Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Event: My First Tandem Skydive With Chicago Town.


If you'd have told me on the first day of June that by the end of the month I would have jumped from a plane at 14,000 feet I wouldn't have believed you. Skydiving is something that has always been on my bucket list, however it has always had a comfortable spot towards the bottom, as my fear of falling from heights at fast speeds over-rode my desire to jump from a perfectly good plane with a stranger strapped to my back.

Fast forward just over two weeks and I was hesitantly replying to an email from Jessica from Brazen PR, who had just offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the extreme sport on behalf of Chicago Town. In a brief moment of madness, Frances- the girl who once would have never set foot on a fairground ride- had signed up for her first tandem skydive*.


It was a fairly cloudy morning on the day of my dive and I spent the one-and-a-half-hour car journey from Warrington to Grange-over-Sands looking up at the sky and intermittently asking my grandad, "Do you think the weather will hold up?". To be honest, I'm not sure what I was hoping for- A part of me knew that I was now fated to jump out of a plane some time in the near future so I might as well get it over with as soon as possible, but the other half of me wanted another week or two to mentally prepare myself for it.

We were greeted by extremely friendly and humorous staff when we arrived at Skydive Northwest and after thirty minutes of training where we were briefed on how strong the harnesses were, how we were carrying not one but two parachutes and that our trendy leather caps were there to protect our tandem instructors, not us (no helmet is going to save you from a 120mph fall, silly!), we were placed in groups of three and it was time to meet our instructors and get kitted up.

My instructor, Peter Connor, led me over to the hangar where he handed me the sexy black ensemble that was going to keep me warm, and to some extent, safe during my skydive. I couldn't have asked for a nicer guy to trust with my life despite having only just met him- Peter kept making sure I was feeling okay, asked about my blog and what I had studied at uni and offered me some of his crisps, to which I politely declined (I mean, how was this guy even eating right now? I turned down pizza for this!)- If it wasn't for the fact that he was tightening a harness around me during all of this, I could have forgotten why I was there!
Afterwards, we waddled with the other divers and camera men towards the rather angry looking plane and posed for a few pictures before climbing in to the aircraft which ended up being quite cosy with ten of us crammed in between each others legs.


I can honestly say I felt no fear at this point. All of the experienced divers joked around and kept us "students" feeling relaxed as we sped down the runway and in to the air, and Peter quickly recapped with me what I had learned during the briefing. At this point I turned and asked him the much-anticipated question, "So, how long have you been doing this?", "Eighteen years, but I like to tell people that this is my third weekend", Peter laughed, "But no, I'm nearing 4,200 jumps now". I'll take that.

It took between ten and fifteen minutes for us to get up to 14,000ft, at which point Peter pulled me up on to his lap and attached me to his harness at four points on the hips and shoulders (really, is that it?). The door of the plane opened letting in a roar of wind and all of a sudden it all felt real. I was to be second out of the plane and as Peter edged us both forward I had my eyes glued to Jessica and her instructor as they positioned themselves at the door in front of me. I was almost shocked at how calm I felt as I witnessed them launch themselves in to the sky and fall in to the clouds below us in a matter of seconds. Peter grabbed my hand and gave it a last squeeze, "Just relax and enjoy the ride". Next thing I knew, I was dangling out of the plane, doing my best to smile towards my camera man, Duncan (who was casually clinging to the outside of the plane thinking he was Spiderman), whilst trying to remember my instructions; head back, hands on my harness and feet crossed underneath the plane.


The next minute or so was a blur. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a "holy crap, what am I doing?!" moment as my body entered sensory overload just as we left the plane; all I remember is feeling Peter rock us back and forth a couple of times for momentum, and then watching the plane shoot past us before seeing white, then blue and then white again as gravity did its job and we tumbled back down towards the ground. Within about five seconds we had stabilised and Peter tapped me on the shoulder to assume free fall position. It's crazy to think that at this point we were falling at around 120mph because it didn't feel like I was falling at all. Everything looked the same up there and the strong air flow rushing up past me made it feel like I was just suspended in midair. It was the most exhilarating feeling, ever.

[Photos: Credit to Duncan Haynes]

Free fall lasted for around forty seconds before I saw Peter wave his arms in front of us to tell Duncan that he was about to deploy the parachute and I braced myself for the transition from 120mph to 20mph in about five seconds. This was probably the worst part of the entire dive for me- We jerked back and my legs swung down as I watched Duncan disappear below us and my stomach felt like it was going to come out of my mouth, making me glad that I had turned down the pizza and crisps earlier. At this point we emerged from the clouds and then we had the most breathtaking view of the Lake District, Lake Windermere and Morecambe Bay. The UK certainly looks nicer from 4,000ft. Peter handed me the cables and let me control the parachute whilst he loosened my harness and pointed out the sights. We glided around in the calming silence for about five minutes before we descended towards the airfield and Peter told me to lift my legs out in front of me as he slowed us down for a feather-light landing where we slid across the floor.

