What I'm listening to for driving inspiration

I don't know about you, but I'm motivated by music. 

Working, dancing or driving, I love music.  I've been lucky enough to see my favourite singer-songwriters live lots of times, since heading to Blackpool for my first concert at the age of 11; almost missed seeing Shakin' Stevens as I was so ill with excitement the night before. But I struggled on, and a love affair with live music was born.     

A lifelong writer, I probably appreciate country music more than most other genres, with a couple of rock storyteller exceptions.  Tingles start behind my ears at a kick drum or steel guitar, but as long as the story is there, I'm hooked.  There's been a definite surge in my writing lately, which has something to do with the music in my trusty Fiesta. 

So, here's a little insight into who I can't stop driving and writing to: 

Kip Moore 
Kip Moore, Koko,London April 2016
Kip's first album, Up all Night has just gone Platinum, and with his Springsteen-esque approach to lyrics, it's not hard to see why. His second album, Wild Ones (2015) and third album, Slowheart 2017) are usually always in my car - I swear my car runs on Kip, not petrol.  If you have the chance, see him with his band, Slowhearts, live - great guitar-laced energy on stage. 

Stereophonics, Plymouth Pavilions, 2013

I've never had a bad night with these Welsh rockers.  Saw them in Plymouth this Summer as they showcased their new music, #AllinOneNight, and celebrated their 20th anniversary of Word Gets Around.   I have their next album, Scream above the Sounds, on pre-order. How will I distract myself until 3rd Nov?


Fireroad: Flesh, Blood and Bone CD

Well, now, I also can’t stop playing Flesh, Blood and Bone from this band of Welsh rockers. Fireroad supported the Stereophonics on their their gad-about-the-country this Summer, and I absolutely can’t wait to see this band perform again (they're appearing at London's Borderline on 28th December, Santa!) Talented musicians, spot-on vocals and they sound like I'm listening to all my favourite rock bands (Foo Fighters, E-Street, Stereophonics, The Who), wrapped up in addictive originality.  I have Minute, Devil's Letter and Bones on repeat; They Got Sound

Tom Chaplin
Tom Chaplin, of Keane, Plymouth Pavilions, 2009

I was lucky enough to see Tom play in Cardiff in May, and love his solo album, The Wave, an honest account of his battle with mental health issues.  You may know him as the voice of Keane, who I've also seen in Plymouth a few times, and I have much love for this piano-based music.  I now have my eyes open for child-friendly gigs; five year old Mini absolutely loves I Remember You, and has nailed most of the lyrics. Beats the hell out of Wheels on the Bus. 

Logan Brill 
Logan (is) Brill, London 2017

I got to chat with Logan at this year's Country 2 Country festival and Ireland's inaugural Harvest Festival. A fabulous singer-songwriter with clear vocals and stories to tell. I play Shuteye frequently, and especially love The World's Still Round, which had an exclusive UK release in October.

Bands I also stream a lot at home are: 

Rock and storytelling is almost as addictive as country and storytelling, and this veteran band of the 21st century from Kentucky are loud and honest.  

It’s not often I can impress my almost 21-year old nephew with new music, but the rock-guitarist in him couldn’t resist Gasoline Outlaws - he's also known about Black Stone Cherry for far longer than I realised, so I'm going to nab his phone for inspiration next time I see him. 

Chris Janson 
Effortless and insightful country lyricist who I'm desperate to see over in the UK. Multi-talented musician with insane harmonica skills and a penchant for Mountain Dew. 

Who have you been listening to lately?  I'm always on the lookout for new music - drop me any suggestions in the comments below! 

5 Reasons why Beach Staycays are better than LongHaul Vay-cays

I know, I know, next month is the start of Autumn, and once again it's raining.  

But you don't need a long haul trip to a faraway land (AKA the sun) to feel rejuvenated. 

Here are my favourite five reasons for enjoying a seaside staycay, rather than jetting off on a long haul vaycay.  

PS: Just so you know - I'm planning on a few long trips more than once next year.  But that's for the shopping and music :)  

1. Money

There is a definite argument for saving money by having a staycay (no need for an extortionate passport or four) but normally overseas there are cries of “either eat well or visit that gorgeous landmark”.  Enjoy a weekend at your nearest seaside, and it’s not so bad paying £2.50 for an ice cream on one of the world’s best beaches, even though we could almost buy a tub of Ben and Jerry’s for that price. 

