Things to Smile About

For anyone wondering, perhaps still in a state of post-New Year’s, somewhat alcohol-induced confusion, I can reliably inform you that it is now 2017. And I haven’t written a blog post in six months! That’s the equivalent of just over the gestation period of a goat, time for 7.5 moon cycles and the building of a Rolls Royce (I spent a wonderful 15 minutes finding those facts, yes – I’m more than happy to provide advice on how to spend a wild evening). So, a lot can happen in that amount of time, and I don’t think you need me to recap for you. Although I will. Briefly.

I suppose one of the biggest changes, especially in mind of my previous post, is that the Orange One now controls the Western world. That was a development with which I was wholly dissatisfied. Oh, and Article 50 is actually happening now. Brexit is officially in the oven (cue all those seedy Bread-xit puns). In even more groundbreaking news, The Daily Mail has produced several recent gems of misogynistic articles (particularly that Leg-sit spectacular) – ha! what a surprise! what informed, intellectual journalistic heights they have reached!

Amid all this turmoil, however, I’d like to raise a few points of joy. 2017 has got off to a rocky start, yes, but I’d hereby like to remind you that goodness still has a place within it:

  1. The word ‘hereby’ still exists – I’d advise you to make good use of this, and petition for it to be reinstated into common parlance, along with its excellent counterparts, ‘whereby’, ‘forthwith’ and ‘yonder’.
  2. Beauty and the Beast‘s live action remake.
  3. Pineapple on pizza (controversial, I know).
  4. Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast‘s live action remake.
  5. Talking of which, tea in general. And biscuits and crumpets.
  6. Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty and the Beast‘s live action remake (you get the point).
  7. Planet Earth is still full of lovely puppies and kittens that you can pet whenever.
  8. The incredible feeling of solidarity and support raised by the marches around the world in January. The Women’s March on London was the highlight of my year so far.
  9. Family.
  10. Friends.
  11. More puppies. And fully grown dogs.
  12. The amazing way in which London has recovered and kept going, as only London can, after the Westminster attack recently. It was a day that shook the whole country, as we mourned for the casualties. But people have shown an incredible resilience, and a refusal to live in fear, to give in to the wishes of terrorists. Think of the doctors who ran across the bridge to help the wounded. The MP, Tobias Ellwood, who tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the police officer killed outside Parliament. Those great signs in tube stations, stating that life would go on as normal.
  13. Moonlight getting best film at the Oscars.
  14. Pizza in general.
  15. The amazing WOW awards at the Southbank Centre – I had the pleasure of going to the evening hosted by Sandi Toksvig and it certainly brightened up my year. A night truly celebrating, and relishing, what it is to be female.
  16. Disney announcing more live action films.
  17. Ice cream.
  18. Red Nose Day raised over £73 million.
  19. There’s a huge movement to save and look after bees.

I could go on.

This is an incredibly random selection, I know. It also contains some good things which are personal to me, as I’m sure we’ve all had our individual high points of the year. But I just wanted to do my bit to spread a little positivity and humour over a year, and, thus far, millennium, that sometimes feels a little scarier and more serious than its predecessors.

It’s so important at the moment to hear good news. After all, it’s better than fake news, and that was so last year.

Advertisements

Harry Potter and the Day that made Lots of us Very Chuffed

NB: This blog post will probably read a bit like a live blog, as I was so excited about receiving a certain something in the post and then reading it that I felt my progressing reaction had to be properly recorded. In between reading sessions (I spent basically the whole afternoon reading) and meals, but mainly at the extra emotional bits (of the reading, not of the food consuming), I really needed to write down the immense feels, so excuse the slightly crazed tone at times…

(Also: spoilers sort of occur – I don’t mention names or the plot but please try not to get too imaginative if you don’t want to work things out)

Sunday, 31 July 2016
1:30pm

So, it’s here, it’s finally here! We arrived home from a dog walk to find a beautiful package (I kid you not; I did a kind of merry jig at first laying eyes on it) by the front door: my pristine, brand new, released-as-of-last-night copy of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child script. My excitement knew no bounds, and any plans for today were swiftly dropped. Sorry mum.

Now, I must admit, I was a bit of a post-Potter sceptic. I’m a massive fan of the books, films and particularly the queen of the wizarding world herself, JKR (if you couldn’t tell already), but I’d always been a bit hesitant about the idea of any sequel. I worried that anything else would be in danger of not living up to its predecessors, consequently maybe staining the stainless reputation of the world of HP thus far. I worried that, essentially, anything else wouldn’t be quite as good.