The high I felt from the experience is one I've never felt before. I had just jumped out of a freaking plane. Right to this very moment I still can't quite believe it, which is why I opted to get my skydive filmed and photographed (I might share the video with you all one day, but for now just enjoy the photos ;)). I thanked Peter for being so great and for getting us both down to the ground in one piece, returned my equipment to the hangar and then indulged in a few slices of Chicago Town pizza (which, might I add was very good, but more about that another day).

A huge thank you to Chicago Town, Brazen PR, all the staff at Skydive Northwest (Facebook), Peter Connor and Duncan Haynes for granting me/being a part of this amazing opportunity, and also to my grandad, who doesn't get enough recognition for driving me to all these events ;)

If anybody is hesitant about giving skydiving a go, I absolutely urge you to go for it. The feeling of detaching yourself from life for a couple of minutes and free falling through the sky is one that no blog post can explain. Take word from a girl who never thought she would do it. Would I do it again?

Yes I would (sorry, grandma).


Have you experienced a skydive?

Frances x


*DISCLOSURE: This amazing opportunity was very kindly sponsored by Chicago Town/ Brazen PR. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.












Saturday, 21 June 2014

Behind the Scenes: Mocks Road Trip Photo Shoot.


Last week I was invited along to join the Mocks team and have a behind-the-scenes nosy at their fashion shoot in Wales. Mocks are a new take on moccasin-style shoes with a more up-to-date edge to them, available in an array of colours and designs and giving subtle nods to the designer world but without the designer price tag, with some of their models featuring Louboutin-esque red soles or Vivienne Westwood-style bows. Made with a waterproof and 90 degree washable "mocklite material" and coolmax technology to keep your feet feeling fresh all day, these shoes are becoming a staple Summer piece (can I also just add that they smell nice?!).

With the photo shoot based around the idea of a Summer road trip, the locations chosen were perfect. Accompanied by Jessie the VW Campervan (which was my mode of transport for the entire trip- I was living the dream, guys), our four gorgeous models and the lovely photographer for the shoot, Katie worked their magic at capturing essence of the adventures of four friends in the British countryside. Of course, a shoot in the British countryside wouldn't be legit without having to take cover under a gazebo when the heavens decided to open and running out to capture a few shots in the ten minute intervals that the grey clouds would part to give us a little bit of sunshine. Despite the unpredictable weather, however, the team trooped on and made the most of the showers torrential downpours by capturing some impromptu "running-from-the-rain" shots (I couldn't help feeling sorry for the models dressed in shorts and crop tops, it isn't always glamorous, you know!)- besides, it was a chance to show off the Mocks in all their waterproof glory!

After a ten hour day, it was wrap up time and we headed off for dinner and to spend the night in Pontins, which although it hasn't changed a single bit since I last visited back in the '90s and is now dubbed the ghetto of all holiday parks, took me on a nostalgic trip back to my childhood. Honestly though, who didn't love Pontins when they were eight?

The weather took our side a little more on day two of the shoot, just as well as we were shooting on Talacre Beach and we had spent the evening praying that the rain had passed. Fortunately it had and we had blue skies and dry sand dunes to accompany the picnic shoot which I did a great job of eating the props for. Overall, the second day was a lot more relaxed and everybody had a bit more fun- plus tying balloons to the back of bicycles and attempting to ride them in the sand calls for a lot of laughs!

After around twenty hours of prepping and shooting, hundreds of photos and at least thirty pairs of Mocks later, it was time to call it a day. Thanks so much to the Mocks team for taking me along on their shoot; I love to experience on-location shoots first hand and it was great to get to know the team who did an amazing job- I can't wait to see the shots!

Have you heard of Mocks before?

Frances x

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Event: Katy Perry Prismatic Tour @ Phones 4u Arena, Manchester


Last Tuesday, the lovely Chess from Phones 4u invited me along to watch Katy Perry as her Prismatic Tour hit Manchester with a few other bloggers, and not one to turn down live music and a good party, I hopped on a train to the Phones 4u Arena. Met by Chess, we hopped the queues and were led up to one of the private suites that caters for up to fourteen people, where we were greeted in true Katy Perry party style, by pink foil streamers, balloons and an abundant amount of food. We had an hour to enjoy the champagne reception before the concert started so we made use of the time to mingle, get Katy Perry inspired makeovers and manicures by Frankie and Ashleigh and dig in to the buffet that was provided by the venue, consisting of bacon and cheese burgers, hot dogs, curry and canapes (we were very well looked after!). Of course, I had to leave room for the cakes. The amazing people from Manchester's favourite Home Sweet Home provided a "Double Rainbow Tea Party" of not one, but SIX huge cakes that looked like they could have been props for the California Girls music video; all adorned with golden party rings, Haribo sweets and edible pictures of Katy Perry's face, as well as a cake stand of iced donuts and brownies filled with marshmallows and flying saucers. Needless to say I don't want to even look at another cake for quite a while (I'm definitely lying). 

