Tuesday, 30 September 2014

#reviewsdaytuesday - How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

I have been a big Mohsin Hamid fan ever since I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist last summer. In that book I was intrigued by his use of the second person address, even though the main narrator was an ‘I’ voice, and in this most recent book he uses the same tool to equal success. This review contains mentioned of plot, but I wouldn't go so far to say they are spoilers.

In the guise of a self-help book, How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is actually a love story which spans a lifetime. However, it never feels like simple love story – there is so much more to it than it. It comments wonderfully on the development of Asian countries (he is never specific about which country it is set in but if I were to guess it would either be India or Pakistan as that is where his previous novels have been set) and how this developing effects the lives of those living there. It charts how one individual can work his way through the social classes, from pauper famer to the upper middles classes. Despite its title, I don’t think the main character ever gets truly ‘filthy rich’ but perhaps comparatively from where he began, his is.

Even though this book is in the second person, I never felt like it was about me. Perhaps because I am so far removed from the main character (I am not a strapping young Asian man), or perhaps because a self-help book never feels like it is about you unless it speaks specifically to an aspect or aspiration of yourself. I have no interest in becoming filthy rich, so the book did not speak to me on that. Where it did speak to me was on this idea that you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it and work hard enough at it. It also spoke to me on the nature of love and affection, and how these two can differ from each other as well as running parallel together.

I loved the narrator’s voice in this book – it was the deep and introspective ‘I’ that the book needed to ground it in its genre. It helped the pace of the book feel steady and calm as it transitioned between the years of the main characters life – and I think this book had a more relaxed and leisurely feel to it than most of Hamid’s other books. This isn’t to say it was lacking in drama, action or feeling, but rather that the ‘I’ voice made everything feel very orchestrated rather than unexpected – I really got the sense of an author voice, much more so than The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Moth Smoke, and I felt like there was a being more in control of the narrative than both me and the main character. This is what gave the book its relaxed pacing, and it made the whole reading experience very comforting. The book was self-assured because the writer was.

I really enjoyed this book, and can’t wait for Hamid’s next offering.

How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia was published in 2013 by Hamish Hamilton (Penguin)

Friday, 26 September 2014

How To: Shop

The title of this post might sound a little silly: 'How to shop? But I know how to shop? You just walk into a building, pick up an item, exchange money for said item, and leave. What more could there possibly be?'

When I say 'how to shop' I don't just mean popping into the city for a browse and maybe picking up a thing or two. I'm talking serious, planned out, full on, bank busting shopping. This is just a couple of tips and tricks for how to get the most out of an intense shopping trip - they're just things I like to do, and if you've got any of your own shopping mantras then leave a comment below or tweet me @VickiMaitland. I'm always looking to get new ideas!

1) Write a list of the things you know you want. This can be as vague as 1xJacket, 2xTee etc etc; as rigid as 1xTopShop Jacket - leather sleeves, burgundy fabric, belted waist; or anywhere inbetween. Not only does this stop you from being swayed from impulse buys, but it also helps you...

2) Budget. Once you've written a rough list of the things you want, tot up roughly how much it'll cost (and err on the side of more rather than less so your bank balance doesn't get any nasty surprises). Be honest: you can get a coat for £20, but be prepared to spend £50 on something with a bit of quality, or up to £100 for a nice brand. Once you've figured out roughly how much everything on your list will cost, you can begin to cross things off. Maybe you don't need that extra jumper or that new underwear?

3) Browse online first. Honestly, I don't tend to do this one very much, but if I'm going on a serious spree or I have an exact image of something I want I have a look online first. Not only does this narrow down the shops you need to be walking into, but it can give you a clearer idea of cost too. Make a note of this cost (and shipping charges), as you might notice a difference in store. You might find that doing all your shopping online works out cheaper than getting into town and back. Generally, unless I've bought from the place before, I don't like shopping online as I'm a big believer in rule number 4.

