Tuesday, 28 February 2017

University: Semester 2, Week 5

Finally, my first assignment of 2017 is complete! I've spoken a little about it before. My thesis was one which largely spoke about space in relation to the depiction of the city in James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues. It meant getting to research a lot of interesting elements surrounding the context of the time, namely the Harlem Renaissance and the whole concept of America as a space. A space full of potential and energy. Particularly in terms of New York, this just makes me want to go and explore the whole of the 50 states right now. 

Submitting an assignment is something I dislike because, despite working best towards deadlines, I'm an oddly self conscious person when it comes to my own creative work. Everything has to be perfect and when the deadline arrives it always feels like there is something more I could have done to make it of a better standard. Whilst I know this is true for most students, this past assignment has taught me especially that it is possible to achieve great things if you are really passionate about whatever it is you have chosen to write on. There is no sense in writing on something because you just want it to sound impressive, you have to bring something to it from a really heartfelt place. It is this care which drives you to iron out the creases and research even the smallest of things. In terms of my last assignment, it meant switching from Omelas to Sonny's Blues simply because when writing about the latter, it felt like things flowed a lot more. It made more sense to write about something I cared about and knew well, opposed to forcing myself to write about something else simply because it was new and different. But every essay is different - it is not necessarily that some are easier to write, it is simply that some seem more challenging at first. 

The rest of the week has been quite an odd one. A few bad things have happened, which have been quite a stunt to my happiness and progress. But things are already starting to look up, the more I try to look for the good things the easier it is. Sometimes life is hard, but every day when I wake up I tell myself that I am going to achieve great things. Remembering the sacrifices made to get here and just why/what I am working for makes it easier to stay focused. The harder I work, the easier things will be.

Halle + HYC rehearsal - Copyright Halle 2017
Outside of my lectures, I was working quite hard on learning the sections I was less certain of in the Dream of Gerontius as last weekend was the first collective rehearsal between the youth choir and the adult choir. The sound was absolutely fantastic! It just seemed to leap out of nowhere, this wall of voices all singing together. It is the most wonderful thing in the world to hear. Whilst the rehearsal meant a lot of hard work, it definitely paid off because things sound on another level now. I particularly enjoyed working on the Demons chorus and the Angelicals. Not only because they contrast each other generally as sections, but because they are two of the most difficult parts of the whole oratorio. The Demons chorus is difficult because it is extremely fast and contains a lot of text which needs to be pronounced fully and clearly quickly. Kind of like the classical music version of a tongue twister. It's so contrapuntal that in a way it could be Bach, except there are far too many unconventional notes for it to be Baroque style. It just possesses those elements. As for the Angelicals, that is made up of the upper voices of just the youth choir so it is quite exposed. But the harmony reminds me so much of Whitacre - exquisite and rich. Complicated it may be, but as I mentioned earlier once you iron out those creases it is the best feeling the world. To be so connected and involved in a piece that it feels like a thought which has just come into your own head; something completely personal.

Another thing which has been a big part of my week are the Oscars. In the build up to next week, I have been to see pretty much all of the movies which have been nominated now. The last one I saw was The Founder. American history in particular seems to be a theme throughout many of the films this year. After studying The Grapes of Wrath this week in my gender and writing module, it was really interesting to draw comparisons between that movie and the Steinbeck because they both present very different ideals of the American dream and gender values (e.g. strength etc) 

My favourite movie (which I went to see for a second time last Wednesday) has to be Hidden Figures. Maybe I talk about it a little too much, but I think it is absolutely fantastic! The soundtrack is constantly on when I am working away in my flat or the library, simply because it has pretty much every emotion you can think of captured in one form or another. I greatly admire how the music stays true to the time whilst also incorporating a lot of beautifully orchestrated soundtrack (courtesy largely of Zimmer) and featuring some really positive pop songs by Pharrell Williams (one of which you can find the link to above) It makes me imagine the starry sky, and what is beyond all of our imaginations. It makes me yearn to know what is out there. And when I have that feeling, whilst it somewhat a combination of being both sad and hpapy, it is easy to remind myself that no matter what things are going to be ok. Because there is a whole universe of possibility out there. And what on earth could be better than that?

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!

Inspiration: Jane Austen

This series is one I have created with the aim of recording where my interests go throughout my degree. Which authors and creative individuals jump out from their work and really manage to catch my attention in a way so as to inspire me. There are so far too many to list here on my list of role models, which I opened on this week with Virginia Woolf. Second on my list would have to be Jane Austen, particularly as there are so many opportunities this year to celebrate her great work as this year marks the 200th year since her death. 

My admiration of Austen's work began in the stereotpyical place - with Pride and Prejudice. I don't think there is a teenage girl who doesn't think that the world of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is one which seems beautiful in it's simplicity and traditions. I read this around 20 times before my first year as an A level student. Upon beginning my A levels, it was wonderful to find that this was a book we were going to be studying. With the level of detail into character, place and theme, this was a joy to study. Especially alongside more contemporary works, such as Pinter's The Birthday Party and McCormac's The Road. Because when you look under the surface, P & P is a book which comments much on the social constructions of the day and age. It is witty, funny and simple yes, but it also allows us to enter back into this mind set and world in order to comprehend the satirical views of Austen herself. 

I especially enjoyed the further extension of this satire into Northanger Abbey which is, quite simply, a mockery of the gothic novel which was a popular style upon the release of this particular publication. As with all of Austen's novels, it is one which makes me laugh out loud as much as it makes me think about these ideas of social construction. There is something light about her books which make them easier to consume than most and fun to engage with. They make asking bigger questions seem a lot simpler, at least for me. And considering they were some of the first well known classics I got to know, they are also full of fond memories. There is definitely a connection between reader and books which adds something to that overall reading experience. Probably why I am not as fond of Sense and Sensibility or Emma. Those both seem a little frivolous to me in comparison to her better known works, despite also being well written and similar in tone. 

These are books which I hope to explore more in the future, particularly in my second year when we learn more about writing style itself. It's useful to be studying gender and writing at the moment whilst I am re-reading these texts as it opens my mind a lot more to the elements which previously I might have missed out on. Easy to love, Austen is an inspiration in that (Just as with Woolf) her books retain this level of fun and happiness which Austen herself felt when writing. A writer who wrote simply because she felt she had to, because it was the one thing which made her happy.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 26 February 2017

Inspiration: Virginia Woolf

This series is one I have created with the aim of recording where my interests go throughout my degree. Which authors and creative individuals jump out from their work and really manage to catch my attention in a way so as to inspire me. There are so far too many to list here on my list of role models, but starting here with Virginia Woolf felt like the right sort of place seeming as I am currently working on a formative group presentation on her work for my gender and writing module this month. 

At the moment, I know little on her biography other than that she was one of those involved in the Bloomsbury group and that she was a writer far ahead of her time. The work she created foreshadowed the rise of feminism long before it occurred because it focused in on this idea of unfair circumstance - of it being impossible for women to elevate themselves work wise to a similar lat form as men because they lacked the money and often education. Woolf recognised this need for income and the necessity of a place of ones own to work from, speaking about it in great amounts of detail in her short essay A Room Of Ones Own. There are several striking examples she created in order to express her opinions, namely that of the fictional  sister of Shakespeare. A young woman who could never have become as successful as her brother at this time due to not only her lack of private income but also because women were not popularly permitted to be actresses at this time nor were they educated to the same degree as their male counterparts unless they were towards the upper spectrum of the hierarchy. 

Yet despite Woolf pointing out specific issues, she is also able to emphasise with a degree of positivity the ways the world could move forward from this: by providing those things which were not provided. Since then, equality between genders has come such a long way and the work of this spectacular creative mind known so widely as Virginia Woolf is one which continues to allow a moral to be encouraged. This idea of everyone having that ability to create and to fulfil potential if they are supported and provided with a sanctuary of their own. Her work itself has become a sanctuary to many. 

One of my favourite Woolf pieces is the short story Kew Gardens. The text is in itself the finest Impressionism. When I read it, it makes me think of Monet and Zola. The scene if depicts is one so beautiful you become encompassed by it - this place of rich flowers and laziest light. Specks of dust caught in the light. Whilst it doesn't necessarily carry the most important of messages, it does show how much words can offer to the mind. Back to that idea of sanctuary, this is a space in which there is room enough to imagine anything and to paint on to sections of plainness our own ideas. 

Most importantly to me, Woolf's work reflects her love of writing and her love of so many little things. It has a recognisable character all of its own which shimmers and proves a never ending well of energy. It is a testament to her enjoyment that audiences still find such fun and hope in what she had to say. It is a living voice, which sings and sobs. Opposed to pretending to be something she was not, Virginia Woolf spoke from the perspective of the highly educated, thoughtful woman she was instead of attempting to pretend to be something she was not (for instance, publishing under the pseudonym of a man) With commitment and hard work, she was able to produce work which meant something and will always mean something. To quote her:

The world needs more people like Virginia Woolf - I am keen to be a member of the generation which continues to achieve similar great things. 

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 21 February 2017

Book Haul

Over the weekend I went on another mini book crawl of Manchester. A rather unexpected one really, as the main aim was to take a break from deadlines and all things book related for a few hours by mothers day shopping. In a way it makes me glad to have stumbled across so many books that I want to read though. It means that I can have something to really look forward to for after this Friday when my first essay is completed and my critical review is in the final drafting process (with another few weeks to go, so no real stress there)

The books I invested in have been on my to read list for quite sometime, but I was fortunate enough to stumble across them by chance in second hand book stores and charity shops. When you find books like that by chance, it is so much better than investing in them with a kindle or through project Gutenberg. You hold in your hands a book which is not only a published, edited, well structured story or collection of information but one which is also a story in its tangible self. Because the act of finding it and coming across it means you have a story to tell should someone ever compliment you on your edition or ask where you got it from. One which begins with "Well, quite by chance one day..." I like the love stories we become part of through our adoration of books. I like seeing them grouped together in dusty lighting, pile upon pile with no organisation. Because as John Le Carre said, the individual then has to make sense of the chaos.

So, after my explanation of my weird obsession with the book trail, here are some of the books from my recent book crawl this previous weekend:

1. The Rabbit Back Literature City - Jääskeläinen

There is a theme with the books I have to look forward to currently as you will probably pick up on quite soon. Specifically that they focus in on this idea of books within books, and the role of literature in the story. This first became an interest in the final few weeks of 2016 when I started re-reading the Series of Unfortunate Events. Within the houses of the good characters, or wherever hope can be found, books are always present. Even if it is in a marginal format. For instance, Justice Strauss' library in the first book, Uncle Monty's reptile books, Aunt Josephine's grammar collection and so on. 

This book seems to take a spin on the idea of a literary secret society built up on a hierarchical system. I don't know too much about it, but from what I do know it sounds quite a lot like a darker version of Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour book store. I loved that book (it was one of my favourites of the year two years ago) and I am in eager pursuit of anything with a similar tone or idea. It could be a genre within itself - this book within book business. This book also comes under the category of reading more in terms of translation as this particular work was originally printed in Finnish. It was translated and published in English in 2014.

2. On Chesil Beach - Ian Mcewan

Sometimes I find myself disagreeing with a lot of what Ian Mcewan says, but not always. Frequently I find his prose has a haunting tone which leaves you thinking long after the last page. As with some of his most famous works, such as Atonement. This book centers around similar big questions and ideas to do with society and how it can impact on the individual. Specifically in the elements of society such as restraint and how this can have negative implications in the long run. 

I think it has a lot in common in certain ways with Asking For It. Because you want to read on in the essence that, once you start hearing about such awful things or situations which make you sad it feels unjust or not right to simply look away. By writing and reading such works, we are able to further explore the world around us in both the good and the bad forms. It is the only realistic way to read - by having this balance. Otherwise we become anesthetized to such things as our own sense of empathy.

Also, on a similar note to this, a film is soon going to be coming out (with a cast list starring Saorise Ronan who starred in the film adaptation of Toibin's Brooklyn) so it seems a good time to stumble across this lesser known book. I have heard quite a few people talking about it recently in book reviews and on the book-tube scene, so it is looking to become fairly popular in the public eye at the moment. Do let me know your thoughts on this book if you have read it, or whether it is something on your to read list! 

3. How to Build a Girl - Caitlin Moran

Currently I am a part of the Our Shared Shelf book club which was created by Emma Watson. The book club is one which focuses on feminist texts and gaining awareness on important issues going in the modern day. Literature is a powerful and important means of expression. Some of the books featured in previous months have included The Colour Purple and Persepolis. 

This book and the work of Caitlin Moran has been regularly featured, including interviews discussing the content and the approach Moran has to writing. How to Build a Girl is a fictional novel which centres around some of the ideas which were first featured in the previously published work How to be a Woman which I am still yet to read (and very much looking forward to also) From what I know of it so far, it is about a teenage girls' experience of growing up, adolescence and the worlds mission to gain equal rights for everyone. It is a fantastic modern book, and a much needed one to any feminist book club.

4. The Reader on the 6.27 - Didierlaurent

Another translated book - this time from French (there are several French linguistic jokes which have to be explained throughout) And also another book which centres around this idea of books within a book. The reader here is a man who spends his day destroying books, yet hates it. He adores stories and collects what loose surviving pages he can to read aloud to the other people who are present on his commute to and from home. There are frequent excerpts from other texts. Everything from cookery book recipes to several powerful stanzas. 

Whilst not the most complicated of texts to read, it is one of the most heartfelt and well expressed. It has been one which has been a joy to read for the past several chapters (so far I am about half way through) When something is beautifully written, it is easy to not want to put the book down. And so it is important that this be mixed with such an idea as that of the significance of continuing to read and be passionate about reading in the present day. When a book such as this becomes a best seller, it hopefully leads on to other people becoming equally engaged with reading as those who already are and then they go out to find more books worth their while. 

5. The Little Prince - Saint Exupery 

Need I say more? Both a movie and a translated text. Originally I read this in French when I was studying at sixth form. If you ever read a text in another language, it can be useful to then read it in the original. Or vice versa. Because I have read this in a secondary language, for a while I have been eager to read it in English. Through my first language, maybe I can gain even more from my next reading of it. My next step will hopefully be reading it in German!

6. Belle's Library - Rubiano

This one is my next investment but kind of a part of this haul as I was going to get it this past weekend but they were sold out! It is basically quotations and explanations of the different books that Belle from Beauty and the Beast might have in her library. I love these little details (as you already know from earlier - books within books) It reminds me of this one chapter from the Bryson book on Shakespeare which spoke of each of the individual influences that Shakespeare would have had. So for instance, how reading something in Greek changed his style more than if he had read it in Latin. It is also beautifully decorated, which makes it an excellent addition to my library for two reasons. 

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 19 February 2017

York By Coast

Have you ever heard the old folk song Scarborough fair? It was one that was stuck in my head on repeat as well headed down to the station from my class exploring the ideas incorporated in orientalism with Sinhas Animals People. It tells of the prospect of a medieval festival which would occur on a yearly basis somewhere back in history. For a second day in a row though, more importantly, the sky was blue and temperature was quite mild. This was an unexpected bonus of the trip by far!

On the train out, it seemed odd that so much of the landscape around me could still be part of not only York, but also the Pennines. The Pennines that I know from the literature of Wainwright are those hills which I know well from my own hiking adventures. They are places of purple heather, shy sheep and surreal views. This part of the Pennines was so populous, with fields full of everything from shire horses to rabbits. It was an odd thing to see, but equally it made for quite an intriguing view throughout the short journey from York to Scarborough. One of the positives of living in York is being this close to such places, which would take much longer to get to from Manchester. 

My first thoughts on this traditional seaside town was that it was quintessentially British. Everything from the train station to the beach itself. It made me strangely patriotic. The first place we headed towards was the old town, before hiking up to the remains of Scarborough castle. It's not yet tourist season so a lot of attractions such as these ones are closed. But all the same, it was quite something to take the trail along the castle walls and to look down at the sea below. I can just imagine the people who once lived there, to the extent where the rushing of the sound contained suggestions of past voices. The architecture itself is quite impressive - lo,e stone, I think, which means it has been awfully weathered by sea air to last so long. There is also a small church on the walk up to here which I thought resembled quite closely that from the Bronte parsonage. Upon further inspection it was a fairly pleasant surprise to find that Anne Bronte is buried here. Her grave placed by her sisters still stands, with a new plaque placed by the Bronte society due to a few errors made on the original (namely how old she was upon her death) 

Below the castle is the beach and the harbour which we explored for quite a while. It was my first time with my feet on sand since last summer when I went to Formby with my family. Yet despite the weather being much cloudier by this point, there was still a beauty to the place. One that is evident in the sheer number of people who still flock to the sea and sand. Most beautiful of all was the harbour. Walking past the boats on the dock, I found myself eating lunch and reading some Steinbeck with a light house behind me and the open sea a vast expanse before me. That openness, at remarkable space, seemed half way into a sunset even though it wasn't yet 13:00 in the afternoon. It reminded me so much of Cornwall, looking out at far off ships and listening to the noisy shriek of seagulls. Attempted to photograph it but nothing can really capture a moment like that other than being in it. 

Scarborough Sea - Copyright CLSS 2017

There was a lot of rush travel wise with every place. This often meant extremely steep hills which we had to rush up in order to get to buses or trains on time. The second place we headed too would have to be my favourite of all three we saw that day. It was hard to get to in a way because only specific buses at specific times go that way. But that means it has a rather special quality to it, which is preserved by the lack of people tourist wise. I am of course talking about Robin Hood's Bay. This little beach is at the bottom of a hill, amidst tightly knit rows of cottages with their own names. They even had their own small second hand bookshop and a cafe relatively like Chapter One in Manchester (books and cake) 

I'm not sure of the history of the place, but getting to see it has left me wanting to go out and learn more about it. The beach here was the last real beach I saw that day. It was less sandy and, as previously mentioned, touristy than Scarborough. But this made it more compelling to explore in many ways. Largely because of it being a large space seemingly completely full of rock pools. And cliffs too, piercing through the rapidly emerging fog as the cold began to set in. It was pleasant to while away time searching for the flicker of a tail or the sudden quick movement of a crab camouflaging itself against a rock. Rather childish in ways and yet it was nice to have a break from thinking for a short few minutes, and to just follow those flashes of life as they passed by. 

Robin Hood's Bay - Copright CLSS 2017
After what felt like a pause in time wandering through Robin Hood's Bay, we were soon back to rushing quickly to catch the bus to Whitby. It wasn't as long a journey, but by now the day was wearing down its adventurers and everyone was tired and quiet. The sun was fast setting upon arrival in Whitby. So the first place we headed was to the 199 steps leading to the ruins of Whitby Abbey. It wasn't open but it is such a colossal building that it can be seen from above the walls which surround it to protect it. Heading back down, I could see the rows of houses, the lighthouse,  the boats on the distant horizon and the street lights slowly smudging themselves into life. As far as the eye could see. 

Whitby - Copyright CLSS 2017
The day was a wonderful one. It meant getting to travel in the midst of so much work and proved a well needed break which I am really grateful to have had. Sometimes you do just need to get away from everything by literally getting onto a train and going somewhere else. After a hot dish of fish and chips (no seaside trip would be complete without them!) I headed to the train station under a starry sky. With a paper bag full of traditional sticks of rock for my friends and a heart which felt a little lighter about the doom and gloom of fast approaching deadlines. 

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 16 February 2017

University: Semester 2, Week 4

Do you ever have those weird weeks where so much goes on that you can't keep up? This week was one of those weeks. Not that that it is a bad thing, in fact all of the things which have happened this week have been positive experiences I am sure to remember for quite a long while to come. They have also added to my yearly adventure list significantly, which means that this year is already off to a very good start. I still can't believe it has been exactly a whole year since I was at the open day for York St. John either! This revelation struck me when I walked through the old quad the other day and all of the snow drops were blooming in the spot I first saw them. Time passes so quickly - sometimes I wish to bottle it for a while so that I can re-enter it whenever I like.

The week began with the usual busy Monday. My lecture and seminar for reading texts 2 was focused largely on impressionism within the short story. In my mind, impressionism is a term which means to attempt to capture a first impression of something within a piece of artwork. Whilst, of course, Monet paintings and some Debussy might spring into your mind at the mention of this term, all they really do is capture an impression. For instance, Monet sketching that same cathedral from different angles at different times of day. Every single one is slightly different because of the lighting, the casting of shadows or even the weather. It is striking how we gather these impressions and often they are some of our most honest thoughts. I would very much like to live an impressionistic life - it seems a lovely way to live.

Discussing impressionism and modernity within literature also meant looking more specifically at two short stories. My favourite of the two to study was one from The Dubliners by James Joyce. This collection of short stories is one I devoured over the summer. I have a great passion for Irish literature which has been standing since I studied it at A level. The themes of identity, of loss/grief and of travel are some which are quite prevalent here. And they are poignantly written. Joyce asks big questions in a subtle way and every time you go back to his work, there is something new to learn because of this.

On Tuesday it was, of course, Valentines day. It was a lovely day because not only did I get to spend time with my friends here in York, but I also got to see my friend from London. Most importantly, and best of all, I got to see my boyfriend who was sweet enough to travel down for the day. He greeted me from my class with a smile and flowers - it can't really get much better than that! It was so much fun to spend time with all of us together (especially as there was cake involved) Going around York to show them all of the popular places or where we go on a day to day basis (Whether it be walking past the Minster or to the Amnesty book shop) made me realise that it is so easy to take a place for granted. Living in a beautiful city such as York can be something you become blind to when it is your daily eality. But on a day when you are happy and surrounded by those who love you and who make you feel more yourself, particularly when it's sunny, it is easy to redeem your love of a place by looking out at the world through their eyes.

I honestly don't think I have seen so much of York in quite a while. This week, despite continued hard work on my assignments and notes for class, it has seemed a partial break in which to re-enter my own world. A world in which I am not a metaphorical student hermit crab. I feel I have really gotten to live a day as a York resident who roams the streets looking for a nice new cafe to dine in or a market with lemons good enough to make lemonade with (speaking of Lemonade - Beyonce was amazing at the Grammy awards!) It was refreshing to feel a new experience in relation to a place I now thought I knew well - whilst it is comfortable enough a location for me to find my way around, there are still a lot of surprises and adventures in store I think.

On Wednesday, I had a very long day! It began with a lecture on the book which is claimed to be the great American novel. That being, of course, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Although a difficult book to get through at times, it often possesses several moments of startling observation from Steinbeck of the world around him. The lecturer that day spoke a lot about the input of Steinbeck's journalistic work (with it being ground work for the plot) and also about the mythological connotations which often come into play. There was one extremely intriguing idea presented in which this text was presented as a retelling of Homer's epic poem The Odyssey. 

Straight after the lecture, I headed to the train station to meet with Laura (the friend visiting for a few days I mentioned) as we were heading out to explore some of the coast together. More on this in a seperate post, as there is far too much to write about here! But basically we got the train to Scarborough, spent some time here and then got the bus to Robin Hood's Bay (my favourite place of the three that day) and finally to Whitby (which I really want to go back to in summer as it had amazing fish and chips and also I want to explore the abbey ruins there more!) Visiting all of that seaside made me both happy and nostalgic. As for Whitby, it just gives me an excuse to re-read Dracula.

Thursday, today, has also been quite a long day. Another busy one, but unexpectedly so. It began with a seminar playing further upon those ideas of gender within The Grapes of Wrath. After this I had an interview which you may or may not hear more of in the future depending on how things go! Either way, it was useful to have the interview experience, albeit quite stressful with the large amount of things going on at the moment. The rest of the day has been full of essay work, researching, musical practice and an orchestra rehearsal (which we got to play Shostakovich's second jazz waltz in whilst being conducted by a conductor with a broken arm... long story!) The most productive day this week, with tutorials, classes and trains to follow tomorrow. 

As the week draws to a close, I cast my mind back across the days which felt both long and short simultaneously. And I'm grateful to have had such a nice week in the midst of deadline chaos. It is something to hold on to as my time becomes more consumed and the days feel a little shorter. All of this hard work will soon pay off!

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 12 February 2017

Dealing With Stress

It's already that time of year again. The time when deadlines are nigh and the world seems to be a dark, grey, desolate place which can never again bear sunlight. But apart from moving to Spain, the best thing you can do is look for the bright side of the situation and focus in on the hard work. If you have ever the read the childrens book We're Going On A Bear Hunt you will know that the only way you can get through a tough situation is to be brave enough to go through it. Sometimes it can be scary, but if you hold in there and if you keep talking about it, sooner than you realise it will be summer again and the hard work for the year will all be done and dusted. Most importantly, all of the hard work will have been worth it. 

It's easy enough for me to say all of this from behind a computer screen. For me to type away at tips that might help, without sharing any of my own experiences. But I myself frequently suffer from getting stressed. In fact, too freuqently I find myself being stressed about not being stressed. It's one of the most annoying parts of being over-organised because, whilst you know you have a note book full of the resources you have discovered from your own research, you also know that when you look at the essay work you have done so far you cannot really tell whether or not it is improving. Because you work so frequently on it, you look only for the bad things and not for the good. So I guess my first tip would be one which I myself need to do more. This being identifying the good parts before then moving on to identify what needs to be altered/fixed. 

Secondly, in relation to panicking. Sometimes stress can tip over into the region of panic and that is never a good place to be. Especially alone! That is why it is important to keep talking about it. Most of the time it is as simple as calling up your best friend or your mum to have a long chat about life, because it can remind you that whilst your deadlines and exams are a stressful business to go about there are other things going on outside the library. And this can make things seem a little easier simply because it makes the task look smaller and less complex. Once you take away the fear from a situation, it's never quite as bad as you think. Fear has a funny way of making our brains turn something such as a spider into a giant man eating eight legged monster. The reality is we all have the capability if we are brave enough to pick up the metaphorical piece of paper and cup to take the arachnid outside out of our comfort zone. The moral being, in order to find your comfort zone you must be brave enough to go outside of it. This can mean that if stress gets too much and having a conversation with your family and friends isn't helping, you should approach the welfare team. It might seem hard to do, but you would be surprised how much it can help. 

You can begin dealing with stress before, after and during the stressful period of time. To begin dealing with stress before it arrives, find the date of the deadlines that you need to be working towards. Do this as close to the beginning of the year as possible and then place it above your desk (or somewhere nearby) so that it is an everpresent reminder. If it is always around you then it will simply be a known fact, not something which will come as a shock or a surprise. You can begin planning around this (organising notebooks, notes and so on) so that you are as prepared as can be. In terms of afterwards, I guess the term would be De-stressing. For instance, after my English literature A level exam I went straight back to re-reading Macbeth. My brain was in overdrive and for some reason just wanted to carry on revising instead of going out for ice cream like I usually would. In this situation my adbice is to just put down the book, go outside and go for a walk. Do something which takes your mind off the thing which is stressful. Soon you will forget all together, and there is no need to worry about it until results day comes around. 

If you find yourself in the depths of the seventh layer of stress then follow the previous tips. Those being: 1. Be brave enough to keep working hard through it 2. Keep asking the necessary questions 3. Do as much work as possible 4. Keep as organised as you can 5. Talk about! Keep those communication waves open.

On a final note in relation to stress, find the perfect balance. Hard work does not mean (unlike Hermione Granger might think) working constantly. If you do that then all that will happen is you find yourself burning out and unable to concentrate. It's a horrible place to be so avoid getting there at all costs - it is not worth it! Finding a balance means going to your classes, working hard in your individual time (researching, reading and just generally being interested in what you are working on) and then setting aside time to talk to those you care about, to exercise, to eat, to get enough sleep and to just do something fun every once in a while. Take it from me, I give you full license to go crazy and read the chapter of a book that isn't on the reading list or go to the cinema and see the movie you have been waiting for forever (it's oscar season so it's allowed) 

At this stressful time of year, I wish you the best of luck. We're all in this together and I'll see you on the other side. As Effie Trinket would say, May the odds be ever in your favour. 

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 9 February 2017

University: Semester 2, Week 3

What began as a stressful week ended up being a really beneficial and even, at times, fun one. Sometimes it is the testing weeks that I enjoy the most because I learn a lot through the challenges and occasional struggle that they throw at me. All of those negative things, albeit the positives definitely weigh them out, are equally as important to my experience of the world both as a student as a general liver of life. Or, for want of a better word, human. 

Before I get into telling you about the work that I have been doing for class and for deadlines, let me tell you a little about the fun morning out I had with my friends pre-lecture towards the beginning of the week. Other than essay club meetings to go over work with one another, we haven't seen much of one another this week so we decided to meet up to go to this cafe called Brew and Brownie that we've wanted to go to forever. But because of how busy the cafes were we ended up going on a mini cafe crawl of sorts. It was super fun because it was kind of like window shopping, except with cake. It certainly made for a good level of concentration when we headed back for our lecture in the afternoon because our stomachs were so full it was unlikely we would get hungry for at least another week!

Hot Chocolate Obsession - cafe crawl - Copyright Clss 2017
My current deadlines/assignment work consist of a 1,500 word essay, a 1,000 word critical review and a formative presentation with an accompanying reflective commentary due largely before the end of this month. My current focus are the nearer deadlines, which in this incident are the first two written assignments on this list. For my 1,500 word essay I am getting to explore some of the American literature that I love through the work of James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues. It is a short story which also contains a lot about jazz music. It’s proving an intriguing area of research to say the least. But some of the articles I have stumbled across surprised me in that they read more like something I would choose to read in my free time rather than research. Either my research skills are improving or I am getting far too obsessed with literary theory! Whilst the Baldwin text is a short story, there are so many little details specifically place to make you think. Baldwin was writing at a time in history when a lot was going on – this text alone was published between the passing of the civil rights act and the Kennedy assassination. It contains themes such as heritage and the Harlem Renaissance, to ask us as readers to go out and learn more about these points throughout history, whilst continuing the respectful discussions which allow us to look back and remember what has occurred.

I’ve also chosen my modules this week for my second year at York St. John. Whilst there are lots of plans for what will or could be going on over the next following year, these modules are genuinely the most exciting thing on that list. There are three different ones for each of the semesters. From what I can remember, the ones I am most excited for are American fiction and cultures of childhood as a lot of my favourite books of all time come under those two class modules. Such as Alice in Wonderland (of course, Carroll/Dodgson) or The Road by Mccarthy. Some of the other modules I decided on included 18th century writing and literature at work. My main aim when choosing modules was to choose not only the modules which I already have an interest in or which drew me in immediately, but also to pick a few which sounded remotely interesting yet a little outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes it is good to take a leap of faith and to keep your range of options open. That is exactly how I feel about fiction at work, but it sounds an extremely promising class that I think will help me a lot. Whilst I am nervous, I know that overcoming that will be a rewarding experience.

For instance, this week I joined an orchestra at college which I was really nervous to do after not playing violin in a while. But I am actually really excited about getting back into regular violin playing as I haven't done too much with that particular skill in about a year. We are playing a lot of stuff, but importantly we are getting to play some Shostakovich. The moral of the story here being that if you work hard then you can achieve your smallest ambition or your biggest dream, you just have to motivate yourself more so that the fear is less substantial. 

Also, this week was money saving week at university. The welfare team put together a few tables in the main lobby area with lots of information on how to save money whilst staying in college - it's really useful to learn so many tips and tricks. Especially in terms of composting and growing your own food. I am super excited to try out my composting plant! I'll be sure to give you an update on that soon. Let me know if you have any good student tips you would like to hear more about. But for now, I will leave you with this cool track that was shared with me and that I think needs sharing more:

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 8 February 2017

Writing The Critical Review

One of my current assignments for contemporary writing is to write a 1000 word critical review of one of the texts we have been studying the past semester. This is equally a challenging and exciting task, particularly as it is unlike anything I have come across before. It is one of the things I greatly enjoy about university - it throws at me these things which seem complex or undecipherable, and from the jumble of the undecipherable I must make art. That is the challenge for every individual and I feel York St. John is a place where the courses are designed to help Michelangelo carve their sculpture.

Constructing the literary critical review is extremely complex for many reasons. Firstly because of the type of content which needs to be involved and secondly because of the way it needs to be expressed. There is an art to gaining a balance in what is said, so that it doesn't necessarily sound like a research article nor does it sound like an informal conversation. The trick is to get the mark somewhere in between. It is hard to describe, but as with the uncanny, it is a sort of effect which one must be experience when reading a review in order to know it well enough to implement into their own writing. This is something I am trying to put into practice regularly in order to make sure that my review starts to come together.

A few ideas to help you with writing your own critical reviews:

1. Read Reviews

The best way of getting the effect of a review and of getting to know the structure of it is to read as much as you can in relation to the term review. This is quite easy as reviews are everywhere, from your highschool newsletter to whole books of literary criticism in the library. The best examples to go for are newspapers. Whilst those such as the Times literary supplement are preferable, they can also be expensive to subscribe to. My advice is to head for the mainstream newspaper reviews, such as the guardian or the telegraph. Even goodreads can prove useful.

2. List The Features

Whilst you are reading those reviews, keep a note book nearby so that you can note down any observations you come across. Anything from how it comments on the language to then linking forwards to something such as themes and how they work with character. Picking out those features is something analytical - a skill you would use in reviewing something. So either way, it is good practice to fit in.

Although your notes will be hasty and scribbled at first, you can then begin to narrow things down into a clearer and more compact piece of information. Use it as a users manual for your task. These are the things you want to integrate into your own writing, so seeing examples of them will introduce to you different ideas and methods of bringing them into your own voice without it sounding too forced. In a way it is like learning a whole new language, something which requires time, concentration and practice. A good review will take on these features but not so blatantly that things become formulaic. It will simply sound like a natural written portrayl of an opinion in relation to something. Is it successful as a work? Is it unsuccessful in other ways? Why? How? etc.

3. Apply These Features

As I previously mentioned, once you have your list you can begin to close things in a little and use it as a guide line of sorts. Applying features is much easier once you have examples in front of you. Just ensure that things don't sound too forced. When you are writing, do not directly copy something another critic has said. If you can use a bibliography, you can give credit to other writers. But if your task, as mine is, is to write a critical review without using a bibliography to accredit other writers, then make sure you are not subconsciously taking other peoples ideas. 

Keep an eye out and be sure to double check everything you write just in case. In terms of seeing if things work or if you want to test them out prior, write out small sections and work through them as you go.

4. Begin Planning

Once ideas are starting to take root in your mind and grow into bigger thoughts, be sure to begin planning whilst they are still there. Write down three things that stand out the most and then begin to brnach out with more detail. The more detail you go into in your plan the easier it will be to begin constructing your essay afterwards. You can colour code, you can mind map, whatever works best. If it helps you to start writing then you are looking from the right angle. And if your planning isn't helping so far then change your angle and try something new.

5. Construct A Draft

From your in depth plan and previous practice/notes, you can then begin to construct your first draft of many (or maybe not, everyone has a different draft number when it comes to putting together work) This is going to be the longest part of the whole procedure so make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get started. That time is more valuable than you can imagine, even if you do work well under the stress of the last minute. Stress working can only get you so far. So start early and you won't regret it. As you are writing, continue to read reviews and look back through your notes for assistance. If you ever get stuck then do more planning. Branch things out until you reach something which inspires you enough to carry on writing. 

I think, in summary of all of this, that the critical review is sort of in-formal in a way. It is semi in-formal. What I mean is that, to a degree, it is more liberal in what can and cannot be said when placed in comparison to an academic essay. Take that as you will, but for me, that is where I start when trying to come up with original ideas for how to express my own individual literary voice.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 7 February 2017

How To: Exit Hibernation Mode

In my most recent update, I spoke a lot about how difficult has been to get out of the slump I am currently in in order to pick up my work load and get things moving towards my imminent deadlines more efficiently. It isn't proving easy, but then again if it were proving easy then I would know that I needed more of a challenge. The days are long, but they are also full of interesting things to learn. And if you look for the positives in a situation and want to gain as much as you possibly can from it, then you will.

Hibernation mode, as I call it, kicks in just before Christmas. We get out of the habit of practicing our analytical thinking skills, don't read/research as much as we usually would and while away days with a chunk of free time. Whilst it is good to get the rest in and to offer this form of reward once difficult deadlines are over and done with, it is equally as important to exit that means of thinking when you enter back into your day to day work routine. If you don't, it gets very easy to just not try, to not challenge yourself and to find yourself five steps behind where you would usually be. It is crucial that you grow to match your own potential. It is crucial because you owe it to yourself to work hard and to prove that it is worth something and that it can mean something.

To assist you with getting out of the New Year Slump, here are a few tips I put together:

1. Get Into A Routine

Firstly settle back into your day to day class routine. It will have most likely changed with the new year, so keep an eye out for this and know the shape of your days. The early year deadlines are usually the ones closest to you so it is important to begin working towards them as soon as possible. Begin with some gentle planning around your general day time routine. Work in an hour or two between university lectures/seminars, leaving the evenings as free as you can to conduct major editing procedures and the like.

Once you have settled back into things, it will be like an old pair of slippers again: comfy and well worn. Having that as a foundation makes it much easier to build extracurricular work and essays in on top. You'll find it much harder to go back into hibernation modes if you give yourself a certain period of time for sleeping, eating and so on. Waking up at the same time every day can be a life saver because it means you aren't just getting your brain to focus, your bodies internal clock will switch on and things will start to feel easier. It's like with swimming or riding a bicycle - it gets easier the more you practice. So just think of scheduling as practice for real life, which is all it is really. If you had to create a routine for a busy job, being late or not getting work done wouldn't be tolerated. Treat university like your dream job. I know it is mine because I get to read and work hard on getting to know literary texts every day. It doesn't get much better than that! Keep positive.

2. Revise/Work As You Go

Like I said about settling into a routine, make sure that you are revising regularly. If you begin revising at the beginning of term opposed to the end, then the information will have time to work itself into your brain gradually. It makes things much less stressful in the long term as a result. In addition to this, it means that if you feel you worked really hard yesterday then you don't have to prescribe yourself as much time today. It is the one flaw with scheduling - it means you feel you have to fill all of the hours you have set up for yourself to complete. When the reality is that you just need to work at your own pace and keep absorbing things are you feel is best. That doesn't mean pushing yourself to do twice as much because that is the amount of time someone else needed to complete the same task. We all process information at differing rates.

Work on an open spectrum - if you have an hour free then spend it in the library working. Adjusting to different environments can be really useful in helping you learn to settle into work more efficiently and to a better standard. I also recommend copying up notes after classes and lectures so that they are in a more concise and useful format. Having multiple copies to go between can really help in the long run.

3. Be A Step Ahead

All of these factors have something in common. They are about keeping ahead of the game and making sure that your brain doesn't switch off  fully. If you are thinking all of the time in a particular way, it is easier for that to become a habit and not something which you have to switch into. Being one step ahead of everyone else is important because in reality, that hard work is what makes us stand out from the crowd in everything from a choral audition to a job interview. Whilst it is easy to work at the same pace as those around you, it is also important to be doing as much as you individually can. Yes, that means spending a few extra hours doing external reading and research sometimes. But trust me, it really pays off.

4. Regular Breaks

Give yourself time to breathe! You need the space in between tasks to do fun things like exercise or read something for you opposed to just because it is on a reading list. If you do give yourself regular breaks it is easier to keep motivated. You'll find yourself engaging on a whole other level with tasks if you can master the art of balance. Which leads us on to 5...

5. Find A Balance!

As you can see from all of these tips, there is no true way to be told how to plan your schedule. I can only help by sharing what works best for me in my own experience and this acts to some extent as a guide line for you. We all work at different rates and we should cater to that. Whilst it might at times feel like time is dragging, or that there just aren't enough hours in the day at other moments, it is important to remember that the schedule you have designed itself is also just a guide line. Do what works best, what feels best and what achieves the best outcome for you as an individual. With time, the scheduling will be much easier because you will know how much time equals what particular outcome. Hibernation mode is not forever - by the time you have kicked the habit, you won't even realise!

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!