Saturday, 12 December 2015

Another rant about how I wish I was an early bird...

Last year at uni, I was fab at staying up all night. Whether it was for finishing off an essay, or trying to make myself extra tired to rejig my (usually atrocious) sleeping pattern (oh how cliche for a student), give me a few brews and a good Spotify playlist, and I could power right through. And I mean right through. If my sleeping pattern had got really bad, I'd stay up all night and then have a busy day the next day... it'd mean that I'd been awake for an obscene amount of hours, but then I'd be able to go to bed early, as I was actually tired at a reasonable time, and attempt to get back to normality. But, to my dismay, my all-nighter skills seem to have diminished. I can't power through. I manage until about 6am, then I crash and end up sleeping in late... and then I'm not tired until the early hours and it all happens again... vicious cycle or what?! 

What I would really love, but unfortunately can't see myself finding it easy to do, is to have a set bedtime and wake-up time - a proper, regular routine that my body would grow super-used to. Obviously it would fluctuate on weekends, but I'd try and keep that to a minimum. Ahhh yes, that idea of routine and structure and quality sleep sounds so great. But would I, a person who can be asleep by 10pm one day, and be up writing blog posts the next at 4am, realistically stick to such a routine? Either way though, I do really need to sort my body clock out, strict routine or not, it just needs to improve. 

Yes, I know exactly what you're thinking... "All students tweet 'I need to sort my sleeping pattern out #uniprobs' at least once a week"... but it's true! Uni has the ability to turn even the earliest of birds into an over-sleeper, what with its late lectures and lack of your mother's presence. Who else relied on their mom to violently bang on their door until you yelled "I'm up!" during high school? Maybe I should download one of those sleep cycle app thingys, or maybe I should rekindle my old skills and power though an all-nighter again and give my sleeping pattern a vigorous shake? 

The rare times that I am in a good routine when it comes to sleeping, I always realise how many of my personal gripes in life: feeling unproductive, not managing three proper meals a day, not doing enough exercise... are solves by the simple act of getting up earlier. It's like magic - and I want that magic back in my life. 


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

My Cooking Conundrum

Food is fabulous, I love food a lot, it truly is one of the great pleasures in life. My mom is a brilliant cook who can whip up any traditional comfort food at the drop of a hat (or saucepan... haha), and my dad loves to experiment and spend his Saturday nights in concocting some kind of exotic, colourful dish. But, when it comes to me... well, to be honest, I just don't enjoy cooing. I know some people find the whole cooking process very relaxing, rewarding and pleasurable, but I don't. Most of the time, to put it bluntly, I just can't be arsed. I'll come home from uni, all flustered and battered from the wind and rain, and I just can't be bothered to get the pots and pans out and start peeling veg and marinating meat or whatever. I tend to just want food fast - something I can eat whilst curled up, watching Come Dine With Me (a cooking programme... how ironic) and so I turn to basic pasta sauces way too much. My favourite simple pasta sauce is made from a handful of cherry tomatoes, a clove of garlic, a splash of olive oil, squeeze of tomato puree and a twist of salt and pepper... very easy and quick, but unprocessed and pretty natural to. However, I'm ashamed to admit that I've been turning to Lloyd Grossman jars of sauce over my homemade one over the past few weeks. And to be truthful, it makes me feel kind of guilty. 

I was lucky enough to be brought up on good, healthy and diverse food. It's not that I don't know how to cook - a childhood of watching my parents whip up tasty meals and having a kitchen bookshelf greedy with recipe books, means I'm not lacking in culinary knowledge. I feel guilty for not utilising this knowledge enough! 

It can be difficult to cook meals from scratch when the six girls in my house are all trying to use the kitchen at the same time. But my housemate Penny has the right idea. The other Friday morning, I emerged from my room, and the glorious smell of rich spices and hearty vegetables wafted towards me. Penny was cooking up a huge batch of her speciality, throw-it-all-in veggie curry, whilst all the other girls were either in bed or at uni. Then she can feed the freezer with portions of her creation and have her own homemade, healthy ready meals. My dad makes a super tasty and filling pasta sauce with sausage that you can easily make in large quantities. My ready meal guilt would be eradicated if I took a leaf out of Penny's book and whipped up a big batch whilst the kitchen was clear. 

If I'm not in the mood for cooking en masse however (which for me is pretty likely), baked salmon is very quick and good for you. Whack it in the oven with some cherry tomatoes for twenty minutes and then serve with lots of rocket - voila! Move over Lloyd!! 

What I need to do is meal plan for the week like my mom does, and then do a big weekly shop, buying all the ingredients I need, rather than doing dribs and drabs of shopping here and there and succumbing to pre-made convenience meals. Cooking for one is hard and it really is so tempting to grab a few ready meals on the way home from uni. When I have tea with my boyfriend at his flat, we always cook from scratch (well most of the time anyway.. unless we have a cheeky Just Eat) and it does seem so much easier when there's two of you. There's more hands to help with the boring jobs like chopping, and someone to enjoy and appreciate the meal with. Oh, and Tom's kitchen, shared only with his one flatmate, gets a lot less crowded and cluttered than my typical student one... I always thought I'd be one of those really tidy students with a really tidy kitchen... how wrong I was. 

To put it simply, I've been unhappy with my eating habits at uni for a couple of months now, but putting pen to paper and getting to the bottom of the problem has proven that my dilemma is very straight forward and easy to resolve: stop being lazy and cook proper food! Fair enough that cooking isn't really my thing, but I do adore eating, and want to eat stuff that is good for me. With bulk making of pasta sauce and a couple of quick by homemade convenience meals in my repertoire (repertoire... how fancy), I'll be sorted! 

