culture, Summer 2015

Summer is off to a flying start…

Good morning/evening readers! Look who’s back in town! As for my unexplained absence of 2 months? I had some of the 3 busiest weeks of my life after my last post (so much for the well-deserved ‘rest’ I was promised after exams), but it was still great. I thought I would fill you guys in on a bit 🙂

As you guys know, I finished my exams on the 12th of June, and I can’t even describe how I felt. I remember being in the exam and seeing one minute left on the clock, and forcing myself to go back to checking. When the invigilator told us to put our pens down, that was the first time in my whole exam period where I didn’t worry about how the exam went; I was just too excited to care. Excited about the start of the holidays, and excited to go home and (metaphorically) burn all my books. That moment was one I had been waiting for, for at least a year and a half. I know it sounds dramatic, but when you want to do as well as I do, I tried to pour my heart and soul into studying. The pressure, on any young person doing exams, is immense and I wanted to rise up to my personal high expectations, perhaps making it worse for myself. So it’s kind of a big moment when all that weight was relieved from my shoulders.

I celebrated with my close group of friends, with all but one of us having finished that trek. We went to a diner in London which, it turns out, I’d been to before when I was about 8! What a coincidence! It was great just to spend some quality time together as a group, and it was the first time in a long while without the ever-impending doom of exams looming over our heads.

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The ‘rest’ week that followed actually consisted of the complete opposite. On the Monday I went shopping with my mum and bought some clothes, sunglasses and a backpack for my birthday/summer from Urban Outfitters. I haven’t taken off the sunglasses almost all summer (despite nearly leaving them on a train a couple of days ago), so I think it’s fair to say I am pretty in love with them. But that week I also had 3 rehearsals, breaking up my free time, so making it all the more busy.

I was in an adaptation of Lorca’s ‘Blood Wedding’, which is Spanish, and we were taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (I just arrived home from that, so my post from that will come shortly.) I was only in the chorus as my year was the youngest able to join, but because we were on stage the whole time, we had to go to every rehearsal. As it was going public and the possibility of it being reviewed was out there, the teachers took it very seriously. To be honest though, I found it all very tedious towards the end, due to the run-throughs and what-not. I know they were 100% crucial and I appreciate that, especially considering we had 2 performances 2 weeks later, but it didn’t really change the fact that it was very boring.

On the 18th of June, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to do some work shadowing with the crime editor of the Times. I have wanted to be a journalist for about 4 years now, so this was an incredible day for me to be able to gain an insight into what the job actually entails. I mean, I’m sure everyone has their own idea of what their dream job would be like, but for me to actually experience the conferences and meetings etc, it meant I could stop imagining. Bonus, it did not dissuade me from my ambitions in the slightest.

A day later, on the 19th of June, was my 16th birthday. I feel extremely old now, like I am somehow supposed to act like an adult as the clock strikes midnight. I know that 16 doesn’t equal adult, but the expectations are so much higher of you now (especially from parents). Say it out loud. Doesn’t saying “you’re 16 now” sound so much older than 15? It does to me.

When I woke up, my parents had put up photos of me growing up on my stairs, obviously bringing back a lot of memories. It was a brilliant idea though and a huge surprise, plus incredibly touching, and I would definitely recommend for any readers thinking of an inexpensive way to surprise someone for their birthday. I had planned an outfit the day before, but my parents had got me a beautiful dress (don’t worry it was pretty casual) so I decided to wear that, along with my new sunglasses and backpack. As we had just finished exams, my school was treating us with a trip to Thorpe Park, and it just so happened to be on my birthday. Best birthday ever right?? (Well, it’s either that or actual school, so I’ll take Thorpe park any day.)

Nevertheless, it was an amazing day and I even got a little sunburnt (oops) it was so hot. One thing only tarred it slightly, and that was a ride called the Hammer. My friend persuaded me to go on it, and there was no queue so we had to go straight on without watching it. Stupid, believe me, I know. It was the kind of ride that literally just swings round and round in circles. It wasn’t even very fast which made it all the worse, because when you fell forward, I thought my head was going to explode with all the blood flowing to my brain. Long story short, I wouldn’t get on that ride again for anything.

