31 December 2013

So long, 2013.


2013 has not been the year I expected it to be. It hasn't been a bad year as such, but I wouldn't exactly say it's been a good one either.

I completed my Masters and graduated with commendation, something which I am very proud of. I tackled a 15000 word thesis on a really difficult and emotive subject and I feel that I did it justice which I felt to be most important when dealing with something which so drastically affects lives.
After completing my Masters, I was adrift, unemployed and also out of education. I ended up having to sign on just to be able to have a bit of money. That was a definite low point for me. I felt like a total failure; I had no prospects and it was very much a 'what is the point of anything?' time for me. I cried a lot over those few months, until a surprise phone call from my old boss came, offering me a job for Christmas. So I ended up with some money AND got myself some half-price books with my staff discount, which was a very nice way to end the year.

I also got my first ever 'grown up' job interviews, something which had proved elusive since I graduated from my first degree in 2012. Unfortunately, these also led to my first ever 'grown up' job rejections which, although coming in pretty frequently now, are not something I think I will ever get used to. Even a job that pretty much appeared as a sure thing judging by an email I got after the interview slipped just out of reach.
 I know the job market is not a fun place to be right now, but I guess the naive part of me expected that I'd be out of it by now. All I can do is keep the faith and keep trying and really hope that in 2014 someone will give me a job.

I wanted 2013 to be the year Pete and I were finally able to live together, but the lack of job interview success put the brakes on that one. It's tricky maintaining a long-distance relationship at the best of times but at the moment there doesn't seem to be an end to it and it is so frustrating to be in a kind of limbo. My aim was for us to have something concrete, if not actually be living together, by the time we celebrate our fifth anniversary at the end of April, but I'll just have to see what happens when we get there.

I'm not going to turn this post into a huge downer though. 2013 has been a year of a lot of new and exciting things.
I graduated with commendation. I passed my driving test. I actually got some job interviews which is an achievement in itself and some of the feedback I got was really helpful. I read some great books, discovered new music and watched some wonderful films. I think I have finally cracked the secret of winged eyeliner!
Pete and I took our first foreign holiday together and I fell in love with Prague. I visited Bath and Manchester for the first time and I saw Iron & Wine again, which was one of the most magical evenings of my life. He even played a song about me, which is one of my favourites.

One of the most important things was that I really started to be happy with myself. OK, so I haven't got a job yet, I don't even live on the same landmass as my boyfriend and I still find it totally impossible to keep my room tidy but I feel so much more confident in myself than I did at the end of 2012.
It's not always joy and happiness in my life and there are days when I get down about absolutely everything and wish I could get an entire body transplant but they are getting less and less frequent. I am a nice person, I'm kind and friendly and even if I'm heavier than I'd like to be and spottier than I'd prefer, there are so many worse things to be than chubby and spotty. Plus I look great in red lipstick and, really, how can I feel bad when I have that.

I hope 2014 is the year I get a job and can move in with Pete. I hope by this time next year I can add more names to the list of amazing new places I've visited. I hope I continue to feel better about myself and I won't care so much about being chubby or spotty. I hope my eyeliner skills go from strength to strength. And I hope I still look great in red lipstick.

I hope all of you have a wonderful New Year too. I hope you get what you want and what you need and I hope you are happy. I hope 2014 is a wonderful year full of joy and excitement and I hope we can share in it together.

18 December 2013

Book Club: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Mary Katherine Blackwood, known as Merricat, lives an isolated life in her family home (note: it's not actually a castle!) alongside her older sister Constance and elderly Uncle Julian who is confined to a wheelchair. Constance was previously acquitted of murdering the rest of the Blackwood family by poisoning them with arsenic but the community continues to eye the three remaining Blackwoods with suspicion, effectively ostracising them. Nevertheless, the three of them trundle along fairly happily until long-lost Cousin Charles appears and upsets the balance of their lives, prompting Merricat to take action in an attempt to protect her family; action which has life-changing consequences for the Blackwoods and the hostile townspeople.

I initially found We Have Always Lived in the Castle a little slow to start with and was worried I'd be left disappointed. The book is quite short, weighing in at around 150 pages and I wasn't sure it would be able to draw me in properly. I'm so glad I persevered though, as in the end I was completely captivated by the Blackwoods and wild, impulsive Merricat, who will stop and nothing to get Cousin Charles away from her beloved sister.

I actually think the book's brevity is a real bonus; it allows you to devour it in one sitting if you want and if possible I would recommend doing so; in any case, the action is buoyed along so well that you probably won't be able to help yourself once it gets going.

Although not overtly scary, Jackson's writing has an eerie, menacing quality to it and as the book edges toward its climactic middle section, as well as the huge reveal (although to me it was fairly obvious what it would be, the unveiling of the truth is still expertly done, just dropped into the story so you have to go back and read it twice) the writing picks up its pace and energy, urging you along with the action before returning to its original slower pace as the dust settles in the aftermath of Merricat's plan..
Merricat is also great as an unreliable narrator, and the slowly revealed back story of the Blackwood family really helps to pique interest in the story, compelling you to read on in the hopes of unraveling the mystery for yourself.

I would definitely recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle if you like stories full of suspense and mystery. It's extremely well-written and Jackson is adept at pacing the story and drawing you into the world of the Blackwoods, creating characters who you really feel like you know even after fewer than 200 pages. It seems like a particularly fitting book for the darker nights to read while warm in front of the fire with a cup of tea- just be wary of the sugar...

Have you read We Have Always Lived in the Castle or any other Shirley Jackson novels? What would you recommend for winter evening reading?

You can see more of what I'm reading on Goodreads; feel free to follow me there!

15 December 2013

Online Shopping Can Change the World!

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Christmas Day is now less than two weeks away and if you've been as lazy as me you'll have only just started your shopping. If you've left your shopping as late as me you may also find that the high street is absolutely heaving no matter what time you decide to brave it, making it nigh-on impossible to even get near things you might be interested in buying.

I'm working in retail this Christmas period and being in a busy shop for 8 hours means the last thing I want to do when leaving work is traipse around the shops, elbowing fellow shoppers out of the way while hunting for gifts. As a combined result of my laziness and inability to cope with other people, I've resigned myself to doing most of my Christmas shopping online this year. As well as meaning I don't have to even get out of bed to shop, it also gives me the opportunity to use Give as You Live while getting my presents, allowing me to give money to charity through everything I buy.

