Job Hunting for the Anxious Person

One’s real life is so often the life that one does not lead

Oscar Wilde, 1882, introduction to a collection of verse.

Welcome to my blog! Here I write about whatever’s on my mind or whatever fad I’ve just gotten into.

The whole New Year thing made me think about the goals people might be setting themselves for the year; specifically career goals. If you’re an anxious person or suffer profoundly from anxiety, then sorting your career out – or even finding time to prioritise it among life’s other junk – can be daunting.
I’ve always had really, really shitty anxiety, so I completely understand and I had this same fear about a career myself, to the point that for a while I even convinced myself that I didn’t really want one. But what else was I going to do? Oh yeah, I know: have depression.

So, without further waffle, here is a short list of some things I learned after graduating university as an incredibly anxious person.

This blog assumes you’ve already got a degree and perhaps have a job already, but you haven’t found what you’re looking for yet because you’re scared. This blog also assumes you’ve identified what you enjoy and the field you’d like to work in.

To reiterate: I am no expert.

I just hope this might help somebody with anxiety, because I know how it feels. Blogs like this helped me when I was in the same position.

Start with a positive attitude; and if you don’t have one, force it.

It’s a bit like forcing yourself to laugh; eventually you start finding that, in and of itself, funny – and you start laughing for real. The fact is you’ll never start making plans if you begin with “I can’t…” – you need to start saying “I can”. Do not be your own bully and start believing in yourself; stop telling yourself lies about your self-worth. Make the decision to be positive and give yourself a break.

Imagine yourself in that role.

Who would you be, ideally? Who do you see yourself being when you aren’t bogged-down with self-doubt? Break up the elements of that person and use it to create your blueprint. All right, I’m not saying you can go from being a librarian to a trauma surgeon (this isn’t The Sims) if you do this, because that’s unrealistic. However, if you’re working in Job A but know you could be working in Job B if-only-this or if-only-that, then you absolutely can.

Being scared of something is no reason not to do it anyway, not if you honestly believe it’s something you’ll do well at. (If it isn’t, then that’s a problem – more on that later) Also: keep it simple. If you eventually want to be CEO of a retailer and you’ve never worked in a shop, then picture yourself working in sales first. Give yourself an achievable starting point and then work out what you need to do to get there. If you need experience first, then go get your foot in the door. What else do you have but time? At this stage, time is your friend!

Apply for lots and lots of jobs once you’ve chosen where to start.


Start at the beginning and don’t over-analyse it. Think about the skills you’ll gain rather than whether this is your dream job (of course it isn’t!) For example, you want to work in HR but have no experience: so you begin with administration roles. Yeah, yeah, you’ve got a degree: so what? We all know experience does all the talking. BUT, you do not have to already be perfect. You just need to demonstrate where you’ve built up your skill-set within that field. If you want to be analysing evidence for the Police with your chemistry degree, then you’d better start off doing the grunt work in a lab.

At the height of my anxiety, I became a little arrogant, actually. I thought people were just given chances to shine and I didn’t see all the baby steps (and baby jobs) they took to get there. Transferable skills will be your trump card, so start building them up.

For the anxious person, getting your “dream job” overnight would actually be ridiculously overwhelming. Try starting on a smaller scale (entry-level jobs within that field) and teach yourself that you can do this. Baby steps.

Before walking into your interview, tell yourself three things:


(1) These people are going to really like me, and I am going to really like them.
(2) I have nothing to lose. If I don’t gain a job, I gain experience.
(3) They’ve already decided I have the skills for the job; I’m just here to show them why they were right. (It’s true!)

For me, saying those things (and telling others) took the pressure off massively. I wasn’t there to be perfect or to even get the job. I was there to like them, to be likeable, to get experience, and to add colour to what they already learned about me on my CV.

Story time: Before getting the job I have now, I was invited to an interview with a children’s cancer charity in central London (gulp). I went to it on the last day of a week-long hospital stay (and I didn’t tell them this) because I was determined to try. I wanted a new job and I was f-ing well going to get one, in spite of my previously poor health. The interview was with 2 lovely women and we got on fantastically; it was like having a fun chat. Only problem was that part of the role required fundraising/finance experience, and I was honest about being low on that front.

