Copenhagen

I don’t get a reading week at uni, but last week I took one. My family and I went to visit my cousin in Copenhagen as a surprise for her 21st birthday.

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We arrived when the weather was at its finest which meant drinks in the sun rather than avoiding bitter winds. As a city, it reminded me of Amsterdam but perhaps slightly less ‘aesthetic’ with mixed architecture around the canals. The sun though, as it always does, made everything look beautiful. The 3 days were full of good food, family, exploring and danish pastries. Just a warning though, save your money before you go, its not a cheap city.

On our first day we had breakfast in a small courtyard café which focuses on Danish traditions, from the food the crockery. All the furniture in the café is for sale, so it doubles as a showroom which meant I felt bad for spilling the tiniest crumb. We spent the morning there just making plans and catching up.

We wandered around the Pleasure Palace garden’s (what a name) before stopping at another café. You may notice that this trip did focus around eating and drinking, I have no excuse. We moved on to the Christianshavn area and went into the Church of Our Saviour, its a simple but beautiful interior, home to 40 elephant figurines (we only counted 7 though). The tower above is 400 steps but definitely worth the climb, it gives you a great view of the city and helps to justify all those pastries.

The next day started with a boat tour, definitely something worth doing to see the city and learn more about it. We spent the afternoon in a slightly unusual way for a February day and went to La Banchina for a dip in the sea before rushing up to a little wooden sauna overlooking the water. Freezing, but it felt very danish. We had dinner at a lovely little restaurant called Basso which served amazing sharing plates from salmon to parmesan carrots to steak. Bistro Royal and The Studio were some other great restaurants from the trip.

On our last morning we had breakfast at the glass markets, some beautiful buildings in Norreport full of food stalls, coffee shops and of course more pastries. I would have loved more time to wander around and explore but sadly we had a plane to catch.

Copenhagen was beautiful, I could’ve done with a couple more days to explore but I guess I’ll just have to go back…

 

Amsterdam on Film

Last week I went to Amsterdam. It was cold, expensive and wonderful. Here’s a little look at some of the photos we took and what we got up to.

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Apologies for the quality of some of these but I guess that’s part of the joy of a disposable camera. They’ll be plenty of decent pictures on my instagram.

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New Year

It has been a strange start to the new year for me, I have started it without my dad.

Richard Garrett died on the 22nd of December. He did not pass away or go to sleep, we have not lost him, he died and we are here learning how to live without him. I know my family and I are not the only people to have lost someone but I think it’s too soon for that to be comforting, I still feel very selfish. What is comforting is the huge outpouring of love and support we have received and the memories of the life dad lived. I am trying to feel lucky, lucky that we had time to say goodbye, that we had 9 years after the cancer diagnosis and that he fought so well, lucky that he taught me so much, lucky that we went on incredible holidays, ate amazing food and laughed hysterically. He had, and gave us, the most amazing life.

Most people view the new year as a new start but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. There is too much to process from the last year, from the last month of it. I don’t want a new year, I want the last 21 again and again. I didn’t make any new years resolutions but what I will say is this; I want to make him proud daily and remember him always, however that may be.img-0870

We’ve started a JustGiving page in dad’s memory. Before he died he asked for money to be fundraised in his name for The Bedford Hospital Primrose Unit, where he was treated throughout his illness, and St John’s Hospice, where he spent his final weeks. If you’d like to give anything, no matter how small, you can donate here.

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Out of Sorts

It is a strange time of year, it’s just before the Christmas festivities kick in properly but winter has definitely arrived, its dark before 4 and I don’t think I’ve seen the sun in at least a 10 days.

For the last week or so I think I’ve been out of sorts, I think lots of people have. It’s hard when the weather is so cold and all anyone can think about is university deadlines. There are also lots of things happening with my family at home so its hard to be away from them, I feel very distant. That being said, you’re not here to listen to me complain, so on a more positive note, here are a few of things that I’m appreciating and are helping to keep me (slightly) sane, they may work for you too.

  • Rubbish rom coms and Christmas films with whoever will watch them with me. Would recommend Texas based Forever my Girl on Netflix and I’m just days away from getting Love Actually on.
  • To do lists. Especially with small goals, everyday feels productive, even if I’ve just showered, can give that a tick.
  • Yes its cold, but trying to stay inside doesn’t mean retail therapy has to stop due to the wonder of online shopping. In my case its online browsing but still.
  • Christmas Markets may be overpriced and not quite the same as actually being in Germany but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth a visit, one of the best ways to feel festive.
  • Speaking of festive, I have decided there is no shame in buying an advent calendar for yourself, or asking someone to get one for you. Its the small things.
  • Food is a friend, especially in winter when you’re in layers rather than bikinis. Plan warm meals and spend time cooking with people.
  • I may not be middle aged but I’m loving Radio 2 (don’t laugh), I think because it reminds me of home, but its always nice to have on in the background. Or a podcast, I love The High Low and Pillow Talk (the fact I host the latter doesn’t change my opinion).
  • Facetime and phone the people you care about. It’s not the same as being with them but it helps.
  • Make plans. Whether its a coffee with a friend or what’s happening on New Years Eve, its good to have things to look forward to other than submitting an essay.

I hope that helps but if all else fails, whack on some Christmas music and whip out the mince pies, no judgement here.

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Company

A week ago I went down to London to see the most recent version Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Company’, a play about Bobby, who is celebrating his 35th birthday whilst his friends are all wondering why he isn’t married.

I’ve seem Company before, however this was a production with a twist. Rather than being a male lead, Bobby has become Bobbie, a woman attempting to navigate unmarried life. Marianne Elliott has reimagined the much loved musical to be far more 21st century, showing that there perhaps is no normal version of adult life. Bobbie spends the performance weighing up the pros and cons of married life and trying to decide what she wants. We get an insight into her relationships and the questionable men she dates along the way. Rosalie Craig is the lead and she was brilliant, portraying Bobbie as likeable and friendly, rather than the detached male characters we’re used to. You can see why her married friends want to keep her around.

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Credit: Company Production Shots

Speaking of her friends, they’re all portrayed wonderfully too with Patti LuPone and Mel Giedroyc returning to the stage. A particular favourite of mine however was Jonathan Bailey with his rendition of ‘I’m Not Getting Married Today’. He plays Jamie (previously Amy but now one half of the show’s gay couple) and it’s a hilarious scene with cast members popping out of freezers as Jamie has a minor break down over his impending wedding. His character is the only other gender switch and again, it really works. The only other noticeable change is the swap in Jenny and David’s dialogue so that Jenny is a high-powered career woman whilst David is the stay at home dad. Again, nothing that groundbreaking but certainly more suited to the modern day.

I won’t go on too much but just know it’s brilliant and definitely worth going to see. The set is unique (Elliott directed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time so think something along those lines) and the cast sound wonderful together with songs you’ll be singing for days. Seriously, go and see it.

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Coffee

I like coffee. I’ve mentioned this before, but now I’m doing a whole post on it. You’ve been warned.

I thought I’d share some of my favourite coffee spots in Leeds and slightly beyond. I’m surprised I’m doing this, I remember a time when we’d moan as mum dragged my siblings and I from cafe to cafe for ‘research’, but here we are.

North Star Coffee Shop and General Store

North Star – Leeds

Slightly out of the city centre, North Star is down by the docks. They roast their own beans and send them out across the city but it is worth visiting their shop. I’d recommend the cardamon and caramel blondie (trust me) and getting there and back via the free water taxi from the train station.

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Tucked away in Thorntons Arcade is Kapow coffee, small but very very good coffee, they know what they’re doing. Everytime.

LS6 – Leeds

Primarily known for it’s brunch, LS6 is popular among students, so it can be heaving at midday on a Saturday. However, the coffee is not to be overlooked, rich, but not bitter, and very creamy.

IMG_2665Cafe 164 – Leeds

Again, slightly out of the way, Cafe 164 is down past the bus station and connected to the much loved Bakery 164. Cafe 164 hosts North Star beans and always has an exhibition going on inside, the coffee is good too (obviously). They’ve worked out ways to be one of the best, for example, they froth their almond milk with the coffee to avoid curdling, clever stuff.

Wolfox – Leeds

Down by the train station, Wolfox are another one who roast their own beans. They’ve got a nice big space, lovely staff and some great food too.

Locke’s – Jersey

New to the coffee shop scene in Jersey this summer, Locke’s is owned by a local couple who are making sure Jersey can compete with the mainland’s coffee shops. And they’re succeeding. Great crockery, great people and obviously, great coffee.

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The Kiosk – Bedford

Last but by no means least, The Kiosk, where I was introduced to coffee. The reason for all mum’s ‘research’. Small but lovely, especially when I’m working. If the weather is too rubbish there’s always The Pavilion near by.

So there are my recommendations, if you’ve got any of your own please send them my way.

