When you find yourself crying on the tube . . .

London can be a busy and selfish place.

You just have to get on the tube at rush hour to see a man in his mid-thirties pushing on old lady out of the way so that he can squeeze onto the carriage first.

 

I can’t think of any other situation in normal life where people are so physically intimate, yet so mentally and emotionally unconnected. Everyone, myself included, is stuck in their own world; intent on getting home, or getting to work or just getting to anywhere that isn’t the tube, train or bus that they’re on.

 

 

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On-the-tube-in-London

 

 

That’s why when I found myself in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation, the other day, of sitting on a tube full of strangers trying my hardest not to cry and one of those strangers showed me a gesture of kindness, it was one of the most beautiful and uplifting moments I have ever experienced. Certainly the most beautiful moment I have ever experienced on the tube.

 

What I really don’t want from this post is any kind of sympathy, I certainly don’t want any of this:

awww babes, what’s up? DM me xxxxxx

 

I wasn’t exactly sitting on the carriage wailing with despair. I mean at the end of the day I wasn’t this girl . . .

 

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I was sat back in my seat, with my head down, trying to attract as little attention as possible. The girl next to me got up at Holborn for her stop and as the tube doors opened she slipped a piece of paper onto my lap and walked off the tube without looking at me or saying anything. I don’t even know what she looked like.

 

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There’s really not much more I can or want to say after that.

 

In that moment I was so touched by the gesture, I was so moved by the beauty in the kindness of strangers.

As embarrassing as it is for me, I wanted to share this experience for the girl whose name I don’t even know who made a huge impact on my sadness, for everyone who thinks people are dicks (which is me much of the time; only the other day I was describing to my brother how working in London had made me realise that I hate people) and in the hope that anyone who reads this might be inspired to show the same kindness.

 

The only thing you have to lose from doing such a thing is a piece of paper and a small amount of ink. 

What you have to gain is a minor but significant improvement to someone else’s state of mind, and the right to carry on your day feeling like a good person.

In the, actually not all unlikely, event that I’m sitting next to a crying girl on the tube with a pen and paper in my bag . . . I know what I’m going to do.

 

If not you, who? If not now, when?

I write this post rather sheepishly, as I have now let 4 months go by without a single post, when the original aim was to be updating this blog with posts on a by-weekly basis. So here is my best sheepish grin . . .

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Truth be told, since my posts are generally developed on a foundation of anger, cynicism and sarcasm, I’ve been a little too happy and optimistic recently to do a post any justice.

However, the other day, I was pulled out of my optimistic shell and I came back ready to write a post as angry, cynical and sarcastic as ever.

It all starts with this . . .

If you haven’t seen this video, I don’t know what the fuck you’ve been doing for the past few days but whatever it is you’ve been doing it wrong. Emma delivered a speech which is both inspiring and honest. It isn’t radical but fundamental. In its essence it is based on a a rather rudimentary concept; gender inequality is a concern for men as well as women.

She goes on to say something quite out of the ordinary but just as rudimentary, that men are also victims of gender inequality. Something that is often overlooked, admittedly by myself as well.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I am a feminist. I always have been and I have never been ashamed to say it because I have always known what feminism is and what it isn’t.

What feminism isn’t . . .

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What feminism is . . .

“The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

Certainly there is a spectrum of feminism and there are more extreme sects (as with anything from religion to autism). However, as a whole, feminism is not man-hating. Feminism is the belief that men and women can and should be equal. It is the belief that women are just as capable as men and vice versa. It’s the crazy, outrageous and radical idea that we should not be judged, defined or confined simply by the genitalia with which we were born. Simply by our physicality.

Obviously, this is so entirely outrageous that a group of men felt Emma Watson needed to put in her place for her offensive ideals. How do they decide to attack her? Exactly by threatening to expose that same physicality that sets her apart as a woman.

The trend of the female celebrity nude photo leak was transposed to Emma Watson with the link emmayouarenext.com and a picture of the feminist with a countdown until her nudes are leaked. That’s not at all fucked up. Not at all sadistic.

