Reading 2014

Oh boy, where to begin? I’m currently curled up with a hot mug of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea (yes this is a recurring theme, no I am not ashamed) and have been pretty much consistently since I rolled into my bed on a very soggy Monday morning; drenched, freezing cold and nursing a sore everything, but having had the best five days of my life. For those that somehow aren’t aware, last weekend was Reading and Leeds Festival and I was lucky enough (I say lucky, but I was the one that slaved away at work for months to be able to afford it) to go to the former, and oh my was it an amazing weekend.

As a first time Reading-goer I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and without a doubt it lived up to the “drink, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” reputation that it has gained itself- perhaps with less of the rock ‘n’ roll with the likes of Disclosure and Vampire Weekend topping the bill of famous faces. But in spite of that (or perhaps as a result of) the whole festival just had such a friendly atmosphere and you could tell that everyone was there for the same reason, apart from maybe the wonderful human outside my tent at 4am whose new friend asked him who he was most excited to see and to which he replied “oh I don’t even know who’s playing, I’m here for the ket”.

For those of us that were actually there for the music, we certainly weren’t disappointed, with my stand-out act being Arctic Monkeys (not really a surprise for anyone who knows me in the slightest)- it was the second time I’ve seen them and I finally got to see them play When The Sun Goes Down live, which pretty much made my year. I’ll probably end up doing some in-depth reviews of particular sets from across the weekend as it is way too much to fit into one post, but my other highlights would have to come from Catfish & The Bottlemen, Cage The Elephant, Foster The People, King Charles and The Kooks, just to name a few.

All in all, despite the gag-inducing toilet stench and complete lack of sleep, comfort or sanitation, it was a weekend I won’t be forgetting quickly- not least thanks to the multitude of illnesses I seem to have returned with that garner no sympathy from my parents on account of being “self-inflicted”. Can’t say I can really argue with that.

Festival Packing: Reading 2014

Now I know that festival season is coming to a close here in the UK and there is already a whole host of festival packing lists floating around, but I figured I would hop on the bandwagon and share what little wisdom I have to offer as I pack for Reading festival, which I leave for tomorrow. I’m not going to bother with the obvious things like underwear and a toothbrush- I think we are all grown up enough to be able to figure this out for ourselves by now, this isn’t primary school. Think of this as a compilation of things that you’ll think you don’t need, then find yourself sat in the mud at 4am wishing you’d listened to that advice. Just warning you.

  •  Baby wipes- honestly if you only brought one thing to a festival it should be baby wipes, you don’t quite realise just how many uses these things have and trust me, they’ll be a god send when you are unlikely to be able to shower for the four or five days you’re there for (you can get Huggies wipes for 99p in Boots for a huge pack)
  • Face wipes- along the same lines but for any girls that aren’t quite ready to embrace the no-makeup look, you really don’t want to be bringing along your endless cleansers and toners and fancy make-up removers- it’s time to crack out the face wipes. Primark do a range of different types that are only £1 for two packs so you can hardly go wrong.
  • Toilet roll and tissues- needless to say, festival toilets are disgusting. There is rarely any toilet roll available (in fact Reading have said this year they won’t be providing any) so these are most certainly essential to have- tissue packets are especially good as you can just stick one in your pocket or bumbag each day and you’re set.. plus you can buy 4 packets for £1 in Primark at the moment (you can tell where I do all my festival shopping)
  • Dry shampoo- back on the no washing theme, my hair is certainly not used to surviving five days without a shower so anything I can do to make it look slightly less slick with grease is always a bonus- dry shampoo, bandanas and hats are all good solutions here
  • Other toiletries- deodorant, hand sanitiser, paracetamol and a lip balm with spf (even if it isn’t meant to be hot) are definitely essentials in my opinion along with any hayfever tablets if you suffer from that
  • Suncream and sunglasses- may seem a tad optimistic seeing as the weather forecast for this weekend isn’t meant to be the best, but you never know with this English weather and being outside all day can have disastrous consequences when you’re as ginger and pale as I am
  • Raincoat and wellies- on the opposite end of the scale and much more likely to come in use, it’s a pretty obvious essential for any English festival
  • Bin bags- weird thing to add but they take up no room at all and without fail will always come in handy- make-do raincoats, rubbish bag, bag for your wet clothes, etc etc
  • Torch- those obstacle courses of guy ropes are hard enough to navigate in the light, don’t make it harder for yourself that it need be
  • Small towel- not essential but definitely handy if you have room in your bag, especially if it’s a wet weekend
  • Pillowcase- I’m definitely not one of those people that is going to be lugging round a pillow with me but I do love to bring a case at least to stuff with jumpers in an attempt to make sleeping at least a little less impossible
  • Crappy old phone- I’m taking my year 7 slide up (classy I know) but to be quite honest, all I need to be able to do is text and ring my friends to meet up with them- if you are tweeting every moment of your weekend you are clearly not enjoying yourself and to be brutally honest, I think if you take your iPhone to a festival then you deserve to get it stolen
  • Some other kind of shoes you don’t mind getting ruined- I’m taking some cheap black high tops from H&M that are just super comfortable and make a nice change if the ground is dry and wellies are no longer needed (a girl can dream)
  • Bumbag- not the coolest thing in the world (although you can get some pretty nice ones- mine is from depop) but so handy for carrying round essentials without having to carry a bag around and worry about everything getting stolen
  • Glitter/ face paint- when else do you get the chance to wander round with your hair full of glitter and paint on your face without getting some weird looks?
  • Plastic bottles/ hip flask- you’re not allowed to take in any glass so if you’re planning on bringing alcohol it’ll need to be decanted into plastic bottles- definitely handy to bring a couple of extras as trips to Tescos are a lot more popular than paying the extortionate bar prizes and you don’t want to be stuck with nothing to decant those glass bottles into. Having not been to Reading before, I don’t know how strict they are about bringing alcohol into the arena, but it’s always handy to have a hip flask or something similar you can slip down your wellies for ease

So there you have it, my probably completely useless checklist for Reading and Leeds (or any other UK festival for that matter). To be honest, if you are going to Reading there is a huge Tesco’s just a few minutes walk from the site where you can stock up on anything you have forgotten, so don’t panic too much. Most of all just have an amazing time no matter how dirty and wet you are; I know I will.

 

The Next Stage

As David Nicholls so rightly puts it, “the notion that you can somehow quantify intelligence by some ridiculous, antiquated system of written examinations is obviously specious.” Unfortunately for us, there’s not a lot we can do about that and we’re forced to go through the stress of increasingly harder exams year upon year in order to decide for us whether we are destined to be neurosurgeons or dustbinmen for the rest of our lives. As I’m sure most of you will have guessed, I talk about this because of the dreaded day that has been looming ever closer since the start of summer and is now but two days away; the day on which dreams are realised and crushed- and trust me, that’s no exaggeration.

Luckily for me, I’ve only got my AS results to collect which, whilst still worth half my A level and therefore clearly important, fade into insignificance when stood next to those in the year above whose envelope contains the answer to possibly what their life will look like for the next few years. And that’s pretty terrifying. I know that each year group has a tendency to downplay the importance of the stages which they’ve already experienced, but I would seriously give anything to be back in GCSE and only having to worry about getting my 4 B’s and 2 C’s to get into sixth form, rather than needing ridiculously unlikely high grades to have a chance of getting into any of the universities I want to end up at.

I write this sat on my bed with a mug of tea in hand and university prospectuses spread out in front of me, trying to differentiate between the accommodation prices at this university and the contact hours at that university and entrance grades and module choices and league table rankings and nightlife and things that I never thought I would have to think about for years to come. I still feel about 12 years old even though I turn 18 in less than four weeks, and that’s terrifying. The idea that what I decide in the next few months dictates pretty much what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life is overwhelming to say the least, and no number of open days or prospectuses or “useful” school assemblies on UCAS is going to change that. But whilst it may be terrifying and overwhelming and quite frankly incomprehensible at times, it’s also so bloody exciting. As much as I will miss my school, I can’t wait to get out into the world and experience somewhere a bit more diverse and real than the ‘bubble’ of where I live, which to be honest is pretty much anywhere. I want to get to a big city and meet interesting people and do interesting things in interesting places, and more than the worry or stress, I can’t wait for the future and so should you – it’s an exciting place.

Paper Views: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Finally it’s this time again, school is out of the way and I can finally get round to making my way through the towering pile of books on my windowsill that I’ve been staring at longingly for months. Top of my list, and the book I instantly grabbed when we left for 12 days in sunny southern France the week before last, was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. This was recommended to me by my English Lit teacher as one of her favourite books, which is pretty high praise so I was unsurprisingly very excited to start it.

To give a quick overview of the plot, it is set in Macondo, Colombia, and follows the lives of seven generations of the Buendía family (who have an extremely confusing liking for using the same four names in many similar variations). The book was written in 1967 and was a big part of the Latin American literary “boom” of the time, which makes in utterly unlike anything I’ve ever read which I guess was part of the reason I was so intrigued to read it. Without giving too much of the story away, it cleverly uses references to real events at the time, such as the political atmosphere, but goes further to really understand the depths of the microcosm that is Macondo and all its inhabitants in a style that can be best defined as magic realism. 

If I’m going to be honest, by the time I was a good two hundred pages in (the whole novel weighs in at a hefty four hundred and twenty-two in total), I was getting a bit.. bored isn’t the right word, but I was starting to feel like the book could have ended right there and I wouldn’t have minded- I guess I just felt like the story was being dragged out longer than necessary. However, being the kind of person that can NEVER leave a book half read, I lay back on my towel, put back on my shades and powered on through til the end- and oh boy am I glad I did. You know when you reach the end of a book and you just kind of sit there for a minute and smile to yourself that it’s a good ‘un… so to all the times I grumbled about how I just wanted to finish it already I’m sorry Márquez, I take it back!

It’s part of the Penguin Modern Classics range, and I can’t think of a book more worthy- it’s different to everything I’ve ever read and I would definitely recommend it. Although not your typical read- with more than a fair share of death, incest and prostitution- it’s a novel that I have no doubts will stand the test of time and is certainly worth adding to your book list.