Monday, 25 July 2016

6 Things You Need To Do Before Going To China | The Dragon Trip

One year ago I was in Beijing visiting the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City, this year I'm in Chania in Crete, similar name but not quite China. You've heard me go on about how much I loved that trip multiple times on here but I'm not quite done writing about it. I've been writing some posts for the company we went with, The Dragon Trip. 

You can read my first post here, 6 Things You Need To Do Before Going To China, intended to help students who are thinking of going away on one of their trips. 

None of this is sponsored in any shape or form, just doing this to get more writing experience this summer and also just because it's quite easy for me to write about something I loved so much. 

I'd love it if you could have a read of the post I linked above, let me know what you think!

Have a wonderful week!
Hattie xo

Sunday, 24 July 2016

A Little Change of Scenery

I’m writing this post from the roof of our villa in Crete, the sun is just setting and in an hour or so we’ll head down to the taverna next door for dinner. In other words, I’m kind of in heaven. We spent the day on the southern coast of the island and visited the most beautiful beach, all turquoise water and pale sand. Last week I was working and getting myself all worked up about the silliest things (though I started following the ideas I laid out in my previous post), staring at Instagram wondering whether I was going about this long summer break wrong. This week I’m largely chilled out, on a diet of delicious Greek food and way too much Diet Coke, and I’m spending all day getting more tanned and actually getting stuck into the last of my Book Haul books. 

I told myself during exams that when I finished I could spend all day reading and building up my Goodreads library but to be honest with you I haven’t really been reading all that much since. I have bags of free time which I want to spend consuming the media I want to, interesting films, hilarious TV shows and all the up-and-coming books, but I was spending all day aimlessly scrolling through social media. Coming to a different country, in a different climate, really helped me get out of that rut, mainly because my WiFi connection only exists in one room in our villa and I haven’t been able to get onto Twitter in restaurants.

This change in scenery has been so beneficial for my all round mood and just remembering you’re in such a beautiful place is enough to dispel any stress you might have. Without having to get up I can see palm trees, terracotta coloured rooves and a church bell tower with a blue dome; a big difference from the mundane views I have in my bedroom or classroom. It doesn’t matter that it’s a plane trip away or that it’s a few kilometres from the sea, the fact that it’s different to my everyday life and that it’s beautiful is enough to lift me from the mental rut I had got myself into.

This idea of escaping from the everyday with a change of scenery is one I’ve experienced a fair bit. You probably already know that I write reviews for London Theatre Direct and therefore get to go down to London after school fairly regularly, I’d look forward to those trips all week, knowing that soon Physics would be over and I could get on a train down to Paddington. The glamour of hurrying across Piccadilly Circus at night to catch the train home seemed so brilliant compared to the day of lessons I’d had and even eating a burger on the Strand made me so much happier than I’d been throughout the day. I much prefer the jostling of the Tube rather than that of the school corridors and it felt like real escapism every time my mum and I made the trip.

Travel is so magical, it can help you form stronger bonds with best friends as I learned in China and is just generally good for the soul in my opinion. I'm having a wonderful time here in Crete and would highly recommend holidaying on Greek Islands as it's stress free, sunny and absolutely stunning. 

Have a wonderful week!
Hattie xo 

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Monday, 18 July 2016

On Being More Chill and Not Sweating The Small Stuff

Recently I received some news that made me sad, then angry, then sad again. After five years in my house at school I was told that I have been placed in the new house, introduced to cater for the extra students my school is taking in. Now for the past five years I have loved every minute I've spent in house events and basically given my all to this house, so when I was told that I wasn't going to be able to take part in that community for my final years I became extremely emotional (seriously, sorry family!)

