Saturday, 29 September 2012

Not all those who wander are lost;

Not all those who wander are lost;

I'm leaving. I leave home in around 3 days time, and I'll be leaving this blog for about 2 months (e.g., the duration of my first term). That might seem weird, but I'm really going to be cutting down the amount of time I spend on the internet when I'm at university, firstly, because I won't have time, (work, new friends(?), societies, clubs, volunterring(!), and learning to live away from home!) and secondly because this blog reminds me of being at home and anticipating university, even as far back as my post-GCSE summer. Now I'm actually going to the university I always wanted to, I want to really live my life there, rather than through this blog.

However - this is not goodbye! I will be updating at the end of every term, which, to be fair, is still every 8 weeks, after all, I can't see myself completely giving up something that's given my such a great creative outlet these past 2 years. This blog has been a bit of fun to me, I've updated it fairly regularly with pictures I've made and photos I've taken. I don't talk about politics, or even my opinions on things in particular, I do talk about my life, but I'd like to think that I haven't given away too much information about myself!

I've loved having somewhere to post anything, especially random thoughts and pictures which probably don't make sense, which act as tiny vignettes (Google it) of the past 2 and 1/4 years! I apologise at how boring some of the posts must be for other people to read, but to me they act as a straight line from the recent past to where I am today, and for that I'm happy, proud even. For once.

Next week I'll begin again, as I did once upon a time with this blog, except instead of the virtual world, with it's limitless possibilities and millions of people, it'll be the real me that steps out afresh, into pastures new, and a world in which the surroundings, people and daily timetable are different. Perhaps then, as far as "limitless possibilites" are concerned, my new university life will not be so different from the internet. Perhaps. For that reason then, or that freedom should I say, I'm not afraid, in fact, I'm excited!

“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
Carl Bard

Don't wait for me. I'll be back soon.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Edinburgh trip and my tips for Fresher's!

I think I'll start with my Edinburgh photos, consdering that I did go to Scotland 3 weeks ago, and I still haven't really sorted my photos out nicely. However, I've chosen the best of them, (I would like to point out that it was very dark some of the time when we were there, hence some of the pictures appearing so gloomy...I'd like to think that it just adds a moody atmosphere!) and here they are, showing some of the most famous and striking scenes of the Scottish capital;

Yet, due to a random turn of events, we also ended up being in Edinburgh during the hottest week in Septemeber ever recorded there - what are the chances?
Anway, some of the landmarks in the above photos are (from top); St.Mary's cathedral, Prince's Street gardens, the back of the Royal Mile (as seen from Prince's Street) and some of the oldest buildings of the University of Edinburgh. Scotland has a much more varied and interesting history than I've ever really thought about before, especially with John Know and Mary Stuart. The city was also in some parts just as beautiful as London, Oxford or Cambridge, and was a much quieter capital city than I've ever been to, but that turned out to be a very nice thing for tourists like us (the Primark in Prince's street was less crowded than my local Primark, in a pretty insignificant town!).
I've now been to the capitals of England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland all within 6 months! I think I've been to about 7 capital cities in my entire life; London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Paphos, Tunis and Palma (Majorca) that's not loads, but a lot of the places I've been to (Murcia, Barcelona, Crete, other Greek islands, Venice, somewhere in Mexico, Ibiza) are just big or famous cities that are not actually the capital of that country, although I think Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia.
So that's pretty much ended my travelling for the year, unless I win the lottery, because my student loan approval has arrived, and believe me, the lottery is the only way that I'm going anywhere in a hurry! That brings me onto my next subject, my tips for Fresher's (or should I say, Fresher's-in-waiting) which are by no means comprehensive, especially as I don't have much experience, but just a few things that I would advise any other people currently waiting to university to do;
  • Get a student back account. Several of my friends have left this very late, and may miss out on a free overdraft, which can come in very useful when waiting for your next loan installment!
  • Look in advance at which clubs and societies your university offers, and which you might like to join. Fresher's fair is going to be insane, you don't want to sign up for things in the heat of the moment, which could cost you a lot more than a whole load of annoying mail on your university email account! It could also decide what you're going to pack, like sports clothes or a swimming costume as the need may be.
  • Get ahead. If your course has a reading list, with millions of books on it, don't be intimidated. Order a couple of the cheap books from Amazon or Abbebooks or similar and look through them in the days before you arrive, it'll make you feel better about doing nothing (educational)all summer and get rid of the "I don't know anything!" panic.
  • Write a buying list and a packing list. The buying list is of things you need to get (think about the type of accomodation you're in, if you have an ensuite or a kitchen, this will be different to if you have neither, like me), and the packing list is for when you're making sure you haven't forgotten anything. Here's a great list:
  • Make friends before you go? The Student Room is great for this, you can speak to people on your course, or at your uni, weeks in advance, so that at least in some small way, you don't feel like you're going it alone. The website is free to sign up to, and you can go on it as little or often as you want, or you can just lurk on threads, if you're really scared of talking to never know, you might find your future flat-mate! This is also extremely useful, as I've been able to ask people doing my course which books are really needed, and which I can manage without, although I've still had to spend a lot of money on books, it's saved me about £20!
  • Read this article as a great point of reference:
  • And lastly - enjoy yourself! Whether Fresher's (the drinking, partying side of it people always seem to focus on) is your thing or not, the main thing to remember is that it only ever lasts for about a week, and soon you'll be back into the oh-so-familiar routine of trying to juggle studying and your social life, except you'll be living somewhere entirely new, with new friends and all of your new societies and clubs to welcome you into university life!