I'd love to know if you have any tips for making quick and healthy meals! 


Monday, 30 November 2015

Visiting Home as a Student

There it is! After three hours of sitting on a budget coach that smells faintly of wee, the front door to your family home is finally in sight. You drag your suitcase up the driveway, narrowly avoiding giving your dad's Volvo a nasty scratch, and blow kisses at your beloved cat who is perched on the front room windowsill, watching you intently. Keys are located, the magic key is slotted into the keyhole, and finally, the sweet smell of home sweet home is upon you. 

First things first, you charge into the front room and retrieve your feline. She waits patiently for you to finish nuzzling your nose into her silky fur and gushing about how much you adore her. Cat loving over (for now), you sprint into the haven that is... the family kitchen. The family kitchen is governed by the mom, and boasts a full fridge, bulging cupboards and an abundance of Jamie Oliver cookbooks. The family kitchen is a million miles way from the pasta sauce splattered, mouldy dish hoarding, and constantly smelling of bin hovel of a kitchen that you're used to at uni. 

It feels as if life slips into slow motion as you reach for the fridge door... mouth hanging open, a tiny droplet of drool waiting to trickle down your chin as soon as the treasures inside are revealed. And ping! The fridge light comes on and behold... a fresh block of cheese! Good quality yogurt! A punnet of cherry tomatoes... wait for it... on the vine! Such luxuriousness! You make blind grabs at anything and everything, stuffing your deprived mouth of items that are not in the basics range for the first time in weeks.

After this mouth stuffing ceremony, you head upstairs taking two steps at a time, to once again be reunited with one of the true loves of your life, a truly special, gorgeous, beautiful certain something... your own bed. You dive headfirst into the sea of scatter cushions and sink into the marshmallow that is your memory foam mattress. The clanking springs and lumps of your mattress at uni is far, far away from your thoughts as you blissfully marvel at the comfort of you Ikea baby. 

A steaming hot cup of tea would be perfect right now, you think - as nothing is quite like tea made in your own home. Just as you begin to contemplate moving from your duvet igloo, the front door clicks open, and you recognise just whose feet are trotting up the hallway in a flash... "You home love? Fancy a brew?" These beautiful words, spoken in the cosy voice of your mom float upstairs... and you've never appreciate your own home more. 


Monday, 23 November 2015

Spilling words about a slump...

I have a real desire to get the most out of life, be productive, get on top on my university work and all those other things that we seem to tweet about longing to be doing... But sometimes, it's just bloody hard. Life is just bloody hard, being an adult and being independent, is just bloody hard. And on top of that, life can throw unexpected and inconvenient things at us all from time to time (as it has done to me over the past couple of weeks), and then being satisfied with your life and days becomes even bloody harder

It's a cliche, but nobody is perfect. No matter how many YouTube videos someone makes about they planner set up, plant based diet, or jam packed daily routine, no one has a productive and satisfying day every time... and that's one hundred percent fine. But it gets depressing and frustrating when these bad days turn into bad weeks. A slump or a rut develops and all the things on my to do list, all the things I want to achieve and all the things I know I can do to make me feel better, get further and further away, until it feels like they're at the top of the gloomy well that I've found myself in. 

Last week I had three meaty essays due in at uni. Three big deadlines in one week - the first assessed work I'd done in months. Right now I could begin to beat myself up... saying I should have started the work earlier and managed my time better, but to be fair to myself, I wasn't quite as rushed as I was when it came to essays last year, and I did a heck of a lot more secondary reading this time. But these tight deadlines resulted in me neglecting my other uni reading for a few weeks, which made me feel all out of sync and annoyed at myself. I'd been doing so well at keeping up and it just all went to pot! I just couldn't seem to juggle it all. 

And to top it off, I've been pretty under the weather recently with a horrible illness that knocked me for six... although looking on the bright side, it does partly explain why I've feeling so run down and lethargic lately. 

Basically, these past few weeks have been hard! But I need to refrain from beating myself up and be a bit kind and forgiving to myself instead. Wallowing in what I should have done won't help me to get the spring back into my step at all. Sometimes, life gets on top of us and lots of things come at once. Illness, be it mental or physical, doesn't usually wait for a convenient time to crop up on you... the bloody bastard. I know that to shake off this unproductive, lackluster and out of sync phase, I need to look forward, take each day at a time, and not bother to strive for perfection, because it just doesn't exist. 

I'm not sure of the point of this post, or if it even has a beginning, middle or end, but I just wanted to have a quick writing session and lay it all out on paper... and in this case, lay it all out on the internet too... but maybe it'll relate to someone out there who might be struggling a bit... as we all do every now and then. 


Monday, 31 August 2015

Life is a Journey...

It's all the rage these days to go travelling. Apparently, going travelling is necessary to "find yourself" and be a wise twenty-something who understands life. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little... But, I have to admit, I've never felt the urge to go meandering around the world for months on end, it's just not something I've ever envisioned myself doing. I feel like this is a rather un-stereotypical and against the grain thing to admit for a person of my generation. 

But I am keen to visit many countries and experience different cultures, and whenever I do go abroad, I always make the effort to break away from the touristy areas and see the real country. However, I'm not so eager to go on a prolonged trip for weeks and weeks, and would rather go on several shorter excursions... Maybe I'm just unadventurous, but there you go.

I am a bit of a worrier, and being away from home and routine for so long does scare me rather a lot. I hope me not-wanting-to-go-travelling doesn't make me sound ignorant, or even arrogant... I do want to see and appreciate other cultures.