They took an entire week to get back to me, having said it’d be a day or so. It turns out they were conflicted over 2 candidates: someone else, and me. They wrote me a long letter (which almost sounded like an apology) saying that they really liked me, but had to go with the person who had the experience in fundraising, and hoped I would consider working with them for other roles in the future. Of course, they made the right decision! They absolutely should have hired the woman with monetary experience and I hope she’s happy there.
I was so flattered by their letter that I cried and shared it with everyone I knew. I felt amazing and I didn’t even get the job!

The point is that it isn’t all doom and gloom; there are so many opportunities for learning and you’ll be so surprised about what you find.

Practice, practice, practice your interviewing skills.

The only way you’ll get over your nerves is if you normalise it. If you aren’t getting many interviews at first or feel like you’re bombing your interviews because of nerves, then contact a local organisation (Jobcentre Plus for example) and find out where you can get some roleplaying practice. It is gruelling, but your nerves will eventually subside. I know this from experience; I used to get the shakes, my throat would glue shut, and I couldn’t think straight. I practiced and now, while I still (of course) get nervous, I manage to hold my own and confidently answer questions without going blank.

Listen to what they are asking you, pause, and reply. Do not try to predict their questions and answer with a prepared script, because this will never work. It isn’t genuine and it will never give you the chance to shine just as you are. Let yourself be vulnerable and don’t try to control the interview so much. You’ll lose and they won’t get a genuine picture of all your smart, endearing qualities.
This is so, so important, especially if you work in health, social care, or charity.

When I was interviewed for my current role, it was in front of a panel of 3 males who all worked in finance. I was scared! However, I decided to just be myself and talk about my experiences honestly. Once I got the job, I was told that others had more editorial experience than me, but they didn’t answer like I did and they didn’t have my personality. They just liked me and felt I’d fit in well (and I have!).

The point is that you matter. It isn’t all about what’s down on paper.

Listen to your instincts.

Equally, if something doesn’t feel right to you, then it probably isn’t. Sometimes it isn’t just about your nerves; sometimes you and the job just don’t fit and that’s okay. Did you have the interview and get a bad feeling about them? Did you start on the job, having been thrilled to get it, and find that you’re deeply unhappy?
Things aren’t always what we imagine them to be, and if you have to go back to the drawing board and find something else, then do it.
This is not a failure. Recognising that a role is poorly fitted to you is a skill.


Story time: I worked for my local council and one day saw an advert for a fast-track diploma to become a social worker, with the option of completing a Masters. Great! I was bored in my role and always wondered what it’d be like. I was invited to interview for 3 available places. Over 10,000 people applied nation-wide and hundreds of local people applied for those 3 roles.
I was invited to interview: great! It was a day-long 3-stage process of a group interview/discussion with adults who had grown up in care, a time roleplaying session where you “answered” a call from a distressed child in front of an examiner, and a standard interview with a panel of 3 social workers.
To my astonishment, I did really well and I was offered a place. I went to Cambridge to study for a couple of months, where we did dreaded roleplay (and a filmed roleplay exam) and the usual essays. This was not a good time for me personally; I was dating a horrible person and my health was spiraling down. I hadn’t long recovered from major surgery and I was incredibly fragile mentally; everything seemed too much for me and I felt I couldn’t give any more. Everyone else seemed to be dealing with the stresses of the course, and by the time the actual work placement began, I was hanging on by a thread. Then when I didn’t get along with my workplace mentor, it all just collapsed. The slightest criticism sent me to tears and I was having such severe migraines that I was vomiting all the time. It was horrible.

I sat and asked myself: Ashleigh, is this actually want you want? Is this really for you? Even if it was, would it be worth it with your health in such a state?

No, none of it was worth it. Sadly, I left the course, but I was instantly relieved. I was hospitalised many times in the year that followed for a week at a time (which would have forced me to leave the course anyway), so things happen for a reason. It led me to where I am.

I felt guilty that I’d taken the place of someone who potentially would have flourished where I didn’t, but I couldn’t predict that my health (mental and physical) would have nose-dived the way it did.

You have got to look after yourself. Fuck anyone who thinks that’s wrong of you. It isn’t. YOU MATTER.

Overall, my advice is to take baby steps and be kind to yourself.

You know the phrase: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
Yes, making the first leap into something new and unknown is terrifiyng, and like me, you might discover that it’s not right for you.

