What a year. A lot of people are saying that 2016 has been the worst, and just needs to die already. In some ways I agree, but this simply isn’t accurate for how my year has actually been.
Truth is, the year started out better than I could ever have imagined. The first six months were amazing. I spent them in my home, my Aberystwyth, surrounded by wonderful people and made some wonderful memories. My last year in Aberystwyth couldn’t have been better, and it was those 6 months that made it – I have so many people to thank for that. I appreciate you all so much and can’t quite believe that such amazing people spent time with a slightly drunk loser like myself.
It wasn’t until I graduated in July that things took a turn for the worst for me personally. Leaving Aberystwyth was, and still is, an incredibly difficult experience. In the last 5 months I think all of my worst fears have been realised (except dying or being forced onto a rollercoaster), and yet if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from it all it’s this…
I’m still here.
We’re still here.
We are currently surviving, even if it feels like the world is falling apart. A massive bag of racist satsumas stuffed into a suit is about to become the most powerful man in the world and make our already fragile political situation a million times worse, and we don’t even have Princess Leia around to fix it; but humans are tough as hell. We might not always thrive in the face of adversity, but we muddle on. We survive.
I know myself a little better. I know that I am freaking strong, man. I’m not scared any more. Careful but not scared. I can survive, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to take silly risks. I think that would be good advice for politicians, if I do say so myself.
3 Things I Learnt This Year:
-Vote. First Brexit, then Trump occurred because no one thought they would. No one bothered voting, or protest voted for options they didn’t want, and the world is far worse off as a result.
– Think. Stay Grounded. Don’t lose sight of who you are. No matter what happens, you can’t go wrong if you’re true to yourself.
– Work hard, but don’t be afraid to quit. In the last few months, I’ve moved from a job I could do but hated to a job I can do and love. I feel incredibly lucky to have found something that I truly enjoy, even if it’s only temporary; this never would’ve happened if I hadn’t have left my last job. I don’t like quitting; but this was the best thing I could’ve done.
Let’s bookend this post with musical quotes, shall we? 2016, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
It’s officially National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo is the writing challenge to top all writing challenges: 50,000 words in 30 days. The challenge was created to inspire and encourage writers to stop putting it off and get that first draft written. I’ve started the challenge several times, and won twice – and although I’m not doing it this year I am excited to see what my friends come up with and cheer them on.
This is not an easy feat, and can definitely be a struggle! Here are some of the stages I’ve noticed over the years;
Remembering NaNo is coming halfway through October…and having no ideas whatsoever.
Getting a great idea, planning it out and actually feeling prepared to start.
3. The 1st of November hits, and you’re ready to go…
4. …and you’ve suddenly never been so popular. Everyone wants to cut into valuable writing time spend time with you.
5. You actually get ahead of your target and it feels so gooooood…
6. …and then you discover a huge plot hole and have to redo a huge chunk.
7. But you keep going. You skip showers, binge eat junk food and set up a caffeine IV drip. You don’t see anyone for days and your room/office starts to smell, but you’re determined to keep at it. Even when you’re not writing, you’re thinking about your novel.
8. You get really close to quitting a LOT.
9. But finally reaching the finish line feels amazing. You’ve done yourself (and your characters) proud – now go brush your teeth.
Winning NaNoWriMo is so rewarding and all of the blood, sweat, tears and cancelled social events are worth it in the end! It’s so easy to give up, especially if you get busy or come across problems with your work, but being able to say you did it feels so good. Keep going, and remember that this is only the first draft – it doesn’t have to be perfect. It is also worth saying that you should be realistic; look after yourself, and if the default 50,000 words is too much you can set a smaller target on the website. Don’t doubt yourself, you can do this!
Are you doing NaNo this year? What’s your novel about? If not, have you done it before and what advice do you have?
I am a big advocate of the budget costume. For the past few Halloweens I’ve been a poor student, and this year I’m a poor graduate – I have budget costumes down to a T, and by now I think I have enough tips to write at least a post about it!
1) Don’t buy a costume!
Okay, hear me out – of course you’ll have to buy a few things, that’s obvious, but don’t buy a full costume. They may be quick and easy, but they’re also generally speaking cheaply made, overpriced and nothing you can’t do yourself! Unless you’re really pressed for time or intend to wear it several times, they aren’t worth the expense.
2) Come up with an idea based on what you already own.
I must admit that most of my wardrobe is black. This makes Halloween pretty easy – just add a few accessories and some face paint to an LBD and I’m good to go! A lot of costumes can be based around normal clothing, and don’t forget any unwanted clothes that still even vaguely fit – they could be zombified! My costume in first year was a zombie look based on a dress with a hole by the waistband; add some more rips and holes and some brown/black eye shadow & it looked great.
3) Things that are worth buying: face paint, coloured paper, glue, fake blood.
Last year I was a scary clown. As a crafty person I already had things like card and glue, so it was a no brainer to make my own accessories – a ruff, hat and buttons. I already had the dress, so all I spent money on was a face paint set (on sale at a toy shop before I went back to uni), tights and some neon orange paper. If you have a good stash of craft things you’re probably set – if not, there are plenty of places that sell the basics pretty cheap. Unless it’s something you really, really can’t make, I’d say try DIY!
4) Not crafty? Not a problem.
There are plenty of easy peasy costumes that require little to no crafting ability while still looking good. As previously mentioned, zombie costumes are so easy – just scruff up some clothes you don’t care about using scissors and some dark eyeshadow – you can’t go wrong because they’re supposed to look messy and ripped (although if you don’t want to flash I would suggest tactical ripping!). Another easy one is a mad scientist – you’d have to get hold of a lab coat, but what you wear underneath is up to you; as crazy or normal as you’d like. Mess your hair up, put some blobs of odd coloured eyeshadow on the coat/your face et voila! I did this one for a SciFi social, basing my look on Steam Powered Giraffe’s Walter Workers, and won best costume! If you’re really last minute and stuck, don’t doubt the power of some pound shop/dollar store fake blood – turn dark clothing into a vampire look with a few dots on your neck and some drops on your chin. There’s no excuse not to make even that little bit of effort!
5) Have fun & get creative!
Halloween is a great excuse to explore your crazy, wacky, fun side and express yourself in any way you want – so go for it! Don’t be scared of having a ‘Mean Girls Moment’ – I have before and while it was a little bit embarrassing at first, I had the most fun putting my costume together and I think I probably felt the best.
Just have fun & so long as you feel good in your costume, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks! These last two are two of my favourite costumes from uni (the other favourite being my clown costume) – in the first I was a gothic loli girl & wore a lacy black dress, ripped tights and boots, all of which I already owned. The second is my Megara cosplay – I did spend money on this, buying a stretchy lilac dress, a violet scarf for her waist and a long, grecian style skirt; but I’ve worn it several times and definitely got my money’s worth, as well as wearing the individual parts for other costumes.
I unfortunately only have pictures of my full body in the costumes with other people and most are pretty messy (read: drunken) so unfortunately shoulders up shots will have to do! I think they illustrate my point well enough though! What are you going as for Halloween? Have you got your costume together yet?
I am the first to admit that I’m a huge wimp when it comes to scary films. It’s the idea more than anything; I watched Blair Witch Project with friends and didn’t find it scary. What I do love though is Halloween – the quirky, fun-loving celebration, the history, the costumes (I am a sucker for dressing up). While a lot of people choose to watch scary films and spend the night creeping themselves out, I’d much rather tap into what has become the spirit of the holiday and enjoy some kooky, spooky fun! Here’s my list of favourite Halloween films – although it should be noted that while they may not be scary, they aren’t all suitable for children!
The Halloweentown Trilogy
There will be a lot of Disney on this list. The Halloweentown films are essential for 90s kid throwback Halloween film nights! Three ordinary children discover that they descend from the famous Cromwell witches, and embark on a journey to their grandmother’s home in Halloweentown – a place full of weird and wonderful new friends. Unsurprisingly, trouble is brewing and it’s up to the new Cromwell witches (and their brother – the males in the line have little to no magical power) to save the day.
Nightmare Before Christmas
This one is pretty self explanatory. A classic Autumn-Winter film, this is a must watch around Halloween. If you need a costume idea, you will almost certainly find inspiration here!
The Addams Family
Is it Halloween without the all together ooky-ness of The Addams Family? Whether you prefer the original tv show or the later movies, nothing helps get those festive spirits up like the Addams’. Also, Gomez + Morticia = Goals. Seriously.
R.L Stine’s The Haunting Hour (Don’t Think About It)
This is a great first “scary” film – it’s not really scary, but it has the tropes and suspense of horror films. A classic DCOM-style Halloween film.
The Corpse Bride
Burton at his best, the Corpse Bride combines the darkness and kooky, colourful madness that make Halloween what it is.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Do I really need to say anything about this one? Just watch it.
Okay, so this doesn’t fill the “non-scary” quota as well as the others. Coraline is certainly much darker in tone than the others, and definitely creepier, but it didn’t scare me so you’re probably good. It’s a beautiful film and a really strong concept that I’d definitely recommend.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you are probably aware of my huge crush on Winona Ryder, so this will come as no surprise to you. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s sick – but it’s not scary. Perfect.
I know this post is really short and it’s definitely not at the level of quality I wanted for it but I ran out of time and I just don’t have the time this weekend to do it as a late post instead. Hopefully it’s been useful anyway and you like some of my recommendations!
Are you a massive wimp too? Did I miss any of your favourites out?
Lately I’ve revisited a few of my favourite TV shows, and it got me thinking about why we re-read/listen/watch certain things. There are a staggering number of fantastic novels, TV series, films, albums etc. in the world, many quite similar, and yet we go back to the same worlds. They’re comfortable, nostalgic even. We know the stories, the characters, the lines; we have control. We know what they’re capable of and while they’re more than likely to leaving us as sobbing messes on the floor (thanks, Rowling) we know it’s coming – and we love them anyway. Of course, even without sentimentality the things that stay with us do so because, well, we like them.
Here are some examples of the things I always go back to, and some of my reasons:
I think this one goes without saying, really. Harry has been an integral part of my life since I was 6 years old. So much of who I am comes from Harry Potter; I wouldn’t be a writer, therefore wouldn’t have done the degree I did, met the people I did etc, etc. Not to mention that so much of my understanding of the world came from the Wizarding World – growing up with such strong messages about almost everything has led to some pretty strong opinions. If you don’t like my hippy-dippy leftist views, blame Potter. As JK Rowling herself said, ‘Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home’- and it has become a home for me. No matter how bad things feel, HP has always been there; and I know he always will.
RENT is a wonderful musical. I haven’t been lucky enough to see it on stage, but I watch the film version over and over again. I first watched it when I was 12, and 9 years on I still find new things to love every time I watch it. The messages are powerful, the characters are incredibly written and perfectly flawed, and the music is everything.
Hustle is a TV series by the BBC. The show finished a few years ago, after 8 seasons. It’s a show that I watched when it very first came out – my dad and I watched every season together, and now watching reruns is a regular occurrence. I suppose I like it because of the nostalgia, and also simply because it’s a great TV show. I probably know every episode inside out, and yet it still stuns me. The programme is so clever and original – I still don’t think I’ve seen anything like it, not really.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling
Do I even need to explain this?! This Buffy episode has all the best bits of the show in general, and it’s a musical!
The Blessed Unrest
Now, I have a lot of songs that I listen to again and again, sure, but this is perhaps the only album I go back to in its entirety. I love this album for the messages; I can relate to every single song, depending on my mood and circumstances. As Sara herself says, (although Gravity isn’t actually on this album) ‘something always brings me back to you. It never takes too long’.
What are the things you always go back to? What are your reasons?
