Thursday, 30 March 2017

Update: Summer Plans

Now that there is only a few days left until the Easter break, me and my friends have already started discussing our plans for what we might do over the summer. Of course we want to meet up and spend time together, so there is plenty of planning to be done there. But in addition to that, there are so many of my own plans that I want to start preparing. One of the ways I have been doing this is with lots of letter writing:

Letter Writing - Copyright CLSS 2017
I'm not going to fib - the inspiration for this post is a book I have just started reading by the wonderful Ali Smith which is called Public Library and Other Stories. After finishing Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton this thought struck me: I haven't read too much out of my own interest away from a reading list this past few weeks. In Smith's collection, there are several stories captured from people she has spoken to focusing around this theme and idea of having a library which is not only a place ot borrow books, but also a place which is a heart of the community. There was one particular story toward the beginning in which a woman spoke of cycling to the library every day over the summer to borrow a book and then to head home, read it in a day and then cycle back the next morning to get another book. There is something glorious and timeless about that image of sunshine, bicycles and ... books! Doesn't it sound like perfection?

Everyone in my generation seems constantly to talk about the 90's and what a great time it was. To an extent, I have to agree. Whilst I wasn't a teenager in the 90's it seems like a great time to have been one due to the absence of the technology we have today. Whilst technology is great, it often means we take things such as books and librarys for granted when (in actuality) we should be grateful for how lucky we are to have them. The public library is a most precious thing. More so than we can truly understand, because most of us have always had a library in our life nearby.

So, one of the first things I would like to do this summer is to read more. I'm going to say now that I would like to aim for a book day. Because that sounds like it would make one heck of a fun summer! I'd definitely learn something, that's for sure. Whilst it might not necessarily end up being achievable (particularly with Halle tour and Erasmus to plan for) it is a worthwhile goal to have in the build up.

There are so many books that I want to read! There doesn't seem enough time in the day to get through them all either, which is more than a little frustrating. Part of me wishes summer had a pause button, and that I could sit in the middle of it reading, fast forward and travel, rewin back to the pausing and reading, before fast forwarding all the way to Amsterdam. At a tutorial a few days ago one of my lecturers said to me that it is rather hilarious how minutes in an hour never seem to add up because so many of them go missing. And it's true. Minutes fly like... flies - before you realise it, they are gone. Just as with this past academic year. There is something bittersweet about time. About how we never hold it. Yet we measure everything by it. As T. S. Eliot said, we measure our lives in Coffee Spoons. And keeping with that theme of summer and of adventure, here is another Eliot quote which I have a feeling is going to come much into play with my summer:

T. S. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock 
Speaking of which, did you know as part of Beethoven's daily routine he had to have a particular number of coffee beans in his coffee every single day? Can you imagine having to count all of those out... it must have taken forever.

But yes, my plans for this summer are to read and to read as much as possible. Visiting my friends will be fun also - seeing new places and the things that go on there (such as a balloon festival or going to the beach) .I've been thinking a lot about my modules to study in Amsterdam too. At the moment it is a lot of paperwork as I have mentioned before. All things I can't go into too much detail about at the moment because nothing is for certain and the module lists haven't been updated yet. But there is a particular module which I really want to study and am looking forward to a lot, which is called Dutch Literature and the Period of the Golden Age. 

In our modern day and age, translated fiction isn't always given the attention it perhaps should be. So it is a goal of mine to try and make a change when it comes to that. Translation is no easy process, but neither is research. Sometimes one cannot be achieved without the other, so my aim is to research Dutch literature and art to the best of my ability in the hopes of sharing it with more people thorughout Europe. It's one of my main hopes that going to Amsterdam will allow me an insight into this different culture and creativity, that I might share it further with others so that the richness of it can be fully appreciated just as libraries and books should be.

Let me know your summer plans and what you are looking forward to over the last weeks of the semester in the comments below!

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!

University: Semester 2, Week 10

What a hectic week this has been! Perhaps the busiest of the entire semester. As you know, getting back on Sunday took forever because I still had a little packing left to do after the Halle youth ensembles concert (which was so much fun!) I was humming sea shanties for practically the whole train journey back. Monday was also my 20th Birthday. It feels strange to know that for the past week I have not been a teenager and not even really noticed the difference. Or is that strange? I have no idea yet. I'll let you know once I know.

Birthday cake is the best kind of cake!
On my birthday in class, we were studying T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. There isn't much poetry wise you can study that gets better than that. It really marks the transition from the Romantic period into that of the C.20th for me. It is completely new in its' creative voice, which really makes it shine. The contrast between satire and thought process is quite a striking one, especially as our narrator is one who is constantly questioning the world around him to a large degree. It can be quite comical, whilst simultaneously creating a feeling of the sublime in relation to time (measuring out a life in coffee spoons). When we started studying the poem in class on Monday we even got to create a diagram/graphic novel style piece which captured the persona contained within the poem. We even got to look at some critics which was quite enlightening. Whilst now T. S. Eliot is regarded as a great poet, the initial publication of this poem was delayed due to critics finding it 'absolutely mad' which seems ludicrous nowadays! But that is social historical context for you.

I've read quite a lot outside of class. Largely because the texts this week for the modules have been quite easy to get through (and really engaging too - we also worked on Kay's Trumpet in Gender and Writing). Two books I've really been enjoying this week centre around the idea of contemporary society and the narrative voice, as well as the role of literacy and of New York as an energetic space. Those texts being by Smith and Strout (Public Library and My Name is Lucy Barton). I've also purchased a copy of the children's book Fantastically great women who changed the world by Kate Pankhurst alongside Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. Children's literature needs a major make over in terms of content and it is good to see it heading in such a creative, quirky direction. This makes something such as feminism easy to embrace and engage with - not making it difficult to interact with at all. Having these postivie role models for young children, especially girls in our modern world, is so important (I've been reading with a cup of hot chocolate in my new favourite mug - glad to finally have added the poison apple to my collection!)

Books + Hot Chocolate = A Day Well Spent
The day after my birthday was not so fun as I got tonsillitis and ended up having to cancel my involvement in the Easter concert - my voice was completely gone for a whole day, which sucked. The timing could not have been much worse. But then again, I have been quite lucky with only getting sick during the holidays so far this past few months, so it is kind of expected that at some point my luck with timing was going to run out. Fortunately this particular streak of tonsillitis hasn't been too bad which is a relief. Whilst unable to attend the student anthology launch, I was able to pick up a copy.

Yes, I am actually in print now - on a page in a tangible book and everything! It is very cool, particularly as all the copyright legislation is in the front and my name is in the contents. It feels very strange. It is another of those elements about this week which makes it feel as though time does not exist. As though this week is timeless and exists beyond the realm of seconds and minutes. Perhaps that is just because of all the reading set in fictional worlds? Who knows. Either way, it has been a fantastic week so far. Getting a copy of this felt like coming full circle since I first started this particular project. It seems so long ago that I was entering my work and I never could have imagined being picked. Yet now here I am, admiring the cover art the students designed (Daffodils are some of my favourites and this version reminds me of Van Gogh's Starry Night a little too)

Publishing day! I'm in a book!
Because of it being the Easter holidays next week (I know! So looking forward to a little time back at home) this week has been chaos in running around sorting out last minute things before the break. Specifically my assignments and Erasmus. I've submitted my third assignment of the year now officially (gender and writing commentary) but at the moment it doesn't really feel like a relief. I think it might take a little longer for that to settle in perhaps. However, I am so happy and relieved to tell you that I got 77/100 on my Contemporary piece from a few weeks ago which is my highest first yet! That means so far this year I have 5 firsts and 3 upper seconds - progress I am proud of and happy with. My aim now is to keep it up and not get complacent. That goes for Erasmus too - the sooner I can get this paperwork done and dusted, the less time I will have to spend on stressing out about it. Sounds like a plan to me!

But for now I think it is time to start packing up my things before tomorrow. My last lecture before Easter will be largely business based as we are currently studying a play called Enron. A tad difficult to understand, but it will prove challenging and interesting as a result I think. The staging especially is quite intriguing even if there is a lot of business based jargon to try and wrap my thought process around. Also we are going to be doing what is known here as the twitter challenge - discussing virtual literature and how social media has become something which we read pretty much all the time (+ the impact) It will be a nice way to end the week before heading back to Manchester for a movie night with my favourite people. It is sad to say goodbye to my friends for a few weeks, but it won't be long before we are back again. Talk soon!

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, 29 March 2017

Adventure: Scarborough

A sailor went to sea - Copyright CLSS 2017
As a late birthday celebration, my friends and I went on an adventure to Scarborough. After our lecture we headed out to the train station. Scarborough, as you know, I have been to before. It isn't dreadfully far away which is really useful if you feel the need to get out and go for a walk. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about the trip today at first because of how rainy it has been. But luckily the rain hasn't been too bad and the day was still a lot of fun.

Heading into the town, we explored the old market hall. It reminded me a lot of the farmers market which is in Leeds, just a tad smaller. It was tempting to buy some sweet potatoes but I refrained (so many recipes I have planned at the moment have sweet potato!) Although it was slightly rainy, it was still pleasantly warm. It meant we could explore the place without too many tourists in the way of us on our journey. Whilst it might mean missing out on some sunnier weather, we were very fortunate to have gone today because of that absence of tourists. I feel that you can best get to know a place when you jump straight into knowing the heart of it. What better way to do that than to avoid tourist centres, to wander with a map and to see where you end up on your journey?

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Rocks and waves - Copyright CLSS 2017
There wasn't too much to look at that was new in terms of inside location. However, the last time I was there in February it felt a lot like I had to rush around and didn't really get to see too much of the other half of the place. But today me and my friends went for the longest walk - it felt like a hike! It felt as though we were walking all the way around an island from one side to the other. We began with walking on the main beach before making our way past the harbour in the opposite direction. We spotted some brightly coloured cabins and headed towards them, simply because we thought it looked interesting and might make a nice spot to sit in. There is something calming about wandering aimlessly. Largely because it is liberating from the usual expectation (or occasional limitation) of knowing exactly where you are headed to.

Brightly coloured beach huts - Copyright CLSS 2017
That walk opened my eyes to so many little details about the world around me. The conversation went through pretty much every topic you can think of but that was so nice. To be free of the general day to day things. Of course the day began with class but, whilst it was interesting, the time away from York left me feeling inspired and with fresh focus. There is so much to be done and I am looking forward to achieving those things. Wandering into new projects with little idea of where they will go is something I've decided I want to do more of. Often those things are the best experiences of all because they have just the right amount of content to challenge you by pushing you just beyond the realms of your comfort zone. For instance, today I found comfort in an old comfort zone.

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Writing out new poetry - Copyright CLSS 2017
Today I found comfort in poetry! I haven't written any really in a while. And yet here I am writing up some poems which I wrote whilst watching the sun over the sea on the horizon. Here is one of my favourites. Today as I said was a wonderful adventure, of the good old fashioned kind. And I think this poem really captures that feeling: 

Looking down it strikes me that there are things within the sea
Things I cannot know of be,
And are
And will
And shall,
Move as waves do

On this shore line, we are standing by 
An always bright demanding line
Which spreads out far, from eye to eye
And is
And will
And shall
Be far away

The sand crunching under boots
And all of those roots of creatures in the earth
Which are 
And will
And shall
Remain unearthed

The crash, the Splash of sound,
A simplicity so profound 
That in I breathe -
And out comes salt
For here we shall
And will 
And are

Here we are.

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, 28 March 2017

Halle, Birthday + Cake

Greetings from a 20 year old Charlotte - this birthday has been so much fun. I began the day with classes but then got to spend lots of time with friends and family (Which was the lovely part). Despite the exchange of gifts and cards, the best thing that they gave me was their time. This is one of the busiest times of year because of so many academic or work related things coming to a close, which made it extra special that for a moment they paused to share this mile stone with me. It reminded me just how lucky I am to have such wonderful, thoughtful people in my life.

Quite honestly, the people I consider friends and those who are my family are some of the best people who exist on this planet. No matter how many times I say that, it never loses any of the marvel. These are the people who care for me and for whom I care. In every story and memory, there I can find them. Sharing pieces of your life and of yourself like that is special. It's why coming together to share the stories and anecdotes from the past year is always so much fun! Because you end up talking about not only all of those times you were growing up, but also all of those things which have happened recently that you forgot to include in a letter home. Sometimes people just remember things you don't, and those are the best ones. Particularly if they trigger your own memories of a silly moment.
But realising how many experiences you share makes it even more exciting to look forward to another year of making new memories. It makes you think about what sort of things you will be talking about in another years' time.

The best people you will ever meet - March 2017

Classes were also fun, though getting up was a task indeed. Firstly because that is just the way with any Monday and secondly because on Sunday I had a concert with Halle. Concerts always leave you feeling a little down because it's like suddenly going from somewhere really sunny into shadow. The experience is amazing but then it is over, leaving you a tad nostalgic.

But in spite of that, the last youth ensembles concert I was part of was a rewarding one. Largely because, due to working for so long on Gerontius, we learnt some complicated pieces of music in a short period of time. Those pieces being a collection of sea shanties, with lots of changing rhythms and complicated canonic sequences. In spite of that, through hard work and general enjoyment of music we managed to create something really effective. It was a great pleasure to be a part of. Especially alongside all of my fellow young musicians who performed with the youth orchestra, the training choir and childrens choir. It was a pleasant change to sit back and listen to one another for a few hours.

Sea Shanties - Copyright Halle 2017
As for the rest of my birthday, after class was over (what better thing to study than T. S. Eliot on your birthday!?) me and my family went out for lunch at the Balloon Tree Cafe. It is just outside of York, so I hadn't been before though it had been recommended to me a lot by friends. The fruit picking hadn't yet begun unfortunately, so that is definitely something to add on to my summer bucket list. All of the food there in their cafe/shop is hand made with the produce they grow. So it tastes fresh and delicious. For someone who has a nut allergy, finding somewhere new to eat where the food is known inside-out is the best thing that can happen. Especially when it results in me being able to eat cake in a restaurant for the first time! Usually, desserts may contain nut traces. So I revelled in the large quantity of cake consumed all in one day - but then again, one can never have too much cake. 

Making wishes - copyright CLSS 2017
Right now, on my first day outside of teenagehood, I don't feel any different really. Other than a bit tired because I woke up with tonsillitis! Not the best way to begin this new year, but hopefully it will soon be gone and I can get back to exploring and going on adventures. There is much to be done before the Easter break which you'll hear all about soon. There are Erasmus forms to be filled, assignments to be planned and completed, pre-Easter classes and a trip to Scarborough too. But for now, I think it is time for some hot chocolate and early night before the lecture tomorrow morning. Gute Nacht. 

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 March 2017

A 20th Birthday Letter

Dear Charlotte,

In the 20 years I have known you, you have changed quite a lot. 20 years is quite the mile stone to reach. And in it, you've achieved a considerable amount. When you were very young, your goals in life were to a. Get a turn on the green bicycle at lunch time, b. Win the race at sports day and c. Throw the coolest princess party any 5 year old has had ever. Achieving those things was the first time you came in touch with the idea of motivation and nowadays it is pretty much all you ever talk or think about. Interesting to see how things link up isn't it? Life was much simpler then, but the same terms still apply no matter the trials you face. I think that is something you would find quite amusing. Or at least, it is something I can confirm you find interesting now.

Cause I've been to the year 2000...
In terms of those things you have achieved, there are too many to list in this blog post. So instead I'll stick to just a few. The favourites that you hold on to and return to every once in a while. You've learnt to swim, to climb a mountain, ride a bicycle, dance and sketch. You attempted to learn ice skating several times and, whilst Christmas wouldn't be complete without another attempt, it always ended up in lots of slipping and laughing fits. You've learnt a myriad of instruments and skills, including to read. You haven't really stopped reading since. You've loved learning all of these things too, through every part of each new process. All of your school note books said something equally (sickeningly) cheerful: I heart school, that sort of thing - though I forgive you for that because you were 8. You've learnt languages and explored new places, including everything from the Royal Albert Hall to Paris, Austria, Germany. Places you could never have imagined travelling to before - and there is going to be even more of that, present me can reassure you.

Montage of photos from 2016 - 17
Equally important as finding all of these hobbies and exploring these interests, you have learnt that happiness is something you have to fight for. But more so, that it is worth fighting for. That has been an extremely difficult process. Less so in certain instances. For example, you finally get up the courage to talk to a boy (don't worry, he ends up being a keeper) Joe is one of the best people you'll come across and fortunately, he only gets increasingly more wonderful the more you get to know him.

The many photos is which either I or Joe am wearing stripes!
In terms of learning to fight for your own happiness, it was so hard for you to keep focused and to keep dreaming when everything happened with grand-dad. Those were the most difficult three years of your life to get through, but you did. It was so hard for you to let him go and to know that the person who you built snow-men with and told everything to wasn't going to be here anymore. But though he isn't here anymore, you'll learn to live for both you and for him. Love, grief, nostalgia are all things you have felt. And happiness in an abundance, which you will never want to sacrifice in exchange for forgetting the pain which came as a result. That hole in your heart is there for a reason, because that happiness you had was so precious and will remain precious always. Sometimes you'll find yourself looking out for him, but others you will already see him reflected in the words you write, in the view from the top of the hill and in every part of the place you call home. He is there with you every second.

On top of the world at Scafell Peak - 2007
And what would I like to say to myself now? Or more so, to myself in perhaps another 20 years time? Well perhaps we would end up in avid conversation about the plans I have in mind. To work for particular companies like Penguin, to study as much/as many things as possible, to travel the world, to be successful but foremost of all, Happy and successful. With every mile stone in life there comes a brief reflection. A period of time in which we stop to be grateful - it is what birthdays are for, I think. Studying at York St. John, meeting new friends here, keeping in touch with old friends and having my family around me always, these are things I am grateful for now and in the future. Part of me can sense a 40 year old Charlotte tapping me on the shoulder in confirmation (largely because of my time machine skills)

But most of all Charlotte, on our 20th Birthday I just want you to remember that this isn't the end of anything. It might feel that way with teenage years reaching a full stop, but that is exciting in a way too. It means new things: New adventures, new dreams. It is only the beginning of finding out what happens next. And that is something to look forward to. But for now, enjoy a slice of cake for past me!

Talk soon - love,

A Charlotte on the brink of 19 xxx

Charlotte 10 VS. Charlotte 20
P.S. I miss your hair - it was so much easier to maintain then that it is now!

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!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Inspiration: My Mum

So far, this small series of blogs has largely featured my literary inspirations. Those who I have found to be inspirational figures throughout my reading and research, ultimately fuelling my own ideas and encouraging me to keep working hard in the process of developing my own voice as a writer/creative individual. It is easy to pick out examples of inspirational role models from throughout history in terms of books or artwork. Well actually, not necessarily easy - there are so many of them! But it is much easier to pick out and discuss one of these famous figures to state how and who inspires me. However, it can be much more difficult when it comes to discussing who inspires me in my day to day life away from my hobbies and academic work.

With it being Mother's Day this weekend, I am all too aware of the fact that it is easy to take my family for granted. When I am actually very, very lucky to have the wonderful family I do. Especially the women in my family. I've celebrated them this past month previously for International Women's Day but I don't think there is ever such a thing as celebrating those you love too much.

Mum and Rolo (Or as we call him, Dodo)
My mum is one of the most amazing people I know. And that isn't me being biased, she really is! Ask anyone you know and they'll tell you. Some of my earliest memories are of her teaching me to dance when I was growing up. Dancing was something she always loved and she helped to teach it for several years throughout my childhood. Even when she did stop teaching, she still encouraged my love of the arts. Whether that be taking me to ballet and tap classes, explaining all of the terms involved (who knew so much French terminology was contained in one ballet exam!) or even putting up with the many instruments over the past few years. Although we don't always share the same interests, she has always attempted to show interest in the things going on in my life and to help me to the best of her ability. 

In terms of being brainy, she managed to complete a whole degree and care for me which let me tell you now cannot have been an easy feat. I was a troll as a child - the kind with crazy hair who sits under a bridge and waits for the three goats to try and cross over... Just kidding! But I was always pestering for something or other, which is the way of small children. But my mum still managed to get her degree (in a law field too!) and to graduate. I remember going to see her graduate from university and being so proud. I wanted to be just like her one day. She re-affirmed my motivation to work hard and to go to university. 

Throughout the years she has applied her skills to many different fields. Whether that be in her dancing and creativity, or the many other jobs she has been so successful in making her own. Throughout highschool she worked for the Greater Manchester police force before going on to work at a highschool. In both of these positions she was always able to, not only achieve success, but also to inspire me. She would teach me things such as how to have respect for others, how to communicate and engage in conversation and how to become a responsible adult. Albeit she isn't as good with powerpoint as me, but she has been able to teach me so much about what it means to be a good person and to share that with everyone. Kindness is a very big part of who she is. Even if she cannot help with something, she will always try her best to first. 

Particularly throughout my Grand-dad's illness and passing, she must have been struggling so much. But she never let that show. More than anything her chief concern was always me and my grandparents. Making sure that we were ok, that everything was going well, and that we had someone to talk to when we needed to. All of us had a difficult time then, but I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be the sole person involved in every factor like that. Being selfless is no easy act. Many try and fail to be so. Whilst trying is all that matters, the fact that my mum was so selfless throughout every stage of that horrendously traumatic time says a lot about who she is. She is someone who loves without comparison. Who is incredibly loyal and understanding. Those are skills which can be exemplified but cannot be taught or given. Those are the parts of her I love the most because they are so intrinsically hers. 

On this Mother's day, you'll probably (like I said earlier) think me biased for thinking my mum is the best. But I really do. Knowing her the way I do, getting to grow up seeing her every day, I can't think of anything better than that. As with any familial relationship it can be difficult at times. There are arguments over silly things, there are times when we are both struggling, but we are always family. We are always there. I know that she is alwasy there for me, and today more than ever I am aware and grateful for that. 

Happy Mother's day Mum, Thank-you for everything, Love Lotty ❤ 

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, 23 March 2017

University: Semester 2, Week 9

Only one more week to go until the Easter break now - time sure does fly quickly! This month has gone by quite quickly, and that is probably because of the sheer amount of things going on. This March so many positive things have happened. From being published in the university prospectus and literary anthology to finding out that I have a place to study at Amsterdam for the first semester of the second year. How can so many amazing things fit into one space of time? And that isn't even everything!

There is so much to look forward to as well, particularly over the next week in the build up to the break. There will be the student show case (when I get to see my work alongside my peers), the Easter concert featuring lots of madrigals and some Whitacre and also submitting my gender and writing reflective commentary. It has been such a challenging piece to put together, which came as a relative surprise. Despite working with them before it didn't make it any easier an experience. But I have learnt a lot from it, so I will try to remember all of those things in the future. Also, because I am talking a lot about the issues of gender construction in the modern wall in comparison/contrast to the past, I have gotten to read a lot of articles which have been really rewarding. For instance, Penguin's current feature on Caitlan Moran and how books made her a feminist.

Daffodils - Copyright CLSS 2017
It has been the little things which kept me going this past 9 weeks. When you are in university for so long, it is easy to lose sight of where you are going with your work and to not be your usual, motivated, well rested self. Seeing the relaxed faces of my third year friends after they submitted their dissertations this week is proof enough of that. But the little things really are enough if you focus in on them and make the most out of them. For instance, right at the beginning of this week I bought some daffodils from the flower market. When I got them on Monday, they were tightly closed buds on long green stems. I thought that it would be impossible for the slender yellow trumpets to burst out. But when I woke up on Tuesday (image on the left) they were already starting to wake up too. And by Wednesday (image on the right) they were awake even earlier than me. A burst of colour from the outside inside my room has made it much easier to smile and concentrate on the tasks at hand. 

Brain erasers, my Wall.E sketch + some letters home (if you look closely enough you can see my new favourite shoes and purple socks!) - Copyright CLSS 2017
In addition to the flowers and keeping positive as I can in terms of my work, I've also tried to push that positivity into all elements of my life. Despite it being a busy time of year with Erasmus modules to be chosen and T. S. Eliot to analyse for Monday, I want to make sure that I am making some time for myself to keep creative. Without that creative space and time I often find myself drained and unable to concentrate which is not the way forward. It makes all of that positivity so much more complicated to maintain. I've written my usual letters home, making sure to put extra thought in so that my family and friends know I am grateful for their patience throughout the past few weeks when things have been particularly hard. 

And also there has been time for sketching which has been great! I've missed sketching a lot. Kitted out with the assistance of some cool new brain erasers, I set out to draw some Disney characters. Perhaps I'll share more of them another day, but one I am particularly proud of is the sketch you can see of Eva and Wall.E above. We studied Wall.E this term in contemporary writing as you know and it has given me an even higher level of admiration for Pixar and that particular animation. Eva isn't as well defined as I would have liked but I am so pleased with how Wall.E took shape (a bit of patience goes a long way!)

Some madrigal practice - Copyright I. Dutch 2017
Whilst I don't have too much to report this week other than how I am keeping motivated (and going on about how wonderful madrigals are - because trust me, they're the best) it has still been a worthwile week. There have been things I have learnt, discovered and practiced as always. Whether that be learning of the existence of Etch-a-sketch notebooks or discussing the role of gender stereotype reinforcement in advertising, I feel better for having this somewhat complex week. Though I do hope that next week I get to learn even more - possibly without as much complexity. Either way, here is to the arrival of week 10! And, hopefully... a good rest! 

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, 22 March 2017

Mars Bars + Balance

The Mars Bar/Wonka Bar Process - Photos Copyright CLSS 2016
When I was getting really stressed out about my essays before Christmas time (a section of my narratives assignment just wasn't flowing, needed to be cut, and I felt like I was running out of time) my friend Rebecca passed on to me some advice which has stuck in my head and really helped ever since. Of course I do still get stressed, I don't think there is any cure to stress other than starting as early on as possible, but I don't get as stressed. I know now to remember the Mars bar process (which I've decided to re-christen the Wonka bar process after re-reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory earlier this year)

This is basically just a term to remind you that you can't just do everything all at once. It is simply not possible to just write a full length essay that makes complete sense in a day. It takes planning, drafting and patience. But most importantly, it takes time. You need to give yourself as much time as possible to work so that you might have the breaks you need. Finding balance is important, which is what this statement is all about. If someone says that you need to think of it like a mars bar, then it means that you need to take it bit by bit. By splitting things into bite sized chunks it will be much easier to remain focused on the task at hand and to pace yourself. Finding the balance for you is essential to you succeeding. For me that means plenty of breaks with other things to take my mind off of what I have been working on. Engaging with other things means that when I do come back to my work, I often have fresh perspective and a new idea of where to begin. When you do find a balance that works, stick to it as much as you can.

As one of my favourite sopranos Joyce Didinato said at one of her masterclasses, the best singers are not the ones who lock themselves into practice rooms and never go out. The best singers are the ones who live outside the libretto page - who have read great books, seen great movies, had exciting and moving experiences of a vast variety. Those things are what allow the best musicians to engage with their art, in a way that brings it to life. The best performers are the ones who put life into the melody by bringing out new colours only they can find. It is all in how we interpret things as individuals.

Balance = Books + Study + Fun ( + Cake Squared)
Finding that balance isn't always easy. And sometimes, if we leave things to the last minute especially, it can seem everything has been thrown out of balance and we'll never touch back to the ground again. But that's ok - we're human and we're meant to be learning and processing information as we go. It is only natural to make mistakes sometimes. The point of balance is that you have the right support system to help you catch up again. If this were a marathon, your support system would be all the training up until that moment, and then the people cheering you on. If that is in place, it will always catch up with you somehow and help you back to your feet. You just have to keep working hard and keeping patient until it gets there.

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 March 2017

You Got A Friend

Recently I've not been through the best of times. We all have our down days, and in that time is important to remain focused, positive and motivated. Without those things to drive us, it is very difficult to keep up our energy levels in order to get through those difficult moments. At the time especially it can feel like you will never come out of the other side with a smile, but that is simply because you are in the middle of a lot of things at once. After they start to settle down, it will be much easier to focus and to feel better. One of most important things you can do is keep communicating with those around you. Especially your friends.

I'm incredibly lucky to have such a strong support system in the format of my friends and family. Without them, it wouldn't be possible to be the person I am and to achieve everything that I have so far and hope to continue on to do. Everything that makes me who I am comes back in part to them. This is why it is so incredibly important to me that I make the most of those relationships and do not take them for granted.

If you're finding yourself in a difficult time, or if you just want to make sure you are there for your friends through the stress of deadlines and end of term, here are some things to remember:

The best people you will ever meet
1. Keep Talking + Trusting

Your friends are a human sanctuary. These are the people you can trust fully which is important to remember when you do need to talk and don't know where to turn. You could say anything and these are the people who will be able to understand it. Particularly when you get to university, you make friends who live close by or aren't to far away city wise. It is more like having a second family.

Having that foundation on which to place your thoughts and concerns can often mean you feel much lighter. You'll have more space to think and feel in a way which makes sense opposed to being confused about things if you keep communication systems open with your friends. Anything that is said should be between you, which is why you should always be careful who you trust of course. But the most amazing thing with the best of friends is that you know you can trust them to be there for you to talk to when you most need them. Don't close yourself up but instead explain how you think and feel. Chances are it will not only make you feel better but everyone. I know that I tend to bottle things up sometimes and explode information all at once. But I'm getting better at learning to talk about all of these things because of the people I have met here in York.

2. Keep Listening 

Just as you need to keep talking, you also need to keep listening. Your friends will need to get things off their chest, and as they were there for you you need to be there for them. Be there for them because you want to be - it's not a case of owing people your time. It is a case of being their to listen and talk any time because you care about these people and want them to be happy. Particularly when things are difficult, you need to be there best you can as they would be for you. Sometimes a situation is out of out control and there is no way we can help directly. Nothing we can do in particular to fix things. It is awful to be in that situation but we must recognise as individuals that as long as we do our best that is enough. And listening is often enough to help - more so than any of us realise.

3. Think Positive 

Also, when the going gets rough, see it as a challenge to stay positive together. Passing on positive thoughts or comments to one another is the first step to feeling a little better. Those little positive thoughts will then go on to become a much bigger part of your thinking that day and eventually they will make your week seem a bit brighter. Positive thinking as a group of friends in particular does wonders for my brain. It mans that I know those around me aren't feeling the best either and that we are all in that same place trying to get back to where we can feel happier. Group trips or meet ups can be some of the best ways to stay positive outside of class. Even when it is exam season, a good giggle and a movie can make you feel a million times better. Take a breather and do something fun together.

4. Always Be There

All of the previous things link back up to this. Being a friend means always being there, no matter what. It can be hard sometimes when you have things going on in your own life to continue to be the best friend that you can be. But being there is enough - letting who ever it might be know that they have someone they can count on, who is always going to be there, can be enough. It can make you feel so much better to feel supported and cared for. It isn't necessarily something you can do, but it is something which you show in how you listen and just in the act of caring for another person itself.

5. Know Always Is Always

The people who are your closest friends are the ones who never stop being there no matter what. You could be 50 and you'll still be going to concerts together, or sending letters if you are both on opposite sides of the world from one another. It can mean going for a while without seeing or speaking to each other, but knowing that if you need a chat or a catchup the other person will still be there. And when you talk, it will feel as though you were never apart to begin with.

Always is always. You'll realise this as time goes on and your memory collection builds up. Once you have a true friend, no matter what life throws at you, they never truly go away. And for me right now, it's helping so much to see and remember that in my own friend group.

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!

National Poetry Day + Through The Mist

The other day when I was re-watching Funny Face all I could think was that Hollywood is not quite what it used to be. There is so much talent now that it isn't kept to a select few stars, especially with cultural movies taking such a strong place in the media. There is no single Hollywood any more, which is both wonderful and sad. La La Land really captured that nostalgia for the great movies and artwork of the past style which is perhaps why it has been so successful. Thinking about this made me want to write on this. And considering the role of capitalism within literature and how we see characters/how they develop throughout an actors performance, I thought it might be interesting to write about it. Seems as it is national poetry day today, here is that little poem:

There will never be another Audrey Hepburn.
In this world of many people
With their many many dreams
And all those glossy silver screens
Waiting to be filled

How can another Hepburn be when
There isn't room to see
And all the crowds file round to get
A better view

But dreaming too, at the same time
That they'll pursue what they believe
Achieve and achieve and achieve,
All of those things which have gone undone

As long as there are rules
To go out and earn fast cars
There will be no trips to Mars,
But they'll deceive that they might know.
They will be famous.

But if we dream and if we dare
Maybe we'll find another fare
That will provide another side
To this sad story

For as there are dreamers who will be
And ocean far as we can breathe
There can never be, you surely see,
Another Audrey Hepburn


I also mentioned previously that I had been published in the student anthology here at York St. John which has been such a pleasant surprise. The student show case is next week and I will get a copy of the anthology then. But until then, I thought I would share with you the piece that I wrote for show case which is called Through the Mist. The anthology is titled Beyond the York Walls and as a project it aims to feature works capturing or inspired by the York walls (one of Yorks' defining attributes) The piece I wrote was part of a trio of short stories me and my friends produced as a collection. Mine is written in the style of Lemony Snicket (can you tell?) It's also a murder mystery sort of story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below:

Through the Mist

The rain was thick that January day. And bleak. As the morning set in, fog spread its talons across York, blanketing the empty streets and confusing the geese. Everything was still. At half seven when the alarm clock went off, Thomas Loax dragged himself from his bed, into his suit and out to the car. Out came the ice scraper to clear the windscreen. Fog lights on. Key slotted into the ignition. A low hum followed by nothing. “Oh, for goodness… eurgh!” After 15 minutes of trying to get the car going, the mission was definitely proving a fruitless one. I would love to tell you that Thomas stayed in his car, called the mechanic and drove to work a few minutes late. But Thomas is an impatient, anxious man and this is not a cheerful story. It is instead an honest one.

Locking the car behind him, Thomas flinched at the cold biting his nose as he shrugged on the blue windbreaker. The world was even now white and silent. York was a ghost town as he headed up the street towards the city wall entrance. The air was still hanging low over the river, lurking in hope of a lick at an uncovered tail. There were no boats and no joggers. It would have been peaceful had the hovering clouds not been so opaque. So… ominous.

Ducking his chin further into his collar, he reached the gate. It didn’t open at first when he pushed. “Come on, come on!” he muttered. This is the point we would hope giving up would tempt him, or that he might take the hint. But alas, the gate groaned heavily and on he went. The grey slabs were uneven and slippery. Often, he would lurch and cling to the stone next to him. Half an hour of walking passed and with it lifted the fog. Just enough it rose to show a slumped figure emerging in front of the rogue businessman. Oh great, though Thomas, another drunken slob. His hand clutched his wallet, simultaneously grasping for the wall.

As he approached further, it became evident that this man was not going to move. Pushing prejudiced thoughts from his head and inhaling from his nose, Thomas attempted to stay patient. Even though by now he was 12 minutes late for work, cold and slightly damp. Sighing, he waited till the last moment. “Excuse me sir”. Nothing. “Excuse me?”

The air was still thick and the earth still. An impatient breath, a hand on the shoulder. A moment of disbelief. Then fear. For staring back at him with glassy eyes was a man. Middle aged, clean shaven, smartly dressed. Could’ve been his brother in life. But evidently, at this point, very much dead.

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!

How To: Reflective Commentary

For my Gender and Writing module I had to create a formative group presentation focusing on one of the selected texts provided for us to choose from. As you may know from my previous blog posts, my group worked on producing a presentation which spoke about the relevance of Virginia Woolf's text A Room of One's Own and how this text remains relevant in the modern day. Our next assignment due before Easter is a reflective commentary on this group collaboration process to see what has been achieved and how these skills will be useful + can be applied in our further class work.

Brain erasers to help me think! 
When I was studying at Leeds College of Music last year I often encountered the reflective commentary. We often had special projects which we would work on for the period of a week and then produce an evaluation of. However, this was quite a different structure and system from that used here. Here the evaluative process is much more like an essay in format. We must use prose in order to keep things as academic as possible. It can be complicated to avoid colloquialisms at times, which is why it has been useful to edit, proof read and get external opinion via tutorials.

My advice from the past few weeks working on this particular reflective commentary is best expressed through the next few points. Give yourself at least 2 weeks to really work on drafting it. At first it might seem easier to work on than an essay, but at times it can prove more complicated due to the sheer amount of detail you are required to go into in relation to how often you were meeting with your group, things you discussed and why you focused in on your particular areas of research. Giving yourself time will allow you to remain de-stressed and comfortable with working at your own pace. It is important, as with any essay (particularly a tricky one), to give yourself the time and space to work in that you need. Everyone works at different rates which is perfectly ok, just be patient with yourself.

In terms of structure, it is alway useful to create a simple plan as a guideline opposed to just jumping straight into writing. When crafting this, make sure you make note of the things on the mark scheme which you need to demonstrate. Though these should be placed as important, they also shouldn't be forced at the risk of your work not flowing or sounding confident. Sometimes it can be useful to write it section by section before piecing it together. Make note of links when you are putting together your guide line. You should also research well before you begin writing. With my piece essay, this was a relatively easy process to complete as I already had a fair amount of research done from the presentation itself. Through using sections of evidence it has been possible to really shape my statements and maintain that clear confident flow of the essay itself as previously mentioned.

Whilst tricky to write, reflective commentary can be a useful time to do what it says on the can and reflect. You'll find that you have often times achieved a great deal more than you previously realised. And that should be your focus - to emphasise those things you have achieved, those things you think you can achieve and also those things which you would change/do differently next time in order to be further successful. For example, whilst the group discussions were really useful next time it would be better for us to have met on a more regular basis and kept a detailed log of our meeting notes in order to remember where we were up to. Whilst also giving indication of where to move to next. I'm quite happy with how this one is shaping up after finding it difficult to settle into, and I'm looking forward to seeing if there is any place for improvement in my next tutorial before the deadline. Only this one to finish before Easter now! That came around quickly, huh? Odd to see all of my third year friends handing in their dissertations too.

And if you're stressing out about your essays a bit too much and need something to cheer you up, this little song has just been added on to my spring playlist - hope it makes you smile:

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!

How To: Construct A Thesis

When I first began university, it suddenly seemed a million times harder than usual to construct a thesis. I think this was largely in the period before and just after my first three assignments. Even though I was doing well, I have a habit of approaching new things and complicating them when they are actually much easier than I realise. This is the case with a lot of students who approach thesis statements for the first time when they aren't referred to as the more widely known 'main point' of A level and GCSE.

Research well!
Settling into constructing a thesis is not as scary as it seems. If anything, it is actually quite liberating because it means you get to decide on what it is you want to write about, research and think on for the next however long until your course work is written. A thesis statement is just a piece of jargon which is code for 'tell me what you are really interested in talking about here' or 'what is your main point throughout this argument?' Once you have that broken down a little further in your mind, designing a thesis is much easier. Don't be afraid of the thing which is designed to help you express yourself. All of those brilliant ideas of yours may as well be stored at the back of a dusty shelf in jars and bottles if you aren't going to put them to use through clear language, evidence and analysis.

It will be hard work, but you don't have to get there straight away. Arguing and maintaining the thesis is the complicated part, but deciding can be almost fun if you allow yourself to approach it this way. To begin planning your thesis statement, first mind map a range of ideas which you could argue throughout your essay/dissertation. Use lots of coloured pens (running with the fun theme) and really go all out. Write down every idea that comes into your head best you can, even if some of them aren't fully formed yet. If things spring to mind and sound interesting, then those are all potential starting points which you could use as a spring board.

After doing this, look over your range of ideas and begin editing down to just a few which you think could be really useful or work well together. This is the section of planning where I begin (way before deciding on my thesis) linking ideas together in triplets. For instance, discussing class, wealth and power together would be in keeping with these themes because I would be able to draw links between. E.g. in Victorian literature, wealth permitted education, success and comfort. Because of this, the wealthy tended to be at the top of the hierarchial chain causing class divisions. It was up to those in power to create positive change in relation to this, but this could be complex as though in positions of power wouldn't want to lose money or status that they already had as a result. Can you see how those ideas link well together in this context? Those links are what allow you to maintain a clear thesis statement throughout.

Once you have selected three key points for your question and planned out what you would like to comment on, then is the time to begin on a thesis statement. And once you have written it out a few times to see what works best, make sure you write it down in big bold letters on a post it note somewhere where you can always see it. If it is always in your mind whilst you are writing, it will be much easier to maintain it in a strong argument with plenty of links. Refer back to this thesis in relation to the question throughout. A thesis itself is just a strong statement which rounds everything up. For instance, if the question was 'To what extent was Victorian literature a reflection of the class division?' you might want to argue with a thesis statement which is clarified in your conclusion as, 'Victorian literature reflected the wide divides between class, as writers usually came from wealthy families who were able to support their ambition'.

This is just one example, and a rather colloquially worded one. There are all manner of thesis statements you could argue. That is the fun of it! Welcome to being a literary critic - have fun constructing your first thesis!

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!

Spring Playlist

The beginning of spring is one of the best times of the year, full stop! Everything is fresh with promise, there are so many new opportunities and yet unlike the beginning of the academic year we are so much closer to the freedom that summer beckons with. It is a good place to be in because it feels so open and fresh.

My soundtracks for Autumn and Spring tend to be the ones which last for the rest of the year. By this, I mean my favourites prevail from the music I find through constructing these playlists. Sometimes I find them just by clicking on a random song that sounds good on Spotify, or other times I simply overhear it by mistake. Either way, music has a huge impact on my life despite studying English. Music is a big part of the week in that it helps concentrate when I am studying and hence impacts hugely on how well I do throughout the year. So you might find a few of my playlists scattered throughout past blog posts, especially when they have featured some of those favourites I mentioned earlier.

Whilst I enjoy writing about music I always find it incredibly difficult to construct words explaining what and how it makes me feel, or why it does. Some of the best music to listen to is that from movies - soundtracks and classical pieces without vocals or lyrics can often be so much more expressive. There are not many things I enjoy more than the moment where the raised seventh is used to create dissonance in a madrigal or a Whitacre piece (Speaking of which, Sleep isn't on this months playlist due to featuring in the past but if you haven't heard it I hugely recommend it!) These playlist posts provide the opportunity for me to capture and share with you all of these things I am thinking and feeling throughout the 2017 season. Plus, it can mean further sharing some of the great music I've stumbled upon with you.

What have you been listening to this month? I'd love to hear your favourites. Feel free to leave them in the comments below. Here are some of the tracks I have been listening to on repeat:

1. Gossip Girl - Grace Vanderwaal

Vanderwaal's sound is something I have been hugely impressed by and really enjoyed listening to the in the past months since her America's Got Talent debut. The sound is fresh, quirky and original. Plus, it features the ukulele which adds to that overall sound and image I previously mentioned. The ukulele is one of my favourite instruments and it is good to hear it getting further recognition in the music industry. 

This particular song is my current choice to have on loop. Largely because it possesses the light acoustic of her other pieces whilst also containing some complicated rhythms, quick poetic lyricism and (whilst uplifting) has quite a gritty tone. The subject dealt with is of people gossiping - something which everyone can relate to I think, because we all gossip or have been the subject of it. Particularly for those of Grace Vanderwaal's generation, I think she is a really important, influential role model. It is amazing to hear such skill at such a young age, but also to hear it being used for good in this form of advice sharing. Taking something bad and turning it into something positive which can make others take confidence and dance instead of feeling sad.

2. Yesterday - Karmin

A connection the previous song in that again, these are new, up and coming singer/songwriters who produce such an original sound that is hard to find anything to dislike about it. When I first clicked on this song, I thought it was going to be a cover of the old classic by the Beatles. But ended up being pleasantly surprised with this strongly sung song, which is so well written in fact that it feels orchestrated. Much as with Pentatonix, you can tell that these individuals really care about the different musical lines going on. This is pop music to the highest degree.

In addition to their original songs, they also do some fantastic covers. If there is a pop song that you have heard on the radio or the charts which you didn't previously like, Karmin can change that for you. Their covers/arrangements rethink the whole style. Again, largely through this element of re-orchestration. There was a song they re-made in the style of a Queen music video which is a perfect example of this. But be sure to check out their original songs first! There is so much to explore within their particular sound that you're not going to be able to stop listening for a while. 

3. Norman's Walk - Paranorman

Ok, so I know this one has been on my playlist before... Largely because it is one of the best things to listen to in the Autumn in my opinion. It fits so perfectly with the changing leaves and crispness of everything. 

Norman's Walk is one of the earliest melodies in the movie soundtrack. In the original stop motion animation picture, this piece is played as Norman is walking down the street to school. He can see things that others don't really understand or think about, and the melody incorporates this beautifully. Beginning quite gently, the light woodwind gives the effect of early morning with the sun just starting to come up (in my mind, it is still dark) But then suddenly the tone becomes nostalgic and melancholic - it is still uplifting, but also possesses a poignancy and a sadness. Whenever I'm not quite sure what to think or feel, it is this small portion of music which helps the most. It's some of the best film writing I've heard in a long time. 

4. Cheap Thrills - Sia

The original song is great but, as with Karmin, I always seem to end up a bigger fan of the covers of songs which attempt to re-orchestrate or re-arrange the songs to transform the genre entirely. This string trio has me excited for some of my own work at the moment, and I'd really like to look into arranging something of a similar style. It possesses all the qualities which make the original so fun to listen to, whilst also providing new qualities which only playing a string instrument could add. Particularly in regards to the phrasing. I really enjoyed the cello balance the most out of this - two cellos against one violin seems a really suitable match which adds a whole new level to the feel of dynamic and range throughout.

5. Lucie Horsch - Vivaldi

I know, I know, all I ever talk about these days is Amsterdam! Whilst I have no doubt there will soon be an Amsterdam playlist in your lives courtesy of moi, for now my main Amsterdam based musical interest is the most recent album released by the recorder player Lucie Horsch with the Concert Gebouw of Amsterdam. In the clip above, you can get a taste of some of the Vivaldi she has recorded with the beautiful setting of the Amsterdam canals in the background.

Of course, it is fitting that this should be a part of the spring playlist because it features Vivaldi's piece of the same name: Spring. The four seasons are some of the most well known of his works, being selected as ring tones and advertisement soundtrack in places all over the world. But you can only truly appreciate them I think when you sit down and listen to a full feature recording of them. Hearing them together is amazing because you can hear what a masterful recorder he was - there are themes being developed throughout which come back again and again in different formats until they sound completely new. It would be impossible to recognise that they were the original themes unless when going back to listen to them again you listen out for specific melodies and rhythms. The reason Horsch's performance of some of these pieces by Vivaldi is on my spring playlist is because, as with all of the pieces mentioned on this list, she brings something completely new and refreshing to something I previously thought old hat or conventional. Always have I been a fan of Vivaldi, but never have I heard it quite like this.

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!