Saturday, 12 April 2014

By way of a Hello!

My oh my, it's been almost a whole month since I last wrote anything on this blog, and what a month it's been, I did have a post scheduled but then life got in the way and it didn't get posted and it is now irrelevant! This lack of posts has taken place during my semester break and I've been extremely busy as well as moving back and forward from island to mainland!
My old laptop also packed in and I had to invest in a new one (cue, major panic when this happens in the middle of writing four papers!) which stilted my online presence for a bit!
Anyways, this is going to be a no-rambling post so here are the bullets:

  • I spent a beautiful few days back in York again with Phillip & Katrin.
  • Phillip & I then visited my parents & sister for a week in London... though I was so busy paper writing we didn't get out to do much, but some outdoor woodwork was done and of course we did manage to squeeze in some Breakfast Club pancakes too!
  • We celebrated Mother's Day a week early (I had to scoot back to Germany on the 27th March for the upcoming bullet point, hold out...) we went to our family favourite tapas bar, The Orford Saloon.
  • I finished writing four papers and submitted them all on the day of the deadline...boom!
  • I landed two jobs, though think I'll only be continuing one.
  • Katrin came to stay with me for a week in SB and we had a lot of fun. We went to Luxembourg for the day and met up with Andrea, we also drank a fair amount of coffee, ate everything from sushi to donuts, revelled in some late night yoga, began working on something which is still under wraps but is an exciting new project that we are doing together, and naturally, we also laughed a lot, it was a very good week. 

  • Here's a few Instagram snippets from the last month or so...


    That then all brings me up to this weekend, the last couple of days have been nothing too special. I was working yesterday, teaching English to some children here, and then in the evening had a few beers with Asia and Weronika, two Polish friends who live in the same block of flats as me.

    My new semester begins on Monday, but then on Thursday Phillip is coming down to pick me up in the car and we're driving to his grandparents house in Bayern to celebrate Easter with them, his parents and Katrin! I can't wait, Phillip and I have gone there for Easter the last 3 years and it has always been a really lovely time!
    On another note, the weather has been incredible, I get too hot in jeans and a tshirt! There's some colour coming back into my winter-time face and I'm hoping this is the start of a beautiful summer, not a spring time blip!

    I have lots of exciting things coming up to share and I hope to now post more regularly again. I'll also be updating that little tab up there which talks about my Erasmus Experience real soon!!
    Take care and have a lovely, sunny weekend!

    Thursday, 13 March 2014

    Banned Books (List Week 10)

    I know I promised last week to write a scandalous post regarding books the day after Friday - so in other words on Saturday - today is Thursday, let's just pretend it's Saturday, it's been a fraught week! No faffing around today, let's just get right into it.
    I'm going to be talking about books which have been banned, or are still banned in various countries around the world and why. I find this topic really interesting, and if you do too you should check out PEN International. PEN are an organisation who promote freedom of literature and expression for writers all over the world. They are also doing fantastic work with imprisoned writers and journalists who are seeking asylum. Do also take a look at the York Pen website, one of my very good friends Alice runs this and she is doing an absolutely wonderful job.


