5 THINGS.

I’ve been feeling quite sorry for myself up until recently when I sat myself down, slapped the back of my wrist and I told myself to get a grip. I urgently needed start thinking more positively having developed in somewhat of a pessimist and just no fun to be around! Since then everyday I have counted five things on my fingers that I am happy about, be them big or small.

(14.02.16)

  1. Bobble bottle – After watching a documentary on how bad plastic bottled water is, not only for you but for the environment, I wanted to invest in a more sustainable solution. That is not to say that bottled water is as bad for you as a bottle of Coca Cola by any means, but still they aren’t great. This one has a filter at the top to help get rid of impurities, the quality feels top-notch and it encourages me to drink more water throughout the day; what’s not to love? 173228
  2. My new camera – Recently I got a new camera which I have been wanting for AGES s my final year of school comes to a close soon and I’m desperate to capture the last few precious moments I have with those in my life right now. Also, up until now I have been using my I-pod to capture all the photos for these blog posts which can sometimes leave me feeling dis-heartened as they aren’t the best quality; often I have avoided doing more interesting posts because of this. The camera itself if amazing, takes really good photos and videos, looks and feels great and has a fun flip-out screen. I’m no tech expert though so I’m not going to give an in-depth review but instead will just link you to one here.
  3. Maus – I’m currently reading Maus, a graphic novel based on The Holocaust using Cats and Mice as a metaphor. After reading numerous book for English Literature I fell into a slump, not wanting to read anything for the foreseeable future. That being said when I was ready to begin again after a little sabbatical I couldn’t find it in me, every cover seemed to glare at me judgementally, it all seemed overwhelming. I am hoping this graphic novel is going to help, it’s early days but I’m finding it incredibly interesting.
  4. Spring flowers – I was gifted my first bunch of spring-time flowers yesterday; pink tulips. Flowers the bloom around this time of year have always been my favourite! Bright yellow daffodils, beautiful blossom trees, colonies of tulips… it’s the simple things that make me smile you see.
  5. Exciting events – I’m going to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in London this weekend and I’m SO FREAKING EXCITED! Being a complete Roald Dahl NOOB, his ridiculous stories never failing to make me giggle and the memories of my dad reading me Fantastic Mr Fox  before bedtime when I was younger makes me feel fuzzy with nostalgia, (I say younger but he did this a few moths ago!)

 

 

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VALENTINE VIBES.

I have no shame in admitting that despite never having a ‘valentine’ per-say, I have always celebrated the day or lurve in style. 2012 was the year I was determined to recreate the piñata scene with Jennifer Garner from the film ‘Valentines Day (2010).’ Unfortunately my friends and I were unsuccessful in finding a love heart piñata instead settling for a llama, filling it with numerous one-penny sweets before beating the living daylights out of it with a baseball bat. How graceful…

2013 saw me stuffing my face with a dozen slices of overly-salty, stuffed crust, dominoes goodness (obviously covered in garlic butter, with a side of dough balls and one too many slices of B+J’s Cookie Dough.) It was until later than year I became a vegetarian and only in summer 2014 did I convert to veganism so I excuse myself for finding this tantalisingly tasty. I slouched by the fire with my two pals and watch the lamest chick flicks feat. Get a Clue and Bring It On. This was also the same year that my Dad got me my first valentines card that had sparkly pinks bits on with Bombay Bicycle Club’s most recent album; this was a good year.

2014 and 2015 I spent doing similar things and kept it chill by going out for drinks with friends. There was no new CD, no pizza, no lame movies, no sparkly cards, no bashing of cardboard shaped animals… ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

This year I don’t know what I will be doing even though it’s Wednesday 10th. Perhaps I’ll watch 10 Thing I Hate About You because I am forever in love with Heath Ledger, or maybe I’ll go shopping to treat myself to a new book. None the less you can rest assured I’ll be dancing to some down right classics whilst I do it having the world’s cheesiest list looped on repeat until my ears bleed and I can no longer stand the songs.

