The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time…

A few years ago I was recommended a book entitled ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time’. It was written by Mark Haddon and follows the life of fifteen year old Christopher Boone who happens to be autistic. I am a huge fan of books generally and was really looking forward to reading it. We were going on holiday to Italy and I popped it straight into my hand luggage.

My brother is on the autism spectrum, so I was intrigued to read how Mark had created Christopher, was he like my younger brother? Did he portray autism in the right light?

Well, I absolutely loved reading Christopher’s story (and not just because I was reading it whilst sprawled across a bed in the Southern Italian sunshine!). Mark had composed the book beautifully

Mark has created a wonderful character in Christopher. He is so lovable and relatable, yet also incredibly intriguing. I adore the way he thinks and his complete innocence with regards to the world. He is also very matter-of-fact and literal. His character is complex and enchanting. It’s not just Christopher who has had great thought put into his character development. All of the characters are wonderfully conjured up in a matter of such realism that they could actually be your neighbours.

The storyline is brilliantly gripping. Taking you in one direction before firing off in the next. It’s a slightly bumpy journey – the right kind of bumpy. Enough to keep you reassured that you are going somewhere without completely throwing you around like a cricket ball in the summer. 

Needless to say I fell in love with this book. It wasn’t because of the relatability or the storyline, but simply in the writing. The voice that is given through the thin paper pages. The creation of Christopher’s life. The writing is simply awesome.

For me, I treat each book individually and even if I am head over heels with a book by an author, it doesn’t mean that I am automatically sold on their other work. Each book has been crafted a certain way and I’ll know almost immediately if it will make it onto my favourites list. 

Obviously, I am not the only fan of Curious, and it has won many awards. Not to mention been transformed into an award winning play on Broadway and the West End. As a huge theatre fan, I know how hard it can be for a new play on the market. Many gems have closed early because of public reception. It’s a hard and fast business with huge overheads and sadly if it’s not a massive profit maker, it has to go. Thankfully, Curious has not fallen victim to a terrible fate of closure and is still going strong. We recently went to watch it at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End. My husband and I went with two friends. My husband and my bestie’s love both hadn’t read the book, so the play was a complete surprise to them. I was actually a bit worried because whilst I love the story and it is quite popular, I think that ultimately you will either get it or despise it. Fortunately, we all loved it!

Obviously, there are many differences between the book and the play, but the play works flawlessly as it’s own entity. The set is mind blowing with such articulation and creativity. It’s simple, yet full of surprises. The stylistic approach to choreography is exceptional and of course the actors are wonderful. I was fortunate enough to be sat in a ‘prime number’ seat and my name translated into a ‘prime number’, so I won a free badge. Cheers Chris! The way the play is constructed brings the audience into Christopher’s mind and allows you to really be present.

With regards to how Mark Haddon has portrayed autism, he’s done a fabulous job. The way in which he draws attention to how Christopher is treated and how he thinks is brilliant and I am glad that he managed to highlight how people aren’t always so understanding. Although this is terribly sad, it reminds us that we are all human and allows us to be reflective.

In case you hadn’t gathered, I would highly recommend Curious for both an evening out or an evening in!

L x

A little reflection…

A couple of weeks ago I hit up our local cinema to watch the movie ‘Suffragette’. I’m such a sucker for anything to do with history, so was quite looking forward to it. The movie follows the story of the suffragettes’ fight for equality and their campaign. I can remember studying their plight at school, but couldn’t remember all of the details, so it was nice to have a watch and appreciate what they did for the future of Great Britain. 

There are so many things that we take for granted, for example the right to vote, and it’s easy to forget that not too long ago the equality that we embrace so much now wasn’t always the case. 

I am a firm believer in equality. I believe that we are all completely equal no matter where we are from, what car we drive and who you love. I find it absolutely bonkers that people would think any different. I think it’s insane that when my grandparents were growing up women had such a small say in how things were ran. When my Mother was growing up, there was a lot of racism around, which again is just ludicrous! I’m so proud of the campaigners who are slowly changing the world and making us more and more united. Hopefully by the time I have children, the world will be an even more friendly place. 