    52 Lists
    Week 10 - March 7th
    Part two: Once/Still Banned books

    1. 'Animal Farm' (1945) by George Orwell:
    This book is still banned in Cuba and North Korea and though published, continues to be censored in China. Due to it's controversial political stance it was really hard for Orwell to find a publisher for 'Animal Farm' and it took two years after completion before it was published by Secker and Warburg. It also contains criticism of the USSR and therefore was banned in various communist countries for a long time. The book was also not allowed to be published in the UAE because it contained an anthropomorphic talking pig which goes against Islamic values.
    2. 'Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India' (2011) by Joseph Lelyveld:
    This book is banned in Gujarat, Western India because it suggests that Gandhi had a homosexual relationship. This is something that I came across whilst doing research for my paper on trans* people in India.
    3. 'The Satanic Verses' (1988) by Salman Rushdie:
    A very controversial novel in the Islamic world. Ironically it is also a crucial novel in university curriculums in the US and UK. Despite the fact that Rushdie is very popular, the novel has been banned in: Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Kenya, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Senegal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand for blasphemous themes.
    4. 'July's People' (1981) by Nadine Gordimer:
    After this was published in 1981 it was banned by the South African Government for being racist. It was published before the end of the apartheid and was a 'fictional' story within which Gordimer essentially predicted what she believed would be the outcome of the regime. Despite being previously banned it is now included in the South African school curriculum.
    5. 'Lolita' (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov:
    A very sexually explicit novel about an adult relationship with a 13 year old girl. I read this for a reading group when I was about 17 still at school and found it quite disturbing but actually a really good read. When it was first published, the book was banned in France, the UK, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada (but later, in 1958). The bans have since been lifted but it is still one of the most controversial novels today.
    6. 'The Kite Runner' (2003) by Khaled Hosseini:
    Since its publication this novel has sparked huge controversies in Afghanistan, it has also been banned from various libraries in a number of countries including the USA, however has not been officially state-wide banned anywhere. However, the film adaptation was not allowed and continues not to be permitted to be distributed in cinemas or DVD shops because of the rape scene which authorities believe might trigger racial violence within the country. It is however legal to watch the film if you access it elsewhere.
    7. 'Spycatcher' (1987) by Peter Wright:
    A former MI5 intelligence officer Wright, wrote about his experiences in this autobiography. The book was subsequently banned in the UK between 1985-1988 before it even reached publication because it apparently revealed current intelligence secrets. It was published first in Australia in 1987 after word had gotten out that the UK had banned it... this resulted in high demand, how people love a bit of saucy scandal!

    -none of the images belong to me, all belong to the publisher of each book find more info by clicking on respective links-

    Friday, 7 March 2014

    Books of Canons (Week 9 List)

    As you may or may not be aware, I missed last week in my list-a-week project!
    I've been bogged (not blogged) down with the research and writing of my term papers, going to meetings about said term papers and generally stressing out about said term papers. I've been back in York, home in London and am now in (sunny) Germany again!
    Therefore, today I am going to try and rectify this issue of lost list writing by doing two lists about opposing themes… We're onto books again I'm afraid, click away if I've lost your interest… If you like scandal though carry on - scandal in literary terms though! ;-)
    Here is part one (week 9) and part two (week 10) is to follow later today:

    52 Lists
    Week 9 & 10 - February 26th and March 7th
    Part one: Books of Canons
    This week is dedicated to those who, like me, were blessed with making the economical decision to study a degree in English Literature, though also of course, not without spending a year faffing around in the 'arts' world in time for the fees to rise first! 
    We had (or perhaps still have) those high hopes of graduating with the ability to enter the adult world with the knowledge to quote Shakespeare, the patience to read Middlemarch, and the style to immaculately walk through life in blazers, thick-rimmed glasses and cute dresses all whilst delicately clutching a canvas bag full of books (or a sleek folder and a kindle…) Well none of that is going to happen I'm afraid, but a degree in English Literature (if you can spell literature that is- took me two proof-readings before noticing I had written Literadoor) should, if you obey the rules and jump through the hoola hoops, at least make you aware of one -or hopefully more- literary canons. Let us just take a moment to ponder the use of the word canon here… What is the first word that comes to your head when you hear this word? Mine are… Bang, ship, man, church, men, weight, crash, power, sea, man, death, Rhiannon the Canon, men, Canon cameras, man, Empire… oops, I mentioned the Empire! 
    Ok, so essentially what I'm talking about is a list, another list, like the list to follow, only more structured, less nonsensey and generally wholly sanctioned by the world of academia. The list states what the most 'important' or 'influencial' works of fiction in that specific genre are (ie. The Western Literary Canon or a Victorian Canon and so on, you get the gist). Also, the mighty, Wikipedia writes that,"The process of listmaking—defining the boundaries of the canon—is endless." Oh so, lucky you, my list a week posts might never end… especially when I'm writing about canons, ha!
    A common misconception often made by literature students is that to be deemed worthy of your degree you must read each and every word from the works in 'the canon', including deciphering any ink smudges you might come across, "did the author intend for this error in printing? What does it mean? Is the protagoninst entering a deep and dark state of self-doubt?!" I believe however, that as long as you are reading lots, and loving what you are reading, you are worthy of your degree no matter what your peers or tutors might think*.
    So on that note, I would like to write my own (current) canon! A list of things I think are inspiring, influential or important (or all three)! I'll break the rules a bit, it is my canon after all, and include a variety of things: novels, magazines, blogs, and perhaps if I feel it right, a little classic too (all in no particular order)!

