A Wintry Walk

I hope everyone had a lovely and enjoyable Christmas. I know I did, I’ve eaten so much in the past week I struggled with my Christmas dinner. Managed to pull through though and scoffed a mince pie and some Christmas pudding after.

I received a lot of lovely gifts: a coat with a tea cup pattern on it (sums me up), glass coasters to put my polaroid photos in (awesome), Jean Paul Gaultier perfume (smells HEAVENLY), an ice cream maker (amazing), a Herschel backpack, my first ever set of Yankee tea light candles (salted caramel, it’ll be like I live in Willy Wonka’s factory) and among other gifts various elephant themed items. Oh and a LOT of socks.

But one of my favourite gifts of all, which was half from myself, half from my dad, was a Nikon D3200 camera. And it’s a beauty. I’ve been considering buying a DSLR for a while, because it’s a little silly to go travelling to amazing places, with only my iPhone 4 to record moments. Not to mention when I write articles and reviews for web zines, it feels more professional if I have high quality photos to accompany my writing.

After a lot of research I went for the Nikon D3200. I found it on offer for about half the price of when it was new- about a year and a half ago. The online reviews all seemed to say it was an excellent camera for beginners, as it is simple to use but can still produce great results. Perfect. I’ve played around with it a bit, and it seems to have some great features to experiment with and (hopefully) produce some amazing photos to treasure. I don’t know much about using a DSLR, but I’m hoping with the built in guide and constant use, I will soon get the hang of things (and any tips welcome!)

It snowed in England on Boxing Day night, and some snow had settled to remain there the next day. I decided to take my camera and my Labrador for a walk around the nature reserve close to my dad’s house, and although it’s hard to keep a steady hand to take photos when all your dog wants to do is chase after swans, I managed to take some photos I’m quite proud of as a novice.

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The building my high school prom was held

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Obligatory photo of Otis

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This photo I cropped to test the quality, and I love it! Swans are so beautiful..

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As swans mate for life, it’s always sweet to see a pair together.

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India’s Rape Culture

Just A Small Town Girl...

Today it’s been exactly two years since the brutal gang rape of 23 year old physiotheraphy student Jyoti Singh on a bus in Delhi, a case which provoked outrage all over the world. Since then there have been a number of high profile sexual violence-related stories stemming from India, such as the rapes of the German and Danish tourists at the start of 2014. Flicking through the newspaper about a week ago I stumbled upon another story which stated that a 26 year old Indian woman had reportedly been raped on an Uber taxi journey. She was attacked by her driver in Delhi, leading to the international taxi-booking app being banned from usage in the entire state; North India and Delhi are fast becoming notorious for acts of sexual violence against women. Now I’ve written a pretty tame post on sexual discrimination against women in the past, (http://wp.me/p3NQaU-75) but after recently learning that New…

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Novels of Note

For a previous post I talked/rambled/gushed about a few favourite writers of mine, and which of their works I would advocate anyone to read. For this very similar post I’m going to talk/ramble/gush about which novels I have read (and nothing else by the author). And of course there are abundant novels out there, more than I can fit on this post without it becoming far too long, so here is just a sample:

 

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Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

I found everything beautiful about this novel: the writing, the story, its depiction of Norfolk- to say it’s a novel involving harvesting organs. It’s a remarkable sci-fi novel in that it’s set in a quaint England, and is futuristic and yet has a historical, vintage feel to it. What grabbed me most was the idea of “donors”, and that the central characters accepted their fate, or their purpose, without question.

 

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Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

The only novel I have read by Emily Bronte because, well, she didn’t write anymore due to a tragically young death. I love Wuthering Heights partly because I feel it is a novel you cannot over analyse- no matter what there always seems to be many, many more things to say about it. With every reread you discover something new: a hidden meaning or character perspective to love it even more. It’s method of finding twisted beauty in the darkest areas of the human mind, I find to be an intoxicating read.Plus who can resist, (SPOILER ALERT) a Victorian horror about love so intense and passionate it destroys the lives of everyone involved- only to find redemption through another, more innocent and pure, love? (Victorian morale is always a great discussion point…)

 

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1984 – George Orwell

The first dystopian fiction I have ever read, and one of the most iconic. I have read essays and lectures by Orwell thanks to my studies, but it is this novel that leaves me in awe of his intelligence to create a dystopian horror of a world. One that seems alarmingly possible not just when he wrote it, but even now. His writing left me feeling uncomfortable, as though I was being watched by Big Brother itself, and his explanation of ‘newspeak’ at the end is impressive writing as a stand alone piece.

 

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To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

A novel many have read in Britian for their GCSE’s, but so profound anyone will fall for it. Similarly to Never Let Me Go it is a story with dark themes (in this case rape and racism), but the way in which the story is told allows it to be enjoyable to sink into. Using a child narrator with a voice mature enough to reach even adult readers is poignant in making this a classic novel to show how racism is not born with, but is injected into society.

 

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Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières

Lastly, this is an amazing piece of work set in the beautiful Greek island of Cephallonia during the Second World War. A novel so great and popular this Greek island is now a popular destination (my mum for example has fulfilled an ambition to visit after reading the novel). It is a great romantic novel in that it is popular without being sappy, and offers great insight into the difference between lust, infatuation, and love. “Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away“.

 

 

I might a regular thing of talking about novels I personally think should be read by EVERYONE. There are a lot out there, a lot nestled on my bookshelf, and a lot I am yet to fall in love with.

Travel Tips 101

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Like the rest of the masses who have had their passport stamped in various locations, I’m always super keen to pass on what I’ve learnt from my own experiences. In this post I’m going to focus on tips I think are beneficial to beginners- those who are just getting ready to explore the world. These tips will be for what to do before you step on that plane, train, boat, coach etc. I think these are useful preparations to assist in ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip. Although it’s a fun, romantic idea to imagine randomly turning up at an airport and picking the first flight available, it is (generally) better to be at least slightly organised.

 

1. Start Small

By this I mean if you’ve never left your home country, it will be a complete culture shock if you decide to head to the other side of the world. Even the most adventurous can feel a little overwhelmed at times, this is completely natural. It is equally important if you’ve only experienced family holidays or similar- travelling solo or just with friends is a completely different experience in which you are much more self reliant. My first ‘travel experience’ was from London to Paris, which was great to build self-confidence for future adventures. So, for example, if you live in Europe it may be best to visit another European country, as it is close to home and you can embrace cultural similarities, as well as the differences.

Also it can be helpful to visit popular touristic cities, Paris being an example. The locals will be used to helping lost and confused tourists, and it will be easier to find someone who speaks your language, particularly in hotels and hostels. With large touristic businesses in these cities, they are more accommodated in helping you enjoy your visit.

 

2. Research Beforehand

Although a traveller might recoil at the thought of using a guidebook, they are really useful to own. With them you have easy access to a knowledge of the best places to visit, tips on embracing the local culture, and useful phrases to communicate with. The internet is also brilliant for finding out everything you need to know: reviews, off-beat attractions, and where to stay. Without a background knowledge of the place you wish to visit, you might end up missing out on something amazing. And researching can increase your enthusiasm for visiting a place once you learn more about its history etc. Also, ask other people. When I went to Budapest, for the best bars and places to visit I asked a Hungarian university colleague, a Hungarian I met in a bar, and someone through twitter who had previously been. People are always happy to share their tips, and sometimes they know the perfect places. My Dad recommended to me the best toilets to visit in Bratislava. Worth it? Yes.

 

3. Budget Wisely

It’s always best to avoid using your credit/debit card as much as possible when abroad. Use cash, but hide it securely. In my previous post about Paris, I mentioned running out of money, which is a nightmare. For big cities, a larger daily budget is needed than in smaller cities, or those with less annual tourist visitors. Because you will tend to eat in restaurants daily, visit museums and galleries, and buy souvenirs, you can end up spending more than you realise. For places such as Paris or Rome, I find 50 euros a day sufficient for me, but those with larger incomes (poor student problems), or who wish to have more luxury when travelling may spend more. And those who are more thrifty than I, or don’t feel the need to buy gifts for all of their family, friends, partners and next doors dog, can get away with less.

 

4. Have an Ideal Travel Companion

Unless you are travelling solo, then this won’t apply to you. Spending 24/7 with someone for the entire trip can either be heaps of fun, or hell on earth. Everybody has friends they can’t spend more than a few hours with, and those who they could live with (and sometimes do). It is important to think carefully about who you could travel with without wanting to rip each others hair out by the end. You will have to rely on that person a lot: maybe they’ll have to hold your hair back whilst you’re vomiting the local drink (lovely), or they have a knowledge of the local language. Travelling will give you amazing memories: you will want to share those with someone you adore.

 

5. Plan what you’ll Pack

Check the forecast, the climate, what activities you’ll be doing and pack accordingly. Bring sensible footwear, and some kind of camera to record those spectacular sights for future cherishing. Have a list of personal essentials you couldn’t live without wherever you are: for me it involves contact lenses, eyeliner, lipstick, and a fetching hat. Try not to forget toiletries, adapters or underwear, but they can be bought quite easily. If you’re travelling with someone you can arrange to share luggage and/or items e.g. shampoo, hairbrush, even clothes. If it helps, write a list and only tick something off once it’s packed.

 

5. Have Important Info at Hand

This is for when you arrive at the airport or wherever. As a girl, I like to keep my boarding passes, tickets, and passport in my handbag rather than my hand luggage (or sometimes the front pocket). Don’t have it so easy at hand you might lose it, but it’s quite reassuring to know you can check the boarding gate/time for the millionth time without hassle. In times you might need to ask for help, it’s good to have this info at hand to refer to. And when you arrive at your destination, it’s useful to have directions/addresses/money within your own easy reach.

 

Travelling is the best: you learn so much more about the world experiencing it first hand rather than through TV, film or a book. It broadens your horizons without you even realising, and you’re always guaranteed to have a great story to tell again and again.