What I’ve Been Listening To

Revision requires good music. Without it, I fall into such extreme boredom that I end up having an actual temper tantrum out of frustration. Papers get thrown on the ground, there are tears, it’s really not pretty. Reading about liminal spaces in Frankenstein for the 901st time can get pretty old, and doesn’t really require 100% attention, so I have to set up some background tunes to really get into the revision spirit. Revision music has a hard task, it has to be both exciting enough to prevent me from entering a downward spiral, but also not too busy that it distracts me. So, here are some recent songs from my currently very well-used Spotify account (@Spotify please sponsor me, I’m too broke for premium).

Spotify

  1. Past Lives – Børns
    “Past lives couldn’t ever hold me down
    Lost love is sweeter when it’s finally found”
    If you like this then check out: American Money – Børns
  2. Make Me Feel – Janelle Monae
    “It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender
    An emotional, sexual bender”
    If you like this then check out: Pynk – Janelle Monae
  3. Toothpaste Kisses – The Maccabees
    “And with heart shaped bruises
    And late night kisses
    Devine.”
    If you like this then check out: First Love – The Maccabees
  4. Soul Sucker – This Century
    “You’re under my skin so bad
    You want to relive what we had
    I got nothing for you, for you,
    I ain’t got nothing for you”
    If you like this then check out: Sedona – Houndmouth
  5. Like or Like Like – Miniature Tigers
    “I was wearing that dumb sweatshirt
    I looked like a goon, I was dressed for winter
    Even though it was the middle of June”
    If you like this then check out: Phone Bill – Tigers in the Sky
  6. Iron Sky – Paolo Nutini
    “Mass confusion spoon fed to the blind
    Serves now to define our cold society”

    If you like this then check out: Freedom – Beyoncé
  7. Bad Habit – The Kooks
    “You gotta let go, come with me
    Looking for a stranger
    Looking for a stranger to love”

    If you like this then check out: Naive – The Kooks
  8. In The Middle – Dodie Clark
    “Does he smile like I do?
    Oh, it was shared, despite our flaws, I held his hand like I hold yours”
    If you like this then check out: Would You Be So Kind? – Dodie Clark
  9. No Diggity – Blackstreet
    Getting paid is her forte
    Each and every day, true player way”
    If you like this then check out: Bootie Call – All Saints
  10. Posh Girls – Scouting For Girls
    “Posh girls have good manners, but they go like the clappers,
    Because they never got to hang around with boys at school.”
    If you like this then check out: Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) – Mika

 


Reading through this list makes me realise just how eclectic my music taste really is. Hopefully, you’ll find something on this list that you like to listen to, but if not, at least you’ve now got a bit of an insight into what goes on in my Spotify playlists. If you have any recommendations of you’re own, I’d love to hear them, so leave them in the comments.

Do some mindfulness, hug someone you love, read a book. Until next time, take care of yourself. x

Image from Flickr user: downloadsource.fr


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The Most Terrifying Thing About Trump

The Most Terrifying Thing About Trump: He Doesn’t Believe In Truth

Trump

Donald Trump can so easily be perceived as a comic, caricature figure, blundering about like a bull in the china shop of politics. His constant tweeting, bad fake tan and oh so impression-inspiring voice can make him seem little more than a court jester, a fool to be laughed at, and discussed over prosecco brunches. However, to consider him only this diminishes the true danger that he poses to the democratic process and the society of both America and the wider world.

To me, the most terrifying thing about Trump is that he has attempted to push the idea that truth is not concrete. That facts are malleable and synonymous with opinion. Although many people just laughed at the ridiculousness of Kellyanne Conway’s “Alternative Facts”, it is far more menacing that many take it to be.

In a world where truth doesn’t matter, no-one can be held accountable for anything.

If Trump can successfully convince enough people that facts are ignorable, he can wreak whatever havoc he wants, with absolutely no consequence. He could bulldoze an entire country into a Mad Max wasteland, and then turn around and say it’s the garden of Eden. Shoot someone at point-blank range and then just claim it never occurred. Without a clear concept of truth, no-one can ever be held accountable, made to endure consequences, because any allegation can be denied without providing any evidence.

Trump seems to enact a three point plan to discredit the concept of truth:

  1. Lie Often
  2. Discredit the Media
  3. Target the Vulnerable

Step 1: Lie Often

On Politifact, the fact-checking website, there are over 10 pages of false statements from Donald Trump. For reference, Bernie Sanders has less than 1 (and yes, you may argue he makes fewer statements as he isn’t the President, but he’s also been in politics a hell of a lot longer) and Hillary Clinton has 2 pages. A massive 15% of Trump’s statements have been reported as “Pants on Fire” (having no basis in truth), and 32% as “False”. For Sanders, it’s 0% and 12%, and for Clinton 2% and 10%. Only 5% of what Trump says has been classified as entirely truthful. 5%. Please, please stop for a minute and truly consider the significance of that.