    Books:
    1. The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
    2. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
    3. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
    4. All of the Harry Potter books by J.K Rowling
    5. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
    6. Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe
    7. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
    9. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
    10. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
    11. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
    12. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
    13. Leviathan by Paul Auster


    Magazines:
    18. Sugarhigh


    Blogs:
    *Disclaimer: of course it is also necessary to read some things you dislike if you're studying English Lit.   Speaking from experience, telling your professor you dislike Middlemarch won't be reason enough for them to allow you to not finish reading it or to not turn up to seminars… even if you phrase it in a powerful, argumentative, literary reasoning sort of a way... hehe!

    - Part Two to follow: 'Books of Banning' (this is where you'll find yo' scandal!) -

    (none of these images belong to me, all are courtesy of the publisher of each book/magazine/blog, find more info by clicking on respective links)

    Friday, 28 February 2014

    Myself Mona Ahmed: A Reflection

    Researching for term papers is a task that most find pretty tedious, but when you stumble across something poignant and perfectly crafted then it often all becomes worthwhile. I'm exploring the issue and treatment of transgendered people living in developing countries and whilst I'm very interested in the topic I had not been expecting to become so emotionally involved in my research. 

    So my advice for today is to scour your local library, rummage through old (or new) bookshops, ask your friends, colleagues, professors, go to the squeaky stores hidden in basements of art galleries, if your eyes don't come across the modest gem that is, Myself Mona Ahmed then I suggest you get clicking on Amazon, this is a book you'll not regret parting with your pennies (£/$/€'s) for. I'm not going to make wild claims and pronounce that this book will change your life forever, but what Mona's story does do is force you to consider the delicacies of journalism, ensures you feel even just a speck of remorse at the treatment of transgendered people worldwide, and encourages you to ask questions about how society treats those who are born as, or choose to live life as, the third sex.

    The creator (I say creator rather than author because it seems to me a dual effort and is not so much a work of authorship than a work of art) of Myself Mona Ahmed, Dayanita Singh, is a photographer and journalist originally from New Delhi, India. Singh spent over 13 years building an honest friendship with Mona Ahmed, a 61-year old eunuch now living in Old Delhi, India. Mona is also locally referred to as transgendered, the third sex or a hijra. The story of her life is eloquently projected into the pages of the book through unedited emails sent from Mona to a publisher in Switzerland. The emails are carefully slipped in alongside Singh's impressive selection of photographs.
    The book also allows us a rare literal and personal glimpse into a world that we otherwise would know little about. In her opening email, Mona writes that “everytime [sic] we (the eunuchs) give an interview, the journalists write whatever they want anyway”. Too often when eunuch communities allow journalists to get close, they are rewarded with dishonesty and betrayal. Articles are published mocking and ridiculing the community, so surely it is natural then that this would breed hostility towards any person considered an outsider? Mona writes honestly and thoughtfully, whilst the images which accompany the text are saturated with emotion and have clearly been carefully selected to evoke parallel feelings with the reader. We witness Mona expressing outlandish pride and happiness at the grand birthday party celebrations for her daughter. However Singh also bluntly contrasts these with portraits of Mona feeling rejected, betrayed and of her displaying deep-rooted sadness.
    In the West we can sometimes have stilted views concerning liberalism in the 'developing world'. It may come as a surprise to some that despite the stereotypes, India, a developing country, entitles more legal freedom to people in terms of transgendered issues than we do here in the UK. Since 2005 it has been possible for those wishing to obtain an Indian passport to have the freedom to choose between identifying their gender as male, female or eunuch/third sex. Following this decision, in 2009 the electoral roll was also changed to include the third sex. Whilst these moves are still a few steps away from people being able to select indeterminate gender or no gender at all, the progress is there and continues to be fought for.
    Respect is a human right and Myself Mona Ahmed encourages us to ask why it is still acceptable today, in the 21st century, to treat someone as anything less than human just because of the gender they identify with.
    (Please note that all images in this post belong to Dayanita Singh at http://www.dayanitasingh.com)
    - If you need to find the book on Amazon you can purchase it by clicking here -

