At all hours, day and night.
Must be just the right shade of light brown.
- Calling “Cheers Mate” to the bus driver as you alight from the bus
You met them once, they delivered you home, they are definitely your mate. Also, yes, we say “alight”.
- Rainy Walks
The British countryside offers some absolutely gorgeous walks. Unfortunately, a walk that doesn’t involve some amount of rain is very rare. It’s just part of the whole experience.
- A pint at the local pub
My favourite pub in England is Dad’s local; ‘The Eddie’. It is beautifully old-fashioned, with delicious beer on tap and good old board games on offer.
- A Sunday roast
For some reason, Sunday’s are always incomplete without a tender piece of roast meat, little roast potatoes, veggies and, of course, a Yorkshire Pud.
- Hearing a wonderful melting pot of accents
Wherever you go in the UK, you will hear a vast array of different accents and dialects of the English language, from the Geordies to the Scouse, the Welsh and Scottish, the West Country and the Cockney… And when a few of them come together in one conversation, it sounds like a marvellous, albeit slightly comical, musical symphony of language.
I love it. You probably hate it.
- The feeling of pursing one’s lips, holding in your feelings, all to avoid an argument and keep the peace
The British are experts at bottling up their emotions to avoid any embarrassing conflicts or public displays of emotions. The neighbours are always watching, and what will they think?!
- “I’m desperate for the loo”
Some of our shortened words and phrases are just brilliant, especially those used in connection to the bathroom: loo, bog, privy, spend a penny…
- Monster Munch
My personal favourite. These pickled onion flavoured crisps are mouth-wateringly good.
Category Archives: Life
Something that I love about my blog, is that I have the freedom to write about absolutely anything I want. Whether I’ve been inspired by an art exhibition or a performance that I have recently seen, have stories to tell about a place that I have visited, or if I just feel strongly about a particular topic – anything goes here in my little nook. Just now, my life is definitely on the stressful side; I have a huge impending move, bringing with it many difficult challenges, I haven’t been home for more than a couple of weeks in a long time and, well, I am a poor musician! (Enough said!) So, I thought that for today’s blog post I would take a step back, write about something fun and just keep it real. The subject of today’s post is how I dyed my hair blonde.
Going blonde was quite an experience. It took longer and a lot more work than I ever anticipated and I am still learning how to handle it. So I thought I would document the process here – this will be a post that I would have wished to read myself before I began this blonde journey of mine. And please, if you have any personal experience in this matter, any tips to add, I would love to read them, so do leave them in a comment below!
I guess I should start by clarifying that my natural hair colour is a kind of darkish red – in winter it looks a little more brick-brown and in summer it tends to go a shade of strawberry blonde. I have experimented with dying my hair darker in the past; I first tried a tone just a little darker than my natural colour when I was about 16, and have since also gone a more chocolatey brown. But I have always been curious to see what a true golden blonde would look like on me. And the thing about hair is, it grows! Nothing you do to it will ever require more than a short-term commitment! To me, this just calls for creative experimentation.
So where did I begin? Well, I decided first, being the cheap-skate that I am, that I would try to do it myself at home. I first bought a semi-permanent box dye of a shade that was more of a dark blonde. I would say, at this point, I was still unsure of the exact kind of blonde I wanted to be, and this is something I would suggest you really think about first if you are considering going blonde – it’s definitely a good idea to know the colour you really want to be before you start. I also chose the 8-week wash-out dye, only because this is what I had done for going darker in the past and it had always worked really well. Basically, this dye did nothing. Maybe in some light it looked ever so slightly lighter… but you couldn’t really see any difference. So I wrote this off as a fail.
Next, I decided to change two things; I would now try a permanent box dye, instead of the wash-out one, and I would pick one that looked super light blonde on the box (lighter than I had intended to go). By the way, we have a pretty limited choice of box dyes in the shops here in Germany – I have since seen the selection of dyes in stores in North America, which is highly extensive in comparison – so both box dyes that I bought were L’Oreal, as this was pretty much the best option I had available to me. After dying my hair with this second one, I found that it came out lighter than the first one, but it still wasn’t blonde! My hair was now just a lighter version of red.
At this point, I realised that I was never going to get to a real blonde colour by myself at home. So, with the help of my kind aunt, I arranged an appointment at a salon in Stratford, Ontario (where I was headed in a couple of weeks). Before my appointment, I finally decided to choose a shade of blonde that I really wanted and the kind of look that I was going for. I did some research online and found a picture of a style that I really liked, and I took that picture with me to the salon.
The result: I LOVE my new blonde hair! I have to say, my hairdresser was fabulous, she pretty much achieved exactly the look of the picture I showed her, and I can highly recommend Dudes and Dames Hairdressing Salon in Stratford! The appointment took about 4 hours in total, and most of that time was spent applying the dye individually to very small sections of hair (I have a lot of hair). So if you are going to go through it, bring some reading material! I actually found my hairdresser’s technique for applying the dye pretty interesting; she would apply it in a V shape to some sections of hair, to achieve a kind of ombre look, before wrapping it, and then applied it directly from the roots in other sections, which she then folded and wrapped in foil. She even left a few strands of hair all over my head out, so they stayed red, and the overall look creates so much texture and dimension.