This is all good. It’s part of the learning experience. How dull must a person be if they never try, never fail, and never collect these experiences, both good and bad?

Sometimes the path of least-resistance only feels easier because, you know what? You’re good at it. That’s your path. That’s your thing. Don’t spend your whole life battling against who you are. You are an anxious (likely introverted, like me) person with a heart and you are not made of stone. You don’t need to work anywhere where you have to pretend to be.

Perhaps one never seems so much at one’s ease as when one has to play a part.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Happy New Decade, 2020!

It’s the roaring 2020s. My god, let this be a better decade for me and for everyone. Don’t you think this planet has had enough grief for the foreseeable?

Normal service will resume next week, along with my work (and blog!) routine and what I hope will be a better year ahead. The last few years for me have been utterly disastrous, both in my personal life and my health. My new year starts off with an appointment to review some MRI results, which I’m nervous about. MRI scans are standard for me; I’ve had many, many scans. This one is to determine if a little lump near my pancreas/bowel is anything scary to worry about. Please keep me in your good thoughts and I’m sure, in some way, the universe will send me your well-wishes.

From me, I wish you a very Happy New Year and a great decade ahead. May you be happy in life and love, may your health be rosy, and may your creativity blossom like daffodils in May (and may your clichés be as strong as mine, especially).

I hope to do a lot more writing and reading this year; my Christmas book haul of children’s classics, which I wanted to catch up on, will be a fantastic start. I’ve made it my mission to read all the amazing classics that I never read as a child, because I was too busy swatting up on Jacqueline Wilson and Darren Shan, who were all the rage and deservedly so.

So Happy New Year everyone! I’ll be back next Wednesday as usual to share whatever quirky bits and bobs I want to talk about next. I never started a blog for anything other than to keep a regular hobby, and to force me to show off any creative successes.
Towards the end of 2019, I was accepted into an NHS poetry anthology by Michael Rosen and invited to their book launch, which is an amazing start. I hope this is a sign of more creative conquests to come!

Have an amazing 2020!

Chocolate Yule Log in an Hour

Welcome back! I put out new blogs every Wednesday.

Continuing our Christmas crafting (or baking!) seeing as it ’tis the season, I give you: the lazygirl chocolate yule log.
I just made that up, but it works.

My boyfriend and I desperately wanted to bake something last Sunday evening, but only the little express stores were open and it was raining, so we dug about in the cupboards, hoping that we’d had ingredients for yule log. And we did! The only thing we were worried about missing was a bar of chocolate, and lo and behold, he found some vegan chocolate he’d bought to try ages ago, having never bothered to eat it. Happy days!

We decided to make chocolate buttercream rather than ganache, and it worked out lovely. We spliced two recipes together: one for sponge, and one for the buttercream.

This was so quick to make that you could definitely do this in an hour if you have all your ingredients ready. The only delay is the cooling, but with such a thin sponge, it took hardly any time at all (and you can of course shove it in the freezer for 10 minutes – trust me, it gets the job done)

You will need:

Icing

  • 100g chocolate
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 400g icing sugar (and more to dust)
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Sponge

Combine your ingredients with a spatula and whip with an electric whisk if you have one, before transferring it into a 33cm x 23cm dish lined with grease proof paper. This will create an inch thick rectangle of sponge. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes.

(Mary Berry’s recipe states 8-10 mins, but it wasn’t nearly done for me and needed double the time)

No butter! This mostly-egg recipe ensures that the sponge is flexible enough to roll over and yet strong enough not to crumble apart. All very clever.

Once it’s cooked, let it cool for a few minutes. Turn the cake out onto another sheet of grease proof paper and peel off the backing. Next, score a line 2.5cm in, lengthways, along one long edge of the cake. Use this to fold it over on itself in a swiss-roll shape. Pull the grease proof paper over with the first roll and let it roll inside. This will help you unfurl it later when you want to add the filling.

Leave it to cool in this rolled shape.

Next, make your icing. Start with gently combining your softened butter with the icing sugar. Add in your cocoa powder. Melt the chocolate in your preferred manner (in a bowl within a pan of boiling water, or in the microwave at 20 sec intervals) and add this to the mix, folding it all in together. The mix will start feeling a bit stiff and claggy – use the milk to smooth it out and give it some moisture.