Festive traditions…

There is a distinct chill in the air this morning (Who am I kidding – it’s literally freezing and I woke up to a lightly dusted snow garden) and it has become quite apparent that the festive season is rapidly approaching. The shops are beginning to be all but completely taken over with vibrant red Christmas delights and the adverts are plastered all over our television screens and billboards. I’m not going to lie I simply adore Christmas. I am such a summer girl, but Christmas makes winter just that bit more bearable. The dark evenings are alive with sparkling light displays and almost everyone is in a good mood. I love planning activities such as ice skating, indulgent dinners (this one is not limited to Christmas!) and choosing little gifts I think people will love. I embrace decorating our home and blasting out the Christmas tunes.

There are some things that appear to have become a tradition in the Hargest-Kemp household:

  •  We always put our tree up on December 1st and take it down on January 1st.
  •  We always design our own Christmas cards and I start dishing them out on the first of December.
  •  I always have a Hotel Chocolat advent calendar 
  • I always dress poor Holly in some festive attire. 

Somewhere inside this materialistic, self indulgent festive period is a tradition that crept in four years ago. 

Volunteering at Crisis for Christmas.
Crisis is a charity that focuses on helping the homeless get back on their feet and at Christmas they open shelters for guests to stay in for a whole week. A whole week of hot dinners, safe sleeping and showers. Things that most of us completely take for granted. However, Crisis is actually much more than that. They are just the basics. Crisis also helps people reignite their lives. They have hairdressers, dentists, doctors, performers and IT helpers all coming together to make the Christmas week at Crisis life changing. They help people find a home, a job and a fresh start and it really is something special.

I first decided to get involved with Crisis when we purchased our first home. I had a funny couple of months where I had been unwell in hospital and I just felt so grateful to be alive, surrounded by such loving and supporting family and able to own our home at such a young age. My gratitude highlighted the fact that a lot of people aren’t that lucky and I wanted to do something to help. Christmas was approaching and I wanted to help the people who really needed it. I donate to charity regularly and I used to volunteer at a charity shop for Cancer Research, but I wanted to do something hands on and that something presented itself as Crisis. I had a look online and found out about the charity and what they do, how volunteering works and what I would need to do. I then signed myself up for a couple of shifts in South London and before I knew it I was chatting to guests and handing out bedding. I was very nervous about going because I didn’t know what to expect and I was going on my own. I needn’t have worried though as everyone is super friendly and high spirited (not too high spirited though – that would be annoying!). I really enjoyed my first shifts. It was so lovely meeting the guests and hearing their stories, not to mention how Crisis was helping them. What some of these people are going through is absolutely horrendous and just having somewhere warm and safe to stay means so, so much. Banish all thoughts of soup kitchens –  the centres are alive with people taking part in craft activities, karaoke, football tournaments and just having a good time. 

From the moment I left my last shift, which was the day the centre closed, I knew I would be back the next year. When the shifts became available for the following Christmas I quickly signed up and so did a friend of mine, Sarah. I was so excited that she would be joining me and helping out. The centres need a huge amount of volunteers to keep them up and running, so every body really counts. 

The following year, Sarah and I returned only this time my Mum and brother also volunteered. I started to recognise volunteers from previous years and it just felt so natural to be there. 

This year, we are all planning on volunteering again (already signed up!), and my friends Alex and Nick are coming along to provide entertainment for the guests. They are both talented musicians and I know that everybody will enjoy listening to their festive cheer. I’m so excited for them to be involved.

I always volunteer on Christmas Eve and I honestly can’t imagine a Christmas Eve at home now. For many people Christmas is about spending time with people that they love, this is true for me too, but I also like to spend Christmas with people spreading love. We can become so terribly absorbed with modern day life, the latest trends, the largest homes and incredible experiences, but it’s important to sit back and just be. Just take a moment to appreciate what you have got rather than lusting after what you think you need. Appreciate that you are in a position where you don’t need to worry about where you will sleep tonight or if you will spend your birthday alone. Just enjoy the here and now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy volunteering and whilst the centres are transformed from donated offices, colleges and youth centres, it has to be made to happen. It’s hard work and exhausting, but worth every second. So on Christmas Eve this year, I will be continuing my own tradition of slipping on my volunteering badge and traipsing to a location in London to provide a little bit of festive cheer to someone who needs it. I can’t wait! 

L x 


Life in LaLa land…

I’ve been writing recently about our wonderful honeymoon to the West Coast of America. We started off in Las Vegas, before hitting up Hawaii and Anaheim for some Disney fun.

