Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Concerts

When I was 13, I performed the famous solo from the Snow Man with the Manchester United Foundation Youth Choir and the BBC Philharmonic orchestra. It was such an incredible experience, that even now I can vividly remember it. How much work we put into getting it just right and how exciting it was. Getting that solo will always be one of the most special things that I have ever been a part of. Since then, it just isn't Christmas without hearing the Blake arrangements and compositions produced for the movie the Snow Man.

So when I heard about the Halle's live screening and live soundtrack, it was something I just had to do. Whilst they do feature similar things every year at this time, it felt like the right time to go this year.

The first half of the concert featured Paddington's First Concert which I heard of loosely from my accompanist back in Leeds earlier this year. It's a sweet story paired with some rather inventive music. Paddington goes to see a concert with Mr. Gruber and the Browns' which features some Haydn and Schubert. When he discovers that Schubert 10 is unfinished, he gets annoyed and goes in search of Schubert to try and get him to finish the work. Which naturally leads to some adventure and excitement (with some audience participation - now I can tick 'be a temporary percussionist' off of my bucket list)

But it was the second half of the concert which was best of all. The Snowman projected on to a screen with the orchestra playing below and a boy soprano to sing the famous solo I mentioned earlier. It was odd to be on the other side of the stage in the Bridgewater hall after being there for the majority of the weekend. The animation is timeless and perfect, it captures winter exactly as I imagine it. As for Blake's score, it was played particularly beautifully and the soloist was perfect for the piece. The best part though is seeing the reaction of those around you, especially if they haven't seen or heard the content before. Their eyes light up, and they seem to exclaim and laugh out loud without noticing. You realise that whilst you are all in the same room, everyone is a million miles away in their own little world.

When I left the concert for the library, the sun was going down. It was the winter solstice and everything seemed that bit prettier. Oranges and reds painted the pavement with long shadows and I wondered quietly to myself about music. Why is it that it is so important? Why does it move us so much? We say major chords are associated with happiness because they are bright and vice versa for minor (dull sound and so are sad) but that association is not defined - we don't know why, really.

The last concert of the year I went to wasn't a concert at all, but a musical. The most magical musical of them at all when it comes to Christmas: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! Such a bright and colourful world filled with jokes, adventure and friendship. It leaves me with hope for another festive holiday and new year, and the wish to find a toot sweet some where because that song makes them sound delicious!

Merry Christmas! See you all in 2017.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Traditions

When you are growing up, you enter into the habit of having what you might refer to as Christmas traditions. They are the things that mark the coming of the holiday, which make you excited for winter time to be back again and to make things fun! They are different for every individual in every family, but some of them we all have in common (like gift giving or picking out a tree)

Sometimes the year goes so fast that I find myself in disbelief that it is so suddenly December again. Time is a funny and confusing thing that way. But all the same, it's never a bad thing to find yourself in the midst of the Christmas spirit when it reaches it's peak. The only thing I have ever disliked about it is that it is impossible to go shopping nearer the time (even just normal shopping, because people need to prepare for the perfect roast dinner) All the same, this year Christmas will be wonderful because it's astoundingly well organised for once. And that organisation leaves room for the excitement.

So, without further ado, here are some of the things that to me are what Christmas is all about:

1. Christmas Carols

Singing is part of my earliest memories of Christmas. Largely because I never accepted that being quiet is appropriate when I was younger and also because there is just music everywhere pretty much all the time. It is difficult to not get songs stuck in your head when they are all around you. 

Christmas carols are a fantastic example of how music can unite people. Through a simple melody with simple words, suddenly a whole crowd of people can be singing and smiling. It's a positive thing largely because it is just so natural to sing together. Humans are, after all, musical creatures. Some of my favourite carols include Berlioz' Shepherds carol, the ancient Coventry carol from way back when, In dulci jubilo and Holst's In the bleak midwinter. It's never the holiday season without them. When we were in Disneyland, carols were played everywhere practically all the time! (great practice for HYC rehearsals when I got back)

2. Decorating the Tree

It is annoying to take everything out of the coat closet that has accumulated since the previous year of putting all of the Christmas things to the very back. But it is by far worth it to uncover the box of ornaments and decorations which we have gathered across the years. There are the standard baubles and fairy lights, but there is also the robin, the Paris decorations, some wooden figurines from when I was really small, and the Christmas stocking that I made in primary school - my initials haphazardly scrawled across in smudged blue glitter.

Rolo, my dog, thinks it is hilarious to try and sit under the tree - bear in mind that he is huge and that is a very small space. So naturally, all things go flying and yet he still carries on with the mission. It makes all of us grumpy, but it can be rather funny to see one another jump up to try and stop him. If it were a cartoon, it would go in slow motion with someone crying 'Nooo!' As punishment, whenever he does that he has to wear his dreaded elf jumper (a gift from my grandma)

3. Festive Films!

Some of my favourite films are Christmas films which means I just have more excuse to watch them when Christmas time comes around. Specifically Home alone, which I have watched sooo often this year. It's a movie that reminds me of home and of childhood, so whenever I am feeling nostalgic that is what will be on the TV. Some others that make an appearance at Christmas include: Edward Scissorhands, the Grinch, a royal Christmas, Santa Claus and of course, Elf!

4. Winter Itself

Some people detest the cold - they wish that all year it could be summer. A summer with a heat wave. But I much prefer the cold, it's much easier to live in. No matter how red it makes my nose it still makes me happy. Mainly because it means that all the jumpers it was a little too warm for in October can now make a resurgence from the depths of my wardrobe. Plus scarves, hats, gloves! Everything woollen and cosy I am up for!

Especially with things like the Christmas markets here in Manchester, it doesn't seem right that it shouldn't be a cold winters evening. When it is cold, the sky suddenly seems a little clearer and all of the stars are so bright and close. Close enough that maybe if you reach out, you could brush the very edge of your fingers against them. And the smell of the many delicious foods from around the globe lure you in with their warmth. Everything tastes so much better. Winter begins for me on bonfire night, when you can hear the crackle of the fire and see the ashes floating like grey minnows in an orange sea. Winter is perhaps the best part of all things in terms of Christmas tradition for me. Whether it snows or not.

The last real snow we had when I was much younger is the one I will always think of when this time rolls around. Mainly because of a photograph we have in the hallway. It's of me and my grand dad building a snow man. The snow man has all manner of buttons and raisins for decorations. Most notably, perhaps, my grand dad's cap on his snowy head. The look on younger me's face says it all. And pictures, they say, are worth a thousand words.