Give as You Live allows you to help raise money for charity while simply doing your shopping online as normal. Over 3000 online stores have signed up to donate a commission on online sales to charity, including huge companies such as Amazon, ASOS and Debenhams. There's no extra cost to the customer as all of the commission comes from the amount paid by the customer. Put simply, a percentage of what you spend online at websites which have pledged to donate goes to a charity you get to choose and you don't have to pay anything extra at all.

All you have to do to get a little more from your online shopping is head to the Give as You Live website and click the 'Get Started' button. You can then choose the charity you would like your donations to go to (I've opted for Refuge) and install the toolbar. Then, when you go on a site which has signed up to donate to Give as You Live, you just turn the toolbar on at the top of the page and it does all the hard work for you, automatically donating part of your payment to your chosen organisation. It really is so simple to do and puts your online shopping to good use with so little effort.

I began using the Give as You Live system last year when, you've guessed it, I had to do all my Christmas shopping online. Since then, I've enjoyed watching my total donated amount build up and it's really nice to know that I'm helping out a charity, even when helping myself to a new lipstick or five. The Give as You Live system also works all year round so you also have an excuse for treating yourself year-round.

Do you think you'll use Give as You Live for some guilt-free Christmas shopping? If you do, please let me know; I really hope you'll give it a go and enjoy using it.

This is not a sponsored post and I was not asked to write it for Give as You Live or any other company. I just wanted to share the website on case any of you were interested in using it while doing online shopping and wanted to get involved.

16 November 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful #3

I haven't done one of these posts for quite a while (I actually posted my last one exactly a year ago!). I enjoy putting them together because, although life can be a little tough at times, there is still a lot to be grateful for. I may be struggling to find a job, I may miss my boyfriend a heck of a lot and life may not be going exactly how I expected it to be at this stage but I can still find the good in it.

So here are some of my reasons to happy recently!

I found this picture from my trip to Manchester in May and remembering my visit puts a smile on my face

1)The Kindness of Strangers: I'm sure you've all seen the footage of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; over 3500 people have died with scores of others left without food, water and homes. I volunteer at Oxfam and yesterday we took it in turns to go outside with a bucket and get donations from the public. Within an hour we'd raised almost £100; one man gave us £20 while another gave £10, and lots of people commented that donating was 'the least they could do.' It was just so nice to see people give so generously for people they'd never met before and to see it as a natural response to a tragedy like the typhoon.
The money we raised may not be a lot in the long run, but hopefully it can go some way to helping the survivors.
If you would like to help the relief effort in the Philippines, you can check out the Disasters Emergency Committee for information on various ways to donate.

2)Hard Work Pays Off: Last week I got my thesis results back and it was good news! I got 62 for my thesis (perhaps not the best mark but I was very pleased, especially as I'd convinced myself I'd failed) and will officially be graduating with commendation from my Masters degree. I really enjoyed doing the research for my thesis but I found it hard to put it all together and keep on top of everything; writing almost 18000 words takes it out of you! There was many a sleepless night spent worrying about everything, so it was nice to see that it wasn't all in vain and what I'd put together actually wasn't awful.

3)Surprise Phonecalls: Earlier this week I received a call from my old boss at Waterstones, where I worked last Christmas, asking me to come back in for this Christmas period. I was so happy to get the call as I thought I'd missed my chance to get any work this Christmas. I loved my job last year; I loved just being around the books and helping people get ready for Christmas, and I hope it will be the same again this year. It also gives me something to do as well; I don't really have a lot of structure at the minute and keep wasting my days sleeping and watching (and crying at) Gilmore Girls, so I hope this will give me a bit of purpose (as well as discount on all those lovely books!)

4)Rewards:I have £5 saved up on my Debenhams Beauty Card and they're running a 10% off beauty promotion this week. As a little reward to myself for my results, I'm going to splash out on a new MAC lipstick which will be better than half price with the discounts. I could even wear my new purchase to graduation.
I'm trying to decide between Dubonnet and Brick-o-la, even though I definitely do not need another red lipstick in my life. Which one would you choose?

What's been making you happy recently? What lipstick do you think I should buy?!

7 November 2013

Happy Equal Pay Day?

Equal Pay Day is probably not a day that you've ever heard of. It's not a fun holiday like Christmas and actually the fact that it even exists makes me more than a bit angry, but it is a very important day. So I bet you're wondering what the heck Equal Pay Day actually is and why I'm bothering to mention it at all.

Each year, November 7th marks the day when women effectively begin to work for free due to the wage gap.
Despite the implementation of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, which aimed to ensure that men and women were paid equally for equal work, the UK still has the largest pay gap in the European Union.
 Women working full time routinely earn 15 per cent less per hour than their male counterparts. This means that for every £1 earned by a man, a woman earns only 85p. The wage discrepancy is worse for part-time work; women make up 74 per cent of the part-time workforce but earn 35 per cent less than men; they 'celebrated' their Equal Pay Day on August 27th. As women also traditionally do most unpaid work outside of a professional context, such as childcare and housework, they are more likely to work part-time hours than men are, leaving them much more likely to be paid unfairly.

The wage gap is not restricted to just a few areas of employment, either. In fact, in 32 of the 35 major professional sectors, women will earn less than men. The exact gap in wages also varies in different sectors; for example, in the financial sector, women earn an estimated 55 per cent less. That means a man earns more than twice as much as a woman for the same work.
Many women also work in the private sector, where the pay gap is around 20 per cent. Due to the recession, and jobs cuts in the public sector, many more women are forced into the private sector work and as such are more vulnerable to these wage discrepancies.
It isn't simply wages either; men receive an estimated £150,000 extra in bonuses during their career.

The issue of equal pay is often hidden away, as people are afraid to ask about money for fear of rocking the boat. Many companies also keep their payroll details private so no external party can examine the fairness of their wages.
Attempts are also often made to justify the wage gap by some notion of how men and women are different and as such should be paid differently. It is true that women often take time off to have children and care for them, but this is not and should not be the norm; paternity leave should also be offered, along with cheaper childcare, to ensure it is not solely women who a) bear the brunt of raising children and b) are then penalised for having children in the first place. Many women choose to leave work, permanently or temporarily, to care for their children which of course is fine; it's the fact that it's really women who are expected to leave work to attend to childcare and on their return their absence is used to justify their lower wages which is an issue!

The fact remains that even forty years after the Equal Pay Act was introduced, women are paid less than men for equal work. As well as perpetuating inequality and being wholly unfair and unjustified, lack of equal pay can also have an impact on employee morale and performance. It really is in the best interests of everyone to ensure wage equality.
To combat the inequality in wages, transparency of company pay roll is needed, as well as a fundamental change to the perception of women in the workplace and a challenging of the stereotypes which often haunt women as they embark on their careers is crucial.