Now, by this point, I had achieved the blonde that I wanted, and I was so happy. However, I still had (and have) a lot to learn, because what I have discovered is that getting to the blonde you want is only part of the journey. Maintaining the blonde is where the real challenge lies. I have found that since going blonde, my hair has been very dry and brittle, and extremely difficult to brush. I have been using L’Oreal Ever Pure Colour Care System shampoo and conditioner, followed by some coconut-oil-based serum and a frizz control product from Lush. I brush my hair out with a wide tooth comb after I shower, as this has always been my strategy for dealing with my curls. Again, if you have any suggestions for good products to use, I am all ears!
The other thing is that, of course, I knew my hair would grow quickly, and with this my roots would also grow out. And it is happening very, very quickly! I still absolutely love my blonde hair, but it is changing in tone every day as it grows, so I am always learning how to style it to make it look good and fresh, and constantly trying new things with it.
As of right now, I am not sure what my next plan will be; whether I will re-dye it, just touch up my roots at some point, let it all grow out altogether, or dye it a whole new colour! I guess I will see how it goes and what happens over the next few weeks and months. I will say that, for right now, I am really enjoying my new look and the feelings it gives me; it’s kind of like having a new character to play when I am out and about! It feels warm and summery, friendly and bright, and I know that my red hair is lurking there, not far away, so I really don’t miss it!
So, if you are considering changing your hair colour, to blonde or anything else, I say do it! It will satisfy that small curious voice in your head, and even if you hate it, it’s always good to try new things!
What I learned:
- Know exactly what colour and shade you want to dye your hair
- Blonde hair needs a professional
- Be prepared for lots of after-care!
The season of travel is truly upon us! Summer vacations, festivals, camps, conferences, weddings and a multitude of other summer activities and events mean that many of us will be away from home for a large portion of these upcoming weeks and months. As I write this, I am sitting in a cafe in Salzburg, and, like all summers that I have spent here previously, I am again struck by the THRONGS of tourists bringing the streets of this city to life.
While travelling, visiting new places and exploring different cultures is SO exciting and a real privilege to be able to do, it can also be quite a stressful activity. I have often heard people remark on the fact that, although they enjoyed their holiday on the whole, it didn’t turn out to be the incredible and fantastic adventure that they envisioned it would be, and I have come to believe that there is reason behind the saying ‘the best part about going away is coming home again’. I think even the most seasoned travellers among us would agree that being away from home can be really difficult; we are displaced from all of our normal routines and suddenly without access to the regular home ‘comforts’ that we have implemented into our daily lives that we perhaps never realised were quite so important in making ourselves feel good.
The truth is that self-care really is important; it is what makes our bodies and minds tick, and what makes us be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. And it shouldn’t have to stop when we leave our homes and go somewhere else – in fact, these might be the times when we need it most! I have compiled my own list of self-care essentials for when I travel in the hopes that they might help some of you out too. These are things that I know I need in my life so that I can function best, and therefore get the most out of every day, which is what we all want when we travel anyway! I have divided my list into different levels of necessity, starting with the absolute non-negotiables – the most vital self-care requirements to staying in top shape – working my way down to the more ‘luxury’ conditions – things that I don’t strictly need every day when travelling and that don’t really matter if I can’t get access to them, but that would just be nice.
- Sleep. No question. A decent night’s sleep is the most fundamental requisite to staying in good shape, when travelling or at home! It doesn’t have to be a fancy hotel to do the job well either. I’ve found that making sure my body is at a comfortable temperature and earplugs if I am sharing a room go a long way, and it doesn’t hurt to have some Nyquil in my bag either. Whatever works for you to get a good sleep, do that. And prioritise it! I’ve definitely learned the hard way (admittedly, especially as I’ve gotten older) that my body just can’t keep up with staying out and socialising all night and then working at 100% the following day. I’ve trained myself to ditch the FOMO and put my sleep at number 1, which means that I will maybe stay out for 1 drink before hitting the sack at 10 or 11pm, and not feel pressured into ordering another pitcher of beer (which inevitably turns into an all-nighter), and this has helped me out so much when travelling!
- Regular routines. Obviously, nothing is really regular when we travel – every circumstance is temporary and different. But I have found that the more that I can keep any kind of regularity in my bodily functions, the better I feel. This means sleeping and waking at around the same kinds of times each day, eating at regular intervals so I don’t get overcome with hunger and hangry and (sorry to be TMI) making sure I have access to a washroom at about the same times each day too. Especially if you are like me, and your body tends to have it’s own very clear clock and schedule, this last one is really important!
- Coffee. Well, for me it’s coffee, but for you it could be anything else; tea, a banana, a certain brand of orange juice, a bottle of wine… I’m talking about that one thing that you know you need. Don’t avoid thinking about it, if you know you need that one thing every day to make you feel the best – make a plan for how you are going to get it! For me, I bring my Aeropress and a little bag of coffee with me everywhere – I just can’t rely on there always being a decent cup of coffee wherever I am, and I’ve suffered with instant crap enough to know that I need something better. Maybe you can bring your own tea bags with you and a travel kettle, if that’s what you need. Maybe you want to pack extra supplies of granola bars or nuts, if you know you are a picky eater and you want to make sure there will be something for you to eat. Whatever it is, think about it in advance and make sure you can have it!
- My water bottle. It’s an easy one but it is definitely a permanent travel companion of mine. I hopped on the reusable water bottle trend a few years ago, and haven’t really left home without one since. Travelling is thirsty work, and there is really no need to continually buy bottles of water, nor to contribute to that needless waste of plastic. I love having my own water bottle in my bag, and I find that I fill it up two or three times a day when I travel, which just shows how necessary it is to me. I highly recommend getting your own, and here’s to staying hydrated! Just FYI, I use one by the American brand Nalgene, and I like it because it’s BPA free and it holds 1000 ml of water which is plenty but also doesn’t make it too heavy to carry. Also, it’s a pretty colour.
