Saturday, 29 December 2012

Embarrassing sexism out of existence

It's time for another feminism post. It seems that since my last stab at solving equality, basically NO ONE LISTENED, so I'm going in for another pop. Fingers crossed this time, I'm getting kind of tired of having to keep bringing this up.

Sexism exists. I know, I know. I'd literally rather sick up a chip than have to repeat that sentence, but there we have it. It's like a really pungent fart on a train. No one wants to point out that they're suffocating from it, we're much too polite for that, and the fella that's done it can't even smell it- and even if he could, he'd be more outraged that you dared to call it out than accept any fault.

So, maybe it's because I've been reading lots of Caitlin Moran lately, or maybe it's because my best friend was told to "ask your dad" when questioning a cowboy plumber's work, or perhaps it's because there's so much in the news right now on gang rape, rape apologists and victim blaming. Whatever the bubbling inspiration for this is, I've decided I want women to start calling out sexism. Routinely. Every time it happens. If you can't beat them, beat it out of them (not literally, please.)

Calling out sexism is actually quite good fun. You feel a rush of self-respect, and are kind of satisfied that you've managed to embarrass someone for being a douche. Par example:

A few nights ago, I joined some friends on a night out. Wearing thick black tights and a leather skirt was apparently enough of a come on for a complete stranger, who decided he'd have a quick feel of my arse as I tried to get past him.

I genuinely cannot understand why people do that. Are you checking it if it's ripe, or something? We're not in the fruit aisle of Tesco, bro, you don't get to have a feel a la Try Before You Buy. Anyway. Whatever his motivations were, I'm not particularly game for a good round of casual sexual assault in a nightclub, so I politely asked him if there was anything in particular he thought he stood to gain by groping a passing woman.

He was mortified. He wouldn't make eye contact with me, his friend looked awkward and turned away, and he certainly didn't give me a satisfactory answer. Hmm? Was there something you wanted to say, treacle? You've got my undivided attention. I don't know if he'll do it again, but I'm willing to bet if he was confronted that way every time he copped a feel, he'd get the message.

There's an amazing ongoing campaign called the Everyday Sexism Project. (Their website & their twitter are well worth a read). In practice, it's this huge database of women's experiences of sexism. If every single one of those instances, some of them casual, some of them harrowing, and most of them relatable, were called out, then we might be half way to putting sexism to bed.

I'm not in anyway suggesting sexism is in any way women's responsibility, or that men are naturally, stupidly sexist and we need to carefully train them out of it. It'd just be brilliant if we could sit around, having cocktails or sleepovers or whatever girls do, and laugh about the time we called out sexism, rather than sharing embarrassing and often uncomfortable anecdotes of it.

So, next time you see sexism happening, or are at the brunt of it, tell that person to piss off. Next time someone asks how you think you'll bring up children and have a career, or when they suggest you'll be too busy buying shoes to care about important stuff, or when they grope you in a club, call them out. We can embarrass it so much that the ground really does open up and swallow it whole.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Home for Christmas (& happy 1st birthday, ESS!)

It's not secret that I adore being at home. Deep and meaningful chats with my mum as we wander around the supermarket, squabbling over the correct way to pronounce "pear" and getting to watch the cogs turn in my sister's brain as she makes the tough decision between watching Made in Chelsea reruns or Big Bang Theory reruns. Who wouldn't love it?

As we've downsized houses this year, I don't technically have a bedroom anymore. Instead, Bethany has graciously lent me some floor space for my things and I tuck myself in at night on a mattress in an alcove in her room. It's not ideal, as being a twenty year old woman who has to cut her Bill Bryson reading short each night because her little sister has turned off the light at ten pm is a tad frustrating to say the least, but it's worth it. Full and unprecedented access to her wardrobe/make-up bag (as long as you're subtle and she doesn't notice), hell yeah.

When I've not been engaging in chase scenes with the dog, or discussing kidney removals with my stepdad, I've been catching up with my woefully neglected friends. Several bottles of wine and a hurtfully embarrassing game of bowling later, with plans for more hangovers in the immediate future already brewing, I've managed to squeeze in a little work too.

I've applied for a grad scheme, because that's what responsible student apparently do. I've also made several decorative but not necessarily useful revision posters. I've been back to York for some final pre-Christmas shifts, complete with extra stress to ensure the biggest relief on returning to Huddersfield. In short, it's been a busy, happy and welcomed week.

Walking Ralph, having a dance in Huddersfield with Liv, quality Nandos time with Beth

Happy birthday, EverySecondSong!
It's been a year to the day since Every Second Song was born. My little corner of the internet is a whole year old.

I never actually expected anyone other than my mum to ever read my blog, so it's pretty cool that I've had so many hits and won a real life internet award. It's so weird that I can bump into people in the shop or people I haven't seen in months, and they already know everything I've done because they read my blog. I've been introduced to people as "Every Second Song" before. I'm always subconsciously drafting my next post. It amazes me that people actually care that I'm liveblogging tidying my room, or my reviews of club nights or my opinions and attempts at humour. I'm looking forward to Year Two of Every Second Song already :)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Could you donate an organ?

It's been an important few weeks for us Yellies. Steve, my stepdad, has just undergone an operation removing his kidney. He's not ill, thank goodness, he's just decided to donate it. To a stranger.

Donating an organ to a stranger is a lengthy, costly and exhausting procedure. Steve has undergone around a year of medical tests to make sure his kidney is up to scratch, and that he's in a physical (and psychological) state strong enough to wave goodbye to an organ. He lost weight, took countless blood tests, fasted and cycled across west Yorkshire to get to hospital appointments.

The operation was a success, and he's now recovering in his onesie and a beanie hat at home for the next few weeks. He can't do anything too strenuous, his meds can make him ill, his appetite is off, and he can't drive or take the dog for a walk. Instead of feeling lighter, due to the absence of a hunk of meat inside of him, he is bloated from the things that have been pumped inside of him. He feels like a 'rearranged suitcase'.

It all seems a lot. Especially when you consider he has never met, and most likely never will meet the person who's receiving the spare organ. But he hasn't complained- even where he's had to cut out his beloved slice of bread before tea, or after an unpleasant stay in the hospital. He's saving someone's life, and that's enough for him.

I couldn't be prouder. He has no reason to voluntarily offer up his kidney, other than wanting to improve a life of a complete stranger. If you ever doubted altruism existed, then this would put you straight. Wanting no recognition or praise for his undoubtedly noble act, he's quite content shuffling around the house making Coke Floats, happy in the knowledge that somewhere, a person can continue to live because of him.

Could you donate an organ? I'm sure we'd all like to think we're dutifully to chop off limbs and spare bits to save a loved one in a desperate and unfortunate situation- but could you do it for a stranger?

It's quite easy to donate blood- safe in the knowledge that our hearts will be powering to replete our levels. Once you offer up something your body can't simply restock, it's a different story.

Steve is one of the first hundred people in the UK to donate to a stranger. The name for a living donor of organs is an "altruistic giver", and is spot on. Steve, and my family members, went to some lengths to ensure this donation would run smoothly. It's not always been a walk in the park, and there are considerable improvements to be made to the entire donation procedure. But somewhere in London, a young woman has been given a new lease of life. And that's the important thing.

Here is my virtual hat off, round of applause and tear of pride in my eye to Steve Yates.