Travelling for a long time wasn't always the "in" thing to do. My parents often say it wasn't as common when they were my age. My mom did go inter-railing for a month however, zooming across Europe on a train with a friend and getting ripped off by a mean restaurateur in Italy. I bet my mom loved it despite the ripping off aspect, she bloody adores trains! I think I'd suit that kind of travelling more... Inter-railing has a bit more structure and security, and you can do it for a shorter amount of time but still see many, many places.  

Ultimately though, I couldn't go travelling right now even if I wanted to, as I just don't have the money! Fingers crossed, in the future I'll be able to go on lots of trips and see countless cultures and do some volunteering too. But I'm not worried about not "finding myself" too much... I think there's plenty of ways to discover who you are, be it through travelling, writing, going to university, or just simply by getting older... life is a journey, regardless if you're on a physical one or not. 


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Embarking on a quest to become more ogranised...

I recently bought a new planner, and it has made me think about how I'm quite a last minute type of person. But I'm also a stationery lover, and although I've never been able to consistently use a planner in the past, after getting sucked into the YouTube wold of planner set-ups and Filofax tours and Kawaii stationery hauls, I decided that I needed a new planner. I tend to plan things mentally and just make a to do list every now and then, but I really want to be one of these planner committed, organised and sticker hoarding individuals. 

I genuinely believe that everyone is a particular type of worker/planner by nature. For example, I've always done well academically, despite never starting revision early and often leaving assignments til the night before. Starting revision months in advance just doesn't feel right to me - I'd probably forget it all again before the exam! But I agree that it does work for some people. Take my friend Harriet for example, she is so organised with her studying, and during exam season this summer, she knew exactly what she was going to focus on each day. Unlike me, who has never, ever stuck to a revision timetable. Her room in our university flat was like a bloody museum! Diagrams and drawings and beautifully presented notes adorned every inch of breeze block wall space. In clear contrast, I began revising three days before my exam (as usual) - maybe I need the increased pressure to get my act together and get shit done?! 

But although I may feel that I'm naturally a last minute kind of girl, this leopard wants to change her spots. My pretty new planner has a calendar type lay out, and it's definitely beneficial to be able to see clearly how my month is shaping up. Also, I want to refrain from being such a procrastinator when it comes to coursework. The amount of times I was up all night, frantically typing away, drinking endless cups of tea with Fools Gold on repeat in the background, was definitely not healthy. The one time that I did begin an essay considerably early, I enjoyed it so much more! It's hardly rocket science, but to me, it was kind of a revelation. I did lots more research than normal, got really into the topic, and felt much more confident when it came to writing the essay - and surprise, surprise, I got a better grade than usual! 

Now that I'm going into my second year of university, and my marks actually go towards my final grade (my first year didn't count, I just had to pass it), I want to make the effort to start all assignments early and put an end to my all-nighters. Although I do believe that I have a natural tendency to leave things to the last minute, it's still my choice to procrastinate so much, and I can certainly change my leopard spots if I really try. And I do genuinely want to reduce the amount of my frantic all-nighters, as although I always miraculously get a pretty decent grade, they're stressful and just not good. I would definitely enjoy my studies more and get better results if I got myself organised. 

So I'm looking forward to utilising my new planner to help me plan essays better, see when assignments are due, and separate tasks into manageable chunks. When term begins in a few weeks, I'm going to try out a new, organised, simple little system that will make me feel like a coordinated goddess. Every Sunday, I'm going to write down in my lovely new planner what each lecture and seminar is about the coming week, and which reading is due for which class. I hope this will help me feel more organised and prepared for the new week, and it's certainly more than I did in my first year!

I've been enjoying using my planner this past week, and making it look pretty with stickers and washi tape... oh, and using it for planning and organisational purposes of course... Actually, if cute stickers and tapes make me want to use my planner more and I enjoy them, then they're totally justifiable - and I have more reason to take trips to Paperchase, yay! 

I may be a natural last minute worker, but I'm going to make the effort to get myself organised and consequently, get more out of my studies and life in general this coming academic year. I can't say that I'm going to begin exam revision months in advance, that just not me, but I am determined to coordinate my life more effectively. 


Friday, 28 August 2015

My Experience of and Tips for Fresher's Week

With the beginning of university terms fast approaching, I thought it would be fitting to do a post on my experience of and tips for the conundrum that is Fresher's Week. I found the first couple of weeks of university to be very difficult, despite being told that they were going to be none-stop fun. However, do not fret! I did settled in and thoroughly enjoyed my first year, even if the first couple of weeks weren't all they were cracked up to be.

- It's okay to not have the time of your life straight away

It's so easy to start university expecting it to immediately be the best thing that has ever happened to you. The pressure to go crazy during Fresher's Week, bond with your flatmates and settle in is pretty overwhelming, and yet we're told that it's going to be amazing. So, if you don't find that you're having an absolute whale of a time 24/7, it's can make you feel like you're failing at student life. Although there is a great deal of fun stuff going on when you first arrive at uni, you're juggling with trying to get to grips with a huge life change... you're most likely moving out of your family home for the first time! 

In all honesty, I didn't really enjoy Fresher's Week. The concept of going out and expecting to have a fab time with complete strangers is rather odd. Yes, you may have been friends with them on Facebook all summer, but they're still strangers. And it can be quite scary to drink a lot and become vulnerable with people you hardly know. I thought that Fresher's Week was going to be one of the best times of my life, that the nights out would be incredible, and that I'd feel comfortable instantly with my flatmates... but the reality of it was that it was very difficult. I'd only just met these people, and I was homesick! Although students-to-be are told time and time again that they're going to have an amazing time, nobody tells you that it's okay to be homesick and overwhelmed.

