Book Series that Defined My Childhood

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a bookworm. My mum always feared I would struggle in school, because as a toddler I couldn’t do 4 piece jigsaws or figure out shape sorter toys, but when I brought a book home and read it to her, her fears more or less went away.

Childhood literature helps feed the imagination, increase creativity and expands the language of a child, and I think giving an appetite for reading is one of the best gifts my family gave me.

I picked out a few book series which were the most prominent in my childhood years, and are what I would push into the hands of any possible future children of my own.

Also writing this made me feel very old, as well as incredibly nostalgic.

The Faraway Tree

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These came in a collection of books, consisting of many short stories. It begins with a family moving to the countryside and the children discover an enchanted wood. In the middle of the woods stood a humongous tree that was home to magical creatures and led to various worlds that existed on clouds up above. These included The Land of Nursery Rhymes, The Land of Birthday Parties and The Land of Spells. It was brilliant for a child with an over-active imagination. Enid Blyton, the author, is one of Britain’s most iconic children writers, and although she wrote books long before I was a child, and her classics are reminiscent of 1930s and 1940s Britain, they are also timeless in content.

The Famous Five

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Another collection by the brilliant Enid Blyton: these do not include magic or fantasy but instead focus on older children who sought adventure that often involved treasure, smugglers and the occasional picnic. The Famous Five gang also includes an intelligent dog, Timmy, which would leave the older or younger me immediately sold by the novels. As the language of the 1930s and 1940s differs so much from around ten years ago, I often found myself picking up on outdated phrases that could lead to a few odd looks, but why not say “Absolutely Spiffing!” without shame.

The Sleepover Club

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The Sleepover Club novels were adored by my friends and I, we even started our own sleepover club and I’m confident that we weren’t the only ones. The novels involved a group of friends who would host sleepovers at one another’s houses, with various themes or mishaps. These were the first set of books I read that didn’t include pictures (I was shocked when my sister warned me they had none), so it’s easy to trust their quality if they can leave young girls across the country hooked with just words.

Horrible Histories/Horrible Science

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These weren’t series of novels, but of books that taught the reader about various historical or scientific topics using humour and cartoons. I loved to read these, and surprisingly the science books were my favourite to say I’m a humanities girl. I still remember facts I learnt from these books, and I still sometimes unashamedly quote them in conversation. I suppose if anything they helped to build my appetite for learning, because they were fun, lighthearted, and I’ve always been a bit of a nerd.

Jacqueline Wilson

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Not a series of books but a well known childrens author. My generation read countless books by her, perhaps one of her most famous examples is The Story of Tracy Beaker. Her novels focused on children who dealt with various issues e.g. divorce, adoption, bullying, and death. However she managed to turn these into enjoyable and even funny stories, so they weren’t incredibly depressing for a young child to read, but they remained real and empathetic. She also wrote many teen novels that focused on similar themes, which led me into reading more pre-teen/teen novels when I was older.

And finally…

Harry Potter

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Because obviously.

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Victoria Park, London

After a stressful Sunday morning of my phone suddenly dying on me and wondering how I could ever live without it, I decided to wander around Victoria Park in London to take photos and to relax. It has been forecast to snow later this week, and although it was biting cold there was something relaxing about the atmosphere. I tried to achieve a look of serenity in my photos that day. However seeing as I am, shall we say, not a professional, I wasn’t very happy with the results. Despite my lack of artistry I thought I’d share my favourites anyway, because after all why not . Victoria Park is one of my favourite parks I have ever visited, for both its beauty and the memories I have there.

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What to expect from an Intercultural Relationship

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I am a British girl, who drinks tea, tuts quietly to herself and complains about the weather. My boyfriend of nearly 2 years is Brazilian who drinks coffee, loves the beach, but to break the stereotype he hates football (shocking). Our relationship spreads between two continents, visiting each other’s hometowns and slowly learning about one another’s culture.

As with visiting an exotic country, dating an exotic human being can be quite the culture shock. Sometimes it can be small, mundane things that often escape your attention, like “How can one person talk so much?”, to the bigger things that can evolve into lengthy discussions until you accept its simply a cultural difference and that you’re never going to agree.

With time I’ve come to realise that there are some features of an intercultural relationship that can be frustrating or just plain weird, but they offer you a unique experience to share with another human being, and you find yourself learning to appreciate and treasure them.

Language Barriers

Hopefully, by forming a relationship with another, there is a mutual language to share. This does not mean fluency is a guarantee. Sometimes the results are hilarious, and are great to tease the other person with when they come out with some weird expressions (a personal favourite of mine that my boyfriend has said is “Jack the Stripper” aka Jack the Ripper, a Victorian serial killer who hunted East London prostitutes at night. Not a saucy burlesque performer). Other times one person can say one thing, whilst meaning something else and cause offence.