If you fancy following in Steve's footsteps and handing over your spare kidney to someone who could really do with it, or if you're just interested in the process and people's motivations for altruistic giving, check out this amazing but small campaign: One's Enough. There's also a fascinating article on the rise of altruistic givers in The Guardian here.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Things to do while Facebook is down


Calm down, I have a plan.

  1. Go to sleep. It is twenty to twelve on a Monday, after all.
  2. Read something. Something that isn't your mum's mate complaining about the local council, and especially something that isn't that girl you barely know having a status update argument with someone you aren't friends with anyway. Like a book!
  3. You definitely have an essay due in, or something. You must have. 
  4. Comfort eat. Immediately raid the fridge. Doesn't matter if that massive block of chocolate is your flatmates, THIS IS A CRISIS.
  5. Blog about it. QUICK, BEFORE IT'S NOT RELEVANT.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

I say goodbye to my dread(ful)locks...

Once a year, my hair gets so long that I regularly chew it while trying to speak. At this point, most normal people would get it cut, but I'm usually too broke/indifferent to do this, so I tend to continue ignoring the increasingly knotted mass on top of my head until my face is almost wholly obscured.

Eventually, I accept defeat and book myself a hair appointment. Well, my mum usually tells me it's time for an overhaul and orders me to go and get it cut, for god's sake, and I find a hairdresser that doesn't look too intimidating/has a student discount and begrudgingly take a seat.

So, this Friday, horribly hungover from the Linguistic's Christmas meal wine (and cocktails, and Willow tequila), I headed into town to 3D Hair Design on the Shambles. It's been twelve long months since I got it done last (I'm the opposite of your stereotypical girly girl), and I really wasn't looking forward to this.

Because I never attend to my hair, going to a hairdressers makes me nervous. I don't feel particularly feminine enough, I get embarrassed because I don't understand the lingo (what does feathering even mean?)  and I have to admit that I don't use any hair care- of any kind, by any stretch of the imagination.

You could practically smell the shock registering when my hairdresser untied my locks out of the bun I'd stuck it in. "Wow, there really is a lot of it". Unsure of how to react to this, I just giggled nervously, then quietly apologised.

(My hair now, three "before" shots and the hairdresser's floor)

After some moments of recovery, she'd convinced me that the only way to make my hair healthy again is to reduce it from it's half-way-down-my-back length to just over my shoulders. Over an hour later, after a few more stunned comments about my hairs uncanny ability to knot when you weren't looking, and lopping off over half of my hair, we were done.

It's still a surprise to me that I can now carry a shoulder bag without trapping my hair painfully underneath the straps, or sleep in a bed without leaving an array of split ends behind. The shock of having such shorter hair (I know it doesn't look that dramatic, but it certainly feels it to me!) hasn't worn off just yet, but I actually quite like it. I might even go so far as to say I'm going to actually look after it from now on, though don't quote me on that.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Review: Rats' Tales (The Yorker Archives)

Ever feel like your childhood wasn’t traumatising enough? That’s because you didn’t get to see Rats' Tales at the age of seven. Ah- don’t be put off. This peculiar take of fairytales on stage is probably the best piece of theatre you will see this winter.

Carol Ann Duffy-of poet laureate and GCSE English Literature Syllabus fame- has dramatized The Pied Piper and other less famous children’s stories into a beautifully sinister and charming show. Using a cast of incredibly talented actors, two impressive musicians and a whole host of local school children dressed as rats, these traditional tales are brought to life in a way you weren’t quite expecting.

Each of the eight rats' tales retells a fairytale astonishingly. Including truly beautiful photography and excellent use of live music and floating televisions, the script is wonderfully lyrical at points- really charming and enchanting the audience.

Using stunning physical theatre, and utilising every aspect of their space (including the audience to hold up props); the in-the-round stage is the perfect setting, as rats and children appear from all corners, and the audience is delighted from all angles.

Perhaps too dark for younger children, the overarching theme of stolen childhood can be all too realistic at points. The blood on the hands of the parents clawing at mountain walls that their children have just disappeared into, courtesy of the Pied Piper’s little strop, for instance, might be a little much for the faint hearted.

Equally haunting as is it is delightful, writers and cast have balanced out the sinister nature and deeply emotional scenes with some light-hearted humour- use of song and the child troll being personal highlights- and some witty social commentary for good measure- another highlight being the politician’s use of "we’re a Big Society" to refuse payment to the Pied Piper.

One criticism I have of the show is the sometimes tenuous links between the separate stories. Each, in their own right, was equally spectacular and well performed, yet the general motif of rats weren’t as present as one might expect in a show called Rats' Tales. Saying that, the final story ties them all together, only feeling a touch last minute and perfectly performed.

The talent of the tiny cast cannot be overstated. As each actor played several different roles through the course of the show, we were really treated to a full set of the cast’s skills; from playing a sycophantic politician to a little lost boy or from playing a doll who turned into an oversized woman to a tap-dancing mule. This is one of the most creative and exciting pieces of theatre out there now.

Rats' Tales is at the Manchester Royal Exchange until 12th January 2013.

Originally published here

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Phone Fear

You know that weird little fear our generation seems to have about using the phone? Where you'd much rather deal with other humans via email than by using your voice, becoming a huge misanthrope every time you can hear the phone ringing, or getting a butterfly sensation right before you start dialling someone's number? Yeah, that.

Well, I reckon this little bit of nervousness is entirely justified. We're a generation who are so used to seeing the typed word rather than dealing with anonymous voices over a phone line. It's more natural for us to deal with strangers online. We've been doing it all our lives.

Don't believe this phenomena actually exists? Case in point: Dominos pizza have developed an app for iPhones. That's right folks, a company who functions on the basis of people phoning in to order pizza has produced an application to use- on a device originally intended for calling people- that bypasses actual human contact, so people can order pizza. Our phones are no longer being used to phone people. In fact, they're being explicitly used to not phone people.

So, we can all just accept the only reason people spend hundreds of pounds on smartphones is to play Angry Birds and never vocally speak to each other again- right? No, because the world is designed to intentionally spite us, and the art of phone calls is one that we pretty much have to master.

At my York Press work placement last week, I spent a lot of time on the phone. To primary school teachers, scientists, press offices. I had to get quotes from them for news items, find interesting points to dry stories, and in the case of the scientist, get her to explain her research in a way that even I, with my baffled expression and lost GCSE science certificate, could understand.

Luckily for me, I have a year of working at a restaurant under my belt. There's the guy who wants to book at table of thirty for a Saturday night and won't take "We're fully booked" for an answer, and the little old lady who forgot to turn on her hearing aid before she rang. I've fine tuned my phone voice out of pure necessity. You need to be bloody efficient when taking deposits for Christmas parties while you have two burning plates in your hands.

So you'd think with this splash of experience I'd be a bit less of a complete idiot when it came to phone interviews. Well, guess again, because for all my bravado and flourish when taking booking via phonecalls, my phone interview skills aren't quite up to scratch just yet.

On task to get a quote from two primary schools that were participating in Movemeber (the staff, obviously. Not some crazily developed year threes.), I genuinely asked a school receptionist whether she "liked moustaches". Her response was brutal. "I couldn't really care less about them love, do you need anything else?" Cue awkward silence and a mental note to prepare for phone interviews in the future.