To me, and I hope you, it really is unacceptable that this is allowed to continue. I wanted to raise awareness of this issue because it really is important- and fair!- that women are paid equally to their male counterparts for the same work. We have come a long way in terms of equality, thankfully, but we still have far to go. Failing to pay women equally shows that in many instances women are still not equally respected in the working world and that must change.
It's time that women and their worth were equally recognised and respected.

Have you heard of Equal Pay Day before? What do you think about the lack of equality in wages?

For more information on equal pay, you can visit The Fawcett Society or check out the #equalpay hashtag on Twitter.

3 November 2013

Things to See and Do: Prague

At the beginning of October, partly as a way to celebrate completing my Masters, Pete and I went on our first trip abroad together. Originally we wanted to go somewhere sunny but we left the organising very late so instead decided on a city break and chose Prague. It was an excellent choice!

We arrived late on a Sunday evening and after checking in to our amazing hotel went for a quick wander to find some dinner, before heading back and getting some sleep for the days ahead.

Our hotel was only 15 minutes from the famous and beautiful Charles Bridge, which was probably my favourite part of Prague. It was so amazing to walk across such a monument and the atmosphere was lovely; people everywhere, buskers and amazing statues wherever you turned. It was really hard to capture the beauty of the bridge but I loved it. I made sure we crossed it every day and I loved walking across it at night and as the sun was setting; the light just made it even more beautiful.

Prague is full of beautiful buildings; everywhere you turn you'll find something gorgeous to make you look twice.

The spires of the church before Tyn are so iconic and noticeable, dominating the Old Town Square (and appearing on the cover of many a Prague travel guide!)

However, my favourite part of the Old Town Square was the amazing astronomical clock. Every hour, on the hour, the figures start to move and saints appear up above and move around the clock as it chimes. Huge crowds gather underneath to catch a glimpse and when you realise it was made in the 15th century it's pretty amazing. I thought the clock face on its own was beautiful, even without the little show it puts on.

We spent an entire day just wandering around the grounds of Prague Castle and my favourite bit there was St Vitus' Cathedral with its absolutely gorgeous stained glass windows. There were so many of them and they were just beautiful. We also saw three separate couples getting their wedding photos taken in different parts of the castle grounds and I can definitely see why they opted for it; everything was so lovely and would provide the perfect backdrop for any wedding pictures. We were there for hours and didn't even get to see all of what the castle had to offer.

We spent a bit of time sitting on the banks of the Vlatva, dodging the swans and enjoying this view of the Charles Bridge from a different angle. It was nice to enjoy the beautiful bridge without being caught up in the crowds of snap-happy tourists and just watch the boats glide by, especially because we walked a lot.

We climbed a lot of towers during our trip but it was a great way to see all of Prague laid out underneath you. The one above, Petrin Tower, was modeled on the Eiffel Tower and at 299 steps was the biggest one we climbed. 

This amazing view (and one of my favourite pictures which I took) shows Prague from the top of Petrin Hill. You can see just how crowded the Charles Bridge is but it was so amazing to see Prague from this angle and get a little way out of the centre.

So there you have my whistle-stop tour of Prague! I originally planned to go through our trip chronologically but there was just so much to say that the post would have been even longer. 
I really adored Prague and felt it was like a perfect fairytale city. The beautiful buildings, cobbled streets and feeling of history dripping from every part of it made it the perfect getaway and it was so lovely to experience it with Pete (sorry!). It was the perfect place to go for a first trip abroad too; there was so much to see and do but it wasn't so big as to be overwhelming either.
The food was lovely and the beer super cheap, too, so it would be good for those who were a bit constrained by their budgets like I was.
I really would recommend Prague to anyone looking for a city break filled with history, culture and beautiful scenery.
The only drawback? I've well and truly got itchy feet now and am already trying to decide where to go next!

Have you ever been to Prague? What were your favourite parts? 
Where would you recommend I go next?

30 October 2013

The Book Lover Survey

A spookily accurate representation of my bookshelves
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I saw this over on Jennie's blog and knew I had to take part straight away. I am a huge bibliophile and I love talking about books almost as much as I enjoy reading them!

Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?
Not really, to be honest; I've just always seemed to love reading. My parents read to me as a child and my dad swears that I could just always read and I didn't have to be taught or anything. He says it was like Atticus and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird; he would put me on his knee and point to words in the  book and I would just be able to read them. I don't know how this worked but it's a nice story nonetheless!

Where do you usually read?
I mostly read in bed before going to sleep or sometimes in the morning on weekends. Travelling to visit Pete involves a flight, a bus journey and a train journey so I always get a lot of reading done then as well.

Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several books at once?
Definitely one book at a time. I often get quite heavily invested in what I'm reading and I wouldn't be able to do that if I was flitting between books.

What is your favourite genre?
I like a lot of different genres. I mostly read general fiction that catches my eye and like fiction with an 'edge' if that makes sense; where things are a little different from everyday. So I guess contemporary literary fiction is the way I would define it although basically anything and everything that looks interesting!

Is there a genre you will not read?
I'm personally not really into 'chick lit' (although I have issues with that phrase; I think it demeans the women who are producing it and those who enjoy reading it, but that's a rant for another day!) and I don't read much non-fiction or historical fiction either. I'm also a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror but I have read all of the John Ajvide Lindqvist books that are available in English because I love his writing even though it freaks me out.

Do you have a favourite book?
Yes, but this is a difficult question! I think my all-time favourite is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, a novel about a young Greek-American girl growing up in the 1960s, her family and their history. I love it so much; it's so interesting and well-written with fascinating bits of Greek history and culture running through it as well as a more recent setting. I often think about reading it again and again!
Some other favourites which I would recoomend include Girlfriend in a Coma and Hey! Nostradamus, which are both by Douglas Coupland, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (have tissues at hand when you're reading this! ) Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, One Day by David Nicholls (my heart!)  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and  The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall, which has an excellent twist near the end.

What is your least favourite book?
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I read it for my AS English Literature coursework and hated every word. My English teacher was the best teacher in the world and he was so passionate about it, which did help, but it really was not for me.
I also really did not enjoy Wuthering Heights. Everyone goes on and on about how it's a classic and soooooo brilliant but I hated every character and really didn't like it. It's relatively short but took me about 2 months to read because I couldn't bring myself to do it. ALSO everyone talks about Heathcliff as some wild romantic hero but he is the absolute worst and actually takes pride in hurting women so I don't understand the attraction there at all! (Sorry if it's your favourite or something, I know a lot of people love it!)

What is the longest book you have ever read?
I've read a few big tomes in my time. I have read three John Irving novels; The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany and The World According to Garp; each of them weigh in at over 500 pages each! Middlesex is around 550 pages. I like books of all different lengths though, especially if I'm travelling so I can take a few shorter ones.

What was the last book you bought?
I bought two at the Oxfam where I volunteer; Fahreheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and  Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.

Do you prefer library books or buying books?
The three full shelves of unread books are testament to the fact that I love to buy books! I can't get enough of them and I love searching them out in bookshops everywhere. I especially like browsing in charity shops at the minute; you can get a literary fix for a fraction of the price and do a bit of good while you're at it. Once I move out of my parents' home and space is at a premium I'll probably have to reign it in and resort to using libraries more but that's OK with me; in the meantime I'll continue to beef up my book collection, even though I definitely shouldn't.

What are you currently reading?
I'm not reading anything right now. I finished The World According to Garp at the weekend and I often get a kind of 'book hangover' when I've read something I've really enjoyed which stops me moving on straight away. I'll definitely start a new book in the next few days though; the only hard part is making a decision.

So, there you have it! Please let me know if you've done something similar or leave me any book-related tips and advice in the comments; I'm always on the lookout for more reading material. You can also be my friend on Goodreads if you'd like!

1 October 2013

I've got it Bad.

You've probably heard of Breaking Bad. You've probably watched it and you might even have finished it; the finale aired on Sunday in America. If you have, then no spoilers please!
If you haven't heard of it, it's a series which begins with Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, being diagnosed with lung cancer and teaming up with a former student to cook crystal meth and earn money to help his family when he dies. It sounds pretty simple but it's so much more than that. It's full of twists and turn, subplots and minor characters who are really anything but minor and the most simultaneously sympathetic and utterly loathsome main character I've come across. (I am only beginning season 5 though so I am prepared for my sympathy to completely disappear by the end of it.)

During my Masters, I was very dedicated and stayed away from TV for the most part (I distracted myself in other ways, of course, but it makes me sound good to say that) so I missed Breaking Bad. As soon as my thesis was handed in, I fired up Netflix, hit play and here we are. Less than two weeks later and I'm about to embark on the fifth and final season. It's basically an addiction, though far less dangerous and better for your teeth than crystal meth. I think about how to fit Breaking Bad into my day, eschewing essential tasks just to squeeze in a little more, staying up every night for 'just one more episode'.

Being late to the bandwagon has its advantages; you can watch everything at once instead of waiting a week between episodes, which is excellent with a show like this which consistently leaves you hanging; when you reach a part everyone was talking about you feel like you've finally got the joke and, if you need it, there'll be someone out there who's seen it who you can talk to about it. However, it's not without drawbacks! I've had to blacklist every Breaking Bad related word I can think of to prevent spoilers on Tumblr and going online is fraught with the fear that someone has posted vital clues as to what's going to happen.
So, I'm binge watching it for a lot of reasons; it's amazing, I NEED TO KNOW how it ends ASAP, I'm terrified it will be ruined for me before I see it for myself and I'm going away on Thursday so I must finish it before then because I can't wait until I come back to see it end.

So, if you need me, I'll be in Albuquerque for the next little while, hoping Walt Jr just gets to eat breakfast happily for the rest of his life and secretly wishing it ends with Walter going to Witness Protection and starting Malcolm in the Middle...

Did you watch Breaking Bad? What did you think? And what on earth are you going to use to fill the void now it's gone?!

18 September 2013

New Bloglovin Link

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/10693739/?claim=4q3qscqpudt">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

17 September 2013

I'm back!

Hello hello! I've been away for quite a while, haven't I? I feel like I have a very good reason though, and that reason is this beast:

All summer long I have been working on this (this might be a lie; in reality it was more like thinking I was working but not actually getting a lot done) but now all 17,176 words have been typed, bound and officially handed in and I am free from academic work forever! 

It's a very strange feeling; last night I expected to be elated and relieved that it was all over but instead I felt that it was very anticlimactic. I did a Masters because I was interested in the subject, of course, and I love learning, but I also thought that I would be able to work out what exactly it is I want to do with my life as well and maybe even have a job lined up when I had finished. Sadly, the last two things have not happened and I feel kind of deflated that I am still without any future plans, which is not how I thought it would go.

In reality I barely applied for any jobs while I was studying so of course it wasn't likely I would have one by now! I think I was a little bit idealistic in how easy I thought things were going to be so I am going to start making real efforts now and get myself out into the world somehow!
So just before writing this I applied for an internship which sounds fun and I'm going to make a real effort to find and apply for jobs and generally be extremely positive and proactive and actually do things instead of being silly and getting sad about them instead.

I also want to try and be a much better blogger too; I was never very consistent even before starting my thesis but I really do love writing so I'm going to make a big effort and try and make this a better experience for me and for you. I also want to have a little design overhaul (nothing too drastic, I am so not creative!) as well.

So this turned out to be a lot longer and more confessional than I first expected but hey. I hope soon I'll have good career-based news to report but until then I'll try and be a much better blogger than I am now. Although I am just about to start watching Breaking Bad so we'll have to see...

11 July 2013

The Wanderlust Tag

I saw that the excellent Annie at appletoothpaste did this tag a little while ago and wanted to get involved. I am sadly not as well traveled as I'd like to be (the woes of being an unemployed post-grad student) but that doesn't stop me dreaming!

Lovely Lake Konstanz (the Bodensee)

What is your most treasured passport stamp? I don't have any stamps on my passport! I haven't left Europe (yet!) so sadly my little passport is very bare.

Can you recite your passport number from memory is asked? Nope. I think it starts with a 9 and there are four zeroes in a row in it but I don't know it by heart.

What's your preferred method of travel; planes, trains or automobiles? I like them all really! I like being a passenger on car journeys so I can control the music we listen to. I don't mind trains but I get a bit bored after a while and I hate when they are really busy and cramped with no room for luggage and things like that.
I think flying is so exciting; you get into this little metal box and it takes you in the sky to another place; it's really quite cool when you think about it. Plus, I live in Northern Ireland so if you want to go somewhere not in Ireland you sort of have to fly.

What are your top 3 travel items? Assuming money and passport are taken care of, I'd definitely say a camera to capture all the hopefully amazing things I'LL see. Maybe comfortable shoes if I'm doing a lot of exploring and walking around as I don't think gladiator sandals will cut it! And a book (realistically more than one) for the plane/beside the pool/on the beach.

Hostel or hotel? I'm going to have to say hotel as I've never stayed in a hostel before. I don't think I'd mind a hostel too much though, although sharing a bathroom with a heap of strangers isn't really that appealing!

Are you a repeat visitor or do you like to explore new places? I definitely prefer to see new places. There is so flipping much of this world I have not seen yet and I wouldn't want to go back to the exact same places over and over. Having said that, I'm sure there are some countries that would require a repeat visit to experience the different things different regions have to offer.

Do you read up on your destination (culture, history, safety) or do you wing it? Ooh. I don't really check out history or anything beforehand but I usually investigate a couple of key things to see and do wherever I'm headed so I don't miss out on something amazing that other people have recommended.

What's your favourite travel website? I don't have one! I've never really been anywhere on my own yet so I haven't needed to delve to deeply. However, I love Sarah's blog which combines her own travel experiences with places she'd love to go and sets me off on my own travel daydreams.

Where would you recommend a friend to visit? Name a city and explain why. Well, the only city outside the UK I have any real experience of is Konstanz in Germany. I lived here for almost a year as part of my degree. It's a really beautiful place situated on the Bodensee in Southern Germany and you can walk into Switzerland, as well as being extremely close to Austria, so it's a good base to explore from. It's an hour on the train from Zurich Airport as well, so extremely easy to get to.
There's a load of gorgeous buildings and statues and quite a lot to see and do, including visiting the gorgeous 'flowering island' of Mainau which is truly beautiful in the sunshine and also has a butterfly house and petting zoo (beware of the goats! I was gored by a particular aggressive little bugger on my second trip there!). There's also the gorgeous medieval city of Meerburg and plenty of other little towns nearby to explore.
I would definitely recommend visiting Konstanz in summer as it was a little grey and very cold during the winter, with quite a lot of attractions shut down over the winter months, but the city really comes into its own when the sun comes out.

You're leaving tomorrow and money is no option; where are you going? This is tricky! I think I'd pick Brazil because I would love to experience such a wonderfully vibrant city. I know the Carnival is in February or March each year though, and I'd time my visit to coincide with that if I ever get the chance to go. I also want to see the statue of Cristo Redentor so, so much; I think it's just such an iconic figure and I think the idea of it looking over the entire city would be a very strange and humbling feeling. (Does that make sense? I don't even know if it would be like that, that's just how I imagine it.)


This is such a tricky question because there's so many places I want to go! I'd also love to see the Northern Lights, swim with the non-stinging jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake (it looks incredible), see St Basil's Cathedral, stand on 'Juliet's balcony' in Verona, visit Manarola and the rest of the Cinque Terre, have jambalaya and listen to jazz in New Orleans, go to Baltimore and find my very own Omar (10 points if you get this reference) watch a baseball game in Fenway Park in Boston and head to beautiful Croatia, to name but a few.
The more I think about it, the more there is I want to do and see out there and I have experienced approximately 0.02% of the world; I really must get a move on!

Let me know if you do this tag and please tell me about your travel experiences or if you've been anywhere that I've mentioned; I will be so very jealous I'm sure! As for me, I'm probably going to spend the rest of the evening planning adventures, and hopefully it won't be too long before I can tick some of my travel dreams off my list.

20 June 2013

Book Club: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Eugenides' second novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex, is one of my all-time favourite novels. He's more well-known for his debut, The Virgin Suicides, but his sophomore book is, in my opinion, infinitely better and really, honestly spectacular (and now I really want to read it again!) So, when I saw The Marriage Plot in my local Waterstones with Eugenides' name on the cover, I snapped it up. It was languishing on my shelves for a few months but after finishing all my essays I took advantage of the recent sunshine to lie in the garden, read and relax.

The Marriage Plot centres on three almost-graduates from Brown University in the 1980s. There's Madeleine, an English student, who realises that life after graduation may not be as easy as she first thought; Mitchell, a religious studies student who has been hopelessly in love with Madeleine since their first meeting and Leonard, a Biology student, who Madeleine has fallen for but who has a very different background to her and is hiding a secret. Post-graduation, Madeleine and Leonard move in together, but things aren't as easy as they hoped, while Mitchell travels around the world to escape his feelings for Madeleine. 

The book is essentially about love, both requited and unrequited, but it's also about growing up and adapting to how things really are instead of how you thought they would be.
For me, the book really captures the feeling of leaving university and being thrown into the big wide world and then having your dreams/ideals slowly be crushed and brought back to reality (this is gloomy, huh?) In particular, Madeleine applies for a few jobs and is quietly confident, before being rejected from them all and left  doubting herself, which is definitely something I can relate to right now! Similarly, Mitchell begins to question religion and the world around him, travelling to India to help others and help himself figure things out. 

I did think that the book could have been longer, especially as the big climactic events towards the end were covered in around 100 pages and I think they may have benefited from being given more room to develop. I'm also really greedy because I just want more and more of Eugenides' writing; he is one of the best authors I've come across and I love how beautifully he writes.
I was also worried at the start because there seemed to be a bit of a 'friend-zoning' vibe coming from Mitchell, but Eugenides has Madeleine challenge this which I thought was great.

I'd definitely recommend The Marriage Plot, especially if you've just left uni and are a bit scared about things to come; I found it so easy to relate to all the characters in some way. It's also quite funny, with Eugenides deftly creating background characters of the kind we all come across at university.
I would still prefer Middlesex over The Marriage Plot but I think this is a really great book and probably easier to contend with, with a 'lighter' subject matter in some instances than Middlesex.

Do you like the sound of The Marriage Plot? Have you read any of Jeffrey Eugenides' books before? Can you recommend me any new reading material?

10 June 2013

The Red Lippy Project: Raising Awareness of Cervical Screening

I bet you didn't expect me to return after my little absence to talk about your cervix, but here I am! This week, 9-15th June, is Cervical Screening Awareness Week and I want to contribute to the Red Lippy Project's attempts to shatter the taboo around smear tests.

If you're over 25 in the UK, you'll be invited for a free cervical screening every three years. It used to be over 20s who were eligible, but the law changed in the last 10 years due to the small numbers of cervical cancers recorded in the under 25s and the potential worry abnormal results could cause to this age group, whose bodies are still changing. Now, from the ages of 25-49, screenings will be offered every 3 years, with tests every 5 years for those 50 and older.
Estimates say that cervical screens save around 5000 lives each year, but 20% of those eligible for a smear test don't attend them, with 25-29 year olds being the worst offenders. This is due to fear and misinformation, as the secretive nature of cervical cancer means people are often uncomfortable discussing it.

This is something I can definitely relate to. I was eligible for my first screening before the change in legislation so, at 20, off I trundled to the GP's surgery for my smear test. I was terrified. I sort of shyly approached my mum, who was reassuring, but I was too scared to ask any really specific questions. I went to my appointment full of nerves and wearing jeans, which I was later to realise was a rookie error. And... it was fine. I've heard the horror stories, as I'm sure you have too, but in all honesty there were no issues. Yeah, it was a bit awkward having a stranger poke and prod at me down there, but it wasn't painful at all and lasted less than five minutes. For me, the worst bit was trying to undress with one hand clutching a sheet around my waist. A word of advice; when you go for your test, you may want to wear a skirt/dress to avoid being naked from the waist down aside from your socks, as happened to me.

Anyway, enough of the oversharing (and sorry if I've given any of you nightmares) The point of all this is, cervical cancer and cervical screening is criminally under-discussed. There are adverts for erectile dysfunction services on TV all the time, but when it comes to something that can be a matter of life and death it's shied away from because of the anatomy involved. Some awareness was raised with the death of Jade Goody, but that has started to slip from public consciousness now, so more must be done to bring cervical cancer back into the public domain.
Caroline Muhlich, founder of the Red Lippy Project wanted to create a visual platform to allow open discussion of cervical cancer and underline the importance of taking control of your health. The Project encourages women to wear red lipstick for a week as a way of raising funds for the charity, as well as aiming to break down the stigma surrounding cervical cancer by encouraging discussion and sharing information between friends, family members and everyone with a cervix; it really could help save a life.

So, please, pop on your best red lipstick, talk to someone about cervical cancer and don't be ashamed about something which could help save your life or the life of someone you love.

Usually I ask you about your experiences but I don't think you'll really want to talk about your cervixes with me; I totally understand! So instead, I'll ask about your favourite red lipsticks. (though if you have a story or opinion on cervical screening, please feel free to share.)

You can donate to The Eve Appeal and help fund their research here.

3 May 2013

I am the UK's Sexiest Woman!

Please, before you look at my picture and then laugh yourself to death, give me a chance to explain the rather big-headed title.
Image source

Helen Flanagan, who used to be in Coronation Street, came third in the FHM 100 Sexiest Women list this year, meaning she also became the 'Sexiest Woman in the UK'. Usually I could not care less about this, or at least I wouldn't care enough to write a blog post, but her name was trending on Twitter and I foolishly clicked on it. Rookie mistake. Some of the comments were alright. There were quite a few wondering how Helen had managed to beat fellow Coronation Street star Michelle Keegan; clearly these people do not understand how voting actually works but in the main they were harmless.
Some comments, however, were awful. They called her ugly, of course, with lots of unflattering pictures being circulated. People compared her to animals, namely a dog, and there were a lot of 'slut' and 'bitch' tweets. Some people even made 'jokes' about her having been raped by the actor playing Ken Barlow. Really, truly, horrible and cruel.

Reading through these tweets and comments I started to think about the list and why it was, basically, bullshit and I wanted to share my thoughts here because if you can't share these things on your blog then where can you, eh? I know some people will think I am taking this very seriously and that's fine; I probably am, but this post has been brewing for a few days now and I really hope somebody out there understands. Please let me know what you think of what I have to say!

First off, 'sexy' means 'sexy' as defined by the magazine and its readers. So, that's young, slim women, preferably with big boobs, who look good. And I'm not saying they don't look good. They are beautiful women. But all women are beautiful. They may not look like Mila Kunis or Beyonce or Kaley Cuoco or anyone else on that list but they are beautiful in their own way and they have so much to offer.
FHM and its readers are reducing women to their looks and nothing else; they're voting for who looks best in a pair of heels and a bra, not their personalities, talents or anything else. Beside each picture on the website is a little bit of information about each woman and then often a lot of talk about how sexy they really are. Oh, and maybe a comment about how sad it is that they are dating somebody else.
 Basically, these women are objects who look nice and might strip off for the magazine (there's nothing wrong with that in itself, but if FHM just sees women as these objects, that's very, very wrong) and they don't need to be respected for anything else; what matters is that their appearance appeases the average FHM viewer.

As well as defining 'sexy', it's all a very homogenous type of sexy on display. Only 15 of the women that I counted were non-white, meaning that's a whole load of one type of beauty being displayed there with little variation. All of the women were slim, too, with Beyonce perhaps being the 'biggest' of them. They were all really young, too, with Linda Barker being the oldest that I could see.
So young, white and slim basically sums up the entire list. That means no beautiful, black, plus sized Philomena Kwao, no wonderful, older Helen Mirren, no stunning Nadia Aboulhosn.
This means a lot of girls will grow up without anybody resembling them being called 'sexy' in a mainstream environment, leading to them resenting how they look and idolising impossible beauty standards. It means a lot of girls will feel that they couldn't possibly be sexy because they don't resemble Kelly Brook or Kate Upton and to me that is really, really sad.

Finally, sexiness is totally subjective and this list just shows one side of the sexy coin. I don't think I'm sexy; I don't even think I am verging on pretty most of the time. Hell, some days I can't decide which bit of me I hate the most and full-length mirrors are a no-go area for me.
But I have somebody who thinks that I am beautiful and cute and funny and all the things in between that add up and make me sexy to them; in their eyes, I am the sexiest woman in the UK (although I know that if Sandra Bullock came into his life I'd not see him for dust)
Sexiness really depends on who you ask; that's what I mean by the title of the post. I may not hold much sway with FHM readers, as they don't seem to partial to Northern Irish girls with really small boobs and lots of stretchmarks, but I am somebody's sexiest woman, and so are you, and so is Helen Flanagan.

29 April 2013

I said 39 times that I love you to the beauty I had found.


If you don't like public displays of affection and don't want to see me being all mushy then this is not the post for you!

Today, Pete and I celebrate our fourth anniversary! I honestly cannot believe how fast time slips by; it seems like just yesterday that we celebrated our third anniversary, but I guess it is testament to our relationship that everything just seems so natural.

We've had our fair share of difficulty; I lived in Germany for 10 months as part of my degree and right now we are also apart as we moved back home after university and long distance is really hard sometimes, especially days like this when you can't celebrate together.
It does make us appreciate the time we spend together all the more though, and although there are days we spend curled up in bed watching The Wire, we also make a real effort to create new memories together as much as we can.