I have to say it was one of the busiest birthdays I’ve ever experienced, as after we got back to school (an hour and a half late, thanks coach company), I had to rush home to get ready and drive to my friend’s house, where we were hosting our joint party in about an hour turn around. But despite the high levels of stress leading up to it, it was definitely worth it. It was a great night. Eventful to say the least, but a lot of fun. (Note: if you are not re-doing the house like my friend was, maybe don’t have a UV party. It gets extremely messy.) 🙂

So here’s chapter one of my summer readers. Ironic how I only have 3 days before school goes back, but I will definitely be more present from now on. Sorry again about that huge gap. I hope everyone had an awesome and relaxing holiday whatever you did, and enjoy the last day of August!

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arts, culture, events, food, London

Radiant Vermin, they Said…

Good evening my dear readers! Although I am still on my Easter holidays, I haven’t exactly been enjoying myself, due to having to be revising/working constantly. Well, either that or feeling really guilty because I’m not working, which is worse to be honest. So because of this, I have hardly anytime to myself, hence why I haven’t posted in over a week. My drama piece, my first GCSE, is in two weeks yesterday, so you can imagine I am freaking out only slightly!! As you can guess I probably won’t be posting much due to my never-ending workload and the increasing pressure that is mounting on me, but I shall try! For now, enjoy this little insight into what I got up to last week 🙂

Last Tuesday (7th April) my mum and I got dressed up and took the train to Oxford Circus (Again! If you want to see what else I’ve been doing near Oxford Circus, check this out: https://madsem13.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/what-a-cool-way-to-celebrate/) We then took a walk along Oxford Street, and I noticed how many Spanish tourists there were! I’m not sure if this just me, but because I learn both Chinese and Spanish, if I hear people speaking those languages, I try to see if I can understand any of what they’re saying. Anyone else? No? Just me then…

Finally we found the alley we were looking for and turned down into Soho. I’m not sure if I have ever been before, I’ve been to Carnaby Street but I’m not entirely sure if that is part of it? Anyway, we arrived at Soho Theatre which, in my opinion, is pretty cool and I definitely want to start going to more small-scale pieces at venues like Soho Theatre. We went to the bar, and with a quick checking out of my surroundings, I realised I was definitely the youngest there. By at least 3 years, and that was only 1 guy. The rest were in their early-mid twenties at the very least. Still, I didn’t really mind and just wanted to have a fun night (with hindsight I highly recommend this theatre!!) The play started at 7:15 so we had some time to kill, but finally we were allowed to make our way into the performance space.

As it was my first time at Soho Theatre, I was quite sceptical about what to expect, but when I walked into the room with tiered seating that I thought hold roughly a maximum of 100, I was immediately reassured. The bright white minimalistic set that I had seen in so many movies as what  ‘typical small plays should be performed on’ had me on edge, but also very excited. It was a first-time experience for me, and was thrilling to say the least. I was squirming in my seat with eager anticipation, when two people ran out onto stage; a young couple with their ‘baby’ in a baby carrier. They were gushing about their beautiful, amazing family home, but how they had to do horrible, shocking, horrific things to get to where they were now. (Never in a million years would I have ever guessed what they actually did. Not that I would ruin that bone-chilling surprise for you. you will have to find out for yourself.) It started with basically the epitome of a fairy godmother (working for the Government, so take that as you will) giving them a free house “because you are the perfect fit, who else helped their mother bathe when her arthritic fingers became too much for her to handle?”, with the intention that they would do it up in whatever way they could, so attracting people to the area. This lady was played by Amanda Daniels, the reason we went in the first place, as my mum is friendly with her. She perfectly portrayed the happy, seemingly-generous-but-actually-manipulative government worker, and her audience asides were witty and brought a comical element to the increasingly deep, intense and at some times quite scary piece of drama. Focussing on the main couple, they showed their struggles, both morally and emotionally, in a way that was engaging for the audience, and made me get so caught up in the moment that I jumped when my mum accidentally nudged my arm. And their multi-roling skills were so brilliant, I have actually stolen some ideas on characterisation for my GCSE piece! So without giving away anything about the play, ‘Radiant Vermin’ is definitely a must-see, especially if you are in the mood for a very intense and somewhat chilling comedy, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