Review: Stewart Francis

You might expect your 99th show would be a rushed affair, lacklustre with dreams of clocking off from the tour. Not for Stewart Francis, who excelled in his final show of his Outstanding In His Field tour.

His torrent of puns and one-liners saw laughter continuously rippling from the audience. With such an act, it can take varying lengths of time for audience members to catch the punchline, creating a lovely atmosphere of chuckles erupting from different seats as people piece together the joke.

Francis’s pace is brilliant – there’s just enough time in between his jokes for you to register what he’s said before the next punchline. If you don’t like one joke, another comes along straightaway.

His routine is full of clever witticisms – “People say fame has changed me, I used to be a self conscious waitress from Swindon” – and flows well. Even when he was heckled in the middle of an ironic listing of all the American presidents in order (no mean feat), he turned the heckle into a punchline.

He left the majority of audience participation to his warm-up act, the spritely Matt Rudge.

Naturally, there were lulls when Stewart’s jokes weren’t as well received as they could have been.His encore almost entirely relied on a comparison between rock stars and comedians that didn’t quite hit the mark, but Francis was extremely adept in snapping back the audience by pulling out some shocking jokes or groan-inducing puns.

The show was punchy, a just-right mix of snappy one-liners, terrible puns and clever irony that provided the audience with some great laughs and a few jokes to tell their mates when they got home.

Originally published in The York Press, 05/12/12.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Internship: part one- dressing like a schoolkid, annoying the staff & elusive Scout leaders

As part of my growing up phase, I've scored some work experience at the local paper. The York Press have kindly let me take a seat on the news desk and pester them for stories for a week- all as part of a placement organised by my beloved Yorker.

First came the clothing panic. I don't own any shirts or grown-up blazers, as I'm pretty lacking in the chest department and they tend to make me look like a schoolboy in an ill fitting suit. So, emergency trip to H&M and clothes raid on the much more sensible Emma Bennett's wardrobe, I was set. Come Monday morning, armed with my best pen, best notepad, and best intentions, I walked in the pouring rain to the Press office on Walmgate, dressed like an auditionee for the Young Apprentice. 

After a flying tour of the office, I took my seat and awaited instruction. Looking around, everyone seemed so busy and important. The floods had just hit York again, so that had taken over for the morning. I read a copy of the paper from front to back, then once again in case there was going to be a test, then gingerly asked for something to do. 

The thing with work experience placements is, you don't want to annoy anyone. Striking the balance between seeming keen and seeming plain irritating is pretty tricky. You don't want to look like you're doing nothing, and you don't want to repetatively ask for something new everytime you finish a task. You can see everyone's really busy- meaning there's definitely spare jobs going that they'd happily hand over- but they're also so busy that they forget to forward you that email or are interrupted mid-explanation by an important phonecall. 

Luckily, it isn't always much of an issue at the York Press. My request for more stuff to do does fall by the wayside some of the time, but for the most part I'm kept occupied. It's not boring stuff either; I've been writing stories that have appeared in the paper, and I've written a couple now that will even include my own byline- practically golddust for students trying to make a name for themselves in journalism.

Probably the most challenging task I've been given so far is to provide 150 words on a local Scouts Pack presentation evening. Sound simple? This scout pack just happen to be the only one in Yorkshire without a dedicated website. The hall they're based at doesn't seem to own a phone, none of the leaders are online in any shape or form, and the guy I needed to get in touch with turned out to be the most elusive Scout leader on the planet. Forty five unanswered phonecalls to the number I managed to salvage from very limited sources later, part of my soul was dying along with the chance of my first story for the Press ever being published.

Eventually, after two solid days of answering machines, emails, and pleading with any vaguely relevant parties, I managed to get through to a woman who seemed to be aware of the Scout clubs existence. She was as good as a spokeperson in comparison to everyone else I'd managed to get hold of, so I managed to wrangle a quote about how proud she was of the kiddies involved and hung up the phone in a triumphant flourish. I'd got the quote. I was the best investigate journalist in the world. 

Turns out the quote went unpublished, as we had enough information without it. So, two days of soul-destroying answering machines for nothing, essentially. BUT, more importantly, I'd learnt an important journalism lesson- cutting the wheat from the chaff. Also don't rely on a Scout Leader to ever answer their phone. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

I'm a fashion blogger now: my compulsion and first haul

I have an addiction. It's a little pathetic, and I've got a feeling my friends are planning an intervention some time soon. *deep breath* I'm Farrah Kelly, and I read fashion blogs.

It might not seem that exciting- a twenty year old female blogger reads fashion blogs- but this is so out of character for me, that I can't actually justify the obsession to myself. I don't like fashion. I wear the same outfit three days in a row before I worry if anyone's noticed. Half of my clothes are leached from my friends or mums wardrobe.I only go into Topshop when using it as a shortcut to the other side of town.

The beautiful blazer
If you think "addiction" or "obsession" is too much of an overstatement, then I can assure you I'm not exaggerating. I downloaded Instagram for the sole intention of following two of my favourite fashion bloggers. It's basically an app that streams their lives to my phone. I watch all their livestream shows, I delve deep into their archives and check their #OOTD/#WIWT's daily. It's even beginning to match my Corrie compulsions.

The thrust of my new obsession reached new heights last weekend. I spent £200 on clothes. That's the most I've ever spent on something that wasn't a holiday, rent or my phone bill. I don't know what came over me, or who I thought I was. I was in a fashion-blogger-frenzy, getting emotionally attached to jumpers within a heartbeat. I'm broke, but I didn't give a second thought to my battered debit card.

I realised how ridiculous I was becoming when I was shopping with my sister last week. There I was, unassuming in River Island, and our eyes met across the room. It was the same blazer as LLYMLRS's. I had to have it. I practically sprinted to the last size six, and ran shouting "shut up and take my money" to the bored cashier, who wasn't interested in my breathless recount of why this blazer was so fabulous.


I'm not really sure where to go from here. I'm still not interested in fashion, and my bank balance is back to feeling sorry for itself after a brief lull of happiness. I'll probably just sit and think about how much money I spent, surrounded by all these clothes I didn't need but really, really wanted.

Anyone who's actually seen me get ready in the morning will be scoffing at the idea of me doing a fashion blog post. Anyone who reads this blog normally will be confused as to why I'm talking about clothes. I'm sorry. It won't happen again.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Five reasons I love Huddersfield

Reading Weeks are fabulous things. We're given time off our intense series of lectures (read: six contact hours a week) to catch up on all the required reading, and to pen the perfect essays. So obviously, I've done the responsible third year thing, and gone home.

Pulling into Huddersfield train station is always such a relief. As wonderful as York is, it just doesn't have the "proper Yorkshire" feel to it- not like the Hud does anyway. And although I'm only really an honorary Yorkshire lass (MCR girl through and through), living here for the past four (or is it five?) years has infatuated me. I love Huddersfield. Here's a short, and by no means exhaustive, list of reasons why.

1. Festival of Light

Probably the best annual event in Yorkshire, The Festival of Light sees St Georges Square and the town centre filled with giant illuminated flowers, cranes dangling opera singers and harpists from the sky and marching bands parading through, emblazoned with lighting costumes and manic face-paint grins. There's tonnes of food stalls showcasing Huddersfield's best dining experiences (no, not you Jumbo's) and street entertainers round every corner and on every building. If you can only visit HUD for one night, make it one of these. Really, really spectacular stuff.