But, having read a good forty pages so far (when I did work experience at a publishing house I learnt about the ’30-page rule’ that they generally use to guage whether a manuscript is going to be worth a publish, so I reckon this is a decent milestone on which to make a judgement), I can conclude that my worries were utterly unfounded. I don’t want to give anything major away, but I will say that the general mood of the script at the moment isn’t a happy one. And that is perfect. I see now that that must surely be the only way to make the play work: continuing the plot from where it left off in the 19 years later bit of The Deathly Hallows, it seems realistic that both Harry and his children will be struggling with the weight of the past, and the strains that it will put on their relationships with each other. It’s the only way it could be.

3:50pm

What. The wizarding world as we know and love it has turned upside down. Everything has gone wrong! Very stressful!

4:30pm

Just finished the first part and WOW. Was not expecting that. Extremely confused. Emotionally all over the place.

Also: she is back! How could she be back? Why her? Eugh! (read it asap and you’ll get me)

6:30pm

Just when I thought everything was OK again: major plot twist!! And that person (again, read it and you’ll know who I’m talking about) – I knew they couldn’t be trusted…

Amid the emotional whirlwind, however, I have been admiring how old characters keep reappearing: characters we loved, characters we hated, and it’s a simultaneous walk down a momentous memory lane and a huge pull on the heartstrings, particularly with the character described as a hero in the stage directions (once again, you’ll know who I mean); I may or may not have shed several tears over that bit.

The plot is amazing; incredibly intricate and fast-paced; just when you think you know what will happen the exact opposite does. V v v exciting! I imagine it’s even better on stage, and that they’ve got a suitably dynamic and slick set. Now I completely understand why our fave JKR felt that theatre was the only medium for the story.

Not long until the end now!

7:30pm

The end of act 3! Massive revelation! Huge shock!

9:00pm

I’ve finished it. And it was wondrous. It had just the right mix of new characters, old favourites, comedic and touching moments, and I wish I could tell eight year-old me that she has another book to look forward to reading in the greatest series ever written.

All that’s left to say is to urge anyone reading this (hello there!) to go and buy this book and read it (even in a day like I did). And that I really need to get my hands on a ticket to the play. While I was reading it, I could only imagine the way in which the words on the page would be enacted, and that was exciting. In short, I know what happens, but now I’d like to see it happen. In a way, that’s the best praise a script could be given!

 

Interrailing 2016

Two days ago, I came back from three weeks of interrailing with seven of my friends, and it’s safe to say we’ve had an amazing time.

There were so many memories and special moments. From chasing giant bubbles in the old square or lying by the river or the castle (and almost getting run over) in Prague, to exploring the back streets of Vienna at night or watching the world go by at Schönbrunn palace by day. In Budapest we hopped from scorching heat to freezing temperatures at the famous Széchenyi baths, and accepted the funny side of the huge anti-climax of a practically empty club, which had been previously deemed Budapest’s finest… We saw Munich on two separate stop-by trips, but still managed to spend a surprising afternoon watching surfers in the river in the English garden, and a day by Ammersee lake, diving into the water (not so gracefully, in my case) and slowly burning (this one does apply to me) in the afternoon sun. Dipping our toes into the Grand Canal while observing the hustle and bustle of Venice’s St Mark’s Square was briefly punctuated by a quick trip to Milan (more on that later!) Several ice creams later, we were exploring the chocolate factory in Cologne, and suddenly (well, it was slightly more stressful and slightly less sudden than planned) we were in our last destination, Amsterdam. I found that most of my favourite elements of other cities found their way into the streets and the canals of the city, making it a perfect place to finish our journey, particularly on our last full day, when we hired bikes and cycled round places both famous and hidden.

Those are just snapshots, really – if I included every memorable moment from the trip, I think I’d need a blog post for every city! So I’m going to keep it short and sweet. What I do want to discuss, however, are a few dos and don’ts – tips and tricks for anyone reading this planning their own interrail trip.