    Friday, 21 February 2014

    Grammar Police (Week 8 List)

    Are any of you fussy when it comes to grammar?
    Personally, I hate grammar, it's my least favourite class when learning languages and I'm a big fan of foregoing any kind of grammatical exercises. I'm more of a speaker/abstract/stick it all together, give it a shot and hope for the best kinda gal. However, it does bother me if I read something official from someone who should really know the difference, or at least be able to correct and proof-read their work when they make school-boy mistakes. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not always right, and by no means am I also perfect with grammar - especially not German!! I don't go around hating and correcting grammar mistakes, but I am bothered by a few pernickety things, do they bother you too?

    52 Lists
    Week 8 - February 21st 2014:
    Nitty gritty Grammar police

    1. There is a difference between your and you're
    2. "The whale is theirs" and "there's a whale over there"
    3. "If I were a whale" not "if I was a whale" (Ironically have just seen an advert with this phrasing!)
    5. "My troos are loose" and "I always lose my troos"
    6. Could of, could've, could have.
    7. There is no a in definitely.
    8. "There are a lot of whales" not "there are alot of whales"

    (needs a colon (:) after grammar! hehe)

    How awkward would it be if I got a load of these wrong myself… probably did.

    Friday, 14 February 2014

    A Love List (Week 7)



    52 Lists
    Week 7 - February 14th 2014:
    A Valentine's Day List
    So this week my list day falls on Valentine's Day! Happy V Day to all of you celebrating. Now, I'm not really one to celebrate this 'holiday', any American people out there, do you actually have a holiday today?? When I was younger I used to fall into the dramatic bracket of teenage girls refusing to acknowledge this day of love and girliness. I pretended I didn't care, when really deep inside all I wanted was a handsome young man to buy me flowers and help me to fill all the roles of traditional male/female courtship.
    Now that I do have a handsome young man however, this feeling has subsided. We haven't ever really celebrated Valentine's Day, every year we agree not to, though him slightly stronger on that assertion than I might I add… I love him every day of the year not just on this one particular day that encourages us to make dinner reservations and play actors to the market of lovey-dovey-ness! I was particularly aware of this after a couple of years working at a shop called Paperchase where VDay was a crucial 'holiday' in our work calendar (wondering if I should mention that - what are the rules on these things? I don't work there anymore so maybe that's ok?) I realised even more how commercial it all was. We were prepping and planning for big Valentine's Day sales in December right after Christmas! Preparing shop windows and 'special' items (ie, our normal items in pink, red or covered in glitter!), and of course reminding people at the tills to buy their cards and nik-naks for the loved ones in their lives weeks before the big day! Saying this, I'm no scrooge, maybe just a bit indifferent/slightly cynical towards the whole thing. Therefore this week I've decided to make a little list of lovely lovey things from around the web that make me, and I hope you, smile and to make everyone feel a bit of love today, or any day for that matter. Enjoy! (especially the puppies!)

    1. Rhodesian Ridgebacks: who can resist?
    rhodesian ridgeback puppy! (credit here)
    2. Colour Comparisons by Miss Moss… I love these.
    lemon speculoos layer cake + chit chat by the locals
    3. London Hummingbird Bakery cakes! These black bottom cupcakes are fab - though I've never eaten 'the real deal' I made these from their recipe book once and they were crackers.
    Image from Hummingbird Bakery Website

    4. Coffee, generally coffee, but this coffee in particular:
    Monmouth Coffe Company Limited
    5. We can soon enjoy flowers! Spring will be here soon, (though not yet, see England in weather crisis right now) this means blossom & sneezing season!
    Cherry Blossom Trees in London (credit here)
    6. This funny article about Valentine's Day Cards made me chuckle.