2. The Bus Station
If you've ever spent more than half an hour in this infamous bus station- and trust me, I've spent an unhealthy portion of my life waiting for X6's and 321's that never showed up- then you'll understand. The booming announcement voice that dutifully reminds you, every four minutes, not to walk in front of moving buses and/or smoke, the odd soundtrack featuring Westlife's Xmas Hits and Classic FM, and most notably of all- the people.

The people of Huddersfield Bus Station are so ill-explained and so awe-inspiring, it's hard for outsiders to understand. There's the lady with a giant afro, complete with forks, cigarettes and small mammals living inside. There's the woman in the baseball cap who swears at you for walking past. There's the guy who wears swimshorts every time you see him, no matter what the weather's like. To put it into a context we can all understand, here's the top tweet generated from searching "Huddersfield Bus Station"

3. The Nightlife
A standard Wednesday night out in Hud compromises three essential factors:

1) We meet in Verve, where the barmen remember us from the days of drinking in our college lunch hour, and know our usual drink orders by memory (mine's a jagerbomb, but with a full can of redbull and a straw). We then go to Parish once we stop caring what the booze tastes like, and the boys are longing for some heavy metal and a pool table.

2) I don't know how Tokyo Huddersfield does it, but it could give Tokyo York a lesson or two. The top floor is ace for dancing like you know all the words to Azelia Banks' 212, the middle floor is for if you are having a bit of a Beyonce moment (don't pretend this doesn't apply to you) and the bottom floor is for belting out all the words to whatever made the Libertines famous. There really is something for everyone, and if you can excuse the disgustingly sugary drinks and the kinda sticky seats, it's a good night out guaranteed.

3. McDonalds. Wait for one of the boys to order a forty box of chicken nuggets and swoop in. Try to hide your Happy Meal from the taxi driver, cos he will be pissed if you get McFlurry all over the back seat.

4. The Views
Huddersfield is beautiful. Tiny cobbled streets, long winding hills and the ever presence of Castle Hill. In the snow, it's to die for. Driving over the Penines and seeing Hud all lit up- easily my favourite view.  I could gush all day about how damn pretty  the place is but that'd get boring so here's a picture of what it looks like in the pub garden of my local.

5. The Independent Shops
Pink Cadillac is the best place to go for clothes, the Oxfam books is the greatest charity shop of them all, and the Topshop stall on the Saturday market is basically where all my clothes are from. If you fancy a charity shop haul, get yourself to Holmfirth for the best second-hand collections, if you fancy a homemade lunch go to that courtyard-y place tucked away behind Halifax and pig out on all their amazing fresh food, if you fancy some chilled music and great coffee go to Coffee Evolution and laze away an entire day in their unbeatably comfy ambience. Check out Byram Arcade for cool vintage and new designers' work, and if you're not too busy after all of that shopping and eating, go see a local band at 1.22 or try the cocktails out in Zephyr or Vox. For a tiny town, we've got an awful lot going on.

I'll leave my list at that. I could go on- I've not even mentioned the food festivals or the college rivalries or the camping opportunities- but I don't want to spoil the surprises for the Huddersfield uninitiated amongst you. And for those who've been here longer than me, what did I miss?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Liveblogging tidying my room. Really.

Genuine and realistic insight into my mind.

Things I'm going to blow my loan on

My loan came in this morning. After all the fuss, stolen eggs and tears, it's finally in. My fight with Student Finance England is over. I'll stop whinging now.

This means one thing, and one thing only. I'm going shopping.

Obviously, being a sensible and conscientious student, I'll contain myself and not blow the bank immediately. Having lived off ALDI's 69p veg for the past two weeks, I never want to find myself in a situation where the only way I can afford a cup of coffee is if I beg in the street for a bit.

So what will I buy first?

The plan.

Obviously, I'm going to get drunk first.Anyone who wants to see me celebrating the fact that I have real life expendable income, that isn't being instantly swallowed up by my overdraft, then I'll be the one at the bar ordering two for one cocktails at Dusk on Thursday. The Milky Bar Kids are on me.

Then, being a sensible third year, I'll recover from my hangover by doing a food shop. The first thing on my list is a crap load of coffee, because I ran out and I can't keep depending on Emma Bennett to supply me with it (#bestfriendever). I'll get some stationary to do some degree work with. And I'll buy some vegetables, some pasta, enough biscuits to see me through the dark days of essay-composing, and a huge bulk-order of flapjack ingredients. 

Then, as it's cold, I'm going shopping shopping. For clothes. Like I'm LLYMLRS or something. 

Winterwarm by farrah-kelly featuring bright blue skinny jeans

Look! I'm a fashion blogger now! Does this count? Strictly speaking, I can't actually afford all of those things. Even with the loan in. But, what is wonderful, is I can afford to get at least some of it. I need a new pair of jeans since I tore my faithful skinnys whilst giving the shower a good scrub, so that's pretty high on the list of priorities. The rest is slightly ambitious, but a girl can dream.

After I've finished recovering from my mega hangover, packed away all of my new groceries, and slid into my new pair of jeans, I'm going to book a trip. There's definitely a visit home on the cards, but I'm branching out past Huddersfield.

I want to review somewhere new. I've not had the time or money to go somewhere and explore lately, but I've been getting itchy feet. I'm thinking the Lake District, because it's as close as I'll get to the New Zealand landscape I've become obsessed with following my mega-LOTR-athon. Any suggestions to a cheap and lolz-ridden trip away, maybe for a weekend, would be much appreciated.

In the meantime, while I order food and splash out on an electric blanket, I'm going to be constantly humming a mix between Etta James' At Last and Nappy Roots' Good Day.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Losing my LOTR virginity

I was attacked by an orc once. I know that sounds like I'm trying to tell a bad joke, but I'm serious. It's one of my favourite anecdotes to prove how reliably ridiculous my life can be.

My friend Cat took me a few years ago to London to see Lord of the Rings: The Musical, and the audience-interaction levels were a little too high for my consciousness to manage. Having attempted to nip to the loo in the middle of a battle scene, the (really bloody terrifying) orc-actors had spread out into the audience in order to intimate us all. Wonderful theatre, but not too great for my psychological welfare.

In the strangest stand-off I've ever been in, me and Cat tried to outwit the orc in front of the entire upper circle. He took a single step towards us, and we quickly shit ourselves and scurried back to our seats with tails between our legs. Obviously, not feeling embarrassed enough, I decided to pass out. It's a trick I do when I don't feel like there's enough dramatic tension in a moment.

Needless to say, this traumatic LOTR experience was always enough for me. However, upon finding out I'd never seen the films, or read the book, my boyfriend decided I needed "nerding up", good and proper. So the next few weeks of my life became almost completely about Lord of the Rings. Romance isn't dead.

We rented each film, extended edition, and watched the lot. Three bags of peanut M&M's, half a cheesecake, seventy different pause-to-explain-what-just-happened-s, about nine brews and two library rental fines later- it's over. I've seen all of the Lord of the Rings there is to see. And it's pretty cool. I know I'm a bit late to the party to start reviewing them, so I'll skip that and get straight to the important shit.

