Friday, 28 December 2012

The pointlessness of New Year Resolutions

 

Every year the majority of us seem to follow the same routine. We stuff ourselves silly over the Christmas period and drink far too much...which is fine because it is all in the name of celebration. 'Oh well, it's Christmas' is the phrase that I tell myself over and over again in those two days but as soon as we get to the 27th, what we have consumed finally hits us. And so the guilt ensues.

But how convenient...a week later and we have a brand new year beginning where anything is possible. So many people decide that they are going to become brand new people to fit in with the new date. Funnily enough though, despite what everyone may think, we can't actually change who we are, however much we want to. Sorry, sorry...I know we all want to be the perfect person. Odds are though, we aren't. And there's not a lot that we can do to change that.

I don't mean to be depressing. On the contrary, you shouldn't feel the need to try and be perfect because people should accept you for who you are. Unless you are a bitch, in which case there is no hope for you. People are fixated on this view of perfection and therefore use the new year as a stepping stone, believing that anything is possible. But I am sorry to tell you that January 1st is just like any other day.

This is why I believe that New Year Resolutions are pointless. If you are really that bothered about making a difference, or getting fit or going on a diet or achieving anything, why not start straight away? Instead of waiting for a convenient point. Most people just say anything to be in keeping with tradition and this is why they fail. Because they don't really mean it, they just try for a little while to make themselves feel better and follow the crowd. If you do mean it, don't hesitate. Start this instant and then you can begin to change the world.

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Monday, 24 December 2012

Charlotte and Lizzie's Movie Countdown to Christmas

 
So after my very moral post about Christmas the other day, I am now going to be slightly hypocritical to tell you all about mine and my sister's Christmas countdown. Basically we sat down and picked all our favourite Christmas movies, then watched one of them per day leading up to Christmas. And this is what we came up with!!

Tuesday 18th December - The Grinch
I have never been that much of a Dr Seuss fan - it was all just a little too whacky for me. But this film was actually quite heart-warming with a very endearing baddy.

Wednesday 19th December - Home Alone
The beginning epitomised the very definition of the chaos that goes on at Christmas time which resulted in poor little Kevin getting left behind as the family travelled off for their vacation. Over the course of the movie, the family all discover what they truly mean to each other, just in time for Christmas Day while in the meantime an 8 year old outwits two adults

Thursday 20th December - The Polar Express
A group of children go on the most adventurous train journey ever to the north pole where they meet Santa and learn to believe in the wonder of Christmas again.

Friday 21st December - The Holiday
Two women who have been unlucky in love swap lives and manage to find their perfect men in the most unlikely of places

Saturday 22nd December - Love Actually
As I went on and on about in my previous blog post, I believe love to be the most important emotion that should be celebrated at Christmas. And this film is absolutely full of it!

Sunday 23rd December - Arthur Christmas
This is my favourite Christmas movie ever! Love everything about it, saw it twice in the cinema last year and I believe it is a very clear representation of the real Santa Claus. (Just kidding)

Monday 24th December - Rise of the Guardians
Not really a Christmas movie at all but this brand new film which is in the cinema at the moment still promotes everything good about Christmas - love and friendship and trying to save the world as Santa Claus unites with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost to save all the children from the Boogie Man. Have seen this one twice in the cinema as well - I am obviously still a child at heart.

I do love Christmas films a lot - they are always filled with heart-warming amounts of love and happiness that is very refreshing. Not many films actually bother with those emotions any more. So I hope you watch a huge amount of these great films over the festive period and have a wonderful day tomorrow. Merry Christmas to you all.

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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Is christmas becoming too commercial?


Christmas is one of the best times of year and one of my personal favourites. I love absolutely everything about it except for maybe one little thing. The fact that, these days it starts in October, if not even earlier. The question as to whether shops have made it one massive corporate machine is THE big question that everyone debates every single year. But there is a very straightforward answer - yes, unfortunately it now has become far too commercial.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that everyone should be all Christian about it. If that's not your belief than nobody should push it down your throats and anyone should be welcome to join in the festivities if they want to. However, it is a Christian festival and it sometimes surprises me when other religions jump into it so wholeheartedly. Which makes me think that maybe everyone has forgotten what Christmas truly is about?

But I don't really want to go on about Christianity and Jesus for this whole post. Although I am a Christian, I am not a practicing one so let's think about what else we embrace at Christmas, apart from the material items. I think the true meaning of christmas, is to embrace love. It is the most important of the emotions and everything about christmas can be said to be done out of love. We cook for each other, give each other gifts and actually make the effort to spend the full day together. I don't know about you guys, but this is rather a rare occurrence in my family and I love actually being able to spend time with them. In everyday life it is so easy to have it all overtaken with other things so I don't see a lot of them on a day to day basis. Especially when I am away at university so this is a nice treat for me.