DO:

  • Get an interrail ticket in advance: this could earn you a discount, especially if you travel at an unconventional time of year (I think you can get cheaper tickets for travelling in January if you buy them three months before – not sure if they’d always extend this offer to the more popular months though). They’re also great value – we got a 15 day continuous ticket, which allowed us to take any train from place to place, including perks like free S-bahn journeys in Germany
  • Make a kitty: this is especially useful for larger groups like ours. For those who haven’t experienced the wonders of kitties, essentially it’s a makeshift bank (we just used a spare purse but bank sounds vastly more impressive) to which everyone donates the same amount at a time, and you use that shared money for supermarket runs (see below) and for any sightseeing trips that will cost
  • Night trains: we took three night trains; Budapest-Munich; Munich-Venice (more on this one below); Venice-Munich; they were essentially very useful – they did what they were supposed to do, i.e., take us from place to place without using up our precious hours of the day. You can pay more to get beds, but we limited ourselves to slightly restrictive chairs, in the true spirit of the mean-minded interrailer
  • Make copies of passports: however, night trains weren’t all cheery – one girl in our group’s bag was stolen on the way to Venice, meaning we arrived there with eight of us, but only seven interrail passes and seven passports… luckily, we did have a copy of her passport, which came in handy when talking to the Venetian police and getting emergency travel documents. We were actually pretty excited about the fact that we then made a short trip to Milan as a consequence (many shopping opportunities! but “oh wait, we’re travelling and we’re broke”) to visit the British consulate there – it was an adventure, but more importantly, our friend got an emergency passport so that she could continue the journey
  • Research where your accommodation is and how to get to it: sounds obvious, but we had one particularly hairy afternoon where we discovered that postcodes in mainland Europe can cover an area of a few square miles, turning your self-assured map-reading prowess into an awkward afternoon of traipsing around with your heavy backpacks, thoroughly lost and thoroughly hangry
  • Plan what you want to do in a location, even vaguely: again, this sounds utterly obvious, but it’s difficult with larger groups to accommodate what everyone wants to do. We each researched a city and found accommodation/transport/researched what to do in that destination, which worked well
  • Make a travel journal: one girl in our group brought a fabulous diary along with her, which she would write in each day, occasionally with the help of a ‘guest writer’ (i.e., one of the other eight literary geniuses that we are), and we’d include good quotes, funny moments, and a brief (mostly not brief, especially in my case) run-down of the day’s events and what we did. It was a great way to remember the trip, along with the copious photos we took. Side note: we also made a private album on Facebook for all of our photos, meaning that we could share what we were up to with parents/siblings – it provided some very witty comments from the mums, and we’d get competitive about who had the most likes from one mum in particular…!
  • Bring a money belt: this is really important, and a classic piece of the interrail outfit – if you’re worried about the aesthetic of them, you can get some reasonably-priced, fashionable ones from places like asos, or you can have a moment of wildness like me and attempt to embroider it (everything I’d embroidered fell off bar one during the trip, but I tell myself that it’s the thought that counts)… Definitely use it to house your passport, interrail pass, money, phone, and anything else of value. Most hostels will have lockers or lockable chests in each room, so make use of those for any valuables you don’t want to carry around with you (bring padlocks!!)
  • Prepare some basic research about the country: before we left, I made it my task to look up basic phrases from each of the countries we were going to, seeing as I was also the only German A Level linguist in the group and would be translating/speaking for everyone when we went to Germany and Austria. You can always ask when there about pronunciation, otherwise people may not appreciate your hard efforts to communicate with them (I experienced a few tragic moments of this!) It’s also good to look up emergency numbers – the general European one is 112, but some countries have varying ones for different services. Currency can be an issue too: we went to Prague and Budapest, which each have their own currency as well as the Euro. We’d been informed we’d get by on Euros, but we soon found that lots of tourist attractions and even the accommodation can require you to convert some money (I’d advise my fellow arts students to either arm yourself with a calculator and/or a friend who does maths; both are very useful when conversion becomes complicated!)
  • Bring some entertainment with you: whether it be a book, earphones, or Bananagrams (would definitely recommend), bring something with you to keep you occupied for the longer train journeys (just don’t do what I did, i.e., finish Donna Tartt’s The Secret History on a train; I was an emotional wreck)

DON’T:

  • Underestimate the money you’ll save from going to the humble supermarket: as much as it’s important to try local cuisine and go to restaurants sometimes, it can also get pretty expensive – so we would go on regular supermarket trips (the local Aldi, Lidl or Spar became our second home) to stock up on essential supplies, i.e., iced tea, brownies, and pastries (naturally), but also to buy a loaf of bread and something to make sandwiches. I remember one particular supermarket trip in Vienna where we effectively spent €5 each for two days worth of lunch and breakfast! (cheap Interrail thrills, Sia would approve)
  • Have a nap before going out: this is dangerous – we were so tired most of the time that our great idea of a short nap before we went out at night turned into us just going to bed! You will be much more tired than you anticipated…
  • Night trains: now, the more astute among you will have noticed that this one is both a ‘do’ and a ‘don’t’ – that’s because, along with the obvious passport debacle, they weren’t a wholly positive experience. The first night train we were on was pretty cold, which we were able to cope with via the old British mantra of ‘put another jumper on’ (alternatively: harem trousers under skirt & money belt – our very own wild fashion statement). The second one was the problem one: two trains had been merged together, on top of one already being double-booked, essentially forming a triple-booked train; a reality we only knew about when on the train. Half of us secured seats, whereas the other half spent the night with rucksacks chained together, forming a comfy spoon train (if you’ve never tried this, then please do; very comfy) on the floor by the bikes. Essentially, pick your night trains wisely, and watch out for pickpockets!
  • Panic if transport doesn’t work out as it should: the aforementioned troublesome trip to Amsterdam was, well… exactly that – very troublesome. We left Cologne, ready for a three hour, direct train to our last destination, only to encounter a two hour standstill halfway through our journey, then an announcement proclaiming that the next stop would be the train’s final one, and we’d have to find our own way to Amsterdam. But we stayed calm and found an alternate route, via a station in the middle of nowhere, a desperate panorama on the side of a road, and an angry German man who yelled at us when we saved places for each other on the transfer bus. All in all, the journey took us almost 10 hours instead of 3, but, seeing the positives in the situation, we were able to see more of the Netherlands, and to meet a wonderfully helpful Dutch man, who, although his substance soberness was questionable, directed us on the right path to reach Amsterdam. Also, we had late night burgers when we got there, so things weren’t really that bad!

So, those are a selection of dos and don’ts, hand-picked from the learned adventurers for the future adventurers among you, or the simply curious. In all seriousness, I would really recommend interrailing. I’d recommend that you choose destinations that aren’t too clichéd, or that you’ve been to before, so that you can step as much out of your comfort zone as possible, and that you can explore as much as you’d like to. It’s a brilliant experience, especially when shared with brilliant friends. So go out there and start planning now!

new beginnings

Welcome all to my brand new blog!

This is my second blog – I was a somewhat haphazard blogger until a year and a half ago, so I’ve had a prolonged absence from the world of blogging. How I’ve missed it! (Note how when you say the word ‘blog’ too often it begins to sound odd)

My old blog (there it goes again) had no particular format; it was mainly centred around my tendency towards random rants and over-detailed descriptions of the many embarrassing situations I’ve unnecessarily got myself into in the past. It may indeed transpire that this one will be much the same, but I’ll definitely attempt to make it as interesting/varied as possible along the way.

It seems fitting to call this post ‘new beginnings’, and, indeed, to start a new blog, as I’m currently in the interim between my last day of school and my last school exams. I’ll hopefully be starting uni later this year; AKA a massive new beginning *much much excitement*.

Now, I should quickly present you all with a disclaimer, the kind that you always accept without reading so that you can carry on with your enjoyment (this is a self-assured assumption that you’ll actually want to continue reading this blog, and I accept, dear reader, that that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case!!… although it would be v nice if it were). The aforementioned disclaimer reads thus: (how Shakespearean of me)

  1. there will be lots of really bad jokes  – brace yourselves
  2. I will talk about reading, and books…a lot (who can really blame me though?!)
  3. my posts will be irregular – I am currently revising for my A-Levels, so please bear with me if I don’t make a stellar post on a routine basis
  4. it will almost certainly take me a while to figure out the main subject matter of the blog – I may never come up with a set one…
  5. prepare yourselves also for a plentiful amount of random, interesting (debatable I suppose) grammatical/linguistic facts: for example, cast your lovely eyes back to point 3, and see the word ‘bear’. Despite my status as an English student and affirmed vocab nerd, I had to double take over the spelling of that word – was it ‘bear’ or ‘bare’? I promptly searched it into good ol’ Google, and an answer came up stating that it was ‘bear’, and that asking someone to ‘bare’ with you would be equivalent to asking them to undress! With you! Shock horror! Too British! Such cheeky! How will we cope!

So there you have it. I hope you can put up with my slightly erratic and odd writing style, and that you’ll come on this highly metaphorical blog journey with me (I stress the metaphorical, because, let’s face it, I’m not actually going to be going anywhere/doing actual exercise when writing am I, unless I become the all-time literary-lifestyle multitasking champion*)

Thanks for reading,

Until next time!

x

PS: the photo I’ve attached is from a recent trip to Germany, of a particularly aesthetically pleasing lake. And, to be honest, that’s the only reason I put it with this post. It has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Perhaps this should be a regular addition to my posts? An utterly irrelevant photo? Excellent idea me!

*challenge accepted (and not just for me – other mystery writer friend, you know who you are)