Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Started From The Bottom Now We Here

We made it! The longest and most brutal twelve weeks of my life have reached a semi-climactic end. My tendon has, medically speaking, returned to full strength and so I'm free to push open doors to my heart's content. Whether or not I feel mentally ready for that is an entirely different story, but I can't deny how good it feels to know that picking up a cup of coffee no longer carries a health risk.

The real fact of the matter is that this journey doesn't end here. Not even close. There's still a lot of healing left for my body to do (shout out to my antibodies for being total lazy bones and taking their sweet time) which means my hand still feels really super weird (that's a medical term) and will do for at least another few months. Hooray me.

Despite all the physio and the endless hours of forcing myself to get back to normality, I still haven't regained the natural instinct that comes with having two fully-functioning hands. Nothing feels natural anymore. Even now, am I using my index finger to type this? Nope. Am I able to use it to type things? Sure, it's just not all that enjoyable and so my brain has decided that it's easier to just avoid using it wherever possible.

Am I being dramatic? Possibly. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again, "you never know what you have until you no longer have it". Your hands are a huge part of who you are. Will your eyebrows still be on fleek if you only have one hand to draw them on with? Will your poached eggs be completely smooth if you only have one hand to crack the shell with? These are the important questions at times like this. And only time will tell you the answer.

Not only has this experience physically changed me, it's also had a huge impact mentally. Go figure. I actually lost some of the movement in my index finger for a good seven or so weeks because of the amount of trauma within the area, and it was mentally agonising trying to get it back.

Regardless of what happens next, I now know what it is to be brave, what it is to be strong, and what it is to say a giant "fuck you" to a Starbucks employee who cracks a hugely misplaced joke.

Stay away from knives, or better yet, keep out of the kitchen entirely.
~ Eleanor xo

| And if none of the above makes sense, you can read part one here and part two here |

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The 'using my birthday as an excuse to buy myself things' Haul

If there's one day in a year that deserves a completely-dedicated-to-you haul, it's your birthday. Am I right or am I right? So when this day finally rolls around for me in the middle of each August, I like to go full-on #TreatYoSelf, a la Tom Haverford from Parks & Rec (literally the best show).

I think it's important to have a good solid mentality about it. I mean, I've kept myself alive for this many years, therefore I deserve to shower myself with love and presents because I am the one. All the regrets, bad decisions and evening meals where I ate all my vegetables have led me to this moment. I'm going to buy that obscenely expensive item. And I'm not going to regret it even a tiny bit. At least until my next bank statement comes through...

1. I've wanted to try out this Re-balancing Black Soap from L'Occitane for so long

2. Already addicted to drinking my morning cups of coffee out of this Anthropologie 'Rise & Shine' mug 

3. These hot summer days mean this Shea Butter Lip Balm from L'Occitane is a definite must-have

4. This Vera Moda via Asos belt can be worn at any length, around the waist or hips, making it super handy

5. I cannot even begin to explain how dreamy this Olive Leaf & Lemon Candle from Anthropologie smells

6. I feel like I've been searching my whole life for this perfect pair of skin tight grey ankle jeans by Pilcro and The Letterpress via Anthropologie

7. I love this floaty cotton, boho-esque blouse from Mango

8. This Asos high-waisted rope tie mini skirt means I can still rock the denim and potentially get a little sun on my pasty legs

9. This airy Light Blue Cotton Shirt from Mango is amazing for the weather right now

10. And if you love something, you should totally buy it in every colour, so I also picked it up in Blue & White Stripes

11. This Grey Fitted Shirt I picked up at the Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store at Gunwharf Quays is so flattering

12. Twenty-two is going to be the year of the plaid, and I could not put this Hollister shirt down

~ Eleanor xo

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

How Account Handling Has Changed Me

I almost can't quite believe the words I'm about to type: I have been an account exec for one whole year. Actually, if we want to get exact about it, it's been a whole year and a week (because blog post scheduling is hard *sad face*).

Making it through a whole year of employment isn't exactly a huge achievement for a lot of people, but this is my first real job, and the fact I haven't blown it (yet) makes it a huge deal for me. Not only that, but the amount of growing and learning I've done in the last twelve months is honestly astronomical (love that word, it's far too underused) so it feels right that I take a look back and review how far I've come. Plus, in the future when I'm A) a real housewife of Beverly Hills who no longer needs to work or B) a washed up has-been, I can look back at these golden times and reminisce about life as I started out in my career.
  • I'm way more confident when speaking to new people.
  • I no longer have a fear of picking up the phone.
  • I can spell 'available'.
  • I find creating spreadsheets hugely therapeutic.
  • I'm 100% not a fan of buffet lunches. How many sandwiches is too many sandwiches?!
  • Automotive clients are my thing. I absolutely love working with car brands.
  • I also happen to know everything there is to know about car finance so.
  • Still no idea what I'm supposed to do with my mountain of business cards.
  • My immune system SUCKS #TwoDaysOffSickForAThroatInfectionSayWHAAAAT
  • Sometimes things get a bit stressful.
  • I thrive off the stress.
  • I swear a lot more now.
  • I've more than definitely effed up my back from slouching in my desk chair.
  • It look me about six months to pluck up the courage to use the coffee machine.
  • I'm not very good at keeping secrets. Especially when I've signed something to say I have to keep something a secret.
  • I'm slowly learning how to participate in conversations with people about their children...
  • I write a humongous amount of lists.
  • I bullet point absolutely everything. In case that wasn't already obvious.
  • I know what an umlaut is.
  • I have become a morning person.
  • Leftover meeting food is the one.
  • I heard the chief of PSA finance speak at a conference in January and I now wish to name my future son, Cruciano.
  • My voice goes so high whenever I chirp "Morning!" that I'm sure only dogs can hear it.
  • The joy of pay day lasts for about two seconds before you remember all the bills you have to pay.
  • I like being surrounded by such an array of accents. #PronounceMyNameAgain
  • Still no idea how I'm expected to answer the question "So how was your weekend?" when all I did was fill my online Anthropologie cart and then exit the tab before looking at the final price.
  • You can make it through three years of university and never play beer pong. Your first work Christmas party and you're being forced to play by your Account Director. Obvs.
  • It's a good idea to have a standard greetings card message that you can whip out at any time, for any occasion.
  • It's always someone's birthday.
  • Using the devices to test things is my worst nightmare. SO. MANY. GERMS.
  • I sound really posh when I answer the phone. It's awful.
  • The stairs in my office are really hard to maneuver. Or is that just my overly long feet?
  • The autocorrect on Mac is a sneaky little bitch. You know full well that is not what I wanted to type.
  • Everyone's on a diet until someone brings in biscuits.

~ Eleanor xo

Friday, 19 August 2016

Link Love #27

  1. The not so palatable truth about our avocado addiction {via The Guardian}

  2. The hashtag #FirstSevenJobs proves it's all gonna work out {via Refinery 29}

  3. Umm so they're going to release special house editions of the first Harry Potter book {via MuggleNet}

  4. A couple of mood playlists Spotify is missing {via The New Yorker}

  5. These twenty-two amazing quotes from J K Rowling {via Buzzfeed}

  6. A great piece on the problem with watermelon pizzas and sweet potato toast {via New York Mag}

  7. Thirteen ways Lizzie McGuire would be different in 2016 {via Cosmopolitan}

  8. Heather Dubrow is ultimate #goals {via Instagram}

  9. Nineteen of the world's best hotel pools {via Harpers Bazaar}

  10. This 'Pantone Cafe' is a designers dream! {via My Modern Met}
Keep it real, amigos
~ Eleanor xo

Thursday, 18 August 2016

What I Got For My Birthday

As I get older, the question "so what do you want for your birthday?" just gets more and more difficult to answer. What would I like for my birthday? World peace? A one way ticket to the moon? A chance to tell Beyonce that I actually don't get what all the hype around her is about?

It's tough, you know? But I also feel like I cherish what I'm given way more nowadays because I'm no longer a child, all my 'big' birthdays are behind me (at least for the next eight years, anyway), so my friends and family aren't exactly obligated to give me anything at all. Honestly, I'm flying the gratitude flag if someone literally just sends me a birthday card. They don't even need to write anything inside it.

This year the only thing I had my eye on was the Wood Sage & Sea Salt cologne from Jo Malone which smells so insane, I would swim in it if I could. Everything else was a total surprise and I'm really super thankful for what I was given.

Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne | Marwell Zoo Flamingo Adoption Pack | Tickets to see Titanic Live in March 2017 | Mango Peach Salsa Yankee Candle | Key Dish | Chocolicious Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers | Pull & Bear Striped Tshirt | Personalised Print & Frame (could it be any more accurate?) | Lindt Chocolate | Photo Frame & Picture | Motivational Postcard | Tickets to see The Lion King in London in September | H&M Gift Card

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Twenty Two

This year, I kind of hit the jackpot. Not only do I work for a company that gives their employees their birthday off, free of charge (!!!!), but thanks to 2016 being a leap year, the anniversary of my birth fell on a Friday. And you know what that means? LONG WEEKEND. If I could moon walk, I'd be moon walking right now.

Having only been back in the office for two weeks, waking up without an alarm and with nowhere to be wasn't quite as cleansing to the soul as it would've been, had I not butchered myself nine weeks previously. As with every other year I can recall, my bedroom door was flung open at about half six in the morning by my overenthusiastic mother grinning and singing "Happy birthday to someoneeeeeeeee" like it was the most hilarious joke she's ever pulled. Every. single. year.

I don't know why I always choose to open cards and presents first thing in the morning, I'm so delirious and bleary-eyed that I can barely read what anyone's written. I just assume it says 'Happy Birthday' in there somewhere and follow through with an "aww, they're so sweet". Usually I do a second sweep a little later in the day to fully grasp what's been written.

My mum perched on the end of my bed, as she does, still grinning to herself and repeating "open this one, open this one!" at an excitement level I've not witnessed since that John Lewis Christmas advert. Obviously, when I did open it, I died and went to heaven. In my hands I held a Marwell Zoo adoption pack for none other than their ENTIRE FLAMBOYANCE OF FLAMINGOS SOMEONE HOLD ME. They could've also bought me Zac Efron and I wouldn't have even noticed, that was where my emotions were at.

I managed to compose myself enough to share my gratitude and then snuggle back down in bed to work out what I would do with the whole day ahead of me. Naturally, I decided on shopping and spa-ing. After a pleasantly long soak in a bubble bath, where I (thank god) remembered to shave my legs, I headed out into the blisteringly warm and sunny day to play a game of 'How many times can I use "it's my birthday" as an excuse to buy myself things before I bankrupt myself'. Stops included: Anthropologie (naturally), L'Occitane (double naturally) and Hollister (because I've decided 22 will be the year of the plaid shirt).

After wolfing down some lunch, it was onto the BSpa at Brooklands Hotel; I always find it hilarious that I love going to the spa so much considering the huge problem I have with nudity. But after a small internal panic and a silent thank you to the lord that I remembered not to put on a pair of comfy-not-at-all-sexy undies that morning, I semi-relaxed enough to enjoy a fifty minute long Caudalie Fleur De Vigne Candle Massage. It was without a doubt the best full body massage I have ever had. I could've stayed there for days. Brooklands Hotel, you da one.

Feeling more relaxed than I think I ever have in my life (and smelling absolutely amazing), I headed home just in time to enjoy an Earl Grey tea (really embracing this whole 'old age' thing) and an arguably overambitious slice of caterpillar birthday cake. I consoled myself with the excuse that it's not a proper birthday until you feel sick from eating too much cake. #RealTalk.

That wasn't exactly helped by the huge Chinese feast we tucked into that evening, but it was my birthday so what was I going to do? Say no? Not likely. But I think my favourite part was waiting in the restaurant for our take out order to arrive and witnessing the "SURPRISE!" part of a surprise birthday meal take place. The temptation to grab one of the balloons and exclaim "Is all this for me!?" to a group of total strangers was almost too much. Instead my dad and I ate crackers and mentally wished my fellow birthday girl would stop crying. Pull yourself together, you're giving us all a bad name.

And then the complimentary bottle of wine arrived and suddenly everything was great again.
~ Eleanor xo

Sunday, 14 August 2016

What I Learnt From Twenty One

I feel like I've just blinked and suddenly it's August twelfth again and I'm telling everyone how important it is to celebrate me and the fact that I exist!

Twenty one was one hell of a learning curve for me. I know I'm going to say that pretty much every year until I die, or you know, stop caring (whichever comes first), but I really feel like I've emerged from the grips of the past year stronger, better, faster, stronger (hands down the best Kanye song ever, can I just say).

But you know what's great about aging? (Besides being able to complain about loud noises and tutting whenever a youth is within your vicinity) Wisdom. You get chucked in right at the deep end when adult life begins, but once you get over the initial shock of being in ice-cold shark infested waters, you gradually learn how to stay afloat and keep your head above the water. Am I queen of the metaphor? Potentially. So here's a little round up of what I think the last twelve months taught me:

  1. Adults actually don't have it figured out. Every single person you know is without a doubt, winging it.

  2. There's a difference between making a living and making a life. I just haven't quite mastered it yet.

  3. How amazing it is to witness all my friends succeeding at what they love.

  4. Not everyone is out to get you. But some occasionally some people are.

  5. The importance of finishing a day and being done with it.

  6. How truly lucky I am, despite (what feels like) constant setbacks.

  7. It doesn't matter where you are, if you order sparkling water, you is fancy.

  8. People won't understand why you're saving for a rainy day, until that rainy day happens.

  9. I may no longer be in education, but learning new things is more important than ever.

  10. Prosecco is the blood given unto us by the Greek Gods.

  11. You're allowed to scream, you're allowed to cry, you're allowed to swear; but you are never allowed to give up.

  12. You are far stronger than you will ever give yourself credit for.

Here's to the next jam-packed 363 days!
~ Eleanor xo

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Photo Diary: July Round Up

Because who would I be if I didn't snap some peonies? @ Secretts Farm Shop, Milford
Saturday morning in the sunflower fields are my favourite @ Secretts Pick Your Own, Milford
Hand physio in the form of holding a glass of Pimms for a photo #NailedIt @ Durweston, Dorset
Flower arrangements full of greenery speak to me on a spiritual level @ Durweston, Dorset
Relaxing days in between chaos (this book was awesome!)
It rained, it poured, we ate, we drank @ The Aviator Hotel, Farnborough 
Organic buffalo cheddar is the reason normal cheddar will never be the same @ Laverstoke Park Farm
Fruit of the season looking fine @ Secretts Farm Shop, Milford
An afternoon learning about (and witnessing) how Jaguars are made @ Jaguar Manufacturing Centre, Castle Bromwich
Hydrangeas are the new black @ Squires Garden Centre, Milford
Getting stranded in London on the hottest day of the year meant photo opportunities! @ Cornwall Road, London
Just hanging out on a giant deckchair, nbd @ Squires Garden Centre, Milford 

I'd say this month has been way calmer than June, but in actuality, the heat (metaphorically and physically) was turned up a notch. As my life has revolved solely around my left hand these last few weeks, that's about all I have to report. But I already wrote a post about that so I won't bore you again (though I am typing this on the final day of July which means I'm two thirds of the way through the recovery and I'm fit to drive my car again! Hallelujah!).

Time seems to have got away from me a bit in all honestly, I suppose that'll happen to you when you spend almost every hour of every day watching American dramas on Now TV (which has, incidentally, been my absolute saviour during these endless days at home recovering). I did get to leave the house occasionally; my parents arranged little trips I could accompany them on at the weekend or during their days off so I didn't go 100% stir crazy (it didn't work, I am 110% stir crazy).

Still, I took lots of trips to the supermarket, attended the odd 'booked in advance and non-refundable' day out, I got to supervise the man from BT moving our telephone wire, signed for lots of parcels, helped pick out the new windows and front door for our house, walked around the block a few times and made, what I believe to be, a permanent indentation in the cushions on our sofa.

Life should be well on the way to returning to normality by the end of next month, which will likely be bizarre and huge a relief. I'll let you know how it goes.

~ Eleanor xo

Katy Perry finally released a new song which is balling; I'm not entirely sure why The Girl on the Train movie is going to be set in New York; and the British public learnt that takeaway coffee cups aren't actually recyclable.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

July Favourites

Well another month has come and gone, and we're another week closer to Christmas (because that's what's important, right?). Working out what this month's favourites were was surprisingly difficult; usually I can predict what will be a favourite just a few days into the month but as life has been (mostly) spent on the sofa, there hasn't really been a lot of opportunities to discover new things... unless we count all the films I finally got around to watching (ugh, I blubbed like a baby at 'The Theory of Everything').

Calling the below 'favourites' may be a bit of a stretch, but it's not all a lie, I do really dig these things: 
  1. Tatler Magazine
    I'm at that point in my life where even though I'm not in full time education, I want to learn as much as I can, as often as I can. That's why I get the morning news sent straight to my inbox before I wake up in the morning. I just love learning new things, big or small, I'm down. So when I picked up a copy of this month's Tatler (having never done so before) I was interested to know what it was about and what it would teach me. And you know what, I loved it. I think this magazine is really great; the stories are insightful and unexpected, the topics are so varied with different viewpoints throughout, and everything is written so so well. Like a great book, I couldn't put this down.

  2. Infused Water - with cucumber and fresh mint
    I don't know if you know this, but for a couple of days in July, Britain barrelled head first into the sun. I mean, it was sweltering. Legs and arms out weather. Which was great fun (except for the fact that I had to spend the hottest day of the year hopping on and off trains to get to a hospital appointment #SweatCity), but it meant that hydration became everyone's top priority, even when the water that spewed out of the tap was in fact, lukewarm. Yuck. So I decided to fill up a pitcher of water and stick in the fridge for ultimate coolness. And then a lightbulb bedazzled with the Pinterest logo lit up inside my brain. Infusions! So I dropped in some chunks of cucumber and a generous amount of leaves from my very own mint plant,  stirred it all together and there we have it. Infused water is so fresh and tasty, it was the perfect pick-me-up during those long hot days.

  3. The Catch
    It has been a very long time since I was this excited about a television show. It's difficult to explain the storyline without giving lots of spoilers, but essentially it follows a private investigator who gets conned by her fiancĂ© and she and her team set about finding him and bringing him down. But of course, as with every good American drama, it isn't smooth sailing. At all. There are only thirteen episodes in the first season and my sister and I ploughed through them like you wouldn't believe. The plot line is full of twists that you never see coming and the cast are not only excellent actors, but also, largely very attractive. Watch the trailer here.

  4. Whole Earth Peanut Butter with Sunflower, Pumpkin & Flax Seeds
    It's no secret that I love me some peanut butter. Hand me a spoon and a jar of Sun Pat and we're going to get along just fine. But you know, occasionally a girl's gotta think about health and stuff and that's where Whole Earth comes in. I love Whole Earth nut butters, just by spreading a spoonful onto wheat free Swedish rye bread (yes, you heard correctly) I feel like I've undone a world of damage to my body. This Peanut Butter with Sunflower, Pumpkin & Flax Seeds just screamed "health" so I knew I had to try it out; it's so tasty and so filling, I can't get enough.

  5. Adventures
    This month was actually filled to the brim with fun activities, which ordinarily, wouldn't have seemed like a big deal, but since my injury (I know right, shocker! I never talk about it...) I became really self conscious and the excitement for doing things was mainly replaced with pain. So when July rolled around and I was able to use my hand and was no longer confined to a ghastly splint, I was actually able to do things (like the Farnborough Air Show, the Jaguar Factory Tour, picking sunflowers, attending a presentation day in honour of a late family member), you know, the kind of things that, in hindsight, you would hate to miss out on because of an injury. Life goes on, even when your hand isn't doing too well, and I'm so happy I was able to enjoy myself regardless.
~ Eleanor xo

Friday, 29 July 2016

Link Love #26

  1. How to get that perfect Instagram flat lay {via Refinery29}

  2. Seven things successful women always say yes to {via Darling Magazine}

  3. How handbags, and what we keep in them, have changed over the years {via Cosmopolitan}

  4. This year's best drone photos, taken all over the world {via TIME}

  5. An image that applies to every British person right now {via Instagram}

  6. The greatest lessons we learnt from Legally Blonde {via Mashable}

  7. On now simply changing your password, can completely change your life {via Huffington Post}

  8. Pairing the right flowers to the right vase {via Domino}

  9. A collection of the cutest succulent containers {via Brit + Co}

  10. The new trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has got me so excited {via Warner Bros}
Keep it real, amigos.
~ Eleanor xo

Thursday, 28 July 2016

What Not to say in a Job Interview

Today marks a whole year since I missed the phone call from my recruitment agency telling me I'd actually managed to blag myself a job. True story. I genuinely missed the call. Luckily, I was able to call her back pretty quick, whole-heartedly expecting to hear another rendition of "they really liked you but....". So in memorial of this momentous day, I'm finally publishing the below blog post, which I wrote during my job search. I hope it provides a little inspiration, or failing that, a good laugh xo.

I don't know how to tell you guys this, but I seriously loved the whole 'unemployed graduate' thing. I mean, every day that recruitment agencies ignored my emails, rejected my applications and lost my phone number, it was all just one big confidence boost after another. I was bursting with so much pride and confidence, it could've been weaponised.

Psych! It was hands down the worst time of my life.

I won't lie to you, when I started my job hunting journey, I had next to no interview experience (I wonder if that's obvious by the below...), so I had pretty much had no idea what I was doing or what I should be saying. Now, ten points to Gryffindor if you can work out why the below statements caused me to not get hired...

  1. Me: "...I once spent a summer doing nothing but scanning and it basically made me want to kill myself"
    Interviewer: "There will be scanning involved in this role"
    {Of course there will be}

  2. Interviewer: "So tell me about yourself. Tell me what you're about"
    Me: *Internally wets self* "Umm well at uni I studied..."
    {Good one Eleanor, he now officially knows you have NO LIFE.}

  3. Me: "Haha, so I'd get to pick up the phone and boss people around?"
    Interviewer: "Ha, well we tend to call it 'manage'"

  4. Interviewer: "How would you say you work best?"
    Me: "I tend to work quite well under pressure [insert incoherent babble about stuff my brain has quite clearly blocked me from remembering for a good reason]... So what I'm saying is, I tend to get the best results when my life is going really badly." *Mentally punches self in the face*

  5. Interviewer: "So does that all sound good?"
    Me: "Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeahhh... I'm just saying yeah a lot now." *Awkward laughter*

  6. Me: "Sorry, my brain's just trying to process it all in-case there's a test at the end" *mimes writing a test*
    Interviewer: "There's no test"
    {What a waste of a perfectly good mime.}

  7. Interviewer: "So why this industry?"
    Me: *Gives long winded explanation and probably goes off subject* "Well I think I probably just used up all the fifteen minutes with that answer so I'll just leave now"

  8. Interviewer: "So what do you read, newspaper wise?"
    Me: "Well I'd say the Daily Mail but my dad would never speak to me again"

  9. Interviewer: "So how many twitter followers do you have?"
    Me: "Well, probably not as many as you... But one of them is Britney Spears"
    *pause where I'm not sure what's going on*
    Interviewer: "Wait, Britney Spears follows you on twitter? How! Why isn't this on your CV. That's the kind of thing you need to put on your CV!"
    {It is now on my CV}

  10. [A couple of days after the interview]
    Recruitment Agency: "I know you were only late to the interview because of very heavy traffic which couldn't be helped, and you informed us in time, but this company are very big on punctuality so it's not looking good..."
    Me: "I totally get that being late isn't a good quality but there was literally nothing I could do about getting stuck in traffic... I think not offering me a job simply on those grounds is a bit... well... Nazi like"
    {Luckily for me, I didn't actually want that job, but I can't say calling the HR team "Nazi's" would've really helped my case if I did...}
There are probably about a bajillion more examples that I could pull up for you to enjoy but I think we all get the picture here: I am not gifted at interviews. And I am in no hurry to relive this experience. *Hangs head in shame*.

~ Eleanor xo

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

How to build a Jaguar without really trying

If there's one thing you should know about me (besides the fact that I never say no to champagne) it's that I love giving gifts. Not just any gifts. The kind of gift that shows how well I know that person but is also something they'd never buy for themselves. Enter, the birthday present I gave to my dad in January: a tour around the Jaguar Manufacturing Centre in Castle Bromwich.

In case it wasn't already obvious, my dad loves Jaguar cars. And since I'm not quite in the financial position to buy him one, I figured that seeing how they're made may suffice for the time being. It's all totally legit, we didn't break in during the night to take a look around, Jaguar have simply cottoned on to a monumental money-making scheme. It's genius really, and to be totally honest, worth every single penny.

The factory itself was once homed to one of the largest producers of wartime aeroplanes during the second World War (much of the country's Spitfires were built in the buildings that are still in use on the site), today though, it is the main assembly plant for Jaguar Land Rover, and produces the XF, XJ, XK and F-Type Jaguar ranges.

Wearing a high-vis jacket with 'VIP' written on the back and a headset that makes you look like the world's lamest tourist, you, a group of about nine others, and a dedicated tour guide get to spend three full-on hours following the production line of the F-Type sports car.

Right from the beginning at the Press Shop, where lightweight sheets of aluminium are pressed by ginormous machines and robots into the pieces and panels of Jaguar cars (it's really super loud so disposable earplugs are supplied); To the main production house, or 'Body Shop', where those aluminium panels are expertly crafted, shaped and 'riveted' by both man and (scarily majestic) machine until an actual motor vehicle rolls out the other side. Then it's into intense testing (think monsoon weather, high powered heat, an inspection of every inch of body work, and trying out all the electrics) after which the car roars into life and is parked up outside, ready to be shipped to its owner.

Each Jaguar is completely bespoke, and honestly, no two we saw looked the same. The vast majority of cars built at the factory are exported around the world, with people waiting six or so months to receive their utterly individual sports car.

Sadly you're not allowed to take any pictures inside the actual warehouses, but the day was so interesting and intense that I almost didn't have time to miss it. The tour guides really do know their stuff inside and out; every possible detail you could wish to know about a Jaguar car will be bestowed upon you during those few short hours (including that they take small samples of the paint they cover their cars in out to the dessert and leave it there for two years, to ensure it doesn't fade or lose any of its Jaguary pizzazz. Pretty cool, right?).

If you're ever in need of a gift for a male in your life, or you simply want to try out something different, I cannot recommend this tour enough. It was so much fun and absolutely worth the two-hundred mile round trip. If only I'd been able to drive away in that beautiful XJ I tried out. Seriously, you could live in that thing *sigh*.
~ Eleanor xo

The Jaguar Visitor Centre, Castle Bromwich, Chester Road, Castle Vale, Birmingham, B35 7RA