    7. Socks! Wear a pair of colourful socks, I love these!
    Found on Pinterest - source unknown

    The Stylograph via. Pinterest

    8. Happy whales, everybody smile now.
    via. Google Images, search, 'smiling whale' for more happiness

    Happy Valentine's Day Y'all!

    Thursday, 13 February 2014

    List Week 6 Packing for Travelling

    Hello world, I have been so bad already! I planned on writing another list post last Friday, but didn't quite make it and it's already Thursday again, excuses excuses, but really I have been so busy, the Mother Duck came to Germany to visit me over the weekend, and whilst I had a lovely time, eating meat and getting a good lot of food into me I managed to miss time to write! I also had a busy final week of the semester, getting my abstracts in, and wrapping up things before coming back over to Britain. A good friend of mine had a big party on Friday to celebrate her 24th birthday and we all took time preparing and organising and then eventually partying until the sun came out. Now I've been back to London, and yesterday I arrived in York. I'm staying here for a few weeks in order to get my term papers written. I have a lot to do, four papers to write in a month, so wish me luck, things may be quiet over here for a while, but I will resume as normal again soon.
    However for now, here is my last week's list, almost a week late. I have been doing a lot of travelling lately, and so thought I would make a list of my essentials for packing for a short trip and of the things I always feel I need for a journey, whether it be by train or plane, I hope this is not too boring for you all.


    52 Lists
    Week 6 - February 7th 2014:
    Essentials for packing and travelling
    1. A good bottle of water - I always seem to get thirsty!
    2. Thin but warm layers. In the winter I hate wearing my big coat when travelling, I get too hot in my rushes to catch trains and it is always too bulky to wear with a rucksack… If I need it when I get to wherever I am going then of course I will wear it, like when I went to Vienna I had to take it because it was so cold, but usually I like to just have lots of layers, a good scarf (or two), hats, gloves and my leather jacket, things I can scrunch up and stick in my bag if I need to.
    3. Book! I get through books like sand when I'm travelling, on trains especially, usually one or two is enough, and I like to pick one that's not too bulky and that I can get well and truly stuck into!
    4. A rucksack with enough pockets and easy to reach compartments for travel documents.
    5. Hand sanitizer & tissues… public bathrooms… is anymore necessary?
    6. Headphones, this is a new one for me, because normally I read when I'm travelling and hate having music on, I like to be aware of what's going on around me. Lately however, I have been using a big pair of old headphones I have instead of earbuds (purely because my ratty old iphone ones broke) and so when I've had enough of reading, using a squidgy pair of headphones is such a comfort!
    7. Printed copies of any documents I might need, kept in a separate place to my original documents… just in case!
    8. If travelling in Germany… then the free Deutsche Bahn (DB) App is a lifesaver for checking delays and train timetables!
    9. Snacks! So often I've travelled without something to munch on, forgetting that I have a long journey ahead and then end up with a growly tummy and have to pay high prices for train or plane food… ughh. Things like cereal (read: chocolate) bars are always good, bananas, nut mixes, little sandwiches (my favourite to make are rye bread with cheese) or rice salad in tupperware (see last weeks post for my speedy recipe!)
    10. Chewing gum… After I've eaten my snacks I'm not hungry but often feel like I am, because I'm bored! Chewing gum usually sorts out this problem for me!
    11. Chargers and adaptors if need be! My phone has crap battery life and always half way through the journey I seem to run out of juice and panic a little bit, but most trains have plug sockets so as to eliminate this fear!
    12. Ipad! I often watch download shows from Iplayer and can wile hours away pretty quickly with episodes of 'Call the Midwife' that I have pre-downloaded in a wifi zone (though only from Britain with Iplayer, but you could of course do this with other apps) or by reading The Intelligent Life magazine, various blogs I have saved or by playing candy crush!
    13. Small change, in most of Europe you have to pay to use public bathrooms, and often there won't be someone to change your notes into the coins needed!
    14. A squirt of perfume - when you arrive in your final destination, after travelling often for hours, it's nice to smell more like a human than engine exhausts.

    So, another slightly boring list, sorry! Tomorrow will be more engaging I promise!