1. How much of a dick is Frodo?! Like, I know you're having a tough time carrying that cursed demon ring, but can you cut it out with the elongated pauses and middle-distance stares? And getting onto that boat at the end was not cool. Honestly. You destroy one evil warlord-eye, and all of a sudden it's okay to totally bail on your mates and get on the boat full of cool grown ups. You're being a sulky, marde-arse weirdo.

2. Legolas is the coolest guy ever. Just casually killing orcs and sliding down stairs on a shield and riding an elephant while simultaneously killing it and just fuck yeah Legolas. He's also Orlando Bloom. He wins at everything.

3. Kings are douches. If I was a king, I would not ignore Gandalf. I also wouldn't try to drown people I didn't like in a landslide of skulls. Nor would I burn my own son alive. Nor would I be a marde arse about my daughter not wanting to live forever on my weird-ass eternity boat.

4. I want everyone to talk like they talk in LOTR. Next time I get on the bus, I'm going to bark at the driver- "Bus-driver, show us the meaning of haste!".

5. I kinda love Gollum. He's misunderstood. Why does everyone beat him up?! The only time I dislike Samwise is when he's being a bully to Gollum. I understand that yes, he does try to murder quite a few people, and that creepy phlegmy voice he does is kinda disconcerting, but that's because he's cursed. He clearly has a serious mental health issue, and Gandalf is right to stick up for him. He's also undeniably adorable at points. I think I'd quite like a Gollum. You know, as a pet.

After watching all twelve glorious hours, I'm kinda really into it. I've been watching YouTube clips, and I'm taking out the documentary on the making of Gollum as soon as I get chance. I think I've sufficiently been "nerded up", but Jonathan doesn't particularly agree. We've got to watch Star Wars next. Fabulous.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Overdraft vs Student Finance England; round one

I've checked my bank account daily since the start of term. Each time, when I see the only change is that it's steadily decreasing under the weight of bills, food and rent, I get a lump in my throat and sheepishly ask Emma if I can use her shampoo and conditioner again this week.

I've been at university for a month, yet my student loan has yet to make an appearance. There were problems with my application this year, and Student Finance England are taking their sweet time in rectifying it. The thing is, I'm pretty much at breaking point.

I realised my loan application had been cancelled when the university granted me a Leave of Absence. They did this because they were under the impression that I wanted to take a sabbatical- despite me telling them otherwise six months- SIX MONTHS- earlier. That's a whole other story, which I won't bother with here, because I'll probably self-combust.

I reapplied for the loan. I'd never had any problems with Student Finance England, and had really been quite smug about it. While all my friends were stressing about being on hold for hours, about waiting weeks for their money to breeze in- I knowingly shook my head. What idiots, how can you manage to get such a straightforward system wrong? Turns out, this smugness was misplaced. Sorry judged friends, you're not all idiots. I take it all back, I'm one of you now.

First, there were admin problems on my part. Making a habit of moving house causes a lot of problems when it comes to locating important scraps of paper. Everything is in boxes, upside down, or three houses behind. When P40s and wage slips are asked after, it's usually taken as a rhetorical question. So  a week later, having harassed my parents' bosses into providing them with relevant paperwork, we were off. A collective sigh of relief was exhaled; from me, my parents, from all the people I'd been whinging to. It was all over.

Eventually, a letter dawdled through the post. You're eligible! We're going to give you a loan! Hurray! All you have to do is sign a letter -easy- pop it in the post -consider it done- and wait for your tuition fees and maintenance grant to dazzle you -thank all that is sacred.

I don't know which alternate realm Student Finance England occupies, but it's one where a first class letter takes more than nine days and counting to arrive. Disheartened by the ninth day of stealing eggs from my best friend and sending apologetic texts to my rent-less landlord, I decided I'd phone them up.

Twenty minutes later, having pressed one (to prove I was a student), three (to prove I wanted to talk about a loan), two (to prove I wasn't joking), one again (to say I wanted to speak to a person, not a chihuahua), nine (to sacrifice a lamb) and two again (to make sure I didn't actually require Childline), I got through to the lovely Irish Dan.

Dan agreed my loan hadn't gone in. He told me it takes five days to scan my letter (FIVE DAYS!) . He asked what form of post I used to send my letter (fucking owls, obviously) and then mentioned in passing that the problem may very well be that the university hasn't confirmed my attendance, which can take up to seven days. In Student Finance Speak, that translates as three months.

Me in ALDI every week.
I tried holding it in, but this was the straw to break the camel's back. The shock of being told it was going to take a week for the university to check the bloody register, ten days plus for them to receive in Student Finance World, then another five days for it to be scanned felt like a slap. I had a quick skrike on the phone to Irish Dan, who was probably not expecting having to deal with a crying girl today. I mumbled my thanks and hung up.

Immediately, Emma rang. She's on her way home, and there are criss-cross chips in the oven. I think I need a lie down. And some garlic mushrooms. And a bottle of wine wouldn't hurt.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sprinting, rocking, and almost crying

11am, Leeds train station, dripping in latte, scanning the empty departure board; I'm pissed off. I've not had the best few days, so I'm desperate to visit the new Huddersfield home and TransPennine Express are doing everything within their power to depress me.

This morning when I tweeted "Forget wild horses, there could be a dragon on the line and I'd still get home today", it seems all relevant transportation systems took this as a challenge. 

My bus driver was a marde arse who insisted on telling me off for not sticking my hand out. What he thought I was doing stood at the edge of the road, by a bus stop, with purse in hand and smiling intendedly at the upcoming bus, if not waiting to board, I've no bloody idea. Facetious git. This lecture on bus-behaviour (tch) ultimately led to the ruin of the next few hours of my day. I'm not one to hold a grudge, but all I'm saying is that next time I get the no. seven -I'm paying in two pence pieces.

My train left a full minute before scheduled departure, leaving me awkwardly jogging around empty platform four at York. Disgruntled, and slightly self concious that I'd broken into a full sprint to no avail in front of quite a large crowd of Geordies, I decided to outsmart the Sunday train system by getting to The Hud via Leeds. Turns out the Train Gods weren't in the mood for my cleverness, so delayed me by five minutes. I missed my connecting train. The next one to Huddersfield was the same train I would have gotten if I'd just waited the hour and a half at York station. (f7u12, etc)

Frustrated, I went and got a coffee to try and perk myself up. I had nearly a full hour to wait in a cold Leeds station and I was in pretty sulky mood. Humphing into a seat against a corner, I counted down the minutes until I could finally board a train that would send me home. About two minutes after I'd collapsed down, a man in an impressive overcoat and beard came and stood in a way that trapped me in the corner. Not unexpected, considering I was next to the sugar and napkin dispenser. Then he started violently rocking. And humming. For about ten minutes.

Obviously, being polite, I ignored him and stared pointedly at my coffee. Inside, though, the panic levels were rising. Oh my god. I'm going to miss my train AGAIN because this man has decided to fucking sway right in front of me. How was I going to get out? Eventually, I made a bit of a fuss of cleaning the area around me of all coffee debris, hoping he'd notice and rock elsewhere. I ended up quite loudly telling him I had a train to catch, and kind of...slid... around him. I wonder if he was waiting for a train, or if that was just how he spent his Sunday mornings? 