The lights dimmed and I carried my food cake baby out on to the viewing balcony to watch Katy Perry's supporting act, Icona Pop (admittedly I had no idea who they were until they brought the room to their feet with their hit, I Love It [I Don't Care]). I have always been one of those people who likes to get up close and personal in the crowd at gigs with a standing ticket, so I didn't know what to expect being so high up in a viewing box, but the view was great and it really puts in to perspective the size of the audience that these musicians perform to (they've got GUTS). 
I've never been the biggest Katy Perry fanatic but I knew that she wouldn't fail to put on a great show. From a giant golden horse, tap dancing cats, floating emojis and at least five or six costume changes including an outfit lined with neon lights, a hot pink "Kitty Purry" costume and a huge firework-printed ballgown, it's safe to say that the concert was quirky, colourful and fun, just as expected of Ms. Perry. She ain't half bad at performing live, either.

Unfortunately I had to leave a little early to catch my train back home, but the lovely girls from Phones 4u sent me away with a little goody bag and more (!) cake. A huge thank you to their team for putting on such an amazing party for us bloggers! <3

Have you seen Katy Perry on her Prismatic tour? Have you watched a concert at the Phones 4u Arena?

Frances xx
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Outfit: Sunshine and Daisies.

Dress: C/O Rare* | Sandals: C/O Glamorous* | Floral Headband: Primark | Sunglasses: C/O Chicnova* | Watch: Tommy Hilfiger C/O Shadestation*

Okay, so it has been over two weeks since I last posted. Bad blogger. I have my reasons/excuses though but I shall save those for another blog post on another day.

For now, I still have a few sights from my trip to Singapore to share with you. I wish I had gotten these done sooner as looking through these pictures now is only making my post-holiday-blues ten times worse! This day was probably one of the hottest I experienced whilst I was away as well- Clear blue skies and 35 degree heat definitely left me feeling a little bit cooked by the end of the day but the weather was perfect for a walk down Palawan Beach in Sentosa, showing off my daisy print dress from Rare. Daisy print seems to be taking over everywhere this season and I am absolutely loving it!

Are you loving daisy print for SS14?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: Starred items are PR samples.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Outfit: East Coast Park, Singapore.

Dress: C/O Rare London* | Sandals: C/O Glamorous*Sunglasses: C/O Chicnova* | Hat: Talisman, Far East Plaza, Singapore | Necklace: Primark | Rings: H&M | Watch: Michael Kors | Bracelet: C/O Fashion Union | Bag: Unknown (gift)

The rain quickly passed here and since we've had nothing but gloriously sunny days with the odd rain shower in the evening that helps to clear the mugginess in the air. The other day we hopped on a tram to the East side of town and took a walk down East Coast Park, a 185 hectare man-made beach and park which was filled with cyclists and joggers (how they manage to do this in 34 degree heat, I do not know), and people having barbecues and picnics on the rentable barbecue pits. 
I kept my outfit simple and went for another of my favourite Rare London pieces, this net panelled bodycon dress. Whilst black probably wasn't the smartest choice of colour for a day in intense heat (and I was slightly worried about the potential tan lines this dress could leave me with), the off-the-shoulder and panel detailing kept me aired out. East Coast Park is a beautiful location for an afternoon stroll or to sit and chill, or if you are the more active type you can rent rollerblades and bicycles, and the park is also home to The Xtreme Skate Park and a cable ski centre.

Frances x


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Outfit: When It Rains On This Side Of Town.

Dress: C/O WalG* | Sandals: C/O Glamorous* | Sunglasses: Emporio Armani C/O The Sunglasses Shop* | Hat: Talisman, Far East Plaza, Singapore | Necklace: Primark | Rings: Rose, Primark, Hummingbirds, C/O Jana Reinhardt* | Watch: Tommy Hilfiger C/O Shade Station*

Yesterday was a rainy day in Singapore, and let me tell you, when it rains here it POURS, and then some. Unlike in the UK, however, when I am on holiday the weather never stops me from getting out and about so I dragged my dad (who definitely had other ideas) out to explore Little India. It was still really hot and muggy so I decided to keep my outfit light and simple with my cute pastel blue skater dress from WalG paired with this sun hat that I love and picked up at one of the plazas here for S$20.

Little India is a cute little place that really gives you a taste of Indian culture. A whole district filled with food courts serving curries, jewellery stores selling lots of gorgeous pieces of gold, henna tattoo salons, and sari stores where you could pick up intricately embroidered and embellished shirts and dresses for as little as S$15! 

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: Starred items are PR samples.