting to forests and key attractions too, with most locations a convenient 15 minute drive away.

2. Visiting the Needles

Visiting the Needles is a must when you’re here. When you arrive, you’ll find a cute fair like village with sailor-chic restaurants, shops and stalls selling anything from nic-nacs to icecream. You have the option to walk down to the beach with the view of the Needles, which is quite the journey, or you can buy a ticket to take the very quick and exciting chairlift route which I need to stress is not for the faint of heart. Just remember to take all your drinks, snacks and books/beach balls with you to the beach because once you’re down, it’s a long way back up. You’ll also have the chance to grab a boat tour around the cliffs if you fancy a closer look at the natural beauty.

3. Brighstone Forest

Brighstone forest is absolutely gorgeous and boasts a great variety of sights. From beautiful plains to dense forest hikes, it has a bit of everything and offers the perfect hiking route for beginners. We went to the small carpark by Strawberry Lane (can’t make this shit up) where we left our car and began a hiking route that starts off with a path through the forest up to the top of the hill. Once you’re at the top, you’ll have an incredible view of the entire West coast. (roughly a 2.5 hour round trip).

4. Firestone Copse

This little spot is a picturesque haven. The carpark doubles up as an amazing picnic area with benches scattered about, and if you simply want to have some snacks and drinks, or bring a few books to enjoy in the great outdoors, it has you covered. If you’d rather have a wander, which you will once you see the inviting routes that branch off this green space, just chuck your stuff in the car and begin your journey. There are dozens of routes available and it’s impossible to get lost because they all loop in on eachother and lead back to the car park – perfect for the anxious adventurers among you.

5. The town of Shanklin and Shanklin Chine

I absolutely regret going to Shanklin a few hours before we had to head home because, in all honesty, this place deserves a whole day for itself. A cute pastel coloured dream town host to the glorious Shanklin Chine and a surprisingly clean golden beach, it’s a hidden gem that you’ll be glad to discover. Enjoy browsing the adorable shop fronts, have a few drinks in one of the many historic pubs, walk through the Chine and chill at the beach for a perfect day.

3 Healthy Smoothie Recipes

We all love a good smoothie on a warm summers day: it’s refreshing, delicious and filling when made right. Since it also achieves the healthy feeling of ‘new body hu dis?’, you can’t really go wrong when you’re feeling peckish but want to have a snack that tastes like a treat. However, in order to ensure that it’s actually healthy, you need to make a few adjustments. If it’s often filled with juice or loads of sugary fruit and sweeteners, the pros are often counteracted by the cons. So, here are three healthy smoothie recipes that have some excellent superfoods thrown in and don’t taste like you’re drinking grass.

Note: The below often work best if you have a variety of pre-frozen fruit. I often freeze fruits with low water content that I was unable to eat before it went off for this very purpose! 🙂

The Berry One

300ml of Coconut or Almond Milk, unsweetened
1tsp of Manuka Honey or Yacon Syrup
1tsp of Cacao Nibs
1tsp of Chia Seeds
A third of a frozen banana
A chunk of frozen pineapple
Handful of berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries)
(Optional: Handful of spinach)

The Green One

300ml of Coconut or Almond Milk, unsweetened
1tsp of Manuka Honey or Yacon Syrup
1tsp of Wheatgrass Powder
1tsp of Spirulina Powder
Quarter of an avocado
A third of a frozen banana
A chunk of frozen pineapple
Handful of spinach/kale (or both)
A generous squeeze of lemon or lime juice

The Chocolate One

300ml of Milk, Coconut Milk, Almond Milk or Oat Milk, unsweetened
1tsp of Manuka Honey or Yacon Syrup
1tbsp Almond Butter/Peanut Butter/Cashew Butter
1tsp of Cacao Powder
1tsp of Cacao Nibs
1tsp of Coconut Flakes
Quarter of an avocado
Half of a frozen banana
(Optional: Add a scoop of your favourite choccy protein powder for a more filling serving)

Top 10 Things To Do In Istanbul (After Lockdown)

As devastating as it was to hear of the initial surge of Covid-19 related deaths in China a few months ago, I never did expect it to become a global pandemic that would significantly alter our lives for the forseeable future. It’s honestly indescribably awful to hear of deaths day in and day out, as well as watch nations struggle to cope with the unending pressure to make the right choices. It’s the main reason I didn’t really want to post about trivial things like food and travel, because, you know, firstly there’s a lot on people’s minds that are more important, and secondly, we can’t really go anywhere anyway. However, now that it’s clear this thing is around to stay for a little while, I feel as though posting for the sake of producing much needed light hearted content, especially for activity inspiration when this is all over, isn’t really the worst idea. Also, I’m going borderline insane from boredom and miss writing on here.

At the start of February (before the crisis took hold of Europe), I went to Istanbul with Chris, my boyfriend and main travel buddy, and although I would recommend going during a warmer season (April to September), we were quite lucky in that it was 14oC with blue skies for most of our trip. Though there is definitely a lot to cover in a city that sits both in Europe and Asia, I decided it would be useful to collate a list of 10 things you absolutely must do and see whilst at Istanbul, containing both mainstream and off the beaten track activities. Enjoy!

  1. Have a full Turkish breakfast at Lavender Kafe

I’m not really a breakfast person, but Turkey can make anyone a breakfast person because it’s more akin to a feast. Try the full breakfast works at the adorable Lavender Kafe near the Galata Tower: it has an excellent selection for a more than reasonable price. Trust me on this one.

2. Climb the Galata Tower

Providing an excellent panoramic view of Istanbul, as well as a great insight into its history, this tower is definitely a must see. Make sure to get there very early as queues can be quite ridiculous in peak season!

3. Visit the Hagia Sofia Mosque

Built around 536AD, this gorgeous mosque has gone through centuries of architectural tweaks and it really shows. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jesus in the glass stained windows of a mosque covered in Arabic prayers dedicated to Allah! Definitely worth a quick visit.

4. Taste some amazing Turkish desserts at Hafiz Mustafa

Turkey is well known for its desserts (ehem, baklava) and Hafiz Mustafa has every conceivable dessert known to the country, from the famous Kahramanmaras ice-cream to Kaymakli Ekmek, Asure and Kunefe. If you love sweet treats, you’ll definitely find one (or ten) thing that tickles your fancy on the 20-odd page menu.