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  1. I Will Follow You into the Dark – Death Cab For Cutie
  2. Turning Page – Sleeping At Last
  3. Strangers In The Night – Frank Sinatra
  4. Love Song – Sarah Bareilles
  5. What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner
  6. I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston
  7. Crazy In Love – Beyoncé
  8. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
  9. True Colours – Cyndi Lauper
  10. I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
  11. True Love – Pink (ft. Lily Allen)
  12. She Will Be Loved – Maroon 5

 

 

SWEATSHOP SECRECY.

There is no single way to define what a ‘Sweatshop’ actually is but in general the term can be used to describe a workplace where employees are subjected to unfair treatment and exploitation whether than be low wages, long hours, poor conditions of abuse. Sadly for those working in these environments, the vicious nature of them is very much cyclical. With low wages workers barely have enough money to get by, let alone have enough money to improve their lives. Unfoturnaltly for these people, they remain trapped in this continuous loop of exploitation…

The lack of an official definition of a sweatshop and the desire of the employers to keep them secret, it is increasingly difficult to assess to scale of them. This is further compounded by the fear of workers to lose their jobs if anything about working conditions in these factories caught public attention; after all it is unlikely that workers would be compensated with money or new jobs even if the truth took over the headlines!

Large companies often concentrate these sweatshops in LEDC (Less Economically Developed Countries) where citizens are willing to work forhttp://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/learn_hub.cfm low

rates, long hours in often dangerous surroundings. The 1990’s saw a soar in these factories in Mexico which was followed by poor Asian countries in the 2000’s as companies found these places saturated with those willing to do more, for a lot less.

 

Many employers argue that by opening factories in these poorer areas they’re providing a person with money for them to help alleviate and avoid a life of poverty, however the miniscule hourly rates are not generally enough for individuals to maintain even the poorest quality of life, let a lone a comfortable one or anything beyond that. Green America’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program Director states that  “sweatshop watchdog groups continually find factories that pay illegal wages, lower even than the minimum.” Are the hourly rates really enough when we consider food, drink, sanity, childcare, healthcare, education, bills and mortgages/rent (if they’re fortunate enough to have this!)

Surely it is not unreasonable to ask these large companies, who frequently use sweatshops yet are making such large profits cannot merely raise their hourly rates even a little? Would the average individual not be willing to pay a couple of pounds extra for a pair of shoes had they known that the person on the other hand is getting their fair share. We talk of fair trade for farmers who pick our bananas, chocolate and coffee, we talk of animals rights and how ‘free range’ is SO much better yet we remain ignorant to the goings on behind the items on our back and the poor individuals who work relentlessly to make it. Life would be so much easier if clothes came with ‘sweatshop free’ labels or verification of some sorts like the boxes of Linda McCartney meat-free sausages. Sadly, this is not the case and does not look like it will be for some time and therefore we’re left to do our own research and tune ourselves in to these unrecognised issues.

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After watching a documentary about sweatshops I decided to write this post in hope someone will read it and re-evaluate where they source their clothes from. Albeit I have known on their existence for sometime but remained blind and lacked EFFORT to do anything about it. For this I am ashamed.

It is sad that this topic is not touched upon as often, yet everyone seems aware of it. Would you wear a top knowing it was made by a 14 year old in Jordan who has no time for an education and spend her entire wages (which equate to a few pennies for a 17 hours day work) on food for dinner that night that is not enough to feed her family of 6 and buy her mother’s medicine who is sick with a measly cold that she cannot afford to treat. No? You wouldn’t? But wait, aren’t you already?

I really hope this post opens someone’s eyes to the obvious and next time you shop you really consider where you’re sourcing the item from and how it was made. I’ve recently tried to start ‘smart’ shopping by getting more at charity shops, Ebay, swapping with friends and doing increasing research to forever expand my knowledge on what goes on behind our beloved brand closed doors.

If you want to read more, because I realise I have already written a lot, then I’m going to like some really good sites that break things down simply. I’m also going to link to a website that helps you find what brands are the good guys and which ones get the thumbs down from me. Finally there will be listed below some of my favourite ‘cruelty free’ clothing brands and my favourite documentaries to watch if you’re not a big reader…

http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/learn_hub.cfm

http://www.waronwant.org/sweatshops-china

Are your clothes made in sweatshops?

http://ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/ECA-Brand-List.pdf

RESOLUTIONS.

Long time no speak; my sincere apologies. I confess, I have no excuse for my neglecting you apart from being stressed with revision for exams and at times overwhelmed with life.