Once your cake is cooled, you can unfurl it and start smoothing liberal amounts of buttercream inside it, coating the lot, before rolling it back up again and pasting buttercream on top. You can use a fork to create streaks like bark, add holly, whatever you like – me? I was happy to dust it with icing sugar and eat the thing.

So there you have it! The world’s laziest yule log.

Quick, easy, and definitely yummy – we scoffed this while watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

You could make this Vegan by using egg replacer/oil, vegan chocolate, vegan milk, and vegan butter – though if you’re vegan, you’ll have all this down already and won’t need me to advise you.

I hope you enjoyed that tasty little treat! See you next time – I put new blogs up every Wednesday about crafts, hobbies, writing, health – my life, really.

How to celebrate Halloween: at work

Welcome to my blog! I put up a new post every Wednesday.

Halloween falls on a Thursday this year, which doesn’t bode well for party-goers with a full-time job. I’ve heard that in London, Thursday is in fact the new Friday – so going out-out on a Thursday probably isn’t something you’re unfamiliar with if you work in the best city in the world, or if you’re used to going into work on a hangover.

I’ve been to a few Halloween parties myself, many moons ago – and I don’t particularly recall if they fell on October 31. I’d love to go out-out in full garb this year, but as a proud introvert and lazy person (and having no current desire to get blind drunk, which tends to only happen when I’ve got big problems I want to escape from), I haven’t made any plans. I also work full-time, so y’know, there is that old chestnut.

So this got me wondering: how could you low-key celebrate Halloween in the workplace?

The answer is: basically the same way you celebrate Christmas at work (if you do), but sPoOkY.

Some might say that going to work in and of itself is a terrifying thing on a daily basis, let alone on Halloween. Not me, though: as it happens, I love my job.

Below, I’ve come up with some cute ways you can get into the spirit (OooOooo!) of things in the workplace. Let me know if you can think of any others. Do you usually celebrate Halloween at work? I would love to see your photos.

As an aside: Some organisations prefer not to use anything spooky-looking to avoid upsetting anyone afraid of scary or occult-looking items. This isn’t just in the case of fundamentalist religions (if ever at all): think dementia, learning disability or types of autism, for example. These themes can trigger people and be incredibly unpleasant. In this case, you could apply an Autumnal theme to all the suggestions below instead of Halloween. You could have pumpkin and leaf-shaped cookies, pecan pies, autumnal decorations – you get the picture. Just have fun!

Subtly (or not-so-subtly) decorate your desk
Do you work in an office? Great – ghosts love offices. We’ve got one upstairs with all the old boxes. If you have your own desk (as opposed to hot-desking), and if your office doesn’t have strict anti-fire rules about excessive decor (no demons allowed, in that case), then this one is for you.

You could:

  • Decorate a mini Halloween tree
  • Put out bobble-heads or spooky ornaments
  • Stick up some bats or ghouls around your monitor
  • Decorate with black, purple, green, and red tinsel

Host a Halloween bake sale for charity

There isn’t an office on this planet that doesn’t love a bake sale. These are always a huge hit, even in small offices. You try resisting a cake or cookie when it’s for a GOOD CAUSE – especially if it’s in the shape of a bat, witch, ghost, whatever. Impossible!

Simply advertise it to your staff in an everyone-email well ahead of time and, of course, ask permission first from whomever needs informing. You could ask people to bake from home or bring in Halloween-themed goodies from the supermarket. Make sure everyone is agreed on the charity of choice and that you’ve ordered the appropriate buckets/branded collection tins from that charity, or at least make them aware that you are fundraising for them.
If you work for a charity, then you could fundraise for your own cause by taking the bake sale out of house or encouraging volunteers to host bake sales on your behalf.

Eat a spooktastic lunch

So many things to eat, and so little gut-room. Here are some suggestions:

  • Pumpkin or butternut squash soup
  • Homemade stew! (you can pretend it’s a witch’s brew)
  • A spooky cookie from your local bakery (they all have them)
  • Brain sandwich (somebody must be doing it)
  • Halloween candy (Not the most nutritious choice)

If you can’t be bothered with anything else: have a spooky desktop background
It’s simple. It’s classic. It’s a nod to the season.
How 90s is this, though – actually changing your desktop background.