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Sea/ Farewell Summer

The Sea/ Farewell Summer

I probably won't see the sea or a beach until next summer...:(

Can no longer deny that summer is well and truly over. Not only is the good weather gone, but my friends are beginning to move into their university halls, as of tomorrow - good luck to them! As for myself, having ridiculously short terms means that I won't be moving out for another three weeks, which is annoying, as I'm now impatient to start (I've been away from school for nearly 4 months,!) and my friends are all leaving town.

However, the last few days have given my the chance to pause, whilst buying uni stuff (which I could leave until later, but I'd rather do now :p) and remember all of the great times I've had since my exams finished. Although I may be bored now, I think the break from such intense studying was a good idea, as I'm now interested, motivated and ready to throw myself back into full-time learning again.

This summer hasn't just been a waiting period between two stages of my life, it's given me a chance to properly relax, earn a little bit of money, travel, and do all of the nonsense that I don't allow myself time for in term-time. (You never don't have the time for something, you simply choose whether or not you're going to prioritise it with the time that you do have, in my opinion).

In recent times I've re-visited my past (went to my school's Awards evening, met up to say last goodbyes to people leaving this week, and will probably do the same next week) and got a glimpse into my future (went to my university town to get some stuff yesterday, and some more scholarship information arrived today!) but most importantly I've learnt to enjoy the present, and what's left of my time at home.

I'm still counting the days though...less than three week's until Fresher's!


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Summer 2012 Book review

The virgin suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides
Now I'm one of the "lucky" people whose university does not start until October, and therefore for me, it could be argued that I still have a good three weeks left of summer. However, I disagree with this opinion for several reasons, mainly the fact that as I currently have no job and am having to give up driving lessons due to the expense I have very little to do, aside from go out with friends and spend yet more money *rolls eyes*. See, I'm not even officially at university yet, and my financial situation means that I'm already living the student lifestyle.
Anyway, back to the main point, which is that I'm going to review my favourite books of summer 2012, which I've read from June until now, September. Some of the books are quite well known, some of them are classics or popular in modern culture (you'll see the ones I mean) but I'm going to go through the ones that have really meant the most to me, and have been the most memorable.
List of all of the books I've read this summer;
  • The Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins
  • Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
  • Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
  • One Hundreds Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Lighthousekeeping - Jeanette Winterson
  • Black Dogs - Ian McEwan
  • The Silver Blade - Sally Gardner
  • Swamplandia! - Karen Russell
  • Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  • Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
  • The diving bell and the butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ - Philip Pullman
  • Love in the time of cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The almost moon - Alice Sebold
  • The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
  • The Help - Kathryn Stockett
  • The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Scarlet Letter - Nathanial Hawthorne
  • The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  • The Remains of the day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Katherine - Anya Seton

So that's 23 books in total, I'm impressed! I obviously love reading anyway, and when I was at school, especially in the last 6 months, the only thing I read were my English lit. and History books, in particular the novels that I had to know for my Gothic exam! It's been great to spend the last 3 months or so reading fiction that I've heard many people talk about, or even just books that caught my eye, and so now I'm going to go through some of the books that I really feel are worth recommendation;

  1. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

This book is so short that no one has an excuse not to read it. It is on most GCSE English specifications, but I didn't study it at school, and so perhaps was able to enjoy it more than most people my age. However, what I really appreciated about this book was the simplicity of Steinbeck's style and the honesty of his subject. The historical background is that of the "dust bowl", in America, and the hardship and struggle of migrating farm workers (also seen on a more epic scale in Grapes of Wrath) but what affected me most was the relationship between Lennie and George, and if you've read the book before then you'll understand. It's not overly emotional, it's not described in a way that is visual beautiful, but this novel is real and expressionate, it is passionate without preaching and descriptive without being sentimental, that's the only way I can adequately summarise it, but believe me, upon completion it is easy to see why it is considered Steinbeck's best work!

2. The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides

The image for this post is designed for this book , and I have included stills from the 1990s film of the same name.