My dog has conjunctivitis with green liquid coming out his nose (AN: he has been taken to the vets and is hopefully on the road to recovery with these magical £54 eye drops!) My granddad is also going back into hospital for another operation after finally beginning to recover from his operation in May to remove a cancerous tumour. Even though I think he’ll be OK the whole thing blows none-the-less. My brother has once again fled for university and that leaves me feeling like somewhat of an incomplete puzzle. I worry about him as his diet is diabolical, accommodation barely liveable and current bank balance minus one thousand pounds. Furthermore, some clever clogs decided it’d be a smashing idea to put exams after Christmas so I spent a significant proportion of the holiday procrastinating and preparing, procrastinating and preparing, procrastinating and preparing…

Anyway here I am, still standing (barely) and still smiling (just about!) Towards the end of 2015 I sat down and re-examined my resolutions for that year, giving myself a lil’ pat on the back for having completed all bar one. Last years resolutions were last years, I’m now ready to make new ones and start afresh as cliché as the whole ‘new year, new me’ thing is. I’m not really looking to change myself entirely, more like modify and alter slightly; rather than rebuild I wish to renovate; rather than buy brand new, simply some sewing and stitching will do. Can I put in any more obscurely? I think not…

  1. Revise and do well in my A-Levels so  I can get to university to study English Lit w/Creative Writing.
  2. Travel more. Not necessarily abroad but anywhere. Go away with friends camping in the middle of no-where, have a weekend in Rome or Paris, ride around London on a Boris bike. Just get out, meet people, see places, get experience.
  3. Spend less money on shit I don’t need. I have recently devised a ‘want’ list and promised myself I wont spend a penny on anything that isn’t on it. This is an attempt to not only save for next year but also try to become less materialistic.
  4. Buy less from chains and support more independent and local companies. Also shop at charity shops more for clothes after seeing a documentary about the truth behind sweat shops.
  5. Give back more. Do a coffee morning, bakes sales, give to food backs and shelters, help out in soup kitchens.
  6. Write. Write anything. Write letters to loved ones, write poems from the heart, write stories about adventures that I explore in my dreams.
  7. Spend less time on social media. If I want to talk to someone, see them, write to them or ring them before I think about sending them a message on Facebook or 140 characters on twitter.
  8. Treat myself better and by that I don’t mean buy myself a shed load of stuff, I mean simple things. Sleep more, put a face mask on every now and then, relax with a good book and just know that occasionally I am OK to give myself  little TLC.
I think that is about it as far a resolutions go. There will probably be things that prop up throughout the year that I will adopt or change and that is perfectly fine because whoever said that a new year has to be the only reason to turn a new corner and start a new chapter?
I leave you with some of most cherished memories from what was possibly the crappiest year of my life and as I do I throw my middle finger up to twenty-fifteen, praying that this year treats me better.

MOVIES FOR THE MERRY.

There’s not many hours left until Christmas Day arrives on our door step now and the excitement is becoming overwhelming. As the day draws to a close and twenty-four hours of gift-giving, over-eating and drunken singing commence I anticipate becoming a couch potato with my family watching many marvellously, merry movies. If you’re stuck what to watch this year I’ve compiled my top festive films for you to check out in hope that they’ll become a firm favourite of yours too!

(in no particular order because I’m too fickle and indecisive…)

  1. White Christmas
  2. It’s a Wonderful Life
  3. The Polar Express
  4. How Grinch Stole Christmas
  5. A Christmas Carol
  6. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol
  7. Arthur Christmas
  8. Jingle All the Way
  9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  10. Miracle of 34th Street
  11. Scrooged
  12. Meet me in St. Louis
HAVE A HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS!

MISTLETOE AND WINE.

Ok I confess – the title of this post is a little misleading as 1) I’m not the biggest lover of wine unless it’s mulled (mulled anything is da shiz though) and 2) we have no mistletoe. Despite this the Christmas decorations are FINALLY up, the cherry and spicy tea’s down and the trees have been coated in fake snow spray, twinkly lights and oversize baubles.