- Physical activity. I decided to put this in the Moderately Necessary category, because I know that lazy beach holidays are a thing and definitely have their place, and sometimes it is good to take this kind of break. But, for me, even on this kind of vacation, making sure I have some kind of movement and activity in my day really helps me to feel so much more energised and mentally positive. I love to explore new places by foot, as I think it’s the best way to really get to know a new environment, so walking is usually my preferred and most accessible form of activity. If I happen to be staying in a hotel with a gym I will always try to use it (and I always pack some light work-out clothes accordingly), but if this isn’t possible, I would definitely recommend downloading and following the 7 Minute Work-Out app on your phone. I really got into using this app when I was travelling for a couple of months straight last summer. It offers a work out routine that you can do anywhere, and which involves no equipment, so it’s really easy and effective (definitely gives you a sweat!). There are lots of other good apps too, including ones for stretching (although I would love any recommendations you might have for this!) and they are free, really beneficial and so easy to incorporate into your travel routines.
- Good food. Again, I know there are some people who would disagree and put this one in the Absolutely Necessary list. The reason I put it here is mostly to do with the matter of budget. I am very open about the fact that I am pretty much always travelling on a tight budget, and in some places this can accommodate a great diet, with lots of great and cheap healthy food. But in lots of places (unfortunately the places I tend to go most often), it just isn’t possible to get the best, most nutricious meals every day. I would say, just do the best you can, and prioritise food as you want to. For me, I know that I can’t afford to eat really good meals out every day, so I will make sure that I have a bag of apples to snack on, opt for buying some salady stuff for picnic lunches (which is just as cheap as buying fast food, where I am anyway) and find ways of having access to a small kitchen – either through friends or often hotels and hostels have them available for guests to use – so that I can prepare cheaper dinner options myself. Fruit and veg are really what I try to go for as much as I can, and I will avoid quick, greasy junk food where possible. Maybe you can choose to eat one really good and healthy meal each day, and just make do on bread and cheese for the rest of the time. Perhaps food is higher on your priority list, so that you decide to save on other things like taxis or tram tickets. But travelling should never be an excuse to binge on junk food just because that is what is most easily accessible to you. Putting effort in to find the best food options for you is really important.
- Communication. I know, sometimes we travel precisely to get away from everyone and everything. And I enjoy that sense of liberation too. But I still do find it moderately necessary to keep some amount of communication to the world going. I need to be able to reach my boyfriend or my family, I might want to tell a friend about something exciting that I experienced that day, and just keeping up with the news these days is no small task. A little bit of WiFi time each day for me is perfect, just to keep in touch. Occasionally, and for very special people, I’ll even write a postcard.
- Downloaded podcasts. Podcasts are a fixed and firm aspect of my everyday life at home, and I would definitely count them as a part of my regular self-care routine. I find them interesting and entertaining, and they represent a way for me to escape my own world for a bit, to stop thinking about my own problems and just relax! (By the way, I’ve written a couple of blog posts on some of my favourite podcasts – check them out here if you need some recommendations!) When I travel, I totally rely on having some pre-downloaded podcasts ready to go. I listen to them while actually travelling, on planes and trains, or any time I don’t have access to WiFi (which can be often) and they also help me to get to sleep too. I also sometimes have some downloaded TV shows or movies from Netflix on my tablet, and I know some people would opt for this, but for me, it’s podcasts all the way.
- A good book. I mean, because a good book is to travelling like hot sauce is to eggs. They just go. Even if you never have time to open it, just knowing that you have the option of reading a great book is like having a feeling of peaceful security in your bag. I am on the brink of jumping on the Kindle bandwagon (a bit late to the party, I know) and would love to know your thoughts on this. Are you a kindle person, or will nothing ever replace a real-life book for you?
- My penknife. My penknife is definitely a luxury; I do always take it with me when I travel, but I don’t always use it. I have to say, the most useful element of the knife is the corkscrew/beer bottle opener! But for those couple of times that I have been stuck without a knife, it has totally saved me. Sometimes you need a knife to cut bread and cheese for a picnic. Now and then you get some kind of technical issue with a suitcase that requires a knife to sort it out. My knife also comes with tweezers, which I have definitely also found useful, and the screwdriver function has also meant that I have never had to buy a screwdriver – win! It’s not hugely necessary, but it is really nice to have and when it does come in handy, I am always so thankful for it!
I would love to know what your self-care tips for travelling are! Do you have a special pillow that you always take with you? Is there an app on your phone that you use to make lists or travel arrangements? Do invest in travel-sized products that help you maintain your favourite routines? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!
Phew!! What a moment this is in my life!
This week marks the end of my life as a student and, even more significantly, the end of my ‘Salzburg Era’. On Tuesday evening, 26th of June, I played my last and final Masters Recital, thus completing my Masters Degree. That night, I said goodbye to being a student, to the city of Salzburg that has created itself such a special place in my heart, and to my brilliant and wonderful teacher, Klara Flieder.