I felt like I was failing at Fresher's Week by feeling overwhelmed by the huge life and environment change, and I struggled to be apart from my mom. But I'd just moved to a different city that I didn't know at all, away from my parents for the first time, it's completely natural to feel homesick! And it's okay, it's normal. In no way did it mean that I was a failure. Amazing times will come, but they might happen a few weeks down the line when you've settled in and started to make proper friends. I'm looking forward to going out in Fresher's Week this year (in my second year), because I know the city well now and have an established group of lovely friends - so if Fresher's Week isn't all you dreamed of, don't worry, good times and great nights out will come. 

- Look out for your flatmates and don't be a burden to them

As I said, Fresher's Week is an odd concept because you're going out with and putting your trust in strangers. When me and my friends from home would go out before university, we'd look out for each other and make sure that nobody was on their own or being harassed. So it was weird not having that security during the first nights out at uni. Look out for your flatmates and try to stick together - helping a drunken flatmate my be the start of a brilliant friendship! And ultimately, it's just a kind thing to do. During my Fresher's Week, one of my flatmates was rather smashed and was refused entry to a club. She ran across the road alone out of frustration and confusion, away from the crowds of students. I felt obligated to follow her and make sure she was okay and wasn't going to be wondering the streets alone. We queued again and eventually were let in, and although it was a bit annoying at the time, I couldn't have left her. Plus, it made us closer immediately as she appreciated that I stuck with her. It was something that we brought up lightheartedly and fondly all year. 

And if you're someone who really lets lose on a night out and is used to having your friends from home drag you away from the dance floor and deposit you into a taxi... it may be best if you try to reign it in ever so slightly during the first couple of weeks. By all means, have a great time and plenty of booze, but you don't want to be a burden for your flatmates. It's no fun to babysit a smashed stranger all night, and it most likely won't help with your quest to bond with your new pals. 

- Make the most of university events 

During the first couple of weeks of uni, there will be all sorts of free events on offer to you. My university provided open bus tours of the city, film nights, afternoon teas, markets and all sorts of quirky affairs. I was keen to check them out, but as my flatmates weren't so keen, I ended up not going. I wish I had gone because I could have made more friends and settled in quicker. It can be very intimidating to go to events alone, but there's nothing shameful or embarrassing about it. There will be other students who have gone alone, and everyone will appreciate a smiley face and a simple hello. Remember that it's all new and scary to every fresher... you're all in the same boat. If you want to go to an event, don't miss out, just go! You haven't got anything to lose. 

I hope this was helpful, and I hope I haven't put anyone off! I thought it was important to be honest and highlight that as well as being jam packed with fun events, the first couple of weeks at university can be hard. You're trying to juggle so much. I think that if someone had made that clear to me this time last year, I would have found it easier to cope with my feelings and wouldn't have felt like a failure. I adore university now, but it did take a few weeks for me to settle in.


Monday, 24 August 2015

Moor Street Station

When naming Birmingham's train stations, most would put Birmingham New Street at the top of their list, but Brum is also home to the charming Moor Street Station. The terminus is just a stroll away from the once brutalist and now futurist New Street, which is well known for being dingy, dark and disliked. The antique Moor Street contrasts hugely with much of Birmingham's architecture, but despite being tucked just a few yards behind the busy Bull Ring, it doesn't seem to be very well known. 

Last year, four of my friends and I headed to London for the day to celebrate my eighteenth. Our train was from Moor Street, and much to my surprise, a couple of my friends had never been. They loved the station's nostalgic atmosphere and felt as if they were on Platform 9 3/4! But Moor Street Station wasn't always so well looked after. Since opening in 1909, the terminus has been messed about with rather a lot... being opened, closed, reopened, left to decay etc... Thankfully, the original station was not demolished, and after decades of being unappreciated, it was decided in the 2000's that the station would be refurbished in the gorgeous 1930's style, hence the signage, benches and clock. I adore the black and white signs that sit proudly above commuters... they're just so simple and feel so British. I wish that New Street Station had been refurbished in a 1930's style too... that's never going to happen, but a girl can dream! 

Being a terminus, Moor Street has a compact feeling that New Street could never emulate with it being such a busy and large station. Moor Street's concourse is home to two refreshment rooms, the Centenary Lounge, decorated in an Art Deco style and complete with a fireplace, and the (wittily named) Moor...ish. Both offer plenty of seating, and in such a beautiful, light filled building, it is very tempting to sit yourself down and take it all in! The flower kiosk is another quirky addition, and I've even been to a market at the station, selling arty and crafty bits and bobs... it is such a lovely location. 

So many people unfairly label Birmingham as an ugly city with a lack of character and old architecture. Moor Street Station defies this stereotype and is an old fashioned gem in a modern metropolis. Although half of me wishes it was more well known, the other half enjoys how it's a quiet treasure, standing politely and courteously just yards away from its futuristic neighbours. 


Sunday, 16 August 2015

I wish I was a morning person...

I wish I was a morning person. I wish I could wake up at the crack of dawn and enjoy the stillness of the streets. I wish I could get my days started early and quickly, so that I could make the most of them. But my wishes are scuppered by the simple fact that I'm a big ol' night owl. My body and brain seem to long to stay up until silly o'clock, thinking of blog posts and watching vlogs. Even when I've risen at half six for work, I often can't help but stay up far too late, until my sleepiness has worn off... it just feels natural. If I am with my boyfriend and we have an early night, I usually end up reading a book or scrolling through Instagram for hours, whilst he sleeps (and probably snores) peacefully. Sometimes, I manage to crawl out of my marshmallow cocoon of a bed fairly early, but often sabotage my efforts by succumbing to the temptation of an afternoon nap. "I'm just going to watch some YouTube videos in bed" results in me falling asleep with my laptop on my chest, and my neck at an awkward angle nine times out of ten. 

