Recently, I received quite possibly the best email ever. No, not my Hogwarts acceptance (I’m still waiting), but an invite to La Piccola on Holdenhurst Road, to sample their bottomless Prosecco brunch. I was promised 90 minutes of sumptuous Italian food, washed down with as much Prosecco as I could throw down my gullet. Ideal, no?

Salad

A simple, but delicious, caprese salad. The deep-fried tortelloni – amazing!

This glorious offering is available to book between 12 and 5pm every Saturday and features decadent charcuterie and cheese platters, a Cicchetti section of small plates including calamari and gnocchi (both sublime!) and, of course, plenty of pizza.

I’ve been to La Piccola before, for a standard à la carte meal, so this was a nice change. It was a great way to sample lots of different dishes, and the sociable ‘tapas’ style setup was perfect as there was a large group of us.

The restaurant has a really lovely, classic Italian feel, with rustic decor and green chequered table cloths. The staff who looked after us were all knowledgeable, friendly, and more than happy to have their photo taken!

As a vegetarian, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of choice I had. Naturally, I demolished the cheese board, and enjoyed wonderful grilled vegetables, along with a fab choice of meat-free pizzas.

I honestly didn’t feel like I was missing out at all, except for the charcuterie board – cured meats are my main temptation as a vegetarian! If you love simple Italian food done well, I would definitely give La Piccola a go.

What happens when you dine with bloggers!

 

Laura Crow, 24, has suffered from OCD since she was 15. At her worst, she was consumed by a compulsive need to check locks and turn lights off, which left her unable to leave the house.

Writing Greyhounds helped distract her from the debilitating effects of her illness, and she found herself writing mostly in the early hours of the morning – when her OCD was at its worst.

“It distracted me from the compulsive thoughts and rituals that become so bad in the evenings,” Laura says.

“I’ve always felt drawn to the past, epspecially the 1940s and soon I’d developed a whole set of characters and a story that had to be finished. People in a time of crisis – at breaking point – resonated with my state of mind.”

Cast in front of Spitfire

Greyhounds is set in a small village during World War Two. As the war rages around them, a group of residents attempt to put on a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V, to raise money for their local Spitfire fund.

Following two successful runs in 2017, the play is set to be performed at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Laura plays the part of Katherine, a young woman with a gift for spotting numbers and patterns. She struggles with social interaction and adapting to change, which leads others to think of her as strange.

Laura wanted to portray the strength and resilience of someone who doesn’t fit in because of their ability to see the world differently. This, she says, is a feeling that many who struggle with their mental health will likely relate to.

More info

When: 3rd-18th August, 8:15pm
Where: Edinburgh Fringe, the Space on the Mile
Contact: itslauracrow@gmail.com

Before you start, I just want to apologise for the videos not being embedded – WordPress was having none of it for some reason. All the screenshots below are clickable, and will open YouTube in another window.

Georgia ‘No Grips’ Dabritz

NCAA champion gymnast Georgia is a joy to watch on bars. What makes her all the more impressive is that she never wears grips – hence the nickname!

Georgia Dabritz

Beth Tweddle

Who can forget her incredible performance on the uneven bars at the 2012 London Olympics? While I don’t find her routine as enjoyable to watch as others that are more fluid and flowing, the level of technical difficulty she displays is just incredible.

I was gutted that she stumbled on the landing, but she still managed to take home the bronze medal.

(Watch from 16:26.)

Beth Tweddle

Bridget Sloan

Former Olympic champion and Florida Gators gymnast, Bridget Sloan, is one of my favourite gymnasts to watch. Her floor routines are full of energy and personality, and the huge smile on her face makes this particular one an absolute joy.

Bridget Sloan

Team USA, 2016 Olympic Games

The US women’s team made history at the 2016 Olympics, winning the all-round gold with some truly outstanding performances. The first I’m going to mention is Aly Raisman and her stunning floor routine.

I still get goosebumps when I think about her becoming overwhelmed by emotion as she finishes and is hit by the full weight of everything she’s just accomplished. I almost cried with her when I first watched it.

Aly Raisman

Gabby Douglas returned for her second Olympic Games. I personally loved her performance on uneven bars, even the small mistake she makes. The way she recovers from it and carries on going, displaying remarkable strength and control, is amazing. See if you can spot it!

Gabby Douglas

Madison Kocian, the team’s bars specialist was one I was very excited to watch, given that the uneven bars are my favourite apparatus. She definitely did not disappoint. She may have just lost out on gold to Aliya Mustafina (whose routine was very similar, with just a few added skills earning her some extra points), but I’m confident we will see big things from her at the 2020 Olympics.

Madison Kocian

Simon Biles, widely thought of as the best gymnast in the world, gave a remarkable all-round performance. On floor, she stunned with powerful tumbling passes jam-packed full of skills. I look forward to seeing what she delivers in 2020.

Simone Biles

I’ve saved my favourite until last, with Laurie Hernandez and her vibrant and joyful floor routine.

The song choice is impeccable, her timing flawless, and the amount of personality and sass she injects into her performance is captivating. I get goosebumps whenever I watch it.

Wow.

Laurie Hernandez

Nadia Comăneci

How could I leave this historic moment off my list? At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, a fourteen year old Nadia Comăneci became the first gymnast to ever score a perfect ten.

This routine will be very different to what we’re used to seeing in modern gymnastics, with two notable differences being the space between the two bars, and a skill known as belly beating (when the gymnast holds the high bar, curls around the low bar and ‘bounces’ her stomach off it).

Comaneci

I love watching old routines, as it’s very interesting to see all the ways gymnastics has changed, and see former skills that have since been banned. Which leads me onto…

Olga Korbut

Watch the incredible moment Korbut stuns the crowd with a skill that became known as the Korbut Flip. It was later banned for being too dangerous.