5. Delve into the Basicila Cistern

The largest of numerous cisterns beneath Istanbul, and a location used in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia With Love, the Basilica Cistern is an architectural feat and a perfect spot for all the history buffs. 10 points to anyone who can get a photo that isn’t stupidly blurry from the poor lighting.

6. Try Shisha at Harabbe Cafe

There are hundreds of Shisha places across the city, but one kitsch place stands far above them all. Tucked in the back of an alley, this little haven has an amazing selection of food, drinks and shisha flavours, and offers both an outdoor and indoor seating area laden with cushions and edgy decorative features.

7. Wander around Topkapi Palace

I’ve seen a lot of impressive palaces on my travels, with ones in Venice and Tokyo really standing out, and wasn’t expecting to be blown away whilst in the taxi to Topkapi. Boy, was I wrong. After walking through the numerous gates, I was shocked to see such stunning buildings and landscaping perched against the Bhospurus watefront. As if the grounds weren’t beautiful enough, the interior design was some of the most magnificent I have ever seen. You aren’t really allowed to take pictures in there, so I couldn’t get many photos, but I’m sure there are more dotted about online.

8. Cruise on the Bosphurus

Even if you have nowhere specific to go, hopping onto any of the routes (for as cheap as 50p per way) across this vast sea is definitely a treat, especially because most boats serve tea on board! Buy some ice-cream beforehand, or simply have a nice cuppa and enjoy the view.

9. Go shopping on Istiklal Street

Rivalling Oxford Street and 5th Avenue in length, Istiklal Street is a long, long, street. But hey, long walks aren’t all that painful when filled with copius amounts of stores and restaurants to visit! Besides, there’s a cute albeit useless tram to look at on the way..

10. Chomp a famous kebab delicacy at Hamdi Usta

You could fall over and accidentally land on the doorstep of a kebab joint pretty much anywhere in Turkey, but one place that really stayed with me was Hamdi Usta on the Uskudar watefront (with a great view of the Kiz Kulesi by the way). Although a little annoying to get to, I recommend making the trip as it serves the one and only Cökertme Doner: tender lamb doner served on a bed of straw fries and baba ghanoush. They have quite a few delectable variations, as well as the standard kebabs you might expect at a Turkish restaurant. My pictures don’t do it justice, since I just wanted to eat immediately, but hey, you win some, you lose some.

Visual Snow Syndrome: My Journey and Cure

Disclaimer: First and foremost I would like to state that I am not a medical professional, but rather somebody who has been officially diagnosed with VSS, a neurological disorder affecting visual and auditory senses, by neurologist Dr. Mark Weatherall. My diagnosis was in April 2019, approximately 4 months after experiencing my first symptoms, and just over 1 year on, I am happy to report that over 90% of my issues have resolved, with marginal improvements month on month. The following is my story, based on my experience: many will read this in the hopes that the changes I made will work for them, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t, but remember that everybody is different, and therefore my recommendations may not necessarily resolve all of your issues. However, several people have now asked for this post and despite it being extremely personal, I thought it would be useful to give others hope that things do have the potential to get better at the very least. Also, please note that the pathology for those with lifelong VS (i.e from birth) and those whom acquired it later in life seem to be vastly different, and as a result, I cannot speak for how my recommendations will affect those experiencing the former. Ultimately, the purpose of this post is for it to be helpful by providing another anecdote: if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment and I’ll endeavour to get back to them as soon as I am able.

Also, at the end of my post, I have created a link to a collection of screenshots I collated in relation to improvements and full recoveries made by others. Feel free to check that out too! 🙂

How It Began

After a stressful few weeks in the winter of 2018, I began to experience severe headaches that ranged from aching to stabbing, as well as weird burning sensations that would spread from my head to my face and neck. Around 3 weeks into this, I started to become very anxious – I had never experienced headaches like this before, and as my mother had had a debilitating stroke in her late 20s, I stupidly thought it was my turn. Days filled with little sleep and terrible panic attacks went by, with numerous trips to the hospital, but I was often ignored and sent home with the comment, “It’s just a migraine.” I tried various anti-migrainous medications (propranolol, naproxen, sumitriptan) none of which dulled the pain, and was left to get on with it.

It was in late December that I woke up to what looked like television like static across my entire visual field: everything in sight was covered by a grainy overlay. I felt physically exhausted, dizzy and nauseas constantly, and no amount of rest or medication helped. In early January my symptoms worsened, and I began to experience the following (please note that the dates in brackets refer to how long these symptoms took to resolve completely):

Light and sound sensitivity (3 months)
Static (7 months – gone completely in the day, bit grainy in pitch black)
Strong afterimages (10 months)
BFEP, with excessive floaters (5 months)
Starbursts (10 months, marginally ongoing)
Halos (5 months)
Ghosting (7 months)
Double vision (8 months)
Shaking vision (reduced but ongoing)
Poor night vision (7 months)
2D vision (4 months)
Tinnitus (8 months)

On top of this I experienced non-visual symptoms that included:

Dry eyes (5 months)
Eye pain (4 months)
Muscle spasms and twitches (3 months)
Sinus isses (3 months)
Attacks of numbness and weakness on the left side (2 months)
Chest pain (3 months)
Gastrointestinal issues (2-3 months)
Heart racing excessively on minimal movement (3 months)
Dizziness and disorientation (5 months)
Depersonalisation (5 months)

Of course, the variety of these symptoms led many doctors to believe that I was suffering from hypochondria and anxiety, but my GP wanted to push through and conduct numerous tests to rule out anything sinister. I had extensive bloodworks done, an MRI of my brain, carotid arteries and cervical spine, as well as chest x-rays, abdominal scans and neuro-opthalmological testing. After weeks of analysis, I was given the all clear, but from my research I found that this was quite common for those experiencing VS.

My Appointment with Dr. Weatherall

Despite my tests being negative, I knew something was wrong. I did some investigating and decided to see a neurologist familiar with the disorder to give me some kind of explanation and hope for improvement. After looking at my medical history and doing some tests, Dr. Mark Weatherall quickly confirmed that I was experiencing VSS. He made clear that this is a condition that has only recently gained a lot of momentum, and described the phenomena as a neurological issue stemming from the brain’s incapacity to filter natural processes. Static, after images, BFEP and such are all normal phenomena, even tinnitus, but those who do not have VS are able to filter that information out.

He had explained that he has had patients who have woken up with it after surgery, experienced its onset after a severe migraine or even a concussion, and that its cause is relatively unknown. I have heard of individuals who have had it after giving birth, taking illicit drugs and even had it as a result of taking a vaccine. It seems to be a disorder able to present itself due to various stresses on the body, and although varied in its cause, the way in which it is described across the globe highlights that it is, in fact, the identical phenomena being experienced by everyone.

Based on research, his recommendation of taking B2 (400mg), COQ10 (400mg) and Magnesium Citrate (600mg) came from a time when medical research presented VS to be very closely linked to migraine. He said that although this has been disproven somewhat, there is still a relationship there, and he believes that those who have VS are naturally unable to metabolise the existing B2, Magnesium and COQ10 in our bodies, so supplementing could help. Trying this regime for ideally 6-8 weeks, or for longer if possible, could help your symptoms, but I am aware that some have tried and experienced no improvement in their symptoms. I personally tried this and noticed a gradual improvement, though I have to say I stuck to that regime for around 4 months.

Above all, the best news that came from this meeting was that there is hope. He has seen around 110 patients with VSS and explained it as self limiting, in that he has personally seen individuals, both his patients, and Dr. Goadsby’s (the leading neurologist studying VSS), where symptoms have resolved on their own without medicinal intervention. He stated that some of his patients never came back to him, and he suspects that this is because things had improved or become bearable for them. He also explained that VS often goes misdiagnosed and unreported, and he imagines that there are many people among those individuals who will have improved too, statistically speaking based on results with his own patients. The medication he mentioned to me that has shown some improvement among his patients was Keppra, but I wanted to avoid heavy medications for as long as possible as I know how bad side effects can be, especially after hearing that some SSRIs actually have the capacity to cause VS.

One other important thing he mentioned was anxiety. A lot of the VS community hate hearing this, and at the time, I did too, but there is truth in that anxiety does push this disorder to a level that can become soul destroying. He told me he understands that this condition causes significant anxiety and depression, but the key is to treat both the VSS and anxiety parallel to one another, as one fuels the other. Tolerance to VS symptoms will likely improve if your anxiety is controlled and that made a lot of sense. I found in the first few months my days were spent constantly being afraid of what I saw, but as soon as I accepted that there was no imminent danger, as well as believing I would improve and trying to live a normal life, my attitude and symptoms began improving for the better – but more on the specifics later.

The Course of Action

When all of this began I was in a state of panic: I had no idea what was going on and neither did most doctors. I felt like the future of my health lay in my hands, and I took it upon myself to read hundreds of medical articles pertaining to VS treatment, as well as speaking to those who experienced and overcame VSS. Most recommendations from those who improved, or completely resolved their symptoms, had the same underlying message: address your overall health, both body and mind. This seemed to make sense after a while as since there was no real evident reason for the development of the disorder, at least one a doctor could identify, I thought of it as a powerful warning from my body to me. Something obviously wasn’t quite right, either chemically, hormonally or whatever it was, and I may never know the real answer, but this imbalance had obviously manifested itself in a visual and auditory way, and although depressing, it’s useful because it cannot be ignored. As stressful as it is, after a while I realised that since this disorder could never be ‘out of sight out of mind’, I would always be working hard to address my general health to improve it, if not cure it. Please note that the changes I am about to discuss didn’t result in linear improvement, the journey with a recovery from VS is very much up and down: in fact, 3 months into my regime things got a little worse as my visual field began shaking on movement (kind of like oscillopsia), which didn’t help the already upward battle.

A lot of the VS community online seem to sideline those that improve by insinuating that they are psuedoscience supporting quacks that are bullshitting a vulnerable group of people in order to push an agenda. Though there may be a few individuals that have used VS as an opportunity to make a quick buck, there are too many regular men and women I have spoken to that have simply improved and shared their stories with no links to buy a miracle pill and no overpriced coaching sessions – just an insight into their story. I don’t know if the stubborn refusal to believe that it is possible to improve, and that there is no such thing as a permanat state of being, is due to a feeling of jealousy or due to Western indoctrination so fierce that the idea of anything other than standardised packaged medicine aiding your health has now become inconcevable for most. You need to understand that the list of symptoms I experienced were so intense, and so all-consuming that I was unable to function as a human being for several months. The improvements I have listed are legitimately quantifiable, as I often conducted measurable experiments on myself to see how much progress I was making. For example, when it all first hit, I was unable to see myself in a mirror from 1 foot away due to the density of the static: it was completely distorted and fuzzy. Every few months that went by I realised that I could make my face out from further and further away from the mirror, to today, where I’m standing 10 feet away from my mirror and am able to make out a small coffee stain on my jumper – great, right?

Regardless of any negative attitude towards people who have gotten better, too many people have asked me to share my story. If it benefits even one person, then for me it’s worth it: God knows that I scoured the entirety of the internet in search of people who improved to give myself hope in what was probably the darkest time of my life. I want people to be able to come back to this post and remind themselves that things do get better, and if it got better for me, an ordinary 25 year old London girl who is now able to do normal things like attend a crazy go-karting session (as pictured in the feature image), it can get better for you too. Below are a list of things that I believe aided my development. Before you go on to read these, I want you to understand two key things.

Firstly, this is not a quick fix. The changes you make will not mean you are VS free by next week. These are long term lifestyle changes that are going to be difficult to implement: you have to persevere for as long as you physically can. It took a whole year for me to see changes, and people that I have met in the VS community have improved after 2, 3, and even 7 year marks. Everybody is different, every case of VS is different and thus: every journey to improvement will be different, which leads me smoothly on to my second point.

Making these changes might not necessarily cure you as it did me, but I need you to take into consideration that a majority of the anecdotes you find online regarding improvements encompass the below details – and that isn’t a coincidence. If after making all the effort of change, you don’t see any positive changes to your vision, I can at least guarantee that it will improve your overall health, which will put you in better stead to deal with all the problems that VS may cause for you and more. And who knows, maybe in several years, it may all just disappear as randomly as it appeared. All I know is, if somebody told me this when it first hit, I’d make every change possible even if there was only a chance as little as 1% that meant I’d be closer to my normal self in the future, and for me it worked for the most part.

What Helped

1. Extensive Testing

The most important thing to address when all of this happens is that you have extensive testing to ensure that there is nothing more serious going on in the background. For most, VS is relatively benign in that it has no immediate health impact other than the distortion of your visual, and for the extra lucky, auditory senses. However, some people can experience VS as a result of more serious medical complications such as Multiple Sclerosis, and so, to give yourself peace of mind, you need to be able to comfortably say that you have done enough testing to know it isn’t something imminently dangerous. There is a bit of an issue with this step however, as when you have an illness that is confusing to almost every medical professional you speak to, you find it hard to stop the testing period. I personally spent months in this phase because I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t dying, which I felt like I was. I had diverse symptoms that sent me to numerous medical departments, and there were times where I felt absolutely exhausted from being in hospitals and being sent away, to the extent that I came to the realisation that trips to A&E were not solving my problems, they were worsening them due to the stress, anxiety and depression it was causing to be turned away with no aid.

What I would suggest is that you prioritise appointments with your GP for generic bloodworks and xrays, as well as getting a referral to a neurologist and neuro-opthalmologist, who will undoubtedly want to see MRIs of your brain. If you have other symptoms, like gastro issues (which I had) it might be worth getting an abdominal scan: though when I got mine, it was all clear. The point I’m trying to make here is do what you need to do to ease your mind, but realise that you may be chasing an answer that the medical community may not have, and this relentless chasing will tire you and depress you to no end. After you’ve done what you need to reassure yourself that you aren’t going to drop dead in a few weeks, just stop. Of course keep seeing your neurologist and undertake treatment plans that they propose with your own discretion, but stop hunting for an answer, because guess what? 95% of the people I have interacted with on the VS group on Facebook (which has now amassed more than 10,000 members) have no real medical problems other than VS itself. If you stop looking for answers regarding why it happened and what specifically is happening, you can focus your energies on making changes to fix it, even though it’ll be a bit of a stab in the dark at first. At the end of the day there are no real medications that can fix this, and there are no obvious processes recommended by doctors, so you have to try things and listen to your body, which is the next best thing. After all, isn’t that how we survived and evolved over the last two millenia?

2. Diet

Recognising the validity of the statement, “Let your food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food” my first course of action was to address my diet. At the end of the day, what we put into our bodies has a huge impact on our health. Things like processed food and sugar alter our brain chemistry, and the hormones injected into our food interfere with our own hormone regulation, so there was certainly a lot to consider. My diet has always been relatively clean, as I never eat ready meals and hardly ever have junk food, but I did have a lot of takeaways in my time, as well as the occasionally crap that slipped through. Please do watch documentaries such as ‘What the Health‘, ‘Forks Over Knives‘ and ‘Supersize Me’ – all of which are available on Netflix. Although I am not promoting veganism, these documentaries provide a great insight into how certain foods can affect our body, with particular focus on the impact of processed foods, which is where I took most drastic action.

When it came to my diet overhaul, I initially just cut out as much processed food as possible. If it came in a packet, or had an ingredient in it that wasn’t a raw, natural food, I didn’t have it. I genuinely just reverted to having clean organic meats, vegetables and fruits for about 7 months and did my best to cut out processed sugar as much as possible – of course, as I got better over time, I became a bit more relaxed with these rules, but by and large, I stuck to it. This doesn’t mean that your food now has to be bland and boring, but rather you need to really take care of what chemicals, additives and preservatives you are ingesting. Many packaged goods you’ll grab off the shelves will still contain E numbers, MSG and other toxic rubbish, and if you want your body to heal, the best starting point is giving it the nutrients it needs. I understand that fresh foods, especially those that are organic, can be very expensive and out of reach for most, but I urge you to consider the cost of your health. It’s invaluable.

3. Supplements

I think one of my greatest developments occured when I started seriously researching the health benefits of various supplements and incorporating them into my regime. Although your vitamins and nutrients are best taken from the food you eat, sometimes one’s diet simply may not be varied enough to ensure that the minimum daily recommended allowances are achieved. Furthermore, many people’s bodies are unable to efficiently metabolise vitamins to the extent that an adequate amount is absorbed into the body. There are also numerous other factors that affect your vitamin intake, a common one, for example, is that countries in the Northern hemisphere do not often get enough sunlight, which causes a lack of Vitamin D, an absolutely vital vitamin for our body, in entire populations.

What I would first do is try to get a blood test to see if you have any deficiencies, and base your vitamin intake on that, but the vitamins I have used the last 8 months or so are listed below, seperated by essentials (ones I took every day without fail) and additionals (ones I took in short bursts here and there based on how I was feeling). I cannot stress enough that you do your own research on this to ensure you understand the purpose of each vitamin, what dosages are appropriate for you, as well as which ones contraindicate the others – for example, never take Iron and Zinc at the same time as it can cause gastrointestinal distress. I cannot specify the quantities I was consuming for every one below as every individual is different and should base their intake on recommended daily allowances, however whilst some vitamins are fat soluble, meaning they dissolve best when consumed with food, others are water soluble, meaning you can take them with water at any time to ensure optimum absorption. Again, do your research on this and ensure you have a regime set in place if you are going to try supplements, as it would be pretty awful to have dished out a whole load of cash on supplements, only for them to be consumed incorrectly and thus, not metabolised by the body.

The brand I used has exclusively been Viridian (unless otherwise stated in brackets) on the basis that they are organic, clean supplements with no added sugar or copper. But there are many reputable brands across the world (another being Solgar) and as long as you check the ingredients to make sure there are no random additives in the capsules, then it should all be fine.

Essentials:
Omega 3 Fish Oil 1200mg (Wiley’s)
Vitamin D3 2000iu
Ester-C 900mg
Magnesium Citrate 300mg x2
COQ10 200mg x2
Probiotics (Optibac)

Additionals:
Iron
Zinc
B2
Turmeric
Ashwaghanda
Bilberry and Eyebright
L-Theanine
5HTP
Acetyl-L-Carnitine
Spirulina (Synergy Natural)
Chlorella (Synergy Natural)

4. Exercise

Exercise is a really important one, not just for your general health, but for healing your body in times of mental and physical weakness. When we exercise, our brain releases various chemicals that boost our immune system and improve the functioning capacity of our bodies. I hardly ever exercise unless I’m trying to lose weight, but in this instance, around 6 months into VS I really started taking it seriously after hearing that people who improved their VS had incorporated things like cardio and yoga into their daily routines. It really doesn’t have to be too technical, as long as you get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes each day, even if it is walking your standard 10,000 steps a day at speed, it’s enough. I’m no scientist, and really wouldn’t do the specifics justice, so I have linked a Ted Talk that excellently explains the various benefits of exercise and how it changes our brains for the better.

5. Sleep

When my headaches first started appearing, the anxiety and worry meant I was getting about 3-4 hours of sleep a day, for several weeks. I felt depressed, run down and exhausted on top of all the symptoms, and it was when I really started focusing on getting good quality sleep that I began to regain the energy, motivation and mental stability required to improve. People don’t really realise that good quality sleep is as important to our bodies as food and water, after all, we spend a third of our lives doing it. Moreover, our bodies are designed to rest and repair during sleep, and I found that the more I was getting regular, undisturbed sleep, the better I was feeling the next day. I think exercise really helps with this: if you are active enough during the day, you will be as physically tired as you are mentally, and so when you get into bed you are more likely to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep until the morning.

What really worked for improving my quality of sleep was setting blue-light filters on my electronic devices to ensure my body is ready to shut down by the end of the day, not drinking any water 3 hours before bed time so I wouldn’t wake up in the night, and most importantly, setting up a regular sleeping schedule that meant I was sleeping and waking up at the same times everyday for as long as I felt I needed to. Some people only really need 6 hours of sleep, but I feel my best at 7 to 8 hours each night. I would try to ensure you are asleep by 11pm, as deep sleep is best achieved in the earlier hours of the evening.

6. Preoccupation – Family, Friends, Hobbies and Work

Another thing that really helped me survive the initial stages of this was preoccupying myself, initially with family and friends, as I was in no shape to engage with hobbies or work. Of course the topic of conversation was always around my illness, but even so, the point is essentially to get out of your own head and interact with other people to stay sane. A lot of the first weeks involved sitting around with my family and chatting, crying and talking about life. As time went on, we sat around watching shows or going for walks. I know I can say for sure that my boyfriend is probably now triggered by every board game on the planet as all we did day in and day out for a good few months was play boardgames, as I was reluctant to look at screens.

It is difficult, but you have to preoccupy your mind with other things to ensure that your primary focus isn’t your visual problem. I know that it is hard for it to be out of sight out of mind, but in the end, I found that despite being a visual problem, that is not true. I am absolutely certain that any time I was deeply engaged in something, I was able to cast my mind aside of the visual difficulties that often initially got in the way. This took a lot of time, but it did happen in the end. Even now, with some residual symptoms, I go by days without thinking about any of it, and that shocks me since at the start, I thought about it every minute of every day.

When I started to improve a little, I pushed myself to get a part-time job to give me some diversity with regards to my day-to-day. My family have an organic wholefoods store, so I worked there for 5 hours one day and it was probably the most horrendous experience of my life. I was tired, dizzy, disoriented and confused. Everything was shaky and miserable, and interacting with customers put me on edge. At the end of my shift, I went home and cried, and felt pathetic that I couldn’t even manage a shift at such a simple job. I didn’t want to go back, and I actually didn’t for a few weeks, until I plucked up the courage to go again. It was still crap, but I just kept pushing myself and trying until I realised that at about 10 attempts in, I felt absolutely fine. I wasn’t dizzy, it wasn’t too much and I could do it. After two months I went back almost full time, doing roughly 30 hours a week, and although I was exhausted, I was training my body to do it, and it was doing it successfully. Roughly 3 months on from that, I was functioning as I normally would have, and was ready to get back to my original profession.

It’s now been almost 4 months, and I am working full-time at a FTSE50 data company as a Client Relationship Manager, and I am having no difficulties. A lot of my symptoms have disappeared of course, but even the residual ones I barely notice because I am so engrossed in enjoying my time and growing my skills at work. Also, I don’t know if you have noticed, but being in an educational or working environment means you are interacting with other people, which means that it isn’t always about you and your problems. You realise that there are dozens of people around you with their own issues and hardships, and that despite it all, everyone wants to talk about work, politics, TV, music etc. It is good, both for your mental and physical health, to work up towards throwing yourself back into these environments if VS has made you withdraw from them. It helps your brain shift focus, and in my mind, that shift in focus has almost made me forget the VS altogether. There are times I sit there and I force myself to see an afterimage like I used to, and I just can’t see it. It’s almost as if casting it aside has made my brain completely forget what it all looked like during the severe stages. I still do see minor afterimages if I am in pitch black and look at my phone screen and look away, but I no longer get it off random objects and people in the day, which I used to get all the time.

My point is, remember what you loved doing and do it again. Of course, start small: speak to your friends, go swimming, do some colouring, listen to music, cook a meal etc. Then let it grow: start exercising, watch shows, play games, go to a restaurant, try a part-time job etc. All I know is, I started small and I kept pushing myself to reach normality, and after a year, I’m finally there.

7. Accupuncture

I was always the type of person to laugh at things like accupunture, and cast it aside as random mumbo jumbo that people were conned into. But of course, desperate times call for desperate measures and in the end, I gave it a go because I was willing to try absolutely anything to get better.

Boy, was I wrong. I partook in around 10 weeks of accupuncture and it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. When you go to an accupuncturist, initially you’ll have a consultation where you can discuss all the issues you are having, and the consultant will then decide on the best approach for treatment. Although the first few didn’t make me feel any different, after a while I had a greater sense of energy and clarity. It was in this period that my BFEP had significantly reduced, as well as a lot of the flashing and weird visual anomalies. I also had loads of gastrointestinal issues and body pain that were completely eliminated in this period, which I think was aided by my taking up yoga too.

8. Therapy

I really think speaking to a professional in the initial stages of this is quite important, as going through a complicated illness that not many people understand is absolutely heartbreaking and demoralising. You have essentially experienced a trauma, and some may even say a bereavement with regards to health, and so talking through your emotions with somebody that can help break down negative thought patterns might be useful to you.

I spoke to a CBT trained counseller for about 3 months at the start, and after I had felt like I had spoken through everything I needed to, I stopped seeing her. Therapy seems to have a stigma around it, but it is essentially just an opportunity to discuss what’s on your mind with an impartial individual, who is trained in techniques to help alleviate some of the emotional difficulties you are having. What I would say is, don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it – it certainly helped me!

