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.

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.

And Finally It’s Over

Yes, I’m talking about the seemingly never-ending exam season that everyone else seems to have finished weeks ago. As of Thursday, I’m free of exams for another year and it’s the best feeling in the world! As much as it sucks that I am already back at school and starting my A2 courses, I’m basically pretending it’s already the summer and this one is going to be a good ‘un- hectic but incredible.

For me, and I’m sure for a lot of others, summer is exciting not just for the warmer weather and lack of school, but for the huge expanse of free time that you can fill with exciting experiences. I’m the kind of person that is easily bored by routine and monotony in my life, and summer is the perfect time to be completely free to eradicate this… even if my tendency to love my bed and the internet too much can often lead to me not sufficiently appreciating it!

Summer is almost like another New Year, with my list-loving self writing resolutions about what I am determined to achieve by the time September rolls back around. As I’m sure you may have already guessed, this- as resolutions notoriously do- often fails to actually translate into reality and I’m left spending two weeks solid watching all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad (also known as my post-GCSE summer). I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said this previously; but this year is going to be different.

A lot of my list includes things from my bucket list, but I know that  a lot of these aren’t really realistic at  this point in time. However, I do have a few things on  the cards; from skydiving to possible wing-walking and bungee jumping, as well as holidays and Reading Festival, it should be a good summer. On top of that, I’ve managed to somehow get into a two week summer school at Eton College to study English at the start of July, which I am excessively excited about, and also have work experience at a big PR company in London.

Just to clarify, I’m not trying to show off here about all the great things I’m getting to do this summer- almost everything on there is being paid for by myself with money I’ve saved up over the past two years from my job. There’s nothing more important to me than to experience as much as is possible and to miss as little of the world as I am physically capable of. I’m not going to lie, I have been so inspired by people like Louis Cole, who is one of my favourite youtubers of all time, and who has the most incredibly open outlook on life and seems to get so much out of it in return (he’s buying a plane to turn into a house for christ’s sake). I know a lot of people really won’t care about this, and are perfectly happy to spend their lives solely in contact with the ordinary, but annoyingly (for both my brain and my bank balance) I just can’t be content like that.