Olga Korbut

Sky Sports very kindly reached out to me to see if I would support their campaign with the Women’s Sport Trust.

#ShowUp is all about encouraging women to get more involved with sport – whether that be watching or playing.

I plan to continue watching the incredible gymnasts who inspire and amaze me, and start playing badminton again with Dave.

#ShowUp wristband

Two years ago, while searching for jobs on Gumtree, I spotted quite possibly the best (and strangest) advert I’ve ever come across.

Being that I’m wasn’t a bald man (I’m still not, so I don’t know why I phrased it like that), I laughed it off, resigning myself to the fact that this was one mystery I probably wasn’t going to solve.

Except I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Why the oddly specific number of bald men? Actually, scrap the number – why was this person trying to round up bald men, full stop?! And not just any bald men, but fully bald ones?!!

Eventually, after many WhatsApp conversations with friends, I concluded that this must be for some sort of student film.

Phew. What a relief. And so, I went on with my life.

We all know that’s not what happened though, don’t we?

Unable to stop the niggling itch of curiosity, I did what any person would do:

I set up a new email account and replied to the ad

That’s right. I catfished a man who was actively seeking bald men for unknown purposes.

Naturally, I told him that I, a proud bald man, would love to take part in his project, and perhaps he could tell me a bit more about what it involved?

It wasn’t long until I got a response. Excitedly I opened the email, eager to find out what this strange project was all about.

And it turns out, it was actually something pretty wonderful

But rather than carrying on telling the story now, I’m going to share the blog post I wrote when this all happened two years ago. Names and a couple of details have been changed as I never got final approval to share the story, but it’s so cool that I’m going to take a chance. If the people involved are actually somehow reading this, I’d love to hear from you!

The adventure continues…

Used cars.  Furniture.  Clothes.  These are just a few of the things you might search for on Gumtree.

I myself was browsing the job listings when I stumbled upon something that caught my attention.

The advert on Gumtree

The advert posted by Scott, a multimedia designer from Bournemouth.

Needless to say I was more than intrigued.

I sent a screenshot to my friends who were all as amused and baffled as I was.  We speculated that it might be for a student film or some sort of game.  I was too curious to let it go though, so I did what anyone would do and emailed Scott, pretending to be a bald man.  OK, so probably not what most people would do, and definitely one of the weirder things I’ve done recently, but something told me there was an interesting story behind all this and I was determined to find out what it was.

Emails were exchanged back and forth and I found out the basic gist of what the bald men were needed for.  They were to stand in various locations and hand clues out to someone.  To whom, I didn’t know.  Why?  No idea.  Clues to what?  Couldn’t tell you.  What was this all for?!

I still had so many questions!

After further digging all was finally explained, and guys, I just wasn’t prepared for how bloody lovely it would be.

It turned out Scott was enlisting the help of bald men for… a MARRIAGE PROPOSAL!  I won’t lie, I definitely did not see that coming.

Scott and his partner Kate are big fans of the J.J. Abrams show Fringe and the plan was to have the bald men dress as Observers (a character from the show) and hand Kate clues as part of a treasure hunt.

Fringe GIF

The hunt was designed to take Kate to key places in the couple’s relationship – where they first met, their first date, first home etc.- and end up at their house, where Scott would be waiting on one knee in a gift wrapped box.   I mean, seriously.

Happy tears

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge soppy romantic.  I love nothing more than a good proposal story and I’ve secretly dreamed of being a proposal planner for years.  And the fact that it was a sci-fi themed treasure hunt making it both incredibly sweet and incredibly geeky…I just couldn’t believe how amazing and TOTALLY UP MY STREET this was!

I was so overwhelmed by how fate (and masquerading as a bald man, probably best not to forget that!) had led me to this lovely man who was planning something amazing for the woman he loved, that I knew I had to get involved.  Now unfortunately there was a rather large and obvious hurdle here, being that I’m not a bald man.  Oh, and the fact that I’d essentially been catfishing this poor guy, probably in one of the most bizarre ways possible.

It was time to come clean.

I apologised for wasting his time and explained that I was simply intrigued and wanted to find out more.  I told him that I was touched by his story and would love to still be involved.  Unfortunately I would be unable to help on the bald man front, but perhaps I could come along on the day to document the whole thing for my blog and buy them both a celebratory drink afterwards.  I didn’t have high hopes being that I could see how, objectively speaking, one might think I was a bit of a weirdo.

But somehow he was undeterred by my less than normal first impression and happily agreed that I could come along and write a post about them.  Now to cut a long story short, unfortunately his original proposal plans fell through as he was unable to find enough volunteers.  By this point I was too invested to give up on their story though, so I found out what he ended up doing instead.  And guess what?  It’s still pretty damn romantic.  Seriously people, y’all need to find yourself a Scott.  #BoyfriendGoals.

Scott proposed to Kate on their four year anniversary.  He printed out 16 photos of key moments in their relationship and laid them in a trail from the front door, up the stairs and towards a table with Kate’s favourite flowers on (four sunflowers, one for every year they’d been together).   Each photo had a sentence on the back that helped to tell a story, except for the final photo which simply said ‘turn around,’ where Scott was already waiting on one knee.

Kate said yes, of course, because, come on, how could she not?! Also, this would be a pretty terrible blog post if she hadn’t!

The happy couple hope to get married exactly a year from the day they got engaged.  They are both big fans of sci-fi and action and hope to incorporate their love of Fringe into their wedding by having Observers dotted around throughout the day.

EDIT: This was their plan at the time of writing (two years ago). I hope they ended up having the wedding they dreamed of, in all its geeky, sci-fi glory.

Scott and Kate – thank you both so much for sharing your story with me (sort of). It brought me so much joy.

Oh, and I think I really need to watch Fringe