All posts by Polly

Against Blue Monday Marketing and the Trivialisation of Mental Health Issues

Ignorance sign in blue and white metal to signify ignorant behaviour. Displayed on white wall

Blue Monday, essentially the grimmest recurring day in the entire calendar, is nearly upon us. It’s a time when we’re supposed to be at our lowest, according to academic and merchant of doom, Cliff Arnall, whose dubious findings were based on calculations of average weather for the time of year, low motivation and high levels of debt.

The science behind it seems sketchy, but Blue Monday is basically an annual excuse for press release mayhem, when companies try to flog us things to cheer us up before our bank statements arrive. It thrives on the notion of low mood being permitted just once a year – if it helps, perhaps imagine it preceded by the word ‘cheeky’ – before normal service is resumed and we all just stop being so ungrateful. Yet the idea of low mood being self-indulgent, temporary or quickly diffused doesn’t gel with the one in four of us who will experience genuine mental health problems in our lifetime, especially the one in five of us who will have a depressive episode. read more

Pantone Ultra Violet Locations: Places That Nail the Colour of 2018

Lavender fields in Provence iconic view with purple lavender: example of Ultra Violet Pantone colour in nature

Pantone 18-3838 Ultra Violet is the official colour of the year, set to appear on many of the things we buy, like and consume in 2018 – in a travel sense, everything from new suitcases and toiletries to hotel artwork.

The colour has already influenced some fashion designers’ Spring/Summer 2018 collections (shown in September and October 2017), and it will inspire many more designers in the collections yet to come. You’ll also spot Ultra Violet in homeware, stationery, food, jewellery and marketing materials, as brands look to jump on the bandwagon. read more

Sustainable Travel Explained: Meet Huw from TravelLocal

Raja Ampat Indonesia as seen in Blue Planet II with green scenery and trees edged by sand and bright blue sea - a destination covered by TravelLocal

Huw Owen is the co-founder of TravelLocal, with nearly 15 years’ experience in the travel industry under his belt, including stints mentoring travel entrepreneurs for the UN. He was the perfect person to kick-start my new blog series on sustainable travel.

Do you know a sustainable travel pioneer I should talk to for this blog series? Shout about them in the comments, or by tagging me on Instagram (Instagram.com/pollyallen), and let’s help spread the word about travelling more sustainably and ethically. read more

Bristol Harbourside Market and Tobacco Factory Sunday Market at Christmas

Bristol Markets and market stalls in Harbourside, including cactus plants for sale, and gifts at the Tobacco Factory, such as t-shirts

There’s nothing like a good outdoor market, whether it’s the Christmas season or not, and Bristol has plenty to choose from.

I’ve often blathered on about Bristol in blog posts: firstly, it’s one of the UK’s best and most vibrant cities, particularly for anyone interested in arts and culture; secondly, both sides of my family have history there, so I think of it as a home-from-home. From Bristol’s coffee shops to its street art, there’s always something quirky to see.

My sister and I were lucky enough to visit our Bristol-based cousin last weekend, and she is as much of a culture vulture as we are (when she lived in London, she introduced me to a fabulously-named café, Tina We Salute You, and countless art exhibitions). Going to a market was a no-brainer for us. read more

Exhibition Review: Dalí Duchamp at the Royal Academy

Dalí Duchamp exhibition poster at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London, featuring lobster phone and Fountain

Dalí Duchamp is the perfect injection of humour and zaniness towards the end of an ever-increasingly doom-laden year. Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp are both major names in the art world, but together they’re magnetic.

Some of you may have seen previous blockbuster conceptual art exhibitions in London – I loved the Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia epic at Tate Modern (21st February – 26th May 2008) – and others will be looking at these artists with fresh eyes. Whether you’re an aficionado of Surrealist art and conceptual art, or you’re just looking for a distraction from idiotic political games, you’ll welcome this Royal Academy exhibition. read more

The Word Forest in Estonia: Why it Matters

Word Forest Estonia Independence Project with Name Labels on Pine Trees in Lahemaa National Park

Nearly half of Estonia is covered in forests (49%, to be precise), so it’s hardly surprising one of the big celebrations of Estonia’s centenary involves a newly created Word Forest (Sõn Mets) in Oandu, part of Lahemaa National Park. This project sees individually labelled trees dedicated to journalists who have written about Estonia and its legacy, spreading support around the world.

In fact, when Estonian independence was regained in 1991, the country saw international journalism as a key factor in securing its new-found freedom and keeping its name in the media. The first named trees acknowledge those early visitors to newly independent Estonia, then the names mark key journalists who have visited between 1991 and 2017. read more

The Best Independent London Cafes and Coffee Shops

Independent London Cafes Le Cordon Bleu London Bloomsbury coffee shop and lunch venue

Back in September, the BBC reported that the UK is heading towards its coffee shop saturation point. Even in small towns, you’ll find several different coffee chains and some independent cafes within 100 yards of each other. As for London, you can barely move for baristas, but finding independent London cafes is trickier.

We all like a trip to Costa (the UK’s most visible coffee chain) now and again, yet independent cafes are far more fun to explore: the mystery of a new menu, a different blend of coffee or tea, and finding out if there are books, board games or artwork to enjoy. This is definitely the case in London, though I do realise some independents can take the biscuit when it comes to prices and pretentiousness. With this in mind, here are the best unpretentious and independent London cafes you should try. read more

Why is there a Princess Diana memorial garden in Cuba?

As we approach the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, two things strike me: firstly, I feel old (I was eight when she died, and vividly remember listening to the announcement on the radio in my parents’ room, then – in true ‘overly serious child’ mode, telling myself I would always remember where I was when I heard this monumental news. At the time, I also had a habit of standing up whenever I heard the National Anthem, believing it was an unwritten rule to do so, but that’s another story). read more

Review: Last Resort, at Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Last Resort Guantanamo Bay poster image with man in handcuffs on deckchair in front of watch tower and barbed wire

If you remove the modern political context, the name ‘Guantánamo Bay’ could be just another holiday resort. It’s in the Caribbean Sea, an American enclave on the edge of Cuba. There’s a branch of McDonald’s, and ‘over 6,000 species of flora and fauna’. Perfect package holiday material, right? That’s what 2Magpies, the makers of Last Resort, thought when they applied an all-inclusive tourist lens to the notorious American naval detention camp for suspected terrorists. They’ve created an immersive theatre piece that, for all the surface jollity of deckchairs, sand and Cuba Libre cocktails, successfully chills audiences to the bone. read more

Postcard from the Past: The Funniest Travel Book of 2017

Postcard from the Past Book Review of Tom Jackson's postcard compilation using vintage postcards and messages

One of your greatest holiday reads for 2017 doesn’t have many words, and the pictures are dated, but I promise it’s a work of utter genius: enter Postcard from the Past, extracts from genuine postcards sent by British holidaymakers in the 1960s and 1970s. Yes, decades full of cramped car journeys, discovering Spanish resorts, and trying to get a tan by covering yourself in cooking oil.

Holidays were still expensive, and there was no such thing as a budget airline or a Megabus, so getting a postcard from someone’s travels must have been pretty exciting. Imagine, for a second, how you’d react when this came through their letterbox from a friend or relative: ‘I can’t explain what it’s like here. So I won’t bother.’ Hopefully the sender didn’t go on to present travel documentaries… read more