4) Try it on. I always try things on where I can, particularly shirts and jeans. Every style and every shop will give a slightly different fit, so to save yourself a trip back in try it on first. Don't worry too much about the look of the item when trying it on - just focus on the fit. Often things look very different under natural light as opposed to the (often unflattering) changing room bulbs, but lighting doesn't change the way a dress fits! For makeup, always do a swatch test, leave the store, and return in a couple of hours once the swatch has had a chance to settle into your skin. Not only will this make sure you like the colour but it also means you've seen how durable the makeup is. The only down side is forgetting which swatch is from which makeup, so if you can take a photo of the product next to the swatch, or simply jot down a name of the brand in order that'll help you out.

5) Keep receipts. Either in the bag they're in or in a separate compartment in your purse, always keep your receipts. Even if you've tried something on in store, you might not like it once you're at home and stood in natural lighting (although the same is true in reverse). Check out a stores returns policy before you assume you can do this though. Some places will only offer exchanges or gift cards, particularly on sale items, whilst others will do full refunds. Keep the receipts at least until you are no longer able to take the item back (usually 28 days) and go through your receipts once a month so you don't end up having years worth of them. Some items will have a warranty, and you'll need to keep the receipt till that runs out too.

6) Take a friend or two. Not only is in nice to have some company, but its great to get a second opinion on clothes. Take a friend whose style you admire as well as someone who knows you inside out. This may be two different people. Friend number one will draw your eye to things you might not have noticed, and perhaps encourage you to try out something new, whilst friend number two will be able to give an honest opinion on clothes and whether or not you'll actually wear them.

7) You're not allowed to buy it. If you're shopping on your own (or even with some friends) you can use this as a way to determine whether or not you really want something (particularly if its an impulse buy). Tell yourself you're not allowed to buy the item, and if you're gutted then you probably really want it. If you're not that fussed then don't buy it. You can always come back and pick it up later if you can't stop thinking about it.

8) The Sale Rule. Sometimes going away to think if you want an item or not is great. Unless it's in the sale. Provided the shop have a decent returns policy, buy the sale item. I totally disagree with the 'if you wouldn't buy it full price, don't buy it in the sale' because there are loads of things I own that I wouldn't have spent £30 on but did happily spend £20 or £15. The only thing I never buy from the sale rail are the damaged items. I've bought trousers where the zip has broken, intending on fixing it, and have never got round to doing it. Unless its an easy fix, don't buy it.

9) Bargain with faulty items. If an item is in the sale for a fault, you won't get any extra money off, but if you spot something on the shelves which is a bit plucked or puckered, or has makeup marks round the collar, always ask if you can get a bit off. Sometimes it won't work (in which case put the item back and try to get it online), but some shops will offer a decent discount. Be reasonable, though, if an item is badly damaged you won't wear it anyway, and the more minimal the damage the less the discount.

10) Student cards. If you're a student ALWAYS ask if the shop does a student discount. Sometimes they won't display their discounts, and sometimes they'll need to see your student card before scanning your items, so ask as soon as you put your clothes etc down on the table. Some shops (like Miss Selfridge) will swap between doing a 10% and 20% discount, so check which one is on or if they store assistants know when the change will happen. For online shopping, use UniDays or similar sites to get student discount codes.

There you have it, those are my ten golden shopping rules. What are yours?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

University #9: Freshers

Down it Fresher! Chug chug chug!

Whilst these are common to hear on a uni campus at any time of the year, shouts like this are especially prevalent around Freshers week. For those who don't know, Freshers week is the first week of the university semester - often a week without lectures or with only introductory lectures - designed to make students feel at home in the new city and make friends.

There's a lot of  pressure for students to have the perfect Freshers week - drinking till you're black out drunk, sleeping with as many people as you can, general part-tay-ing till the sun comes up. To me, that doesn't really sound like a good time. There are some people who will do Freshers exactly like this, and that's fine (although its not a great idea to put so much alcohol in your system, and if you are having sex with people you've never met be smart and use contraception (ie, make sure one of you wears a condom/uses a dam and if appropriate take hormonal birth control too)).

Whilst I recommend going out as many nights as you can (they really are great ways to meet people) there are loads of things to do if you don't enjoy clubbing. In the opening weeks of term loads of societies will be recruiting new members and they'll all have their own socials too. Schools of study will be hosting their own meet and greets after academic hours, and there will be some non-drinking centered Freshers events ran by the Student Union too.

Its also important to remember that whilst drinking can remove some social anxiety, it also removes your filters, so you might end up giving a bad impression to people you have to live with. Not only this, but drinking to excess can seriously affect your memory, so not only will you forgot all those new friends you've made but you're also in a new environment and might not remember the way home. Perhaps for the first time in your life you're living away from home exclusively with people who have only just turner 18 (the legal drinking age in the UK) - you don't want to end up being looked after by strangers whilst you puke all the drinks you've downed back up again. Besides all of this, it just isn't safe (both for your health and general well-being) to be seriously drunk in a place you don't know surrounded by people you've only just met.

Lastly, don't expect to have an amazing Freshers. You'll have fun for sure, but you'll also be nervous, potentially hungover, not able to 'go hard' for 7 days in a row on top of all the anxiety and stress of moving, meeting new people and leaving your friends and family. Don't worry about taking it easy for a night or two. Maybe just order takeaway with your flat and bond that way. Hardly anyone I know had that 'perfect' Freshers experience - it's mostly a myth. Relax as much as you can, and just be true to yourself - if you don't want to go out you don't have to. Besides, it's one week. There's loads more time to make friends.

Enjoy Freshers, see you on the other side!

Friday, 19 September 2014


Term starts on Monday, and with that a couple of changes to this blog. I'm going to change my uploading schedule a little, just because I don't want this blog to become a stress. I really enjoy frequently writing and uploading, but I know my workload will really kick in and I don't want this blog to suffer as a result. I'm going to try and upload at least twice a week - hopefully on Tuesday's and Friday's.

The good news for you guys is that you're still getting regular blog posts with the same level of input from me. The good news for me is that I've got one less post a week to worry about and I don't have to stress about a hobby.

Otherwise everything will be just the same. Same sort of content. Same lack of routine with what that content is. Just one less post each week.

Thanks for understanding! Next post will be up Tuesday!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Things I've Done

Too often when we look back we think of things we wished we had done or things we wished we could change. The end of this summer has been full of these kinds of  thoughts for me, and I really don't enjoy having that kind of negativity in my life. I wanted to make a list of all the things I've done this summer, just to remind myself how lucky I am for all the things and people in my life. We should always be grateful for the good things, and try to forget the bad, so having a big old list of happiness to look back might just be what the doctor ordered. If you chose to do the same, let me know, and we can share in each others good memories.

1) Traveled further than I ever have in the rest of my life combined. This summer I got to visit both Austria and Hungary, and they are two very beautiful countries. I highly recommend a trip if you haven't been.

2) Read at least 90% of my TBR shelf. At the start of the summer I had a big pile of books I'd accumulated over the academic year, and I've managed to read most of them over the 3 months I've had off.

3) Posted regularly on here. One of my big goals has been to maintain this blog to the standard I want, and for the most part I've managed this. I now have roughly 20 hits each day (some days a lot more, some a lot less), for which I am very grateful. There will be a couple of changes once term starts, but I'll fill you in on those at the end of the week.

4) Spent time with people I care about. A huge chunk of my summer has been spent with either my family (in the opening months) and latterly my friends. They have been so supportive of me for such a long time, and they really do mean the world to me.

5) Watched the sun rise from both sides. I've stayed up so late that I've seen dawn, as well as woken up before the sun. Both are equally beautiful experiences.

6) Enjoyed a 5 course meal. Whilst in Austria, the hotel we stayed in put on a 5 course meal each night. Though it was far too much to manage each night, I don't think there was a bad dish on the menu!

7) Written. As someone on a creative writing course this might sound silly, but I have done huge chunks of writing this summer. Most obviously on here, but I've also written for myself and in the new academic term I'm getting published in the university newspaper. I'll post a link here when it's online.

8) Dyed my hair. This might be a nothing thing to a lot of people, but my hair is a huge part of who I am. It's one of my most defining features, so changing it in any way has always been a pretty scary prospect for me. This aside, its also not very hardy as far as hair goes, so I've been worried about the amount of damage it might incur were I to dye it. I took the plunge at the start of last month though, and have been loving the results. I don't think I've quite achieved the colour I want yet, but I've had a blast experimenting and learning. I also got to experience two hours of my boss sighing, shaking his head and laughing at my new hair. He doesn't understand why people wear makeup, let alone want to 'paint their hair'.