Before I get into it: so I know this isn’t technically “fandom” but I’ll be honest, I was running out of time to write this post when I came across a video of 90 degree scissors. I found myself completely freaking out about the possibilities these would have for left-handed people and yes, obsessing over scissors (again), which gave me the idea for the post.
If you know a left-handed person, the chances are you’ve seen them struggle with things that are incredibly simple to you – opening tins, using scissors, even simply writing. In a world designed by and for right-handed people, lefties like me are left (get it?) to struggle and adapt to what in our eyes is a world completely in reverse.
Many left-handed people are incredibly proud of this fact, myself included. Regardless of how happy we are to be different, however, we all have to adapt and face the same struggles. Of course not everyone is the same, but I think it’s safe to say that most left-handed people I know also find themselves obsessing over the things in this list, at least a little bit.
Pens and Handwriting
Writing is the most defining difference between left and right-handed people. It is also one of the first difficulties left handed children will face – or, at least those learning to write in languages read from left to right, at least. It is much easier for right-handed people to write this way. They write away from their bodies, pulling the pen towards them. Left-handed people, however, have to push the pen away, dragging it and putting a strain on the hand that right-handed people don’t experience. This gets even more difficult when sat in a classroom with right handed people on your left – elbowing that guy you’ve fancied all year is not a good seduction tactic, trust me!
Writing can be incredibly hard to master, and can become a huge stress and long lasting obsession for left-handed people. Physically it is uncomfortable at best and painful at worse, and mentally it can be quite confusing – when I was learning to write I found it easier and more natural to write backwards; you’d need a mirror to read my first schoolbook!
There are several “left-handed” pens and pens designed to help with handwriting out there, and after a while finding the right (lol) pens becomes a bit of an obsession for many left-handers. I think most have tried specifically left handed pens (the infamous “banana pen” comes to mind) however these can be pricey and not always practical. In recent years I have resigned myself to normal biros, but my personal favourite “left-handed” pen is the Yoropen. It is designed so that the hand doesn’t cover the writing. Even if we’re not looking at “special” pens, you can bet that a left-handed person will try and deduct how long they’ll be able to write with a pen and how much they’ll smudge it before they use it.
If you see a left-handed person stooped over their paper, arm hooked over the top and little finger slowly getting drenched in ink, we’re probably not hiding it from you and probably aren’t that engrossed – we just don’t want to have to copy it up another 6 times before it’s legible.
Scissors are another big classroom struggle for leftie children, and one that stays with us throughout our lives. Right handed scissors are incredibly difficult – we have to turn them upside down, posing a problem if the handles are moulded, and the leaving the blades in the wrong position. Not only does the paper tend to bunch and rip, we can’t see what we’re cutting. Of course we learn to manage, but this can again be painful. If you’re left-handed and still in school, don’t be afraid to ask for left-handed scissors, especially if it’s a long task; the cramps aren’t worth it!
Again, this links to writing. When trying to write in one, the rings of the binder get directly in the way of the left arm. In order to write in the ringbinder, lefties would have to leave several inches, wasting the paper. Of course we could just take the paper out, but it sort of defeats the object of the ringbinder.
If you ever go stationery shopping with a left-handed person, be prepared to spend hours looking for left-handed scissors, good pens and hearing them moan about their love-hate relationship with ring binders.
Bane. Of. My. Life. There is something very embarrassing about a grown woman having to ask her baby brother to open tins for her. I don’t really know the specifics as to why can openers are so difficult for lefties, although I imagine it’s the same as scissors in that we turn them upside down, rendering the blade less effective. Using a can opener in reverse often results in a blood covered, disgruntled leftie throwing cans at the wall. Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic, but I have suffered at the hands of a can of Heinz baked beans many a time!
Anything Left Handed
This applies to both the statement and the online shop. It’s rare that we find things that are actually built with our hands and abilities in mind, so it’s kind of a big deal to us when we do. Left-handed vegetable peeler? Kitchenware goals. Anything Left Handed is an entire store dedicated to these things, what could be better?!
Okay, so obsessed may be an exaggeration, but all of these things are a lot more important to left-handed people than right-handed people. We have to adapt and learn to work with things that don’t want to work with us – it’s understandable that these struggles will become a main focus in our lives! I’m proud to be left-handed (if you couldn’t tell), and although we can’t always do the most basic things, I’d say we’re pretty great.
Are you left-handed? Did I miss anything out? Let me know your thoughts!
Problematic favourites – we all have them, whether they’re TV shows, musicians, characters or books. I think everyone has something or someone they love but feel reluctant to discuss or recommend. Personally I worry that if I mention liking something problematic I run the risk of appearing to agree with that thing entirely, when this simply isn’t the case.
The term “problematic fave” has become somewhat of a joke, but I feel like the topic is actually something that is worth discussing seriously. Is it possible to like something problematic without being problematic yourself? How?
Of course it’s possible to like something problematic while still trying to not be problematic yourself – if it wasn’t we would be very limited as to what we could actually like. I believe that the most important thing about liking something problematic is realising and understanding that that thing is problematic – if you’re asking this question you’re probably already there. You can enjoy something while still recognising the bad aspects. Watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s as much as you like, so long as you understand the problem with Mickey Rooney’s Mr Yunioshi.
An example of one of my problematic favourites is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This differs from examples such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s in that the characters are intended to be terrible people – they are offensive and non- PC, and often get their comeuppance. The show often gets incredibly close to the bone, and although I enjoy it there are often moments that are incredibly problematic. Yes, this is the point, but it makes it very difficult to explain the show to people who haven’t seen it without sounding like a horrible person. I think what the show does well when you do watch it, however, is having a character step back and acknowledge how problematic the gang’s antics are.
It’s important to remember as well that characters are just characters, and that they don’t reflect writers or audience’s opinions. On the same lines, it’s important to remember that you can separate art and the creator – you don’t have to like an artist/writer as a person to appreciate their work. Justin Bieber’s behaviour is often deplorable, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t sing along to Sorry if it comes on in a bar.
Another example of one of my “problematic faves” is Isabella (Bunny) Bennett. Bunny is a member of Steam Powered Giraffe, a band who perform as steampunk robots. A while back she caused quite a stir online after making several jokes about eating disorders and self harm. It became important for the band to emphasise that their work isn’t directly connected to the people – fans don’t have to like them as people in order to like the music and surrounding art (Bunny and fellow band member Sam often sell prints and band merchandise that they have drawn themselves). Further still, you don’t have to agree with everything Bunny says/does to like her in general. I like Bunny and connect with her in many ways, but these jokes were shocking and not something I support at all. I find it important if “Saladgate” comes up to reiterate that I don’t agree with the joke at all, but that I still like the band and the people.
While you don’t have to like a creator or even the whole piece of work, it’s incredibly important to recognise and address problems with them. We cannot ignore problematic aspects of film, music, literature etc, or this adds to the problem. We have to say “I like this, but I don’t condone [offensive aspect]”, in order to send a message to creators about what is and isn’t acceptable.
What are some of your “problematic faves”? How do you describe them to people?
Portrayals of girls in the media can be…interesting. Particularly when those girls are growing up. These plotlines are widely explored and range from weird to downright oppressive. Here are some of my favourite/least favourite examples:
I grew up in a world where being passionate about something, almost anything in fact, was enough to label you a ‘nerd’ – and a nerd wasn’t something you wanted to be; John Green was a name only known on YouTube, and geek culture wasn’t a fashion trend, it was something to laugh at. Reality wasn’t like the Disney movies, where you had to be some kind of ugly science genius to be a nerd (and even that was bad enough) – you just had to care about something.I don’t know if that’s just part of being a teenage girl, if it was just another shitty side effect of 2009 or what, but it sucked. Being a fairly smart kid with a thing for books, this wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted – pretending not to like anything is exhausting. Being ‘cool’ was more important than anything, even to the adults in my life.