Remember those 3d animated shapes that could mesmerise you for hours way-back-when? Or those neon-headache-inducing scrolling bars that said ‘HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY JEN!!!’ over and over until time stood still?

Well, now you can have one for Halloween! The constant spooky reminder will make you feel like you’re part of the event without any real effort at all.

If you work in shops or hospitality

Then great, you can access customers easier and extract their souls face-to-face instead of by email, or perhaps both. You could:

  • Wear spooky socks. Nobody will know… but you will.
  • Wear cutesy Halloween earrings or a headband (I’ve seen checkout workers do this and it always makes me smile)
  • Put Halloween music on over the speakers. Monster Mash on repeat, anyone?
  • Spend an inordinate amount of time in the Halloween aisle, if you work in a shop. Who wouldn’t?
  • Buy all the Halloween-themed baking equipment when it goes on sale. Who’s winning at life now? You are.

Cave-in and go for a cocktail after work

All right, all right – they twisted your arm. If you’re of-age and want to celebrate Halloween in style, then you may want a quiet cocktail after all.

My favourite place in my home of Southend-on-sea is an underground (literally) Absinthe bar called Dr Legba’s Emporium of Cocktails and Curiosities.
The Absinthe-green decor is beyond dreamy, and it’s usually a quiet and intimate place to sip a flaming Zombie: your own spooky little cave. Cocktails were £9 each last time I went. Even if you sip a Coke, the atmosphere, decor, and sophistication are worth being there for. It is gorgeous.
Fun fact: this place used to be a goth club called Club Krash, which me and my friends went to under-age more than a few times. It cost £1 to get in, and those stairs were a nightmare in platforms – it is a miracle I am still alive.

I hope you enjoyed that, and that it gave you some spooky or autumnal ideas for the workplace.

Please subscribe to my blog if you would like to see more! I put out new posts every Wednesday.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

Things to do in New Orleans

Good morning. Thank you for coming back and reading my blog; I appreciate it.

Last January, I travelled for a 5-day trip to check out New Orleans. This is a place I had been longing to go ever since I watched American Horror Story: Coven, and I’m sure many fans of that particular show felt the same way. I desperately wanted to be one of the young witches in New Orleans. When Red Dead Redemption II came out, I once again became obsessed – perhaps bewitched!? – by the mystique of that beautiful and dangerous city, so different from the rest of that state and so steeped in mythical history in spite of its young age. This is a city that feels like no other you’ll ever visit, and it should be a rite of passage for any witch, goth, or spook-enthusiast.

I fell in love with this place and I hope I’ll be going back sometime soon. To give you an idea of what I got up to, I’ve compiled a helpful list of must-dos and things to avoid, based entirely on my preferences. If you want to find out your own preferences, then there’s only one way, and that is to go there.

Things you must do in New Orleans

Learn the mantra
Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints? Who dat?” This is a chant you will become acquainted with whenever the New Orleans Saints are playing a big game. As it happened, they were playing when I visited, and – despite not being a lover of sports – I found myself throwing an accusing finger at the big screen and chanting with the rest of the NOLA Saints supporters. A nice guy and his step-father taught me how to chant this, and expressed that you absolutely must say “who dat”, not “who’s that”. It’s the only way.

Listen to the locals
You’ll find that everybody has a story about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that followed, how it affected so many people there, and how it ruined businesses and entire lives. Many people moved away after the 2005 disaster, and many residents were still haunted by it. The least you can do is listen and understand when they share their pain, because plenty of people will want to tell the story.

Take the tram everywhere
You can get around New Orleans (which is actually quite a small place, not at all unlike my home town of Southend-on-Sea in England) all day long for something like $3 on a Jazzy Pass. The trams are a wonderful way to see the city, and so easy to hop on and off at your leisure – even late at night. I would also advise you to catch a cab from the airport too, and not to pay for transfers. They cost a fortune and rip you off for what is actually a fairly short journey.