9) Improved at my job. I work with children and when I first started back in October I'll be the first person to admit I was a little intimidated. Over this summer I've been working 3 shifts a week and have formed a closer relationship with the children and my colleagues. I love where I work, and its nice to feel like I've made progress, even if that feeling is only coming from within myself.

10) Been spoilt. My friends and family have been so incredibly lovely to me over the summer - they have been understanding and kind and giving. I couldn't ask anything more of them. My family have spoilt me by taking me away on holiday and giving my money to buy things I want rather than things I need. My friends took me out to lunch the other day and are always doing little lovely things for me. At the risk of becoming very soppy, I cannot be more grateful for the love they have given me.

If you chose to make this list for yourself and feel comfortable sharing it, please let me know (@VickiMaitland), I'd love to read it.

Monday, 15 September 2014

(HUGE) Back to School/ Autumn Haulbook

It feels like I've been waiting for weeks to post this, but I just kept ordering more bits and bobs and I wanted to wait until everything came through before I showed it off. I never normally go this crazy with buying clothes - I'm very frugal and, though I buy the odd item semi-regularly, my last 'big splurge' was in March when I bought myself 3 dresses and a top from the BooHoo sale (an order which totalled in at less than £40). This whopping haul is made up of 17 items (3 pairs of shoes, 5 shirts, 1 pair of corduroy trousers, 1 pair of flares, 1 skirt, 1 cardigan and 5 dresses) and I don't want to think how much it all cost. I've roughly paired them up in the way I think I'll most likely wear them, though I will be mixing and matching with things I already own. I've let myself go a little crazy in the hope that I won't need to spend money on clothes in the Autumn term, so I don't have to budget it in. Its also worth noting that my grandma and my mum gave me some money to buy new clothes and shoes (thanks guys!), so this wasn't all from my own pocket. I also worked a part time job during the summer and as I love clothes I thought this was an appropriate way to spend some of my extra cash.

For reference, as I find it super helpful when websites write down this kind of information, I am 5ft5" (or 165 cm) and weigh about 55kg (120lb or 8.5st). I mostly wear size 8, but sometimes have to go up to a 10 in shirts to fit my shoulders or a 6 in skirts to fit my waist (I'll let you know what size each item is anyway). My feet muddle between a 5 and 6 UK size.

My hair is dyed using the Directions semi-permanent hair dye in the shade Flamingo Pink. I had dyed it this morning, so it is exceptionally bright! I might write a quick post about hair dying once I've gotten a bit more practised.

Enough chatter, here's the haulbook:

Cardigan - New Look Size 10, Dress - BooHoo Size 10, Shoes - Converse All Stars Size 5

Dress and Shoes as above.
I love this mustard yellow colour, and this dress is a great baggy fit. You can style it with a belt to give a more defined waist or simply wear it loose like I have. I have a similar dress in the same cut in the size 8, but the 10 is noticeably longer whilst only slightly looser. As I work with children this dress has a much more work appropriate feel to it and I'm really happy with it.

Dress - BooHoo Size 8,  Shoes - as above

Dress - BooHoo Size 8,  Shoes - as above

As above
I love the fit of this dress. It skims in all the right places, despite the fact my bust is on the smaller side, and its great to have a dress with long arms. The material of this dress is slightly thicker than all the others too, so this will be great for when it gets a bit cooler.

Shirt - H&M Size 10, Skirt - H&M Size XS, Shoes - as above

As above
 As soon as (I saw the print on this skirt I knew I had to get it. Its made from quilted fabric so is super warm, and I love the curved hemline on the front and back. I got a cropped short sleeved shirt from H&M this summer and loved it, and as a lot of people know I am a huge fan of the white shirt, so this was a match made in heaven for me.