9. Tracking

The human memory is a fickle one, and sometimes we are unable to remember absolutely fundamental changes in our lives. Especially when it comes to illness, we can become complacent and forget how far we have come.

One thing that genuinely helped me through this was making a list of symptoms I had at the start. Originally, I had done this to share with my doctor, but what I actually found over time was that I was using it for something much more important to me.

You see, when I first got sick this list was huge: there were about 25 different things under a heading of ‘Symptoms’ in the notes app on my iPhone. But over time, I had to create another title underneath called ‘Improvements’, which is where I would move a symptom I no longer had. Of course the first time I did it, it didn’t look that impressive. 24 symptoms and 1 improvement in a month, great! But over time, as things changed and improved, the improvements category got bigger and the symptoms category got smaller. When there were ever occasions in my journey where I felt that I had stagnated with regards to improvement, or I just felt as though nothing had changed and I was still living in hell, I was able to refer to my list to remind myself how far I had really come.

Make a list, and make it extensive, and as things chop and change, update it. If you ever forget where you were at the start and where you are now, reminding yourself will give you a huge mental boost, and keep you motivated to reach the end goal of completely eradicating your symptoms category.

10. Attitude

Understanding the significance of neuroplasticity is extremely crucial – our brains don’t just stop developing and changing when we reach adulthood. Everything we do and don’t do impacts our wellbeing.. that includes each and every thought. Whether or not something is real or imagined, neurons fire in our brain and chemicals are released. From a neuroscientific perspective, imagining something and doing something aren’t always that different. An example is from Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself. Some neurologists conducted an incredible experiment: they told one group of people to raise their index finger up and down 15 times, 3 times a day for a month, and they told another other group to imagine in detail lifting their index finger 15 times, 3 times a day. By the end of the month, the group who physically did it gained 30% muscle mass on the finger and the group who imagined it gained 22%. This is not an isolated incident. Scientists all over the world have proven the power of visualisation, meditation and exercise in healing and improving the way our brains function. That’s why, it certainly makes sense that the account of people with improved VS have taken up such things as extensive exercise, mediation, healthy eating and much more. Most of all, the people who seemed to have gotten better are also those who have adopted positive attitudes. Achieving these things take time and patience: being positive in a time like that can be very difficult but I cannot stress enough that it was this shift in outlook that was one of the greatest steps I took to improve my vision. And even if the end result isn’t what you wanted, you will have gained a healthier body and mind with brilliant strategies to cope with the anxiety and depression that this disorder can bring. Once you have those strategies, you have equipped yourself for anything that may come your way for the rest of your life. I am absolutely certain that changing your attitude is the biggest step, and a documentary titled Heal on Netflix is an excellent one to watch on that.

I’d also really recommend reassessing how you utilise social media to monitor your situation. A lot of people with VS have joined the Facebook group and use it to ask questions and monitor updates on developments in the VS world, but this can be both a blessing and a curse. Although the group had been very useful to me in the initial phases of getting VS, I found that I became very obsessive and spent hours a day browsing it, to the extent that I wasn’t doing much else because all I wanted to do was reassure myself that what I was experiencing was normal. The problem with this is that your life becomes completely orientated around VS, and you are constantly seeing panic-stricken anxious updates from people about all of their different issues that may not necessarily apply to you, but that you may suddenly start noticing – which is an incredibly dangerous situation to put yourself in.

The group is a useful thing to be a part of at the start to meet like-minded people and ask some burning questions, but after you have taken what you need (which for me was anecdotes regarding improvements to reassure myself that things would get better) I recommend you leave the group, at least until you are more emotionally stable, so that the posts on there do not feed your anxiety and fears. Remaining in the group for extended periods of time can have a negative impact on your attitude, which I believe will seriously impact your recovery. Many people who have improved had left the group in order to preoccupy their minds with subject matters other than VS, and that is a really important factor to consider for your general wellbeing and mental health.

11. Gratitude

To those of you struggling, I know how hard things can be, and it’s never a suffering contest, because your pain is valid, but I ask that you try to be grateful for what you do have. The woman in this video I have linked at the end is deaf and blind, and still finds a way to find joys in life. She is relatively independent, and even boards trains on her own to travel by using the sensations of movement to determine where she is. My own mother had a stroke 20 odd years ago and doesn’t have the use of her right arm and leg and is often in pain, but she is still happy and grateful for what she does have and is living a full life eating good food, travelling to see her family, going shopping and gaming. What has happened to you and I is saddening, and it may have robbed some months and years from us, but try not to waste too much time wondering why it happened and wondering why things aren’t getting better when you aren’t changing things up to see what helps. If you want change, you have to make change, and the best you can do is try.

12. Acceptance

Acceptance is something I hated hearing in the initial phases of all of this as I absolutely refused to accept the fact that this was my life, and I was stuck with shitty vision and what many would consider, ‘a broken brain’. But I don’t want you to accept your current state and move on with your life, I simply want you to accept that this is how things are for now. It does not mean you are stuck like this, nor does it mean that your situation cannot improve, but simply taking a moment to accept that you are going to have to deal with VS for a chapter of your life will genuinely help you recover. Below is an amazing video that highlights the sentiment, “You are not stuck with the brain you have, you can make it better.” It is Ted Talk from a man who has conducted studies based on 87,000 brain scans, with evidence that you have the power to improve your brain function through simple lifestyle changes – ones that I have already mentioned, in fact.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLKj1puoWCg

I’m Not 100% Just Yet

A stark reminder to you all that although I have seen miraculous improvements over the last year, I am not 100% yet – rather lingering at around the 90%-95% mark. My vision still jitters when I walk, and there are moments that I do have bizarre visual anomalies, but those don’t bother me because I always remind myself how far I have come, and how few of those original symptoms I have left. I feel happier, stronger and healthier, and I have gone from being bed bound, depressed and crying for months to having a brilliant full-time job and social life packed with activities ranging from dinners to demanding holidays. When I first got VSS I genuinely thought my life was over and that I could no longer be normal, but if anything, I am now more appreciative of my life and am living it to the absolute fullest with nothing holding me back. Anyone can get better, and many people have. Don’t let somebody else tell you that your VS is permanent when people are recovering from ‘terminal’ cancers and life-threatening strokes every day.

Evidence Beyond Myself

As I said earlier on in this post, I scoured the entirety of the internet (facebook groups, reddit, youtube, VS tapatalk forum and personal blogs) to find stories of recovery. One of the things that really helped me get through the first couple of months of this was knowing there was a way out: that if it was possible for at least one other person out there to cure themselves, there was no reason why it wouldn’t be possible for me. So I spent several days collating screenshots of posts I found online that indicated positive changes and saved them in a folder. In times of fear, worry and doubt, I would look through them and remind myself that it can get better, and if I ever felt as though I was stagnating with my recovery, it would remind me that people improved at different rates. I used to look at those screenshots for hours a day, and then it gradually turned to once a week, to once or twice a month, to if I randomly had a low mood. It has now come to a point where I don’t actually remember the last time I looked at them, but despite not using them anymore I still appreciate their value, and so I would like to share it with you. If you click this link, you will be taken to a post with all the screenshots I took. I hope that in addition to my story, the several hundred short stories on there will push you in the right direction to recovery by reiterating the first step: believing that it is possible.

I hope that this post gave you some hope to carry on fighting this thing, and that it is a useful source of information to come back to. I will likely post an update 6-12 months on from this to catch you up on how I’m doing, so if you would like an update on that please do follow my blog from the link on the right of this page – that way you’ll receive an email every time I post on here. 🙂

The Only Chocolate Cake Recipe You Need

Whenever I google a recipe and find one with high ratings, I excitedly click on it, only to find that the author has essentially decided to write a novel before finally revealing the recipe right at the end. I scroll endlessly to get to the good stuff, and still, after seconds of arduous scrolling, I’m reading about how the recipe came to them in a dream they had after waking from a nap in some meadow somewhere in the countryside. As this has always been infuriating for me over years of cooking and baking, this post will not be one of those posts. I love to write, and I’m all for a good story, but I know you’re only really here to bake a delicious chocolate cake and get on with your life. So here it is: a quick, no fuss recipe for the lightest, tastiest chocolate cake you could ever want, given to me by an old friend in college.

Ingredients

Cake:
225g Plain flour
200g White granulated sugar
100g Good quality cocoa powder
1.5tsp Baking powder
1.5tsp Bicarbonate of soda
2tsp Vanilla essence
2 Eggs
125ml Vegetable oil
250ml Milk
250ml Boiling water

Icing:
200g Chocolate (Preferably half milk, half dark – but play around with this depending on desired sweetness)
250ml Double cream

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Combine all the cake ingredients in one bowl, apart from the boiling water, and whisk until combined.
  3. Gradually add the boiling water to the cake mixture, whisking as you do, until you have added it all and it has become a very runny consistency. Do not let the wateriness worry you as this is key for a very fluffy cake base. Trust me on this.
  4. Thoroughly grease a baking tin with butter, or sunflower oil, and pour in the cake mixture. If you find it difficult to cut a cake in half, I recommend baking it in two identical tins but please note that this halves the cooking time.
  5. Chuck the cake in the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a knife comes out clear after you have given it a stab.
  6. Whilst the cake is baking, it’s time to make the icing: simply get a pan, pour in the cream and break in the chocolate.
  7. On the lowest heat possible, gently stir the cream until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is thick enough to coat your spoon.
  8. Take the icing off the heat and leave to cool for 1-2 hours, stirring it every 20 minutes or so to speed up the cooling process. As the temperature drops, the cream should become thick enough to spread.
  9. Once your cake is out of the oven let it cool completely (please be patient with this, as cutting/icing a cake while warm is a disastrous process) and cut it across the middle.
  10. Spread the icing on the middle layer, place the other half on top, and cover the remainder of the cake with all the icing. Voila! You should now have the most delicious chocolate cake on the planet, ready to chomp with your loved ones. Oh, and as much as you probably won’t want to, please do share this cake with others, as I don’t want to be responsible for fattening my readers.

Serving suggestion: I really recommend serving this with some double cream, and if you’d like to freshen it up, some berries of your choice.

A Trip to Columbia Road Flower Market: My Favourite Buys

After looking at my living room and noticing a lack of greenery, because, you know, I killed all my other plants, I wanted to go ahead and do a big plant shop. It’s lovely to walk into a home that resembles a garden, and it’s honestly such a therapeutic process to repot them, water them and watch them blossom, literally.

I grew tired of buying whatever was on offer at my local B&Q and spoke to my good friend Alia Shakir (yes, I exclusively befriend people with names similar to me) and she recommended I visit the Columbia Road Flower Market in Shoreditch. Weirdly, despite it being a 30 minute bus ride from my place, I’d never heard of this gorgeous little haven: set up on an edgy street paved with kitsch coffee shops and inviting antique stores, it really is a fun day out. The hipster in me was excited from the get go, and from reading this post you’ll find that it was for good reason.

Before You Go

From doing some research I found that the most important rule of visiting the market is getting there early. It’s only open on a Sunday between 8am and 3pm, no matter the weather, and it gets mind-bogglingly busy fairly quickly. If you do want to snag a deal, the traders slash their prices after 2pm to get rid of stock but be warned, you might be left with a sad wilting cactus after everyone has grabbed all the good stuff if you choose to come nearer to the end of the day. I’d also recommend taking someone with you to hold your plant purchases so you can continue to have hands-free to browse comfortably. It’s a small market but there is a great deal of choice: you’ll find yourself walking up and down over and over again, pretty much trying to stop yourself from buying one of everything. And finally, don’t forget to come ready with rucksacks to store your new friends safely: the last thing you want is to buy a pretty calathea and end up with a pretty dead calathea because it got smushed in a crappy plastic bag en route to its new home.

My Best Buys

Chris (my boyfriend) and I arrived for 8:30am, and the street was already beginning to fill up with tourists and keen millennials looking to decorate their homes for the perfect jungle vibe, so we had a bit of a challenge on our hands. After grabbing a delicious latte from Jack Garcia Coffee we began our hunt. The biggest surprise of the trip were the prices: I simply assumed that steep London prices would prevail here especially, but lo and behold, everything was as cheap and cheerful as it gets.

My first buy was a gorgeous English Ivy (£6.00), pictured in the feature image, followed by a large Croton (£18.50) to be the centerpiece of the living room. Soon after that was a Calathea (£9) for the table, and two little cacti: the Flaming Katy and Fairy Washboard (2 for £5) for spots yet to be determined. I have done a fair bit of research on how to keep them alive this time, and have bought potting soil, fertilizer and a plant mister, so the game is on. Stay tuned for a post about how to keep your plants alive in a few months, though the creation of that post is very much dependent on whether or not I actually manage to do that, but of course, fingers crossed.