Stay at 1896 O’Malley House
I loved this hotel. You’ll stay in a grand Colonial house with beautiful paintings, high ceilings, and antique furniture – including a high, four-poster bed. The owner was lovely and lives there with his two gorgeous Golden Retrievers. The manager is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about New Orleans. The house was bedecked in Mardis Gras decorations, which really got me in the festive spirit (which is lovely post-Christmas in late January!) and the place had a haunted feel, with lights on and soft, eerie music playing, even late at night when everybody is asleep. The kitchen is open and you are welcome to coffee, soft drinks, and snacks which are available to guests for free. This place was incredibly reasonable in price – I booked my flights and stay with Lastminute.com, and I’ve got some great deals this way before. It helps that I chose to go in Winter, because I for one could not stand that Louisiana heat! Off-season is a great time to go anywhere on a budget.

Have a night out at Pat O’Brien’s Irish Piano Bar
I had a gorgeous time here on every visit. It’s a beautifully set-up piano bar which feels safe and secure, away from Bourbon Street. I was here for the big football game (where I got immediately drunk on a $9 Hurricane cocktail and ended up spending the entire night), and again on my final night for a sing-song. Here you can sit in the bar or the piano lounge, request songs, and sing along with all the merry people. Hurricanes are a gorgeous drink, and it’s their famous cocktail. Drink it all in! I highly recommend this bar. Songs I requested included Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley and The Seven Wonders by Fleetwood Mac, which they gladly performed for me. AHS Coven fans will understand the latter!

Go to a Jazz bar for live music
This is what New Orleans is all about – their beautiful music. Louis Armstrong was from New Orleans, and you can see his statue in the Louis Armstrong park nearby one of their largest and most famous cemeteries. Pick just about any bar and you’ll be happy, though I’m told Frenchman is the place to go for authentic Jazz. I found myself in the Mahogany Lounge on a quiet night, so I went back to Pat O’Briens for more atmosphere – this was mid-week however, so don’t blame them.

Go on a plantation tour
This was a fantastic outing, going deeper inland of Louisiana on a coach. It cost about $50 each, and not only will the chatty bus driver regale you with ghost stories and Louisiana tales, but you’ll visit an actual plantation, with real or replica slave dwellings, and tour the manor. I visited Oak Alley plantation for the gorgeous archways of oak trees, and naturally because it features in Red Dead Redemption II as the inspiration for parts of the story. I spent a long time here just moving around the impressive oak trees and taking photos. It was a foreboding and yet beautiful place, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Eat everything
Indulge in a massive deep-fried seafood platter at just about any restaurant in the French Quarter and you will not be disappointed. You should also try a soft shell crab Po-Boy (shell, legs, the lot!) and the famous Cajun ‘Gumbo’ in the marketplace. Food in NOLA is very expensive, though, so take about double what you think you’ll need, and then some. I would recommend buying your Cajun spices in the marketplace too, and a Louisiana cookbook. When you run out of money, I recommend Subway. You can get by pretty easily as a vegetarian in New Orleans, but I can’t vouch for their Vegan choices.

Visit the AHS Coven mansion
Of course, you need to visit Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Women. I visited the place on the one day that it absolutely poured down with rain, but I am so glad I did. You will be amazed to see the real thing; it’s every bit as beautiful as it was on screen. You can get there by tram, and it is located in the Garden district. Be prepared to see mansions more beautiful than you could ever afford to live in, and enjoy the verdant grandeur of the garden district.

Tour the tombs
You absolutely must tour the above-ground cemeteries and learn about the marshy, swampy earth that caused the people of New Orleans to be laid to rest in these haunting dwellings. You must also learn about Marie Laveau – the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, and (I bet you didn’t know this) also a practising Catholic who went to church every Sunday – and see her final resting place. Nearby, you will see the monstrosity that is Nicholas Cage’s tomb; a huge white Toblerone-style pyramid, which he chose to be nearby the magical Marie Laveau, before he got himself banned from New Orleans (until he dies and goes back there, anyway). I forget the story in its entirety, but apparently the only thing you cannot have stripped from you in the monetary sense in New Orleans is your resting place. So while he lost Anne Rice’s home, he didn’t lose his Toblerone. It is pretty ghastly and not at all in-keeping with the tombs in St. Louis Cemetery No.1, but it’s certainly a sight to behold.

Visit the boutique shops
There are countless oddball shops in New Orleans, including witchy holes with spellbooks and voodoo dolls, Vampyric gift shops, and even a bakery for dogs, where I bought my Scottish Terrier Sputnik a “frosted” bone. He gobbled it in seconds when I returned home, thousands of miles later.