I completely understand that some people had to be put into this house and they had already tried to find volunteers to no success so most of my anger was about the fact that they'd chosen me in particular and that I was being told that I couldn't be a part of my house anymore. So I was pretty upset for about 24 hours but then I started learning that a few of my friends were in the same boat as me and that there really wasn't anything I could do about it. After that I stopped obsessing over it and playing the "this is so unfair" card because let's face it, it gets really annoying after a while and I got bored of being the Debbie Downer in my family. Who was I to be constantly angry about this when just turning on the news shows you how many real problems there are out in the world? 

This isn't a post telling you "stop all your complaining because other people have it a lot worse" but I've started to realise that we only have so much emotional energy to spend on being outraged and concerned. If I spend the whole week being outraged at someone who made a decision that I didn't like, I'd be completely drained because being angry about something so small can completely consume you and fill your head with a really bad energy. For me, when I lift a worry out of my head, it literally feels as if my head is clearing itself of all that negativity. 

That might sound a bit wishy washy and metaphorical but thinking about it in that way really helps me. 

I was talking to my friend Georgia and we both agreed that we just want to care less about all the stupid little things that happen at school. It's so much easier to feel neutral about the stuff that doesn't really need your  opinion and won't really matter past the next week. I've been working a bit already this summer and being in a workplace environment really puts into perspective how pointless any quarreling or hostility is at school. 

I used to be one of those people who was always curious about any drama or gossip going around but nowadays I've realised that sort of stuff really gets me down and it always leads me down a rabbit-hole of questioning myself and who has time to be constantly doubting yourself and how people see you? Not me.

Staying neutral and chill about things really helps with mental health and for me now its just a matter of controlling what things I feel strongly about so I don't burn out. For example I will feel strongly about gun control, feminist and intersectional issues, I'm going to have to pass on having a strong opinion on so-and-so's friendship drama or the new external students though (just going to assume they're all lovely). I'm saving my energy for the issues that actually matter and hopefully it's going to see the last few years at school go a lot smoother and happier for me. 

It also applies to all the celebrity drama, if you're feeling drained by it all, try to focus on something else. I am avoiding the Kim/Taylor drama on twitter right now because I can't help but support Taylor and seeing lots of people making fun of her is stressing me out so I'm just going to take a bit of a step-back. This is just me personally feeling like consuming pointless conflicts is toxic for my mood but I'd be much happier without anyone trying to start drama or tear other people down. I'm just not here for any social media cat fights any more. 

What do you think? I'd love to here your thoughts on this down in the comments or on twitter (@hattiehards)!

Have a wonderful week!
Hattie xo

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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

We Have To Speak Up

At the time of writing this, hundreds of black citizens have been killed by the US Police Force for no good reason. Michael Brown, Philandro Castile, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Kimani Gray, Kathryn Johnston, Sean Bell, Rekia Boyd, Amadou Diallo, Kenneth Chamberlain, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Freddie Gray. All killed by the people that are supposed to be protecting US citizens rather than murdering them. Sean was shot on the morning of his wedding, Kimani was 16, Tamir was 12, Aiyana was 7. There are so many stories like this, black citizens are being stripped of their right to life without any form of trial and the police officers committing these murders are getting away with it. The brutality being inflicted is absolutely disgusting and the consequences are that young people of colour have good reason to feel afraid every single day. Most recently Philandro Castile was shot in his car even when he was following all of the police instructions. Now I've just heard that DeRay McKesson, Black Lives Matter leader and ex mayoral candidate for Baltimore, has been arrested at a Black Lives Matter Protest for apparently no real reason (he was tweeting beforehand that the cops present were acting violently and being the aggressors in the situation). It just goes on and on and on. 

I wanted to write this post after seeing MyNamesChai's passionate video asking YouTube creators to stand up and say something about this horrific injustice. I come from a place of immense privilege for so many reasons so I really want to use this platform to boost the voices of others. I want to make a place on my blog where I could link to places where people can start to learn more about this huge issue. It's not for me to educate people on this but if you want to find out more about movements like Black Lives Matter and educate yourself, here are a few places that I go to understand things better so I can be a better ally to the cause:

DeRay McKesson (@deray) He's one of the leading activists for BLM and is always tweeting links to great political articles. He has such a strong presence on Twitter and my feed is all the better for it. 