As the play was only an hour and a half long, it was about 8:55 by the time we got out, so my mum wanted to take me to this beautiful chocolate café she had been to before , with Amanda, the actress we had just seen perform, of all people.  After about half an hour of fruitless searching, plus a frantic google search, we finally arrived at Said, a pretty little Roman chocolate café. The rustic design had me itching to take tons of photos, so here we go lovelies:

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Look at all that yummy chocolate! Well, it gets better, because here is what I ordered:

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Milk chocolate hot chocolate, that was as thick as my dipping chocolate for the churros in Spain! Delicious! I especially love the delectable lipstick print 🙂

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My mum’s coffee and my hot chocolate

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These strawberries (pre-dipped in milk chocolate) were literally the size of my palm! And made my evening 🙂

If you love chocolate as much as I do, or just want a delicious hot drink (or a bar of chilli chocolate which is apparently very popular with the ladies), go check out Said: http://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/said

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Here are some snaps of Soho and Carnaby Street, and we found Shaun the Sheep! Turns out there are fifty of these fluffy menaces dotted in and around the city in a colourful charity trail, so see if you can find any 🙂

I hope you guys enjoyed this little taste of my evening, I know I enjoyed it a lot, thanks mum for this treat! Will definitely have to make further trips to Soho, that’s for sure. I would love to know if you guys have found any hidden treasures; in London or wherever you are from. Please comment, like and follow to join our little online family 🙂 Good night!

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culture, Photography

What a ‘cool’ way to celebrate…

Hi guys! Happy Easter (for those who celebrate!!) I have FINALLY broken up from school, well, on Thursday if you want to be completely accurate. Anyone else at school finish at the same time? I know my siblings and all my friends outside of school broke up way before me, not holding a grudge at all! 🙂

On the 20th of March, one of my closest friends turned 16, and she had a party with 5 of her, well, I presume 5 of her closest friends. (Not putting words into your mouth Tish!!) To celebrate, her mum had completely organised the whole thing, even she had no idea what was happening. There was lots of guessing, highly inaccurate ones at that, I can tell you now. So straight after school, all 6 of us ran as fast as we could to the cars so we could race back to hers and, as girls say, beautify ourselves. For me, this meant putting on a black bodycon/shift dress with diamantes dotted all around the front, a hand-me down from my cousin, and a pair of black kitten heels, and to finish, threw on my signature leather jacket. (Kind of taking away from the formal outfit with the studded collar…) Plus obviously doing my hair and makeup. After numerous photos, group and singular with the birthday girl, we rushed out of her house, to get the tube into London.

We got off at Oxford Circus and walked down Regent Street, past Hamley’s, Liberty’s, even random shops that we thought we were going into every time we passed one. And just as we began to feel really anxious about where we were headed, we crossed the street and turned right down Heddon Street. Which just stumped us even more. Until we kept walking and her parents called us back, and we looked up in the awe at the sign that read: “Ice bar London”. I had never even heard of this place, but it is, in literal terms, a bar made completely of ice. The bar itself, the tables, the chairs… Even the glasses are made of ice!! To maintain all of the ice, it is kept at degrees Celsius, so you are allocated a 40 minute slot, and you have to wear special cloaks and gloves that they provide for you. It was honestly one of the coolest experiences (pun intended), and excuse the terrible photos! The lighting was definitely not camera friendly.

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After this incredible start to the evening, we made our way down the remainder of Regent Street, towards Piccadilly Circus, taking in the bustling activity and beautiful night time in London, like tourists.