Haunting, tragic and oddly familiar, the almost unique narrative style of this book, combined with the supposedly ordinary 1970s suburban American setting has drawn me to this book again and again. The title hints at what the book is based around, and yet the strange thing is the book is as much as celebration of life as it is of death. The book is not about suicide in particular, but about the effects of a series of events on a group of teenage boys which lead up to, and continue after the suicide of Lisbon sisters. You'd think reading a novel where you already know the ending would be boring, but this is not the case, the back story and sweeping narrative commentary creates an engaging story, with comments inserted from the narrators in the future, as they collectively recount their teenage years, discussing objects that they have stored away with their memories, and moving the story forward with information regarding their personal investigation and obsession with the Lisbon girls. This book has a fantastic style, I can't stress that enough, and even if you don't like stories involving suicide or death, or teenagers in particular, there is something about the retrospective narration and bittersweet adolescence reminiscence that will hold your attention.

3. The diving bell and the butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby

Another short book which had the ability to make me fall back in love with life again. It is based on a true story, and it was written by a man who, after suffering a terrible stroke, can only use his eyelids to blink and communicate with the outside world. If you have ever felt alone inside your head then this is the book for you. There is a residing, melancholic tone throughout the narrative (which I'm sure readers will forgive given the context) and yet you will not look at your boring, nine-'til-five rountine in the same way again after reading this incredible story and simply being grateful for the fact that you are indeed alive. The book shows how it is possible to remain stationary and yet travel to a thousand places, and to be immobile and yet in full flight in your imagination. It's a book about triumph and disaster, about guilt and innocence, fate and determination. It is one of the most personal and (perhaps confusingly) universal books I have ever read.

4. One Hundreds Years of Solitude & Love in the time of cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I have grouped these two books together because I love the way that Marquez tells a story, and the things I liked about each book are common to them both. Personally, I preferred the plot in Love in the time of cholera  and some of the characters in One Hundreds Years of Solitude as bizarre as that seems. Marquez has the ability to make you completely change your mind about a character, to switch allegiance between lovers, to see two sides of an internal conflict, reflected in the violence which was based on the Columbian civil war. The magical surrealism in One Hundreds Years of Solitude is astounding, but I have to say that the repetition of character names through different generations became very hard to follow! Love in the time of cholera is a spirited story which cannot be labelled as a straightforward romance, but rather as a chronicle of the struggle of two people to accept their love for each other, in varying circumstances and through the very separate paths of their lives. The narration in these novels switches between dreamy prose, depicting images of vibrant colour, and sharp dialogue, in which much more is implied than is ever spoken.

5. The Scarlet Letter - Nathanial Hawthorne

People should not be put off this novel by the fact that most people have claimed to have read it (in reality they've just seen the film with Gary Oldman and Demi Moore in it and presumed that it is a true replication of the book!) or that the story was written nearly 200 years ago. The novel is still as accessible today, even for teenagers, and the writing style is really not a barrier - in fact I found Dracula written in 1897, much harder to understand in places - and some of the detail and emotion seems even more poignant today without the cliched similes of today's writing. Ultimately this is not just a Hollywood love story, it's about religion versus morality, the justice of crime and punishment and the harsh reality of life for those who first settled in America. The story focuses around the isolation and exclusion of a woman from a community, and a man from himself. It will challenge your perception of right and wrong, and reminds us that in several hundred years we will be questioning what is supposedly above repute today.

6. The Remains of the day - Kazuo Ishiguro

If you like Downton Abbey, or feel that in a past life you lived and worked in an old English house, than you'll love this book as much as I did. Or, if you enjoy stories about memories, and memory itself, and if you like reading about people who are so clearly trying to make a future out of a near-forgotten past. The book is told through the lofty and matter-of-fact narration of an aging butler, who reflects on his life of service, and that of his father too. It could be read as a love story, but to be honest it is more a tale of missed opportunities and of regret, and the type of revelation that can only come to us later in life. Ishiguro sets all of this against the backdrop of the English West country, and in the aftermath of the second world war, in which the lines of friendship and international relations have become irrevocably blurred. Using a type of personal reflection and quiet contemplation that made Never Let me go such a success Ishiguro engages the reader in a very English and entirely absorbing fictional memoir.

7.  Katherine - Anya Seton

Written in the 1950s and based around the life of Katherine Swynford, a 12th century noble, you may think that I've put too much of my personal interest in history into this choice. On the other hand, I would argue that this historical romance, although not 100% accurate, is incredibly well researched for its time, I actually liked that mentions of fleas and various diseases and dirt feature because in so many modern historical fiction it seems that whilst all of the pageantry of medieval life is preserved, the real-life details are neglected. This book works on several levels, on one level it is a simple rags to riches tale with some historical truth, on another it is a romantic version of the life of the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, but surpassing all of the emotions and quasi-historic facts, my favourite part of this book was the journey that the character of Katherine goes on, in the life that Seton has imagined for her. The book, in this case, might well have been about any female, real or imaginary, but for me the historical background and reference to dramatic events in English history (the Black Death, the Peasants' Revolt of 1381) made it a truly memorable read.

If you agree/ disagree with any of my opinions on these books, feel free to comment! Also, if you have read anything especially good this summer, including some of the books I've read and didn't talk about in detail, let me know!