The President of one of the most powerful countries in the world makes statements that are entirely false more than 6 times as often as he says things that are entirely true.

If you lie constantly, it becomes almost expected of you that you will lie. People give up on fact-checking you, there is no big scandal about a lie you tell because it’s already established as an aspect of your character. You set a precedent of lying, and eventually, it becomes easier to just ignore or accept it rather than challenging it and addressing it more than 6 times a day. Because that’s how often Trump has lied in his presidency, 6 times a day. Even the most dedicated activist or journalist will struggle to find time to do the research to disprove six statements every day, never mind your average citizen. That’s what Trump relies on, that people don’t have the energy to question him anymore. If he lies often enough, he can slip in the really dangerous lies with the trivial ones, allowing them to slip into the public consciousness without question.
Step 2: Discredit the Media

Trump and his staff have had a campaign against the media almost from day one. Some of the key offenders: Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and The Donald himself. Conway doesn’t have a single true statement on Politifact, not even one that’s “Half True”. Neither does Huckabee Sanders. Conway having been Trump’s campaign manager (now an advisor to the President) and Huckabee Sanders being his current Press Secretary, they are two of the people who have communicated most with the media on Trump’s behalf, and they are both outright liars. And yet, despite not having an ounce of truth between them, they twist the conversation, calling the media outlets the liars. Pot, kettle, black. Both of these women are highly intelligent and highly manipulative. Instead of answering a simple question they either give a response so confusing that you don’t even realise the topic has been completely avoided (Conway) or try and defame the person asking it (Huckabee Sanders). The Trump team discredit the media in two ways: they explicitly accuse them of lying, and they also refuse to establish a dialogue between the Whitehouse and the press. The President prefers to write tweets than press releases, and Huckabee Sanders seems to function more as Trump’s guard dog than his press secretary.

By circumventing the press entirely, Trump can create his own narrative, unfiltered and unchecked by journalists.

“Fake News”, “Liberal Media”, these terms are designed to alienate the public from the people trying to inform them, making Trump the one and only source of ‘truth’.


Step 3 – Target The Vulnerable

No matter how effectively Trump creates an environment of lying and mistrust of the press, there are some people who will never believe him. Committed left-wing voters have no interest in listening to Trump, they don’t want to believe him when he’s telling the truth never mind when he’s lying. However, for anyone who’s already on his side, it’s in their interest to go along with what he’s saying. I’m guilty of this myself, I’m far more likely to go on a fact-checking mission to disprove what I don’t want to believe than what I do. So, Trump takes the smart approach – instead of trying to convince the committed, he finds his audience and plays to them. He has himself stated outright “I love the poorly educated”, and loves donning his hard hat miming mining or pretending to drive a truck. As the level of education increases, the likelihood of voting for Trump goes down. Trump is the King of the Soundbite: “Drain The Swamp!”, “Lock her Up!”, “Make America Great Again”. He’s also a master of demeaning nicknames:

  • “Crooked Hillary”
  • “Pocahontas” (Elizabeth Warren),
  • “Slippery James Comey”
  • “Little Rocket Man” (Kim Jong Un)
  • “Sloppy Steve” (Steve Banner)
  • “Crazy Joe Biden”
  • “Cheatin’ Obama”
  • “Wild Bill Clinton”
  • “Crazy Bernie/Megyn/Joe Biden/ Jim Acosta”

And believe me, that’s far from an exhaustive list. His famous “locker room talk” excuse seems to sum up his whole method of speech.

Trump somehow manages to become ‘one of the boys’ despite being a multi-billionaire.

He talks as though he’s down at the pub, with his tweets being far more conversational than presidential. In getting on their level, Trump is instantly more believable because he’s trusted. He becomes a peer, who people want to listen to. A massive amount of America feels isolated, ignored by the ‘elites’ who live them stuck in poverty and without work. Those who are isolated are vulnerable and those who are vulnerable are so so easy to persuade.


I want to make it very clear that I am no political expert. My word is not law, it’s not an expert opinion. However, I’ve committed as much as possible to make sure everything in this is referenced, fact-checked and well researched (especially considering the subject matter). If you’ve got an opinion that’s different, I’d really love to hear it, get in touch with me in the comments (just keep it respectful of course).

Eat your veggies, spend some time outside, and remember: always fact-check. Until next time, take care of yourself. x

Image from Flickr user: Gage Skidmore


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A Very Late Review: Thor Ragnarok

In amongst revision, I decided it was finally time to watch the various films from the past year or so that I thought “I’ll definitely watch that at the cinema” and then just, didn’t. It’s quite a long list (including Wonder Woman, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi), and one I’m definitely going to commit to over the summer when I have much more free time. But, I’ve made a bit of a start and thought I’d give you my very, very, very late review for Thor Ragnarok.

Also: Spoilers (ish).