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Finally we reached dinner, which was at the Criterion. This is right next to Piccadilly Circus, and the reason why we went here was because it was featured  in Downton Abbey. Yes, my friend is the biggest fan ever, as you can probably tell. This was such a fancy restaurant, and we were getting a table all to ourselves, (the girls, I mean), so I kind of felt sorry for anyone sitting near us. But it was incredible, and delicious of course, so I thought I would show you the beautiful décor, and most importantly, the food. Again, I apologise for the lighting, it really did hate me that evening.

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(We had starters, but I forgot to photograph, sorry!!)

Here are the mains: My delicious tomato pasta, honestly the best pasta I have ever had.

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The biggest fishcake I have ever seen.

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A huge chicken supreme.

Despite being completely full, and were even cradling our food babies, of course we had room for dessert (but we did share one between two.)

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My decadent blood orange and chocolate cake, with blood orange sorbet, salted caramel and cookie crumble.

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A deconstructed eton mess, with blackberries (not sure what else).

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White chocolate and peanut butter mousse, honeycomb pieces and raspberry sorbet.

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And of course, for the birthday girl, with love from the Criterion. (And extra for the rest of us.)

So there we have it. One amazing evening, two awesome places, both of which I would highly recommend for anyone wanting to splash out a little on a trip out in London, or for a little treat. Word of advice: if you are planning a trip to the Ice Bar, don’t wear open shoes. 🙂

Thanks for reading guys, and I hope you enjoyed looking at what I would regard as a posh night out in London!

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culture, music

There’s only one way to go from here…

Today was a very mixed day for me. I was feeling stressed and tired all day, and during yoga in my last period of school, I wanted nothing more than to just curl up into a ball and sleep. Then I had rehearsals for the production we are putting on of ‘Blood Wedding’, which was even more tiring. The general message here is that I am always tired basically!! 🙂

At the end of rehearsal, my friend went on her Instagram and gasped, looking directly at me, so I knew something bad must have happened. She read out: ‘Zayn Malik has announced he is leaving One Direction’. And I actually think I stopped breathing for a second. Now, I know how ‘typical soppy teenage girl’ I sound and just like any other annoying fan-girl that screams or cries when anything 1D related is mentioned (and hyperventilate whenever we even hear their names). I’m not THAT bad, promise. Well, actually… but anyway, that happened. I was, and still am extremely upset about this. Although I never particularly liked Zayn (not as much as the others anyway), he was still a major part of the group and it just won’t be the same without him. I thought their last album was their best yet (go check out  my review here 🙂 : https://madsem13.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/not-just-girly-things/ ) and that they were just getting better and better as they matured, but obviously Zayn felt he couldn’t handle his fame anymore. I respect his decision completely, I am just still trying to get my head round the idea of One Direction as a four-piece. Today marked the end of an era in a way. Yes, I know it’s cheesy, but just like when the Beatles broke up, fans are heartbroken. I’m sure you can tell yes, I am one of them.

To be honest, I am especially gutted about this as I’m going to see them in September, and I would have loved to see One Direction even just one more time altogether. But best wishes to Zayn, and to the boys of 1D who will carry on as a four, we believe in you! Defy everyone and bounce back with a bang, because you will always have supporters in your loving Directioners!

I know this will be a bit of a controversial post as people seem to either feel very strongly for or against them, but just think if this was your favourite band, and how you would feel. I felt a duty as a directioner (I guess you could call me that) to write this, and I’m sorry if you didn’t enjoy it, but please like/comment/follow me for some new and exciting posts coming up! Thanks for reading!

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culture, well-being

Peer pressure…

Hi guys! Recently I have been thinking about what I want to achieve by my next birthday, in June. By this point I will have finished my GCSEs (HURRAH!!), but I have a lot to do between now and then… Including actually DOING the dreaded G-word. But reflecting on this got me onto peer pressure, and how (or not) influential it has been to me and my friends’ lives.

Peer pressure can be a good thing. Obviously this depends on what the situation is, but a few of my greatest (I say lightly) achievements have been caused by friends (gently) pushing me to do it. Like this blog. Continue reading

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books, culture, literature, nationality

My literary adventure (part 1)

Hello dear readers!! How are you all doing now that the weather is finally looking up in this corner of England? I hope you’ve been cherishing every precious moment of this inevitably short burst of spring; I know I have!! And look, I even felt compelled to write this post today, so that’s an improvement, right?