I was so busy pondering the life of this man- does he rock and hum everyday? Does he mix it up with some singing every now and then? Is it always the train station? He's probably done a stint in Huddersfield bus station, that'll be where he learned his trade- I didn't feel a sneeze sneaking up on me. Loudly achoo-ing, my hands instinctively shot up to me face to protect other commuters from my germs. I still had my scalding hot latte in my hand. Not for the first time today, hot tears threatened to pour out in an embarrassing temper tantrum. No time to clean up, the train is pulling in and I'll be damned if I miss this one too.

You could practically smell the relief when I disembarked at Huddersfield after a 45 minute journey took nearly 3 hours. I've not been feeling myself lately, so this flying visit home means a lot to me. All these missed trains and fresh scalds were pushing me over the edge. But bugger the stress of the journey, how could anyone not be relieved when this guy is your new neighbour?

He knows we're having lamb curry.
View from the kitchen window. Srsly.

The eagle-eyed amongst you (or the ones I've been spamming on FB) may have noticed my shiny new Blog North Winner badge. THANK YOU for voting for me, my mam is now gleefully boasting to all her mates at work how her daughter has basically just won the Pulitzer Prize for blogging.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Piff the Magic Dragon- Harrogate Comedy Festival review (Yorker archives)

"Sometimes I think I need a gimmick", says the grown man dressed as a dragon. Holding a chihuahua. Who is also dressed as a dragon. The irony sinks in, and the audience guffaw again. Welcome to Piff the Magic Dragon- bringing a touch of magic to the Harrogate Comedy Festival.

Securing his place as a cult favourite on Penn & Teller's Fool Us, Piff is the absolute last comedian-come-magician-come-dragon you'll lose in a crowd. Despite his bright and cheery outfit, Piff is anything but a happy dragon. He's broke, divorced, and his only source of income is Mr Piffles, his slightly less than magical glamorous assistant.

When Piff pulls up a member of the audience to inflict some magic upon, he swiftly falls in love with her and decides he must find out if she is a true princess- via all the usual routes. Does the boot fit? Is she sensitive enough to sense a pea? Can she guess Mr Piffles' real name?

The show is quite unlike any other. Think a younger Jack Dee in a dragon costume, and with the ability to sneeze fireworks. The entire show is based on anticlimax- thrillingly so. You never quite know whether the tiny dog in a dragon outfit is genuinely about to be shot out of a cannon, or whether there's another punchline on its way.

The magic tricks were definitely a personal highlight for me- and were brilliantly set up. For instance, in handing a random member of the audience a giant box, he casually remarked that he was sure "it probably holds no relevance to the rest of the show, so you needn't worry".

My only minor criticism of the night would be that the magic/comedy balance was slightly off. As a comedian, Piff is great- with excellent timing, good audience banter and some cracking one liners. Yet, short of pretty cool Mr Piffles tricks- one disappearing dog in particular which was very impressive- and a handful of card tricks, there wasn't as much magic as I would have liked.

Mr Piffles, the bored looking chihuahua, makes a fabulous glamorous assistant. Allowing himself to be laminated, shot out of cannons, and forced to moonwalk (Piff declares him as "Putting the RSPCA into "Call the RSPCA!!")- he earns his treats by performing adorably.

With a whole host of dragon puns up his sleeve (not to mention the finger puppets or phone aerials), a cheating ex-wife who lives in his briefcase, and a broken heart- all this dragon needs is a hug and a round of applause- which he'll certainly manage to get at his forthcoming shows.

A night with Piff is an unusual night- how often can you say you've seen a real-life adult dragon make his chihuahua levitate, after all? The show is cute, funny and deadpan. Wonderful stuff.

The Harrogate Comedy Festival continues at Harrogate Theatre throughout October

Originally published on The Yorker, Oct 13th '12, here.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The C Word (or; third year fear)

My supervisor used the C word the other day. Sat politely in his office, having a chat about how our respective summers had been, he brazenly cracked out possibly the most offensive word he could have summoned.

No, not that one. God, what's wrong with you? This is respectable company we're talking about- he's an academic. You disgust me. I meant Career.

He wanted to know what I planned on doing after university. And it's a fair question- I wouldn't mind knowing myself. But that's exactly the problem; I haven't the foggiest. While everyone else has drawn up meticulous life plans- I'm still floundering around in a corner of the internet quietly wondering whether I can justify a new leather jacket to the Natwest overdraft people, and stacking my ever increasing pile of charity shop books onto my to-read list.

I have friends making the deadline for grad-scheme applications, friends comfortably setting up businesses and idly considering how much they're going to pay themselves, and friends lining up contacts for post-university networking. I don't know when you all started deciding what you wanted to do with your lives, but it would have been polite for one of you to give me a nudge, or to have at least told me to get out of bed. I mean really.

Me not knowing what to do with myself is hardly ground-breaking, but it's starting to get kinda important. I can pretty much rule out engineering, Japanese translating and piloting. I would suck at those jobs. So that narrows it down a bit, which is a nice start. Further than this though, I'm falling short of ideas. Suggestions welcome (seriously).

What I think I'll do, unless I unearth some unmissable opportunity, is take myself off one one of those gap-yahs I've been pining after for the last three years. Is that cheating? I don't care. If I structure it properly, I can build myself up a little stock of life experiences- and I might even be a little closer to knowing what I'd love to be doing at the end of it all. Filling a year with travel, lots of work experience, internships and more writing seems my best bet. I don't have to be tied to a place, I can satiate my itchy feet and (more importantly) I can buy myself some time before the real world hits.

Monday, 8 October 2012

How to say "love"

The quickest route to work from my new house happens to go through the most famous street in York. As gorgeous as Shambles is, it has now become the street I hate the most. All the quaint cobbles, curling buildings and flashes of York's 800 year history no longer remedy the fact that The Shambles is rammed with tourists.

The only time this street's been empty
Tourists were sent from hell to remind us just how angry we can be made by other people. They find the most awkward places to stand to ensure they're firmly in your way, they stop suddenly causing you to slam full pelt into the back of their head, and they sulk if you dare walk in front of their camera. In a word, they're arseholes.

Now. I may be being slightly hypocritical. When I'm tourist-ing, I seem to forget all usual human social conventions. So I can sympathise with the millions of people milling around on The Shambles, innocently pissing off the locals. I'm one of them when I'm in their hometown, after all.

Despite this- the hoard on The Shambles still house a special number one slot on the "People I Hate Most" list. Maybe it's because I'm in a rush to get to my shift. Maybe it's because some of them are just so categorically stupid. Probably it's because I have anger issues. Whatever. The point is, this wonderful, beautiful little corner of York has been ruined for me.

One of the ways I deal with these demons sporting backpacks when I'm rushing amongst them, is to use my inherent Northern charm. Once, this meant telling a guy insistent on not letting me pass to move out of the way, pretty please; but with my Mancunian accent, this polite instruction may have come across a touch more colourfully. Usually though, I'm in much less of a surging rage, and will instead twist through the crowds with a quick "sorry, love".

"Love" is a funny term. It has complex rules governing its usage- something I assumed everyone knew  naturally. Apparently not. Perhaps it's something inbuilt into Northerners, like always having a carrier bag on you in case you have to pop to ALDI. So I thought I'd clarify for the rest of you:

You can call the bus driver love, but you can't call your boss love. You can call someone older than you love, but only if they seem the type to use the term themselves. You can't call someone just a little younger than you love, but you can if they're quite a bit younger. There's no point calling posh people love. Don't call someone in a lower position than you love if you don't want to come off as patronising. If you call your mam love, brace yourself for a slap.