Ragnarok 2.jpg

Thor Ragnarok is definitely up there in my favourite recent Marvel movies. It’s very Guardians of the Galaxy-esque, with a brighter, more colourful approach and quirky, light-hearted humour. This is the film that has really given Chris Hemsworth the opportunity to shine in the role of Thor, rather than just being a backseat to Loki in the first two films (even as the title character of the movies!). It also finally makes something of the Hulk, with dialogue beyond “Smash!” or “Argh!”.

Alongside fleshing out the underappreciated characters from previous films, it also makes a few new additions in Hela and Valkyrie. Much like GOTG’s Ego, having a family member as the villain really works in Thor Ragnarok. Killing your own sister holds a lot more emotional weight that slaying yet another army of CGI lizardy-space-creatures, although I do wish this is something they’d explored a little more in the film. They both seem to resolve to kill her immediately (understandable considering she’s killing absolutely everyone), without really addressing the conflict of having to murder a sibling. In the previous films, I loved the dynamic between Thor and Loki, with Thor unable to completely condemn his brother, to deny him trust, because deep down there was a strong familial love between them. Incorporating this into the Hela plotline would have added just a little bit more emotional depth for me, but that’s really a nitpick more than a massive plothole.

Speaking of the Loki/Thor relationship, I loved it in Ragnarok. Taika Waititi seems to share the general view of fans that Loki’s real job is mischief and causing chaos, not being some fascist dictator obsessed with order. Rather than having to stop him from subjugating a whole planet, Thor spends Ragnarok just shrugging at Loki’s antics, with a kind of resigned acceptance that any older sibling understands. It’s so much more entertaining to have Loki as a kind of impartial sidekick type character, unpredictable and unhelpful but never evil. The “Get Help” scene (in which most of the details were apparently improvised by Hemsworth) as well as Thor’s story about Loki turning into a snake as kids are genius moves by Waititi, adding that sense of ‘Weird Brothers’ rather than ‘Prince of Asgard and Guy Who Attempted to Conquer Earth’. The relationship between them is completely believable, and lends this sense of fun nostalgia, matching the bright, slightly crazy world of old Thor comics in a way that most Marvel movies seem unable to grasp.

Every single actor in this film does a cracking job. It’s only in this film that I realised “Oh, Chris Hemsworth is actually really bloody funny”, finally getting more than quick glimpses like in the mug smashing scene of the first film. He does a consistently amazing job, not just of the comedy, but of the more emotionally intense moments, to the point that you stop seeing Chris Hemsworth and just start seeing Thor. Tom Hiddleston is once again great as Loki, blending more into the background (in a very good way), meddling together with all the other characters in harmony rather than drawing all the attention himself. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie was standout, managing to be both raging badass and hopeless drunk. Valkyrie is just so incredibly cool as a character, with great costuming, choreography and the wonderful acting by Thompson. Cate Blanchett does a good job as Hela, although for me it was a little dwarfed by some of the other performances. Every time she appeared with those massive antlers it slightly undermined my ability to take her seriously. It was a very very in your face costuming choice of “Look, she’s evil!” that came off to me personally as a little over the top, especially compared to the more subtle costuming of everyone else. Also, Jeff Goldblum. Enough said.

Taika Waititi is right up there in my list of favourite directors. He just has this amazing vibrancy and incredible wit that he manages to inject not just into this film, but one of my favourite Indie comedies: “What we do in the Shadows”. Taika’s appearance as Korg in Thor Ragnarok provides the funniest character I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie, with a dry humour that doesn’t need over-the-top slapstick for every single laugh. His very first bit of dialogue had me properly chuckling, and he continues to pop-up throughout the film with brief but clever moments of comic relief.

Korg: Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Korg. I’m kind of like the leader in here. I’m made of rocks, as you can see, but don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to be afraid, unless you’re made of scissors! Just a little Rock, Paper, Scissors joke for you.
Thor: How did you end up here?
Korg: Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’m actually organizing another revolution. I don’t know if you’d be interested in something like that? Do you reckon you’d be interested?

Thor Ragnarok is also just a lot nice to look at that most Marvel movies, once again due to the talent of Waititi. Asgard and Sakaar come to life with light and colour, so much better than the usual lazy and dreary sets (think the horrific carpark fight scene of Civil War). The soundscape, lighting and camera angles work really hard, helping to get that perfect comic vibe, as well as making it so much more aesthetically exciting than any of the Marvel films you’ve seen before (save for GOTG).

To sum that pretty long review up, please watch Thor Ragnarok. This one of those that you don’t need to be a superhero-movie person to enjoy, it’s just a good comedy in its own right. (Also, What we do in the Shadows in on Netflix and it’s hilarious if you have a dry/dark sense of humour).


So there you go, there are my thoughts on Ragnarok. I actually really enjoyed writing this post and remembering just how much I laughed at this film. I might do a couple more of these for Spiderman Homecoming, or the other films I’m planning to watch over Summer, so leave me a comment if that’s something you’d be interested in reading.