We have one fake and one real tree; the one that resembles the leaning tower of Pisa is the real one due to mum and myself accidently putting more glittery stuff one side that the other. It’s tradition that we have a real tree, the addition of Mr. Pretend Tree is recent. I’m addicted to the smell, my mum and dad constantly finding me with my head buried within the pines in order to catch a waft of that amazing aroma. We always name the tree with dad and I taking it in turns every year to pick her (always her) name. Last year her name was Claudia; dad has yet to decide and he likes to mull over and get to know the tree for a few days beforehand. I on the other hand can tell straight away.

All the over-priced ornaments that’s accumulated over the years is lugged down from the loft and the obligatory questioning of “why do we keep spending all this money?” alongside the vowing to not but anymore undergoes; that is until the January sales come around!

My humble abode now resembles Santa’s Grotto with ‘driving home for Christmas’ on loop and fairy lights being placed purposefully in every room. I’m waiting for my brother to get back from university this weekend in order to conduct the ceremonial placing of the first present under the tree of the year; I may not last that long though…

COFFEE SHOP COMMENTARY.

The girl behind the counter seems down; maybe she’s been confronted by a rude customer at some point or has had a monotonous day and is silently counting down the hours, minutes, seconds until she can go home and curl up with a cuppa.

I order my usual, a regular black Americano in the limited edition roast, always in a to-go cup and always to drink in (AN: the to-go cup keeps it warmer for longer!) I feel a pang of guilt as I watch the eyes of the waitress at the till drop with disappointment when I whip out my card. Today I have no money for a tip and mutter a pathetic apology under my breathe in hope that she doesn’t slip cleaner into my drink in spite.

I take my seat at the small table for two in the back of the café, hiding my face behind my folder in a desperate desire to not be seen by anyone I know today. Wanting to thaw out my fingertips from the bitter cold that lingers outside I cradle my coffee cup in my hands, much like an over-protective mother would do to her child. I begin to empty the contents of my bag onto the table; pencil case, notebook, highlighters, paper, a much loved and destroyed edition of Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ yada, yada, yada…

Whilst I annotate away The Knights Tale to my hearts content the women next to me hurry to gather up their belongings and leave. Clearly they’re humiliated at how their tiny toddler has not yet stopped whaling at the top of his lungs, flashing me an apologetic look as their cheeks crimson.

An elderly couple take a seat to my right and decide to go half-and-half on their paninis. One ordered ham and cheese, the other cheese and onion; standard pensioners preference. The lady has chosen to indulge in a large cappuccino laden with chocolate and cinnamon sprinkles accompanied with the worlds smallest gingerbread man. The man has resisted and instead opted for a small latte, omitting any sprinkles and sides. The two engage in miniscule amounts of conversation, making infrequent and short comments here and their yet, despite this the atmosphere does not feel uncomfortable and I take satisfaction in the idea that they have been together for so long now that neither feel forced to bother with small talk but rather just relish eithers companionship.

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A middle aged man has taken the seat that the ladies were previously planted in. I assume he is a businessman of some sort because he wears a suit and has his i-Phone  religiously strapped to his hand. Rather rapidly, as though it’s medicine, he knocks back his black espresso; a tough day at the office I presume! I’m half inclined to reach over and give him a hug whilst asking if he’s OK but I realise that rather than appear endearing as it’s intended to I’d most likely end up being provided with a strange look and a signed restraining order instead. I supress the urge and think about how his morning might have panned out. The naïve part of me likes to imagine that he woke to the sound of nature humming with his wife lying beside him sleeping soundly. In a perfect world he would have had enough time to make himself tea and a hearty breakfast. In reality and most unfortunately it’s far more likely that he woke to the cry of an alarm whilst outside was still blanketed in black. His wife in the shower and having slept in later than anticipated after a late night the only breakfast he managed to stomach before he raced out the door was a mug of strong coffee and a pathetic corner of his burnt toast.

I do this far more often than I care to admit; watch people in coffee shops, imagine what their lives are like and create scenarios for them in my head. Perhaps it’s through eagerness to escape my own thoughts momentarily, perhaps it’s a way of procrastinating from doing anything remotely productive. I’m convinced it’s both…

MOMA.