We spent a couple of days in Anaheim as I wanted to be within walking distance to Disneyland. We’ve been to three different Disney parks and I know exactly how full on Disney days can be. Trust me, the last thing you need after prancing around after Mickey all day is a long old journey back to the hotel. You just need to get in and flop. Plus I’m pushing thirty these days and I need my bed!

So once we had exhausted Disney, we travelled to Long Beach. This was our base for the rest of our time in Los Angeles. I chose Long Beach so we could get away from the hubble and enjoy our honeymoon together. It worked out perfectly, Long Beach has a lot to offer, without the crowds and expense. They have a beautiful Marina with a few shops and restaurants. It’s perfect for an evening stroll.






Not to mention the little chocolate factory where you can buy chocolate covered brownies. Totes delish!

We had a few things planned for our time in Los Angeles and were lucky enough to be gifted a Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Whilst it only took a couple of hours to look around everything, our guide was very knowledgable and we had a lot of fun.  

The Harry Potter museum aspect of the tour is a cute addition and a gentle nod to the mammoth Harry Potter tour that we have in Leavesden. Naturally, I was sorted into Gryffindor and Phil into Slytherin. This amused me way more than it should have.

Phil was pretty excited to hit up the Batman exhibition and we learnt lots of facts about the vehicles used in the movies. It was pretty cool!

I was super psyched to investigate the set of Friends and sit on the couch in Central Perk. I’ve always adored Friends and enjoyed channelling my inner Rachel having a coffee break!

They have a few green screen areas where you can pretend that you are in the movie. Here’s Phil starring in Gravity!

Another highlight was being able to hold an actual Oscar! They are quite weighty and pretty awesome.

As we were quite close to the Griffith Observatory, we decided to visit after our tour. 

It’s such a special place with incredible views. We had a great time in the planetarium, although the person next to Phil fell asleep early on, so the soundtrack had a gentle simmer of snoring to it!

We also decided to hit up Universal Studios whilst we were in town. I was really looking forward to the studio tour and Jurassic Park ride and I can honestly say that they didn’t disappoint. The tour was absolutely brilliant, we got to see so many amazing sets (including Wisteria Lane!!!) and there are a couple of 3D experiences thrown in which were pretty rad. My advice would be to go on the Jurassic Park ride early on so that you have time to dry off. You will get wet. Very wet.

Whilst we had a fun day at Universal, I can’t help but feel that the Hollywood park is not quite up to scratch with the Florida park. We actually had tickets for two days but felt that we had seen enough after one. They currently only have eight rides although they are adding a Harry Potter part that will open soon.

On our last full day in Long Beach we just soaked in it’s beauty. The marina, beach and southern Californian lifestyle. We ate lunch at an AMAZING Asian fusion restaurant. Honestly it was so could that I think I could eat all of my meals there for eternity. It’s called Wokano. Check it out!

We also borrowed bicycles and cycled along the beach. It was my favourite bike ride of all time and I adored the carelessness and freedom that came with that vintage bicycle. We rode for miles, stopping for ice cream and a paddle. It was heavenly.

So there you have it. The moment I fell in love with Los Angeles. I would live our time in LA over and over again because they were so special, loving and ultimately magical.

L x

The happiest place on Earth…

If you have visited my little blog before, you may have read that my husband and I got married in July and two days later embarked on our honeymoon adventure to the West Coast of the United States. 

We started our adventure in Las Vegas and then flew to Hawaii. After our Hawaiian adventure, it was time to fly to Los Angeles.

Neither of us had visited the West Coast before, but a few of our friends had and they have always commented that we would fall in love with Lala Land, so I was quite excited about going.

I must admit that I had a lot of preconceptions about sunny Los Angeles including that everyone would be stunning at all times and I would resemble a garden worm. Thankfully the reality was that everybody was pretty much the same as people are anywhere. All different shapes and sizes, perfectly imperfect and wonderful as they are. Although I was fortunate enough to clap eyes on an absolutely stunning life guard whilst strolling along Long Beach. Remembering that I am a newlywed, I managed to refrain from throwing myself into the sea, arms flailing and looking like I was in trouble. Instead, I stuck with my wonderful new husband and drew the conclusion that a paradigm of a hunky life guard does exist and can be found flexing his tanned muscles in Long Beach. 

