London calling

Kensington Gardens, you are so pretty at 9am ❤

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I spent the day in London last Thursday, though my mission (to collect our Vietnamese visas) was over by 9.30am! Is it me, or are Embassies… strange?! It was like going to someone’s house. Albeit a very, very nice house – this is Kensington after all.

They also have a way of making you feel strangely criminal. I’m the same when I go through airport security. I know I don’t have anything I shouldn’t have about my person (or in my luggage), but I still worry someone’s about to swoop down on me! I was waiting in quiet terror in the queue, telling myself my passport is all as it should be, that we had paid everything we should have, that I had an email in my hand telling me our applications had been accepted…  I swear I didn’t breathe until the guy put our passports in my hand. Then spent the entire day on edge, walking around London with both our passports in my handbag….! Not like we’re off anywhere any time soon… (at the time of writing we’re nearly down to single figures… oh my GAAAD).

I’d originally planned to wander round all the free museums, maybe pop to Harrods for a nose, get the least-crazily-priced coffee I could in their cafe and ring my mum to tell her what I’d just paid for a cappuccino… I’m such a tourist. *sigh*… I love London. I know Kensington is like the nicest part of London possible, but still. I like Camden too! And it was a beautiful day – crisp, sunny and clear.

I ended up spending the day with my little bro instead. He’s in his final year at Trinity College of Music, and I’d always felt like a bit of a lousy big sister for never having visited him there. In my defence, I have a full time job and little disposable income… But excuses excuses. I’m going away for 3 months, and a day in the sunshine running around beautiful old buildings with my favourite youngest brother is something I’m so glad I could have.

After a takeaway brekkies of Starbucks bircher muesli ( – sidebar – OMG. Bircher muesli. Things like this are why I want to live in London. Can you imagine casually rustling up some bircher muesli for breakfast in Barry Island? No.) next to the Elfin Oak in aforementioned pretty gardens, I jumped back on the train to meet Robert in Greenwich. Another gloriously pretty part of London! Found the little townhouse of my dreams in an estate agent’s window en route… £1.4 mil. Casual. 

Trinity is in the Old Royal Naval College, which you would probably recognise from, well, a whole load of films. Thor, The King’s Speech, Les Mis, the latest Pirates of the Carribean – which they filmed when Rob was in first year – all there! And if you saw it…. Oh my goodness. It’s breathtaking. I wandered through the globe-flanked gates just open-mouthed, exclaiming, “This is where you go to uni!?”…

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Certainly beats Cardiff’s battered old Humanities building!

I got to indulge my inner tourist on the way too – I’d never seen the Cutty Sark before!

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GAH. I freaking love London. I want that on my doorstep.

Robert showed me the Painted Hall (just incredible) and the Chapel, which is where they filmed that famous scene in Four Weddings with Rowan Atkinson as the blundering bishop. Then we tripped up and down all these winding staircases, opening doors in walls, trying to find an empty practice room to show me the view over the river – sadly not to be, but everywhere you walk you get little bursts and snatches of music. Flute, piano, violin… Lovely. It’s like you’re in some musician’s dream.

By then I was absolutely starving, so Robert showed me a little more of Greenwich on our quest for some lunch. A particular fave of his was a hot chocolate shop called Black Vanilla… Now Robert is the most sugary-chocolatey-sickly-sweet-toothed person I know, but even to a slightly more savoury beast like myself, it sounded amazing. I’m totally becoming a regular once I buy my £1.4mill Greenwich townhouse. Yessir.

We plumped for smoked chicken noodle soup and katsu curry from Greenwich market. I handed over £5.50 for mine, wondering amusedly how much the same is going to cost me in Penang…!

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I met some of his friends too – thanking one of them, Becky, for the frankly dangerously good peanut-butter-chocolate-squares she’d made the day before, which Robert had fed me on the train! He’d heard from Mum that I was stressed, and I have to agree with his cure. Peanutty salty chocolatey YES-ness. So I knew I’d like this Becky character. It was funny how many people knew I was his sister without me being introduced… We’ve always been the most similar of us 4!