I moved to Salzburg when I was 20 years old. At that time I didn’t speak a word of German, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or with music, and I didn’t even know much about my new teacher whom I was going to study with. I only knew that I wanted (and needed) to get away from the boring politics and depressing life that I was living in London. When I first arrived in Salzburg, I was completely overwhelmed by trying to figure out how everything worked and seemed to ‘fail’ at every step. I don’t think I realised how difficult a move like that would be or what it would entail, and creating a new kind of life for myself has definitely been a slow and gradual journey. But now I can honestly say that Salzburg, and being a student there, has enriched my life in so many ways and I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had never moved there! (I probably wouldn’t still be playing the violin, that’s how unhappy I was in London…)
A sneaky snap of my Beethoven ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ performance during my Masters Recital
I owe pretty much everything – my love of violin and music, my education, my outlook, my ideas – to my teacher. I was so lucky to get to study with a professor who so understood me and cared about me, who inspired me and made me excited for each lesson, who made me feel the importance of our work so profoundly. Klara deserves her own blog post so I won’t say too much more about her here, only to mention that saying goodbye to her the other night was incredibly sad. When I finished my Bachelor degree with her and left Salzburg for the first time in 2014, it definitely didn’t feel like the end – somehow the metaphorical (and literal) door remained very much open for me to come back to do my Masters. But this time, even though I know we will always be in contact and she will continue to be a big part of my life, it really does feel like the chapter is closed.
Celebrating with my wonderful teacher and pianist, after my Masters Recital
Right now I feel quite an intense mix of emotions! I must confess, I have been looking forward to this moment for a while and NOT having to deal with the obligations of being a student any more. I am excited to get out there and start working on my own creative ideas, to not be held back by responsibilities of things like trying to get enough orchestra credits… I do feel nervous, though, because real life is daunting and being a musician was never going to be a big money-maker, especially doing the kind of creative work which I find so fulfiling.
But more than anything, I am SO excited! My head is bursting with ideas and I am ready to dive straight in. Firstly, I always knew I wanted to get this blog back on track. I have lots of posts ready to go, and ideas for many more, and I have decided that my upload day will be every Sunday, so make sure to check back in each week to stay updated! I have my whole Eckhardt-Gramatté project on the back burner, so get excited for the imminent release of my album as well as more news surrounding the project! I can’t wait to get my recordings out there and hope that you love them as much as I do! By the way, you may have seen that I created a whole section on this website dedicated to my work on this project, including videos, photos, quotes and even my Masters Thesis, so definitely check it out if you are interested! There is also the small matter of my upcoming move to North America. I will be documenting that whole process, as I think it will be bigger and more complicated than I can even get my head around at this point, so there are indeed many exciting times ahead.
So, for right now, I want to say Adieu to my old life, hello to the new one, and a big welcome back to my blog! I am so happy to be back here and writing again and looking forward to a new chapter of life!
Over the past couple of years, I have become something of a podcast ADDICT. Podcasts are such a great source of entertainment – what could be better than listening to interesting people talk about interesting things?! One thing I have noticed though, is that this is a platform that has grown massively and become quite saturated; there are SO MANY great podcasts out there, that it can be difficult to find ones that are most suited to you, or to even know what to search for. I have definitely come to rely on other blog posts and articles with recommendations for podcasts to listen to, so I thought I would pass the favour on and write one of my own! I did write an initial ‘Podcasts I’m Enjoying’ post a couple of years ago, which you can read here, but I figured it was definitely time for an update. So, hope you enjoy and happy listening!
Comprised of two seasons so far, this is a podcast hosted by Canadian scholar, cat-lover and general bad-ass feminist, Hannah McGregor. About a year ago, I started to get really interested in the hot topic of feminism, but couldn’t find a ‘way in’. I was looking for someone who could talk about this issue in an articulate, balanced and inspiring way, while sparking an interest in me personally, and for some reason, I just couldn’t find this. Everything I had read or heard I found stale, serious in a way that made me feel bad or helpless, or not representative of my own experiences and perspectives. Until I discovered the Secret Feminist Agenda podcast. Hannah is funny and exciting, she has wonderful and interesting guests and listening to her podcast feels like I am listening to a thrilling conversation that I want to be part of. Incidentally, Hannah is also the co-host of the podcast ‘Oh Witch, Please‘, which is a podcast that I mentioned in my first post on this subject and is still one of my FAVOURITE podcasts!!
If you are into real-life crime drama, this is a podcast for you. Think ‘Making a Murderer’ and ‘Serial’ (also a fabulous podcast by the same producers). Divided into a season of episodes, this podcast uncovers the story of a man from a tiny town in the deep south of Alabama. The podcast involves a mysterious murder, lots of secrets and a few surprises too. Full of suspense and made even more hyper-dramatic because it’s completely REAL and all of the people in it are REAL, I guarantee you will be hanging on the end of every episode of this podcast.
For me, this podcast provides the simple joy of listening to an interesting conversation. Hosted by Emma Gannon – intellectual internet chick, influencer and writer – each episode comprises an interview with a different guest, from someone like movie director Greta Gerwig, to director of GIRLBOSS Jerico Mandybur. The interviews generally turn into lively discussions about current events and issues faced by today’s typical ‘millennial’, and I find them to be intelligent and relevant. Emma also co-hosts the podcast, ‘Get It Off Your Br**sts’, a podcast where women talk about things that annoy them in a humourous yet meaningful and honest way, and I can also highly recommend giving this podcast a listen!
I had to include one podcast in this post that was book-related and for now, this one wins this category! If you are looking for a podcast to garner some new book recommendations and reading inspo, this is IT. New episodes of this podcast come out once per week, in which co-hosts Liberty Hardy and Rebecca Schinsky of ‘Book Riot’ discuss that particular week’s new book releases. It is a conversation about books and the love of books, and I can attest that these women have very good literary taste!