When a tourist in work called me love the other day, I was really offended. I was in an inferior role- his waitress- and he was quite clearly younger than me. I couldn't help but feel like he was patronising me on purpose. It undermined how polite I'd been, and definitely reinforced that he saw me as someone serving him, not just someone doing a job.

Obviously, my offence was a lot more to do with the guy's tone when he spoke to me, and the general sneering expression, but the fact that he used the word love to patronise surprised me. To me, it's a term of endearment. It's there to show that you care about the person (to some extent, I'm not sure the guy in McDonalds is genuinely fussed whether I enjoy my Happy Meal or not), and to make something more personable. The guy that accidentally bumps into you and curtly apologises might not mean it; and the guy that bumps into you and says "ah, sorry love" might not either, but I'd be more inclined to believe him.

Love is a pretty important term to me. It's a quick way of showing affection, and it's a handy extra for making something more polite. When you're barging through a swarm of people armed with maps and SLRs, it's my go-to tool for showing that us Northerners are friendly, but could you get out of my bloody way please. If this snooty guy is abusing the term- my term- then I need to make people more aware of how it's supposed to be used. Consider this blog Lesson One.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The working student (Yorker Archives)

As part of this startling independence you suddenly face upon arrival at university ("you mean I have to do my OWN laundry?"), a pitiful student loan and whatever spends you can convince your parents to donate won't ever seem quite enough to fund your debauchery or even your pesky food habit. And the realistic way of dealing with this is a part-time job. While Hannah Allies thinks it's a bit of a waste of time, I'm here to make the case for working students.

Pulling pints so you can afford your own ©Rama
Don't kid yourself that the time you're earning real life minimum wage would be otherwise spent hard at work in the library. Especially in first year, all spare time suddenly becomes nap time, or time spent pointlessly Facebook stalking people you've only the loosest connection to. It's certainly not spent rereading your lecture notes. You may as well put it to good use.

Working a part time job really will help your future prospects. As cheesy as it sounds, it's true. While you're probably not planning on becoming a professional shelf-stacker or barman after University, it's important to know how work environments work first hand. This means knowing how time-keeping works (if they say you start at one, turn up at five to), how to deal with idiot customers ("no sir, I can't give you a fifty per cent discount...") and how to handle a crisis (Table Twelve don't have their desserts yet and the kitchen's just set on fire).Transferable skills, right there.

No matter how fabulous your essays in first year were, nor how your were an avid member of Fish and Chip Soc, no employer is going to care about your CV unless you can prove you're willing and able to graft. Graft hard. Cleaning tables or changing beer barrels might not be the most fun things in the world, but it shows you know the real meaning of elbow grease. Employers lap that stuff up.

While work may eat into your social calender at some times- don't let this put you off. Weekends are pretty uneventful in York, so putting in a few hours at a shop or cafe in town will keep you busy without dragging you away from too many college matches or student nights. Plus, you've got a Christmas work-do to look forward to now.

Equally, it provides a handy excuse for those invites you'd rather not accept. Oh, you're all dressing up in bin bags for a night out? I'd love to, obviously, but I have work the next morning, and if I went in smelling like Mansion I'd probably get fired. Works a charm.

The main, and most obvious benefit of working is the wage. God knows you'll be needing some form of income; those library fines aren't going to pay themselves.

It can be tough sometimes, but just think of the money. When you're scrubbing someone else's vomit from the loo, when you're rearranging bras on a mannequin, when you're just clocking off at midnight. YOU ARE GETTING PAID. It might not be the most exciting wage, but it'll be worth it when all of your friends are eating plain pasta for the third day in a row and you can afford take away pizza. Think of the glamour.

First published here, and later featuredon Ones To Watch Media here.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

University, what do you expect?

I've begun the countdown to my final year at University. York starts ridiculously late, so while everyone else is over Freshers and Freshers' Flu, we're still twiddling our thumbs and waiting for our loans to appear.

I'm really struggling to believe I'm already two thirds of the way through my uni life. TWO THIRDS. If my degree was a cake (and I wish it was), then I'd be seriously close to full up by now.

The first slice, sorry, year, was a weird one for me. Probably the most uncharacteristic year of my life, the early months were funded by a massive mood courtesy of a crap break-up. I got vaguely involved in university life, mostly in the form of frequenting York's nightlife (let us never mention Pub Golf 2011), and learning the perils of leaving food unlabelled in a fridge shared between seventeen people. I had a lot of fun, and learnt a thing or two about linguistics, which was useful.

My "Mandarin" essay/impression
Disappointed with how much of a mardarse I'd been in the first term, and how unproductive I'd been (short of stealing straws in anger at high drinks prices and the occasional kitchen cleaning rage), I swore I'd throw myself into second year. So I enrolled in two evening language classes, got a job waitressing, started this blog, got an editorial role with The Yorker, promised myself I'd finally get travelling, spend less time pining for home, and swore off boys.

My plan was successful. Though I bombed one of the language classes (fuck you, Mandarin), and dropped a full plate of linguini on a customer (didn't get fired, woo!), otherwise I did pretty well. I was a lot happier overall, saw some wonderful places and made some cracking memories.

So if I've been improving year on year at this university lark, by my calculations, this one should be my best. So what am I expecting from third (& final) year?

Well. If the third-years in the library are anything to go by; I'll be sat with a pen glued to my hand, pale because the enormous piles of books surrounding me are blocking out sunlight, and angrily scowling at anyone that even thinks of making any audible sound. I'll be jealously stalking all my fresher/second-year friends online. I'll be wishing I had a hangover, because that would mean I'd gone out and had fun the night before, rather than trying to recreate a social life by trying to befriend the takeaway delivery guy in between essays. "I remember hangovers." I'll say. "Hangovers used to be so great."

I can smell the panic already. But rather than stirring myself into a tizz just yet, I'm going make myself another little promise. If all the essays get too much, and if a First appears just as likely as gaining a guest appearance on Coronation Street, I'm going to take a step back. If that's an early night, a spooning session with my best friend, or a Friday night lost to word-count-woe fuelled tequila shots, then so be it. My degree is important to me, but so is my sanity, and I'm not going to give either up for the others sake.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

These city streets (The Yorker archives)

So, welcome to your new city. We know trying to discover all the best offerings of a new place can be a bit of a pain, so the Lifestyle team have been real generous and are giving you a helping hand in your path to unearthing York’s most interesting spots.

York is FULL of gates. No, not kissing ones. It’s a fancy way of saying street, basically, and it can be quite difficult knowing your Coppergates from your Colliergates. We've handpicked the most interesting ones you need to know about!

It may sound like something from a Lewis Carroll poem, but it’s not in Wonderland, it’s just off Parliament Square. Home to York’s main market, pick up fresh flowers, fix your phone, and browse local artists’ work.

Swinegate has an unusual history; originally a lane where pigs were kept, it later developed a slightly seedier nature when it became home to brothels and prostitutes- then known as “Swingate”, with neighbouring Grape Lane being known as “Grope” lane (charming). Now home to more respectable joints, you’ll find student musts Vudu Lounge and 1331 here.

Here you’ll find York’s largest and most ambitious excavation site. DIG is literally unearthing York’s astonishingly long history, and although the guided tours have stopped there’s still plenty to be marvelled at over at the exhibition that’ll be hanging around all year.