I’m going to gloss over the part where it took me 7 hours to get home… There was an accident on the M4 – but at least I’d bought dinner before I got on the Megabus! Finally got off at 11pm, sleep deprived thanks to some drama students who would NOT. STOP. SINGING. At what age will it start being OK for me to start telling off teenagers!? I think I need to wait until I no longer look the same age as them.

So yes, ignore that part. Sunshine, peanut butter, and a London day with my little brother. Not a bad thing at all.

Stop it.

Like a lot of people, earlier today I made sure I had Twitter open so I could keep on top of what was happening at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

However, for a good half an hour, probably more, one of the top trends was “Sam Cam”, and all the tweets were about what she was wearing – how good she looked, how surprised people (mostly men) were at how good she looked, how she looked compared to the Queen / Amanda Thatcher (who was being compared to Pippa Middleton by 11.30am – !?).

It just makes me angry. Sorry, but that completely is not the point. I don’t want to know what she’s wearing. Why does it matter what she’s wearing? I want to know what is happening. This is not news. This is not relevant.

I hate how often any woman in a position of influence becomes diluted down to the designer of her dress, her shoes, her “fashion forward” handbag. It drives me mad. Yes, I’m a woman, and I want to look nice, and presentable, and professional – but it makes my blood boil when it is made to seem that a) that doing so is expected of a woman, all women and b) that that is ALL that is expected them.

Sorry if this is a little crude, but I’m almost surprised we haven’t had a blow by blow of what Thatcher herself is wearing today. I’m not going to pretend to be fully clued up on the issue, but whatever your political interests, Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister. You have to agree that that in itself is a landmark, is inspirational. And am I the only one who’s been irritated by the fact that she’s being described as “the only” female PM? As if it couldn’t happen again?

I’d like to have a daughter one day, and I’d like her to grow up thinking – believing – that she could run the country if she wanted to. That she could do just what men do, do whatever she wanted. And not spend the whole time being judged on what she was wearing while doing it.

Whenever this kind of lazy attitude towards women in public positions crops up, I like to take a second to remind people of this BRILLIANT response from Hilary Clinton. Says it all, don’t you think? Thank you, Hilary.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about how we look. I do. Everyone does. But we shouldn’t ONLY care about how other women look, when there is so much more to see in them.

 

Something else that might make you think – if you’re on Twitter, take a look at the @EverydaySexism account, and just see whether it makes you think. There are things on there that have genuinely shocked me, things that I’ve had happen to me – and all of which are being treated with an attitude of “…meh”.

I’m not some kind of raging soap box feminist, but I am a woman. That in itself should make women want to stand up for themselves and say, enough is enough. It’s 2013 for goodness’ sake. It’s embarassing. Can’t  we try and be a little more progressive?

News, woes, and #NaNoWriMo

People of blog-dom!

It’s been a while. I’m terribly sorry. It’s been a good few weeks since I did some good old blogging – indeed, it’s been a good few weeks since I did anything, really. I’ll explain shortly. And I do have excuses! Luckily, however, I also have some posts lined up, after swirling around in my mind over the past fortnight’s course of events.

So what’s new? Well. I’ve been to London. I’ve been to Dublin. And I’ve been to A&E.

Let’s start with that last one.

In a nutshell, I had a drink spiked. That drink was water, may I add – the irony – and water I took my eye off for less than a minute. Not that that’s an excuse. An hour later and I’m feeling more terrible than I’ve ever felt in my life, and waiting for my first ever trip in an ambulance. Not fun.

After 4 hours waiting to be seen, they couldn’t give me any definite answers, but repeatedly asked me if I’d taken anything and made pointed comments about my heart rate and blood sugar. Hmm. I don’t know. I just reckon. It was such an out of character way for my body to behave – I’ve had food poisoning a few times, but this was completely different.  It’s a really nasty realization. It makes me feel scared, that I could have been targeted by someone who spikes girls’ drinks – even their water! That that kind of person could have been next to me at a bar, waiting for me to look away. And it makes me feel sad. Who knows, maybe I’m a bit of an idealist, but it makes me sad that that kind of person is out there. It makes me wonder why they act that way.