Shirt - as above, Trousers - River Island Size 8, Shoes - M&S Size 5 (last years stock)

As above
I found these trousers in the River Island sale, and as much as I love them I was really worried about getting them. I caved to my desires and I'm so glad I did. These trousers can be dressed up with heels and a shirt like I have here or dressed down with a cropped tee and sandals. A great transition piece between Summer and Autumn. Mum thinks it makes me look very Margo (from The Good Life)!

Dress - BooHoo Size 8, Shoes - New Look Size 5

As above
I love midi length dresses and this one was in a beautiful colour (it almost matches my hair!). The shoes are something I would never normally buy, but I went for it. Thought they aren't exactly the ones I fell in love with in the shop (my fault for not buying them when I saw they were the last pair in the sale) these are as close as I could find. Can I walk in them? It's questionable. Do I love them? Yes.

Dress - Primark Size 10, Shoes - as above

As above
The material this dress is made from is lovely - really silky. It can be dressed up with heels like this or dressed down with tights and converse.

Shirt - H&M Size 10, Trousers - Charity Shop (originally H&M) Size 10, Shoes - Clarks (Busby Fizz in Oxblood) Size 5 1/2
I am a huge fan of shirts, and this is a classic university look for me. I didn't own any trousers like this, and at £4 they were a steal. Like my very wise friend Katie once said, when buying from a charity shop, think of it as donating money and getting a free thing. For example, I donated £4 and got a free pair of trousers!

Shirt - H&M Size 8, Trousers and Shoes - as above

As above
I love the way this shirt hangs. Again this could be dressed up with a smart skirt and heels, and would be perfect for a job interview.

Shirt - Primark Size 10, Trousers and Shoes - as above
Although I'm not entirely convinced by the optical illusion effect this shirt has (the stripes should really get smaller the lower they go rather than the other way) I still really like it.

Shirt - BooHoo Size 10, Jeans - Miss Selfridge Size 8 (last years stock), Shoes -  Converse All Stars Size 5
I love the print on this shirt. I'm slightly concerned it's a tad too oversized on the collar (it was advertised as an oversized shirt), but it looks better than I thought in the photo! I'm not sure I'd wear this with blue jeans, but my dark grey ones are still at uni, and my long black skirt is too!

Shirt - BooHoo Size 10, Jeans and Shoes - as above

As above
Last but not least, this cropped shirt. It's got a lower crop than the other shirt, and I love its pattern. The collar will look great under a thick jumper too!

That's, finally, everything! These sort of posts always feel very self-indulgent and show-offy, but I love reading other people's, so hopefully you've enjoyed mine!

Friday, 12 September 2014

University #8: Friends – Leaving Them

It’s never nice to say goodbye to your closest friends, particularly if you’re from a small community where everyone has gone to the same primary school, high school and sixth form, and the friends you are leaving behind are the only ones you’ve ever known. As I mentioned in my ‘You’re In, What Next’ post, it’s really important to spend time with those closest to you before you leave, however once you have left you have to make the effort to keep in contact with people.

I am really bad at keeping in contact – sometimes no matter how much I want to check in on a person I just never get round to doing it. This term, I want to make more of an effort to text, facebook and skype with friends – and you do need to actively set time aside to do this. This being said, friendship is a two way street, and conversations can’t always come from one side, so if you feel you’re putting in more than the other person have a chat - it may just be that they have a lot more on than you at the moment etc.

If you’re in a relationship before you leave, I never see the point in breaking up just because it’s going to be more effort. If you want the relationship to work, you’ll have to set aside the money and plan in the time for visits and skype calls etc. However, once again it can’t always be one sided. For example, I’m at uni in my home city so I’m always the one expected to make the visits to friends/boyfriends, which is a huge financial and time strain upon me that people often don’t think about because for them visiting me would be ‘going home’.

If you are in a relationship, and particularly if you’re both going into your first year, then I would wait until you were at least half way through first term before you make the first visits to each other. You need to have the time and the space to make friends as an individual rather than always being known as ‘that couple’. Be kind to the other person, especially in the first two weeks of term when everything is strange, new and exciting, and don’t stress or be angry if they take a bit longer to reply to your texts. You might also have to be more open with each other, and if you are struggling with the distance and lack of communication you need to speak up about it. It’s probably a problem you can fix. For me, I was in a relationship for the first two years of my degree, with one year of it being long distance. We’ve since split up because there were communication problems (ie, it was hard to skype because one of us had a bad line, I was in my second year so the workload was greater, he was in his first so he was out partying more etc), but I still believe if we had spoken about them sooner it wouldn’t have been an issue. So, to borrow a phrase from the Green Brothers, ‘use your words!'