This, as you can imagine, was the original fuel for my post. However, the fucked up sadists that posted that link and perhaps plan to violate Emma’s privacy and body, have only done wonders for Emma’s speech. What better way to demonstrate that the He For She campaign is a societal necessity than men attempting to silence and punish a woman by threatening to expose her nude and personal pictures to the world? emmayouarenext.com has only galvanized the feminist community and for the first time I am seeing people proclaim themselves feminists because they are understanding that it is not a dirty word.

I have always always said that real men are not afraid to call themselves feminists. That real men are not afraid of women, real men are not threatened by female empowerment (just look at my last blog post). Any man that can publicly call himself a feminist has earnt my respect and my admiration, because I do understand that it is not easy.

That’s why the weird crush that I’ve always had on Joseph Gordon-Levitt escalated massively when I saw this . . .

"What [being a feminist] means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are—you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever. However you want to define yourself, you can do that and should be able to do that, and no category ever really describes a person because every person is unique. That, to me, is what 'feminism' means. So yes, I’d absolutely call myself a feminist. And if you look at history, women are an oppressed category of people. There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice, and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole. I’m a believer that if everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it’s better for everyone. It benefits society as a whole."

“What [being a feminist] means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are—you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever. However you want to define yourself, you can do that and should be able to do that, and no category ever really describes a person because every person is unique. That, to me, is what ‘feminism’ means. So yes, I’d absolutely call myself a feminist. And if you look at history, women are an oppressed category of people. There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice, and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole. I’m a believer that if everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it’s better for everyone. It benefits society as a whole.”

I was angry, cynical and sarcastic when I first wanted to write this post, but having been on Facebook and Twitter and witnessed with my own eyes the amount of support that it has ignited, I only feel inspired and optimistic. Girls that used to feel embarrassed to admit they were feminists because they didn’t want to be an unattractive man-hating dyke, feel empowered and confident. And my heart has been warmed by the male response to the HeForShe camapign that entirely undermines the emmayouarenext.com response .

You may ask what difference does a bunch of men writing #HeForShe on a piece of paper and posting it on twitter make? What difference does a bunch of men sharing the video on social media sites make? What difference does a bunch of men joining the He For She campaign make? Well I can tell you, it makes a hell of a lot of a difference to me, as a woman and a feminist, to see how far we have advanced in our hopes for equality and to see how willing the majority of men are to help and support and campaign with us. It makes a hell of a lot of difference to know that we are not alone.

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A Very Sincere Thank You

It’s been a while since I wrote my last post. This is partially because I’ve found myself pretty busy, but majorly because a blog about a banana is difficult to top.

 

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However, I’ve found myself needing to take to the page or, more accurately, to turn to the keyboard, following an interesting debate that I had the enjoyment of observing from a distance on Facebook a while ago. The whole discussion was sparked by an article that one of my Facebook friends shared:

 

The spark of much debate

 

 

There’ s nothing like a bit of female equality to spark a fierce and impassioned Facebook debate.

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One particular individual (I’ll let you make your own assumptions as to their gender) had the particularly insightful view which can pretty much be summed up in these words:

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Yes, fine, I will grant you that rape is pretty bad, but men should not be condemned or targeted.

 

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An honourable and open-minded point of view, no doubt you’ll agree.

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[As a slight aside, I will state that my intention is not to target this individual. Firstly, I don’t actually know them and the likelihood of them reading this is substantially low. Secondly, I actually believe their point of view is grounded in fair intentions – the argument after all is for female equality, not superiority.]

 

 

 

 

 

Back to business . . . This particular individual felt that the #NotAllMen and the #YesAllWomen hashtags were targeting men, because understandably, any female voice that stands against the mistreatment of women is immediately threatening and antagonistic. Understandably.

 

 

They believed that men were being criticised for declaring that they weren’t rapists, to use their exact words:

 

 

 

Men were “fiercely criticised for declaring that [they] treated women well”.

 

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Yes, I’ll repeat.

 

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“fiercely criticised for declaring that [they] treated women well.”

 

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Just to drive the point home…

 

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“treated women well.”

 

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Clearly, not raping a woman is synonymous with treating her well and I had no idea how ungrateful I was being, I think it’s about time I said a big old massive ‘Thank You’ to all those men that saw fit to treat me well and not physically force me against my will. How benevolent.

 

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By the same standards, I treat puppies well by kindly choosing not to stamp on their faces, I treat babies well by nobly deciding not to use them as footballs. I have been treating my brother well for 21 years by resolutely and respectably making the decision not to carve his heart out with a blunt spoon.

 

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This isn’t just about women. Thanks to anyone who, oh so kindly, decided to treat someone well whether man, woman or child by not physically abusing them even when they knew they had the potential to physically overpower.

 

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I was always raised by my parents on the understanding that kindness was defined, not by kind acts, but by a magnanimous decision not to abuse the vulnerable and then to ensure their gratitude by letting them know that you could have abused them if you wanted to but you have chivalrously decided not to.

 

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So there is my completely sincere and, not at all sarcastic, Thank You. It’s not at all fucked up that, in a debate where a young male individual was insisting his belief in equality, he unwittingly revealed his masculine understanding that to not rape a woman is to treat her well.

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I want to point out that this was simply one person’s perspective and I am not applying it to all men. The point I am making is that these are the real men:

 

 

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The Banana Selfie Phenomenon

I think we can all agree that the world is a better place with bananas in it.

Firstly, they’re a fruit. That’s never a bad thing.

They give you energy, they supposedly help you overcome depression, they’re high in potassium which helps lower your blood pressure, they aid with digestion, they can be used to learn how to apply a condom etc. etc. etc.

Lastly, they’re yellow and from some angles they can look like a big fat smile.

 

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Lately, to add another point to their long repertoire of being fucking fantastic, bananas have become synonymous with anti-racism.

 

How, you might wonder, has a piece of fruit become a symbol against racism?

 

 

If I’m being honest, I don’t know who the fuck that guy is, I’ve never heard of him in my life. But the way he reacted to that passive aggressive racism was brilliant.

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His next step of thanking the person who threw him that banana and gave him the potassium he needed to assist two goals . . . well that was even better.

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But the internet’s response was the cherry on top (forgive my fruit related reference)….

 

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Naturally there have been numerous reactions to this banana selfie phenomenon, and just as with the no make-up selfie, what has annoyed me the most is the bloody party poopers who have to elicit a negative response. The people saying, ‘who gives a shit about a load of people from all over the world taking photos with bananas, it’s not going to change anything’.

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Perhaps it won’t change anything.

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It’s hard to say but there probably won’t be any global legislative acts that annihilate all traces of racism within humanity.

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The banana phenomenon has, for me, only emphasised the beauty of the internet. Everyone has a voice. Admittedly this is not always a good thing . .  .

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But in this case, everyone from famous footballers to someone rather irrelevant like myself can have their say and it is for this reason that people all over the world that have never shared oxygen let alone exchanged words, can unite. Through the trending of a hashtag we can combine together to send one strong message and the message that the world is saying is #NoToRacism.

You can be a cynical cindy, a sulky susan and a negative nina. You can say ‘well it’s all very well, but nothing will change’. And you will probably be right: nothing tangible will change. However, when an act like one ignorant imbecile throwing a banana with the intent to racially insult makes me lose my faith in humanity, the act of thousands, maybe even millions, of people uniting to demonstrate that they simply use bananas as a source of fuel, well it kind of restores my faith in humanity. Say what you like, but without the banana selfie phenomenon, I might still be thinking that world is filled with fucking cretins.

 

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#englishgeeks

My last blog post received the most views that I have ever had.  And I’m not talking beating my PB by 1 view, I beat my PB by a considerable amount . . . I believe the technical term is ‘a fuck load’. I’m not going to mention the number because I am sure it’s still pathetic in comparison to some, but it was certainly enough to put a big fat smile on my face and a buzzing little bee in my bonnet.

 

Billy Elliot the Musical curtain call

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So, in light of this, I am going to do what every sensible person would do, and entirely change the tone of this blog post and try something completely new . . .  just to disappoint and piss off all of my new followers.

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A friend sent a message in a group thread earlier directed to all the people that studied English:

“Today is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, how are you going to celebrate english geeks”

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Actually, today is the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, his date of birth is unknown but 23rd April has been assigned as his birthday since we know that he was born between 22nd – 25th #englishgeek.  It is also St George’s Day. A pretty good day for England really.

