Monday, 28 April 2014

Focus Wales Round Up

I enjoyed my Wednesday night out at Central Station, as part of Focus Wales so much that I went back on both Friday evening and Saturday to check out some more bands. And more great bands there were.

I had too much of a good time on Friday night with a lot of Beer and Tequila consumption and ended up missing a couple of the bands so I thought I'd just tell you about the stand out bands that I saw on both days instead.

First up (and I note not the best picture I've ever taken) were The Bluebottle Veins at The Commercial. Now The Commercial is that kind of dingey, dark pub that every town has but the staff are friendly, the drinks are cheap and the atmosphere there was great.

The Bluebottle Veins are a local four-piece band comprising members Terry Cowley, Gareth Jones, Steven Owen & Dylan Tattum. They describe their sound as a visceral mix of rock 'n' roll & blues. These guy's went down a storm in the packed pub with their cool sounds and guitar riffs, similar to The Arctic Monkeys I will definitely be going to watch these gents again.

Heading over to Central Station I was impressed by the sounds of The Earth. The trio, lead by singer Dionne Bennett really brought a soulful sound to the evening. Dionne has an amazing 'out there' afro to go with her powerful and sultry voice. Now I love a good femaile lead singer (my previous obsessions being Skin from Skunk Anansie and Shirley Manson of Garbage) so The Earth were a great listen for me. They also got people down on the floor dancing which was a welcome sight.

Unquestionably the bext band of the night though were Islet. Formed in Cardiff in 2009 they describe themselves as 'a band without rules'. Islets sound is best described as Art Rock. They really get involved in the live performance jumping from the stage into the crowd for interaction. They also switch up instruments as they play. I can honestly say that I've never seen any act similar to Islet and their show/sound.

I was completely blown away and I really think this band will be huge in the future. The crowd at Central agreed and Islet left the stage to a rapturous applause!

 Moving onto Saturday I decided to take my little mokey Riley to see some good bands in a bid to steer him away from the sounds of Justin Bieber and One Direction! Focus Wales set up a big stage in the centre of Wrexham, Queens Square.


 The square was buzzing with people and lots of little stalls and fairground attaractions. After hooking-a-duck and grabbing a brownie we took a seat in front of the stage and checked out a couple of the acts.

Grace Hartrey was first up bring her cool acoustic sound to the stage. We both really enjoyed her set. She is a very talented songwriter with a lovely voice. I would liken her to KT Tunstall in style.

After a wander around between sets Queen Beats Jack brought the music back to the square. A four-piece band featuring accoustic guitars, percusion and a double bass their sound is a mixture of Folk & Jazz. There was a lot of support for these local guys and both I and Riley danced along as they entertained the audience.

Unfortunatley the rain brought an end to our little day of bands and we sadly headed off home. Focus Wales has been truly brilliant this year though and I look forward to attending it for many years to come.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Focus Wales - Welcome Party

Something exciting is happening in Wrexham at the moment (for a change). Focus Wales, an interactive music and comedy festival is celebrating it's fourth year with a brilliant line-up of bands, key speakers and comedians.

Now I've never been to the festival before so thought this year I'd head down and see what was going on and I'm so glad I did! My friend Alex was covering the event for his blog ( so I tagged along (and took advantage of his Press pass) to the welcome party, held in Central Station to drink some beer and catch some bands.

 Central Station is a nice little music venue based in Wrexham. I've seen some great bands here in the past though I'm guilty of not having been there in quite some time. A key venue in the Focus Wales Festival (, the club is opening it's doors to over 30 bands over the next few days.

There are two stages: one for the rock element; and one for the more experimental Indie bands. Beers purchased we headed off to the main stage to see Blood Lips.

The venue was fairly quiet due to it being early on a Wednesday evening but Blood Lips, described as playing dark guitar music got the night off to a great start. The three piece were incredibly good for a new band with their experimental but accessible sound.

Next up, on the more intimate stage, were Mizkai. Describing themselves as 'beginning life as a Petri-dish of sugar solution based in a secret laboratory nestled somehere in the quaint British countryside', Mizkai were up to the challenge of shocking and entertaining the audience. Supported by a neon clad dancer and a rather ominous bunny, Kairi Mori took to the stage looking like an authentic Harajuku girl to play her 'Nintendo' beats. 

At one point I did question how many beers I'd consumed but to be fair, while this isn't my type of music, the trio really entertained the crowd with their unique act.

Back on the main stage I re-entered my comfort zone with the commercial rock sounds of The Undivided.  The South Walian anthemic-rock act took to the stage where lead singer Joe Disson entertained the crowd while heckling them about the lack of enthusiasm in the room. I felt his pain. The crowd didn't get involved and despite the bands effort the atmosphere was kind of dead. Still a great band that I think will do well in the future and are sure to be hitting the Summer festival scene soon.

 Electronic pop-duo Mike Payne & Maff Stenning (aka Half Avian) brought an ambient sound to the night on the smaller stage. The act were great and I could imagine them playing at an exotic beach party somewhere tropical to a trendy crowd, however they really would have been better starting the stage off after Mizkai's antics got the crowd going.