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21

A week ago I turned 21. It’s taken me this long to write this because I haven’t really known what to say (and I’ve been ridiculously busy but we’ll gloss over that).

I had the most wonderful birthday celebrations, I was spoilt rotten and had an amazing party surrounded by people I love and yet there was a strange nostalgia that came with the weekend.

Birthdays are strange generally, a bit like New Years Eve in that they give you a chance to reflect on the past year and all the things you did or didn’t achieve and it can feel odd celebrating a day that feels like any other. I feel like 21 is meant to mark a bit of a transition into adulthood, I am now closer to 30 than I am to 10, obvious I know, but it’s something I feel very aware of. I don’t feel like an adult but I don’t feel like a teenager either, I’m somewhere in between attempting to navigate day to day life.

This week hasn’t felt any different to the ones I experienced when I was 20, to be honest it doesn’t feel much different to the ones I experienced when I was 18 but looking back, I know that a lot has changed. I have grown, I have new opinions, I have new people in my life and I know far more. Change is gradual, growing up is gradual but it’s happening.

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I did think about doing a ’21 things I’ve learned in 21 years’ type thing but then realised that firstly, I don’t know anything groundbreaking and secondly, that it would be too cliche, even for me. I will say this though; all you can do is your best, people come and go in phases and nothing beats a good sunset.

I don’t know what this next year will hold, hopefully some more growth, a degree, lots of laughter. I’m constantly working on getting closer to the person I want to be, even if I’m not too sure who that is yet.

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Thank you to everyone who was involved in my birthday celebrations in any way, you’re wonderful.

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Normal People

Last week I did something a bit different. I went to a book event. On my own.

For those of you that don’t know, these events generally happen in bookshops across the country shortly after an author has published their latest book. They chat about the book, answer some questions and do a quick signing. Exciting stuff. The one I went to was for Sally Rooney’s new book, Normal People, where she was interviewed by Literary Friction podcast host Octavia Bright.

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Firstly, let me say the book itself is brilliant and worth a read. It follows the entangled lives of Marianne and Connell as they begin to navigate the adult world, both together and apart. It’s set over 4 years, beginning with the pair’s initial conversation whilst they’re still at school, and then continuing to their university careers. It looks at power dynamics, intimacy, self-awareness and how they all change over time, particularly during the early years of adulthood, something I definitely relate too. There is nothing particularly great about the characters other than that, as the title would suggest, they are normal people who feel very real.

Rooney had a wonderful ability to answer any questions about the book with a wider context. Her comments and opinions meant I left the evening with far more to think about than where the inspiration from the characters came from. As I mentioned, the novel looks at power dynamics, something Rooney admitted to having a fascination with. To her, a power imbalance is a crucial element to any relationship worth writing about, one in equilibrium is too steady to create a story that’s exciting and emotional. She wonders how we can strive for a power balance in our relationships and whether that’s something we should even be striving for at all. I would say that yes, it is. It is unfair of us to want to have a hold over someone, or to let them get away with having one over us. I think there is a difference between treating someone well out of love and putting them on a pedestal to be adored regardless of their behaviour. A relationship in balance is not boring, it’s healthy.

Sally also mentioned that she spends a lot of time wondering about our individual senses of self and whether such a thing exists, or if we are just composites of those around us, if we are ‘thumbprints of the collective’. I think we are obviously combinations of our surroundings, the people we know and the things that have happened to us, but that doesn’t mean that our independence is any less valuable. Just because we are shaped by external factors, it does not mean our internal personality is fake or any less unique. Without other influences, we would never change or grow and adapt.

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Finally, Rooney was asked about the role authors and artists have in today’s society, a society where there is so much wrong. She said that in simple terms, art itself is not revolutionary, it’s a commodity. She spoke about how the axis between art and commerce is always going to be uncomfortable because as much as art likes to criticise the commercial norms, one cannot exist without the other. Not all books are controversial or informative or insightful, and when they aren’t it can feel like an indulgence to immerse yourself in such a simple form of pleasure, why are we entitled to do so when there are so many bigger issues? Shouldn’t we be spending that time doing things to help?

I think that yes, there is much that needs to be changed about the world and no, that change is not going to come from reading. But, it does’nt mean you can’t enjoy the book, or go and listen to the author talk about it for that matter. It starts a conversation, and who knows what could come from that.

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Work

I write to you from the other side of summer. Where alarms go off at 7.30 and coats are worn and day drinking is met with a more hostile attitude. For the past week I have been a working girl, spending my days gaining experience and insight of the real world, and I shall continue to do so for the next two weeks. Because there is barely anyone around to share the events of my days with, I thought I’d do so with you.

Some people say knowledge is power. I disagree. Having a recognisable company’s email domain is power. I get great joy from sitting at my desk writing adult emails knowing the reader has no idea that, despite the official looking signature and my sassy tone, I have no authority and my account will in fact be deleted in two weeks. I’ve had people give me their ‘sincerest apologies’ and tell me ‘not to hesitate to contact them with any further queries’. Sometimes I reply just to say ‘many thanks’. It is amazing how much more respect you’re given when people can’t see that you actually look like a fifteen year old.

The lunch break is a tricky area to navigate. Firstly there is the issue of when you take it. I’m normally ready at about 11.30 but I feel like I’d get a few judgemental looks from the rest of the office if they saw me heading off with my sandwich at that time. The difficult decision comes at 12ish. I have to choose whether I want to have lunch then and return to a longer, sometimes seemingly endless, afternoon or whether to push through until 1 so that I can return to my desk knowing that only a few short hours remain. In my experience the latter option is the one to go for. And remember, snacks are your friend. Secondly comes the issue of what to have. I would love to skip off to Pret everyday but unfortunately my bank balance doesn’t allow it. Instead I make a sandwich the night before and grab an apple, not quite the same but does the job. If you find it’s not filling enough, drink plenty of water. Your colleagues may become concerned about how often your toilet breaks are but at least you’re not hungry.

I’m now prepared for the question that’ll come twice a day, mid-morning and mid-afternoon like clockwork. ‘Do you want a cuppa?’. Entirely well meant, but for someone who is quite fussy with their tea (only green or mint, two thirds hot water, a third cold) it can cause mild anxiety. I find it best to assume that the only tea on offer is breakfast so in my case, I politely decline the offer. However as the week went on and the declines mounted up, I felt an air of curiousity surround my neighbouring desks, as if my colleagues had met someone from a strange land, and I knew there would be a follow up question the next time I declined. ‘So, do you not like hot drinks?’. I find it best to just say ‘not really’ rather than ‘I do, I’m just high maintenance’ and proceed to bore them with my beverage preferences (please see a picture of said preference in the header image).

The biggest hurdle of the day actually comes after I leave the office. On my walk home, I pass right through the town centre…not ideal for someone with no money and limited self control. I don’t think there was one day this week when I was home on time. I don’t know why, the shops were the same everyday.

So far it’s gone well, nice people and no major disasters, but I’ll keep you updated….

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P.S Apologies for the lack of pictures, the only thing I could think of that would be relevant was iStock images of offices and no one wants to see that.

 

Leeds

In a week I head back to Leeds, and although there is still a while until my final year actually starts, I’m already starting to worry about what life might hold after it and I already have a strange sense of nostalgia.

The truth is that for me, university wasn’t everything I wanted it to be, at least not straight away. I found the majority of my first year incredibly lonely and overwhelming, which was something I hadn’t experienced before. I think perhaps we hear so many stories about how amazing it is and how you meet so many people who become your friends for life that you’re not prepared for what happens when it doesn’t meet those expectations. I found it could be quite isolating. I loved being in a city though and pushed myself to keep meeting people and by the end of the year, I was sad to leave it all.

Second year was much better, I felt far more settled and preferred being in a house. I surrounded myself with like minded people, made sure my days were busy and took advantage of opportunities that came my way and the city I was in. I spent a lot of the year laughing and doing things that made me happy with people who made me happy.

 

 

But now, I’m thinking about my final year, about all the things I said I would do at university but haven’t, about how quickly it’s all gone and about what I’m going to do after it’s over. It’s not that I’ve got no idea what I want to do, it’s that there are so many things, I have so many different paths I could go down. I need to remember that there’s no rush, I have 9 years left of my twenties and as hyped up as they are, there are plenty of years after them. I guess I just have to make the most of what is planned, because after that who knows where I’ll be.

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So this year, I’m going to work, yes, but I’m also going to join the societies I didn’t quite get round to joining and explore the city a bit more. I promised my mum I’d do a night of stand up comedy but perhaps that’s still a bit far-fetched. I want to actually do my readings so that there’s less late night library sessions and more time spent with friends.

Most importantly, I’m going to try not to compare my experiences with everyone else’s, because I’m pretty sure they’re probably just as stressed about it all as me.

 

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