Family Meetings

I don’t think meeting your partner’s family can ever not be awkward, but it doesn’t help when you don’t speak their language, and they don’t speak yours. I have found that Latinos, who are warm and friendly, talk a lot, and they can also be LOUD. Us Brits can be quite timid and mild mannered, and so when dining with a family who talk over one another, are very expressive in their emotions and laugh and joke in a language you cannot understand a word of, it can be quite a bizarre experience. Equally my boyfriend found it bizarre when meeting my mum for the first time in Camden Market. In his culture meeting the parents is a huge moment, and so I think he was expecting something like an interrogation, whereas my mum simply said “Hi” and carried on shopping.

Dating Habits

Sometimes big romantic gestures are a wonderful surprise, but in the 21st century when we expect less handwritten letters and more cryptic text messages to over analyse, it can be a surprise to meet someone who is, to put it simply, soppy. Some cultures are more openly affectionate than others, and so when two worlds collide both sides can be left feeling confused by the other’s actions. You learn to adapt, and even pick up on one another’s habits to either openly or quietly show your affection.

Cooking

With different cultures you can expect to try all kinds of new and exotic recipes and cooking methods. I think my boyfriend and I will forever disagree as to whether to add salt to rice, or whether something is too spicy or not, or if tea needs sugar. Catering for two very different tastes can potentially be hazardous, but at the same time cooking is always fun to do together as you learn their favourite dishes, and of their culture at the same time. Incidentally I will always remember the first time he cooked me a “traditional Brazilian dish”, and produced stroganoff. Tasted great though.

You learn so much

Seeing as these points had as much to complain about as to appreciate, I thought I’d end on a (corny) high note. Dating someone who comes from a culture completely different to your own is a completely eye opening experience. It makes you try things you would never have thought to try (before going to Brazil I had never tried papaya or coconut water, now I can’t get enough). I haven’t attempted to learn any Portuguese except for “obrigada”, but dating a multilingual guy has made me appreciate how useful a second language is, and now I go to Spanish classes. Before I knew nothing about Brazil, but now I can only admire their constant friendly and welcoming nature, their love and pride for their country, and their use of “huehuehuehue” to express laughter online. Plus, I am proud to say that my boyfriend has grown to love tea, and is as affectionate for Britain as I am. It reinstates a pride and love for your own country when you see it through another’s eyes.

The Everyday Traveller: How travelling benefits your everyday life

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It’s not a little known fact that travelling is one of the best classes you can take at ‘the university of life’. Not only does it give you priceless memories and experiences, but it can really help in skills such as making bookings, navigating strange airports and coach stations, your ability to cope with unexpected problems, and how to survive being cooped up with other people and still enjoy each others company.

 

But one other great reason to travel whenever you get the opportunity, is how it can benefit you in the everyday life- from mundane achievements to the bigger and more substantial. Any experience in life can be greatly influential, especially the experiences when we take ourselves off to see the world.

 

Downsizing

When you become used to living out of a suitcase/backpack, you learn what’s important to have at hand and whats unnecessary. It’s too easy to build up a clutter of stuff that gets lost in drawers or hides at the back of our wardrobe, things like clothes that you haven’t worn in ages, and probably never will wear again. Decluttering is always a great way to rid yourself of the unnecessary, and to feel a little refreshed in life. It’s liberating to not have to rely on so much stuff. I still have a few make up items that lie forgotten at the bottom of my make up back, a few too many t-shirts, and I could actually do with buying more shoes to suit more occasions (it’s no fun to go out on a winter night in sandals). However as I’m at the time in my life I’m not sure where I’ll be in a few months, a year or in two years, it’s a great thought to know things can be packed up easily if need be.

 

Confidence

As someone who’s been shy all her life, I can tell since getting stranded/lost/drunk/befriended in all sorts of strange and wonderful places I have definitely come out of my shell a little bit. A little bit of confidence can go a long way in everyday life: helps you talk to anyone if in need of help, or just in general; makes you less afraid to take on challenges, and confidence in yourself allows you to be prouder of what you do achieve, even if its just something small.

 

Interesting

By seeing the world and getting yourself into all sorts of mishaps and adventures, without even helping it you become more interesting to talk to, with some great stories to tell. Sure, if a friend is complaining about when her flight to Spain was delayed for four hours, and you mention how you were stuck in an Albanian airport for seven hours, you might come across a little snobby.. But who cares, everybody loves to hear about others struggles (it’s a little thing called schadenfreude), and if you can pass on tips to others about travelling, they can only benefit from your adventures.

 

Social Media

Incredibly mundane, but with great adventures comes great photos, and your social media accounts can instantly improve aesthetically with an awesome profile pic or cover photo. In the grand scheme of things this can seem incredibly unimportant, but potential employers are now expected to look at your social media, and certain careers demand an active and interesting social media presence. This means that with travel photos which show you absorbing the culture rather than just on a party holiday, you can come across as responsible, mature, and a wonderful being to hire. Plus why not show off to friends, distant relatives, and high school classmates you haven’t seen in years.

 

Style

Something that also seems unimportant, but when style tends to define who a person is, people love to pick up little keepsakes from their travels. I love to wear unusual jewellery, and I have owned some amazing and unique things (which I have also lost over time, sob). It also means you can pick up some great gifts for people, and people always appreciate knowing you thought of them when you were miles away. I love to see what trends other countries have, and it’s fun to bring it back to England to feel like you’re standing out a little from the crowd. Or when someone compliments what you’re wearing and you can casually say “Oh, I got it when I was in…”, and feel very cool.

 

Appreciate the Everyday

Perhaps most importantly (and shout out to the Brazilian in my life who gave me this tip) is how travelling helps you appreciate the mundane and the everyday. When bitten by the travel bug its easy to get restless and want to just take off somewhere, but it also allows you to realise how great it is to know there’s a place you call home, where you can clutter your room with stuff, and where you can snore and shower without fear of bothering strangers. Even if you’re bored at work, or with constantly saving money, you know it’s to pay for your next great adventure. But there’s no point sitting around waiting for things when there are good times and good people present in your everyday life, and being away from them helps you appreciate them all the more.

How London Can Turn a Student into an Adult

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I suppose everybody thinks their university, and the city they studied in, is the best. I quite happily argue this, as London is often voted one of the best in the world. Not surprising for the capital of England, which boasts some of the U.K’s top universities. Student satisfaction is generally high.

 

There are a number of reasons why I would recommend anyone looking at universities to consider London as the city to study in. It is a huge importance to look at the course and the university, as these are the major defining factors to consider for a degree. However there’s no denying location can have a huge effect on whether you enjoy earning your degree or not, and whether it helps your character to improve as well. You’re dedicating 3 or more years of your life, it might as well be worthwhile.

 

Moving out of your parent’s house, and attempting adult responsibilities whilst navigating yourself around a degree can be hugely transforming for a person’s maturity and independence. By living in a city as huge and, in some people’s opinions, scary as London often this is more apparent. It seems to be that you are forced to become more independent because of the bubble London seems to exist in- its harder to quickly pay a home visit when you’re low on food, mostly because you don’t want to leave and miss out on all the fun. Even the little things Londoners take for granted: navigating the underground, navigating prime tourist locations, pop ups, one off events and more, getting the hang of all these makes you surprisingly adaptable to many situations, and a little more responsible in life.

 

This boost of independence comes from London being such a huge city, and being one person in this massive hub is as liberating as it is daunting. University life can get quite stressful, as much as it is believed we tend to sleep throughout the day and drink throughout the night all the time (I’m spending my Christmas holidays typing out 12000 words in essays whilst my dad is going on more nights out than me, boo). Not to mention the amount of dramas that unfold all the time when a vast number of students are all cooped up together. Sometimes you need to take a break away from it all, and this is much easier to do in a large city. You can take yourself away for the day without the risk of bumping into someone you know. Sometimes it’s relaxing to feel anonymous, especially in the age of social media addiction, and it’s great to be able to be somewhere where everyone doesn’t know everybody’s business.

 

London is also an epicentre of culture, which is useful for broadening your mind. Museums and art galleries are available anywhere, but London has some of the best in the world. You can dedicate a whole weekend for culture (and free of charge!) and there will still always be more for you to discover. It’s not just the endless cultural events that London has to offer, because it is so cosmopolitan there is always new experiences to try whether its a cuisine you’ve never sampled before or a random little shop you’ve never visited. I believe a comfort zone is something to enjoy, but not to live in. People become more open minded once they’re forced out of their comfort zone, and London is a perfect place to ensure this.

 

Although London is one of the top student cities in the world, this can be a little hard to believe because it’s also one of the most expensive. Normally these two factors could never get along, so if you survive as a student in London, personally I think it’s an achievement that deserves a medal. As prices for everything in London seem to be about twice as much as everywhere else in the UK, it’s a valuable and lifelong skill to be able to manage rent, living costs, a social life and the odd splurge all within a budget. You have to learn to make sacrifices and sometimes say no to a social event, but it just makes the £10 cocktails worth it even more when you do go out.

 

Finally, London is full of connections. It is full of job connections, to discover amazing opportunities and experiences to jazz up your CV. It’s also full of travel connections, it’s almost too easy to hope on a train, coach or plane to go somewhere fantastic for a few days. Even all the universities are connected under ‘University of London’, which means you can visit all UoL libraries, regardless of which university you study at. I don’t take advantage of these factors enough and yet I know I’m having much more fun than I would elsewhere.

 

So just a few random reasons why I’ve found studying in London to be a great advantage to myself as a person and learning to function as an adult in the big wide world. It’s not a city for everyone, but it can certainly help anyone in learning how to grab life by the throat and feeling prepared to take on anything. Including the underground at rush hour.