St Ives, Cornwall

2. Weather

Ever wondered why us Brits are great at discussing the weather? 
Spend a weekend near the beach in the summer.  
On a holiday in the proper sun, our fair, pale, intriguing skin spends a lot of time indoors in air-conditioning, or our clothes are covered in SPF50.  Plus - that feeling when you’ve enjoyed a staycay in the sand without rain?  #OwnedIt!


3. Adventurers

With around 11,000 miles of Great British coastline, not to mention over 100 habitable islands, you’re never far from a beach, even if you live in Derbyshire (strong contender for furthest point from the sea).  Plus, you can live in your car, carrying everything you need, whatever the weather. There’s a reason the world’s greatest explorers hail from this part of the world.  
No car? No problem: I give you the holiday camp experience; 12 daily  hours of children’s activities for your little adventurers.

Butlins, Minehead

4. Food

Family and food go together anywhere in the world, but there’s nothing like introducing your child to these delights for the first time:
Cream Tea 
(Mini does it the Devon way – clotted cream first. I like the Cornish method of jam first, so my teeth can sink into the cream: gorg.)
Fish and Chips 
(granted we live in Plymouth so she’s had a few of these on the seafront, but each one is a new experience)
(Mini insists on chocolate every time, like Mr S15S always opts for vanilla; the more flavour the better as far as I’m concerned)
(she’s getting there – she loves the crust).
The Full English. 
Need I say more?

Porthtowan Beach Cafe, Cornwall

5. Beaches

Step aside from the main tourist beaches, and there are some outstanding finds in the UK. On our recent trip to Cornwall, in only three days we happened across 10 stunning beaches. You know...the kind that puts St Ives in its place.   We also popped over to Bigbury, only 40 minutes from Plymouth, and it was full of potential Olympians getting their first taste of the water in surf, swim and sail clubs.  And no trip to the UK seaside is complete without dipping your feet in the chilly surf for a paddle.  It’s why there are so many fish and chip shops near the beach.
Whitesand Bay, near Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Where’s your favourite seaside staycay? Would love to hear your adventures! 

Chicago: 48 Hours in the Magnificent Midwest

I first discovered Chicago in 2013, and have been fortunate enough to return several times since, usually for 24 or 48 hours, so I highly recommended this HIIT city destination. 

I also managed to fit in a 12 hour shopping trip layover when I visited Belize in April 2016.

A serial East Coast traveller (remember when everyone travelled to New York for a weekend break?) a work opportunity arose that saw me book a flight to Chicago for onward travel to a little student town called Champaign; four-hour return Amtrak trip, and well worth a visit for a true taste of America (they even have a freakin’ Dairy Queen).

Flights are around 9 hours direct from the UK, and, depending how organised you are, range from £500-£800 for economy return.  

For reasons I’m about to go into, I enjoy staying at Hilton O’Hare (the only airport hotel; handy for layovers) or the Hilton Rosemont (one MTR stop from O’Hare and an entertainment haven).  City-centre hotels are very competitively priced, stay near the Magnificent Mile to hit most of the attractions.

Must-eat Meals
When in Chicago, you have to try the Deep Dish Pizza.  Available all over the city. Garretts’ gourmet Popcorn is a perfect souvenir...just make sure you buy a few bags for yourself.  A great Ghiradelli chocolate shop offers you a free chocolate on arrival, each time you walk through the door; do with that information what you will.  Every other snack and restaurant chain is available.

Okay, okay, so what should I do with 48 hours in Chicago?

24 Hours in Cardiff

I love celebrating Christmas in May, don’t you? 

Last weekend I enjoyed a whirlwind visit to Cardiff, seeing (the fabulous) Tom Chaplin, off of (the amazing) Keane, thanks to my Christmas present from (the gorgeous) Mr D.

Now, I never have a bad time in the Welsh capital, and have stayed here a fair few times - love how accessible the city is....plus, the shops are open until 7pm! Anyway, no time for city-centre shopping on this trip. 

Here’s how we managed to spend our 24 hours of parental freedom: