Monday, 27 June 2016

Happy Mondays #23

Monday again! This week has gone really, really fast. It was a good week of chill, catch ups with lovely friends, earning cash dollar and the weekend that dreams are made of. It was also a week of really, really horrendous train delays which made me want to scream, shout and lose consciousness. It was the week I lost faith in Britain, a nation which has not shown itself to be at all 'Great', and the week I felt more European than I ever have. So, I've spent much of this week fantasising about a time when I never have to travel on Southern Rail ever again, weeping over Brexit, and also trying to prepare myself and combat my travel nerves for South Africa. It's the beginning of the "so, I guess I'll see you when I'm back in August then" and that feels so scary and real and I don't feel like I'm ready. But hey, who's ever ready? Last week felt like the end, kind of, the end before the beginning of an adventure! And boy, was it a good end. 

The things that have made me happy this week...

1. Thursday night cocktails
There are times in your life when you learn who your real friends are. The friends that you can talk to about anything, and the friends you can go months without seeing and everything is exactly the same the next time. Thursday night was a lovely evening spent sipping cocktails in a cosy pub until closing time. It was a chance to catch up on everything and have the most philosophical of life chats with someone who knows you, cares about you, and you share so many viewpoints with. It was great. It's made me realise that those are the people you've got to keep closer, the ones that you always need to make time to see, because they're the ones you really don't want to lose! 

2. The 48%
"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all" (JFK). 
Waking up on Friday morning, I felt like I was in a dystopian novel. For a start, it was 5.30am and I did not know what was going on; and then the 'breaking news' Brexit notifications all over my phone screen made me want to curl up and go back to sleep again. But, instead, I spent an hour scrolling Twitter. In all honesty, I never thought that Brexit would happen. I never thought that were people selfish, narrow-minded and stupid enough to buy into Boris and Farage's disgusting and hateful campaign. I am certain that there are some 'out' voters who voted based on reasonable and thoughtful concerns, but I am certain that there are plenty more whose votes were driven by xenophobia, empty (and quite frankly ridiculous) promises and sheer idiocy. Now that the leaders of the Brexit campaign are coming out, already going back on their promises of NHS funding, and supporting the single market (and the inevitable European immigration that comes with it), I'm feeling a bit smug - because the 48% of us saw this coming all along. So although I am hurt and disappointed by the outcome, I am grateful for the 48%, combatting the hate, embracing the European community and being the people that so many leave voters are already wishing they were. 

3. Date day/night
Last weekend was my last full weekend in the UK for 4 weeks, and we wanted to do something special. The organisation was left up to Simon, and he smashed it. The day begun with a lazy breakfast in bed, before heading into the city to explore St Paul's Cathedral. I kind of knew you could go and look round St Paul's Cathedral, but it wasn't something that I'd really looked into - so it felt like an extra special treat to be surprised to something that wasn't already on my 'to-do in London' list. It was so good. The cathedral is beautiful inside, and even more enormous than it appears from the outside. We were both really keen to go up to the top, the gallery looking over the inside of the cathedral, before the platform on the dome outside. Turns out date day is leg day - so. many. steps. But it was worth it, a beautiful view over London in wonderful sunshine, watching the rain slowly come towards us in the distance. We visited the crypts, and learnt some more about the history of the cathedral, and how it's fared (or not fared) against the many fires it's faced! We lit some candles for our loved ones, before heading out at closing time. It was really, really good and I'd 100% recommend it. A snack pit stop to keep us going, followed by a bit shopping, soaking up the London Pride vibes and hiding from the rain carried us until the evening, when we sat down to an amazing Thai meal at Rosa's Thai in Ganton St. I think it was the best Thai food I've ever had, and the calamari blew my mind. We'll definitely be returning! A leisurely wander back to Victoria turned into an impromptu trip to Hamley's, before heading home to a warm, cosy bed! I want you forever, Saturday. 

4. Adventure Team Sunday
There's never a day with the Adventure Team pals that isn't absolutely excellent. A last minute change of plans led us to Beaver Water World in Kent...and what a place. It's not a farm, but it's also not really a zoo. It's a centre with a lot of lizards and budgies...and beavers. It was a really odd place, with a really odd vibe, and a really odd collection of animals, but it was pretty cool. We saw a beaver eating some sweet potato, a meerkat who looked like a jewellery box ballerina, a 15 stone tortoise, and an overweight raccoon. It was quite a magical experience. After all that excitement we were ready for a pub lunch, and headed further into the depths of Kent for a roast, in a pub garden, eaten whilst wearing sunglasses. If that's not a British summer then I don't know what is. It made me wish I went out for Sunday lunch every weekend, and vow to do it more often. A game of Boggle in the garden, before heading home to a dinner of cereal and an early night...what a weekend. 

Today, I have so much to be happy about. 
I hope you do too! x


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Travel Nerves

I'm a worrier. I worry about the little things, like whether my sandwich has secret butter in it or if I'm washing my hair too much; I worry about the big things, like what if I'm in a car/bus/train/plane crash or what if I never get a job and a house and a mortgage and a pug. Sometimes I worry a little bit and then I realise that it's probably not worth worrying about, and I rationalise. Sometimes I worry a lot: it starts in my head and, before I know it, I can feel it in my chest and my stomach, and it hurts. 

In less than two weeks I'm heading off to South Africa for a whole, giant, long month and I am the most confusing mix of super duper massively excited and totally petrified. I'm scared about the plane. I've never been on a long haul flight before, and I've never travelled by myself before and I'm just a bit worried. I'm not good at sitting still for ages, and I like chatting to people - so here's hoping I'm sitting next to someone who wants to chat with me for ages and stroke my hair so I can sleep. But here's also hoping that they leave me alone and don't touch me and aren't weird and creepy. I'm scared about my luggage getting lost, or going on the wrong plane, and not having enough time to pick up my luggage and check it back in when I change. I'm scared about spending 4 weeks away, because I've never been away for that long before. I don't really know what I'm scared about though, because I know everyone will still be there and things will be normal when I come back. I'm scared of getting rabies or trampled by an elephant or eaten by lion...kind of. And I'm scared of the unknown, of not really knowing what to expect, what it'll be like, what I'll do, and who I'll meet. I'm scared about stuff I can't really put my finger on. 

But, I am about to embark on a huge adventure, and do the things I've always wanted to do, and tick a thousand things off my bucket list. I'm leaving Europe for the first time ever, I'm going on safari, I'm seeing elephants, I'm travelling alone and I'm going to Africa. And I'm also really, really excited. Ever since I can remember I've wanted to go on safari and see the animals you see in the zoo that you know shouldn't really be in the zoo. I've wanted to see elephants being elephants where elephants are supposed to be elephants, and lions, and buffalos, and rhinos! I've wanted to go somewhere where I really feel like I'm away. Somewhere that isn't Italy, or Spain, and isn't like the UK but sunnier and has better food.  I've wanted to go on a long haul flight, to see what plane food is really like, and to discover whether I'm one of those people who can sleep on planes, and to watch all the films that I've not seen. I've wanted to go somewhere on my own, just to prove to myself that I can and that I'm a strong, independent woman and I can do what I like. And I've wanted to do something that scares me...properly...not just like eating a cheeseburger and hoping for the best.

So I think it's going to be good, because with everything I'm scared of brings something I'm excited about. And the more I think about it, and the more I try and rationalise it, the more I realise that I'm a lot more excited about the exciting things than I am scared about the scary things. Wish me luck, dairy free sandwiches and a trip free of rabies and full of elephants. I'm hoping to keep a kind of travel diary on here (wifi dependent), so keep an eye out and look forward to billions of pictures. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Happy Mondays #22

I'm not going to lie to you, I've been a bit sad this week. Pretty much every plan I made between Monday and Thursday either got cancelled, or just didn't happen; it rained semi-permanently; and I had a recurring dream about being chased by vegans. That, combined with the horrific news of the week, and a decision to re-watch season 3 of OITNB which just reminded me of horrible transphobia, made me an unhappy human. But then Friday came, and it was sunny, and I got to hang out with old friends and I had a really nice weekend of super chill and musical theatre and homemade paella. And now I'm happy again, even though it's raining so much, and feels like the first day of winter, not summer. 

The things that have made me happy this week...

1. Making stuff
Sometimes I wish that I had some sort of manual job, and hadn't spent the last three years of uni just thinking about stuff and writing stuff. I think about how satisfying it must be to go to work in the morning and leave having built a wall or painted a room - to really be able to see your day's work. That's why I like making stuff. I like the instant results, I like being able to see what you're doing and how it's progressing, and I like cutting and sticking. So I've started a new craft project, a surprise for Simon's birthday, but a surprise I know will inevitably look nothing like the one on the YouTube tutorial. I've already encountered a couple of problems: I spent a long time looking for a ruler, and attempted the project rulerless (bad idea), and then restarted with ruler; I bought card that was too thick and wouldn't bend into the right shapes; and I tried to double all the measurements...but then forgot to double some of them, so it's a bit topsy turvy. So wish me luck, I'm going to stick with this project and see how it turns out before I seriously consider becoming a bricklayer. 

2. Old friends
Sometimes, when you've not seen someone in years, you have the best catch-ups. You cut the crap, you don't talk about that weird thing that happened to you on the train four days ago, and you get down to the important things. It's a bit of a whistle-stop tour, but there's something quite cathartic about it, because you realise all the things you've done that are important, and all the things you've sort of forgotten because they've become part of your everyday life. The gap makes you realise how much you've changed, and they've changed, as people; how you're no longer sixth formers but actually real life adults with (or trying to get) real life jobs. It also reminds you that there are more people in your life than you think - there's not just the friends you see, or try and see, all the time, there's the ones that you catch once in a while for a coffee and a chat too. 

3. Chill Saturdays
Breakfast in bed, comfy clothes and binge-watching Daredevil with your favourite person is what grey Saturdays are for. On this rainy, cold Monday, I'm wishing that it was Saturday and we could do this all over again. 

4. Musical Theatre & talented friends
On Sunday we headed over to the Bishopsgate Institute to see my very lovely, talented friend Corey play in a performance of Ragtime. The last time I was at the Bishopsgate Institute I was about to sit my first final year uni exam, and it was a relief to walk in without crippling anxiety, and knowing I still had to sit there for three hours, but that no one expected me to do anything. I'd never seen, or even heard of, Ragtime before - and my response was that it's a bit of a bizarre musical, smushing lots of different ideas together in a sort of cohesive but also not kind of way. But the music was great. There were some incredible voices in the cast, and the orchestra was really great. There's something really heartwarming about seeing one of your friends doing something they absolutely love, and being able to see what a great time they're having. Thanks for the invite, Corey!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Father's Day

On Father's Day we celebrate and appreciate one of the most important men in our lives. The men that were there at the very beginning, and are there until the very end. The men whose name was our first word, who saw us off on our first day at school, and who, one day, may walk us down the aisle. The men that are parents, and friends, and grandparents. The men who, even when they make us angry, when we dislike them, we always love them. But Father's Day is also about celebrating the dads we had, and lost, or the ones we never knew at all. The dads who would still be here if they could, and who never had the chance to do all those 'dad' things. The dads that are with us every day, even if they're not right here next to us. The dads we think about all the time, we miss, and we wish could come back. The dads we try to make proud, hoping that they would be if they were here right now. 

I've had eighteen Father's Days without my dad, and I can't remember one with him, but it's not on Father's Day that I miss him most. This morning I walked through Marks & Spencer, looking at all the 'get ready for Father's Day' signs and posters; I looked at the cards which all had jokes about golf and beer; and none of it meant anything. I don't want my dad back so I can say thanks for being a great dad with a novelty pair of cufflinks, or a t-shirt, or a cringey card, I want my dad back so he can be at my graduation, congratulate me on getting my first job, and teach me how to put up a shelf in my first house (because I definitely do not know how). I want him back for a hug, a well done, a smile on a rubbish day. I want him to tell me that he doesn't like what I'm wearing, and worry when I go away, and meet my boyfriend. I want the good stuff and the bad stuff. I want to love him, and hate him, all at once. I just don't want to miss him. I want the dad stuff. 

But. When I feel like this I remember the five years I did have him for. I remember that it's longer than lots of other people have their dads. I remember that I was lucky to have him, if only for a short time. I remember that he didn't want to go as much as we didn't want him to, and that he would be here if he could. I remember that he didn't leave, and he isn't lost, and that I'll always have him somewhere. I remember that he bought me chicken dippers in my room when I was sent there by my mum, and he stroked my hair and told me not to cry. I remember that he wore shorts a lot, and I remember him being really, really tall. I remember him at Christmas. I remember him in the garden. I remember that he used to take me to the dump. And I remember the last time I saw him, and I try not to let it cloud the memory of all the times when he was happier, and healthier, and he wasn't going anywhere. I try to keep remembering it all, remembering now so I remember forever. 