"Sheffield-based purveyors of punk-edged grunge mayhem" Steel Trees where up next. A blend of mainstream rock with a heavy metal element, courteousy of their bass player, their sound was very appealing to the ears. I was incredibly impressed by their drummers 'Octopus-like' skills too. A band to watch in my opinion.

Baby Brave, a Wrexham based foursome, provided the crowd with a chance to rest their years after Steel Trees with their cocktail of infectious guitar driven pop. I would liken them to a mix between Paramore and The Magic Numbers. A great local band that I discovered that night.

This is my favourite shot of the night. Orient Machine are a relatively new North Wales based rock band. Their sound was alternative and edgy which perfectly matched their look. I never realised Wrexham had such great bands, I'm a convert.

Luckily the best act of the night was to follow in the form of Bloodflower. Bringing 80's new wave into the 21st century lead singer Jonnie Owen showed off his impressive vocal range with some truly beautiful songs. With enough equipment to sink a battlehip the five-piece really kept the audiences attention with a polised set. Radio One DJ Huw Stephens has backed these guys as a great new act and that really is an awesome seal of approval.

Now if your into Heavy "my ears are never going to stop ringing'" metal, Bastions are the band for you! I was extremely impressed by this hardcore band from North Wales. Lead singer Jamie McDonald jumped around the stage like a man possessed and really gave his all to the short set. Extremely humble he dropped to his knees at the end making a heart sign to the crowd to show his appreciation.

Bringing the night to a close locals Camera rounded of proceedings well with their accesible rock. This band can be described best as a mash up of Elbow and Radiohead. The crowd went wild for these guy's and left them ready to dance the night away.

I think this 'artwork' in the toilet cubicle says it best! Focus Wales is doing a great deal for the Welsh music scene and I'm so glad I got to experience part of it. If you live around this area check it out. The event is running until tomorrow with a packed schedule of music and comedy.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Jason Vale Juice Detox

Now I know I'm well behind on this trend but I've always found juice diets rather dubious. I love my food and have always been rather reluctant to give it up for a period of time to live solely on liquids. But with my holiday fast approaching and feeling extremely bloated and tired I thought I'd finally give it a go.

I bought a juicer at the beggining of the year and have enjoyed making juices occassionally to get my hit of fruit and veg so I already had the main piece of kit. So Jason Vale is the 'Juicing King' and claims that in just five days you can loose 5lbs and reap the health benefits of a pure juice diet.

I read the book before starting and I must admit that the testimonials of those who'd done his other programmes was impressive. They'd all lost a minimum of 5lbs with some even loosing a whopping 10lbs in 7 days! A lot of people also reported that their health conditions had cleared up or improved. We're talking everything from Psoriasis to IBS.

I've been struggling with my skin recently so I thought "What the hell I'll give it a go"! Off I went to Morrisons to stock up on all the Fruit & Veg that I  needed. I expected the cost to be substantial but the bill was only around £40 and I left looking like I was ready to stock a Green Grocers.

 Now what I will say is this detox is hard. Jason says you wont be hungry as your body is getting all the nutrients it needs but you may suffer from caffeine and sugar withdrawals. The first day I felt extremely edgy and it was pure hell watching my 6 year old eat pizza. However by day 3 I can honestly say I wasn't that concerned about others eating around me as you have a juice every three hours so it was never long until your next one.

The juices range from delicious (Banana Berry Crunch) to barely drinkable (Minty Sunshine). And if your going to give it a go make sure that you have a god juicer as this will affect the quality of the juice. Half way through day five I was absolutely sick of juice and I couldn't consume anymore so I had a sneaky salad for tea.

Despite this last minute bail on my part I woke up the next day to see the scales down by 4lbs, my waist reduced by 2 inches and 3 inches gone from my hips. I felt great, not bloated at all and my skin had improved greatly. People complimented me in work and I had loads of energy.

All in all while the detox was a challenge I think the benefits it brought were well worth it. And while I cant see myself living on juices for a long period of time I will incorporate one a day into my diet and keep away from all the caffeine that I was putting into my body. Now I'm fighting fit and ready for Florida!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Books that have Inspired Me

I haven't been up to much recently. I've been trying to be good, staying in and saving for my upcoming Florida trip and lot's of Easter plans with friends. I've also just started the Jason Vale '5lbs in 5 Days' Juice Detox (more on that at a later date) so can't even share pics of tasty food I've created. 

With that in mind I thought I'd do a post about the books that have inspired me in the past few years since I know that I really enjoying getting good book tips. When I was youger I was a massive book worm and I still enjoy a good novel, although these days I go through splurges where I'll read nothing for months then about four books in a month. So anyone here are the top ten novels I've read so far:

First up is a bit of  a classic in my eyes, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. I read this way back in school after my science teacher recommended ready Wyndham's other novel The Chrysalids. It was a tough choice to choose my favourite but this one just pipped the other to the post.

The Day of the Triffids is a tale of ecological apocalypse! Bill Masen wakes up, blind, in the middle of the catastrophe. Once a mere botanical wonder, The Triffids have been unleashed and they have a taste for human flesh! Now this synopsis may sound ridiculous but trust me it makes for a great read.