I know that blaming my late starts on my night owl tendencies is me dodging responsibility, and that if I really wanted to be more of an early bird, with effort and persistence I could be... but I will still put my foot down and argue that naturally, my body is wired to stay up late. When I was in sixth form, my most productive study sessions were in the dead of night, wrapped up in a fleecy dressing gown with the soundtrack to The Wolf of Wall Street playing softly in the background... didn't want to wake the 'rents up! And I'm writing this at quarter to eleven, despite having plenty of free hours earlier in the day to put pen to paper. 

I need to work on creating a better, healthier sleeping pattern that I don't deviate from by more than an hour or two. Perhaps arranging to see a friend for breakfast, booking an early dentist appointment, or signing up to nine o'clock lectures will help me get my bum out of bed nice and early... and get my head on the pillow at a reasonable time. Actually, now I think about it, this semester coming I do have quite a few early starts, so I better get my act together! 

I often romanticise the idea of being an early bird and imagine people rising from their slumber feeling refreshed and motivated, then doing some morning yoga amongst bird song, followed by enjoying a beautifully presented breakfast of berries and Greek yogurt... all before 8am. I know that's probably not how it goes, but I would like to be more of a morning person nonetheless. I hope I can work at quietening my inner night owl and its nocturnal tendencies (or should I say hooting... haha), because I want to see 8am more often! 


Friday, 14 August 2015

The Relative Nature of "Social Class"

I appear to be stuck in a strange position when it comes to my social class. I only really discovered this when moving up north for university and being in an environment occupied by thousands of people from all different backgrounds. I'm not particularly well off, but I'm not badly off either. My parents live in a three bedroom, semi-detached house in the suburbs of Birmingham and I went to a fairly mediocre comprehensive school. So we're just quite "normal". 

But at university, it's as if I'm from the ghetto. What I mean is, because there's a large amount of kids from fortunate backgrounds and private, or even boarding schools, my normal status seems to label me as being different, more "street" (cringe!), or just kind of... "common". A university acquaintance could not believe it when I informed them that there are no boarding schools in Birmingham, and another had no qualms in telling me that they think Brum is a "shithole"- despite only visiting one attraction. My Brummie accent turns heads among the mass of Received Pronunciation, and I lasted a feeble two weeks on the Rowing Team... now that was posh! 

But in reality, I'm definitely not from the ghetto. In fact, many Brummies think that my suburb is rather swanky, and tease the occupants for it... so I find myself trapped between these social spheres. Normal northerners have said that I don't have much of an accent, when a week before I was told by a Scot that I have the strongest Brummie accent they've ever heard - how bloody bewildering. 

Ultimately, what these contrasts have taught me is that someone's idea of "posh" (and "common") is very subjective and relative. Fellow Brummies think I'm a bit laa-dee-daa, but my university friends would never put me and posh in the same sentence. There isn't a definition or set image for the concept of posh, and since moving to university, I've seen how people's perceptions of it contradict and contrast a great deal.. and I find it pretty interesting!


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Dialect Discoveries

In addition to being a local history nerd, I am also a local dialect nerd... I'm just a bit of a nerd in general, I might as well admit it. I did my A2 coursework on the Brummie accent, and I love quizzing people on if they know what a gambol is - it's a forwards role to all you non-Brummies out there. When I moved to Manchester last year, I was excited to learn more about northern dialect and accents. I met my Boltonian boyfriend, Tom, in Manchester, and his sayings have been of much interest to a nerd like me. Here are a few dialect differences that have particularly stood out... 

1) Mom vs Mum 

Pretty much everyone in Birmingham says mom. We write it as "mom", we say it like mom, and we get very annoyed when Mother's Day rolls around. Hop on a Birmingham bus and all you will hear is huffing and puffing Brummies complaining about not being able to find a card without "mum" plastered all over it. So many people have said to me "why are you trying to sound American?", but it's not like that at all. It's just the way Brummies say it, grandparents say mom and toddlers says mom, it's just how it is. But in Manchester and Bolton, it's strictly mum. I even find myself resorting to saying it in order to avoid strange looks. My Brummie dialect stands out like a sore thumb. 

2) Pants vs Trousers

Although I was well aware that only Brummies say mom before moving to Manchester, I had no ideas that Boltonians and Mancs use the word pants to describe what I would call trousers - how American - see what I did there?! No but in all seriousness, just as northerners may think I have been influenced by Americanisms, I thought pants was only used for trousers in the US. How wrong I was! 

3) Dinner vs Lunch

This is an interesting (and rather confusing) one. Although to my family, lunch is what you have at midday, and dinner is an evening meal, dinner money, school dinners and dinner ladies all refers to the midday meal. It took me a while to get used to Tom calling 12pm dinnertime, but it is very conflicting, because at school, lunchtime was often labelled as dinnertime... confusing! On the recent BBC series, 24 Hours in the Past, they called the midday break from industrial, Victorian jobs their dinner, so maybe it stems from there, or used to be much more common? Anyway, I tend to call midday "dinnertime" myself when I'm with Tom to avoid mix-ups! I'd be interested to know whether you say dinner or lunch...

So there are my top three dialect discoveries. England is amazing, for such a compact country we have countless accents, and each area has its own unique dialect - I just find it fascinating! 