5. Spending Time with my Family + Friends

And Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without those we love best! The best thing is spending time together (especially if there is hot chocolate and gingerbread involved!) I adore the moment when people unwrap their gifts and look so happy and surprised. It makes all of the shopping worthwhile. Because suddenly you remember that this is what it was for - just to make them smile. And that is the most rewarding part of it all. Feeling together and feeling home.

For a moment, the world isn't too complicated at all.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

A Last Halle Christmas

Firstly, I want to clear the record - unlike I expected, I did not actually cry at the last Halle Christmas concert (though I was pretty close) Still, I am glad that my last Christmas concerts were so fun because it made it easy to be happy and to appreciate them fully. The very last of the three especially was perhaps one of my favourites. Though the first one too was actually one the best moments of the winter season this year which was a pleasant surprise. Usually the first concert is about finding your feet, but I think it goes to show how much a part of HYC I have become in that this year it felt like putting on your favourite pair of shoes - you know everything well and it is comfortable instead of stressful.

Saturday was a long rehearsal day but an early concert. We even got a long break which was a little strange and not in the usual pattern of concert days, but a welcome change none-the-less. It was also the beginning of the end which was difficult - it's going to be hard not having these concerts a part of my life. They are the best part of the whole Halle season in my opinion. Christmas truly seems around the corner on that first day of rehearsals when the orchestra first strike a chord. Everything is easy sailing from there (of course with the hard work still being ever in place)

Sunday was an even longer day because it was two concerts in one day! The middle concert went well, but the last was definitely the best. The French horn players went to town with some hilarious inflatable snow man costumes, the Christmas hats were fabulous (I spotted roast chickens, inflatable antlers and even the organist dressed in full elf garb) Everything about it was completely magical. One of the running themes was the idea of the Christmas cracker due to a creative performance of a piece by the Halle children's choir. The conductor, Stephen Bell, encouraged the audience to tweet jokes on twitter which were read out every now and again. Some of them were such bad jokes they were good - you know the kind? For instance I got a fridge for my girlfriend. Not a very romantic gift but you should have seen her face light up when she opened the door! 

During the interval, me and my friends had a nut free picnic. It was my friend Alice's idea and it was a really lovely way to just spend some time together. Eating humus and singing Christmas carols (not for any rehearsal purposes, we just like harmonising whenever we can - especially if it's carols we haven't done as part of performances that year) I'd completely forgotten all about Berlioz' Shepherds carol till now! I sang it in my first year of sixth form at Xaverian and was so glad to stumble across it again. 

It was good to reminisce about the old concerts and also the other things we had done so far. There were so many great things from back in that first year I had completely forgotten about - like a concert with a Spanish guitarist for world peace day and a Tudor pre-concert. Because we were talking so openly about all of these things, it didn't feel sad at all. It was easy to be happy and to feel the change in the choir - that we each have our turn to leave and (whilst sad) when we do go, it doesn't stop us being a part of the Halle family. That will never change. 

In terms of what we performed, we did a Battiwalla setting of Suo Gan (a Welsh poem I believe) which is a lullaby of sorts. Very beautiful, and performed largely with the solo harp and string section. In complete contrast, we also performed one of my favourite ever Christmas discoveries Fum-Fum-Fum which is a traditional Catalan carol - it's in G minor (it has quite a carol of the bells feel to it) and has just the right amount of catchy melody and polyphony to keep an audience engaged and singing it for the rest of eternity. I love it so much! We also sang a German piece by a Swedish composer and, of course, Christmas carols! The best part of being a soprano is getting to sing descants which are the lines of music which go over the melody and other parts in the choir. It's usually only for one verse. Like the infamous last verse of Oh Holy Night. Plus, to end it all, Sleigh ride and we wish you a merry Christmas of course - No Christmas is complete without them. 

So yes, whilst I have much more to say I am quite tired from such a busy and exciting weekend. So whilst I have so much more to say about the concert, I think now I shall bask in my nostalgia and reminisce tomorrow. Now that the concerts are over the Christmas count down has officially begun! Lots of plans this week, so keep an eye on the blog to hear more! The Snow Man/Paddington's first concert with the Halle on Tuesday should be one of the most wintry things (I'll be sure to take hot chocolate and mince pies!) 

I'm so grateful to have such incredible friends at Halle and to have had the perfect last Christmas with them. Growing up, as I always say, is not at all easy. And having such amazing people in my life doesn't make saying goodbye any easier. But it isn't really goodbye - it's just a see you later. Merry Christmas to all of my Halle friends and all of you!

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Gilmore Girls and Literature

Recently, everyone at university has been talking about the new series of Gilmore Girls (the revival season) that has just come out. I'd actually never really heard of the show before everyone started talking about the newer episodes, so out of curiosity I watched one episode... and a gazillion hours later here we are at the end of the first season! 

One of the things that really struck me about the series is the number of cultural references involved. Along with a good plot line (and mostly good acting opposed to the few characters like Rune who I just do not like at all!) and direction, there are so many books involved. Education is definitely an obvious theme which is discussed and shown to be cool. That is one of the things I think I like about it so much - so much movie or TV wise often overlooks the significance of education in every day life. Whilst it is represented in a pile of books on a coffee table or a good shot of a library wall, no real detail tends to go into the aspect of schooling. But here there are some really good role models set - discussing good books, movies, music and of course, what makes a good cup of coffee. Now that's what I call a fair representation of education!

So simply because I wanted to feature this brilliant discovery of a series in a blog post, here are some of the books I have enjoyed reading or really want to read which have been featured in the series so far:

1. The diary of a young girl - Anne Frank

I begin with Anne Frank because she has been one of the most prominent voices that I can remember throughout my entire literary journey. Ever since I can remember, her words have always been echoing in my head and making me ask questions about the world around me. Her words haunt me in a way I have never truly comprehended and probably never fully shall.

My first encounter with the diary was through those big picture books they have in primary school. You know the ones - back in the day before ipads, when they had those A4 x 1000 pages with a few words and pictures. One day when I was quite little, someone broke my glasses and I couldn't see properly so the teacher gave me one of the big picture books to read. It was all about the life of Anne Frank. After reading that short summary of her biography, I went home and asked for a copy of the diary and ended up receiving a copy for my seventh birthday.

Anne Frank was a victim of the atrocities of the holocaust. In her diary, she records her thoughts and feelings as she grew up in close proximity to her family and family friends in hiding. Her words are a glimmer of hope in the darkest of times, and they continue to be. For me, nothing shows the goodness in humanity and the heart of it quite like her writing.

2. The Davinci Code - Dan Brown

A controversial one. People either love the plot twists or they find them too predictable. I am in the former category largely due to the fact that everyone in my family is a Dan Brown fan and eventually I was persuaded I was one too. Plus, I just really like a good action packed, kind of every genre mixed together kind of book. Davinci code is the one mentioned in Gilmore girls, but my favourite of his is actually probably Angels and Demons.

One of the main reasons I like the book is the structure. It switches between different perspectives through the ominiscient narrative. Whilst it is always told from the third person narrative voice, it still allows insight into different sections of the story at different times. Plus it is set largely in European locations such as Paris. It reminds me a lot of the Sanctus trilogy (which is also really good - heads up) It reads like a screen play because of how it cuts and puts together different sections. Even if you aren't a huge fan of this style, this book is a fun light read to fit in with some heavier text based reading lists.

3. Anna Karenina - Tolstoy 

All I know about Anna Karenina, rather abashedly, is that it has something to do with hierarchy and is set in Russia (even this information may be, ashamedly, wrong) It's one of those books you hear the names of everywhere but have never read. I am not ashamed to not have read it and will not lie and say I have (because that would make me a bad example to all the readers reading this) the purpose of a book is to be read - not imagined, after all. Imagining is what makes the book in the first place (how ironic) So yes, one for the to read pile. 

4. Letters to a Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke

Reading this really helped me with choosing my degree. The whole idea of art not existing within a vacuum but being everywhere around you is expressed so beautifully in the letters contained within this book. It makes me believe, every time I pick it up to browse through, that I am capable of achieveing anything. One of my favourite quotes is :

For the creative, there is no poverty. 

Largely because, through quotes such as this, you can see that there is no example of a stereotypical artist just a shared attribute. And it's so abrupt too - no beating around the bush just the truth. That if you want to get any where in life then you have to work hard and be your best without always getting the best. And in the end, hard work will get you to where you need to be.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Update: Moana, Home and Christmas

It is SO good to be back home for a sustained period of time. Mainly because it means I can go swimming more often, I have time to read the stack of books that has been wobbling precariously the taller it gets and there is time to spend with my family and friends. Especially Dodo (otherwise known as my dog who likes to hide under the Christams tree, much to our annoyance) It's genuinely the most wonderful time of the year. It isn't all fun and games though - there is still plenty of work to be done for rehearsals and the like.

On my first full day back, it was finally time to go and see Moana (for those of you who haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?! It's Disney in all it's perfection)

The plot line follows the princess Moana, in her attempt to restore the heart of the island with the help of a demi God she heard of in the myths and legends told by her people. She has to use great courage, wit and strength to succeed in her mission. It reminded me in some elements of Frozen. Specifically in that it is all about acceptance of self  - that we are all different, and it is those differences which make us stronger. Just like Elsa, Moana will be a good role model for all of the little girls around the world who want to achieve great things. Not necessarily restoring the heart of an island with the help of magic, but by finding in the magic in the normal. Whether that be as a vet, an astronaut, a journalist or a ballet dancer. Through the eyes of something so beautifully animated it quickly becomes evident that the world is your Oyster. 

After submitting both of my essays, I started writing my first blog for the university website and my first blog post has now been published! (If you click on the image of it below, it will take you to the link) It was odd writing for something new other than this blog. When I was in Leeds, I did write briefly for the school paper but writing for a blog which is similar to what I already do is as I said, strange. Not in a bad way, not at all, in fact it was rather refreshing to begin with an introduction and start writing directly from the student perspective all over again. It's equally as fun as writing here is.

On Saturday, my friend Rebecca visited from York. It was lovely to have her visit, but a shame that the weather was so miserable. Manchester is a great city, but it seems whenever I try to prove this to people it suddenly starts raining cats and dogs. But we still got to see a lot in spite of the rain - back to the Lowry art exhibition (his paintings are following me around now, I swear) to the central library, the Christmas markets, all of the squares and, of course, Chapter one books where we enjoyed some late afternoon tea. I even managed to find some new badges for my ukulele case!

The days are now fast wasting away in the race up to Christmas. All of my Christmas shopping is done bar two things, and I am definitely feeling in the Christmas spirit. Busking with Halle on Sunday was a great way to begin, and we even found a few decorations on the German markets to add to our tree. Soon there will be even more festivities: Ice skating, hot chocolate, gingerbread making, the Halle Christmas concerts this weekend (be sure not to miss them!) and my mum even booked tickets for me and my family to go and see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. So overall, it's definitely the most Christmassy I have felt in a while which is nice. The past few years I have felt a little like the Grinch! 

Update wise, there isn't much more to add. School work is done for the semester other than the new reading lists, so I cannot add my usual ranting about deadlines (hooray!) though don't worry, all will return with much energy in January with Semester two. I'm just kidding, I can't wait to start back after the holidays. Especially because of the contemporary writing class - we have so many cool books to look forward to studying. 

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

16 Lessons From 2016

2016 has been a crazy, busy, fun, confusing, wonderful year. It's gone so quickly for me, and it marks the middle period of a chapter of three years (beginning 2015) which I have a feeling are going to be the years remembered fondly as the beginning of freedom and end of my teenage years. It might sound silly, but I have often found my life to fit with that rule - three years tend to feel like a chapter, if life is the novel.

This post isn't a complete review of the year, that will come a little later on in the month or in early January. This is just to talk about some of the important lessons I have learnt in 2016 that have meant something to me or that I might have already known but had a true epiphany moment at some point in my own experiences these past few months. It's funny how you can be told something all of your life but you never truly understand it until you feel it yourself. It is why they say that you can only learn from your own mistakes. You can only learn from your own positive experiences too, and that is what makes us each individual and unique.

So, without further delay, here are 16 of the things that I learned in 2016:

1. Moving out is scary, but then it's not.

When writing for the university blog a few days ago, I went back to September in my head and looked for the things I could pass on to the next year of freshers who will be joining York St. John, or nay university, when it comes to September time next year. The first thing that came to my mind was this. Largely because when I was thinking about it, I couldn't come up with anything at all and then this hit me.

It struck me as an interesting thing to comment on because it should have been obvious but it wasn't - and that is why it is important to pass on. When I was first packing up my things in August to move out in early September, there were a million things racing through my mind. Suddenly anxiety and vulnerability took over and it felt like I would never fit in even though I knew the course was perfect and the area ideal for me as a student. Those feelings were at large because this whole moving out business... it was different to anything before. It is hard to leave the place you regard as home and then to build a new one miles away. It's that Jack Mapanje quote I use constantly here - Home is confusing as you grow up. It becomes less a place and more a feeling. 

Freshers was not the easiest week as I am not a party person... but luckily, there were lots of people like me who were all in the same boat. Meeting Izzie, Emma, Hayley and Rebecca that week meant suddenly things weren't as scary any more. The first day of moving in is the hardest part because that is when you are adjusting the most and taking everything in. But by the end of the week (which will go fast but still feel more like a month than a week) without even realising, you'll feel a subtle shift in the place around you. It stops feeling new and 'other', and starts feeling more like Home. Quite suddenly, so suddenly you don't even notice, it isn't scary at all any more.

2. Working hard is the secret.

When you look at the students around you and see all of their success, it is so unbelievably easy to think that you will never be as awesome as them and that you should just give up now. But that is the wrong attitude to take! Largely because everyone has different abilities, different strong points and progresses at their own individual rate. There is absolutely not shame in that. Secondly, the whole point of university is to learn and to keep learning. If everyone was able to just learn everything in one second there would be absolutely no purpose to further education at all. You are at university to learn - whatever form that learning may take or be.

There is no secret to success. It isn't in the clothes someone wears, the pencil they write with or the shampoo they use. It's in the motivation, the interest in what is said in class, contribution to discussion and (above all) in the hard work.

Your first year is about learning that and about finding out what hard work is for you. Finding out that you find reflection based posts easier to put together than group presentations, or that you struggle with doing research in the library so you should probably discuss this ASAP before your deadlines are looming with the librarian. The key to working hard is in that motivation and drive to do well - you can achieve that by setting yourself goals (I aim for three short term targets a week) going above and beyond class work (even if it is just reading one extra article a week) and getting a head start on your work. The earlier you will start, the more likely it is to be gradual hard work opposed to work that just seems really hard to complete.

3. Friendship is in the little things.

Movies always show friendships to be about grand adventures and constant declarations of eternal best-friendness. But friendship is, luckily, nothing at all like that in real life! Friendship in the real world is made up of the little every day things.

For instance, this past semester I have seen my friends mostly in relation to work. We have met up and gone over essays together (essay club) or just gone for walks when we were stressed and couldn't stand being cooped up in the library any longer. They have been one of the best things about this semester because they have not only made me feel more at home (and hopefully I, them) they have also made me take a step back from work when I have been putting too much pressure on. You can learn an awful lot from those people who care enough to share their own stories and experiences with you - largely because it takes time to talk them through and, by the end, you feel much better for the conversation and knowing someone has your back.

4. When you travel, you realise that you've already found yourself. 

Travelling this summer was... amazing! Seeing so much of the world was not enough and it only makes me want to know even more of this globe of water and earth we live on. Amsterdam, Austria, France, Germany, Ireland... and England itself - there is so much culture and history to be explored and not enough time to know it all in enough detail.

So much young adult fiction in the modern day centres around the idea of finding yourself or of knowing exactly who it is you want to be all the time. But one thing I realised during my travels was that I already know who I am. In fact, that has never been more clear to me than it is at the moment. Seeing new places and cultures only broadens my mind set. I do not need to find myself for I am already found. There is nothing to find.

So instead of looking for my identity or the answers to all of those big philosophical questions, I was able to look around me. To really feel where I was. There is nothing quite like being thrown in at the deep end and having to pick up an entirely new language in the shreds of it everywhere - the street signs, the food labels, the literature. There is so much I am now interested in which I wasn't aware of before - such as just how interesting the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam, are. Or how much it matters to me that I keep practicing languages. Apparently it is one of my priorities.

5. You cannot get sick of any Disney movie. 

Between busy and busier, my impressive Disney collection has been my sanctuary. And trust me, you can't actuallt get sick of them! You just pick up the words a lot quicker (and can sing along  a little louder) My favourites at the moment are The Hunchback of Notredame and Beauty and the Beast (don't even get me started on Pixar - that's a whole other post)

It's nice to have something which is simple, bright and happy to act as a distraction from more serious issues like finance, deadlines and application/auditions. It is one of lifes simple pleasures to be able to go back to what comforts you best whatever it be. For me that's Disney, hot chocolate or a good book.

Also I think I have seen The Little Mermaid at least 100 times in my life now... (sings part of your world loudly) and it still makes me want to be some kind of mythological being despite all common sense!

6. My Patronus is a St. Bernard?

Just a running theme whilst we are on to media and lighter things 2016 has taught me... according to Pottermore my patronus is a St. Bernard. I'm starting to acquiesce to this as the explanation of it does fit with me. But I am still somewhat adamant that my patronus is, has always been and forever shall be... A blue whale.

7. Essays are never as hard as you think.

Opposed to what you might think from reading my essays, it isn't the actual essay writing that is the hard part. The drafting is hard and having to pace yourself when working toward a deadline, but the essay is not too difficult if you set yourself a structure and find an essay writing procedure that works well for you. For me, it's usually beginning with planning and then going into my first draft using that plan as a guide line. But from essay club alone I know that everyone has a different technique which works best for them, whether that be detailed planning until it's a full draft or writing the entire essay the day before the deadline (that one scares me a little though - largely because I submit everything early always!)

Also, you should just think of essays as an open conversation which makes them pretty cool and fun too! Think about it, you get to write about something you love in a big open conversation with all the other people who study your subject around the world (perhaps not immediately, but you'll get there one examiner at a time and then bam! The World is hanging on your every word) You are responding and contributing to all those other individual opinions. What you bring to the table is an essay in which you have researched well to support through evidence a fresh new idea that is all your own. It's an opportunity to be creative, no matter your subject, so use it wisely. It's also an opportunity to work hard and produce something you are really proud of. Remember, a person is only as good as their last project, so keep up the good work.

8. Keeping busy equals keeping happy.

When I say this, I don't mean crazy busy. I mean schedule busy, make sure you have enough time for lunch and a good 8 hours sleep busy. I know it isn't always possible, but make sure that the majority of your week looks that way, ok? Take it from me, saying no can be hard sometimes as the projects offered might be amazing. But if it's going to cause clashes with your already existent schedule and mean you don't do as well in the projects you have already undertaken, then it isn't going to be worth it in the long run.

But do make sure you keep fairly busy as no one likes being bored. Aim to do one unique thing a month (that's my goal) and see what you can achieve. It can be anything from learning how to whistle a new tune to swimming the channel. Keeping busy is good for me as I hate sitting still and love doing new things so I have picked up a lot of new skills this year, like learning to play cello and reading all the American literature that was at the top of my bucket list.

9. A good Christmas shopper starts early. 

Seriously, have you seen the rush of Christmas traffic in Primark these days? I genuinely would never would have guessed it a month or so ago, so I am relieved to have started my Christmas shopping early because now everything is relaxed and, with all my academic work being submitted, there is time to find the last little touches. Like gold gel pens for the fronts of Christmas card envelopes and the right Christmas crackers. Save yourself stress and start now!

10. It's important to just be yourself!

Whilst it can be intimidating to start work in a new place where you don't know the area too well and you don't know everyone else either, it can be easy to try and fit in my copying other mannerisms and abandon your own. But what you need to remembe is that you are you - and that is the best thing in the world! So don't be ashamed, ever, to be yourself. If you're confident in who you are then you will find that people come to you so much more easily and you'll soon have friends who are kind, thoughtful and who know you and what makes you happy. There is nothing better than that.

11. Dutch is much harder than German.

It's because they are so similar! Why oh why? But Dutch is definitely a cool language which is a little happier and softer on the ears at times than German is. I love them both though so it is hard to pick a favourite. Have never sung in Dutch before, perhaps that would be a good starting point?

12. My reading time is?

With the amount of reading on my reading list this year, I've quickly figured out that my reading time differs depending on what we are reading/re-reading and what the structure of the text is. When it is plays or sonnets, it tends to be around a day or two. But novels (specifically epic texts like Ovid's Metamorphoses) can be a little scary at first, so it is best to approach those early. I aim to start them before the semester if I know of them (they go straight to the top of the list) but if I already know a little and am not too intimidated by the bulkiness of the book, these are relatively easy to get through in around a week. It's my hope to get that down to half a week by the very end of my first degree year.

13. We are our own experiences...

Art cannot exist in a vacuum afterall. All those different, unique experiences and perceptions of the world which we have provide us with the keys to unlocking details in our individual projects and talents. However...

14. ... But we define our own identities

If J. K. Rowling can teach us one thing, it is that we are not defined in our identities by those experiences. Those experiences make up a large part of us but they do not completely define who we are. We have imagination and talent and passion which can make up magical worlds, daring stories and set us goals to acheive. If we put our minds to it, then we can achieve anything. That's why it is so important to keep aiming high. If you work hard and remain motivated, then you can do so much more than you can ever imagine. In the words of Walt Disney, If you can dream it you can do it. 

15. The bucket list is never ending.

Linked with that last lesson learnt, here is another one. I have travelled and read and experience so much from my bucket list this year but have found that it only ever leads me to want to do even more. Reading one book always somehow links to another, a film to a new TV series or saga, artwork to interesting context, records to more records and so on. But I love it that way. Life is a never ending bucket list.

16. It's hard to grow up.

Whilst it is fun to experience so much and be involved in so many exciting opportunities, it also means I miss out now and have missed out on a lot of the things which make up being a teenager. I don't regret it but it does make me realise when I get time to pause, that time has flown by so quickly and I don't often pause enough to appreciate that growing up is a hard business.

When you grow up, yes your responsibility and freedom suddenly has no limit and you are able to decide your own destiny. But at the same time, it becomes a new world when you do not have the restrictions being a child previously put into place. Whilst I do miss those aspects, it's mainly adjusting to the challenges of the adult world which are proving most difficult. But in spite of that I think I am doing quite well so far. You get to see my adventures on a regular basis, so it would be interesting to hear your thoughts and also how you have found the experience of growing up. Does it make you as nostalgic as it makes me? What have you learnt so far from your 2016?

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Monday, 12 December 2016

University - Week 12

I can't actually believe that week 12 of university has been and gone! Now we're on to the next semester, the next part of this whole experience of university. Whilst I am glad to have gotten this far and to still be enjoying my course in addition to that, it's also a little strange... not quite sure how to summarise all of the feelings yet, at least.

When travel ends, it is hard to get back into the routine of every day life. This was the case especially when it came to getting back from Paris on Sunday evening and knowing that on Monday, the busiest week ever to exist (literally ever) was about to explode and become an entire universe of crazy. But the train ride, despite being busy, was therapeutic. It allowed me time to just write out everything I needed to do again, to calm myself down and to remember that whilst it was a lot to do it was manageable.

The week sped by quite quickly - and my group won both of the Christmas quizzes which was pretty cool! For the first quiz we won chocolate oranges and on the second, Star Wars mugs. Both are now trophies on my shelves. I still maintain that the only reason we won is because of my obsession with George Saunders and Izzie, Louise and Hayley's insane anagram skills. Whilst we're on the topic of anagrams, how do people do those? I've never been very good at both those and sudoku... much too challenging! Luckily they were usually scrambled versions of author or text names, so we were able to remember everything from the semester and write that down.

Wednesday was the presentation day - our assessment for Writing for Academic Success. Whilst I was terrified, mainly because I am not the best public speaker, it actually went quite well. Especially as it was no where near as bad as any of us thought it was going to be. All of the prior preparation paid off because we had a firm knowledge of what we were talking about and didn't just have to stick the script. We were able to look up and out at our class mates and imagine we were just having a conversation with them and so it all felt much more natural. Whilst there were a few mistakes and a few things I would have done differently about the process of creating the presentation and puting together all those bits and pieces of research we formulated over three weeks, for such a small time frame we accomplished a lot.

Essay wise, it is a complete relief to have submitted both of my 2000 word pieces now. Yet at the same time, there is something about submitting essays and knowing you cannot work on them any more which is slightly discomforting... it feels like the cliff hanger of a really well written, really suspenseful short story. To segway back to George Saunders, that kind of stuff. Where you are given a character and a plot, yet some detail is withheld and then suddenly it's the end. And it's discomforting largely because I didn't expect it to feel this way - didn't expect for the worry to remain after they were submitted. But it's largely due to the fact that I worked even harder on these than the last ones and part of me still feels they are not as perfect as they could be. For those of you who are in a similar place to me with that right now, my advice to help is keep distracted until you get your feedback back - read lots! (books on anything from bees to Terry Pratchett)

As with travel, endings always come too quickly. And as an extremely sentimental person (the kind who writes down everything) it is sad to think that next year I'll be in different classes, studying different texts and closer to that midway point of the degree. But at the same time, it's incredibly exciting to be heading for writing surrounding gender or contemporary issues!

On Wednesday, I got a brief glimpse at the Christmas holidays when I headed back to Manchester to do some carolling with a small group of singers from the Halle Youth Choir - those of us who are older got together to do some consort/ensemble style Christmas music for an event at one of the new buildings in St. Peter's square. The acoustic was as fabulous as the architecture: How do people sculpt metal to make it look so weightless? It's beyond me.

But the highlight of the week was on Thursday. After a long journey back to York (It's a very long story featuring a bridge on the train tracks and random French conversation to find out where the metro was) I finally made rehearsals and the Christmas carol service!

It was especially exciting as I got to sing the solo at the beginning of Once in Royal David's City, which opened the whole of the carol service. To get to sing a solo in a place like the Minster is a once in a life time experience, but to do so at Christmas made it feel even more special. And so many people gave me lovely comments telling me they were impressed with the performance. It's reassuring to perform solo work and to be told people enjoy it - it drives me to continue performing and practicing all things musical alongside my academic studies. The truth is, I want to do everything there is to achieve and music is one of the top things on my list alongside English.

The time and effort people put into Christmas performances never ceases to astound. Some beautiful words were spoken, beloved carols were brought out like the best fuzzy warm jumpers from the back of the wardrobe, and there were some really creative ideas put together to mark 2016, the 175th year of York St. John, drawing to a close. The dance and drama departments put together this spectacular choreography with lanterns, purple light and star balloons depicting scenes from the nativity. It was moving to be a part of. In addition to this, the choir also performed some works by a Dutch composer (Magi Veniunt - Papa) and a piece (gifts) by York St. John's very own Ralph Bateman. It was an extreme privilege to get to sing one of the solo lines in the new piece written specifically for this event and to be conducted by the composer himself.

Seeing my friends pack up their things and head off on trains to different areas all over the UK made York feel a little emptier than it did at the beginning of the week. As I said earlier, I am not very good with goodbyes at all. But when I got home to my own family, it was easier to look back over the past weeks and to know it's not really an ending at all. It's just the beginning.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Books in December

The freedom that Christmas holidays brings is the one thing I am so far enjoying most about being back home. Largely because during this past semester I haven't gotten chance to read what I would like to half as much as I wish I had. Instead my focus was on reading for research or for class which, whilst interesting, is not quite the same as sitting down and getting lost in a good book. It's the same for writing too - now that I have more time available, it will be easier to put together blog posts and to write some short stories (have some great ideas around the symbolism of stained glass windows, a golden lute and snow)

I used Goodreads quite a lot to track my reading (I do a reading challenge every year) but mainly to keep up with my to read list which gets extensively longer every day. Every now and again I will invest in one of the books near the top of my list (which is how I came across recent reads such as Books, Baguettes and Bed bugs) and attempt to work through some of it.

It's important to me that during this time when I am not constantly doing something different, that I get involved with those texts which make me remember why I am interested in literature and why it is it is my chosen field degree wise. Every book and every story deserves to be listened to and it frustrates me no end that I will never be able to read them all. But that doesn't mean I can't not try to get through as many as possible. No adventure is a wasted one so every book is a possible next voyage.

As well as texts from my three reading lists for next semester, these are some of my own book choices which have me excited about my field at the moment:

1. The Victoria Letters - H. Rappaport 

Queen Victoria has been my favourite monarch since I first started reading back in the 90's with the Horrible History books. Mainly because whilst the Tudors were interesting as a whole, Queen Victoria was an individual who seemed a whole world within herself. The letters so far definitely support that claim in that, they reveal her to be a complex young individual who made mistakes, was gifted in learning and who struggled with knowing the limit of her own power and humantiy despite being a powerful figure.

As a young woman living in the twenty-first century, it is hard to remember that education and womens rights were not always the way they are now. And so it is important to look back and to remember those figures who played a part in opening up the way for the young women of today to go forth and do incredible things. And not just young women, but all people. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to put in place mandatory schooling systems which meant that for the first time, the poor and lower classes were able to gain education which would allow them social mobility. Being able to read about what she was thinking whilst these things were going on is like going back in time. It is fascinating to see behind the workings of such a wise leader.

2. Bee Journal - S. Borodale 

Wow - I've just realised how many of the books on my shelves have either (a) Pictures of bees on the cover (b) Bee as part of the title or (c) are actually about bees! But they are intriguing little creatures, so all is well and I am fine with my extensive bee book collection.

Borodale seems to agree with me on that count. He is the Sherlock Holme of poetry with this anthology on bee keeping. It's a journal of his experiences with keeping bees and monitoring their behaviours. There is something very natural about his writing style so far. It doesn't feel like he is trying to be a hipster writing a poem as a means of gaining a partial selfie next to the creatures he has not interest in. Instead, it feels like his main task at hand is to make sure the bees stay safe and well - the poems do feel like a journal. Like an afterthought which is the product of caring for something so much. Kind of like when someone writes a letter to cheer someone up. Or when we write journals to remind ourselves that even if only paper is listening, at least there is somewhere to turn to.

Some of the poems are quite formulaic in how they talk about supply count. Others are wrought with emotion and link to interext. One of the poems towards the end of the collection which I have not yet read was mentioned by the poet in the introduction. Apparently it links the queen bee with Sylvia Plath which will definitely make for interesting reading. This book has so far been a fantastic accidental find.

3. Freakangelz

One from my contemporary reading list for semester two. This series of web comic was written from 2008 - 2011 and there are eight volumes in total (Still not quite sure which particular volumes we are meant to be reading so I have started at the beginning and it's so good I'll probably keep going until the end of all of them)

What I understand about this comic so far is that it is set in the future when the world has somehow come to an end (dystopia and science fiction are becoming a regular theme on this blog, huh?) but those humans who remain have special powers which allow them to do things such as heal others or read one anothers thoughts. Or even look into the future. They look to protect the world (sound familiar? I thought so too - Wall.E is also on our reading list (so so soooo excited!))

Whilst I am not far into reading the series at all I have been enjoying it to this point so far. As stated when reading the Alison Bechdel a few weeks ago, the graphic novel and it's style is definitely something I want to research and read more of. Freakangelz makes a perfect start, for sure.

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - The Case for Beasts

A reward from my parents for getting a first in my first assignment which I haven't been able to properly read so far other than some brief glances. It will be a perfect read this first week of holiday before I head to the cinema to see it again. My favourite beast so far has been the Bowtruckle. I can't wait to read more on how they created the world in the film, what it was like to portray each of the different characters and how each of the details was brought to life or even originally imagined up.

5. The Hunger Games - S. Collins

My decided re-read of December. The Hunger Games has been out so much longer than I realised - it's such an odd realisation. I remember these books first coming out and the movies too, so to me it seems only ten minutes ago. Another dystopian setting, another alternate universe, another warning about the link between humans, technology and the future. One of my favourite books too!

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Day 2 - Disneyland, Paris

I don't quite know the word for it, but do you ever get that feeling where time seems to go on forever and all too quickly at the same time? That's how the past two days at Disneyland have been. Because on the one hand we only just got here, but at the same time because it has been something I have wanted to do forever it seems like we have been here for a while too. It makes me not want to leave, though deadlines are now only a week away.

We began the day with breakfast, which consisted of the largest amount of fresh nut free French bread and cake. I know Marie Antoinette most likely never said it, but all the same eating my petit dejeuner made me think of the quote 'let them eat cake' in response to the citizens having no bread. After this, we waited for the shuttle bus to take us to the theme parks. Yesterday it was really foggy, but today the sky was blue and it was so sunny that the cold just didn't make sense.

With a knowledge of how to get around everywhere now, me and mum made a list of all the places that we wanted to see in the main theme park before we headed over to the studios. Walking back in for the second time was possibly even better than the first because it still felt just as exciting and just as much like walking into something you thought only existed in books. The Christmas decorations were everywhere too. One design they have done this year is a Mickey and Minnie gingerbread man which is completely adorable. 

The first thing to do was, now that everything was a little brighter, walk in and around the fantasy land castle. You enter in the dragons cave, though I didn't spot Maleficent anywhere! Walking around those paths you get some of the best views of fantasy land and of main street. Not because it overlooks everything, but because you get to see things from a more three dimensional perspective and it again, feels kind of like being in a movie because it's so surreal. There are these beautiful stained glass windows too with the characters from Sleeping Beauty. Seeing the fairies in the centre only reminded me of how magical everything was and how much more there was still in store for the day. 

One of the best things about that morning in Fantasy land just before we went to the Phantom Mansion ride, was getting to meet Miss Bunny and Thumper. They were so funny too, always pulling tricks:

After meeting some characters, especially some of the favourites from the Stevenson household, we decided to head to the other park. Whilst the rides sounded a lot more adventurous (and I am not as daring as I perhaps should be when at a theme park) we still wanted to explore this other Disney universe brought to life. 

Disney studios compliments the main park mostly because of how different it is. Where the central theme park is magical and movies brought to life, the studios is everything behind those movies. It is the story of Walt Disney and how he came up with his ideas, worked with the musicians, actors and artists who were a part of his industry and above all, had a love for storytelling - for the magic and joy he was able to bring through the moving picture. In addition to this, the place is set out like a traditional Hollywood movie set. From the diners, to the shop signs, everything feels like it's in the golden age of movie making which is again surreal. But now because it makes you feel like you have gone back in time. 

As stated, I am not the most daring person so rides like Hollywood tower of terror and Crushes coaster just weren't for me (even though they looked insanely cool) My favourite sections of this park were definitely those of Ratatouille and Toy story. With Ratatouille, it made me so happy to see Paris using it's traditional recognisable culture to emphasise a story set there which isn't given as much credit as it should be (in my opinion) The restaurants in that section smelled amazing. 

But for me, as a Pixar fan, the best parts of the whole park were the Monsters inc. stop near to Toonland and the whole Toy story area. Firstly, Monsters inc. I know it isn't really a ride of sorts, it's just the door but... guys! It's Mike Wazowski! One of the funniest characters from possibly any Pixard film ever. Plus they had scream monitors which just made me laugh. Hopefully in the future they can expand this and have a whole Pixar world or something (That would definitely be awesome) As for Toy story land, it was just ... amazing! The attention to detail when making every aspect was designed to make people feel like toys and to reverse the whole idea of the films. The slinky ride was really fun, but the moment that made this part of the park special was walking in past the giant Buzz Lightyear, with the sun so bright he was just a talking silhouette. It made me feel so small again (to be honest, I'm not that tall already, but still!)

Oh I almost forgot to mention from Fantasy land - there is Alice's curious labyrinth which is one of the ones which has been on my Disney list forever. It was closed for refurbishment on the first day but today it was re-opened so this was the next place to head after Phantom Manor. Remember the mazes from Vienna that I mentioned back in July? It was equally as difficult, if not even harder, than those. Plus there were lots of signs saying a million different things at the same time - laughed so much trying to figure the way out! 

In the evening, we shopped in the Disney village (a whole street of just Disney stores) and I was able to get souvenirs and things. Now I have two calendars for next year - a Van Gogh one which my uncle brought me from the US when he visited and now one to count down to the Disneyland Paris anniversary next year (hopefully I'll be able to head back for a while then) Other than my minnie ears, Ham piggy bank and Mickey mouse (you can't go to Disneyland and not get a Mickie mouse!) perhaps the think I am most excited about getting is a pin badge. It's shaped like a suitcase and it has lal the Disney parks around the world attached on tags to it. It makes me want to get a move on and just go to all of them now. Perhaps Orlando or Tokyo next as those are the ones I am most excited for (particularly because of Harry Potter in Orlando - I neeeed to go to Honeydukes and to try Butterbeer and pumpkin juice!) 

It was sad to say goodbye, especially after such a short stay. But at the same time, it was also the best way to say goodbye - watching the Disney Dream show projected onto the castle with all of the fireworks. Coupled with all of the Christmas carols, it has just put me right in the place I need to be to head back to York and continue with the things that have been causing stress. Stressful yes, but Disney magic is going to head back with me now and help keep me focused! Now I am ready to embrace the Christmas spirit whole heartedly! 

So... the next week: 2 solos, 2 concerts, rehearsals, classes, two 2000 word essays, one 3 minute presentation and a partridge in a pear tree... lets go!

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Day 1 - Disneyland, Paris

Greetings from Paris! As you can probably guess, I am completely over the moon right now to be out and about in Disneyland. It's completely magical and everything I expected it to be and more. Asides being something to tick off of the bucket list, it just makes me want to go to all of the Disney parks at all the holidays. It definitely feels like being in a Christmas movie with all of the carols and I am perfectly ok with that. My mum seems to be even more excited about it than me, which is surely something as I am perhaps the biggest Disney fan to ever have walked the earth.

This morning we got here just in time to see one of the parades. It was the Frozen one, and they made this snow that appeared out of no where made of bubbles. Of all of the parades (there are a few throughout the day with all the characters) I think this one has to be my favourite. Not just because it was the first one I saw but because, come on, it's Frozen! After this, which occurred upon our arrival, we did a lot of shopping because Main Street (which has a very old USA kind of feeling) is packed with all kind of gadgets and gizmos. It turns out that being able to speak French is very useful here because everything is in French! Fruit a coques means edible nuts (including peanuts) for all of my fellow allergy sufferers out there. But it's really good for food here, especially in the Frontier land pizza place. They also happen to have great samba music there which sounds incredible, so head there if you are around!

Ride wise, it took a while to get used to everything. Of course walking in you are overwhelmed by everything seeing it for the first time, but then to have a map before you and all of that choice... the world is suddenly your Oyster because it is a week day and there are no queues! There were a few technical glitches which meant no Peter Pans flight, but that was ok because it meant our first ride experiences were Pinnochio and Snow White which were both so typical of the original Disney that I felt like a 5 year old again and all the stress of deadlines and rehearsals disappeared in those moments. After these small rides, we headed to... can you guess? It's a small world! I've always been intrigued because this was one of Walt Disney's favourite rides which was made a part of the original park after the world fair one year. It makes me incredibly happy how so many different cultures and countries are interpreted together in one little but incredibly important ride. Plus, it's on a boat which immediately elevates it to top of the list in my eyes because boat rides allow me time to prepare myself for roller coasters.

Because we didn't have much time that first day, next we headed to some of the bigger rides in Adventure land and Frontier land.

Two of my favourites would have to be the Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones. Mainly because they surprised me. The first splashed which made me laugh because I wasn't expecting it. Plus, you know when you watch a movie and wonder about what it would be like to be there? Well this ride allows you to be in that moment during the action and then in the scene afterwards. Being on a boat in that situation is so weird, because whilst you know it isn't real it has that surreal quality which implies that it just might be if you imagine hard enough. Which means when there are a few roller coaster dips involved you jump and don't mind too much despite being a scaredy cat when it comes to rides. That definitely goes for the Indiana Jones roller coaster which made me laugh beyond belief because it went upside down and I had no clue! But there was something satisfying on doing something so unlike me - on stepping outside of my comfort zone, even if accidentally, and finding it was something which made me smile.

Through theme parks I am starting to appreciate that sometimes life can be as easy as a roller coaster. It might not always go smoothly, but would you really want it to? Without a few bumps in the road, where would the adventure be? Without all of those different feelings going on all at once, how would you know which ones matter and which ones are most important? Which ones to listen to?

But other than raising many philosophical questions and bringing half of my childhood dreams around Disney movies to life, not much has happened... just kidding! Having such a wonderful time (more on that soon) Plus, It's December now and officially nearer Christmas than last week which is definitely something to celebrate. I think ice cream is in order. A bientot!

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Update: Adventure

The past few months have been hectic, busy, fun, crazy, quick, nervous, exciting, new, insightful, educational, and wonderful. But things haven't slowed down yet - they are about to get even better. But then again, I have talked about this in more detail in previous posts, so I won't expand too much on the previous year that has unfolded in so many ways I never could have imagined or expected it to.    

This is just a quick note to let you know why I might be a little quieter on the blog front than usual over the next few days - this is because I am going to Disneyland Paris for a few days before getting back to work on those deadlines! As you know I have been travelling quite a lot recently and seeing the city of Paris (one I have been reading a lot on and which has been such a centre for the development of liberalism in the wider world) specifically Disneyland is something I have always wanted to do. Whilst timing isn't ideal, it's still really exciting to this other side of Paris. Lots of Mickey Mouse! and Pixar! 
I've made a plan of all of the rides and restaurants that sound good, but the best part will be getting to put my French to use. I've not been able to use it in such a long time - it's going to be great! 

I promise to be back as soon as I can with plenty of fun stories and adventures to regale, which I am sure won't be too far away in the distant future, so watch this space! But for now I'll leave you on this note with one of my favourite winter songs (Snow, Sleeping at last) - A Bientot! 

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

University - Week 11

The chaos of essays is in full swing at the moment, but the good news is that I'm still getting the right kind of progress made and my lecturers are being super helpful tutorial wise. At one point I had to re-write half of the current 1000 words of my 2000 word narratives essay on Never Let Me Go which, although traumatic at the time, has been perhaps the the most useful part of this whole learning experience. Largely because being able to acknowledge the flaws that exist straightaway means that I progress at a quicker and steadier pace.

When weeks are full, it is important to remember that often time is too empty to prove interesting. When life is busy, there is always somehow more time than there was before to stop and appreciate how far you've come and how much you have achieved. In the past day for instance I have received two positive pieces of feedback, admitted to myself that it's alright to struggle with my work sometimes as long as I keep working hard and asking for help, successfully sight read in a rehearsal, been given a solo in the Christmas carol service next week and started work as a student ambassador for York St. John. And all of that before tea time! Ian Mckellen (The best actor of all time) would certainly be proud of this partial and quickly evaporating element of the polymath which apparently resides somewhere at the back of my head. Kind of like a Megalodon, I never quite know when or where it will surface from.

It's also important to give yourself regular breaks when you have deadlines, stress and no Labrador to keep you company. A useful way to make yourself feel a bit better and to laugh for a while is to meet with your friends and indulge in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them again. That's right! It took just over a week for me to go and see it again and it was even better the second time. Seeing it with my friends Rebecca and Izzie was quite strange because they hadn't seen it before - I found myself waiting to see their reactions at my favourite parts of the movie (no spoilers, I promise!) In approximately five seconds I am going to unleash the Harry Potter opinions - The new aspects of the world I am actually enjoying even more than the originals. Largely because I am a stickler for detail in every form of art or fact, and the world Rowling has put together here adds so much more detail to that overall idea of witchcraft being a global matter opposed to just something which exists in the English countryside. It makes it more magical that there are further believable aspects. Plus, all the American features were awesome! And it spoke to my inner zoologist/marine biologist. Who knows - maybe one day I'll end up studying one of those fields too and I can say it's all because of J. K. Rowling.

My Christmas shopping is mostly done now, other than a few last bits and pieces, but in about a weeks time everything will be done and dusted. Even the trees around campus now are starting to look a little more festive. Though that doesn't entirely take away the stress of deadlines being next week...

To calm myself, but also to inspire my ideas opposed to forcing them out of my notes, I've been doing the whole stereotypical writer thing of going to art galleries, reading bad French poetry and decorating my notebooks with lady bug wrapping paper. It might sound silly - but trust me, the best ideas you will ever have will come after further research into the life of L.S.Lowry and his life, with a few Dutch still lives thrown in there for good measure.

Overall, this week has been a mixture of the weird, the wacky, the logical and the wonderful (all the alliteration too, as you can see!) It makes me realise how lucky I am and how much brighter the future is starting to look. It's very easy to let stress mask you sometimes and, honestly, those are the moments when you have to work harder. From my own experience, I've found stress is basically my brain untying it's shoe laces. Sometimes it means stopping to tie them - perhaps going back through an essay and re-typing things. Sometimes it means the shoe lace needs re-threading - and you might need to ask for a bit of extra help or support to push through things. But all in all, and despite the bad shoe metaphors previously stated for which I apologise on my own behalf, life is spectacular. It is sublime. This world of study and of life moulded by so many individuals is one where even statistical fact is occasionally left wordless. So when I do take the time to step back and see this, everything seems that little easier. And it's clear that things will be ok. 

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.