My other preconceptions were that it would be beautifully sunny and warm (which it was) and littered with palm trees (there’s quite a few about), so I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

The first stop during our stay in Los Angeles was a couple of days at the most magical place on Earth – Disneyland.

I bought our tickets before we left and from the moment I held that tiny piece of cardboard in between my fingers I was positively bursting with excitement. I mean, who doesn’t love Disneyland?!

Over in California, Disneyland is celebrating being open for sixty years. Sixty whole years of having Disney becoming a reality. What a time to be alive!

They have two parks – just like in Disneyland Paris. One is of course the iconic Disneyland and the other is the California Adventure park. We were slightly concerned when we were greeted with this sign upon arrival to the Disneyland vicinity:

Although the signs were a bit freaky, they certainly didn’t stop us from risking death and happily we skipped into Disneyland. We later discovered that these signs are quite common in California and apparently it’s due to lead being present in the area.

Our first stop was the California Adventure Park. I was pretty psyched to see the iconic Mickey Mouse wheel and this park closed earlier than Disneyland, so we decided to explore it first. 

It certainly didn’t disappoint and we loved all of the different rides that they have. Phil really enjoyed the California Screaming coaster. I wasn’t brave enough for that one, so readily shoved him down the single riders queue and watched him whizz around the track, doing a loop the loop.

The lovely folk at Disney had asked us if we were celebrating and when we told them that we were on honeymoon, they presented us with badges. Which we proudly wore both days we were at Disney! 

My favourite thing about the Disneyland Adventure Park is their Cars ride. The queues were over two hours long all day, so we almost didn’t bother. We waited until just before closing time (10pm) and jumped in the queue as it was a bit quieter. I’m so glad that we did because we only waited about twenty minutes and it was awesome!

 It combines the magical Disney aspect of animation with a fast paced thrilling race. It’s just brilliant! I adore this photograph so much because I feel like it really sums up our Disney experience – fast paced and full of fun.

We also enjoyed watching the water show in this park. It was a really moving tribute to Walt and was called ‘World of Colour’ or something like that! It was full of beautiful projections of Walt’s life and achievements. What a remarkable gentleman.  

We were lucky to be blessed with beautiful sunshine for pretty much the entirety of our honeymoon and it was wonderfully warm. Which was great for exploring the parks.

The main Disneyland park was pretty rad too, although I found their castle very disappointing. Maybe I’ve become a Disney snob, but in Florida and Paris both castles are spectacular and really iconic. In California its… Well it’s more like a house. A reasonably sized house. Certainly not a castle fit for Disney. I think they need to rectify that. Even the bobsled mountain is bigger than the castle and that’s certainly not what I would refer to as a Disney landmark. 

On our second day at Disneyland, we mostly explored the main park as we pretty much covered the Adventure park the day before. There is so much to do and look at that you could probably spend a week there and not get bored. I do feel like we saw everything though. We went on every ride except for Space Mountain. There are quite a few rides that are different to Paris and that was really refreshing. The rides that are the same are actually all slightly different too which was cool. I also enjoyed the fact that everything was in English because in Paris I either have to concentrate hard or not bother listening to the information! 

 We really enjoyed the shows in the main park. They put on the most tremendous firework display that was absolutely remarkable and full of magic. We loved it. You haven’t seen a firework display until you’ve seen a Disney one!

Disney parades are reknowned for being truly amazing with even the grumpiest of souls being warmed by a wave from Micky on his majestic float. Well they have a parade that is the Mother of all parades going on at night. An amazing array of colour and design with all of your favourite characters and songs. Honestly it’s pretty special!

My top tips for visiting Disneyland are:

1. Go to the rides with the shortest queues first

2. Work out which parades and shows you want to see and what you are happy to miss

3. Stay late. And when I say late I mean closing time late. All of the rides have shorter queue times in the evening

4. It’s often quieter when a major parade is on

5. Be prepared to be a single rider if you don’t want to wait long

6. Go on the water rides early in the day so that you have time to dry off

7. Make good use of the Fast Pass system, even for shows!

8. Get the park that closes earliest out of the way first

9. Be prepared to be on your feet all day and pretty much ache all over by the end of it!

10. Have fun! Enjoy it, release your inner child!!!

So there you have it – a tiny snippet of our time at Disney California. We had so much fun and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

L x