However, despite all of this, when it comes to friendship at least, what I’ve always found is that no matter how bad you are at keeping in contact, as soon as you come home from uni things slot back into place. I can have not spoken to someone for almost the entire academic year and be right where we left off in the summer. It can be easy to compartmentalise uni and home, which is why it’s simple to slip back into old friendships, but it’s also why communication breakdowns happen during term time. Be understanding, but make an effort when you can, and speak up if there’s a problem. In theory, it should be as simple as that!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

University #7: Friends - Making Them

One of my biggest fears before I went to uni was ‘oh no, what if I don’t make any friends’. I was living at home and commuting onto the site every day (a two hour round trip by public transport, an hour if I could nab the car), and whilst I knew people who were going to the uni they weren’t the kind of people to go to Freshers events. So, night one of Freshers, I walked up to the three girls who had walked in just ahead of me and introduced myself.

‘Hi, I’m from Norfolk so don’t have anyone to go with, can I hang out with you?’

Luckily, they were in the exact same position as me, and were a miss-matched group from the other big sixth form in my area. We stuck together for the whole of Freshers, but sadly didn’t stay in contact after.

In my first seminar, I sat next to a beautiful girl with hair down to her waist, and we got chatting. We discovered that we both enjoyed song writing and got on really well. Two years on, and we’ve lived together for one year and are staying together this year. (She’s also a super talented musician and a much better song writer than I am, you can check out her YouTube channel here, and my favourite song of hers here).

At the first creative writing society meeting I attended, I ended up chatting to a girl and a guy who had grown up going to the single sex versions of the same school. The guy and I both ended up going to pretty much every CWS meeting, and when I came to Christmas we both knew we were going to be living together. Again, we’re staying together this year too.

I met my last housemate at the first open mic I attended. She walked up to me in a waistcoat with crimped hair and said she’d noticed me across the lecture theatre. From that moment on we were destined to be friends. Once again, we're staying together this year too.

I met loads of other people in seminars and at the society, and I’m really lucky to have a huge group of people who I can call my friend as I enter my third year. I really recommend joining a society or two to make friends, its amazing the variety of people you'll meet who all share your interests.

What I’m trying to say with all this that if I could make friends without living on campus or in halls, and without being able to go out very much (it cost almost £30 for me to get home by taxi, and there were only so many times I could kip on someone’s floor), then you’ll be able to. So long as you’re unafraid of introducing yourself to everyone and you’re yourself, you’re bound to meet someone you’ll get along with. I wish I’d had the guts to ask if my seminar groups wanted to get a coffee after the class, and it’s a big goal of mine to do that this year.

My next uni post (up in a couple of days time) will be about the friends you’re leaving behind. If you’ve got any questions or worries about anything I’ve either already addressed or will be addressing, please tweet me @VickiMaitland or leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer them in my next post.

Monday, 8 September 2014

The British Tag

I haven’t done a tag in ages, so when this popped up a couple of times on my subscription feed I thought I’d give it a go. Originally created here, I saw Sanne and Lex’s versions.

Q1) How many cups of tea do you have a day and how many sugars do you take? I love tea. I drink at least 4 cups a day, although none of this is traditional builders brew. I don’t like milk, so I drink a lot of herbal teas (my favourite brand is PUKKA and I’ve become a bit of a snob about it). My dad recently bought me a loose leaf tea strainer and some teas to try, and I’ve been loving Darjeeling. When I do drink builders, I have it with a slice of lemon. I never take sugar.

Q2) Favourite part of your roast: My mum cooks the best roasts, so I would love to say all of it, but if I had to pick it would be the gravy. I love mum’s gravy.

Q3) Favourite dunking biscuit: Malted Milks are fabulous but don’t last very long. Rich Tea’s are the most hardy when it comes to dunking. I also love dunking chocolate into a mint tea, it’s delicious.