On Saturday I went to the Museum of Modern Art Museum in Oxford avec my chum Anna who, being an art teacher in a school in Bristol herself, I thought might enjoy and appreciate a look around the exhibition (also it was free entry and we’re broke!) I’ve been once before but found the project on at the time (that centred around oranges??) rather bizarre and I didn’t ‘get’ it. The itty bitty museum was founded in 1966 and showcases copious amount of interactive and innovative art projects. The museum’s aim is to bring contemporary art to everyone and make it more accessible and enjoyable.

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Currently the museum is showcasing Anne Hardy’s FIELD project which uses a variety of audio, photography and sculptures with the combination of different colours, materials and textures in order to present a variety of ‘landscapes.’ You can read more about the exhibition and the artist herself here.

Not that the bar was set particularly high after the last visit, but this exhibition certainly exceeded expectations and I found it so much more interesting and enjoyable than that revolving around spherical fruit. Provided with a well-explained pamphlet I was actually able to understand the artists intentions behind her work, something that is very rare with exhibitions and I’m often left dumbfounded and headachy in desperate attempts to understand what they truly meant before giving up entirely and left disappointed.

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We had to take our shoes off and walk around this rectangular room covered in bright yellow felt full of weird and quirky sculptures (I confess, I felt a little like the wife in Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper!) Whilst completely baffled at the time and thinking that the swirly material on the floor was spaghetti, all was made clear in the next section. The spaghetti sculptures weren’t in fact a form of pasta but rather models of debris that the artist had swept up post the production of her ‘central’ piece (sadly I didn’t manage to get a good picture of this – sorry!) Alongside the bizarre reincarnations of this dust n shiz echoed odd noises which you find out are what Hardy thought the debris would sound like; I promise it was much cooler but just as mad as it sounds!

The exhibition was bright, fun and defiantly worth a little meander around if you’re in the area because it’s unusual, free and there’s something warming about appreciating and supporting ‘smaller’ and local artists.

MAKING MYSELF MINDFULL.

The human foot has 26 bones, 19 muscles and tendons, 33 joints and 107 ligaments. If we did the recommended 10,000 steps a day that is 185,000 movements just within one foot alone. That’s 350,000 movements in your feet. These movements that allow us to walk don’t even credit the movement require in the bending of our legs or the swinging of our arm.

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I considered this when I was on a walk with my dog the other day; how marvellous my feet are. I focused on the way my toes curl and uncurl with every step in order to grip onto the ground. I listened to the crunching of the leaves beneath my feet, revelling in the satisfaction that the sound bought me. I took note of my breathing and my heart, trying to fathom how my body could hold hundreds of thousands of miles of blood vessels with enough iron to create a 3-inch long nail inside. Our hearts beat between 60-80 beats per minute equating to over 3 billion beats a lifetime. Each beat when you pay attention seems so simple and as if cleverly co-ordinated by a machine but in reality each beat itself if far more complex involving contractions of the aorta and ventricles, AV and semilunar valves all controlled by the admission of an electrical currents between the nodes within the heart.  I spent a good minute of the walk solely homing in on these movements that go unrecognized and equally unappreciated each and every day. The 576 megapixels of my eye (far better than any Canon camera you can buy on Amazon) means I see the leaves dance to the rhythm of the wind and distinguish between 10 million different shades that the seasons provide. I can hear the songs the birds are singing and feel the bark peeling away from the trees towering over me, protecting me from the rain that feels fresh upon my face and is almost sweet to taste. These thoughts that I am thinking as I am walking are involving the signalling of nerve impulses to my brain at the mind-boggling motion of 250 miles per hour.

12111919_1202811039735543_5063788287946590384_n12112039_1202811249735522_950440401550360812_nI’ve been doing this a lot recently; thinking about the tiny and seemingly insignificant but actually vital miracles that I can perform. It is these thoughts that allow me to rationalize things and put situations into perspective when I can feel myself becoming out of touch with reality or overwhelmed by seemingly sizeable issues.  It is somewhat selfish of us to complain about muddy footprints on the floor or the windy weather of winter when every second of every day or bodies are carrying out functions outside of anything we can imagine in order to keep us ALIVE.12193390_1202811636402150_392834087128063760_n

Next time you feel stressed, ungrateful, anxious even, take notice of your senses, appreciate your surroundings and for a moment, just a minuscule moment of your day, appreciate the craftiness of your creation.