Black Lives Matter (x) This movement started as a result of George Zimmerman being acquitted of the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin and Trayvon being posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. It's ridiculous that we should even need to state that the lives of black people matter but there are so many police officers that clearly disagree and are prepared to cut lives short however they please. It's a very important movement and one we should all support.

This masterpost. A great way to understand the arguments including all about systemic racism and white privilege. 

Jesse Williams Breaks Down Police Brutality and American Racism in 3 Minutes (x)

What You Can Do Right Now About Police Brutality (x) For those who live in the US to help make change

Nathan Zedd's video "Watch This Video If I Die (Or Till That Happens)" (x) 

Teen Vogue's Twitter (@teen vogue) They're doing an amazing job right now at getting information about BLM out there and just generally being a positive force on social media.

This is just a few sources that I think are great so it's a starting point and I'd really encourage you to read further into this issue. I'm going to try and update this post with more sources as and when I remember them or find them. Please help boost the voices of those affected by these issues by filling up your social media feeds with those diverse voices and retweet often. I really hope this post is just a drop in the ocean because many more people on the internet decide to use their voices to speak up about this issue. We can't stay silent on this when people are dying due to the colour of their skin at the hands of those who were meant to protect them. 

To Non-Black readers, recognise your privilege, amplify the voices of others and recognise that racism is real and touches every part of the Western world in some way. We have to help our brothers and sisters in the black community both in the UK and US.

I wrote this post to raise even just a tiny bit more awareness for this issue and probably should have written it a lot earlier. I hope it was somewhat helpful.

Hattie xo

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Current Faves | June/July '16

As I'm writing this I'm in a pretty good place mentally and it finally feels as if this summer is going to be really great. I'm watching A Very Potter Musical right now and it looks as if I'm actually going to be able to earn a bit of money this summer to pay for driving lessons in the autumn. It's finally dawning on me that I'm going to be a 6th former in September and will be able to walk into the common room and study centre without feeling out of place. Basically everything is going to be so different in September and I want to cling on to this summer for ever and ever.

I really want to blog a lot this summer but everything I try to write seems a bit rubbish so here I am doing a post that I know is going to be alright to try and encourage all my ideas to come out of hiding ... that and there's so many amazing things that I've been loving that I want to share on here. 

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. I included this in my recent book haul and now that I've finished it I really want to share how much I loved it. It's all about two girls, one who is among the first black students to attend a previously all-white high school, and one who is the daughter of one of the town's fiercest critics of integration. I know it has some serious problems and requires some serious suspension of disbelief but personally I found it enjoyable to read and it's really well written so I'd say it's worth picking up.

Witch Please. Okay here's another thing that I've already written about but seeing as I've been listening non-stop to it recently, I had to include it in my current faves. I will go on and on about how much I love it so I'll keep it brief. It's a podcast in which two Canadian female academics, Marcelle and Hannah, discuss the Harry Potter series through feminist critical lense. They discuss everything from how the series uses stereotypes of race and gender to whether Hogwarts students wear trousers under their robes. I love it so much because I feel like I'm actually getting smarter as I listen and I want to be best friends with Hannah and Marcelle. But seriously I'm learning so much, probably the biggest thing they've taught me is that authorial intention is irrelevant in literary criticism, which has completely changed the way I look at JK Rowling's constant tweeting about what is and isn't canon because it's the text that matters and that can be interpreted in a huge variety of ways. Wow, great job of keeping it brief Harriet. 

Funny Girl. I was lucky enough to go see this musical for London Theatre Direct. My review will be up soon so check my Other Work tab. I'd never really seen any musicals like this one, I'm not all too familiar with anything before the 80's so I was really surprised at how much I liked it. You'll have to read my review for all my thoughts but I've been playing the soundtrack a lot since because I had no idea that there were so many good songs besides the obvious "Don't Rain On My Parade". 

Bomber Jacket. Just look at how pretty this jacket is. I saw it on Hannah Gale's blog and kind of fell in love with it. It feels like a mix of something Mary Berry and Harry Styles would wear, pretty winning combination if you ask me. 

Brooklyn Nine Nine. I'd heard a lot of people saying that it was a good show but I really didn't expect it to be as good as it is! Me and my brother are a little bit obsessed with it because it suits our sense of humour so much. It's about the 99th Precinct of the NYPD and the people that work there. There isn't a single character that isn't hilarious and I feel as if I couldn't name any one of them without wanting to acknowledge the rest, it's so rare to find such a cast where every character contributes so many comic moments. Seriously just give it a go, you won't regret it. 

The West Wing. Another TV show but this time it's a lot older, pretty much as old as me but it's so good. You know what? I'm pretty sure this is the best TV show in existence ever. Big statement but I'm 99% certain that it's true. Brilliant writing, incredible cast playing characters that you grow attached to so quickly; I want to tell everyone I know about how good it is. 

Hope you liked this post sharing my current favourites! Let me know what you're loving down in the comments or on Twitter @hattiehards.

Have a wonderful week!
Hattie xo

Friday, 1 July 2016

Book Haul | Lies We Tell Ourselves, London Rain + More

Now I've got so many days to fill it's time for me to get stuck into some serious summer reading. I'm behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge because exams completely threw me off balance but I'm so keen to get a wriggle on and smash it before the year is up. The other day I went shopping for some new and shiny books to adorn my already pretty full bookshelves. I picked up a few good ones so I thought I'd do a little book haul to show you what I brought home with me.

The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filer. This one won the Costa Book of the Year prize, a solid confirmation that this book must be okay, so I picked it up from Waterstones despite not really knowing much about the plot at all - the blurb is really intriguing and relatively vague. 

The Shock of the Fall is narrated by Matt, a mentally ill young man who takes you through different parts of his life. So far I'm really enjoying it and it's always fascinating when you have an unreliable narrator, you have to focus a bit more as the narrative jumps about quite a lot. I'll let you know my thoughts on it when I've finished it. 

Lies We Tell Ourselves - Robin Talley. I remember reading about this book and the blurb sounds amazing so I'm really excited to read this. I've only just realised that Robin Talley wrote What We Left Behind which I read and reviewed for the Guardian Children's Book site here.

This book is about a girl called Sarah, the first black student at Jefferson High, and Linda, the daughter of a segregationist. This unlikely pair are thrown together and as they spend more time together they realise their feelings for each other are a little more complicated than either of them anticipated. I picked this up in Octavia's Bookshop in Cirencester and I have a gut feeling that I'm really going to enjoy this book.

London Rain - Nicola Upson. I'm going to be honest with you here; I mainly bought this book because the cover looked so pretty. I had book vouchers to spend so as this was looking so damn cute on the shelf in Waterstones, I felt it would be a nice addition to my bookshelves. I like to think that I'm pretty unfussy with my reading choices but recently I haven't been very adventurous so I thought I'd push the boat out a bit with a historical crime novel. 

London Rain is the sixth book in the Josephine Tey series and follows the murders of a well known BBC broadcaster and his mistress, the leading actress in the radio play that Josephine wrote. Set at the time of the coronation, the early days of the BBC, Josephine investigates these crimes and the old scandals that could be linked to them. I can't wait to sink my teeth into a proper historical fiction novel.

The Improbability of Love - Hannah Rothschild. I bought this in the Oxfam shop where I work, not really knowing much about it but it looked like the kind of book that I enjoy. It's about a girl called Annie who purchases a painting in a junk shop and unwittingly enters into the mad London art world. As she delves into the painting's past, she uncovers some pretty huge secrets about European history and might just let love into her life again. 

What books have you been reading recently? I'm always on the lookout for new books so please let me know in the comments!

Have a wonderful week!
Hattie xo

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