Now I know there was a lot of hype 'Memoirs of a Geisha' by Arthur Golden when the film came out and while I don't like to follow the crowd ( a la '50 Shades'), I think this novel is sublime and well worth all the hype. I am a massive fan of Japanese culture and this book fascinated me on every level.

The tale of Chiyo/Sayuri's rise from a fishermans daughter to become a  famous Geisha and fight for the love of her life, this book will have you enthralled. If you haven't read 'Memoirs'  you must, it is one of my favourite books ever and they didn't do a bad job on the film either!

I discovered Ryu Murakami a few years back and proceeded to read every book he had ever written. 'In the Miso Soup' is a shocking tale based in Tokyo. Frank, an overweight American tourist hires local tour guide Kenji to show him around but the experience turns into the night from hell.

 'The Gargoyle' by Andrew Davidson is a beautiful fantasy tale about a couple's love throughout the centuries. I don't want to give too much away but I got so involved in this book that I was upset when it was over, beatuifully written, a real page turner.

Another classic 'A Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley has inspired so many other brilliant novels with the introduction of a 'Big Brother' society.

'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern is one of my most recent reads. I'd read a lot of good things about it so I picked it up from the Airport and immediately devoured it. It really is a magical and enchanting tale about a mysterious night circus and it's workers that pop's up all over the world.


Rachel Zodok is a South African writer and I absolutley adore her debut novel 'Gem Squash Tokolshe' which was shortlisted for the 2005 Whitbread Award. Faith is a child growing up in rural South Africa, fast forward 15 years and her father has left and her mother is dead. Faith must now return to the farm that she grew up on and face the horrors of her past.

I very recently read 'The Shining Girls' by Lauren Beukes and was very impressed. The story is based on Harper, a serial killer that stalks girls through the years and 'cuts the sparks out of them'. Creepy, intense and bloody brilliant!

'Burnt Shadows' is again based in Japan (do you notice a theme here), this time in Nagasaki and during an atomic bomb attack, it traces Hiroko Tanaka's journey through love and life.

And finally 'The Gunslinger' is part of a brilliant series called 'The Dark Tower' by Stephen King. I am an avid Stephen King fan and grew up on his horror tales. However he is soo much more than a horror writer having penned the likes of the brilliant 'Green Mile' and 'Shawshank Redemption'.

The 'Dark Tower' is set in a fantasy world with enigmatic hero Roland of Gilead - The last gunslinger and his journey through time and different worlds pursuing 'The Man in Black'. I have all seven books in the series, with the last four being hardbacks and beautifully illustrated. This collection is definitely one I'll be keeping for my son to read when he's older.

I heard rumours that it was to be turned into a series of movies and I can't quite believe someone hasn't snapped it up yet. I think Hugh Jackman would be the perfect 'Roland'. 

So there's an insight into some of my personal favourites. What about you guy's? Any tips as I'm struggling for my next exciting read and I'll definitely be needing a beach book for Florida.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Bubbles & Relaxation

I've become slightly addicted with Spa's of recent after having my first spa day experience a couple of years ago to celebrate my sister coming back from Oz. Theres nothing quite like indulging yourself in a few hours of blissful pampering, with the girls, to blow the cobwebs away.

Now Spa days can be an eye watering experience price wise which is why I regularly trawl sites like Travel Zoo (,  Groupon ( & Living Social ( for discounted spa experiences.

I noticed a great deal for The Lion Quays Spa, situated in Shropshire on Travel Zoo recently: £45 for four hours Spa access, a 50 minute treatment and afternoon tea in the Spa's brasserie! Now I've been to the Lion Quays Spa before and would recommend it so I just had to snap this one up.

So on Friday afternoon, armed with my sister Julie, friend Jenny and a whole load of fashion magazines we made our way to the Lion Quays for a few hours of R&R.

We started off with afternoon tea in Nico's brasserie. Note - Nico's do a whole range of great healthy salads and smoothies for those health concious souls. We were naughty and opted for cakes and prosecco instead.

Finger sanwiches, Carrot cake, Bakewell tart, Bara Brith and some absolutley delicious Scones with lashings of Jam and Clotted cream.

Probably not the best thing to eat before getting into your Bikini/Tankini but well worth it anyway. The cakes and particularly the Scones were really delicious and I would definitely visit Nico's again.

After we'd indulged our tummies we booked in for our treatments. We all opted for Full Body Massages and the next 50 mins whizzed blissfully.

Unfortunately I couldn't take any of my own pictures of the Spa but it has a whole range of facilities including a Sauna, Starlit Livello Steam room, Experience Shower and even the UK's first Snow Cave. You really do have to be brave to try that one but I must admit in small doses it was quite invigorating.

I managed to get some images from the website so you could see the facilities. I throughly enjoyed my four hours in the Spa and was more than a little bit devestated when I had to leave.

If your after a good old pampering session I would definitely recommend The Lion Quays Spa ( They do whole range of offers including mid-week pacakges and leisure breaks at the connecting hotel. I will be returning as soon as I can justify some more selfish me time!