Christmas makes me appreciate them so much and be thankful for who they are, something which I know I definitely don't do enough during the year. So maybe this should be encouraged to be viewed as the true meaning of christmas. It shouldn't be stressful worrying about whether you have purchased the right calibre of present or bought enough food or spent hundreds of pounds on overpriced alcohol...you should simply be able to relax with the people who you love and enjoy spending time with them. If this becomes the main focus of christmas, then maybe we would love it all that little bit more.

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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Why I love the north

Before this weekend, the furthest north I had ever been was Birmingham. But now I am proud to say that I have actually made it properly up north after spending the entire weekend in Manchester. And I had an absolutely amazing time. The north is incredible.
This vibrant fun city is just so full of life and the people are actually friendly. Unlike the south where everyone thinks they are better than everyone else and looks down their noses at you.
The main thing that we seemed to do this weekend was walking. The majority of the time we were just wandering around looking at things such as buildings. And then we wandered around the inside of them as well. But in such a short space of time, we did actually manage to fit quite a lot in. We visited both Manchester Uni and the Royal Northern College of Music as well as each of their unions. We did the cultural things of visiting an art gallery, the cathedral, John Ryland's Library. We went shopping in the biggest shopping centre in the UK, wandered around the Christmas markets, and sampled the joys of northern pubs =] All in all was definitely a fabulous weekend and I have decided I am a little in love with the north.






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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Hugely underrated artists that you have to listen to


Basically I went to a gig the other day and it's one of the best I have ever been to. The singer was so talented - much more so than many of the generic famous ones that we hear every time we switch on the radio. And because he wasn't quite as big as them, it was a really small intimate gig that was just perfect. So it made me think about who else I would like to see like that before they get the recognition they deserve and become absolutely massive (and expensive). So if you are a fan of singers like Newton Faulkner, Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard, Mumford and Sons, Norah Jones and Jason Mraz check out these slightly lesser known artists who I think you should see.

7. Jon McLaughlin
I believe he is a lot bigger in the US than he is over here. But he sings the most amazingly cute songs. He opened for Kelly Clarkson in 2007 and appeared in the Disney film Enchanted with Amy Adams and Patrick Demsey singing 'So Close' at the ball at the end.

6. Frank Hamilton
Currently writing a song a week which he started in January and is continuing throughout the whole of 2012. It has earned him recognition and praise from the likes of Ed Sheeran. And I am not surprised, they are all pretty amazing. So look out for them every Friday =]

5. Gabrielle Aplin
She found relative fame recently at the ITunes festival...beware other people are catching on to how good she is. See her before everyone else knows.

4. Parachute
Listen to Forever and Always. Best. Song. Ever. That is all.

3. Lucy Rose
Her voice is stunning in a laid back understated kind of way, quite similar in tone to Eva Cassidy. She has toured with Noah and the Whale and have both supported and sung with Bombay Bicycle Club. But she is stunning in her own right and recently released her own album. Buy it now. You won't regret it.

2. Nina Nesbitt
Quirky, cute and absolutely perfect. She has toured with Ed Sheeran on his latest tour who is hugely complimentary of her. Her songs are catchy and you just can't get them out of your head. Love her.

1. Joe Brooks
I could literally talk about this guy for the whole post. I saw him live the other night and he is literally the most amazing, beautiful singer in the world. Not only is he unbelievably hot but he is just the most amazing singer. He writes wonderfully cute songs and you can tell he is one of these people who actually really feels everything he is singing about. He's the definition of talent and hugely underrated. So make sure you see him, if no one else on this list.

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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Why does anyone bother to be a teacher?


For anyone who undertakes any kind of teacher training course (whether this is BEd, PGCE or GTP), this is a very valid question that doesn't occur to us prior to actually starting the course. Because, contrary to popular belief, teaching is HARD. Yes we get long holidays off but that is the only truth amongst all the myths. Of course, we do get the weekends off as well but those are spent planning. So, technically, you can count those as work days. It is also not true that we only work 9am-3pm. I am only a trainee and I was in school from 8am-6pm most days. And I still had work to do when I got back home. I dread to think the kind of hours I will be working, when I have complete control of my own class.

Believe it or not, the hours in front of the class are the fun and easy bit. The aspect that people don't seem to take into account at all, is all the planning and preparation that goes on beforehand. This is what takes up the majority of my time. And it is made so much worse by the fact that the government constantly meddles with what the teachers can and can't tell the children, what should be included, the rate that children should progress (despite the fact that this is a very personal thing that shouldn't be generalised) etc etc etc. They, from their cosy little offices, dictate how schools should be run and leaves the teachers to struggle through the ensuing chaos. Something that I don't think I will ever be able to fully accept. But you don't find all this out until you actually start the job.

