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.

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.

No Place Like London

I don’t think I would be a true Brit if I didn’t say that I love London; it’s the symbol of our country and let’s face it, it’s an incredible city. There’s a guy called Samuel Johnson that said “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford” and I have to say I agree with this. It’s a place filled with the prospect of great things-a place where dreams happen, as cliché as that sounds. My favourite thing about London though, is the variety which you find. No matter what kind of person you are or what your idea of fun is, you’ll find it in this fast-paced city that never sleeps.

I actually got the chance to go to London with my mum and stepdad yesterday, hence my decision to write this. As someone who goes to London a fair bit and loves to find new places to obsess over, I thought it might appropriate to share some of my favourite places that I went to yesterday..

 

carboot

 

1) The Classic Car Boot Sale

As my mum and stepdad run a vintage clothing and homewares business, every place we visit involves vintage fairs- without fail. This trip was no exception, so we found ourselves at the Classic Car Boot Sale, outside on the most beautiful day of the year so far. It was a lovely morning and they had loads of really interesting stalls. As you can see above, they also had some beautiful old cars, bikes and scooters- half of which I wanted to take home with me. With thousands of visitors, music playing and the beautiful weather, there was a great atmosphere and I really enjoyed myself even though I didn’t buy anything. Although this was only the second one of these fairs that has been done, they are definitely worth checking out to find the next date if you like this kind of thing!

 

tea and crumpets

 

2) Good & Proper Tea Company

I love tea as much as any other English girl, so when I saw a van advertising tea and crumpets I didn’t hesitate long in going over and ordering a cup of darjeeling and a fresh sweet  crumpet with rhubarb jam.  At 10am this is exactly what I wanted and the woman who served me was the cutest and most helpful thing ever, she helped me decide from their fantastic range of teas (getting excited about tea makes me sound so sad but I don’t really care ok). They set little timers to ensure your tea brews for the optimal time which, as a sucker for effort, I find adorable. Plus the crumpets are to die for.

 

south bank

 

3) Southbank

Famed for it’s skating park, Southbank is a lovely stretch of London along the River Thames. With beautiful views across London and right next to the London Eye, it seems to be almost the central point of the city. There’s also always stalls and other things going on which makes it a lovely place to walk along, especially on a beautiful day like yesterday.

 

breakfast club

 

4) The Breakfast Club, Spitalfields

This next find is thanks to Carrie Fletcher, whose video a few weeks ago told of how much she loved this place, and after googling it I really wanted to check it out. As if being named after one of my favourite films wasn’t enough, this place serves breakfast (my favourite meal of the day) all day- what could be more perfect? Selling everything from full English to Spanish specialities to American pancakes and berries, this cafe can’t go far wrong. Unsurprisingly for those who know me, I opted for the latter option with extra bacon of course, and a virgin apple mojito (both pictured above). Although I felt ready to burst afterwards, it was hands down the best breakfast I have ever eaten. Team this with the fact you have to get to the toilets (wallpapered with My Little Pony and years of graffiti) by going through a fridge, and you might have an idea about how cool this place is. Aside from moving in, the next best thing you can do is go visit one yourself and see what all the hype is about. Find them at http://www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com/

 

brick lane

 

5) Brick Lane

Brick Lane, apart from Camden, is probably my favourite place in London. It’s basically vintage heaven, with about 3/4 shops packed full of gems at pretty good prices for the most part. Aside from this, it’s a beautiful place full of street art, which is one of my favourite things about London (I’m determined to get a street artist to paint the inside of my house when I am older). It is an area full of creativity and youth; always full of depressingly cool and beautiful people.

 

shops

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) Beyond Retro & Blitz London

These are my two favourite vintage shops in existence, and they both have branches on Brick Lane, which makes me love them even more. I first found Beyond Retro when I was in Brighton with a friend a couple of years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since, going every time I am in London. Both of these shops are great for building up essentials, with hundreds of similar items in varying colours, it’s dead simple to find way too many things that you want to buy. Definitely worth visiting if you like that sort of thing, find them at http://www.beyondretro.com/en/ and http://www.blitzlondon.co.uk/

 

There are many more places I could rave about; London is full of hidden treasures that just need searching out. These are just a few that I visited yesterday and wanted to share with you, some of which I wouldn’t have known about without the likes of Carrie so what kind of person would I be if I didn’t pass them on? I’ll probably post some of these photos on my Instagram too so go check that out if you want to, otherwise that’s it until next time!

Beckie x