I know all the tears and frustration will be worth it in the end. There's nobody else I would rather wait to be with and Pete is always there to reassure me that we can do it. He is so lovely and just the kindest person I've ever met.
 He's my best friend and although he laughs at me when I cry at films/TV/books/songs (I cry a lot, OK?), he's always there to cheer me up and can even suppress his giggles long enough to do so.
Every day we spend together is a day full of fun, laughter and love and I can't wait until we get to spend every day that way.

17 April 2013

Birthday Wishes

First up, sorry for my online absence! I was swamped with a ridiculously difficult essay which I had to basically construct with absolutely no assistance from my lecturer; seriously, the man doesn't even have an email address.
Then, the day after hand in, I was struck down with a horrible cold/flu hybrid that left me feverish and miserable and trying not to throw up (lovely mental image for you all there) During that time, though, I got to have a nice long think about my birthday tomorrow. I feel that now I'm getting older- I'll turn 23 this year- people don't really bother so much about presents which is fine and, to go all soppy on you for a minute, Pete will be here to celebrate with me so really I'm getting what I want the most anyway.
However, despite being perhaps a bit too old for presents, I of course compiled a little birthday wishlist anyway because, well, I just love looking at pretty things.

Birthday Wishes

Laura Mercier SIlk Creme Foundation (Medium Ivory): I recently went to get matched up to this foundation after hearing so many good things about it and, truly, it's love. I loved the colour match, the finish and the lasting power which, for an oily-skinned lass like me, is essential. It is a bit pricey though, at £33, but I've been very subtly dropping hints about getting House of Fraser vouchers and if I do then this will be my target!

Lascana Polka Dot Swimsuit: I absolutely love swimming and find it so relaxing and peaceful. What I don't love is exposing my tummy/thighs to a pool full of strangers (although I am working on that because I shouldn't actually care what strangers think of how I look!) I just think this little suit is so cute and I love it.

NARS Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil (Happy Days): I've never tried a NARS lip product before and this colour would be gorgeous for sunny days outside.

Topshop Cream Blush (Flush): This appears to be sold out now but really I'd like any of the Topshop cream blushes. The colours look lovely and the texture seems like it would work really well too.

Origins Zero Oil Cleanser: Now I'm getting older I'll have to start looking after my skin more. I used to always make the mistake of scrubbing and rubbing at my skin to get rid of the oil but I realise now that just makes it worse! So I need to start choosing products that are right for my skin type. The amazing Kate from gh0stparties recommends this and her skin is gorgeous so I'd like to see if I can get the same glowy skin as her.

Daniel Wellington Sheffield Watch: I am in love with this watch. It is just so stunning; classic but not boring, attention-grabbing but not ostentatious. It is a thing of beauty and I would love it on my wrist!

So that's what I'll be wishing for when I blow out my candles this year! Have you tried any of these products? What do you recommend I splash my birthday cash on? (even as I try to pretend I'll save some!)

14 March 2013

Panic Stations!

Well there is a LOT of fuss going on right now about the possibility of losing Google Friend Connect. There are absolutely no concrete plans for this; Google are planning to get rid of Google Reader which is a collection of RSS feeds.
However, I thought I'd take this opportunity to let you know you can follow me on Bloglovin'. There's a button under my profile on the right hand side if you would like to join me there!

4 March 2013

Getting to Know You- 22 Snippets About Me

I've seen a lot of these posts circulating various blogs in recent weeks, so I thought I'd hop right on the bandwagon and attempt to give you a bit of an insight into me. Hopefully you won't find this horrifically boring and if there's anything else you'd like to know about me please just ask.

I thought I'd kick things off with this picture, taken at the Summer Ball in June 2012, the day of my last ever university exam. It's one of my favourites.

  1. I have a degree in Law and German but I don't want to be a lawyer anymore. Before starting my degree I was convinced I was going to become a barrister but I became more disillusioned the further I got and now I am unsure of what direction I'm going to take.
  2. I would love to work for a charity and make a real difference in peoples' lives. I'd particularly like to work for a women's charity or one for victims of trafficking.
  3. My ultimate fantasy dream job is actually a DJ. I used to spend ages making playlists and mix CDs to give to people and I love the idea of having a room full of people happy and dancing because of me. If you'd like to see what music I love you can find me on Spotify. Please feel free to follow or share your favourite songs with me there; I'm always on the lookout for new music.
  4. I used to have a radio show while I was at university. It was lots of fun but I cringe a but listening back to the shows because my voice sounds so strange.
  5. I threw up in a bin live on air because I had to drink raw egg and tabasco sauce mixed together as a forfeit on one of the shows. So gross and embarrassing, and broadcast to the entire Students' Union. 
  6. I have always had a thing for boys with long hair. Amazing 90s boyband  Hanson used to adorn my walls with their lovely blonde locks.
  7. Until very recently, my boyfriend Pete (up there in the picture with me) could have passed for a member of Hanson. He shaved his head in November to look more professional when job hunting and I cried for a full day.
  8. I've only kissed one person in my life, but thankfully I do get to kiss him on a semi-regular basis now.
  9. Pete and I have had to be long distance for a fair chunk of our near 4 year relationship. We met at university but he lives in England while I'm here in Belfast, so holidays were often spent apart. I also spent 10 months in Germany as part of my degree which was pretty tough but we've managed so far. Hopefully we won't have too long to wait until we are finally in the same place for an extended period of time.
  10. I'm mixed-race. My maternal grandad was from Pakistan. I don't really look it, but I do tan quickly when the sun eventually rears its head.
  11. I'm a stickler for good grammar and spelling...
  12. ...but I hate the phrase 'grammar Nazi'.
  13. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my top all-time heroines.
  14. I actually loved Buffy so much that I used to go to conventions held in a local hotel where they would show 'special' episodes of the show.
  15. I went through a phase of reading 'controversial' books- American Psycho at 17, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things at around 15 and so, so much Douglas Coupland from around 14. People used to think I was so weird because of it but I loved the twists they held compared to books I had read before.
  16. I love reading so much; it's my favourite hobby. I have two full bookcases in my room and two of those shelves are waiting to be read. I can't stop buying books and I'm pretty sure I'm going to need a library in any future houses I have.
  17. I'm pretty emotional at times and cry at films/books/TV shows/songs on a pretty regular basis. My most embarrassing cry was probably when I finished reading One Day on a plane and sobbed really quite loudly for abut 15 minutes. Not just a little trickle of tears but proper, noisy, chest-heaving sobs.
  18. I don't have any allergies. Well, I should say, I don't have any allergies that I know of. I bet one day a time will come when an allergic reaction will strike without warning and I'll rue my complacency.
  19. I have no tattoos or piercings, not even my ears. My mum wouldn't let me get them done when I was younger and now I'm too scared of it hurting to go.
  20. I've never had any sort of operation or medical procedure due to illness or accident. I've only ever had vaccinations and the only 'surgery' I've had was through choice when I got my first implant inserted and then replaced 3 years later. (Perhaps a bit of TMI there, but it's really pretty cool; I can feel it through my skin and sometimes I feel like an alien or something is in there.)
  21. I am a big ol' lefty when it comes to politics and social issues. I am all about equality, fairness and social justice.
  22. I am a feminist.
I thought I'd stop at 22 because that's how old I am. I also didn't want to bore you all to tears. I hope this has provided you all with a fascinating insight into me and my life. If you've done any of these posts, please link me to them as I am super nosy and would love to read them! Thanks for sticking with my waffle and if you'd like to know more about me or anything I mentioned here, please just ask!

23 February 2013

Meet Your Match

If you're anything like me, you'll have quite the collection of foundations. I have one for everyday wear that's easy to slap on and one that is a bit more long lasting and heavy duty. I have one for the summer and one languishing in my make up box which is the wrong colour and finish for me; I bought it because I totally fell for the hype around it and just had to own it, despite not having a shade that suited me. I also have three which have never even been opened; that's seven in total.

Finding the right foundation is definitely the most important part of make up for me. I feel really self-conscious if I think the shade is wrong, but I also find it very difficult to find the right shade, both in high-street and high-end brands. In the drugstore, it's difficult because there is generally nobody around to help you, the testers have often been stolen and all the shade range is generally quite limited or has the wrong undertones for your skin. Similarly, with high-end brands, I always feel really under pressure if they have matched me up and I just buy then and there without asking for a sample or even going outside to check the match under natural light. I never ever want to question the person who has matched me up because I feel they should no best. It's an approach that has, alas, seen me splurge a fair bit on things that aren't quite right, and I was fed up of feeling clueless every time I needed/wanted to change up my foundation.

After a bit of Googling, I stumbled on Findation. Findation allows you to match up your shades with foundations you already know are a good match for you. I played around with this a bit and, on the whole, it has matched me up nicely to the shades I already wear. It's easy to use and displays all your results clearly. That said, it doesn't provide a match for every brand. For example, there is no Illamasqua match for me as yet, but new results are added all the time as more people contribute to the site.

I'm not going to say Findation is perfect at matching you up, especially as I haven't yet gone to be matched up following its recommendations. I do think, however, that it will be a great help in steering you in the right direction when you want to try a new brand.

Have any of you tried Findation or do you know a similar site? (Seriously, I need all the help I can get here!) How do you find your perfect match?

24 January 2013

Things to See and Do: Bath

After handing in my essays in the first week of January I went to visit Pete. We arranged a trip to Bath as part of my visit; it's somewhere I've always wanted to visit and Pete wanted to test out his driving having recently passed his test.
We stayed in the gorgeous Brooks Guesthouse; our room was so big, with a gorgeous bathroom and huge comfy bed. It was in a really good location too.

We went for a wander just after we arrived and decided to visit the Roman Baths; the site where Romans took advantage of the naturally heated water to bathe and worship. It was really interesting to learn all about the Baths and it looked so lovely. It was absolutely freezing outside so I really wanted to hop into the hot water and get warm!

We also sampled the spa water before we left but it was pretty gross! It was warm and tasted like blood so I'm pretty certain I wouldn't have that again.

After the Baths we popped over to Sally Lunn's, one of Bath's oldest houses, and tried a Bath bun. Silly me forgot to take a picture on my camera before I wolfed it down- there is one on my Instagram (secondhand_news) but I can't work out how to upload it here! I had mine with jam on and it was delicious.

Next stop was Bath Abbey. The building was absolutely gorgeous and the stained glass window at one end was so stunning. There was hardly anybody in the abbey which added to the atmosphere. 
Check out the gorgeous ceiling too.

I'm not particularly religious but honestly the abbey was so beautiful and peaceful that I would recommend checking it out if you got the chance. You can also go up the tower but it cost £6 each and we weren't that bothered as it was getting dark by this point, but on a summer's day I can imagine it would be stunning.

I really wanted to go to the Jane Austen Museum the following day before we left but it was closed for refurbishments, so we went to Bath Spa instead. Like the Roman Baths, it showcases the naturally warm water but this time you can jump in! We had two hours to spend there and most of that was spent in the open-air rooftop pool which was amazing. It was a clear day so the view was great, and it was so cold outside that it made a great contrast with the warm water. I wasn't allowed to take pictures there which was a shame, but I can assure you it was amazing and a great experience.

After the spa, we went for a spot of lunch and then sadly our time in Bath was over! It was a bit of a whistle-stop tour so I'd definitely have to go again and see a bit more.
From what I saw, Bath is a gorgeous city with amazing architecture and lots crammed in. The only downside was that we just didn't have enough time to do it all, so I'd love to return.

Have any of you been to Bath? Have you done anything I might have missed out on there?

11 January 2013

Book Club: The Equality Illusion by Kat Banyard

Well, I have finally handed in my two monster essays- 6,000 words each, due one day after each other, no thank you- and have had a lovely few days off. In that time, I managed to finish The Equality Illusion which I'd been reading for a few weeks before Christmas.

The books takes as its inspiration the often peddled idea that men and women today are pretty much equal. Banyard uses the book to dispel this myth, and does so brilliantly.

The book is set out in the form of a typical day for women; from getting out of bed to going to sleep, as well as a chapter on 'tomorrow', setting out how to change things.
From the first page, it's an eye-opener. Banyard has interviewed over 100 young women, gathering opinions on everything from body image to abortion. It's packed with astonishing statistics too, that really show the depth of inequality in the UK today.

It's quite hard to describe the book as it is all factual, but it is so worth reading. Everything is laid out clearly and it's very accessible to anyone, even without any previous knowledge of feminism.
There's also an excellent resource section at the end, with information on organisations for help and information.
This is a really excellent book that I think will open the eyes of anyone who reads it. It's meticulously researched but not written in an academic way, and the interviews with women who have lived the issues first hand make it so personal.
I'd really recommend this book, although it did make a bit angry when I realised just how shitty things really were!

A word of caution- Banyard interviews women who have worked in the sex industry, and some of the descriptions they give of things that happened to them are quite graphic. 

Have any of you read The Equality Illusion or any books like it? I love getting book recommendations!