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.

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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.

 

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.

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.

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.

Escape To The Sun

I’m hoping from the title and photos you can already figure out what my inevitable excuse for not posting when I was supposed to is. I arrived home from Spain on midnight on Monday and was at a uni open day all day yesterday, and being my usual disorganised self, I didn’t make time to write before I left or schedule a post for while I was away.. oops. Either way, I’m back home for the busiest couple of months in a long time and I am giddily excited (all in good time, people).

Although I don’t actually have my last exam until tomorrow, Spain was an amazing chance to completely and utterly unwind on a deserted beach in the baking sun by day, and accompanied by live music and mojitos by night. For a typically ghostly-skinned redhead like myself, the sun is as much a foe as a friend and seems to completely disregard the effort I go to in order to slather every inch of exposed skin in sun cream. Nevertheless, the warm weather was a perfect remedy to all the exam stress that has been building up over the last few months, seeing as the UK has unsurprisingly failed to provide us with more than a couple of days of bare-legs weather.

We stayed in a town by the sea about an hour from Barcelona called Calella (a large part of the trip was spent eavesdropping on people to try and find out how to pronounce it correctly- turns out it’s cal-ey-a for anyone wondering). Although this kind of touristy town is completely unlike the usual kind of holiday we opt for- we’re normally the cute villa in the middle of nowhere types- there was actually a festival on that my parents wanted to go to, and I’m never one to say no to live music! From impromptu jam sessions to all night beach parties, I can honestly say I had the best time.

Holidays like that make me appreciate so much the fact that I get to go to beautiful places and experience incredible things; I honestly believe that travel is one of the most enriching and fulfilling things a person can do with their life. The excitement of exploring somewhere completely new is second to nothing, whether that just be visiting a new town near you or travelling round the world.

I must say I do love being back to sleeping in my own bed though…

May Favourites

So it’s that time again where I wonder at how fast time is going, complain about the British weather’s apparent disregard to this, and ramble about the things I’ve been loving recently. This month has been centred around the dreaded exams and not a lot else, so anything that has acted as a form of distraction or relaxation has been greatly appreciated.

My primary source of procrastination is, of course, a good book. This last week I have started reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and it’s just one of those books that immediately grips you; it may be confusing but the characters manage to make a seemingly boring story line so much more complex and intriguing. I’m awful at describing books but long story short (I’m going to ignore that perfect pun opportunity), I really like it and know it won’t be long until I finish it, and will probably end up writing a full review if I can think of some more literary-related adjectives. I find Virginia Woolf such an interesting woman and reading her work really starts to give you an insight into why she was such a leading figure and Mrs Dalloway is definitely one of those books that everyone should read.

I am one of those people that can’t revise without music playing in the background, and this month I’ve been loving a whole load of summery indie pop/rock kind of songs that can’t help but put a smile on your face. I have my summer playlist on Spotify including songs from the likes of Crystal Fighters, Young The Giant and The Mowgli’s, but probably my newest and biggest obsession is New Politics. Their song ‘Harlem’ is without a doubt one of my songs of the summer that gets me shamelessly dancing around my AS Politics notes and you can listen to it here.

I have to be honest and say that I don’t have a TV favourite this month at all as I’ve been trying my best to actually do the revision thing and I know that as soon as a start a new series there is no way of preventing myself from watching twenty episodes a day. I have so many lined up to watch as soon as my exams are over (next week, praise the lord)- the first being Game of Thrones, so that might well end up making it’s way into my June favourites.

In terms of films, I have to give a mention to one of my favourite films that is probably the biggest teenage white girl cliché ever, but it’s just one of those movies I can watch over and over and it makes me laugh and cry every time. Perks is a beautiful book and the film really does it justice as far as it can, making a perfect post-exam watch. Plus it has two of my favourite actors, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, so what’s not to love?

On to beauty, and the Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean Deep Cleansing Milk has been my savior for bad skin reversal; since using this my face has got a whole lot clearer and it’s definitely down to this. I never really hear people talking abut this particular product in the beauty world, but for me it’s just perfect and has the most gorgeous smell.. and not to forget their ever-adorable packaging! Sticking to the skincare theme, my super dry skin has completely turned around this month thanks to the wonderful shop assistant in The Body Shop who spent a long time trying to find the perfect product for my skin, and eventually settled on the Aloe Soothing Day Cream. If a moisturiser could be described as thirst-quenching, this would be the one. As is typical when coming into summer, I’ve been loving using salt spray for that kind of beachy I-just-woke-up-this-fabulous look, and this month I’ve especially been liking the L’Oreal Matt & Messy Shine-free Salt Spray. It’s super cheap, super volumising, and just an all-round summer essential for me.

I’m sure most people already know about Graze boxes- but for those that don’t, they are small boxes that you can order one-off or regularly that are filled with delicious and healthy snacks that are literally heaven to snackers like me. Now, I know that these are pretty expensive for what they are which is why I sadly stopped my regular box, but through the exam period I’ve found myself craving these delicious treats and keep ordering boxes.. oops. My favourites of what I’ve tried so far have to be the black pepper popcorn and the boston baguettes.

Last but not least, my final two favourites are places that I’ve been recently with my dad, step-mum and half-brother and sister who are four and the most adorable yet patience-testing creatures known to man. With the nice weather (ish) we’ve been to both Westonbirt Arboretum and Cotswold Wildlife Park in the past few weeks, both of which are beautiful places to get outside with the family. I find that especially when I have exams, I spend way too much time indoors and it’s incredible what a few hours of fresh air can do for not only your physical well-being, but also your motivation and general mental state. And that’s coming from someone who generally prefers the company of YouTube videos to venturing into the outernet.