I thought I would include one fiction podcast in this list as, sometimes, when I am looking out of train windows or walking to the supermarket, I just don’t want to think, and prefer to have entertainment put directly into my ears for me. This podcast is reminiscent of a radio play; its a thriller, it has a wonderful cast and a good dramatic storyline. It also takes the clever form of overheard snippets of conversations and phone calls – something that I find really effective and captivating. It’s difficult to ‘put this one down’!
I have recently encountered, in various different areas of my life, an argument being thrown around by the older generation towards my own age group, that says we are ‘too young’ to be getting involved in serious political or social issues. Perhaps it has been one of those things where, once you notice it happening once or twice, you start to see it all over the place. Regardless, I find so much at fault with this mentality, so many important messages to be taken from it, that it sparked a blog post within me, so here we go!
To give some context, I thought I would talk about a couple of examples of when I have directly faced an argument like this. The first happened a couple of weeks ago. I have been planning a concert in London for a while now, with my newly formed, diverse and ‘cutting edge’ ensemble, Hauptstimmen. The goal of this group of classical chamber musicians is to bring our music to a wider audience, to break down boundaries that we have experienced in our world of classical music and make it an all-inclusive art form, something that everyone can share in and take something away from. We have organised a concert ourselves in London next week (see all the details here, please come!!), and the theme of our programme is ‘war, time and death’. I know it sounds a little dark and depressing, but actually it is really fascinating; we are going to be performing unique music that is very rarely heard, including Gideon Klein’s string trio, which was the last piece he ever wrote, just two weeks before being deported to Auschwitz. It isn’t just going to be a concert – it is going to be a real experience, with cool lighting, sound effects and stage design, where the audience will be encouraged to feel completely at ease with drinks and snacks and also totally engaged with our performance. In short, this is an event that we have put a lot of thought and work into and one which we think will really create huge impact.
Now, in organising this concert, finding the right venue has obviously been extremely important – the space is paramount to the whole experience, and so it was something we knew we had to get right. We were overjoyed to find The Red Hedgehog, a cool and intimate venue with easy access in London. When our group leader met with the venue director, she seemed totally on board and supportive of all of our ideas, so everything looked bright for us. Two weeks ago, we received an email from this same director and let’s just say that it completely contradicted everything that had been agreed on previously and everything we are striving to achieve. Her overarching message to us was that we were far too young to be presenting a concert that placed war as its central theme.
My initial response to the email was anger, of course, followed by a real sense of sadness. I felt so sad because, here is a group of young musicians who are trying to do something different and creative and combine their art with important world issues, only to be shot down by someone older and with more ‘power’. Today, after having dwelled on it for a while, I feel so strongly the error in her way of thinking! The fact is that war and death are very much part of our world, and unfortunately this is something that is becoming more of a scary reality everyday. To think that only people of a certain age should be talking about it is naive; I am in my twenties and part of a generation that will have to deal with the remnants of what is left post-Trump, or with whatever the future holds for North Korea, Syria, ISIS etc. We are exactly the ones who need to be talking about it and understanding what is happening and why – we are the ones who can help the future. As musicians, we have such a special way of sharing these ideas. Through music, we can reach out to people and bring people together, we can talk about fears of war and death through our playing and use music to make it relevant to everyone, no matter their age.
The second example I wanted to mention was something that I saw on a social platform a few days ago. A friend of mine had posted an article about veganism – a topic sure to fire anyone up, I know, and of course it did. But the most offensive response to the article, in my opinion, was from someone from a slightly older generation who advised my friend that she was too young and shouldn’t be concerned with issues like veganism, rather she should just live her life and spend her time ‘dreaming’. I am just so confused how anyone could suggest that talking about veganism is only for people of a certain age! What is this age, exactly? Because I am definitely not looking forward to turning this mysterious age when suddenly the weight of the world will be on my shoulders. And, as my friend pointed out in her reply, isn’t bringing up issues such as veganism on social media exactly what ‘dreaming’ is? Dreaming of a better world, dreaming of what the future could be. I am not purporting to be an advocate of veganism or not – that is not the point here – only that I certainly think that anyone who wants to talk about veganism, or war, or death or any other huge political or social issue absolutely can and even that we, as young people, should!
And this ‘young’ thing… I mean, I’m 26! I am not exactly a spring chicken. I have been old enough to vote for a long time, and I have definitely held strong political views for pretty much my whole life. I am lucky enough to live in a society where I can freely express my views, so who is to tell me, or anyone else in my generation, that I shouldn’t because I am too young?! In fact, in recent elections, basically all the ones where shit really started to go down, it has been shown that young people really do have a voice and really do know what they are voting for and the consequences of what they are voting for – it’s the older generations that have really screwed things up for us all.
Basically, I want to make it clear that, yes, I am young and yes, that absolutely means I will continue to use my voice and my art to share ideas and fears and issues that I believe in or that I believe are important. I hope that if young people like me are also facing this ridiculous argument from our elders – that we are too young to be concerned with these important topics – that we can feel inspired to rise above and speak even more loudly. Age doesn’t equal power, and with our youth comes a responsibility for the future, so let’s engage with each other NOW and make the world a better place.
It’s been a little while since I have written a post in this series, so I thought it was about time that I updated my current Freya Chooses… list. This is a blog post series that I write from time to time, when the mood strikes, which is dedicated to the various things/places/media/people who have given my life some special value over the last month, given me happiness in whatever small and yet important way or that have improved my life so much that I would recommend them to my readers to try out too. I personally love taking inspiration from the things that my friends recommend to me or tell me they have been enjoying, so I hope this blog post gives you some ideas too!