But importantly, it made me realise that that kind of person is out there, and even if you are brilliant at watching my drinks and being “the responsible one” 99.999% of the time… that tiny little margin is still there.

And luckily, I still made it to Dublin, a photo diary of which is coming soon!

But first, an announcement. I don’t know if I’m just having a funny day today, but I’ve made a decision…. I’m going to attempt #NaNoWriMo this year. Argh!!

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, it’s the *other* month-long project people work on throughout November. You know, the one that doesn’t involve facial hair. It stands for National Novel Writing Month… I know. Scary times. But how many times have I sketched things out, and made notes, and felt my brain whirling with ideas… and done nothing about it? Too many! You’re supposed to reach 50,000 words (that’s twice my dissertation) (oh God.. that’s *twice* my dissertation!!) by November the 30th. Not everyone makes it, but I’ve always wanted to try. So this year, I am!

Dublin photos coming soon. I have a feeling I’m going to be spending a lot of the next few weeks tied to my laptop!…

Help?

We’re watching The Secret Millionaire at the moment. I like this programme, it always makes me think. I really don’t agree with the idea that throwing money at a situation solves all the problems, but you do have to accept that in the vast majority of cases, more money means more opportunity to help yourself. And it is encouraging that some people with those kind of fortunes are willing to use their money to do something good. I genuinely like to think that if I had that kind of money, I would use it, I would give it to people who deserve it. You don’t need a huge amount of money  – this is why footballer’s wages make me so mad. But that’s another story (/rant).

I guess you can see it from the perspective of Rich Man sprinkling some of his cash over Poor Man, whose life is so sad, so removed from his own luxurious existence… and Poor Man gratefully scrapes up the crumbs. But I prefer not to be so cynical. I think it’s a good example, that some people who have been fortunate in their lives, for whatever reasons, however they got there, want to pass that on to others.

But like I said, I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. The guy on it today is a shop owner who had premises broken into, robbed and burnt in the London riots last summer. So he is now visiting various estates, meeting the same sort of disadvantaged, “troubled youth” who were involved, to see if he can dig down into why.

It makes me… a bit angry. And I think before I start, I should clarify. I am not against helping people. Especially those who want to be helped, who want to make something better of themselves. But I really don’t think you can help everyone. And I’ll even go as far to say as maybe you shouldn’t.

This is only my opinion, and I accept that it may not be shared by everyone. My housemates certainly don’t agree with me. But some “troubled youths” really are – again, in my opinion – not worth “saving”. You can’t help everyone. Some of these kids really are just not worth the effort. And why should you invest time, money, energy, and hope into helping people that just don’t want to change? I have always firmly believed that there is no point in helping people that don’t want to help themselves.

There are, of course, positive stories that come out of situations like these. Kids that make the right decisions, that surround themselves with the right people, that choose to keep their head above it all. That see the bigger picture. And those stories perhaps mean more, when you consider the background they’re set against. I am for second chances. If you want to use that second chance, take that opportunity.

But second, third, fourth, fifth…? When I was doing my MA I spent some time with the probation service, and just to see what they’re up against… the same people coming back, time after time after time, back through the system. And yes you can say that “the system” is failing them somehow, that they become dependant on it, they don’t know how to cope. And I’m sure that in many cases that is indeed true. But in all of them? Could it not also be said that some people just can’t be “saved” from it? That they don’t want to be, don’t care enough?

Everyone looks for someone to blame – the parents, the politicians, TV, rap artists. But  – and I recognise this could be quite controversial – could it really not just be as simple as some of them – and again I stress some of them – only have themselves to blame?

At the end of the day, you make your own decisions, you make your own life. Even if you don’t end up with the opportunity or the support you may see others receiving, you can still make basic decisions – don’t steal, don’t stab, don’t stop caring. Essentially, the power is in your hands.