Q4) Favourite quintessentially British pastime: The Sunday Roast. The whole family have to sit down for Sunday roasts. Fish and Chip nights form a close second.

Q5) Favourite word: Spiffing is one of the most British words I know, but my actual favourite word changes from weeks to week. At the moment I really like the word lackadaisical.

Q6) Cockney rhyming slang: Awight Guv’nor, just climb the apples me old china! (Apples = apples and pears = stairs, china = china plate = mate)

Q7) Favourite Sweet: Cough candy is my favourite sweet shop sweet. I can’t resist a good Murray mint either!

Q8) What would your pub be called? This is hard as I don’t want to pick one with either head or arm on the end of it! Maybe… The Creaking Bookshelf? Sounds a bit Harry Potter maybe?

Q9) No1 British person: Speaking of HP, it has to be J K Rowling.

Q10) Favourite shop/restaurant: There is a small bar in my town called Franks Bar, and it does some of the most delicious food I’ve eaten! It’s always a huge treat to go.

Q11) What British song pops into your head? Any and all Spice Girls songs (in particular Wannabe).

Q12) Marmite? YES. Love it.  

I'm tagging everyone, and if you decide to do it tweet me @VickiMaitland and let me know!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

University #6 - New Term Resolutions

1) Do not sit in bed on laptop. Bed is for sleeping and fun reading only, any work based or screen based activity must take place out of bed.

2) Get outside every day. Whether its nipping to the shops, going for a jog, or simply cycling to uni, I must leave the house at least once a day, come rain or shine.

3) Exercise daily. Pilates, jogging or swimming. I have a sedentary degree, but will not lead a sedentary life.

4) Eat well and often. Three good meals a day, plus healthy snacks.

5) Drink often. Water, herbal tea, keep up body fluids.

6) Work 9-5 or as close to as possible. This will mean spending more time in the library and less time scrolling through the depths of the internet.

7) Complete all reading well in advance. None of this last-minute-night-before nonsense.

8) Start essays early. As soon as they are set, pick questions and begin research.

9) Use tutors office hours. They are there for a reason!

10) Be kind to myself, but exercise willpower. Know when to say no and when to take a break, but don’t be weak. Use cat rules when unsure of what to do.

11) Keep my space clean. Don’t let my bedroom get grotty. Wash sheets and towels fortnightly, hoover weekly, and put things away. Open window daily, be unafraid to use heating, invest in fairy lights, and put up more pictures.

12) Plan and organise. Buy diary and use it.

13) Write more. Keep daily journal. Be unafraid of writing my feelings. Confront things. Keep observational journal and carry it with me at all times.

14) Read for fun rather than internet mindlessly. Spend time away from the laptop screen when possible.

15) Go out spontaneously. Whether for a coffee, shopping or to a club.

16) BUDGET. Keep track of cash flow. Set maximum spending goals and don’t exceed them.

17) Join more societies. Meet new people, engage in new activities.

18) Sit up straight. Maintain a good posture whilst studying. No more slouching at the laptop.

19) Ask for hugs and massages. We all need them from time to time, and we’re all willing to give them.

20) Be proud of what I produce, and be unafraid of speaking up. I believe in myself and my opinions.

Obviously these are personal rules, but feel free to pick and choose whichever ones you’d like if you want some structure to your term. Have you got any rules for the coming term? Let me know them either by leaving a comment or tweeting me @VickiMaitland.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

August Wrap-Up and September TBR

I didn't have a very productive reading month. This was partly intentional, as I explained in my August TBR post, but a couple of other factors got in the way of more reading too. Firstly, I spent ten days away at a festival (not a lot of reading time), and secondly I split up from my boyfriend of two years (trash tv being a much easier distraction than literature, and my own writing being much better therapy).

The first book I finished this month was We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, and you can see my review of it here if you haven't checked it out already.

The next book I read was If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. This is about two young sisters who live in the woods with their drug taking, mostly absent, mother. One day, a strange man and women find them, and it is revealed that the man is the girls father who has come to take them home. I was mostly disappointed in this book, and felt it could have gone into a lot more depth of the lead characters trauma. YA books are normally very good at exploring trauma in a young person without it being too in your face, but this book almost brushed off the trauma completely, making the traumatic passage at the end feel very heavy handed.