Celebrate Mardis Gras
I didn’t get to do this, because the actual carnival takes place in March I believe (or did this year), but Mardis Gras season starts in January. You’ll see purple, gold and green beads, masks, and decorations hanging from every tree and building for months before the actual carnival, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Take a piece of this back with you and you’ll be celebrating it in your heart. This is the celebration season before Lent, so there’s no reason why you couldn’t celebrate back home. Once you see the colours, you’ll want to.

Buy gifts in the marketplace
Your last stop should totally be the marketplace for quirky New Orleans gifts. I bought mugs, a Mardis Gras mask, and some voodoo well-wishing poppets as gifts for people here. It’s situated near lots of other shops, including witchypoo and voodoo places where you can get your fortune told and palm read. I didn’t get around to this, but I’ve been kicking myself since – who goes to New Orleans and doesn’t get told something terrifying from a Voodoo Priestess? I ask you.


Things you should avoid

Bourbon Street at night
Unless you enjoy clubbing, extremely loud thumping music and those sugary slushy cocktail drinks from a slush machine, then Bourbon Street at night is probably not for you. It’s the classic place to party and get drunk which, personally, did not appeal to me (unless it’s Pat O’Brien’s). It’s incredibly loud all night long, especially at the weekend, so avoid hotels in this area if you plan on sleeping.

Street hawkers/ the homeless
This sounds harsh, but you will be stopped every 10 feet if you aren’t careful. The street hawkers lure you in easily with innocent questions and, before you know it, they’re casually asking you to hand over $40. The homeless of New Orleans are very good at this too, and in general, anyone out to make money is incredibly savvy with the old charm offensive. Whilst I don’t blame anyone for giving to charity or donating in someone’s cup, I cannot stand being hassled or scammed in any way, by anyone. If someone sidles up to you, politely move on (or be prepared for it to cost you).

Swamps tours in the winter
In summer, go for it – there will be alligators and crocodiles galore. In the winter, however, this was a bad idea – they hadn’t even hatched our their little dino eggs yet. People selling the tours will tell you that you’ll see baby alligators (and you will – our tour guide brought out his pet for us to cuddle, which was nice), but the truth is, this is totally the wrong season to go. I wish I could say the bayous and swamps were impressive (to make up for a lack of dinosaurs!), but they weren’t all that – or at least, not for the price. You won’t be going down creepy, winding swamp paths – just relatively open water. In the summer, the experience will be much better.

Tips:
– Bring loads of money. New Orleans is incredibly expensive, even just to buy food.
– Go to New Orleans for 2 – 3 days, and you can easily have seen enough to get a taste. I would suggest leaving some time to view other cities or places along your way. However, if you do want to immerse yourself for your whole trip away, I can guarantee you will love it here. If I went again, I would go as part of a longer trip, visiting several places.

I hope you enjoyed that post and got some feel for what it’s like to visit New Orleans. I certainly hope it inspires you to visit there yourself someday, or that it helps you to plan your trip. It’s a truly gorgeous part of the world and I, myself, loved it there.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh




Let’s start

at the beginning.

Welcome to my blog, where I hope to document my thoughts, my fads and projects, and anything that creeps into my mind.

I live in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, where I’m trying my best to carve a safe little corner of the world for myself. I have a wonderful job as Journal Editor for a national charity who support people with a particular medical condition, and I’m in love with my work.
I’m a film enthusiast with a penchant for kitchen sink dramas, documentaries, and the old black ‘n’ white movies. I read for pleasure as well as for education; currently I’m all about memoirs, particularly medical ones, and not just for the gory details (though they are jolly-good fun).

There have been many, many troubles in my life so far, but I’ve been very fortunate to have a loving family and some faithful friends. I also have a gorgeous Scottish Terrier called Sputnik, who let’s me give him a squish when I need one. These things keep me going, and though I’ve tripped many times and gone careering quite ungracefully into a den of nettles (or an old-fashioned puddle of mud), I’ve always clawed my way out of it. I hope to tell you about some of those times as we go on, subject to bravery.

Any wisdom I think I have to impart can be shared here. If nothing else, there will be crafts. Oh yes. There will be crafts.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh