The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul

the little coffee shop of kabul

Genre: General popular fiction; chick lit

Rating: 6/10

Favourite Quote: “…were millions of doves. They were a bubbling froth, their warble a low boil”

The book follows the lives of five women, all who meet in a little coffee shop in Kabul.

If you are looking for an easy holiday read, which won’t require lots of concentration to keep up with the plot and the characters, then this is a great book for you. Drawing on the authors own experiences, it gives you some insight into what life in Kabul might be like for a westerner. Sadly however, as it was written by a westerner, sometimes the dialogue felt forced as the characters were used too much to voice the authors own opinions. Although all characters are used in this way to an extent, with it sometimes being a good thing (link between tolerance of minority groups and children reading Harry Potter anyone?*) it was very patronising in this instance. Politics and culture were brought up constantly, which is to be expected from a book set in Kabul, however again this often felt like you were purposely being taught by the author, as someone acts and then it is explained why they acted that way in the context of the culture. In essence then even if you wanted a very brief and generalised introduction to the politics and cultural norms in Kabul this would be of little use to you as it is an American interpretation of the country, and lacks the subtlety of other authors who write about modern day Afghanistan.

On the note of patronising readers, sadly the fact that random words would often be translated into Dari for no reason also had this effect, rather than what I presumed was the intention of authenticity. As the words were explained immediately after being used, despite being pretty self-explanatory in the first place, the reader was left feeling a little annoyed, especially as this was a regular occurrence throughout.

“‘You knew I was hamla and you took me to your house?’ Of course, said Sunny, knowing the word for pregnant.”

Despite the subject matter discussed being often quite serious for instance the plight of fatherless babies in Afghanistan, the ownership of women by men etc. the book had a light-hearted feel which was at odds with this. These mentions of the more serious aspects of life in Kabul were juxtaposed with stereotypical and laughable-in-comparison worries of the western women in the book, for instance which man to pick. It was hard to empathise with the women discussed as somehow the book seemed to lack emotional depth, and perhaps the author should have tried to focus on one or two stories rather than five in order to achieve this.

In summary it is a good read if you want something quick and easy, but sadly it lacks emotional depth, character development and can leave you feeling somewhat patronised. If I were to recommend a fictional book on Afghanistan from the point of view of women, then I would be far more likely to suggest ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hossieni. You learn about the culture and politics without realising that it’s occurring, and the emotional depth and empathy with the characters can sometimes feel almost too much!

If you have read this book please feel free to comment below and let me know what you think!

*Source: https://www.yahoo.com/health/reading-harry-potter-books-can-make-kids-more-tolerant-93438785457.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The first fifteen lives of Harry August

Genre: popular fiction, science fiction

Rating: 9/10

Favourite quote from the book: There is no greater isolation a man may experience than to be lonely in a crowd. He may nod and smile and say the right thing, but even by this pretence his soul is pushed further away from the kinship of men”.

The book begins with a small girl at the bedside of an old man asking him to pass a message back in time because the world is ending. We then follow the story, or as it might be more aptly put stories, of Harry August, a man who relives his life over and over again. We learn what he does in each of his lives, the main people he meets and ultimately how he comes to have the responsibility of preventing the world from ending, and what he will do with that responsibility.

I absolutely loved this book. It is beautifully written, and one of those books where you have to pause every now and then to have a think. You know the ones? It makes you consider what you would do if put in the same situations, as well as think about the moral implications of your own actions in everyday life. The characters in the book for instance at times treated ‘linear people’ (those who only live their lives once) as somewhat inconsequential, because for them every time they came back the same people would be there again. Anyway that part really made me stop and think about how even if something isn’t going to affect you, is it right that you should do as you please despite the consequences to others? Another moment which made me stop and think was when considering how I would react if someone I knew told me they had lived their life before (and could prove it!), which led really to me thinking about how far we are willing to accept those we love.

I hope now that I’m not putting anyone off by making them think it’s a load of philosophical sappy drivel, it truly isn’t! The plot is very good, with a number of intertwining subplots which make it a gripping read. The characters are also very three dimensional, which enables you to empathise with them a great deal. Although not a truly unique idea of time travel (it reminded me very much of ‘Groundhog day’, only with an entire lifetime rather than a single day), it certainly wasn’t a cliché!

When trying to think if there was anything I disliked about the novel (so you don’t all think I am related to the author) I found it very hard. One thing which has been kind of mentioned already is the idea of love. Not just romantic love, but the love of family and friends too. Without spoiling the book, Harry is a man who pursues knowledge, which is fine by me and perhaps if it had harked on about love it would have annoyed me for being too romantic. However I wondered whether if I went back and lived my life several times over, if I would seek out the same friends and loved ones? Surprising myself really, I ended up concluding that perhaps Claire North has the right of it, perhaps having to start relationships with people from the beginning, when you already know them would be demoralising and boring.

Sadly I can’t say how it compares to the authors other work as this was my first novel by her (I am aware she was using an alias for this book, and have read nothing under any of her pen names). However I will be very much looking forward to her next book ‘Touch’ and am really hoping it will come out during 2015 so I can review it too!

Please feel free to comment, as I would love to know your thoughts, whether you have read the book or not. Do you think you would be more or less concerned about the lives of others if you knew they would exist again the next time you were reborn? And do you think you would seek out the same people life after life, or just move on? Apologies for the comment section, with the new layout there isn’t a simple box at the bottom, but if you scroll upwards again there is a ‘leave a comment’ option under the title. I may have to change that.

Until next time xxx

‘Last Voyage of the Valentina’ by Santa Montefiore

Last voyage of the valentina

Genre: Romance

Rating:  6/10

Favourite quote: N/A

This book follows the story of Alba, a young woman in the 1970’s who lives a promiscuous and hedonistic lifestyle aboard a houseboat – ‘The Valentina’. She has always feels isolated and so when she finds a portrait on her mother on the boat she goes on a quest to discover the truth about her mother and her family in Italy. Ultimately she finds not only her family in Italy but discovers a truth about her mother which explains why she was always such a mystery and not spoken of.

I’m afraid to say that although I’ve liked some of her other novels very much I thought this one was a let-down. It was described on the cover as a mystery, however it lacked tension. Had I put it down on the train and forgotten it I wouldn’t have endeavoured to find out the ending. In addition the characters were cliché and flat, and even in the book stereotypes were regurgitated, with Alba and her mother being the same ‘exotic and mysterious’ stereotype, and the two men who fall for them (Tommy and Fitz) being ‘English gentlemen’.  The women in the book were particularly hard to relate to, and I found by the end I didn’t care what happened to Alba, nor could I find anywhere a valid explanation of why Fitz fell in love with her aside her looks.

There was an attempt at character development; however it seemed very forced and unrealistic. Alba suddenly changes from being a selfish and hedonistic woman to one who is suddenly content with clean simple living, working in a café and who loves children. Although I understand what the author was trying to achieve here, it seemed unrealistic.

However if you are looking for an easy read, perhaps a holiday book to read in the sun where you know everything will turn out well in the end, then you can’t go far wrong with this book. A good book for if you are lacking the time or effort to concentrate on a more challenging book; the switching viewpoints keep your interest somewhat. However if you are going to pick up a book by Santa Montefiore then I could suggest ‘The House by the Sea’ which seems to have the heart and the characters which ‘Valentina’ seems to lack.

Please feel free to comment below, if not, the next review to go live should be later on this week and will the ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ by Claire North. Until then xxx

A Year of Book Reviews

Hello all,

Having now completed university, my best friend has challenged me to read 50 books throughout the next year. I readily agreed, and am going to try my darnedest, and as part of that aim have spent the entire morning sprucing up this old and slightly neglected blog, which will now be used to review all the lovely books I get through. I’m hoping it will act as an incentive, and that writing the reviews will give me the satisfaction akin to crossing an item off a to-do list.

So, as an introduction and to give you an idea of what to expect, I thought I would list some of the books I read in 2014 so you can get an idea of the sort of books I will be reviewing! It isn’t a comprehensive list, but some titles included:

  • The Return – Victoria Hislop
  • The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
  • Stoner – John Williams
  • And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini
  • The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer
  • Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
  • Misery – Stephen King
  • Dear Life – Alice Munro
  • I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes
  • We are all Completely beside ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Cuckoos Calling – Robert Galbraith
  • If I stay – Gayle Forman
  • A girl is a half-formed thing – Eimear McBride

So if you are willing to stick with me, I hope my reviews might help you in finding things you would like to read, or if you have already read the books I hope you’ll engage in the comments section and let me know why I was wrong to like or dislike a certain book. I think it’ll be a fun year!

Upcoming reviews will include ‘The last Voyage of the Valentina’ by Santa Montefiore, and ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ by Claire North. Both I have already read so the reviews should be up soon, and both are popular fiction, so I’m hoping some of you will have read them already!

Until then,

Much love xxx

How to be Happy

So as promised in my last post ‘Time to Change‘  this post is on improving your well being, or as I optimistically named this post ‘How to be Happy’, whether or not you suffer from mental illness. Now obviously not all these things will make everybody happy, however these are things which are mostly proven to improve well being and create a sense of happiness; so if increasing a sense of well being is something you are interested in, read on dear friend!

  • Have goals
    Having clear goals has been shown to improve happiness and well being because it gives you something to work towards. Whether the goal is to achieve a certain grade in school, or simply to get out of bed and buy milk from the shops, having a clear and realistic goal is important. I personally don’t actually follow this action because if I fail in my goals it just increases my sense of uselessness, however if you are better at actually setting yourself realistic goals than me  (realistic here is key!), you may find this useful, but like I said, not every action is for everyone.
  • Do things
    This is a very broad one, I know! I learned in CBT that if you do things (literally anything) then this will increase your sense of competence in that area, which should generalize to other areas of your life and increase your confidence. So if you go out and buy milk from the shops one day, you realise you can do it, and this might increase your confidence to later do something a bit scarier, like going to a seminar. Obviously again you need to be realistic with yourself and what you would be comfortable doing.
  • Do things you used to enjoy/think you might enjoy
    So if you don’t suffer from a mental illness the previous ‘do things’ point probably confused you a little, and this point is probably more suited to everyone. If you stopped doing things you enjoyed, whether for mental health reasons like depression, or just because maybe circumstances changed (a new job taking up more of your time for example), doing things you used to enjoy should increase your sense of well being and happiness. And if doing something you used to enjoy is off the cards (for me it was horse riding, which is now WAY out of my price range) then perhaps pick something you think you might enjoy. Join a new club or class, whether its learning to do make clay pots or going bowling :)
  • Do things which give your life meaning
    Now this one is a bit tricky because obviously you have to first find what gives your life meaning, which can be confusing. I generally follow this one however by trying to help others. I’m not sure who said it, or if it just one of those general phrases, but I remember being told once that the best way to help yourself is to help someone else. So while at university last year I went to a school and volunteered reading with the children. This summer I am volunteering helping out in a charity shop. If you look around there are lots of volunteering opportunities, and these don’t even have to be organised activities, you could do something as simple as offering to walk your elderly neighbor’s dog.
  • Social interaction
    So this one has been sort of latent in the previous three bits of advice, but social interaction has been shown to improve our sense of well being.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is another one which has been reliably proven to increase well being. Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel better, and it also gets you out of the house and out of your own head somewhat. Now for me exercise is another one I struggle with, perhaps because I am impatient and also a tad on the lazy side. Exercise doesn’t have to mean going for a three mile run every morning though, or joining the gym and devising yourself an intense exercise routine. The thought of either of those make me want to curl up in bed for the next 4 years :P Simpler exercises like going for a walk or a gentle swim count too, or if there is a sport you always wanted to try out like tennis or dance, then you’ll be not only checking exercise off this list, but also trying something new, and social interaction! Go you ;)
  • Diet
    In the same vein as exercise, diet is also important not only for our physical health, but it can also help our mental health *guiltily wipes cookie crumbs from corners of mouth*
  • Sleep
    Now if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a physical or mental illness, then you, like me, might find this one a tad patronizing. I’m sorry. But sleep has been shown to increase levels of well being, so if you are lucky enough not be affected by insomnia or another sleep disorder, then by getting your 8ish hours of sleep a night, then your well being should increase. For those of you who like me struggle with sleep, just ignore this one.
  •  Mindfulness/meditation/breathing
    These three were always ones I found a little….kooky. But studies have shown that they can  help in increasing well being. Mindfulness is based around the idea of living in the present moment, and mindfulness practices often focus a lot on meditation. I’m not pretending to be an expert on this…in fact last week I brought an audiobook entitled ‘Mindfulness for Dummies’. As all three of these have been shown to be useful for some people however, I have provided links below which may give you some more information.
  • Eliminate negative thinking patterns
    This is one I learned from my CBT sessions, and it aims to make you think less negatively. So if you mess up when making a cake and it ends up looking like a pancake, rather than berating yourself about it, you might think “Well the dog seemed to enjoy it anyway”, or “at least I made the icing alright” or “who needs to make cakes anyway, I’m a whizz at solitaire!”
  • Thinking positively
    Apparently it has been shown that thinking of three goof things about each day at the end of each day has been shown to increase well being. I am actually trying this one and have created a ‘happy things’ book, which forces you to see the good in the day as well as the bad.
  • Get help
    Obviously if you are here because you think you may have a problem or are suffering from a mental illness, then there is no shame in getting help, perhaps by confiding in a friend, going to therapy, or seeking help and advice from your doctor or medical professional. Nobody should suffer alone.

I hope these helped, please feel free to let me know in the comments below if you have any other things you feel would help people increase their well being or sense of happiness. Let me know also if you try any of these out and they help you…or feel free to have a go if you join a tennis club and hurt your ankle :P I think my next post in this mental health vein will be about ‘coming out’ about mental health issues, so please check back (or follow me/subscribe ;) ). Until next time, stay safe :) xxx

*Disclaimer* – By following these actions I cannot guarantee your well being will improve or that you will become happier, these are simply actions and activities which have been proven to increase well being and happiness in many people. This is not a medical site and so cannot posit to offer advice for any symptoms or conditions you may or may not have. Information posted on or linked by this site is not guaranteed to be accurate. The consequences of any use of information posted on this site is entirely at your own discretion. Batteries not included.

Useful Links

http://www.actionforhappiness.org/ – this organisation is specifically aimed at increasing well being and happiness, and has some really useful information, resources, and ideas for actions you can take if you are interested in reading more.

http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/8000_cognitive_behaviour_therapy – An overview of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) by the organisation MIND

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/M/mindfulness/?gclid=CLC6sJ_ghrkCFQTHtAodQggAoQ  – Information on mindfulness from the mentalhealth.org

Hell is the hairdressers

Is it just me who hates the hairdressers? I fear it may be, because whenever I go in there all the other women seem to be having a ball, while I awkwardly stumble about trying not to flick people with my recently washed hair.

As you may have guessed, today I went to the hairdressers, and it was a far from pleasant experience.

First of course, I had to phone them to make an appointment, which is a trauma in itself. I think it must also only be me who fears using phones, though it might also extend to the rest of the internet generation. Anyway, having carefully written down on a piece of paper vital information I might need (AKA how to start the conversation: Hello, I was wondering if you have any appointments free for today or tomorrow?); and having checked I couldn’t just make an appointment online, I called them up. Having hung up after it had rung twice because I got scared, my second attempt was more successful  and I stammered through the exchange, my mouth going dry when they asked me what treatment I wanted. Luckily the woman on the other end of the phone seemed to sense the terror in my silence, and kindly asked ‘just a wash and cut’? Though to be honest, I would have agreed to anything she had said at that point, even if it was ‘a full head shave?’.

Then the actual hairdressers.

It actually all started out quite well, except the small hiccup when I couldn’t figure out how to shut the door behind me again. I managed to nervously communicate what I wanted done, and then plodded over to the washing basins, being very careful not to bash my head against the sink. Then began the idle chatter. I detest idle chatter, and so while she chattered away about holidays and other stereotypical hairdresser conversations, I considered whether anyone had ever created a mute hairdressers. I think its a great idea personally, their slogan could be ‘We cut your hair in comfortable silence’. She also decided to ask me what hair products I normally use, meaning I had to blurt out the first name which came to my head (L’oreal), despite the fact that I just grab whichever shampoo is cheapest in Tesco at the time of my purchase.

Anyway, once my hair was washed she left me sitting with my head in the sink with conditioner in my hair for a few minutes. While I understand the logic of this, and it is what I do at home, those chairs are not the most comfortable, and I was aware that everyone walking past must have been able to see up my nose. So naturally I was relieved when she returned to wash it out because my neck was starting to really ache. Sadly the ordeal wasn’t quite over, because then she started giving me a weird head massage thing…luckily it only lasted a few minutes, and then I got the joys of having my hair cut.

Now I can practically hear you cry: “what else can possibly go wrong?!” or rather “what other minor things can you possibly complain about?”. Don’t you worry my friends, there’s plenty more.

Now those who know me in ‘real life’ (always makes me laugh that phrase, what is the internet, imaginary?!) know that I am short. I haven’t grown (vertically) since I was 12. I kid you not. This of course led to the poor hairdresser having to bump my chair up a million times once I had sat down, which I fear was embarrassing for both of us.

Anyway, most times when I have my hair cut they don’t wash it very carefully, by which I mean they let it get very tangled. Now this is a major problem for me, as my hair is really curly, meaning many a hair dresser has found him/herself unable to then get a brush through it.

Luckily my hairdresser this time (I don’t go enough to have a regular hairdresser, and I always ask for the graduates because they are cheaper) has curly hair herself, so was careful. And, I hate to admit it, but leaving the conditioner in probably did help. So I was really happy because that is normally the worst part of the whole hair-cutting experience.

Sadly, I was wrong. A few weeks ago I got the top of my ear pierced, and at the weekend I changed the earing to a small hoop. I’m sure you all know where I’m going with this. Comb + hoop = pain. It really was my own fault for not switching it before going really, but then I had to lie and say it was fine, it hadn’t hurt at all, when in reality it was really stinging.  It also meant when I got home I had to steralise a new earing (using my 4 for £1 lighter from poundland) and kind of re-pierce my ear, because the earing was going in the front hole, but not coming out of the back. I have a bad feeling its going to get infected.

Anyway, now in pain, I was kindly offered a drink. This really annoys me, why on earth would I ask for a cuppa when obviously what is going to happen is that hair is going to fall in it?! Anyway, the worst now over, I quietly sat and endured the ‘head forward’, ‘head backwards’ ‘face this way’ commands. I was also momentarily traumatized hen I saw what they did with the swept up hair. I always presumed they would whack out a dustpan and brush and put it all in a bin somewhere, but in a far creepier turn of events, the girl just brushed it all into a downstairs cupboard to join what I presume was the rest of the day’s hair cuttings. I really hope at the end of the day they throw it all away!

Anyway, having nodded and smiled and said the word ‘lovely!’ in a far too enthusiastic voice when shown the back of my head, I was finally free to leave. The receptionist helped me into my jacket, meaning naturally I fumbled for the arm holes while smiling apologetically. She then asked me if I wanted to book another appointment as if she hadn’t noticed how short I had had it cut, which was specifically so that I wouldn’t have to return for a very long time!

Then to complete my day, I got caught in a thunderstorm, hail and all, turning my newly cut hair into a wet matted mass around my head.

Let me know if you too find the hairdressers traumatizing, or if you are one of the women (or men) who seem to be having  a ball in there. Until next time folks x

“I feel like a bookend”

So I was going through my notes today in order to make revision notes, and I found scrawled on the back of some of my notes “I feel like a bookend”.

Its my handwriting, so I know it was me that wrote it, plus it sounds like something I would write. But I have no idea what I meant.

Did I mean I felt like I was trying to keep everything up?
Or did I mean I am like the necessary but boring addition to a shelf?

I have literally no idea why I scrawled it on the back of my notes, or what I even meant.

Strangely enough, these were notes from a module in the first term, probably coming up to Christmas….and I don’t remember feeling like a ‘bookend’ at any point in that term. I even checked my diary and my blog posts from around the same time (don’t you dare tell me I’m procrastinating!) and found nothing even vaguely bookendy about how I stated I was feeling at that time.

Most odd

What if your life were a novel?

I know,  I know, a week of deep thoughts for me huh?! Maybe it has something to do with all the revision.

First then, I considered what genre my life would be. Sadly I wouldn’t be a fantasy, as my life lacks dragons and giant flying eagles, broomsticks and daemons. Nor would I be a romance, see my other posts if you want to be depressed by how that is going. I wouldn’t be a classic, and I wouldn’t be an adventure. In fact, sadly enough, I concluded I would be one of two genres, and I don’t know which is worse. I would either be chick lit – you know the kind I mean, the stuff Jodi Picolt and Nora Roberts write – with ordinary characters (often regurgitated for their next novel with a name change) who go through some personal problem. Or I would be a character in an angsty book aimed at teenage girls; which, lets face it, with comments such as the above on why I wouldn’t be in a romance novel, I kind of deserve. Hermione would never say something like that.

Anyway, then I thought it doesn’t really matter which book I’m in, but which character I am. The characters after all don’t chose the books they inhabit. So then I considered the character I could be, and fortunately came up with something a little more cheering. I came up with 7 types of girl’s in books (let me know if I missed any):

The ‘spunky’ girl: the ones who are independent and have a lot of gumption, like Aarya Stark from Game of Thrones or Lyra from ‘His dark materials’, and although that’s the character I would most like to be, sadly I fear that isn’t me.

The ‘leader': Tall, sexy, self-confident and don’t need no man. Very unlikely to have close girlfriends, and very likely to wander round her apartment with a glass of red wine in just an old t-shirt and pants. Definitely not me.

The cunning one: Similar to the leader, but cleverer, wittier, with more sarcasm, and a clear goal (often a man, and even sooner a married one). Also more likely to be an accomplice to murder than the leader.

The free spirit: The one with a guitar who wears earthy clothes and drinks green tea, and has hobbies like painting and drawing and walking on beaches at night.

The friend: reliable, loyal, probably a tad plain and a bit of a secondary character. I think of those I’ve named so far, this is probably most likely to me be. Could be worse I guess.

The guys girl: Athletic, into camping and similar hobbies, drinks beer, can look after herself, overlooked romantically.

Who do you think you would be? And who would you want to be if you are not already your favorite?

Anyway, my final thought as I sat sitting gazing out of my window like I imagine the free spirit would be likely to do, was my problem as a character. I have no goal. In my own life, I have no real goal. I am going to finish university, but after that, I don’t even know what I want from my life (or if we stick to the metaphor, my book). So I think I need to figure that out really, because one of the first things we were taught about creative writing is that every character needs to have a goal. Without one, I will never be a lead character in my own life, and that is just sad.

So that is my new goal: to discover my goal! To figure out what I want.
Sadly I got no replies from my applications from work experience or internships, which was a blow, but then I suppose I have no experience. So the goal for this summer is to get some experience, to pad out the novel of my life, and then maybe people will take more interest in me!

Here’s to being the lead character of my own life.

Until next time folks

Yearning for home

So after all those weeks of moping and moaning and counting down the days, I have now been home for a little over two weeks.

I was annoyed at my Mum within the hour, and my Dad within the day.

Normality restored.

I still don’t know why this term was so hard for me being away from home, but it got me thinking about what home really means. Deep, I know.

Everyone says ‘Home is where the heart is’. To an extent I agree. I miss my family most of all when I am away. But I think that saying is also lacking a great deal.

After all, superficial as this will sound, but home is also your house, or at least your familiar possessions; because lets face it, when you go on holiday you are with your family, but by the end of the week part of you still looks forward to returning to your house.

I also realized that for me maybe home isn’t just my family and my possessions, but also the place. I grew up in and around the same area for my whole life. I went to primary school literally 5 minutes drive from where I sit typing this post now. My nursery was also a five minute drive, secondary school a 20 minute drive, church a 3 minute drive, the hospital I was born in, a 4 minute drive. You can plonk me anywhere in my home town, and I know how to get home. It always makes me think I’m a little like Samwise Gangee when he states ‘If I take one more step, it’ll be farthest from home I’ve ever been”

sam

So on my return home I realized how much I miss the trees and the fields; the fact that you get your GDA of salt just from opening a window and breathing the air.

Of course, sadly, this makes me unlike Harry Potter:

Because when I leave uni its more like “I’M GOING HOME!! SEE YOU SUCKERS LATER!” which is far less eloquent and touching…but then, he is an orphan abused by his remaining family, so I guess I don’t really want to be like him in that sense.

Another of my deep and meaningful thoughts I had since being home (congrats by the way if you are still with me on my rant) is whether the yearn to return (that rhymes) home will ever cease. Once I move out after University (entirely hypothetical considering how much debt I have from fees), will it become ‘visiting’ rather than ‘going home’, or will going to my parents always be ‘going home’? I mean, what about even when I’m really old, like 30?! Guess we’ll have to wait and see…if you no longer think of returning to your parents as ‘going home’ when did that end for you?

Aside from all those deep philosophical thoughts I have been having, I have also been ploughing on with my University work. I also hit the charity shops and got a bunch of new (new for me anyway) books really cheap. I’m not really sure why I did that because I already have a huge pile…but I guess at least if I die there will be a good range of books so I shouldn’t be judged too harshly. I mean, imagine if you died reading Stephanie Mayer and there was nothing else by your bed! How embarrassing!

(Sorry to all those I just offended. At the same time, I would like to make it clear that none of the books in my pile are Stephanie Meyer).

I also became Mary Berry number 2 (new and improved?) and made her Easter Lemon Pavlova, which despite having two major components (making a meringue base, and making lemon curd) went surprisingly well:

IMG_1867

For all those who are wondering, yes, I did turn 80 this week, hence my hobbies of trawling charity shops and baking.

As always comments, questions or just general messages of love are appreciated, and if not, until next time folks!

#14 Dear elephants

Right, so I was browsing around for ideas for challenge blogs, because I think its time we all faced the fact that I have been failing miserably on writing them recently. Anyway, the idea I have had is to do a kind of mini-series within the challenges, in which I will write letters to different people/things. I found the idea of letter writing interesting, even if they won’t/can’t be sent and will only be posted on here for you lovely people to read.

So I thought I should start on a light hearted note considering the depressing nature of my previous post (if any of you care – I have been feeling distinctly better the past couple of days). So, as the title states, this is a letter to elephants. (Kooky I know).

Dear Elephants,
I hope you realise you are my all-time, hand’s down favourite animal. And I’m not just saying that because you could come on over here and stomp on me. I just want you all to know that you’re great. Do you care that your kinda fat and wobbly  looking? No! You just plod on (literally) with your lives. Way to go. I also love the fact that the girl elephants (I know technically you’re called cows, but that seems a bit demeaning) and babies all go round in a herd together. It seems like a great arrangement, all pitching in with childcare and following what I always imagine to be a strict-but-fair matriarch. It also for some reason always reminds me of the ‘here come the girls’ song that boots utilise so well for their TV ads:

On the sadder side of this family orientated thing you’ve got going, I love the fact that you mourn your deceased, and even return to the sites where they died for years and in some cases decades to come.  You are so emotionally intelligent it is almost human-like. And lets face it, you’re not just emotionally intelligent, but can learn hundreds of commands in order to help humans in different tasks. And some of you can paint!

So I love you dear elephants, I love your gently nature, and your knowing eyes. I love your wrinky skin and your flappy ears. I love how smart you are, and if i could choose, I would want to be one of you.

Plus your offspring are hilarious….

All my love

xxx

Very Inspiring Blog Award

VIBA

So once again someone has made me all warm and fuzzy inside by bestowing on me an award, this time the ‘Very Inspiring Blogger Award’. To be classed as inspiring really does make me chuffed, because I don’t feel I have done anything inspiration worthy, which makes it all the better! Many thanks then to the blogger who bestowed the honor upon me (apologies for the language: this time I have been watching the first season of Game of Thrones): Absolute Frankness.

For this award I am required to state 7 things about myself, before making my own nominations, so here goes:

  1. I have recently started knitting because I feel like I need a project, and will hopefully manage to make an entire blanket (more on this in later posts)
  2. On a related note, I realised the other day that I should either have been born 300 years ago, or be an 80 year-old woman as my hobbies include reading, baking, gardening, and sewing/knitting
  3. I am one of those people in life who are just naturally untidy. My room is always clean  but clutter just seems to happen 
  4. The thought of turning 21 is already depressing me, and its more than 6 months away
  5. People slamming around when they are angry really annoys me, say something or get over it
  6. Loud people really annoy me – you know they type whose default talking volume is just loud and it makes you want to scream ‘I can hear you!’
  7. I love the moon, its so darn pretty

Nominations:
Will have to wait until later I’m afraid, I have a critical review to be writing, but they should be up sometime during the weekend, so watch this space.

Until next time, x

Travelling Troubles Revisited

So this week I was lucky and my Friday lecture got moved, giving me Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off. With five days off then, I figured it would be a good time to go home. I haven’t actually been  home in term time before (not bad for someone half-way through university, huh?!) and so it was all a bit confusing.

I had to get the bus to Coventry which went splendidly. Though walking to the bus stop through campus was a little embarrassing – I don’t know what it is about suitcases, but unless you are at an airport or train station, they are embarrassing! Also with me being me, I was worried that if the bus I caught which would get me there 15 minutes early might be late etc. so I got the earlier bus, and arrived at the station a good 40 minutes early. But it meant I had plenty of time to collect my tickets – try and figure them out – and then find a bench and read my book.

The train from Coventry to Euston was a virgin train, which was really posh! Never have I ever been on such a posh train. A woman came round with a bin, and a man offering food and drinks, which reminded me of this:

Though sadly I wasn’t in a compartment, heading towards my exciting magical future, with a ginger boy and a disappointing sandwich. But then I suppose you can’t have everything in life. Seeing as I had booked my ticket already, I also had a reserved seat, and wished I didn’t, because I had to find coach D (I was worried the train would move off) and then find my correct sear – far too stressful for me! Plus with it being a posh train, my ticket was checked by a grumpy man, whereas at home my ticket is never checked.

Anyway, when I got into Euston I had a look around because I have to go through there on the way back. Then I walked to Euston square station (for the tube), which luckily is still really well signposted from the Olympics, so I only had to follow the big pink signs. I then got the circle line, which took a while, but was fine, except the suitcase and the tube stairs aren’t the best combination. Then from Liverpool street to home was fine – I’m used to that part of the journey so I was relaxed by that time – no ticket checking!

So really I didn’t have any travelling troubles really, but all in all it is a very stressful business! I am hoping the way back will be as smooth – I’m more worried in case I miss the posh train which will be second, because they’re the ticket checkers. Is it best if you miss your train to get the next one and pray nobody checks your ticket, and risk a fine if they do; or pay for a new ticket, avoid a fine, and be an honest and upstanding member of society? Hard to say really :p

Let me know about any recent travel troubles you have had, and until then, stay safe. x

Ramblings…

I wish I could write. Write well that is. But maybe I only want to be able to write because I love to read so much. Nearly all my heroes, all my role models in life are writers, authors, poets. So I yearn to write too sometimes. I want to be able to create an entire world all of my own, fill it with my own unique characters. Labour over them like they are my children, and then with fear and trepidation, send them out into the world, knowing that there is little else I can do for them. They will either be loved by others, or overlooked and shunned. But I don’t spend enough time writing. I spend too much time in the worlds and imaginations of others to spend time cultivating my own. Perhaps that is a mistake, and one I work on fixing?

But I love to read, so maybe some of us are only destined to dwell in the worlds of others?  I love to see what worlds someone else has dreamt up. I read something once which I have never been able to find again, but it said that some people are such dreamers that they don’t really belong to this world; they were destined for one more beautiful. I don’t wish I lived in a more beautiful world in a physical sense, but I do wish I lived in a world where beauty is more appreciated; where it isn’t considered ‘hipster’ or weird to appreciate photography and art, fiction and poetry. Where it isn’t strange to see the snow falling and want to marvel at it. For that reason alone, sometimes I wish I lived in the olden days, when it was seemingly alright for women to be gentle and soppy, too cry when they read a beautiful poem (this happened to me the other day when I read ‘The Reaper and the Flowers’) or to be filled with an undefinable emotion when they finish a book. I don’t know if everyone gets this, but when you finish a really good book you have to just sit and think for a while (or sometimes half a day). I don’t know why, but it takes time to become myself again rather than the characters life I inhabited. I like to reflect on how I would have acted differently.

On the subject of reading, I think it should be done more often and by more people. Too many people simply read a book a year when on holiday, and even then it is the book they picked up at WH Smiths at the airport from the ‘top 20’ section. Not that that is always a bad thing, most books in the top 20 section deserve to be there. But let’s face it; there is also some real drivel. If you knew that the ONE book someone had read all year was ’50 Shades of Grey’ would you not be a little bit sad for them?  I have never read any of John Green’s books, but I do follow his vlogs on YouTube.  One of the vlogs him and his brother do is called crash course, in which they give you factual information about a whole range of topics, though mostly literature and history (if you are interested in science, see scishow). Anyway, in his first vlog on literature, he says that the act of both reading and writing is empathy. When we write, it is so that we can try and convey what we are feeling to others; and as we read, we learn to understand what other people are feeling, and to see the world from a different perspective.

Indeed, in a way we have covered this on my course (psychology for those of you reading for the first time, blown here by the winds of curiosity). Throughout development, children gain a theory of mind. This means they come to understand that others have minds; that others also think and feel. Children with siblings then often score higher on theory of mind tests, presumably because they have had more contact with peers. I think books must also help this, as they allow you to realise the complexities of emotions you haven’t actually had the chance to experience yet. For those who haven’t experienced love then, you can read a book (a good book that is) or preferably a few to get a wider picture, and understand a little better what  it means to be in love. Of course, this can also be a bad thing, as badly written books, or unrealistic ones can give us unrealistic expectations. This is my beef with the Twilight books (did I just gain a few enemies?). I read all the books, and I won’t deny it, I found them entertaining. They weren’t great, but something about them held me in the story, and I understand why they are so popular with young girls especially. However if that is the only book these young girls read, then I fear for them due to their unrealistic portrayal of love. Even Jane Eyre, a character written in 1847, has more gumption than Bella Swan!

Sorry for the rant. I am hung over and somewhat emotional for no reason. Forgive me, and I promise something with more direction next time :)

That Resolution Post

So following my end-of-year post, I thought what better than an equally cliche resolutions post?! A lot of people moan about new years resolutions, saying that people never stick to them; they’re a pointless tradition; new years is no different to any other day.

I disagree. I tend to stick with mine, but people come up with unrealistic and drastic changes to their lives, and expect to be able to stick with it. And some people manage, don’t get me wrong. But it takes a lot of will power for sudden changes, start slow! The other main criticism of saying that new years is no different: yes it is! Fine there is nothing actually different, but we have to mark the passage of time somehow! Making resolutions to better yourself can never be a bad thing, at any time of year.

Now saying that I tend to stick with my resolutions, its probably because  I make more than one a year. Last years resolutions were:

  • Keep a diary for the year with regular entries. Check.
  • Eat one piece of fruit or vegetable a day. Fail. Managed for about a month. Sadly it fell into disarray. 
  • Take better care of my teeth. Semi-fail. Managed it most of the time, but when I’m drunk I always forget t brush my teeth. Disgusting I know.

So this year I decided to bring back my failed resolution of a piece of fruit/vegetable a day, which I hope will be more successful due to my new soup plan (more on that later) as well as continuing my diary keeping up.

Let me know if you have any exciting resolutions for this year in the comments, or, if they’re not your thing, why?

Super Sweet Blog Award

Cupcake4

So I have been awarded for another blog, this time the Super Sweet Blog Award, by Stephyy who has a great blog related often to writing, but also to other things sometimes. It’s a hard one to explain, but it’s a great blog, so if you have the time, head on over and check her out :)

So, as is often the case, I have 5 questions to answer, and then I have to nominate other people for the award. The five questions are:

  1. Cookies or Cake? I’m going to take ‘cookies’ to mean biscuits, so go with that one. There is nothing better than a chocolate hobnob!
  2. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate. You can never have too much chocolate!
  3. Favourite sweet treat? Chocolate hobnobs.
  4. When do you crave sweet things the most? Probably when I’m upset.
  5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? This is a tricky one…after a lot of thought I think I’m just going to go with ‘cookie’, which for the sake of nicknames is much better than biscuit!

The other people I want to nominate for the award then are listed below, and I apologise if you have already got it!

Serendipities of a student
The broken road
This Queer Familia
Portal to the pages
From Oxford with Love

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank The broken Road (link above) for awarding me the ‘Blog of the year award 2012′ a few days ago.

Blog of the Year Award 1 star jpeg

Finally, I would like to say thanks to everyone who reads this blog, I’m chuffed with all the support :D

#11 If I were an animal

So this is really a classic question: if you had to be an animal, which would you like to be?

I have  heard some really quite interesting answers in my time, with the most common seeming to be domestic pets: cats and dogs. I guess that’s to be expected as we know these animals lives well and they seem relatively simple.

Other people go the other way and pick an interesting and exotic animal like a lion or tiger, and once someone even came out with an armadillo!

I always wonder whether people’s choices in part reflect their personality, similar to the way in which the shape daemons take in ‘His dark materials’ in some way reflects the personalities of the characters; or in a similar analogy, the shape patronuses take in ‘Harry Potter’.

Personally, I would choose to be an elephant. People always give me strange looks when I say that: why would you want to be an elephant? Well friends, I will tell you! Firstly elephants are social creatures, or at least girl elephants are. They move about in families with a matriarch as the leader. How many animals (bugs aside) have a female as the leader I ask you? Hardly any! Secondly, elephants are very intelligent and emotive animals, which appeals to me. Thirdly, they are gentle creatures the majority of the time, yet you wouldn’t want to mess with one. Finally, being an elephant would mean I would get to live in India or Africa where its warm, and I do love being warm!

Let me know in the comments below which animal you would like to be and why, and also whether you think in some way your choice reflects your personality to some extent. Finally, an apology for not posting as often as normal, but the broken keys are infuriating! I should be getting a new laptop soon though, so I will be back with you soon! Until next time x

Home Sweet Home

Dorothy was right, there is no place like home.

After moaning about how much I want to go home for what feels like weeks now, I finally made it! My parents arrived super early, meaning I was still in bed. But we packed the car up quick, and were home by lunch time.

It’s  great to be back with my family. More natural. I am taking tommorow off doing any of my work and going shopping with my mum, though if I get back with a reasonable amount of afternoon left, I suppose I will have no excuse but to start some reading at the very least. I miss the days when the start of the holidays meant you didn’t even have to think about work until you went back!

Strangely though, a lot of things appear to be very different at home. It seems a lot bigger for a start, with the bathroom especially appearing to be massive. The television also seems huge! In contrast to at uni though, at home I have a single bed, so I will be falling asleep in fear of the possibility of taking a tumble in the night!

In other furnishing related news, I took one of my bookshelves to uni with me to use, leaving a large stack of books in my room at home:

And this got me thinking. I was watching ‘The Vow’ the other day (please don’t judge me on my film choices!), and in the beginning is a monologue, in which it says

we’re sum of all the moments we’ve experienced with all the people we’ve ever known

This isn’t a new concept. In fact, within psychology it is a majorly overdone theme: are we influenced more by nature, or by nurture?
They both overlap so much that it is practically impossible to attribute anything solely to nature, or nurture. If we accept that a lot of what we are is affected by things which have influenced us though; how much of me has been influenced by my books? The pile above is only half the books I own, and in turn all the books I own is probably only a quarter of all the books I have ever read.

Does that mean that each book influences me a little? That part of me is J.K Rowling, part Tolkien, part Shakespeare? Or do they each cancel each other out a little, just causing a general influence of ‘books’?

Had I read different books, would I have different views on certain things? Had I not been an avid reader, would I have the same views and opinions as I do now? Would my language use be different? My personality? My writing style?

I guess it will always be impossible to say, but it really did make me stop and ponder.

Sorry for the ramble. It may in part be due to the sleep deprivation caused by my parents ridiculously early arrival!

Until next time x

Technology troubles

I intended to post all about the Christmas dinner we had and our Secret Santa…unfortunately its going to have to wait until probably at least on Monday, and this is why….

I am an idiot.

I spilt a flood of squash onto my laptop keyboard, and then had to go to a lecture. Its safe to say the laptop wasn’t pleased.

I came home and immediately took all the keys off, before covering the keyboard part with rice and putting it in the airing cupboard for 24 hours:

IMG_1800 IMG_1801

Sadly, in my second idiotic moment of the day, I forgot to photograph the keyboard before ripping all my keys off, resulting in a puzzle situation this afternoon.

IMG_1799

Sadly the rice also didn’t seem to be a miracle. The m key no longer works, and the h is is gammy (in order to type I am using a combination of laptop keyboard and on screen keyboard.) My v key is also acting up, just typing on its own. But maybe without the rice all the keys would be gone, so I’m glad I did it.

And strangely, there are lots of positives to this accident:

  1. Only 3 of the keys are broken, it could have been far worse
  2. It is the end of term and all my work has been handed in, so I don’t have to struggle trying to write an essay or something with the gammy keys
  3. There should be a simple solution – I think if I just plug in an external keyboard then it will be fine. We’ll see. If not it is nearly Christmas, so I could either ask for money and delve into my savings to get a new laptop, or get a cheap second hand one.
  4. It was my laptop, my squash, and my clumsy foot. If someone else had kicked over the glass, or left it on the floor, I might have been a bit peeved about the whole thing. Equally had it been someone else’s laptop I had ruined, I would have felt unbelievably guilty.
  5. My friends reactions – they couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t crying about the whole thing. But these things happen, its not the end of the world, and lets face it, there is no point crying over spilt squash!

Let me know if you have ever done something equally stupid: I know putting the phone in the wash is a very common one! Otherwise, I promise once the keyboard sitch is sorted out/once I am home and can use a different computer I will post about Christmas dinner and Secret Santa. Until then folks!

Birmingham Christmas Market

So yesterday we went to Birmingham Christmas market, and I realised not only are the buses far cheaper up here, but also the trains.  It only cost me £4.10 to get from Coventry to Birmingham New Street! Once I was done being scandalized, we had to cram onto a train, and a very kind guy moved up so I could sit down.

The Christmas Market was amazing. I was expecting stalls, but instead they were big wooden cabin things, selling all kinds of wares. Most of the things were ornaments and general crafty things, but there were also lots of stalls selling food like hot dogs and crepes, as well as many stalls selling drinks like mulled wine and cider. My favourite is the one pictured below, which was a viking themed stall selling hot wine and cider. As you can see, the people running the stall were also appropriately dressed with viking hats, which they lent us when we started taking pictures.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/556940_382268391861524_1645165901_n.jpg

And the one selling crepes was pretty awesome too:

https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/r270/59678_382279708527059_1014621150_n.jpg

We also saw a carrossel:

https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/558781_382270061861357_874089291_n.jpg

(I didn’t take a picture of the bottom part as I thought it was a bit weird to take pictures of other peoples children…)

And a giant bull:

https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/189925_382270721861291_357955182_n.jpg

All in all it was a really good day, although the crowds were ridiculous – perhaps we shouldn’t have gone on the weekend! It was also absolutely freezing, hence why I am so padded out in the pictures! I wore a strappy top (as a vest substitute) , a t-shirt, my new psychology hoody, and my coat; in addition to two pairs of socks, and mittens over my gloves. Needless to say, I was a tad toasty in the shops!

I rarely go to big cities, and it was quite an experience. I probably go to London once or twice a year, so cities always bewilder me a little. There is so much to take in! This culminated in me both walking into a bollard while looking up at the old buildings (and being teased for at least 15 minutes for being a country girl*) and me considering the pro’s and cons of living in a city compared to the countryside.

When I go to cities, I always think they are great because they are so busy, and there is so much to do, right on your doorstep. But then I think that after a while the novelty would wear off. I mean how often would I actually use said activities like the theatre/cinema/shopping/ice skating etc.? The answer is very little probably. Plus in return for all the good stuff on your doorstep you have to deal with the higher crime rates and the possibility of becoming a victim of crime, crowds, constant noise, increased pollution, and an abundance of concrete in place of trees and grass. People also seem a lot ruder in the cities, and nobody knows your name or your parents when you walk down the street or into a shop! The other benefit I thought about in regards to the city is that it just seems more vibrant and alive. But then I thought; while the city dwellers see buskers all the time, and there are more people to make it seem more ‘alive’ we have a different kind of alive, like when its lambing season, and you get to see all the baby lambs walking about on shaky legs! All in all then, I think that walking into bollards is a small price to pay for the countryside.

* Common themes included: “Is the biggest building you normally see a farm” and “Leave her alone, she was confused by the lights!” among others.

Until the next time I have something worthy to say Folks! x

Liebster Award Take 2

So I actually wrote this post out earlier today, but when I published it, only the title showed up. I was NOT impressed! Putting that bitter memory aside though, I have been nominated for the Liebster award again, this time by Runes and Rhinestones, whose blog you should check out if you have time, and want to discover a gem :)

I considered just adding more stuff to my first blog about this award, but seeing as my instructions for this one are different, I thought it would be easier to just write a new post. Plus it promises to be quite a long post, and I didn’t want post 1 to become too bulky and scare you all away!

So this time around I have to say 11 facts about myself, answer 11 questions set by my lovely nominator, then select 11 other people to pass this award onto. So here goes, 11 facts about myself:

  1. I hate potato in all its forms
  2. For that matter, I dislike nearly every vegetable. Totally a fruit girl
  3. My feet are tiny – size 3!
  4. Most of me is tiny, I’m a pathetic 5″1 – I’m often mistaken for a 14 year old
  5. My mother’s family is from India, meaning if you waste food, a grudge will be held for weeks
  6. I’m afraid of spiders. Like, stupidly afraid. I can’t even kill the buggers.
  7. I take so many pairs of socks to university, I only have to wash them every month.
  8. I love the smell of paint
  9. If I had been a boy, I would have been named Simon. Apparently my parents would have hated me.
  10. I’m right handed, but I snowboard goofy
  11. I love bags/purses/coats with loads of pockets, so I can put stuff in them and then never find it again.

Now to answer the questions set for me:

  1. What is one word you can never remember how to spell? I have two words nemeses: definitely and probably. (Both just had to be spell-checked).
  2. If you could learn one language without the hard work, what would it be? Spanish. This one took a lot of thought. At first I was torn between Italian and Spanish, simply because I think both are sexy. Then I settled on Spanish, as I think I would use it more. I would much rather have the ability to do accents though than a language!
  3.   If you could travel anywhere, right now and with no expense, where would you go? Australia, simply because it would be guaranteed to be hot, and I’m bladdy freezing!
  4. What is one thing you regret? Not making enough effort to stay friends with people from school after GCSE’s and A-levels
  5. What is your favourite book? ‘Dance of Dragons’ by George R.R. Martin. (The last book in the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series)
  6. Tell me about one of your favourite memories. When me and my little sister were younger, my Mum took us on a Lapland experience day where we flew to Lapland and did lots of Christmassy things. One of the things you did was find and meet Santa. When we got there the Santa had in his hand a letter my little sister had written him when she was in school. The look on her face is one of my favourite memories ever. Still to this day, I don’t know how he a) got that letter and b) had it for when we turned up – there were children coming and going constantly. My conclusion is that Santa MUST be real.
  7. Would you consider yourself a feminist. If not, why not? Yes, I would. I think women should have choice to have a career if they want to, with the same opportunities and wages offered to them as a man. But equally I think people take feminism too far, and assume it means women have to go against traditional stereotypes. I think if women want to just get married, have children, and have their husband provide for them, that’s fine too. Doesn’t sound like a bad life.
  8. Where would you like to be in 10 years time? I actually did a whole post on this, and concluded I would like to have a job I am happy in, and either be married or know that I will get married at soon.
  9. Do you have a weird habit/hobby - apparently my habit of putting conkers in the corner of rooms is not quite normal. But there is an old wives tale which says they keep away spiders, so conkers there will always be.
  10. What is your favourite sense and why? Taste, because life would be horrible without it.
  11. What’s one thing that grosses you out more than anything else? Eyes. People touching eyes. Things near eyes. The thought of eye operations.

I would now nominate other people for the award, but it was too hard the first time! I think what I shall do is nominate people as I come across them, and paste their names and questions below.

Liebster blog award nomination

So this is now the second award I have received in the past couple of weeks, and it makes me feel very special :D I was nominated by ‘A hopeful medic’ , who like me writes about university and the like on his blog. Thank you very much for the nomination. With this reward, much like the last one I received, I have to answer 5 set questions, before passing it on to someone else, so here goes:

1. What was your favourite birthday and why

I’m not entirely sure, I have never enjoyed my birthdays that much, as I loathe being the center of attention, so they have all merged into one in my head. One which particularly stands out however is when I was 10, because I got a big badge, and a big cuddly dog which I adored.

2. What is your ideal place to live?

Having only lived in one place my whole life, I would say my hometown. If that was unavailable though, I would probably go for New Zealand because it is so beautiful.

3. If you were stranded on a desert island, what luxury item would you take?

Tricky. I’m torn between being witty (but not very) and giving an answer like a boat, or a lighter, and being honest. If I take the question as intended, then probably a book…I don’t want to be bored on the Island!

4. What is your favourite season?

Summer by a mile. Summer is the best – its hot, the exams are always over, you can just lie around reading and tanning and eating barbecue food (with ice lollies as ‘snacks’).

5. Why do you blog

Because I enjoy writing, and for the happiness it brings me when I see I have a like or a comment on something I have written.

So now I have to nominate other people for the same award. Sadly most of the people I follow have 200 or more followers (the criteria for the award), however I did manage to find one person very deserving of the award who has not ‘Serendipities of a student’  is another student blog, so please check her out. Also ‘From Oxford with love’, though I couldn’t find how many followers she had :/ I think I will leave the five questions as the same ones I gave, with the exception of ‘why do you blog’ being changed to ‘what is your favourite book’.

#9 Fears

Fear is a very interesting topic. Everyone has them, and it always makes a good conversation. Sure, more often and not you get the common ones, but sometimes you come across an oddity. In my old school for example there was a girl who was afraid of stickers. Indeed, it is such a well researched topic, that on my course we dedicated half a term to it in one module…more on that later.

My personal fears are fairly ordinary. At the top is spiders. I hate them with every fibre of my being. I won’t go near one, even to kill it. Nor can I look at pictures of them. Below spiders then come bees/wasps, and then all other creepy crawly creatures, with the exceptions of butterfly’s and ladybirds. I wonder if this shows a bias in my upbringing, that I’m not afraid of butterfly’s and ladybirds because they are never shown as ‘bad’? (Though in my defense, if a ladybird was anywhere but on my hand I would be afraid. Likewise, if I look too closely at a butterfly and see the hairy body, fear grips me like a vice!)

Aide from buggy things then, I am also afraid of the sea. This is maybe an odd one. I’m not afraid of looking at the sea (I don’t scream and hide my eyes from classic desktop backgrounds of beaches for example), nor am I afraid of playing/swimming in it. So long as I can touch the bottom. As soon as I can’t I panic. It just seems too deep. Too vast. The bottom is literally miles down in some cases, and there are even mountains submerged in some places! The part of finding Nemo where they ‘just keep swimming’ terrifies me for this reason, and I can’t look when the scene of the ship on the edge of the precipice comes on. Equally I don’t think that sea creatures help – sure there are some cute ones, like dolphins and seals, but you also get some terrifying ones, like jellyfish, and those fish with lights on their heads :/

Other than that I don’t think I have many ‘fears’ per se, merely things I really don’t like, such as public speaking, and people touching my neck.

When doing our module on fear though, I learnt that my fears are pretty typical. The fears of spiders and snakes for example are more common for women. This has been discussed in two lights: evolutionary – that women learned to fear these as they could be potentially lethal in their caves, or social: that men are simply called babies if they act afraid, and so suppress their fear. Most fears are actually believed to be somewhat evolutionary, for example people fear things such as spiders and snakes, but few people fear guns, despite the fact that the latter is far more likely to kill you.

Within the module we also discussed two very interesting ideas: inducing fear, and removing fear. J.B Watson did an experiment on inducing fear, popularly called the Little Albert Experiment. He took a little boy (Albert) and showed him a white rat. Little Albert was quite happy with this arrangement, and played with the rat, showing no fear. Watson then started to make a loud banging noise every time the rat came near Albert, and Albert then started to show fear towards the rat even when the banging noise ceased. This is a case of classical conditioning: Little Albert learned to fear the rat. Furthermore he this fear later generalized to other white furry things.

If fear can be learned therefore, it can also be unlearned, and this has been the basis of many theories regarding removing phobias. Now the quickest way to get rid of a phobia would be to remove the amygdala – a part of the brain heavily involved with fear and the fight/flight response. But obviously removing brain parts would have very serious consequences! An easier way of removing phobias is exposure, as is fairly common knowledge.

There are two main ways of doing this. One is systematic desensitisation, in which people make a hierarchy of things they are scared of. So if I wanted to get rid of my fear of spiders, my hierarchy (from low to high) would go something like this: seeing a picture of a spider, seeing a video of a spider, seeing a real spider from a distance, seeing a real spider up close, touching a spider. The therapist then teaches the person deep muscle relaxation: a state not compatible with fear; and takes the person through their hierarchy  which eventually gets rid of fear.  The second, much funnier, but unpopular method is flooding, in which the person is literally put with their fear, so for me; a room of spiders. They learn there is nothing to fear, and so stop being afraid. You can see why its unpopular!

Hope you enjoyed the post, let me know what your own fear are :)

Karma?…Maybe not

It’s been another fairly slow couple of weeks here at university, with nothing major going on. Over the past couple of days though I seem to have had terrible luck…though on a very small scale.

I was in Tesco’s yesterday doing one of those annoying shops where you have run out of little things (conditioner, washing up liquid etc.) and you resent going because you don’t seem to get anything for your money (i.e. beans). So there I was in the laundry detergent aisle. Literally, it’s an aisle all on its own. I never knew there were so many brands dedicated to keeping our clothes clean. And our colors bright. And removing stains. And being kind to the environment. Scouring the shelves they all seemed to offer something different and superior, all accompanied of course with pictures of flowers or clouds, and words like ‘summer fresh’ or ‘spring breeze’. Then of course was the type of detergent I wanted. Did I want tablets? Capsules? Gel? Liquid?

I was baffled. I just wanted something I could use on everything and get clean clothes as a result. Preferably under £2. Eventually I managed to locate something. £1.50, Tesco’s own gel. Relieved I bent down to pick it up. Sadly it was on of the new fancy bottles, with the caps which come off really easily because you are supposed to fill them with the gel and then just stick it in with your clothes.

The cap came off as I was lifting it from the shelf, and the bottle fell to the floor, where it split and sent gel on the floor and partly up my leg.

Oh crap.

I bent down to pick it up, trying to remedy the situation. But then my hands were covered in gel, and for the life of me I couldn’t get a grip on the stupid thing. So I decided to leave it, and (after a lot of struggling, and casually wiping my hands on my jacket pretending I had done nothing out of the ordinary), proceeded to grapple with a new bottle and get it into my basket.

Then the whole way round the shop I had a moral dilemma. What  are you meant to do when something like that happens? Should I leave it and pretend it didn’t happen? Should I fess up and offer to pay for it?

Had it been a smaller shop, I would have done the latter. But with it being Tesco’s, I wasn’t sure what to do. So I left it. Tesco’s is rich enough not to miss one bottle of cheap laundry detergent right? And its not like I stole it, it was an accident! That didn’t stop my palms becoming very sweaty when walking past the security guy when leaving, making keeping a grip on my carrier bags even harder as my hand sweat was now mixing with the laundry gel.

Anyway, I had brought the old lady down our street a magazine while in the shop, as she comes round knocking sometimes and asking for any old magazines. (As I don’t actually read magazines, but feel bad turning her away, I have taken to buying her one when I go shopping). So I figured that my good deed might have cancelled out my guilty detergent deed, re-balancing my karma.

Apparently I was wrong.

There I was today, walking along back home from University beneath the trees, wondering what to have for my dinner. The trees have now dropped all their leaves, and they were wet underfoot due to the rain. I was also wearing my old boots, as my new ones let in water. Sadly, my old faithful’s have no grip.

It was one of those moments when you feel yourself going. You know you are going to fall. And fall I did.

Luckily I didn’t go down on my arse, nor did I hurt myself. Plus there weren’t many other people around, just a nice couple of girls who had been walking behind me who asked if I was alright.  Surprisingly I wasn’t actually very embarrassed at all…maybe because nobody laughed! It did make me think though that perhaps I should spend less time imagining the contents of my fridge and more time looking where I’m going.

So all in all, an unlucky couple of days. Maybe I fell as a punishment for the laundry detergent. Maybe the universe was bored and wanted entertaining. Or maybe there is a God and he was mildly annoyed at my post the other day concerning religion. Or maybe it was just luck, and I should stop trying to find meaning and purpose in everything.

I just hope that what my Nana says isn’t true…that everything happens in threes. If that’s the case, I think I should stay in bed tommorow!

Let me know if these little unlucky things happen to you too. Also let me know what you think I should have done in Tesco’s – would you have done the same?

#5 Siblings

A much better subject than the last challenge I feel! So those of you who actually read my blogs (and I’m aware you are probably a small demographic) you will know I have two siblings: Little sister and Big sister.

Big sister has been there my entire life. A pre-made best friend who waited for me to arrive so we could play together.  Then when I was around 2 1/2 I got to be the one waiting around for Little sister to come along and complete our threesome. We are a trio. Three little girls who always dressed the same at Christmas. Three girls who still do everything together when we get the chance.

Sisters are the best. You can tell them everything you can’t tell your parents. They are there to keep your secrets.

Obviously it isn’t always a bed of roses. Big sister was actually very nasty to me sometimes when we were little, to the extent that our Mum said she’s surprised I actually like her nowadays. But I am a fairly forgiving soul, and she was kind to me too. When I forgot my tuck for school she would come and give me some of her grapes. She taught me to ride a bike. She was my playmate for the first 10 years of my life, and a decade is a long time. I remember once when I fell over and cut my knee, and she gave me one of her plasters. Sounds stupid, I know, but these were ANIMAL plasters (it was a giraffe, to be specific) and they were a NEW PACK, from SANTA no less. Bet it doesn’t sound so stupid now, huh?

Nearly every single memory I have before starting secondary school features one or both of my sisters. Nearly every story I have worth telling starts with ‘Me and my sister(s)’.

And that is why I think only children are so sad. They never had a pre-made best friend. Everyone says only children just make up for it by having more/closer friends. But those friends probably go home and play with their siblings. It just seems so so sad to me that some people are a one, as opposed to a duo or a trio, or however many siblings there may be in a certain family.

Indeed, I find it sad that my friend Alice only has brothers. She was saying the other day how she went to see a film over summer with her brother. But only because she had gone on holiday the week her friends had gone to the cinema and seen that film. On the other hand, I never think to ask my friends to go to the cinema with me if there is a film I want to see. I arrange it with my sisters, and hope that I can rope my parents in too (that way we get a lift, maybe lunch, and will get our tickets paid for). Still, any siblings must be better than none.

Maybe I’m just a rare family person, but there you go.

So to end this particularly soppy post, I am going to quote poetry. Its the last verse from ‘The Goblin Market‘ by Christina Rossetti, and I have always loved it:

“For there is no friend like a sister,
In calm or stormy weather,
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”

Let me know your thoughts about only children, and the relationships between you and your siblings….or how you find being an only child. Image from dreamstime.com

The Path not Taken

So today I decided to go and do some exploring of the housing estate where I now live, and I found a lovely place. I walked down to the end of the street, and saw that there was an empty space at the end. At first I thought it might be a road or a park, but I actually found a field. Maybe only people from the countryside can really appreciate a field., but the grass was uncut, and there were trees down the end. The old kind. (Pictures at the end of the post – I want to try and paint a picture before you see an actual one)

First I planned on just walking around the field and seeing if it led anywhere, as I couldn’t see what was at the end, but then I noticed there was a trodden down path through the grass leading towards the trees. So I took it. . When the trees came into view I realised the path led into them through a little arch of branches. At first I was just going to walk to the arch and peer through. The thoughts of what happens to those who wander in the woods was clear in my mind. Little red riding hood (and Carol Ann Duffy’s version of her), Harry Potter getting caught by snatchers, and perhaps more maturely Tess from Tess of the d’urbilles and her unfortunate experience. But when I got to the arch there was a pathway leading to a rickety looking bridge. Ok, it wasn’t really rickety at all, it was fairly sturdy, but rickety sounds more romantic.

Bridges mean water, and running water and its pull are perhaps again something only people from the countryside can appreciate fully. The trees were also not too dense, so it wasn’t dark, and on this basis, I went in. And I was welcomed by the gush of trickling water and the smell of mud. There were trees growing right by the water, so their roots were bare at the top of the bank. I stood there a while, absorbing the view and pondering how the three golf balls at the bottom of the stream had come to be there. Then, as I had gone that far, I carried on wandering through the woods. You really have to get your timing right when you go into the woods. If you go in winter the branches are bare and its spooky. Too hot and you can only think of the stream as something to drink, while being annoyed at those little black flies hovering around. My timing, then, was perfect. I didn’t go too far in, so didn’t run the risk of getting lost, and left again after about 20 minutes, feeling much better than when I had gone in.

Some girls shop. Me? Walking and exploring are my therapies, reading and writing my escapes. I know many of you will understand this feeling, as in a way this is a place of kindred spirits. You all enjoy writing and probably reading. In the real world though (even though the internet is now so integrated that the real world and that of the internet are no longer so easily separated) people don’t always understand this joy. They assume that these things are the things that people did in the olden days. Or that these are things that only characters in books do. (Which makes it slightly worrying as if a character went wandering in the woods marvelling at the beauty of the autumn countryside  it would probably be to show their innocence and naivety).

Anyway, despite what it may say about my character, it made me feel a lot better, and on my way back I saw the prettiest thing. If you remember, I had to cross a field to get to the woods. Well someones garden backed right onto the field and they had a lovely wrought iron gate backing onto the field, with a rose bush beside it with only one pink rose left on the bush.
It’s the little things.

So all in all I’m glad I took the road not taken. I’m glad I can find joy in little things, and perhaps more importantly that I can still find joy in nature, and that I’m not entirely materialistic.Let me know the places you feel most comfortable, or perhaps the places you didn’t intend to visit and are really glad that you did. As always, thanks for reading, and I will be back to report my newest adventures next week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Interview anarchy and travelling troubles

So although I said this is going to be a uni only blog, and not a diary, I really want to talk about my job interview today. So I have justified it by the fact that it does have a bearing on University, as it will be a job for when I am home in the holidays.

 I struggled a little in the holidays last year money-wise. The student loans company only gives you a loan for the times you are actually in university. Much of this goes towards paying your accommodation fees, and (depending on your loan amount and your accommodation fees), you are left with enough (or should be) to live on during term time. Obviously this isn’t the case with some people, my friend Brandon had to take out a hefty overdraft, so now owes the bank money as well as the loans company. It also isn’t helpful when you are at home and can’t get a job because nobody wants to hire a student who will be leaving again in 3 months.

 The job I was interviewed for today however has work on an on/off basis, meaning I would be able to call them to say I’m home, and if they have anything I will be able to do it. Anyway, I only went for an interview today, so I don’t know if I got it, but I really hope I did as it would be ideal. And although the actual interview went very well, the morning sadly did NOT.

If you remember in one of my previous blogs when I said that lots of little bad things happening in a day sometimes are as bad as one big thing going wrong– this was one of those days.

First off, I left the house 10 minutes earlier than the bus is supposed to arrive in case it was early. The bus stop is literally across the road from my house, so I didn’t think this was unreasonable. Apparently I was wrong. The bus was 11 minutes early, and casually drove past me as I was shutting the front door.

As you may also remember, I live in a very small town. This means the buses to the nearest large town come every half hour. However some quick phone googling informed me I could take a different bus if I walked into our town (20 minute walk) to catch it. So I set off in the pouring rain into town. Then had to stand and wait at the bus stop for 45 minutes. The alternative bus never showed. Turned out it was a demand responsive bus, and obviously there wasn’t enough demand. Now in the time I waited, bus A which I originally missed should have come again. That hadn’t showed at all. And then finally, as is always the case, three buses all heading into the Big Town came at once. I was not amused. Indeed, I would go as far to say I was disgruntled.

So there I was, trundling along the roads into the Big Town, annoyed and damp. Lovely. And as luck has it, I had a ‘friendly’ bus driver. Normally I don’t mind this, and it even makes me smile sometimes. But not when I’m late. He chatted to all the old ladies as they got on the bus, then stopped the bus to check that his bell was ringing correctly. Finally he stopped another 2 times to wipe the fog off the side of his windscreen with a tissue. I wanted to scream at him. Or better, do this:

Livid as I now was, I wasn’t paying much attention to stops, and as a creature of habit, got off at town, rather than the bus station. I only noticed this when I was standing to cross a road, walking on auto-pilot into the town. I actually groaned aloud, causing the woman also standing at the crossing to edge away from me slightly. Woops.

So then it took me a further 15 minutes to walk to the bus station and find the correct stand for my next bus to the place of my interview. That actually went without a hitch, and I only had minimal difficulty finding the building of my interview once I was there.

After that the day went well. I ended up being 15 minutes late for the interview, but explained to them that it was trouble with the buses. They were very nice about it, but I don’t think it set a very good impression. Anyway, after all that, when I went into town on my way back I brought myself a celebratory hot chocolate and went make-up shopping to cheer myself up, before heading home.

All I can say is its lucky my original plan would have gotten me there half an hour early, because I certainly needed the extra time!

What is your worst travelling experience? Have you ever had a really bad interview experience? Let me know in the comments, and see you next time folks!
Images from  www.freeimages.co.uk