The Festive Tag

So it’s finally December, and those of us who have been waiting impatiently for the days when Christmas jumpers and non-stop festive music are acceptable have finally been satiated. The inevitable excitement this produced in me, teamed with my guilty conscience for the neglect of my blog in favour of school work this past month, have really made me eager to get writing again. So when I got a message from Viola from apieceofviola tagging me in the Festive Tag, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get back into the swing of things as well as an opportunity to ramble about all things festive.

1. Favourite Festive Food

It goes without saying that one of the best things about this season is the ability to eat as much food as you’re physically capable of without fear of judgement. In terms of Christmas dinner itself, the stuffing and pigs in blankets have to be the high points, and aside from that, mince pies and mulled cider have to be the winners for me- nothing else warms you up quite as well.

2. Favourite Reindeer

After spending many a childhood Christmas arguing over it, I am proud to say I possess the wonderful talent of being able to recite the full collection of names by heart (it’s invaluable knowledge, trust me). Nevertheless, I have to admit I’ve never gone so far as to decide on a favourite.. I guess I’d have to do it based on name and go for Comet, which I think is quite apt for an animal that flies through the sky and makes wishes come true.

3. Favourite Day in the 12 Days of Christmas

Easily got to be Ten (I think) Lords-A-Leaping simply due to the hilarious corresponding actions it always seems to produce.

4. Favourite Christmas Song

I feel I’m quite unimaginative in my festive music choices, with my favourites being the obvious choices: The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ and Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You‘. I’m one of those people that firmly believe in not playing Christmas songs until December, so now it’s finally here I’ve spent a worrying amount of time already prancing round my room to festive compilations!

5. Favourite Christmas Present

Without a doubt this would have to be my record player which my parents bought me when I was 16- an orange 70s portable Philips one which I absolutely adore. Since I was very young, we’ve always had many record players in the house as well as a jukebox, so I’ve grown up with an ingrained preference for vinyl over downloads, and this is certainly the case now I’ve started to build up my own collection.

6. Favourite Christmas Film

I’m sorry to disappoint in the fact that once again I have to choose the most obvious answers there are, but ‘Elf’ and ‘Love Actually’ are just too classic to have be beaten by any other, and the latter may be a large part of the reason I love ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ so very much.

7. Favourite Cracker Toy

I can remember many childhood Christmases longing to get the spring with the little metal ring on it (please tell me other people know what I’m talking about here). I always loved the fact that despite my youth, I seemed to be the only one who knew the ‘trick’ behind it- years later I look back and consider the very real possibility that they were simply humouring me…oh to be young and ignorant.

8. Favourite Cracker Joke

‘Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars?
Because their days are numbered.’

9. Favourite Christmas Decoration

That would easily be the terrifying “fairy” that I made when I was about 7 and my mum still begrudgingly finds space for every year. At least it has character, right?

10. Favourite Candle Smell

I’m really not a fan of anything overly sweet as a lot of Christmas scents tend to be; I lean more towards the spicy scents and my favourite this year has to be spiced apple, although the Spiced Orange Yankee Candle is also heavenly.

11. Favourite Christmas Advert

The John Lewis advert is always the most hyped up every year and never fails to impress, but this year I have to say the Waitrose advert brought a little tear to my eye. In general, the competition has definitely been upped this year and there are so many great ones if I’m honest.

12. Favourite Christmas Tradition

In our family, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are never complete without a long walk in the beautiful countryside around where I live, always accompanied by a flask of hot coffee and whatever leftovers can be found. It’s one of those traditions that I loved when I was little, despised as a teenager, and will probably pass down when I have a family of my own one day (sorry in advance kids).

13. Favourite Place to Spend Christmas

Anywhere as long as there are a lot of people- I love spending Christmas at my dads because there’s always so much of my family there and the house is so full of life, especially with my five-year-old brother and sister running around wreaking havoc.

14. Favourite Christmas Fact

According to data analyzed from Facebook posts, two weeks before Christmas is one of the two most popular times for couples to break up.. make sure you watch out for 11th December, kids.

15. Favourite Snowman Accessory

Must say this is a bit of a random question but I’d have to say the scarf as I used to have one just like in ‘The Snowman’, which is easily my favourite Christmas childhood book and which will always be a classic.

Thanks to Viola for tagging me, I’m throwing the ball out to you guys now- anyone who hasn’t already done the tag and wants to join in, feel free! As for me, I’m off to find myself a mince pie and my copy of Love Actually… happy December everyone!

Not Ready To Be An Adult

As of last Saturday I am eighteen years old, and therefore an adult.. isn’t that a terrifying thought? With my little brother and sister starting school for the first time the day before my birthday, I was already feeling a little fragile in the age department, but now I just feel goddamn ancient. I know it’s such a cliché thing to say but it feels like only yesterday that I started secondary school and now I’m finally in my final year, a lot taller, a lot happier, and hopefully at least a little bit wiser. Nevertheless- jokes from mum about how I now have to do my own washing aside- I can’t comprehend the fact that I am now a legal adult and can more or less do whatever I want. In a year’s time I will be moving out (fingers crossed) and having to think about feeding myself and cleaning my own place and paying bills and all those other things that come with being a “responsible adult”.. and that scares me to death.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited to finally be eighteen and everything that entails- this birthday has hands down been the best I’ve ever had as I’ve been lucky enough to have spent time with and been spoiled by the people I love the most in the world. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better start to adult life and I am so grateful. Having friends that are moving out for uni this week has made me long for this time next year when I will hopefully be in the same position; I am so ready to get out of this tiny village in the middle of nowhere and I’m excited for whatever the next few years will bring. Oh, and if you’re wondering why I’ve become so somber and reflective all of a sudden, that’s what adulthood does to you kids. Just you wait.

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.

Eton State of Mind

So I’m back. Three weeks later and I’ve returned from possibly the most incredible ten days at what I previously thought to be the most stuck-up and judgmental establishment in the whole of the United Kingdom, but which turned out to be not only full of beautiful red brick buildings and endless traditions, but of inspiring beaks (Etonian slang for teachers) and once in a lifetime opportunities. When my mum and I first drove up to the school, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and Eton could not have looked more breathtaking.. or more imposing for that matter. One hundred and thirty 17 year old strangers thrown into three larges houses for ten days sounds like the synopsis for a bad television show, but it soon proved to be not only bearable but actually the best experience of my life. Right from the offset, as we all mingled awkwardly drinking our orange squash, I was overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was and also how diverse the group was- there were people from as close as London, as far as Ireland and everywhere in between.

I’m not going to pretend that it was a relaxing ten days in the slightest- with three lessons a day on top of tutorial, lectures, recreation and endless tea breaks, the days were ridiculously long and many nights were spent staying up until 3am finishing that essay or this book. We were of course given some time off, with a barbeque and disco at Dorney Lake, departmental drinks at our teachers’ houses (it was unanimously agreed that the English one was of course the best), a hilarious talent show (called Speeches and based on an old Etonian tradition), and a multitude of sporting events- from netball and dodgeball tournaments to the not-so-convetional Wall Game. On top of that, us English students spent a day in London in order to see Julius Caesar at the Globe Theatre, which was an incredible experience that I’ll definitely be repeating.

The experience I had is a hard thing to describe- hence why I have taken so long to write this post- as the thing that really made it so great was the people and the atmosphere and just the aura of intelligence and interest that surrounded you. The lessons were nothing like those back home, with the idea of geeking out over original Shakespeare texts or Shelley’s diary in Eton’s library being completely normal, and the discussions being so rich and challenging in the best possible way. Being in a room surrounded by people who are just as passionate about the same things as you are is unbeatable and incredibly stimulating- my English teacher said to me that I wouldn’t want to go back to my English lessons at school, and I fear she may have been right.

I honestly can’t recommend applying for this enough for anyone who is considering applying to the likes of Oxbridge and wants to spend an intensive ten days with like-minded individuals. I met some of the most amazing people there who I could go from having deep intellectual discussions with to being in fits of giggles over the stupidest things, and isn’t that really the best kind of friendships to have? The leavers’ dinner ended in plenty of hugs and tears from everyone there- I am honestly not the kind of person to usually get emotional, but even I was a blubbering mess by the time my mum picked me up. That’s what Eton does to you, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

June Favourites

So much for the end of exams meaning a slow descent into summer relaxation.. it feels like June has flashed past my eyes in a blink and has held host to one of the most hectic months of my life- and it doesn’t stop here. From partying on the sunny beaches of Spain (which you can read about here) to attempted skydiving (we couldn’t go up because it was too cloudy ugh) and what seems like endless university open days, June has been exhausting in the best possible way.

As I’m sure you’ll have figured out by now, I can’t last a day without delving into a good book, and holidays are absolute prime reading time in my opinion. Spain was no exception and my holiday read (well, one of the four) was a recommendation from a friend- More Than This by Patrick Ness. Without giving too much of the plot away, the novel follows the story of teenager Seth who drowns and wakes up alone in his childhood town, which he finds completely abandoned. I am terrible at describing books without revealing the whole story, but let’s just say there’s a bit of sci-fi, a bit of romance, but all done in a very atypical and totally not cliché manner. Go read, now.

Even though the sun has finally graced us with her presence, this hasn’t stopped me from dragging my laptop outside to watch the next episode of my new obsession.. yes you guessed it, it’s Game of Thrones. If you read my last monthly favourites, you’ll know that I’ve been wanting to start this show for yonks but had to painfully restrain myself until the end of exams.. but now that they’re over I have definitely grasped the opportunity with both hands, managing to get through 23 hour-long episodes in a couple of weeks. It’s totally not my usual kind of thing and I only decided to watch it after not-so-gentle coaxing by a certain obsessed friend of mine, but I totally love her for it. One tip, I wouldn’t suggest watching it with your parents.

Whilst watching said tv show or reading said book, I’ve been snacking on the same things pretty much every day this month- Penn State Original Sea Salt Pretzels, fresh raspberries and orange and cranberry juice.. absolute heaven for the hot weather, nothing more to say. And what music is playing in the background, you may ask. Well, the answer to that one is easy. Recently I’ve fallen in love with acoustic covers, and I found this one a few weeks ago, fell head-over-heels in love with it and haven’t taken it off repeat since. It’s a beautiful version of one of my favourite songs- Kids by MGMT- that is deconstructed and remolded beautifully by US band Lady Danville (listen to it here) and is absolutely perfect for summer.

In terms of the whole beauty thing, I am seriously loving the Revlon ColourBurst Matte Balms. I have the colour Audacious which is a pretty scary looking coraly-orange, but is just the most incredibly vibrant and gorgeous summer shade and I wore it to death when I was on holiday. Although being a matte balm, meaning they have the tendency to show up any flaws on your lips (bit of an issue for those with dry lips like me), they are actually really moisturising compared to others of the same type. I would still definitely recommend using a lip scrub first though.. coincidentally I am planning on writing a post in the next couple of days for my favourite homemade scrub recipe so that’s a good place to start (nice subtle self-promo there Beckie).

Now that I’ve got 3 weeks off work for various things, I can actually paint my nails, which may sound like a small thing but when you work in a kitchen three times a week, it’s bliss not having to use up gallons of nail varnish remover on perfectly good, day-old nails. What a first world problem. For perfect summer shades, the Barry M Gelly Nails are definitely the place to go, with such a fab shade range and a salon-looking finish. I’ve got the colours Blueberry, Almond and Papaya, and there’s definitely quite a few more I have my eye on!

As I mentioned earlier, the month of June has been completely packed with university open days, with the most recent being the University of Leeds last Friday. Now, I’ve only ever been ‘up north’ twice in my life and never to Leeds, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.. but I was most definitely pleasantly surprised. I’m not sure if having a city as a favourite is allowed but it was just too beautiful to not give a mention to, with the university itself comprising of endless beautiful red brick buildings that are overwhelmingly reminiscent of the typical American colleges that you see in films. Now it’s just the small matter of getting the three A’s that they’re asking for..

So I think that’s it- I could be here for hours rambling about my favourite things but I guess this is just a snapshot of what I’ve been loving this month.. if you can call 800 words a snapshot that is. Now I should probably mention before I post this that for ten days starting from Tuesday I will be at a summer school at Eton College which is pretty intensive, so I’ll say now that it’s unlikely I will find time to post next week! Never fear though, I’m sure I’ll hit you with my thoughts on the experience, no holds barred, as soon as I return. Try to contain your excitement.

Summer Solstice

Living in Wiltshire, within half an hour’s drive of both Stonehenge and Avebury, summer solstice is something that is pretty widely celebrated. But somehow until this year I’ve managed to miss it for some reason or other. However, 4am Saturday morning found me sat on a bank with Avebury stone circle to one side of me, and the incredibly beautiful rising sun on the other, surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals fueled up on sleep deprivation and excessive amounts of scrumpy.

With record numbers of visitors thanks to the beautiful weather and the fact it fell on a weekend, the only way to describe the evening was magical. Fire-breathing and thunderous drumming that cut through the pitch black skies and midnight hush constructed an idyllic setting for talking to hundreds of people from all walks of life and dancing ’til dawn.

Even though there was a big police presence, I never once saw even the slightest bit of violent behavior.. the atmosphere was so laid-back and happy, with everyone united in the easily perceptible common purpose that was simply to have a good time. Stonehenge has been criticised for becoming increasingly commercialised over the years and losing its original magic, and I guess that’s probably inevitable, but there was certainly none of that apparent where we were. People told us to choose Avebury hands down, and boy were they right.