Happy Father's Day to the dads that are here, and the dads who are not. 
The dads we love, we miss, and we'd do anything for. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Recent Reads #9

I just haven't been in the mood to read. Ever since finishing my exams, I've been fidgety, fed up with spending long days sitting still, and can't quite seem to get stuck into a good book. That, combined with my total lack of interest in reading following revision days, means that I've basically not read very much at all in the last couple of months. But that's ok, because I'm progressively filling up my Kindle ready for my trip to South Africa, and all the time spent travelling which will give me plenty of time for reading. I'm getting back in the game. The last three books I've read have been varied: one new, one that's been sitting on my bookshelf for 6 months, and an oldie - but one of my absolute favourites. 

Acts of Contrition - Jennifer Handford
I got an email from Amazon, and I downloaded it because I thought it sounded like quite a good holiday read. And I was right. I picked this up on the plane back from Copenhagen, and finished it later that afternoon, unable to stop turning the pages. As I've mentioned before, I love a novel with multiple narrators, and this novel tells the story of Mary and Tom, and their marriage, from both their perspectives. It is somewhat 'Mary heavy' but I think that was ok, and it felt like the most natural way for the story to be told. It's a novel about family, marriage and secrets, and what happens when the three are all too closely intertwined. Does a marriage make a family, and what happens when it can break a family? What is a marriage when its corrupt with secrets? How can secrets destroy a family? When Mary is forced to tell her husband a secret which has trapped her, bearing a burden on their marriage since the beginning, it all goes topsy turvy. The story is about the couple's negotiation of the secret, and whether they're able to to live with it and turn it into part of their lives. The novel wasn't complex or difficult, but it was gripping. I always wanted to know what was going to happen next, and there were twists and turns at every corner. A read for the plane, the train or the beach. 
4 / 5

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini 
When your days are spent reading about women who've been sex trafficked and the prevalence of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa as part of your revision, A Thousand Splendid Suns perhaps isn't the ideal bedtime read. But I read it anyway. This is the third time I've read this book, and it's one of my favourites: one of the most powerful novels I've ever read. The story is about two women in Kabul both, unwillingly, married to the same man. Mariam, struggling to conceive, let alone carry a son, becomes useless and Laila is introduced as a more productive wife. The women become friends, planning an escape together, but limited by and fearing the Taliban regime which imposes harsh restrictions on women. It's a story about abuse, and it's a story about women - women who are strong in the face of men who constantly try to break them. Historically and politically it's fascinating. Culturally it's disturbing, but truthful and heartbreaking. It is one of the few novels I could read over and over, touched and tortured by something new every single time. 
5 / 5

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight - Alexandra Fuller
A Christmas gift that's been staring at me from my bookshelf ever since, I was keen to read it before embarking on my African adventure. A biography, following Fuller's own life, growing up in sub-Saharan Africa - the movement from the UK to Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) to Malawi and Zambia. Fuller, known as Bobo, grows up throughout the novel, detailing the effects of the Rhodesian Bush War and the hardships and constant illness faced by her family. Her mother's battle with alcoholism and depression, fuelled by the death of Bobo's siblings is by far the most challenging and absorbing theme of the novel, but written about in a confusingly detached way. For me, it was particularly interesting since I'd not long been learning about post-colonialism and Zimbabwean land laws as part of my degree, and understanding individuals' stories within the politics and geography was really insightful. However, I found the novel quite hard work. At times it felt really quite slow, with very little progression nor any real emotional response to the history. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it, but I was interested by it. It's a good insight into that time and place, but be prepared for lots of death, disease and difficulty. 
2.5 / 5

Monday, 13 June 2016

Happy Mondays #21

Hi, it's Monday and I am no longer a student. Officially. I think that's something to be happy about in itself. No more essays or exams or perilous waiting for results, I'm a graduate and I can put BA (Hons) next to my name. Awesome. It's been a (mostly) fun week, catching up with friends, enjoying the sun...and also sitting at a desk freezing my tits off whilst it's super sunny outside because everyone else in this office seems to be having hot flushes. But hey, at least I'm not sweaty and I least I now have some money. It was also the week my brother came home from uni. He's been back less than 24 hours and I'm already anticipating heated debates about who's using the car, and why he can't wash up...but it does mean I have someone to watch Judge Rinder with now. Silver linings. 

The things that have made me happy this week...

1. Completing my degree
Sure, I finished my exams a few weeks ago, and since there's been nothing I can do to influence the fate of my degree. However, results-less, I still felt like it was lingering over me, and that I wasn't truly free of the whole thing. Friday was doomsday, and the whole day dragged. I'd looked at my watch approximately 7 billion times by the time it reached midday on Friday, so by 5pm I was so fidgety that I didn't care any more, I just wanted to know. As a very relieved Laura Warner BA(Hons) 2.1, I went out for a lovely celebratory meal, overlooking Tower Bridge, with beers and guinea hen a'plenty. What a Friday. So that's the end of an era: I'm proud that I did it, but boy oh boy am I happy it's over. 

2. Shabnam's final recital
Shabnam and I have been friends since year 9 Spanish when we bonded over each other's disgusting boyfriends. If that's not the the basis for a solid friendship then I don't know what is. This week I went to her final recital at music college, realising that in all the years of knowing her I've never actually heard her play the cello, I just knew she was good at it. If someone asked me if I wanted to sit in a room for an hour and listen to classical music then I wouldn't immediately jump at the opportunity, but watching Shabnam's recital was amazing and I loved every second of it. It must be such a terrifying experience to know your degree is resting on that one performance, and I felt so nervous on her behalf before going in. But she really had nothing to worry about. She was awesome. 

3. Sunny days in London
London is an exponentially more pleasant place to be in the sun. Unless you're on the Tube, then it's a sweaty, disgusting place to be. Luckily I wasn't, I was in Hyde Park, enjoying a lunchtime picnic date with Simon, reading, job applying, and mooching around Kensington High Street in search of sunglasses, shoe polish, and a cap which will look cool when I wear it backwards. After a few years of associating London with uni, studying and feeling weirdly guilty when I was doing stuff that wasn't studying, it was lovely to have a few days to just enjoy being there. I love how busy the London parks are when the sun comes out: from businessmen and women rolling up their sleeves and trousers as far as they possibly can to catch some lunchtime tan, to every dog owner within a 5 mile radius, to tourists venturing through on Boris Bikes. Come back soon sun. 

4. Hanging out with my best pal 
You know when your best friend lives a 4 minute drive away but you still don't get to see each other that often? That's us. A last minute change of plans has meant that we've got a whole week of hang time in Sussex together, and I'm pretty excited about it. We kicked it off on Saturday night with one of the best Thai meals I've ever had, and catch ups and Gogglebox in bed. My ambitious plans for the week are being somewhat hindered by the disgusting weather we're currently having, which does not seem to be shifting... But either way, we get to hang, we get to catch up, and we get to spend more time together than we have since we were at school! 

Have a lovely week. X

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Sky Garden

The Sky Garden has been on my 'to visit' list for years and years, and I finally got round to booking the tickets to go last weekend. The Sky Garden is located at the top of the Walkie Talkie building, and is a kind of conservatory-esque deal, with a lovely open bar and a couple of luxurious restaurants. The tickets are free, but must be booked in advance, and provide you with an hour timeslot - long enough to enjoy a drink and the beautiful views over London. The restaurant must be booked separately and you are, of course, not limited to an hour! 

We booked a 18.15 - 19.15 timeslot, ideal for pre-dinner drinks, and to see the beginning of the sunset. We arrived 10 minutes early, but queued for at least 25 minutes to get in, so leave plenty of time the make the most of your visit! We zoomed up 155 metres, and were welcomed by a glamorous, bright bar area with a viewing balcony at the front of the building. The bar menu was really extensive, and they cocktails looked incredible - but we opted for some slightly less expensive drinks and began our tour of the Sky Garden. The views are really spectacular, and you can see for miles and miles. It's a really strange feeling to go from walking through the City, constantly looking up, to looking down on all the buildings around you. It's a different perspective: there are roof gardens you never knew existed, and you can see all the twists and turns of the river. I just wish I knew what everything I could see was, all the office towers and huge buildings in the distance that looked like country mansions.

The atmosphere in the Sky Garden was perfect. There was just the right number of people to create a lively, but not busy, atmosphere, and the in house band was the perfect accompaniment. When we finished our drinks, we headed out on to the balcony where you really understood just quite how high you were! I loved it - being up so high, and feeling like you were really outside, almost up in the clouds! We asked a security guard to take a couple of photos for us, and he quite literally conducted an entire photo shoot, taking photos of us from every imaginable angle, ensuring all the notable sights were in the background of at least one picture! It was wonderful, and hilarious. Then, before we knew it, our time slot was up and our dinner reservation was calling. An hour doesn't sound like a lot, but by the time you've had a drink and a wander, there's not much else to do. I could have happily stayed for another drink, but I wasn't too disappointed about having to shoot off - especially knowing that it's free to visit and I can come back another time! I would definitely recommend the Sky Garden, and I'm looking forward to coming back another day to splash out on one of those cocktails! 

Have you been to the Sky Garden? What did you think?

Monday, 6 June 2016

Happy Mondays #20

What a weird week. The bank holiday weekend threw me, and I've spent the entire week confused about what day it is and what I'm supposed to be doing. This, combined with the fact that all the plans I'd made at the beginning of the week seemed to change times/days/weeks, left me feeling very muddled and painfully reliant on my to-do list. Such middle age. Anyway, the post-exam excitement seems to have worn off a bit now, and it's been a bit of a week of life admin: saying goodbye to my student bank account, gymming hard before I go on holiday next week, and working out how much South African currency to order. The "hey Laura, when are you going to get a job?" talks are starting, and I keep finding myself looking at all the flats I want to rent but have no money with which to rent them. I think this is what being an adult is all about. Damn. 

The things that have made me happy this week are...

1. Adventure Team weekends
Weekends with the Adventure Team are my favourite. This weekend saw a road trip to Brighton to see our favourite comedienne, Tamar (go see her!), who was, as usual, utterly hilarious and wonderful. We had a picnic on the beach, an ice cream pit stop, and spent far too long and far too many 2ps on the pier, before heading back for a sleepover! A sleepover which consisted of ready meals and a film which was just a bit too much for Emma and I, who dozed off intermittently... A super warm and sunny Sunday called for a trip to the farm, made even better by the fact it was Open Farm Sunday. Working farms all over the country held open days, and we headed off to Warren Barn Farm in Caterham. It was an afternoon of picnics, cancer-ridden horses, distressed owls, tractors, and happy volunteers with so much homemade cake. It was great though, promise. There's something about beautiful sunshine, fresh air, rolling hills and your best pals which inevitably makes for the best day out. The weekend was finished off with an ice pop, before Simon and I headed home for dinner in the garden and watching tv programmes about airports. It was such a happy weekend of fun, friends, picnics and sun! I hope summer stays forever!

2. Getting back into the gym 
I was getting so good at going to the gym: I had my personal trainer, and my routine, and it was an excellent break from all things revision. Then I spilt a cup of tea all over my leg and had it in bandages for weeks and couldn't go. BUT I'M BACK. I've been trying to go 4 times a week, and I am definitely noticing a difference. Apart from the fact that I ache pretty much all the time, I'm feeling stronger and more energised and I always seem to return from the gym craving healthy food. I can even carry a really full Tesco basket round the supermarket now, without having to put it down as kick it along the floor whilst in the queue. My aim is to be looking, and feeling, totally fit and fab by the beginning of September in time for my (late) summer holiday! 

3. Dinner with Jenny & Luke
Vegan pizza and crumble on a Friday night with friends you haven't seen for ages? Yes please. You know when you come home from an evening out, and you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and not just because you ate a lot of pizza and a lot of crumble and now you're really, really full. That was Friday night. Evenings like this make me feel like a real life grown up - when you hang out with real life grown ups, with houses and pets and jobs and life plans - and it makes me want to be a real life grown up. Sometimes. It was such a lovely, relaxed evening with tasty food, lots of laughs and wonderful company! The perfect start to the weekend. 

4. Dairy free chocolate ice cream 
Tesco now sell Swedish Glace dairy free chocolate ice cream, and the quality of my life has significantly improved as a result. It tastes like real chocolate ice cream - if anything it's a little bit less sweet, and that makes it even nicer. The only thing it could do with are some chunks... I'm resisting the urge to polish off the whole tub as I write this, and it's only 9.30am on a Monday morning. It's definitely a game changer in the dairy free ice cream world. 