At the beginning of this year, I vowed to myself that I would start reading a wider range of books from a variety of different authors, but the main aim of my ‘resolution’ (so to speak) was to read authors of completely different nationalities. When you pick up a book, the first thing that you think about is the appeal of the cover, am I right? The cover is usually the thing that catches your attention, so it needs to be good. Then the title. Then the name of the author, occasionally, depending on whether you have heard of them or not. But what never springs to mind, (for me at least), is the nationality of the author. I don’t think I have ever gone into a library or bookshop with the mentality of “ok, today I will get a book written by a non-English or American author”. Please let me know if it has happened to you, as this just might be something completely unique to me!

Continue reading

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culture, language, travel

My trip to Salamanca…

So first I should apologise for my unexplained absence from my blog for the past.. ooh I don’t even know. Let’s just say at least a month. It’s been full steam ahead since Christmas with my GCSEs coming up in a little under 3 months!! But I will TRY to post more often than I have been doing, so that we can all be happy 🙂

As the title probably suggests, last week (in the English half term), I went on a school trip to Salamanca, 200km from Madrid, in Spain. It is essentially a university town, hosting two universities. The town itself was established in 1134, so I suppose you could say it is quite old! It was beautiful and despite there being some stories that worry me, (we will never know what a wild party is until we write on walls with bull’s blood: my advice? Don’t) I still had an amazing time there. Therefore I would highly recommend putting this picturesque town on your bucket list, for sure.

We arrived in Salamanca on Monday evening at about 7:30, after a lengthy 2 hour drive from Madrid airport. We were greeted by our host families, and my roommate and I had a 70 year old lady who lived by herself. At first, we were a bit scared if I’m honest, because we thought that, oh, maybe she is really strict! Or, oh, maybe she won’t talk to us very much! The point of this trip was to speak as much Spanish as possible, so that was a worrying possibility! When we first met her, she didn’t exactly discourage our theories, but when we got to her apartment and started talking we realised she was actually the sweetest person we could ever have hoped for. Plus, when we got home 15 minutes past our curfew one night, she wasn’t mad, which was relieving. 🙂 So thank you to our amazing host, who was such a brilliant cook, and without her I don’t think the experience would have been as good.

A normal day for me in Salamanca: my roommate and I would set our alarms for quarter to 8, and not leave the warmth of our beds until at least 8:20. As you can imagine, we took at least half an hour to get ready, then had to eat breakfast quickly as we had to be at Mester for 9:30, and we would always leave the house late. Yes, we had to run the 7 minute walk a few times. We would go to Mester, a language school, every morning for about 3 hours, where we would have a grammar and conversation lesson, then have about an hour to explore before going home to have lunch. Lunch was the main meal of the day, so we would have an exquisitely made big meal, of various Spanish delicacies. At 4, we would meet our school at Mester for our afternoon activities, which included a walking tour of the town, with churros in an art dĂ©cor museum, a dance and cooking lesson, and even a tour of both the viejo y nuevo catedral. (Old and new cathedral, in case you didn’t get that) After the activities, we would go exploring the town, which included a massive trip to Carrefour one evening, as well as my roommate buying a pair of green fuzzy creepers for 6 euros, what a bargain! We didn’t fail to notice how cheap everything was, especially the delicious local food (we lived in the bakery alright!) After our large shopping trips, our curfew was 9:30, and we were so tired I think we were thankful to go home!

I had an amazing time in Salamanca, and though it was only February, even the weather was amazing! And to round off my great trip, I took some gorgeous (I think) photos. Have a look for yourself:

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plaza mayor panorama

front of catedral

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stained glass window

view from cathedral

view of rooftops

Thank you to my school for organising this trip, and also to my superb host. An amazing first visit to Spain 🙂

Thanks for reading guys, and if you liked this, please give me a follow! See you soon I hope!

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