Drink enough water, use suncream, remember to moisturise. Until next time, take care of yourself. x

Image from Flickr user: Bagogames


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Calling Out Catcalling

Hello all, buckle up for a little bit of a rant. I wanted to write this post because there still seems to be a whole load of misconceptions about catcalling, that I hear both online and in person. People still seem to lack an understanding of how upsetting and worrying it can really be, as well as how allowing it has a real effect on our society. So, here’s my two cents on the whole situation.

Catcall Photo

Misconception Number 1: Catcalling Is a Compliment

Although I do completely disagree with this, it’s very easy to understand where this misconception comes from. Men and women alike are taught that women’s appearance is their most valuable asset, and therefore it seems to make sense that commenting on it positively would make them feel valued. However, there is a massive difference between a compliment and sexual harassment.

General rule: if you wouldn’t say it to your mother, it’s not a compliment.

If it seems like a gross thing to say to a family member, there’s clearly a sexual undertone to it, and that’s not an appropriate way to communicate with a stranger. Yes, if my boyfriend (or overinvolved best friend, @thinkingandinking) said that my butt looks great in my jeans, I’d be complimented – but if you’re a stranger, it’s very weird. Ideally, just don’t give any unsolicited comments to women in the street – if they’re anything like me, they probably don’t want to talk to anyone whilst running errands/walking to school, never mind a stranger. However, if you feel incredibly compelled to comment you should: A) Probably seek out a therapist and make an actual friend or B) Only say things you’d say to your mother. As I say, however, the ideal situation is we both mind our own business unless you want to ask for the time/directions/when the next bus is.

Misconception Number 2: Catcalling Isn’t Harmful, Women Need to Lighten Up!

Okay, so there’s a whole lot to unpack here. First off, I think it’s generally not a good idea to be telling women what they do or do not need to do. Unless it’s for their safety and wellbeing (” Women need to avoid sticking forks into toasters”, “Women need to drink enough water”, “Women need to keep bigots like Trump out of the Whitehouse”), in which case, it’s really people need to, not women need to. Secondly, the idea that catcalling isn’t harmful really ignores the effect that it has on those who experience it. Every time someone has commented on my experience in the street, it has been sexual, from someone much older than me (bar one incident with a 12-year-old), and has made me feel deeply uncomfortable and vulnerable.

What you need to remember is this:  no-one owes you anything. Not even a smile, or a response to your comment, or any of their time.

If you ask someone to go on a date with you, they have every right to turn you down – even if you’ve pined over them for 20 years and bought them a diamond the size of Peru. There is absolutely no situation in which someone is obligated to respond to you romantically. Catcalling, however, functions on the assumption that women are constantly available as male entertainment – if a woman does something as simple as walking down the street, she has consented to you interacting with her. This just isn’t true, full stop. Why are you assuming your opinion is so important that a woman desperately wants to know whether you think her arse is great? If I’m not dating you, I really could not care any less about whether or not you “would”. The sense of entitlement towards commenting on women’s bodies often then generalises to a sense of entitlement in other areas, such as sexual access or just simple attention. It creates a framework in which women can’t say no, and men are allowed to interact in a sexual manner with any woman without consequence. This can spiral into violent crimes such as rape or sexual assault, as well as chronic abuse in relationships. I know it sounds extreme, but everything that we do or don’t allow as a society sets a precedent for what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable. By considering catcalling harmless, a set of beliefs about women continue to be perpetuated and allow these more serious offences to occur.

Misconception Number 3: Boys Will Be Boys!

The answer to this one is phenomenally simple: boys will control themselves and respect others, just like everyone else has to. Firstly, grown men are not “boys”, and have had many years to educate themselves on how to function respectfully in society. Secondly, misogyny is not some uncontrollable force, luring you into bad behaviour. Lesbians don’t go around leering and catcalling so straight men can figure it out too.

When you say “Boys will be boys”, what you really mean is “I’d rather let girls remain uncomfortable and endangered than have an honest conversation with my son about respect.”

The Truth: Catcalling Is Damaging – Especially to Girls

What I think men struggle to understand, having not experienced catcalling, is it doesn’t just affect you whilst it’s happening, but all the time. Every time I walk past a building site, or through an underpass, or any other male-dominated environment/quiet public place I tug on my dress or skirt, keep my gaze on the ground, pull my phone out, walk just a little quicker. This isn’t entirely due to catcalling, it’s symptomatic of the wider societal idea that women need to keep themselves safe from assault or harassment, but catcalling definitely plays a part. I really wish I didn’t have to do this, firstly because it’s a stressful inconvenience, but also because I don’t like considering men some sort of ‘enemy’. I’d like to feel just as safe with a man walking behind me as I would with a woman. However, this sadly isn’t the case. Even though the vast majority of men or boys I interact with are nothing but friendly, there are also those who have made my skin crawl with inappropriate looks, comments, or beeping of car horns. Most of the girls I’ve spoken to said it was a comment from men that made them aware of their own ‘sex appeal’. Some of them as young as 10, 11, went from the innocence and naivety of wearing what they wanted, considering themselves (rightly) as children, to being aware that they had begun to be sexualised in some way. One girl even said that at age 12 she was told she had “blowjob lips” by an adult man.

Young girls deserve to live in a carefree world where they don’t have to worry about what their clothes are “revealing”, or tolerate the comments of men (often old enough to be their father or grandfather) about their appearance.

Sexual identity should be discovered by yourself, not pushed upon you by some creepy man who leers at you out of a car window or hollers at you in the street.

My Own Experiences

I think the first time I had this kind of experience was when I was about 13, at the races with my family. I held a door open for a man in his 50s/60s (because, basic human decency) and after walking through he muttered: “Nice arse” (because, sexualising a child is really cool). However, way before that, I’d become aware of The Look. Every woman alive probably knows The Look, when someone makes eye contact with you and then slowly looks you up and down, ending with some smug smile. It’s gross, please don’t do it. The Look started when I was about 11, and I suddenly started being a lot more nervous about walking past groups of men or wearing short shorts. It also coincided with male relatives saying that they needed to start “Keeping an eye on me” because I was “looking grown up”. Anyone under 16 is undoubtedly a child, and should not be sexualised, especially by adults. I’ve had many different instances of street harassment, from men muttering amongst themselves and grinning, to beeping their horns as they drive past, to outright sexual comments. Fairly recently a boy who can’t have been older than 12 made some very inappropriate comments as I walked past him, and even more recently than that a group of men in their 40s whistled as I walked past. I’ve been lucky in the sense that it’s never escalated – a few of my friend have horror stories of being followed home, but it made me feel incredibly embarrassed and upset, I suddenly wanted to put on a coat because I’m so self-conscious. It’s yet another reminder that I’m constantly being viewed sexually by the men around me, which is deeply unpleasant.


 

So, that sums up my thoughts on catcalling. In summary: it’s really gross and downright unnecessary, so please don’t do it. Ever. No exceptions.

Do some mindfulness, get out and enjoy the sunshine, drink some water. Also, don’t harass people in the street. Until next time, take care of yourself. x

Image from Flickr user: Dormant Braincell Research


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13/05/18

Dear Izzy,

Revision is really really the worst. When you are revising, it sucks, when you’re not you feel guilty. I’m slowly getting there, working through psychology studies and practise essays, but I can’t wait for it to be over.

It’s not all bad though, in the last couple of weeks I got my (second) EPQ in and had my French speaking exam, finally putting an end to the dreaded “IRP” (a research project of your choice on an aspect of French society).  I also firmed King’s College London as my first choice university and put in my application for accommodation. The idea of living in London in just a few months is pretty daunting, especially as someone with an anxiety problem, but I’m keeping my chin up and hoping for the best.

Alongside revision, there’s been some Netflix bingeing to keep me sane, first stop: the second season of Jessica Jones. Although I didn’t love it as much as the first season – it was really the dynamic villain of Kilgrave that made it for me – it was gripping, and delved just that little bit deeper into the characters set up in season 1. After that, I dove into the world of Hannibal. Who knew a psychopathic cannibal could be so compelling? I rushed through all the episodes on Netflix and was disappointed when season 2 finished on a cliffhanger, assuming it was the end of the show. However, yesterday my lovely boyfriend handed me a season 3 box set and I can continue to waste time watching a more gruesome version of Chef’s Table.


This was only a short post, but I wanted to update you on what’s going on in my life at the minute. Posts have been a bit sparse, I know, but until exams are over revision has to be my priority. Hopefully, after everything is finally done, I can leap back into posting more regularly.

Eat some vegetables, drink lots of water, do some yoga. Until next time, take care of yourself. x


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What I Read For A-Level Literature

Inspired by my best mate Izzy over at Thinking and Inking I figured I’d try and combine revision with blogging and do a review of the texts I’ve read over the course of my English Literature A2.

Books.jpg

A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams ★★★☆☆

I was really torn about this text. On one hand, I love Williams’ magical realism style and incredible use of stage directions, but the plot just didn’t capture me. All the characters are pretty unlikeable and you end up not really rooting for any of them, making the outcome of the play ultimately inconsequential. I think it would be brilliant to watch on stage, but reading it (or trying to write an essay on it) can end up being a little bit of a drag.

Hamlet – William Shakespeare ★★★★☆

There’s a reason Shakespeare is the most famous playwright in British history. He’s the ultimate expert in my mind when it comes to tragedies, and Hamlet is no exception. Yes, it’s very long and you could probably cut a scene or two, but the more you read it the more you realise that every single character is complex and that initial impressions can be misleading.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood ★★★★★

Right, so don’t shoot me for heresy but the first time I read this book my reaction was “eh”. (I know, I know, I’m a Philistine who wouldn’t know talent if it punched them in the face.) However, you can put your pitchforks away because the more I talked and thought about this book, the more it grew on me. Atwood’s novels become more and more relevant as Trump/Pence (and similar dickheads worldwide) increasingly try to stick their noses into women’s business, controlling and abusing them. Some cracking quotes from this book include: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”, “Better never means better for everyone… it always means worse, for some.” and “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”. Atwood’s society of Gilead is so horrifying because it’s so true, it’s not the consequence of some apocalyptic plague, but a slow decline into total stifling authoritarianism.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley ★★★☆☆

Like Streetcar, Shelley’s novel really left me conflicted. Whilst reading it I couldn’t wait for it to end, and yet it is a monumental piece of literature written by a truly fascinating woman. It’s one of those books that you’d want to read a lengthy synopsis of – because the ideas and plot are ingenious – but not actually read unless you’re stuck with a severe case of insomnia. It amazes me that a woman as interesting as Mary Shelley (daughter to two revolutionaries, basically created the science fiction genre like it was no biggie, lost her virginity on her mother’s grave in the ultimate goth move) can write a character as profoundly uninteresting as Victor Frankenstein. He is a caricature of boring men, who rambles on, and on, and on about his life down to the minutiae of his childhood. Brooding walks in nature, mood swings, and blaming other people for his problems are his specialities and after a certain point you kind of hope the Creature will murder him, just to stop the incessant whining.

The Wife Of Bath Prologue and Tale – Geoffrey Chaucer ★☆☆☆☆

This is the only text we did at A-Level that I really really didn’t like. No, I don’t think Chaucer is some kind of revolutionary for writing a sexually promiscuous female character, I think its far more likely he’s trying to mock the proto-feminists of the era. No matter how many times my English teacher tries to convince me otherwise, I can’t view this as anything other than a reactionary text, that repeats the same point over and over to no real avail. I’ve not dipped into any of the other Canterbury tales so this might be an exception in an otherwise brilliant collection of stories, but I don’t see myself reading any more of Chaucer’s work anytime soon.

The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde ★★★★★

This book was the first one I choose for my coursework, and I built the rest of my essay around it (sidenote, if anyone is a real literature nut, I can send you a very lengthy analysis of desire in Dorian Grey and Brave New World). Oscar Wilde is just excellent in everything he does, and having a full-length novel from him is a blessing. It manages to balance character, plot, and style perfectly – with no one taking precedence over the others. If you haven’t read Dorian Grey, I’d definitely recommend you pick it up, particularly the very pretty Alma Classics edition.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley ★★★★☆

To me, Brave New World is one of those books that is more an exploration of ideas, a series of moments designed to make a point rather than a piece of art designed to entertain. It is at times a philosophical pondering, considering whether false joy is better than sadness, whether anything can have meaning if everything is available at the drop of a hat. Although this can verge upon tedious at times, it’s a brilliant book to analyse and an interesting one to read.


Overall, I’m really happy with the texts my teachers chose for A-Level, and they 100% beat the GCSE horror of Of Mice and Men and The Woman In Black. Can’t say the same for the A2 poetry anthology, which includes a number of classics such as Eat Me (woman rolls over and squishes her boyfriend to death after eating loads of cake), History (man on beach thinks ‘hmm, terrorism really isn’t great’) and The Leisure Centre Is Also A Temple of Learning (creepy observation of a woman in a changing room, please put the binoculars down you leering pervert.) My Easter holidays have been spent knocking out a respectable 8 essays for English Lit, which I’m sure my teachers will be overjoyed to mark – wish me luck handing them in tomorrow.

Take a walk in next week’s sunshine (fingers crossed), drink enough water, read a good book. Until next time, take care of yourself x

Image from Flickr user: Abhi Sharma


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Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things”

I really, really, have not been reading enough lately. Instead, I seem to spend my time taking random naps in the middle of the day, eating as much sugar as is humanly possible, and occasionally staring aimlessly at a textbook (under the name of revision). However, I have been dipping in and out of Gaiman’s Fragile Things and loving it. I initially heard about this book a couple of years ago in a youtube video talking about his poem Instructions. Only about a month ago, after seeing it was on offer on Book Depository, did I pick up a copy for myself.

Neil Gaiman.jpg

I’ve never actually read any short story collection before, or any work by Gaiman, so his “Short Fictions & Wonders” was brand new territory for me. As a newbie to this, I wasn’t sure whether it was a ‘start at the start and work your way through’ situation or not, so I jumped right into with the already familiar poem Instructions. Although it’s not a poem that really explores an issue or makes any profound point,  it’s just got an amazing sense of lyricism to it. It’s definitely a poem made to be read aloud, with a real sense of sound and rhythm to it.

“Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before, Say ‘please’ before you open the latch’,”

“The trees are old. Eyes peer from the undergrowth.”

“When you come back, return the way you came. Favours will be returned, debts repaid.”