This month I discovered the world of online courses through Coursera. With participating universities from all over the world, there are online courses available in a huge variety of different subjects, including philosophy, music, creative writing, business management, science, data science etc. etc. There are so many to choose from, aaaaaaand it’s all totally free! From browsing through the website, I found that most courses were about 10 weeks long, with a time commitment of about 5-8 hours per week. I decided to enroll in a course called Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, hosted by the University of Philadelphia, and I am absolutely loving it! Each week we study new and different poems, reading them ourselves, listening to recording clips of the poets reciting them, watching video discussions about the poems between teachers and students and taking part in live webcasts, which I find particularly interesting because you get to interact live and meet (virtually) people from all over the world, all interested in the same things as you! You may have noticed that my last blog post was a close reading on a poem by Emily Dickinson – read it here – and this was actually my first writing assignment as part of my course. If there is something that you are interested in but never had the time or the chance to study, I really recommend checking Coursera out and seeing what they have to offer.
All my friends know that I LOVE my planner. For whatever reason, I have not been able to transition to Google Calendars or any form of online planner… it just doesn’t work for me. There’s something about the physical act of writing things down, deciding where to place them, organising my weeks, months and years that helps to clear my head and put order into my brain. In my planner I don’t just write down my commitments; I make to do lists, I take note of personal daily and weekly goals, I organise upcoming trips and things to remember and I plan exactly when I am going to get nasty jobs done. Once it’s in my planner, it’s out of my mind and I can let it go and relax. This month I got a new, beautiful, golden yellow Moleskine and I think it is absolutely perfect. I recommend it because it’s big enough to write everything comfortably, but small enough to carry everywhere with you. And because it is so gorgeous to look at, it doesn’t fill you with dread when you see it. My Moleskine has definitely given my life value so I really had to include it in this post!
There have been so many podcasts that I have been enjoying this month – I will be doing a blog post soon about my favourite ones so keep an eye out for that if podcasts are something that you are interested in. But Shit Town is definitely the one that has most stuck with me. Produced by the same people as Serial and This American Life, Shit Town is basically a story about a town and its inhabitants in rural Alabama. As we listen, the podcasts twists and turns, and the original story set out at the beginning, which focuses on a mysterious murder and possible police cover-up, ends up uncovering a different, much deeper story of one man in particular and his identity within this town. It’s totally gripping and haunting, but at its core are issues that are extremely relevant today and people who are truly fascinating.
In connection with my interest in podcasts, walking has become a real feature in my life! I walk absolutely everywhere, everyday, and I can get totally lost in the story that I am listening to as I walk around in different parts of the city. I wanted to include this hobby in this Freya Chooses… episode because with the approaching autumn season, walks are incredibly beautiful just now. I know that everyone is busy and tired and we all have places that we just want to get to as fast as possible, but perhaps try to find one journey that you can make in your week where you can substitute a walk in and I am sure you will feel the benefits almost instantly.
One Extra Addition…
Just had to slip (no pun intended) this extra item in here because… I love my slippers!! They bring me happiness and comfort and are especially nice to put on after a long walk.
Podule hotels seem to have taken the commuter and international travel world by storm. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, a podule hotel is a hotel, often located inside an airport terminal, with tiny podules or cabins instead of big, fancy hotel rooms. The idea is that travellers who might have a few hours to kill between connecting flights, or even an overnight stay in an airport, can rent pods by the hour so that they can catch a few zzz’s or have some quiet and private relax time before their onward travel. The pods are simple, just what you would need for a few hours kip (i.e. a bed) and are much more hassle-free than a hotel.
I have always thought that the idea of podule hotels was so futuristic – like staying in tiny space cabin that looks like something out of star trek! But it wasn’t until I recently got the chance to finally stay in one myself that I realised how great they are and what a genius idea it really is. I wanted to write a blog post about my really positive experience staying at a podule hotel in case, like me, you have considered it but weren’t sure about it or preferred to choose a normal hotel option because it was the one that you know. This is just my personal experience, I’m sure there are some that would disagree with me, but I always find real, personal recommendations written by real people to be the most helpful!
So how small are we talking? Well, of course pods come in different sizes according to the number of people in your party. I stayed at ‘Yotel’, in London Gatwick’s South Terminal and I rented a single ‘standard cabin’, intended for 1 person comfortably or 2 at a tight squeeze, that was 7 sqm. But this particular hotel also offers a ‘premium cabin’, for two people sharing a bed (10sqm), or a ‘premium twin cabin’, for 2 bunk beds (10 sqm). All cabins come with an ensuite shower/toilet.
The really great thing about podule hotels is that there are no check in/check out times. When you make your reservation, you simply book the number of hours you need, and this is so perfect for matching the needs and requirements of each individual guest. You don’t have to worry about meeting standard hotel times – you just book your pod and go! I also wanted to mention, in case you were worried that you wouldn’t know exactly what time you would be arriving, as I was, that when I arrived half an hour early (and very late at night) to my podule reservation, it was absolutely no problem – there is someone on reception 24 hours a day and they were extremely friendly, helpful and kind.
The cabin itself really is tiny – hopefully you can get a feel for it’s size from my little video below! It was just wide enough for my violin case and once I had opened up my suitcase there wasn’t much floor room to be seen! But, the bed was really comfortable, and it was nice to have a private toilet and shower too. If you choose to share a cabin with another person, it might be helpful to know that there really isn’t room for any privacy in the pod, and there is only a glass divider between the toilet and the bed space, so make sure it’s someone you know well! There is, however, a blind on the door window, so you can feel very private from the outside corridor and other hotel guests. On that note, it may also help to know that, although I slept very well, at about 5am it became very busy outside with people getting up to catch their early flights. If you are a light sleeper, definitely wear some earplugs!