Hope everyone has happy, sunny Mondays! x

Thursday, 2 June 2016

One hundredth post

One minute I started writing a blog, and the next I'm publishing my 100th post. It feels like that, right? Well, actually it's been 3 years, but only posting regularly in the last 18 months. Starting a blog felt like a really good idea at the time. I'd just finished my A Levels, and had a long summer ahead of me. I loved writing and finishing school left me at a bit of a loss: I needed something to create, to write, to keep my mind busy. But, as these things always do, it took ages to get off the ground. I had a vision of what I wanted it to look like, and then realised that I knew nothing about design or HTML or all those necessary things required to make a blog template. Over the last three years I've designed and redesigned my blog, before finally paying someone to do it properly; I've changed blog names; and I recently bought my domain name. After a few years of soul searching, or blog searching, and 100 blog posts later, I'm finally pretty happy with how it looks and what it's about. And these are my highlights... 

New blog name 
My blog was born Words Fly Up. I'd just finished studying Hamlet at A Level, and the quote "my words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go" stuck with me, and later inspired me. It made sense: this was a space for words, driven by my underlying thoughts. I wanted to write about novels and theatre, so it seemed logical. But as I carried on writing, I became more and more unsure about it. It seemed tenuous. My blog had diversified somewhat - to travel, to London, to ranting. So the new year (2016) saw a makeover. The Slant emerged from the dust of Words Fly Up, and with it came a new design and a new logo. I like it. 

Favourite posts
  • A Teenage Dream's So Hard to Beat
    This post was really clich
    é and unoriginal and the same sort of post you see on every twenty-something girl's blog. But I don't care. I enjoyed reminiscing, and thinking about the teen-twenty transition. It made me wish I was still a teenager: that there were still barn and house parties, that I could drink alcopops and it be socially acceptable, that all my friends were never more than half an hour away. But it also made me realise all the wonderful things about being a twenty-something: boyfriends aren't just on MSN, you eat meals out that aren't Nandos, and you can do fun things like drive and live by yourself and do stuff without having to ask. Bitter sweet. 
  • I loved Barcelona. It was one of my favourite holidays I've ever been on, so going back through the pictures and sharing what we got up to with you guys was so much fun for me. I've just read back through it now, and it's making me want to go back so bad. The sun, the sea, the pastries, the ham...bae. It was such an awesome trip, and I hope it inspired other people to go and visit! 
  • This was one of my favourite days ever in my life. It has been my dream for so long to go on a Safari and, knowing this but also knowing that neither of us could afford to go for real, Simon booked us on the Gold VIP Longleat Safari Tour. You're taken round by a guide in a jeep, and get to hold some animals, and see others up much closer than other guests would. It was so much fun! We had a perfect, sunny day and enjoyed a cream tea and a good explore around the Longleat estate afterwards. That post makes me want to go and do it all over again! Every day

Most visited posts

  • I finished my second year of uni, and then I met loads of prospective students, and then I got really pissed off and wrote about it. A blogger/journalist's dream is to write something and for it to actually have an effect, and I'm really proud that this post did. It was brutally honest...and it really was quite brutal. It led to me being known as 'the girl with the angry blog' at uni, and seemingly the person that loads of people then wanted to share their problems with. But thanks to some awesome and positive and proactive members of staff in my uni department, it did lead to change. We got seminars, we got pizza lunches, we got an end of year party, we got exam feedback, we got more field trips. As a result, my final year of uni was infinitely better than those preceding it, and I'm so glad I wrote this post. 
  • If there's one thing that really, really annoys me, it's people chatting a lot of rubbish about something they don't know about or have no experience of. After years of hearing Cairns slam single-sex education, solely because they present competition to his school (which in my experience has been particularly bad in reinforcing stereotypical gender roles), I'd had enough. This post generated almost 5,000 views and is week on week one of my most read posts. I feel like you have to defend the things that really mean something to you, and I was so glad that this ridiculous publicity stunt backfired on Cairns and he got the stick he deserved from so many people. 

Looking forward
So what about the next 100 posts? I'm hoping to do lots more travel posts during my Gap Year of Dreams. Providing my internet connection is good enough, I'd like to keep a kind of travel journal whilst in South Africa in July, sharing what I've been up to and some pictures I've taken. I want to keep writing about books, and doing my Recent Reads posts - mainly because I love similar posts and gain lots of reading inspiration from them! But most of all, I want to keep writing about what I enjoy, what I'm interested in, and writing when I want. I won't be scheduling my tweets or mass promoting my blog any time soon, because I'm just not interested in that. I want to write because I want to write, and if you want to read, I really like that. 

Please keep reading. I promise I'll keep writing! 
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