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Not following my own advice...

I know full well that I'll feel fine as soon as I get to work, and that forcing myself out of bed is the worst part. I know that negative thoughts will only make the situation much worse, when it's not even that bad in the first place. And I know that I am well aware of the simple steps I need to take to get out of my slump and have a better day... so why is it so hard? 

Often, deep down I have all the skills and know-how, but I just don't seem to want to follow my own advice. And I'm not talking about major things here, just everyday stuff, like knowing that I should get up early and be productive, write in my reflective journal each night, and not allow negative thoughts to affect me. I recently did a post on my mindset towards work and how I want to shake off the destructive feelings of anxiety and negativity that make a mountain out of a molehill... it's only eight hours in front of a computer with the option of endless cups of tea - it could be a lot worse! I even wrote out steps that I can take to make me feel brighter, steps that I know work for me, so why did I find it so bloody difficult to get my bum to work yesterday? 

Despite feeling pretty confident and relaxed about work over the past few weeks, I didn't get out of bed until I really had to, and I had a lump in my throat whilst frantically trying to find my dry shampoo. I seriously didn't want to go, and felt like that anxious child who didn't want to leave her mom at the school gates all over again. It's frustrating, because as I keep saying, I know what to do to perk myself up, but I just didn't feel like I could follow my own advice. 

Basically, sometimes practicing what you preach is hard. Nobody is perfect and we all have bad days, be it because we're tired, hormonal, or just a bit down. Little blips like this are so common and I know that I shouldn't let it get to me - they don't make me a failure. Like I said, I have the know-how somewhere in my mind, and although some days that know-how doesn't want to surface, I'm sure that it will emerge out of its brief hibernation soon. 


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Thirty thoughts every student has...

I've been enjoying reading these list posts recently and decided to do one of my own. As I've just finished my first year of university, I thought I was quite apt to do a student thoughts one... I hope you fellow students can relate!

- Would it be wrong to eat Super Noodles for breakfast?

- Does anyone else think Super Noodles have a hint of cat food?

- But I'd rather eat cat food flavoured, saturated fat full noodles than actually put some real clothes on and find a pair of socks in order to go to the supermarket...

- Why did I think it was a good idea to carry a whole weeks worth of food back home by myself?!

- Why can't there be a milk tap in my house?

- Then I wouldn't have the circulation in my arm cut off by a bag for life full of milk.

- Am I the only person here with a "normal" name?

- There weren't any Kittys or Alistairs at my school.

- Do I have to read this whole book?

- Is it on Google Books?

- Did they make a film of it?

- How many times can I watch Fresh Meat before it becomes boring?

- I blame AutoPlay.

- Does eating just Weetabix Crispy Minis for a week count as a balanced diet?

- I mean, there is fruit in them.

- That's if you don't buy the chocolate chip ones of course...

- Thank God for Aldi

- And thank God for Lidl

- Why is everyone in the library staring at me?!

- Maybe if there were more computers I wouldn't have to lurk awkwardly around the shelves, desperately looking for a space.

- Since when were trainers so popular?

- And branded socks?

- It is okay for me to go to my lecture having not washed for twenty four hours and wearing pyjamas? 

- Actually, nobody will notice, most students look like that.

- Why is my prime essay writing time 2am?

- I love naps.

- I'm like a baby.

- Sleeping pattern wise I mean...

- My mom isn't here to yell at me to get out of bed.

- I love being a student. 


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Popping the bubble of school...

Securing a seat on the coach with your favourite friend was your most stressful task of the week... You fantasised about flaunting the coolest, chicest and edgiest non-uniform day ensemble for months in advance... Gossip zoomed around at lightning speed and you dreaded to hear your name whispered in the canteen... And PE was your idea of torture. 
When you're sandwiched between your (seemingly never ending) school years, school is your whole world. Although talked about and prepared for, leaving school and stepping into adult reality is an alien thought, one that you can't comprehend actually happening. But now that I've been out of sixth form for over a year, my high school days have mostly merged together. What once were individual days that dragged on and on (remember waiting and waiting for that bell to ring?) and consumed my life, now just take the shape of a few memories and emotions... and my grades of course! 

I only felt fully confident at school during sixth form. Eleven is so young, and although I felt pretty grown up when beginning year seven, when I see the slightly terrified looking little shrimps shuffling to the bus stop with their too long blazer sleeves and trouser legs, I realise how tiny and niave I was. I can remember being petrified to knock on a teacher's office door to ask a simple question in year seven, and letting myself become so angry at a frustrating experience whilst being in a badly managed school musical in year eleven. Looking back now, now that I am nineteen years old and have moved to a different city for university, these incidents that I overthought seem so insignificant. They didn't feel it at the time though! 

During year thirteen, I dreaded my very last day of school. thinking that I was going to miss my friends, favourite teachers and just the school environment a great deal. Despite my previous nervousness and usual teenage awkwardness, I felt much more like my true self in sixth form, and enjoyed the relaxed, grown up atmosphere. My school was fairly laid back and the focus wasn't all on grades - we were allowed to have a laugh too, and the thought of never again having a laugh with my pals and teachers in the classroom made me very sad. 

But I have to admit, much to my surprise, I haven't missed school at all. I was never convinced when teachers told me in my last year that my life was just beginning... but now I agree. School was such a bubble, where the role that you are given in year seven, be it the nerd, tomboy, trendsetter or weirdo, appears to stick with you, even if by sixth form you are a totally different person. 

Leaving school gave me the opportunity to start afresh, with the advantage of already being the person who I want to be... or trying to! School years are so important for finding yourself, making mistakes and growing up, but they are just a part of life, a stepping stone, a necessary chapter. I keep in touch with my best friends, and of course I can go back and visit school... but truthfully, I don't want to. That chapter of my life is over, and I'm content with the memories that I have... even if some of them make me cringe! It would feel odd going back to a place I'm not a part of anymore, with lots of faces I don't recognise. 

I'm glad that I haven't missed school and that I am enjoying the new stage in my life. If you have just finished school, your life really is just beginning, you will be amazed at what is outside the bubble. 


Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Irony in Birmingham's Libraries

Being a girl who was born and bred in Birmingham, I enjoy taking an interest and finding the best in the city, a city all too often criticised and portrayed in a negative light by the media. As I mentioned in my post about Brum's back to backs, it breaks my heart that countless, beautiful buildings were bulldozed during the redevelopment of the city in the 60's and 70's. When people criticise Birmingham for its abundance of brutalist concrete architecture and more recently, its futuristic, postmodern structures, they fail to note that Brum did have impressive, classical buildings once upon a time, rivaling those in "prettier" English cities. But they were heartlessly bulldozed by architects and council members who believed them to be "unfashionable". 

Birmingham's snazzy new library and its predecessors are a prime example of the irony in the destruction of the city's old architecture, and the money that Brum seems to burn irresponsibly on unfit buildings. 

Most modern Brummies, especially those of my generation, have just two structures in mind when thinking about their city's libraries - the brutalist Central Library, opened in 1974 and now destined for demolition, and of course, the striking Library of Birmingham, opened in 2013 and costing the breathtaking sum of £188.8 million. However, a beautiful Victorian structure, now mostly forgotten, took the shape of Birmingham's library before it's brutalist predecessor elbowed it into the scrapheap. Tragically standing for less than one hundred years, the Victorian library was opened in 1883 and demolished in 1974. My parents vaguely remember the building being boarded up and surrounded by makeshift barriers during their childhoods. The attractive, curved structure was laden with impressive pillars, and inside was a spectacular, natural light filled reading room in a cathedral like style. 

The contrast between this traditional, lovely design and the brutalism that replaced it is huge. Yes, there may be integrity in brutalist architecture, but there's no denying that the Central Library was incredibly evocative of the 60's and 70's and its harsh, bleak style was never going to be timeless. 

In an old photograph of the Victorian library (above), the clean statue of James Watt stands between the classical, Greek style town hall and the similarly designed library. The scene is very good looking and is far from the bleak Brum that replaced it. Fast forward to 2015... poor James Watt has been nudged into a concrete landscape, now standing in front of the Central Library. His dirty statue is almost invisible among the sea of dreary architecture... and I know which scene I prefer! 

The Town Hall, thankfully still standing, is neighbours with an obsolete 60's shopping centre and a patch of waste land, which I can only assume was once home to another short lived building. It's a sad scene, and it angers me that architects were allowed and even encouraged to destroy the city's classic style with no regard for the future. 

Brummies had understandably had enough of the ugly (sorry, but it's true) Central Library by the 2000's, and so the Library of Birmingham was planned. What a waste, knocking down a classic, beautiful library and replacing it with a concrete brute which people couldn't stand the sight of just forty years later. But rather than designing a classic, timeless structure for the new library, a futuristic, postmodern aesthetic was chosen, clashing un-elegantly with its neighbouring buildings and overshadowing its sister, The REP. 

The library is impressive and modern, and I do enjoy studying in its clean, calm environment and taking advantage of its bird's eye view gardens. But it's ridiculous that its opening hours have been cut so drastically because of a lack of funds. In February, the opening hours were reduced from seventy three a week, to just forty, and half of the staff were made redundant after less than two years. Perhaps if Birmingham's guardians didn't irresponsibly spend millions on unsatisfactory buildings and had appreciated the beauty and timelessness of its Victorian structures, there would be more money in the council's kitty to allow the public to get more use out of the new library. 

I appreciate that the Victorian library was a lot smaller and more space was needed, but was its total destruction necessary? Could it have been extended? Or used for something else? I hope that the new library stays standing until it's falling apart, as it's incomprehensible price tag of £188.8 million needs to be justified. But my longing for the architecture of old Birmingham to be resurrected will go on! 


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A positive mindset towards going to work...

Following on from my last post, today I'm going to talk about my mindset towards going to work. Although the vast majority of the time I'm fine when I have got there, taken my coat off and made a brew, the prospect of a day or two at work gives me an anxious feeling right in the centre of my chest. The sensation is similar to the one I used to get when I was eight or nine and found saying goodbye to my mom at the school gates a torturous and anxiety-riddled experience. Last Summer, I worked much more regularly than I do currently - two or three days a week. This summer, I'm not so desperate for money, which is lovely, but it also means that when I do the odd day at work, I feel far less in the swing of things and I tend to work myself up unnecessarily. It's just silly, because nine times out of ten, work goes pretty well, and I feel confident and productive. Nevertheless, as a work day looms closer, the worried feeling is present, nudging the back of my mind. 

My boyfriend, Tom, has a great outlook on going to work. His positive mindset and dislike of moaning and laziness has made me appreciate how good I have it, and encouraged me to improve my feelings towards working. Tom has had many, many jobs, some better than others. These valuable experiences have given him the ability to compare previous jobs to his current one, and clearly see the advantages and positives of it. Tom is very popular and liked in his office, and I think his positive, friendly and upbeat mindset plays a big part in this. 