So it begs the question, why does anyone go through all the stress of training to be even more stressed while they are working. And the answer is quite simple: because of their love of children. Not in a creepy rapey kind of way but, when it goes well, working with kids can be absolutely amazing; rewarding, hilarious and hugely satisfying when they successfully grasp what you want them to. I have always said that being in the classroom with the children is the bit that I really enjoy. It's just everything else which I dislike. So this holiday I have been teaching some instrumental music lessons and absolutely loved it. I have been able to dictate how and what I want to teach and the pace they should be progressing at. No one is breathing over my shoulder, telling me that I am doing it wrong or that I should be teaching different things....making it much more enjoyable for both teacher and pupil. Maybe I should take this and personal tutoring up as my career instead!

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Friday, 7 September 2012

50 shades of crap? Or should I say genius?


As an English student I would say that on the whole, I tend to read pretty cultural books. Either classics that I have been forced to read, classics that I feel I should read or chick lit that I am reading to give myself a break while, at the same time, researching the market (as I want to be a chick lit author).  But at the beginning of this summer, (like so many women around me) I got seduced by a new craze that has crudely been named ‘clit lit’ which has swept through our nation.  And it all began with one little piece of writing that originally started its life as Twilight fanfiction.  I don’t think even the author could have predicted just how big 50 Shades of Grey became, outselling even Harry Potter within a few months.  I don’t know whether that says more about the book itself or about the females that populate Britain.
50 shades of grey tells the story of university student, Ana Steele who by chance meets multimillionaire Christian Grey.  Of course, she is immediately dazzled by his amazing looks and he is intrigued by her innocence.  So they then have a ‘relationship’ of sorts where he reveals some very particular sexual tastes and she spends the rest of the book trying to decide whether she loves it or is terrified.
What is most confusing about the trilogy is that, despite its huge popularity, the writing itself is actually pretty poor.  The descriptions are dull, the conversations are repetitive and the plot is somewhat unrealistic.  Furthermore, the formation of the characters is extremely weak.  You reach the end of the novel knowing very little more about the characters than you did at the beginning.  By the end of the third one you do know a bit more, particularly about Christian but all that you find out about Ana is that she is intensely annoying and gets angry about little things that don’t actually matter at all.  James took far too much effort in trying to make her feisty, so much so that her argumentative nature just seemed a little obtuse.

Yet still we read it which I can only put down to a fairly enticing plot and even though you can guess the end, you do want to see whether or not the characters manage to settle down nicely.  On top of this it is quite educational on how you shouldn’t write a novel and includes every single ‘don’t’ that is on a teacher’s tip list (take that from a trainee teacher).  However, if you are willing to ignore this and are desperate for something relaxing to read that takes no brain power at all, then this is definitely for you. So sit back and enjoy…but not too much.
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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Avengers vs The New Avengers

This year has seen an amazing number of  massive blockbusters hit our cinema screens to the joy of cinema geeks, such as myself. These included Men in Black III, The Avengers, Spiderman, The Dark Knight Rises and sometime in the near future, Superman is jumping on the sequel bandwagon as well. I can proudly report that I have seen every single one, despite not having viewed any of the previous ones in any of the series. I guess I will have to watch them all backwards.

It did get me thinking though...what if all the superheroes got together to form their own alternative Avengers group....made up of Agents Jay and Kay, Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle and Clark Kent. Against Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Clint Barton, Thor and Natasha Romanoff of the original avengers group. Who would win?

The first thing that the New Avengers (N.A) would do is break up The Avengers because they are so much stronger as a team, than when they are on their own. Each of the N.A would then take up battle against only one of the avengers apart from Agents Jay and Kay who stuck together to take down Clint Barton pretty quickly effectively stopping him from picking off the rest of their group one by one. They would then work hard and manage to get Bruce Banner into a space prison where he can't harm anyone before they return to the battle and are promptly killed by The Black Widow in revenge of Barton.

Catwoman decides to pick her fight against Romanoff, thinking that as the only other female among the group, she will be the easiest to pick off. She is much surprised however by Romanoff's skill which is more than a match for her. They both have similarly equal skills but Romanoff's strength and stamina is what makes her almost win the long fight. However, just as Kyle is about to lose, Romanoff is distracted by Agent Jay and Kay's return and she turns her attention to them. And, although Kyle doesn't act quite quickly enough to save the two Men in Black, she does manage to kill Romanoff.

Next Peter Parker takes on Steve Rogers. Even though Captain America is good, Spiderman is better. He confuses him through his amazing spidery moves, so Captain America doesn't know which way to turn. There are some hairy moments when his weapons are effective on Spiderman before Parker is able to block them up with his web, but once they are disabled it is easy for him to defeat Captain America.

The next battle is between Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Both have machinery that rivals anything else the rest of the avengers or the NA can achieve. But the fact that Tony Stark's is more personalised and easier to get around means that he wins as he can dart around and damage the Batmobile fairly effortlessly.

Thor is a bit jealous that Clark Kent is known as Superman so goes after him and wipes him out quite quickly...hmmmm not such a super man after all. He then goes after Parker who is not only injured, but infinitely less strong and agile than Thor anyway. He stands no chance against the god. Selina Kyle meanwhile is taking on Ironman, hugely angry that he has killed her love. He succumbs to her flirting and charms and once he is out of his suit, it is easy to defeat him.

Which means it is just Catwoman and Thor left. Both are exhausted from their previous fights and decide that they quite fancy the other. So they decide to leave the fighting behind them and live happily ever after with all their God babies.

And this is what would happen if all the superheroes turned on each other. Just as well they are too busy protecting the earth huh? If you think the battles would finish a slightly different way, then let me know in a comment :D

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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Wizard of Oz

On 24th August 2012 I made Coster history, and went to see my first ever West End show.   And what a one I managed to pick.  Sneaking into one of the last showings of Wizard of Oz (as it is due to close on the 2nd September), I was lucky even to get a ticket.  The theatre was absolutely rammed, as the audience all wanted to say farewell to the classic musical and I don’t doubt that it’s going to stay just as packed throughout the remaining 8 days.

Resurrected by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s somewhat cheesy hand, I was impressed at how true the musical stayed to the original film.  Obviously, it had all the main recognizable hits such as ‘Ding Dong the Witch is dead, ‘Follow the yellow brick road’ and, of course, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’  These were beautifully performed by Sophie Evans, who played a red haired version of Dorothy to absolute perfection.  She was feisty yet totally sweet at the right moments, maintained a realistic Kansas twang and handled ‘Toto’ with well-practiced control, displaying she was clearly a dog lover.  Most importantly, she was also pitch perfect.  I watched her on the BBC talent programme a couple of years ago, that landed her the role (after she was declared runner up) and, although back then she displayed her ability, it still didn’t really prepare me for just how good she was.  The two extra years of training meant that she gave a super polished performance throughout the whole show that I wouldn’t be able to fault, even if I had wanted to.
The rest of the cast were of a similarly high standard; particularly Des O’Connor (Wizard); Edward Baker-Duly (Tin Man); Paul Keating (Scarecrow); Martin Callaghan (Lion) and Marianne Benedict (Wicked Witch of the West); with no one putting a foot or a note wrong.  The gently humourous script made the three companions of Dorothy hugely entertaining and a favourite amongst the children in the audience. Similarly Benedict's flight over the audience and her blunt 'Shut it, you' aimed at one member who was booing a little too vocally, softened her mean character, allowing her to be given hearty cheers when her curtain call came at the end.
Finally, what added to the show in a way I have never seen to the same high standard, were the great use of sound and stage effects, used constantly throughout.  There was not only the normal ones you would expect, but also fire, (yes, real fire. I was sitting in the second row and could feel the heat of it); a revolving stage, animations using not only a video but also a house that moved around in a simulated kind of way...and of course there was a fair bit of flying as well from both the witches and some flying monkeys. These are unequal to anything that a regional theatre can offer and enhanced the whole fantastic experience in such a way that I am sure it is one I will never ever forget.
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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Twitter vs Facebook


 
These are the top two social networking sites of our generation (so far) so which one is the best? To be fair, its quite hard to have them battling against each other as they are both quite different and serve different purposes so most people own and use both sites. But here goes anyway...let the battle commence.

Round One: Logo
As it is aesthetically pleasing, this first round obviously has to go to Twitter. Who doesn't love the little blue bird? It's so cute. Whereas facebook is just an 'F.' We know how to spell!!!
Winner: Twitter

Round 2: Layout
Both have a similar layout of a profile page where you can view everything that you upload and then a main news feed where you can see everything that people you follow/are friends with uploads. The layouts are both similarly easy to navigate and skim down the different stories. But Twitter wins, just about, because it is hugely less cluttered than facebook so is a little less daunting.
Winner: Twitter

Round 3: Pictures
Both sites have opportunities to share pictures with those that follow you/are friends with you. But Facebook obviously wins this round hands down with the organisation of the photos into albums, the ability to tag your friends in them and their attractive layout. Twitter's photos can only be viewed by going on the particular person profile and then you have to trawl through every single one in the album, without the ability to skip to one further in the album.
Winner:Facebook


Round 4: Thoughts
This is where twitter really comes into its own. Multiple statuses on Facebook often annoy your friends, which is why most people own a Twitter alongside where they can let off steam (within 140 characters). And no one complains because this is its whole purpose. Plus, the only people who can view them are those that follow you and therefore are interested in what you say! So you can spill out your thoughts to your heart's content without feeling embarrassed.
Winner: Twitter

Round 5: Interactions
With its superior forms of communication through chat, email and public posting on walls, Facebook seems like an automatic winner. But do not be so hasty - twitter, I also think gives the pretty unique opportunity to contact celebs. And many of them (well, the nicer ones) do actually bother to reply. So I have very generously declared this round, a draw =]
Winner: Draw


Round 6: Marketing
And by this I mean, if you personally want to advertise your own individual achievement/event/product etc. I use this regularly on both Twitter and Facebook for the blog posts I write on here or if I want to boast about something I have succeeded in. And I would say that, although it's a close call, Twitter is marginally better for this, depending on what your aim is. If you wanted to advertise specifically to your friends, then Facebook would probably win, but for a far greater reaching audience Twitter is the winner in this category. Plus, you have the slight possibility that you might somehow attract a celebrity's attention who might retweet whatever your advertising and give you infinitely more coverage from those fans.
Winner: (just) Twitter

Round 7: Lack of annoying adverts
The adverts on Facebook drive me mental. I am always clicking on them by accident and they slow the whole site down, although this clearly how it has made all its money. The lack of them (apart from a small amount of promotions through tweets themselves) makes Twitter the winner hands down.
Winner: Twitter

Round 8: Personalised
And this is where Facebook comes into its own. You have your own profile which you then fill with exactly what you want...the friends you want to contact, pictures/videos, events, your likes and dislikes and whatever comes into your head. On Twitter, you just have your profile pictures plus a tiny space where you can write a sentence about yourself. Needless to say, Facebook wins this one without any competition.
Winner: Facebook

Round 9: Features
Twitter has one purpose and that is to micro-blog your personal thoughts or pictures. Whereas on Facebook you can do so much more - contact your friends (through either instant messaging, normal messaging or publicly on their wall), share your pictures, where you have been, what you have been doing, play games, follow what celebrities are up to by liking their pages, or follow new items and special offers in shops through liking their pages. The majority use it for communication but the whole package is infinitely huger than Twitter. But then, I suppose, it's deliberate.
Winner: Facebook

Round 10: Catering for everyone
Twitter is open to all which makes it slightly more open than Facebook but most people ignore the age restriction on it anyway. There is also a lot less of the cyber bullying on Twitter, because it encourages people to say exactly what they think with less judgement from other people. However, because it has so many more facilities that ultimately appeal to a greater number of people, I would say that Facebook has to win this section because it is more inclusive of everyone's interests.
Winner: (just) Facebook

Overall Winner: Twitter 6-5
Somehow my verdict doesn't really shock me. Twitter, although, more specific in its purpose, is generally a better website than Facebook which annoys most people. But no one will stop using it because it is a hugely useful site if it is used in the right way, despite its faults. When I told one of my friends I was doing this debate, she said I should think of it as which wouldn't I be able to give up? But the answer is, I could live without both of them. Yes, I enjoy using them and, like most in my generation, am slightly addicted to each but I don't feel like I would be unable to live without them. They are just a useful asset. And anyone who isn't able to, needs to go out and have a breath of fresh air for a while.

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Monday, 27 August 2012

Are social media websites destroying actual communications?


As a young (ish) person living in the 21st century I, along with the rest of my generation, own a Facebook which I use regularly (along with a Twitter, Tumblr and now a Blogspot). These days it is pretty odd for someone not to have one and, although once there was an age restriction of 13, I am not sure that this is still the case. And even if it is, it is so easy to lie about it, that huge amounts of primary school children are using the facility.

Since its invention in 2004, Facebook became hugely popular almost immediately and now boasts close to a billion users. And it is still going from strength to strength. So much so, that none of the other social networking sites have even come close to its popularity. But even though it has 'social' in its name, what is it actually doing to our society? Is it enhancing our abilities to communicate with each other or is it actually destroying them.

There are a lot of amazing services that Facebook can offer such as the ability to communicate to a large number of people easily and the extra form of contacting your friends if you can't do it any other way. It is an excellent way to keep in touch with older friends, see what people are up to and to share your thoughts/pictures/music with people who you consider close. And now it is even quite good for you as a way to record the different events of your life and all the pictures that go with it, through the invention of Timeline. If that's what you want to do.

However, despite these useful features, the majority of Facebook is timewasting and slightly inane. Recently there has been a huge surge in the number of apps and other features that have been integrated into the site. Whether this is to do with music or pictures or games (such as farmville, and cityville and loads of other types of -ville) it means young people are spending even more time on the internet. Time that they could use to actually go out and see their friends. On top of that, it can also be seen as dangerous, with na├»ve young teenagers adding people they don't know in an effort to have more 'friends' and to look more popular. And these randomers then have access to a lot of personal information which is why it there is an age restriction of over-thirteens only. But as I said earlier, it is no trouble to lie to get around this.

With Facebook becoming ever more available all day long on smart phones, it is unlikely that it's popularity will ever fade. Unless it starts charging like it keeps on threatening to do so. So go on and enjoy it...just don't let it take over your life. And now, I am going to go and post a link for this article on Facebook and Twitter...how ironic.

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Saturday, 18 August 2012

Top 10 things to do in Fresher's Week

For many, university can be hugely overwhelming with you rushing all over the place in that first week, trying to get everything sorted out, while at the same time, trying to appear normal to the complete strangers that you now have to live with. So, here (in reverse order) is a 10 step guide to a perfect freshers week. Follow these simple steps and you will be the king of university. Maybe.

Number 10: Set a budget and stick to it
Sorry to be boring but at least I am getting it out of the way. This has to be done. During that first week, once your student loan has come in and your accommodation is paid, see how much money you have left, divide it by the 10 weeks of term (or 14 if you can't borrow off the parents during the Christmas holidays) and then stick to that number as much as you can. Otherwise, by the end of the term, you will be living off toast!

Number 9: Locate the laundry room
My other boring rule but please do this too. No one will like you if you smell. You might not need it straight away but finding it is always useful for future reference. And then use it.

Number 8: Find a job
My final boring rule...if you're going to do it, do it now before everyone else realises they are going to run out of money soon and gets the same idea. Weekend jobs are absolutely perfect to keep a little bit of income coming in, but at the same time, still allowing you lots of free time to enjoy university life. Even better is if you find one on campus in the shop or the union for example, which is a great way to meet other students.

Number 7: Get a feel for your campus
Do this during fresher's week before lectures actually start. It is a pain if you wake up 10 minutes before a 9am then find its a mile away on the other side of campus. Just wander round, get lost a bit and visit all the buildings you wouldn't normally go into. Nobody asks any questions during fresher's (unless you walk into a staff only bit - that was embarrassing)

Number 6: Move rooms if necessary
Obviously this only applies if you don't like the people you are put with. But if this is the case do it sooner rather than later, because it is quite unlikely that these people who you have nothing in common with, 'will grow on you.' Save yourself the hassle of trekking over to your actual friends' halls and move.

Number 5: Buy an NUS card
Most universities offer these now - buy one. It is only £12 and the return is huge through the number of discounts that they offer. On top of this, most student nights at clubs now demand this as an extra ID if you want to get into it.

Number 4: Go to collect your campus card in the afternoon NOT the morning
I don't know if this is the same for every university, but when we at Reading went to collect our campus cards, they had to fill in our details, take our pictures and actually make the cards there and then in front of us. I made the mistake of going to do this early in the morning, resulting in a hideously hungover photo that is stuck not only on my campus card for the next four years but on my file as well. Learn from my mistakes. And then, once you have it, don't lose it. It's a pain trying to desperately claw your way into the building.

Number 3: Be yourself
Or to put it another way, don't try to be someone your not. You won't be able to keep it up and it's absolutely exhausting. Just relax, smile and be friendly and you will be absolutely fine. People are a lot more forgiving of weirdness at university than at school, take it from me. They appreciate the honesty =]

Number 2: Only drink if you want to
and if you can handle it...however much you want to 'fit in' no one appreciates cleaning up someone else's vomit, especially if you have only just met them. So if you are a bit of a lightweight, just say so, laugh/joke about it and then everyone moves on. Nobody cares.

Number 1: Join societies
I can not stress this enough. I didn't do this in my first year but did in my second and hugely regret that I hadn't beforehand. For subject societies, it is perfect to get to know older years on your course and a great way to meet loads of new people, who you clearly have something in common with as you must share a similar interest to join that particular society. They are social and have plenty of nights out to meet people in a drunk setting where you don't mind turning up alone. If you ignore everything else in this post, follow this rule! And then you will have a fab time :D

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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Is university just an expensive alternative to a job?


