Paper Views: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I know that my blog has kind of been all over the place this summer thanks to a dangerous combination of my various trips and general laziness, but hopefully now that I’m back at sixth form for my last year of school (eek) I can get back in the swing of things, and the holiday has meant that I’ve plenty of books of which to impart my professional opinion on for you. The first of these, and one that I wasn’t exactly eagerly anticipating reading, was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, one of the classics that was suggested reading for my A2 Literature course. Now, I don’t know if I’m the only one that had these preconceptions, but I was expecting this to be one of those novels full of wishy-washy lovey-dovey characters without any real plot line that anyone of our time can relate to (yes, this is exactly what I thought about Pride and Prejudice). I have to say, a few pages in and I was pleasantly surprised- the protagonist and the book’s namesake is a women who is independent-minded right from childhood and finds her way in the world without the help of any man- something that is refreshing to see in a book of that era.

It’s not until at least halfway through the story that you start to see a romance forming, and it is certainly not one of nature typical of romance novels; Rochester is moody and brooding and actually kind of ugly- something which only serves to make the characters more humbling and relatable. Described as something of a gothic novel, Jane Eyre definitely has more depth to it than the perhaps more commonly read Pride and Prejudice, and if you were going to read one of the two I would certainly recommend the former. Whilst I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite book that I’ve ever read, it completely surpassed my expectations and managed to be funny, gripping and profound in ways that I never expected. Definitely one to add to the bookshelf.

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Rhythm and Views: Best of Reading 2014

We all know by now how much I love to ramble about bands I love so, as promised, I thought it was time to carry on that tradition in the form of my Reading 2014 highlights. If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I was lucky enough to go to Reading this year and now, with a couple of weeks of sleep behind me (although still with an annoyingly persistent collection of illnesses and bruises), I feel I can properly look back on the weekend.

First off, it wouldn’t be right to start with any other than my beloved Arctics, who unsurprisingly smashed it. My friends and I were right near the front before they came on but decided to move further back so we could actually breathe- let alone dance- and I am so glad we did, as I think such a large part of enjoying a band is having a good crowd (yes I’m talking to you, crappy Vampire Weekend audience). From the opening riff of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ I just knew it would be a good’un; Alex was on point all the way through with his perfectly calculated obnoxious charm and the crowd were lapping up his every word. In terms of the setlist, they played ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ which I’ve always wanted to see live, but I can’t help feeling they missed some of their best hits- namely 505, Mardy Bum and Pretty Visitors (probably my favourite live track when I saw them on their AM tour). It’s hard to compare their Reading performance to seeing them at their own show; the latter was probably more slick and technically perfect, but you just can’t beat the amazing festival vibe and a fantastic crowd ten times the size.

One band who have definitely thrown themselves into the industry head first thanks to Reading has to be Catfish & The Bottlemen, who’ve managed to sell out their tour even before the release of their debut album (I’m still bitter that I missed out on tickets). I know they’re going to be huge, and I can’t be more happy that I got to see them in the tiny Festival Republic stage with one of the best crowds of the festival- complete with a naked crowdsurfer, egged on by the band themselves to “take it off, take it off!“. On straight after Catfish came King Charles, hands down my favourite act from 2000 Trees last year; nothing makes me want to dance more than his music does. Fab music, fab voice and even fabber hair- what more could you really ask for?

Now I’ve always been a fan of Cage The Elephant from their ‘Aint No Rest For The Wicked’ days, but I can’t say I’ve listened to a lot of their newer releases (my beautiful signed Shake Me Down picture vinyl is still unashamedly one of my favourite possessions). The same cannot be said for one of my friends though, so at her request we elbowed our way to near the front and I ended up counting it  as hands down one of my favourite acts of the festival. Definitely will be seeing them again sometime in the future. The end of Cage’s set meant a quick dash back to the main stage for Foster The People- I’ve been wanting to see them live for four years now and I’m still pretty amazed that I finally have. I know a lot of people aren’t fans but I really don’t get that- Mark Foster’s voice is just to die for and everything about their music is so happy, especially at a festival- nothing beats being in the middle of a crowd belting out some indie-pop lyrics as the sun slowly sets behind the stage.

I could go on for weeks about every band I saw at Reading, but I think (know) I would probably lose every subscriber I have, which is probably best avoided. I  just had to give a particular mention to a few bands that particularly stood out or I was especially impressed by- as I said before, any chance to ramble about music is a chance that I never fail to grasp with both hands. As I’m sure you’ve gathered.

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.