The final book I finished this month was The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. This book is centered around the rape and murder of a young girl, and is told from her point of view as she watches over her family and friends after her death. For me, this book almost had the opposite problem to If You Find Me. The traumatic scene is right at the beginning of this book, and is very well written but the story looses its momentum as soon as the reader is made aware that the family are going to be okay. The last fifty of so pages felt almost redundant, although the rest of the story is excellently written.

I also started reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I am just under 400 pages through and mostly enjoying it so far. I've also started watching the film, and I'm planning on doing a combined book/movie review once I've finished both.

This month, other than finishing Cloud Atlas I have very few concrete reading plans. I've borrowed How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid from the library, so I'll have to read that before the month is out. My term starts on the 22nd of this month too, so I'll have to start reading Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer too. Other than that, I need to do further work on my dissertation plans and do more preparatory reading for my Traumatergies module.

If you are interested in any of the academic reading I'll be doing at uni, let me know and I can make a post about what sort of things I'll be reading. To get in contact, you can either leave a comment below or tweet me @VickiMaitland

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

On Jennifer Lawrence and Nude Images

The non-consensual sexualisation of young women is a growing epidemic in our society, from school dress codes stating that young girls cannot wear strappy tops in the summer to clothing choices being an excuse for the sexual violation of the female body, and, with nude photos like the one recently released of Jennifer Lawrence being taken ever more frequently, it is a problem which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Before I say anything more, I would like to mention that I have not seen the photo and do not wish to see the photo, and the image will not be linked anywhere in this discussion. I do not want to take any part in the commodification of this or any other young woman’s body when their consent has not been fully ascertained, and I urge you to do the same. Please do not google Jennifer Lawrence nudes, do not give websites which publish this image the hit counts, do not buy media which distributes this, or any other non-consensual nude image. Thanks.

The prevalence of images like this exists off the back of paparazzi culture, and the thinking if you choose to step into the public, if you choose to open up any part of your life to the world, then you have to give up all parts of your life. This is, of course, a ridiculous thought process. Ultimately all humans have the right to privacy, whether or not they have chosen to allow the media or general public into a small aspect of their life, and this right should be respected. This is particularly true of young women, and it is young women whose right is most frequently disregarded.

I recently saw a series of facebook comments about the Jennifer Lawrence image, the first stating that Lawrence looks ‘banging’, and the second stating that if they were that good looking they would happily be naked all over the internet. Whilst that is perfectly valid choice, it is, in fact, a choice. Jennifer Lawrence had no choice over these images being released. She may have taken the images, but she didn't give her consent for them to be shared. This society has an awful tradition of taking non-consensual nude pictures of young women and excusing it because they are considered good looking. This mentality is damaging to women everywhere, not least Lawrence’s young fans. These fans see that the female body can be used (without the will or consent of the female) as a commodity to gain web hits or sell magazines.

However, this line of thought is even more disgusting when placed against the media criticism of people like Miley Cyrus. Cyrus has been exposed to media vitriol, perhaps because she has full power over her body and she actively chose to reveal it in her ‘Wrecking Ball’ video. The society which shrugs off the non-consensual nudes of Lawrence as a fact of celebrity life (and it’s okay because she’s ‘banging’) is the same society which condemns the nudity of Miley Cyrus – who reveals her body out of choice.

Yes, Jennifer Lawrence is a beautiful young women, but if she wanted to share her naked body with the world shouldn’t that be her choice? Answer: Yes. We need to protect the privacy of young women and we need to respect their power over their own bodies.

Paparazzi celebrity culture as a whole is dangerous and damaging, but this is one of its most damaging aspects. We as consumers need to stop the demand for these kinds of images, and speak out loudly against them. Once the media realise that this is not what people want to see, they will stop seeking out the images.

If you as a consumer do want to see naked women, there are plenty of consensual photos for you to look at.

This post has taken the place of my August Wrap-up and September TBR, which will now be the next post you’ll see. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and if you have any comments feel free to leave them below or tweet me @VickiMaitland.