Short street, long name. The plaque that lives on this street tells us it means “”What a street!” and is probably the only street name to be considered this quirky & adorable anywhere. The “Whip” element comes from the days of public humiliation as punishment- stocks were erected here so petty criminals could receive a good old fashioned flogging.

No guide to York’s best streets would be complete without heralding the famous Shambles. This cobbled lane has pretty much the coolest namedropping potential out of all York’s streets, having been mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086. Usually full of tourists- because it’s plain gorgeous, make sure you check out the incredible chocolatiers, and head down for a romantic stroll at night.


Originally published in Y Magazine, Issue 1 (view here), 29th Sept '12

Monday, 24 September 2012

Waiting for civilisation

I am broke. Monumentally, breathtakingly broke. Largely due to a bit of a book splurge, but mostly due to those holiday things I went on, that I've definitely not already told you all about. To reassure Natwest that I'm not going to do a runner with their ill-advised and very generous overdraft, I've returned to York and waitressing early in order to top up my despondent balance.

Because my university has ridiculous term times, and all my new housemates have better things to be doing (like exploring Spain and climbing mountains...), I've been living on my own. Though I don't particularly feel responsible enough to maintain a house by myself for any period of time longer than it would take to use up all the clean dishcloths, I've faced the challenge pretty well.

For instance; The broadband in our house was duff, so, like a GROWN UP, I spent an hour on the phone to a lovely and well-meaning, but impossibly accented woman. Whilst wedged between a piano and the wall, trying to unscrew what I believed to be the main phone socket with a butter knife as a screwdriver and my phone as a torch, the Sky lady and I agreed that it'd probably be best if a professional engineer was sent out. Technically, it was the engineer who solved the problem, but I definitely feel my efforts played a role in the whole charade. That now sits proudly on my CV, right next to "Knows all words to Robbie Williams back-catalogue".

Naturally, as it's me, and not some actual domestic goddess, there have been a fair share of mishaps. Perhaps the most horribly stupid is when I angrily phoned my landlady demanding to know why the washing machine wasn't working, and where I was supposed to plug the bloody thing in considering it was in the shed. She turned up the next day, and rather than heading out to the shed, simply opened the cupboard door beneath the sink- where a fully working washing machine was dutifully waiting- and pressed the "on" button.

Aside from embarrassing myself, I've been trying to avoid soul-munching boredom by training as a housewife, should a career as a professional Linguistics graduate not work out. At first, this mostly compromised of carefully arranging my room into an obstacle course for me to navigate before work each morning. Then I went a bit crazy.

Not exactly Food Blog fodder, is it?
Feeling guilty for spending so much of my wage on flapjacks, and not on giving Natwest their money back, I decided to make my eating habit cheaper by making my own. Spurred on by this sudden and uncontrollable enthusiasm for baking, I made a (really shit) loaf of bread, and an apple pie that I didn't want to eat (don't like apple pie, duh) and ended up donating the lot to some local starving students. I spent the next day cleaning flour out of my hair and butter off the floor. 

I've mastered dragging out simple tasks this summer. I can make a book last and I can make showering and drying my hair last an entire afternoon if I know I have nothing else to do. But there are only so many nights of no TV, books I've already read thrice, no internet access, and no noticeable social life, one can endure before they start to lose their shit. I've been replying to radio presenters' rhetorical questions, just to hear my own voice.

Thankfully, my housemates are slowly starting to move in. It does mean I'll have stop showering with the door unlocked (so I can hear the radio downstairs!) and I'll have to stop wearing the green paisley trousers so much. Those are sacrifices I'm happy to make in return for real interaction that doesn't involve asking customers how they'd like their steaks cooked.


I have exciting news. I've been shortlisted for the Best Young Blogger at the Blog North Awards! (I KNOW, me neither). If you could take a few seconds to follow this link and vote for Every Second Song, I'd probably never stop being excited.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Boobs that are news, and boobs that aren't

There's been a little bit of a frenzy regarding boobs lately. Though I must admit I'm no expert, even in my role as boob-layperson I've been noticing a lot more attention on them in the last few weeks.

First of all, there's Royal boobs. Everyone's in a tizz about Kate Middleton's pair being on show. Personally, I'm a lot less interested in seeing them than the French and Italians (and Swedish and Irish, apparently) are.What has caught my attention is how the fuss that's surrounding Kate's chest doesn't even remotely compare to the fuss that kicked off not long ago about Prince Harry's-ahem- crown jewels being made a public pastime.

Really, what happened to Harry is worse, on paper at least. He genuinely was in private- a hotel room- and the picture really is of his privates. Yet Kate, in reach of a public road, had only her breasts on show. Yet it's her, not his, highness that is suing all relevant newspapers. And it's her, not him, that we're all feeling outraged for.

Perhaps it's because everyone's kind of come to expect it from Harry- the Royal family's answer to banter. Perhaps it because Kate was more hurt by the -cough- revelation. I sympathise with the pair of them equally- if not with Harry a little more. Imagine having to explain to your gran why your balls are on the front page of The Sun. That said, I'd be mortified if midway through a bikini change someone snapped a picture and whacked it onto Facebook- nevermind onto the front pages of French mags. No one wins, really.

Whatever the actions of either party are irrelevant. My point is, everyone is more upset for Kate than they were for Harry. Apparently, boobs are worse than balls.

Which leads me nicely onto this campaign.

No More Page Three is growing in popularity. With over 23,000 signatures on the petition and a crapload of Facebook/Twitter attention, it could very well be the beginning of the end of bare chests emblazoning the front pages. Sit up, The Star, take note Daily Sport. This time, we mean business.

In fact, people are getting quite angry about boobs all of a sudden. A tiny part of the feminist inside of me is a little defensive- hey guys, women's bodies aren't offensive, let's not get upset over them being proudly displayed- but the rest of the feminist inside is pretty excited.

Page Three's are normalising the objectification of women, and for a profit. While Ria, 21 from Essex, might have a lovely figure and a dazzling smile, I'm willing to bet she's also got an interesting opinion or two. She might even helpfully contribute to society in some way. But that's irrelevant, because she's attractive enough to make men hand over thirty pence.

It's a little pathetic really. All this outrage about publishing pictures of Kate Middleton topless, and a general acceptance of others having their tits splashed over the daily rags. I'm aware that there's a lot more to it that this- consent and privacy and the money being made out of it for starters- but we are all getting a little excited over nothing.

Think about it. If almost every woman has your standard two breasts, and the population of the world is split roughly into 50% for each gender (give or take the exceptions), then we're basically on more boobs than there are men in the world. We should all be used to them by now. It's not news that they exist, and if it is, then it's old news. And it certainly doesn't deserve a reservation on the third page of newspapers round the world, globally.

I think if we can all agree that 1) boobs aren't there as entertainment, 2) that they don't warrant daily publishing internationally on NEWSpapers, 3) that there'd still be plenty of things to talk about if we weren't talking about tits, then we'd all be a lot calmer. The Sun could find other, less offensive things to publish on p3. and Kate Middleton could get on with smiling and waving and having fabulous dress sense.

And for the people whose existences are going to be at a loss without a daily tit-fix, there's such a thing as porn. It's a little higher up the shelves at the newsagents, but I'm sure you can manage the reach.

You can sign the petition by clicking here.