I find it very helpful to tell myself before a work day that: 
"I am a positive person"
"I am going to brighten my colleagues' day by being cheerful and optimistic"
and simply, "I will have a good day".
Work is a lot more enjoyable if I aim to be the friendly and chipper person in the office who cracks a few jokes and lightens the mood. It can be hard to stay positive if everyone around me is being negative and gloomy, but perhaps my sprightly mood will bring my colleagues out of their slump (that we all know is all too easy to fall into) and create a happier environment. 

A simple action that is beneficial for me is to text or ring Tom and my friends (who are also at work) during my dinner break. Knowing that my loved ones are also working and in the same boat helps me to get through the day, and realise how lucky I am to have a great deal of free time in the summer. Plus, a joke or two and a bit of lighthearted chitchat with my pals gives me a boost for the afternoon. 

Most people are at work through Monday to Friday, and to put it bluntly, many would rather not be! They'd prefer to be spending time with their children, making the most of the summer weather, or working on their blog. But ultimately, we've gotta work! If I want to get some goodies for my new university room, I better get working! If I want to expand my savings in order to improve my future, I gotta get my ass to work! But I do want to make the most of my working days and see them as days full of opportunity. I tend to write off work days as if they don't really exist, but they are a small chunk of my month, my year, my life... so I should make the most of them. 

I should note that my part time job right now is just a basic admin job that I've had during my teen years to earn a bit of cash... I hope that my future, real career will be one that I genuinely love and feel passionate about. 

I'm working on Wednesday and Thursday this week, and although there is a twinge of worry in my chest, I'm looking forward to having a catch up with my office pals and hopefully lightening their day by cracking a few jokes! Laughter is very necessary in my opinion! And on Friday, I will really appreciate having free time. My goal is to keep in mind that work days are days full of possibilities and opportunities too (no matter how little), and are a significant and affecting part of my life... so my mindset towards them is pretty important!


Sunday, 19 July 2015

The "Falmouth Mindset"

The air is clear and fresh, with a hint of seaweed, the people are bronzed by the sun and relaxed, the pace of life is slow and mindful, and the overall atmosphere is zen. This is the impression I always get of Falmouth. Yesterday, I returned from a four night break in the lovely seaside town with my friend, Laura. We had a great time relaxing on the beach and browsing the shops, and both of us noted the different mindset that seems to be present. 

I have always lived in a city. I was born and raised in Birmingham and now live in Manchester most of the time. Cities are fast, busy, living and breathing places where people hop from train to bus, shop to office and club to party. I love living in a city and feeling involved in a buzzing mass of human life. To city dwellers like Laura and me, a beachy, chilled out, bohemian town feels very different. People seem to be more laid back, teens appear to be less influenced or bothered by what's trendy at the moment, the beach is an accessible and inviting place offering fun and relaxation... the overall atmosphere comes across as being easy going and serene. 

When in Falmouth, I become influenced by this laid back environment and find myself donning pretty bracelets and anklets, lusting after hair braids and trotting around in flip flops after a day or two. Less aesthetically speaking, I feel inspired to quieten my whirring mind more, live in the moment, follow my passions, and generally live a more peaceful and happy life. Although I find myself feeling like this in Falmouth, ultimately, it's just a mindset and isn't glued to a certain place. Despite Birmingham and Manchester being busy, urban places with faster heart rates, there's no reason why the "Falmouth mindset" cannot be adopted in these environments. 

What's stopping me doing yoga by the lake in my local park, like they do on the beach in Falmouth? And who said I can't roam around town in flip flops and anklets? Although it's easy to blame the city for hindering my quest for a more balanced and satisfying lifestyle, I'm sure that I can achieve it by altering my mindset. Like I said, I do love city living and I enjoy visiting places that contrast to where I live and feeling inspired on my return. I don't think life in a more isolated place would suit me... but it's great to visit and take something from the contrasting pace of life. 

I'm excited to work at being a more mindful, relaxed and motivated individual in my everyday life - a lot of it is just down to mindset after all, and I can take my mindset with me wherever I go. 


Monday, 13 July 2015

Rainy Day Cosiness

This morning I woke up to the sound to rain. Whereas this may fill many of you will annoyance, it gave me a cosy feeling of familiarity and happiness. I do love sunny weather, and a summer full of downpours disappoints me greatly. However, after a long spell of dry weather, I begin to miss the gentle (or sometimes quite aggressive!) pitter-patter of raindrops, gloomy light and sound of cars revving into puddles. 

It's so cosy to wake up in a duvet cocoon, knowing that the rain clouds outside have well and truly opened, and that pulling back the curtains would reveal an overcast sky rather than a blindingly bright blue one. 

When the weather is sunny and warm, I feel like I have to spend as much time as possible outside. In England, we can never been sure if a hot day is our last for ages! I feel guilty for retreating indoors to read some blogs or flop on the sofa with a cup of tea. In my mind, a rainy day justifies indulging in simple home comforts... reading whilst curled up in a blanket, watching an old black and white film (and giggling at the old fashioned, posh accents and archaic humour), or whipping up some treats in the kitchen. 

My cats tend to stay indoors more when it's raining, meaning I get their company more than I normally would... and I bloody love cat cuddles. Gem has spent most of the day snoozing on a rough scrap of old carpet meant for the bin... why do cats choose such odd beds?! And Tabs is currently sat on the table I'm working at, probably in the hope that I'll get up and feed her, but it's nice to have her company nonetheless. 

While the garden gets a good drink, my cats and I are enjoying a snug, indoors day under a cloudy sky. I'm crossing my fingers that sunny weather is on its way, but for now, I'm content to make the most of a rainy day or two.