With many 18 year olds, receiving their results just around the corner, some of them will be preparing for the biggest adventure of their lives. Notice how I say 'some' and not 'all' or even 'the majority' as I could have said in previous years. This year sees a considerably lower amount of teenagers taking the plunge. The reason…that the adults who received free university education now demands £9000 a year from us. So…is it worth it?
The automatic answer would be – no! In my experience, the teaching from the lecturers doesn’t come anywhere close to being worth the £9000 fee but even if it was a lot better, nothing could quite live up to that outrageous amount of money. Even if you are on a vocational course, such as teaching, medicine, dentistry, law or journalism, the benefits of university can be limited, even though I(f you would actually like a job in any of those fields), you HAVE to go to university. As a trainee teacher, I find my lectures a little uninspiring to say the least and the only useful part of the course is the experience.
But the overall experience is the one aspect of university that puts it a cut above school, college or anything else. University has never just been about the academic side of life, otherwise we would all be sitting in our parents’ houses, learning what we need to know from Open University. So, taking into account everything else, I would say a huge YES, university is so so worth it.
First and foremost, it forces you to look after yourself, so that you do all your own cooking, cleaning and washing, giving you a defined sense of independence that many teenagers have not yet experienced. But, perhaps more importantly than that, are all the numerous social opportunities of learning to live with people, learning to walk into a room of strangers and instantly make friends and being involved with the plentiful societies that every university has. If there is one tip I can give to anyone starting in the next month or so, is to join a society. It is such a great way to find people who you know you will get on with, because you all have a similar interest in common.
Therefore, my advice is if you have the chance, definitely go to university.  And while you’re there, embrace every situation and opportunity thrown your way. Join societies, make friends, learn to live and most importantly, have fun while you can. Before you spend the rest of your working life repaying the debt.
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Monday, 13 August 2012

How to be British....a guide for those who are not

In my previous post, I offered a mere glimpse of the different ways you can act, that will enable you to slip right into the middle of society as the average citizen of Great Britain. So here I am, elaborating on this point. Follow these very simple rules and you will fit right in, whatever you look like. That's the joy of living within a united kingdom.

1. Drink tea
And lots of it. You must always always keep your house well stocked, whether you like it or not (although if you don't like it, pretend you do as you aren't seen as truly British, unless you are drinking it) as it is actually an arrestable offence to not have any on offer to guests. It will always be there for you...to offer you comfort if you are cold, stressed, upset or angry. Or just add to your happiness if you are meeting a friend or want to enjoy a good book.
 
There is one type of tea and one type only that is acceptable and that is your normal breakfast tea. None of this green or herbal rubbish that smells so good but is disappointing in taste. With breakfast tea you know exactly what you have got.
 
Also remember you must offer a variety of containers to the people you are providing with tea. For example, you will need a thermos flask for journeys, teacups for hot days and posh company, mugs for cold days, close friends and stressful moments....etc etc

2. Complain about the weather
Whether this is a comment to your friend/family member or a random stranger, it doesn't matter - no rules apply. You can complain about whatever you like - whether its raining, sunny, windy, snowing...although, lets be honest, it's mostly going to be about the rain, isn't it?

3. Learn to tut
This simple little noise can convey so much disgust and hatred and coupled with a hard stare can reduce your recipient to the size of a small ant.

4. Complain about the prices of everything
Inflation has been on the rise for the past few years which hasn't affected the average Brit that much but we have noticed it when we have had to pay for things (be this chocolate or the electricity bill or whatever...). As I work in a shop, I am on the receiving end of this particular British trait on a daily basis. I think people believe that if they have enough of a go at the cashier, she will cry, pass on the criticisms to the manager who will then change the prices. But it doesn't work and the complaints only go as far as the crying assistant and she can't do anything about it. So leave her alone.
Letter writing is a very effective way of complaining and one which the British enjoys quite a lot. The art of a well written complaint letter needs to be well practiced and, if done right, can result in Britain's second most favourite thing, free stuff!.

5. Blame the Americans...
...for pretty much anything that goes wrong. Whether it is the economy or the TV shows that are supposedly encouraging obesity in our teens, it is definitely not our fault. Definitely not.

6. Ignore everyone around you as much as possible
The British have a bit of a habit of looking down on almost everyone who are around them. Therefore do not expect them to move out of your way on the pavement or chat to you while they sit on the tube or the bus. If you do manage to strike up a conversation, the safest bet is to comment on the rubbish weather - our love of complaining overrides everything else.

7. Enjoy all royal events
If you want a republic go to America...we love the queen - well, most of us do. That is all.

8. Love to queue
And if you don't love it, learn to love it. Because you will be doing a lot of it. Also, it's very important to learn the art of slyly managing to push in without anyone noticing. Although be careful, if not executed properly this could end in a punch up.

9. Learn sarcasm and irony
Even if you can't say any yourself, you do need to learn to understand it. Otherwise you will not find us funny at all.

10. And finally...drive a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer then, on the way home grab an Indian curry, eating it on Swedish furniture watching American shows on a Japanese tv. And, of course, always be suspicious of anything foreign.

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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Is the Olympics making us less British?

In the age where TV is king, I go against the grain by not really enjoying it that much. Sure, there are several series which I am addicted to and can not bare to miss an episode of but I very rarely sit down and flick through the channels to finally settle on a timewasting mundane programme that actually started about 20 minutes ago. (That is, unless I have something more important that I should be doing such as an imminent university essay to complete and then, of course, I do absolutely ANYTHING to distract myself. And films are another issue entirely...).

The thing which scares me most about TV is the huge amount of influence that it has over children and teenagers. Especially when you think about the celebrities and fictional characters that they are seeing on a daily basis, and therefore using as role models. People such as Jordan and the vile individuals who are dragged from the depths of society and plonked onto daytime television via Jeremy Kyle, for instance. All in all, people who are not exactly the best mentors for impressionable young people.

But, happily, my opinion is starting to change as of this summer, thanks to...the Olympics. Not only does it bring together our nation in a way that we don't see very often (except during royal events and when we are complaining about the weather) but suddenly there are people on the television who teenagers can safely aspire to be, that won't lead to drink or drug problems at a later date. The athletes that we are now frequently seeing on our screens such as Jessica Ennis, Chris Hoy and Tom Daley actually promote admirable achievements that are very attainable if you work hard, practice and exercise - shock horror.

The nation as a whole has embraced the Olympics in such a way that has made GB almost unrecognisable. Suddenly we are no long complaining about the weather, pushing in front of each other in queues and tutting about the general state of our country. Instead we are proud of it. For the first time in years. We joyfully boast about the number of medals we have achieved, causing athletes to actually apologise if they don't win one. Since when did this happen? We are normally so accustomed to losing. Yet here we are, sitting reasonably comfortably at number 3 of the medals table behind America and China. And, of course, if you take the medal to population ratio, we are by far and away and the best. A very unusual accomplishment that we are not used to celebrating. Maybe our national identity can now begin to change as well.

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Monday, 6 August 2012

Hellooooo!

Howdy. Bonjour. Guten Tag. Ciao.

Yay getting a bit of use out of the brand new translator app which I downloaded today on my brand new IPhone...yes...IPhone. I am one of those cool people.

Anyway, I digress. I am Charlotte, I am 20 years old and have just finished my second year studying Primary Education and English at Reading University. And yes, I do want to be a teacher, a primary one. It is remarkable the number of times I get asked that. You would think it is pretty obvious considering that's what the degree title says.

Ideally though I have much bigger and more exciting plans for my life. Not that I want to diminish the teacher lifestyle in any way, I just don't think it's very me. Much as I love being in the classroom and working with the children, I hate all the other rubbish that goes with it...all the planning and target attainments and box ticking that the government requires. And, as the number of teachers who are getting smacked in the face with a chair are on the rise, I thought I would maybe think about a different career while my nose was still intact. Plus, I am far too lazy...I tend to cry if I have to get up before 10am, let alone being in school by 8am as I have had to do on my placements so far. Which meant that I had to get up at 7am at the latest. I was not a happy bunny. In fact, I think I did cry.

So, I have been thinking of a career that is a bit more me. And I came up with... writing. Now, this is definitely more up my street. Firstly, I don't have to get out of bed if I don't want to. Secondly, I don't have to perform every day in front of 30+ people. Thirdly, if I am ill (which I seem to be ALL THE TIME!!!) I can still go to work as I can do it bed and I can still write. Fourthly, you can earn a lot more money. Sometimes. Fifthly, I enjoy it more...and I think that is as many reasons that I could think of. But that's enough. And I am absolutely determined to make it happen! I know how hard it is but that makes me even more determined to succeed. And my first novel is on the way =] so you had all better watch out, I am going to be famous one day.

Don't really know what else to say now...dammit. And this blog post was going so well. I suppose I could talk about what I am going to do with this blog but to be honest I don't really know yet. I thought about it briefly and I figured I had the following options. I could either talk about:

1. My writing and how that is going and put some poems/creative pieces on here
2. My life in general and what's going on in it.
3. Reviews of books/films/theatre....I do quite a bit of that especially during term time when I write them for the university newspaper, Spark*
4. The general trials and tribulations of university students and university issues.
5. A very simplistic review/opinion of big events going on in the world.

To be honest, I will probably do a bit of all of that! So you will just have to wait and see :D And on that tantalising note, I will leave it there. Come back in a few days and I will try to think of something actually interesting to put here.

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