Want to order plants straight to your home? Use my code ‘Aila Bicer’ at https://www.patchplants.com/gb/en/ to get a free plant with your first order!

The Best Sushi Spot in London: Oka, Kingly Court

I have been relatively addicted to sushi since my aunt introduced it to me at the youthful age of 10, and although the alarming mercury content of salmon put me off for a while, I still can’t resist a sushi meal at least once or twice a month. I spent a lot of my adolescence gravitating towards the famous high street chain, Wasabi, and failing its presence, its inferior counterpart Itsu, purely on the basis that it was convenient, cheap and surprisingly tasty. However, needless to say, the cheaper boxed alternatives don’t quite hit the spot like a good quality Japanese restaurant does, and when I discovered Oka at Kingly Court in Central London, I could never go back to Wasabi without feeling like I was being cheated.

Firstly, I would absolutely recommend you try the Salmon Nigiri (£3.50). The portion of fish atop the rice is incredibly generous, with a ratio of almost 2:1, and will leave you wondering whether or not to sack off the entire menu and just buy 10 more rounds of nigiri. Following that with some Salmon Hosomaki (£5.25), which is again full to the brim with the good stuff, will leave you ready for the pièce de résistance, the Red Dragon Roll (£11.95). Topped with spicy mayo and tuna tartare, this panko prawn roll will steal your soul and send you to heaven. One of the reasons I keep going back to this restaurant is simply because of this little beauty – which you can see a snapshot of in the instastory below – alongside, of course, the gorgeously crispy but overpriced Karaage Chicken (£8.25) and a confused boyfriend (came free in a cereal box).

The beautiful feature image of this post is of the Mixed Sashimi (£13.95) which is a brilliant choice if you’re feeling a little spenny. Including salmon, tuna and yellow tail, it’s a great option if you want to keep things light by shying away from carbs. However, despite being a scrumptious option, I would say that it isn’t completely worth the price tag when there are some excellent, and more filling, rolls with better flavour profiles on offer at the £8 – £10 price mark.

Sadly, I didn’t have much room for dessert after all that food, but peeking over at my neighbouring tables made me realise I’d have to go back and eat a little less sushi in order to try what looked like the gooiest hot cookie dough I have ever seen.

Overall, if you’re looking for a reliable sushi spot in London that isn’t going to leave you homeless (ehem – Sticks’n’Sushi), definitely give Oka a shot if you haven’t already. With decent prices and a very adorable ambience, it’s perfect for a casual catch up with friends or an intimate date. Located in the heart of London with branches in Primrose Hill, Chelsea, Barnes and Marylebone, you really have no excuse not to pop in. And hey, in the bitter end, if your company fails you, at least you’ll have fond memories of melt in the mouth fish to keep you going.

Have you read my introductory post? Check out https://overtoaila.com/2020/01/08/a-saturated-market/ for a peek.

A Saturated Market

I have always absolutely loved documenting things. I suppose it could be said that it’s simply human nature, because after all, what are we without our memories? For as long as I can remember, I dedicated many hours to writing diary entries about my run of the mill days, which often included bizarre streams of consciousness and rants about pretty much anything an angsty teenager would make their concern. I guess I have always been quite conscious of the fact that the mind is a fickle thing, and that we have the tendency to forget some of our most cherished thoughts and memories, so jotting things down and reflecting on them years later became quite the addiction. As soon as I was allowed a phone that had the capacity to take pictures that didn’t look like it was taken on a potato, I dropped the writing and started taking photos of everything, and I mean everything. When the world was blessed with Instagram, things  changed quite drastically. Not only could I take photos, but I could collate the best ones onto a feed that would effectively be the ‘best bits’ of my photo library, highlighting the most exciting events or holidays I had going on, or simply putting out aesthetically pleasing content for others to enjoy. It was great, until just last week I caught myself scrolling through the thousands of photos of my phone and thinking, “Wow, I don’t even remember going to that museum” and “When the hell did I try that gorgeous looking lobster roll?” Instagram, though a great platform to display pictures of beautiful food and holiday snaps, didn’t solve the problem of documenting the highlights of my life, if anything it didn’t do it enough justice.

It’s now 2020, and I’ve surprisingly made it to adulthood. My life has settled in that I graduated from the trauma that was university and have a stable job I enjoy at a FTSE50 company. I live in a lovely home with my boyfriend and I now have time on my hands to do the things that I have always wanted to. For a long time I didn’t really know what that was since the average millennial’s favourite pastime is often mindlessly scrolling through social media (which I have done too much of – what, I like memes okay?), but I think I finally know. I love writing. When I can write about things that interest me, I feel most content: it has honestly become therapeutic in ways I could not imagine, and my God do I need some therapy after the life I have lived. But since I also love taking photos and curating them alongside my writing, as well as being able to share what I’ve written or captured with the people in my life, it makes sense that the natural course of progression is to start blogging.

I know it’s very late in the game to join the world of blogging and I must admit I have tried to in the past, but due to my general lack of effort towards pursuing passions other than eating, binge-watching shows and travelling, most of my ambitious projects had embarrassingly fallen through. But this time, I feel like it’s a little different.

Most bloggers will tell you that you need a niche to stand out in a saturated market, but I’m not really in this to stand out and change the world. I’m in this first and foremost to document things and have another small space in the world that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional, where I can look back and think, “Damn, look at all the cool shit I did.” Secondly, I want people to benefit from my many experiences. I have travelled so much of the world, been to so many restaurants, tried hundreds, if not thousands, of beauty products and spent years killing plants and finally figuring out how to keep them alive and for what? Of course, I am grateful for every moment I have been given to enjoy the pleasures this world has to offer, but wouldn’t it be nice to share all that information so that it can provide others with inspiration, entertainment and knowledge?

I thought it might be, and so that’s why I created ‘Over to Aila,’ so, you know, you can go over to Aila’s and read some stuff. Hm, that was a bit cringe. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to this, and I’m going to make sure this project doesn’t fall through. Besides, it can’t. I already paid for the domain.

Check out my first restaurant review at https://overtoaila.com/2020/01/09/the-best-sushi-spot-in-london-oka-kingly-court/ 🙂