Some other useful things to know about Yotel:
- Towels are provided.
- Free tea/coffee and bottled water from reception 24/7.
- Free WiFi.
- Yotel has an interesting blog, featuring tips for travellers, interviews and recommended apps for meditation amongst other things.
- Food menu including breakfast, sandwiches, hot meals and snack options, all very affordably priced (around €5).
- TV in cabin.
- There are Yotel hotels in London Heathrow, Amsterdam and New York airports.
A podule hotel is really the perfect solution for weary travellers and anyone who just needs to sleep. I will definitely be staying in them again in the future and really recommend you check them out of you need a few hours of down time while en route.
Over past the few weeks I have made many wonderful discoveries that have given me real joy and added value to my life. I know that these ‘Freya Chooses…’ posts are largely personal to me, but I so enjoy reading similar kinds of blog posts, where bloggers write about what they have been loving recently, or about small ways in which they have been able to improve the quality of their lives; I love taking inspiration from other people and am just a bit nosy about the kinds of things that make others happy! So, here are just a few of the things that I have LOVED throughout the past month!
Bonjour Tristesse & A Certain Smile, by Françoise Sagan
I actually had this book of two short novellas by Sagan sitting on my bookshelf for a few years without realising it! A moment came about recently when I had finished my current book and was waiting for the new one to arrive. At a loss, with nothing to read, I turned to my bookshelf and found this absolute gem! I really didn’t know anything about Sagan and her writing, but I fell in love with these stories, which were published when she was only nineteen!!
The first, Bonjour Tristesse, is probably her most famous work. It is about the relationship between a daughter and her father, who live a carefree and somewhat hedonistic lifestyle, full of love, sexuality, passion, and contemporary political attitudes. This all gets sharply interrupted when the girl’s father suddenly decides to remarry, creating huge conflicts that result in some shocking consequences for both characters. Although I adored this novel, it was the second one in the book, A Certain Smile, which I totally devoured. In many ways it is a quieter, slower, more intense story and for me, this is what drew me in and got me immediately hooked. It is about a young French girl, living and studying in Paris, full of her own ideas about life and love, although a little bored with her own lover and situation. An older, married man comes into her life and shows her emotions and feelings which dramatically change the direction of her life, in many complicated ways.
These stories are simply beautiful, witty in that charming French way and very, very emotional. They are so sweet, yet they have a way of tugging on your heart. I’m so glad I found this book on my shelf, and I definitely recommend getting a copy!
I recently got the chance to visit Seattle for the first time, and I just loved the city! I wanted to write about it here as, for me, I never really considered Seattle as serious contender for one of the cities at the top of my list of places to travel in the U.S. – those spots are always filled by cities like New York or San Francisco. But I have to say that this is SUCH a fantastic city, and if you have the opportunity to visit the States, definitely consider taking a trip there!
Seattle is a very vibrant city that has a drive; it’s busy, it has a hustle and bustle, everybody is out there, doing their own stuff. There is a lot going on, in its business as well as culturally, but it doesn’t have the chaotic, stressed feeling of New York! Seattle has all the ‘busy-ness’ but still with that wonderful, relaxed, west-coast vibe, and it’s just great. There are so many cool little corners in the city too; great markets, coffee shops, bookstores, cool little international shops, and many, many, fantastic micro-breweries (if you are a beer fan, this city will be your heaven). And all of this is set in an incredibly beautiful part of the world; the mountainous backdrop and ocean views follow you all around the city.
Dvořák Cypresses, Performed by Miró Quartet
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to hear a performance given by some of my current FAVOURITE musicians, the Miró Quartet, of a piece I had never heard of: a set of songs called ‘Cypresses’, arranged for string quartet, by czech composer, Antonin Dvořák. This was originally a song cycle for voice and piano, set to poems by Czech poet, Gustav Pfleger-Moravsky, that Dvořák composed when he was just 24 years old and later transcribed for string quartet. At this time in Dvořák’s life, he had fallen deeply in love with one of his students – a love which, unfortunately, was not returned. Although I have not heard entire work in its original form, I found the string quartet arrangement to be incredibly beautiful and totally capturing of Dvořák’s sad and passionate feelings of unrequited love. There were so many truly special moments in the music, moments of darkness and light, intimate melodies, sounds coming from within the heart of the quartet – this was truly spellbinding. It seems weird to me that this is a work that is not performed more often… but I am so glad that I got the chance to hear it and I really recommend looking it up if you don’t know it! My particular favourite was song/poem number 9:
‘Thou Only, Dear One’
Oh, you my soul’s only dear one,
Who will live in my heart forever:
My thoughts circle around you,
Even though cruel fate separates us.
Oh, If I were a singing swan,
I would fly to you, and with my last breath,
Sing my heart out to you,
Ah, with my last breath.
What beautiful words, and music! On that note, I have to also say that the Miró Quartet are absolutely wonderful, as people and as musicians. They live and breathe the music in a way that make it come alive and I found this very inspiring. This is a quartet of big personalities which shine through in their playing; their audiences love them and it’s easy to see why. I can’t wait to work with them again in a couple of weeks time!
For me, the summer season is always a very active time in my reading life. Whether it’s because reading is, in my opinion, the BEST accompaniment to travel, or something enjoyable that you can do outside whilst enjoying the beautiful weather, or just because you might have some free time on your hands to simply be able to read – I always find that I reach for my book much more during the summer months.