Next, I flicked backwards and read A Study In Emerald, Gaiman’s pastiche style foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes. I didn’t realise until googling the story for this post that it’s actually a crossover, with the Cthulhu Mythos Tales by H.P. Lovecraft. As I’d never read them, this element totally passed me by, but it was a brilliant read nonetheless. Gaiman is a real writing chameleon, seemingly a master at any type of story he tries, evoking Arthur Conan Doyle perfectly whilst still adding his own hint of magical realism. There are certain lines that brought me through a whole whirlwind of thoughts. Firstly, total awe and appreciation, secondly utter jealousy that someone can write so damn well, and the anticipation to see just what is going to come next.

“It was a fine morning, but we were now jolting about the edges of the rookery of St Giles, that warren of thieves and cutthroats which sits on London like a cancer on the face of a pretty flower-seller,”

“I dreamed of shadows that night, vast shadows that blotted out the sun, and I called out to them in my desperation, but they did not listen.”

“If I were a sensible man I would burn all these pages, but then, as my friend taught me, even ashes can give up their secrets.”


My most recent read in this collection is October in the Chair. This story takes a single moment from Instructions (“the twelve months sit about a fire, warming their feet, exchanging tales) and expands it into a story of its own, describing 12 months sat together, telling each other stories. Gaiman is a master of intertextuality, with each piece totally capable of standing alone, but also expertly woven together through themes or language or some other tiny, almost forgotten detail.

” ‘Lay off her,’ said May. Her dark hair was cropped short against her skull, and she wore sensible boots. She smoked a small brown cigarillo, which smelled heavily of cloves.”

“September, an elegant creature of mock solicitude.”

” ‘It’s fine,’ said October. His beard was all colours, a grove of trees in autumn, deep brown and fire-orange and wine-red, an untrimmed tangle across the lower half of his face. His cheeks were apple-red. He looked like a friend: like someone you had known all your life.”


Having a book of short stories around has really given me the opportunity to get back into reading. Rather than having to commit hours and hours to get into a narrative, you can pick it up for a half hour and have read 2 totally different stories.

Get some sleep, eat some veggies, relax with a good book. Until next time, take care of yourself x

Image from Flickr user: Stanislav Lvovsky


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Why I’m 100% Pro-Choice

Pro-Choice (adjective)
“(of an organization, pressure group, etc) supporting the right of a woman to have an abortion”

Pro-Life (adjective)
“(of an organization, pressure group, etc) supporting the right to life of the unborn; against abortion, experiments on embryos, etc”

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I want to make something abundantly clear – you can be pro-choice but not pro-abortion. There is a world of difference between believing abortions are a good thing and believing women should have legal autonomy over their bodies and reproduction. Today I want to just lay out as clearly as possible my reasons for being pro-choice.

1. Not My Business

Perhaps the most simple explanation for why I’m pro-choice is that it’s frankly none of my business what other people do with their bodies. Why should my own moral opinion dictate the laws of an entire country?

2. Larger Feminist Debate

The idea of given women agency over their own bodies goes beyond the debate about abortion rights. This is indicative of a much larger debate about who has the power over women’s bodies – the state, their partner, or themselves. In my mind, it would be hypocritical for me not to be pro-choice: if I support the idea that women should have complete and total agency over their own bodies, there can be no exclusions.

3. Unwanted children

In the UK alone, almost 70,000 children are in the care of the state. Children in the care system face more psychological difficulties and are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system. Children need a loving, safe family environment to reach their full potential, and they will never receive that from a parent who didn’t want to give birth to them. Mothers who don’t want to be pregnant are also not going to be invested in good prenatal health practices, potentially leading to fetal alcohol syndrome or other medical issues after birth.

4. Safe Abortions

Any person who is set on not being pregnant will find a way to end their pregnancy.  Just a quick google search finds pages upon pages of “home remedies” to end a pregnancy, many of which are massively unsafe. Aside from these “DIY” abortions, there will always be dangerous backstreet abortion “clinics” where women can be exploited at their most vulnerable. Criminalising abortion doesn’t stop it, it forces it into the shadows and puts women in much greater danger. Medical abortions are far safer, and in the early stages of pregnancy can be as non-invasive as taking a pill.

5. Psychological Harm

In any situation, carrying a child you don’t want would be massively distressing. Every time you feel it kick, or you get morning sickness, or you look down and see your bump is a reminder that you’ve been pushed into this decision you don’t want. But beyond that, pregnancies that occur in horrific situations such as rape are even more upsetting, and then there is the distress of giving the child up for adoption after feeling it grow inside you for 9 months.


So, there’s my take on the whole pro-life/pro-choice debate. I consider myself lucky to live in the UK, where the world of politics is almost entirely pro-choice, with only a few extreme politicians taking a hard anti-abortion stance. There are many countries in which women are denied this basic right, and even in the ‘land of the free’ Republicans seem to make a constant effort to undermine women’s access to abortion through the defunding of organisations such as Planned Parenthood. If you too are pro-choice and would like to support Planned Parenthood in their work giving women access to a range of healthcare services (not just abortion), here’s the link to donate: https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Donation2?df_id=25409&25409.donation=form1

Go for a walk, wrap up warm, reach out to someone you’ve lost touch with. Until next time, take care of yourself x

N.B – For the sake of clarity in this post, I’ve used the word women/woman whenever I talk about pregnant people, but this obviously applies to trans men and non-binary folk too.

Image from Wikimedia Commons


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14/03/18

Dear Izzy,

It’s been very weird recently to see my sleepy city become the centre of attention in both the British and worldwide media. Salisbury is so famously uneventful that it’s been a bizarre turn of events suddenly having it be a hub of police, army and journalists. Don’t get me wrong, Salisbury is beautiful (and a great place to get Italian food, a haircut or go to a coffee shop) but it’s hardly exciting.

Hairdressers
Seriously, there are so many hairdressers. This isn’t even all of them

Everyone here seems to have been more inconvenienced than afraid of the fact that a Russian spy has been poisoned. We all continue to wander around town, moaning about the closure of Zizzi’s and trying to nosy in on the crime scene.

My nan’s currently staying round at the minute after having her knee replaced. This means that I now spend all of my time watching trash TV and sleeping on the sofa in a sleeping bag. At least I’m not staying round at her’s, where being offered snacks every 5 minutes means I always put on a stone by the time I leave.

A-Level revision is finally underway (ish) but trying to get anything done in this madhouse of 2 dogs, a brother, parents and my nana is a bit challenging at times. Can’t really blame it on family though, my greatest skill in life is procrastinating. All my UCAS offers are in now, and I have a post-offer day to go to next week which will hopefully help me decide what I’m going to put as my firm choice. It’s a tossup between Bristol and King’s at the minute, I’m in love with the King’s Psychology course but just trying to decide whether I could cope with the craziness of London.

Anyway, there’s just a very quick update on what’s going on with me. Hopefully, I’ll see you sometime this week, and give you your Christmas and birthday presents that are still sat in my cupboard. Drink enough water, get enough sleep and don’t leave your work to the last minute. Until next time, take care of yourself x


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13/05/18 – 05/01/18 – 31/05/17

Strange Psychology Studies

Studying psychology at A Level has been beyond boring at times, memory models get pretty dull when you’ve been studying them for week after week. Psychology really is science, rather than just sitting in armchairs and talk about childhood, as many people seem to believe. However, there are moments (either in lessons or out) that you stumble across research that really captures your attention, either because it’s just plain weird.

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  1. Golombek (2007) – Taking Viagra makes hamsters less jet-lagged. Hamsters were given a small dose of Viagra adjusted 50% faster to 6 hour time differences than a control group. If humans took the same dose (proportionally), it would be less than 1 pill.
  2. Eerland, Guadalupe and Zwaan (2001) – Leaning to the left makes you guess things are smaller. Participants either stood straight, every so slightly to the right or the left. They were then asked to estimate things such as the height of the eiffel tower, or the number of children the Queen of the Netherlands has. Those who were leaning slightly (and I mean slightly, they thought they were stood straight) consistently made lower estimates than the other 2 groups. The researchers believe this could be because of the way most Western countries write number lines – smallest on the left, largest on the right.
  3. Middlemist, Knowles and Matter (1976) – men will pee less at public urinals when an observer invades their personal space by doing their hair at a nearby mirror.
  4. Rundle, Vaughn and Stanford (2015) – there is a correlation between empathy and contagious yawning. Psychopaths are far less likely to yawn when they see someone else do so than highly empathetic people.
  5. Price, Brown and Dukes (2015) – the more attractive a man is, the more selfish he is likely to be. Men who were rated most highly in terms of physical attractiveness were more egocentric in their political beliefs and in their observed behaviour when playing a competitive economic-style game. There was no correlation found in women between attractiveness and selfishness.
  6. Jackson, Connolly and Garrisson (2015) – This study took place over an incredible 75 years and drew a link between personality and mortality risk. Men whose friends rated them as “conscientious” and “open to new experiences” lived longer than those who were not. In women, those who friends described them as “agreeable” and “emotionally stable” lived the longest.
  7. Zajonc (1987) found that couples looked more similar after 25 years of marriage than they did when they met. Explanations for this include: similar diet, similar lifestyle and empathy – mirroring each other’s facial expressions means lines form in the same places.
  8. Miller (2007) – strippers who are ovulating earn $15 an hour more than those who are not. Men were more likely tip women who were ovulating, and those on the pill earned the least.

There you have it, you are now equipped with a whole host of weird research to share. Leave me a comment and let me know which one surprised you the most, or any strange psychology you’ve discovered.

Get enough to eat, take a walk, don’t procrastinate. Until next time, take care of yourself x


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Sources

Image from Wikimedia Commons