In lieu of this, over the past couple of weeks I have been endlessly browsing the internet for some potential reads to fill my summer days and I have discovered that personal recommendations written by real people with real opinions make a book much more irresistible (or not) to me. In case any of you feel the same way, I thought I would put a selection of the books that I have read and enjoyed so far this year into a blog post, so that you might be able to take your own reading inspiration from it! Enjoy!
The Secret History
This book is categorised as a psychological thriller, but I found that it also contained so many Romantic elements! It tells the story of a group of young, eccentric students, living and studying in New England and wishing to break free from all social norms. Together, and under the guidance of their mysterious yet devoted professor, they explore the boundaries and limitations of humanity and what is right and wrong.
I was totally hooked on this book. I found the way that Tartt uses her narrative to create such suspence to be really clever and very addictive; the way the book evolves from beginning to end is staggering, and somehow reminds me of a kind of decent into hell. It is a dark story, beautifully written and totally compelling.
The Neapolitan Novels
- My Brilliant Friend
- The Story of a New Name
- Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
- The Story of the Lost Child
I have spoken about my experience of reading these four novels on my blog before, and all I can say is that these are some of my most favourite pieces of writing ever. I have never felt so touched, high as a cloud, depressed, questioning of my own life and choices or simply in awe of any book before.
Ultimately, this is one recounted telling, from start to end, of the lives of two heroines, Lila and Elena, from the beginning of their childhood friendship, right up until the present day. Their stories take us through their lives, with all of the difficulties and challenges that they face in different situations; what it means to be a woman, suppression, political angst, breaking free from their roots, marriage and children, love, friendship… The books are so packed full of emotion, passion, intelligence, and I don’t think I have ever gone from loving to hating one character so much and so often as I did with Lila.
Some people have said that it is a good idea to read other books in-between these novels, which I might concur with, just to feel part of the real world again, although in reality I absolutely could not take a break from book two to book four! Reading these books was one of those life events that I won’t forget.
-Kayla Rae Whitaker
I really enjoyed this artistic and powerful novel. The story is about two female animators who meet in art school in New York, one of them being the reckless, outgoing and exceptionally talented one, the other being more inwardly troubled, quiet and introverted. They develop a strong connection to each other, out of respect for the other’s work and also through each feeling like a somewhat of a ‘misfit’ or an ‘outsider’ in this world, and decide to make a long-lasting business partnership. Together, they create stunning and hugely successful animated movies based on their own lives and experiences, which bring up all sorts of personal issues for each of them, and for me, this is really what gave the book such depth. The story ended up being about so much more than art, but about relationships and sexuality, told through the wonderful subtleties of this incredible art form.
I found the story to have a rich and capturing narrative, and the book gave me a huge appreciation for animation and the work that animators do, which I really had no idea about before reading this. It is such an intimate and sad novel, but also totally heart-rendering.
All The Light We Cannot See
This poignant and heartfelt war novel is told from a slightly different perspective than what you normally get from this genre. Set around World War Two, we follow two different stories, told inter-connectedly alongside each other, from two different sides of the war. The first is about a young, blind, French girl and her father, who is the keeper of keys at a museum in Paris. We fall in love with this pair immediately and become very emotionally drawn into their experience of the war in France. The second story is about a young German orphan boy and his sister, who live in an orphanage in Germany. The boy ends up in a special, elite, Nazi school, and here Doerr portrays some hideous and revolting events that went on from this side of the war through the eyes of this boy, somehow making it feel even worse.
Although, of course, the life of each child is completely different, and they each experience incredibly different versions of war life, they are also somehow connected and, on reading the book, you feel very much the bond between the two. Doerr cleverly draws on the innocence and confusing emotions of children from both sides of the battle, making it an exceptionally touching and refreshing read. I would definitely recommend this book.
All Grown Up
I was really interested to read this book, as I had not seen or heard of anything like it before. The story focuses on a woman in her middle age, who has chosen not to marry or have children and her struggle to find her own identity in our society that doesn’t yet know how to categorise or view women who choose this direction in their lives. I found it really brilliant how the story unfolded right within the inner workings of the mind of this woman – it felt like we got a real window into her thoughts and struggles and this made it even more captivating and revealing.
I think a book like this is highly relevant right now, whether you are a woman or a man, a feminist or not – this book makes a point which is something we can all think about. The ‘old spinster’ view of single women in their 50s and 60s, who don’t have children, just doesn’t apply; it’s old-fashioned and out-dated and reading this book really made an impact on me and how I thought about this issue.
This book tackles issues of race, class division, politics and gender stereotypes. It’s about two girls, growing up on council estates in ‘rough’ London. They each struggle with the challenges of their social contexts, but find a connection and a ‘place’ for themselves within dance. For one girl, dance is a way to achieve a form of success, a chance for her to express herself and to be good at something. For the other, it’s more of an exploration of her ethnicity, all about body shapes and rhythm which intrigue her.
Although I went through several different phases of being really engrossed in the book and not loving it so much, overall I found to be quite a powerful read and I would definitely be interested to check out more work from this author. I found Smith’s writing style to be very vibrant and colourful, it’s almost effortless reading.
Reading this book has also made me very aware of social issues, particularly focusing on minority groups, which, for some reason, were escaping my reading choices. I would really like to expand my reading to explore and discover much more in this category, especially any books written by authors from social minority backgrounds, so if you have any recommendations for me, please let me know in the comments!