 

 

In answer to my lovely friend’s question, the way this particular #englishgeek is celebrating Shakespeare’s 450th birthday is with a small poem (sonnet if we’re being pedantic) recognising my poetical inadequacy in the face of the celebrated Bard.

The trained eye will identify indications to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, Hamlet, The Tempest, As You Like It, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and an extremely questionable and untenable reference to Othello. The critical term for this is inter-textuality #englishsnob

 

Oh and no, I don’t follow iambic pentameter, because I can’t be dealing with that shit #englishknob

 

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Shall I compare me to the likes of Shakespeare?

The Bard who hypnotised the world with his ‘to be and not to be’s,

The Englishman who braved new worlds with his new words.

All the world is his stage

and I merely a player suffering from stage fright

waiting for tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow never comes.

Waiting impatiently for a mythical muse to fly to my heart’s service

And hear my soul speak the words that it will not put to screen.

My heart has the capacity to write that the course of true love

never ran smooth, if only the course of poetry did.

Not being true to myself, at all, I cannot try to pen my own heart for

My words bring chaos to the page, signifying nothing.

Shall I compare me to the likes of Shakespeare?

I am less loquacious and less articulate.

 

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Translation: HATERS GONNA HATE

The ‘nomakeup’ controversy

Up there with the most significant controversies in history, ranking along the likes of gay marriage and abortion. The no make-up controversy.

There are girls taking photos of themselves without make-up . . . and this must be protested.

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People are fucking angry, and rightly so . . . £2million has been raised for charity and it’s fucking appalling.

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I am honestly mystified as to how a simple, charitable  social media phenomenon has aroused so much controversy.

I have seen more disparaging comments about the #nomakeupselfie than I did about  #neknominate. When you look at the essence of their structure (nominating your friends on social media) well they are exactly the same, minus the condoning of binge drinking and plus some philanthropic advantages.

Do not mistake . . . I love a good binge drink, however, no one can argue that #neknominate was more advantageous to society than a movement, and I will reiterate, that raised over £2 million in 48 hours for a cause that, sadly, affects so so many people.

I am not exactly proud to admit that I don’t think I have ever text one of those numbers to donate to charity, until I got nominated on Facebook. I’m actually distinctly impressed with whoever came up with the idea to turn the egotistical platform of Facebook and the narcissistic social trend of the selfie into a, more or less, selfless act.

(See what I did there? Puntastic.)

To the people who I have seen write that this is ‘irrelevant’, or ‘ridiculous’, or even ‘boring’. I am sorry that, to you, charity is irrelevant and ridiculous. I am sorry that charity bores you.

Those wankers that dress up as gorillas and bananas and run marathons and give their proceeds to charity . . . God they are so ridiculous, God what they are doing is so irrelevant . . . and boring.

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Now I think I’ll take some time to explain why the #nomakeupselfie is actually highly relevant to cancer. Sometimes, women going through chemotheraphy, cannot wear make-up. Sometimes their eyelashes fall out and they can’t really use mascara because there’s not much to use it on. Sometimes their skin is too dry and sensitive that whilst they might be able to wear face make-up, they’d rather not. Chemotherapy can cause red blotchy marks on your skin that concealer will only irritate. Sometimes it’s just not particularly high on their priority list.

So actually, it’s pretty fucking relevant.

However, whether it’s relevant or not, is besides the point. I’m searching my brain for a charity to which dressing up as a banana is relevant, (I’m finding loose connections to erectile dysfunction) but the point is that it doesn’t have to be relevant if it’s for charity because the most important thing is that it is raising money.

At the end of the day, it’s a harmless social media phenomenon.

Actually, I take that back, it’s more than harmless, it’s a benevolent social media phenomenon. It is harmless only in the sense that it should cause no direct harm or offence to anyone.  The #nomakeupselfie is a concept which successfully encourages donation to a good cause (clearly: £2million, 48 hours, remember…) whilst simultaneously encouraging girls to be confident and proud in their own skin. If you’re going to be narcissistic and take a selfie, you might as well take one that does good and represents your true beauty.

It has been refreshing to see girls posting photos of themselves when they are not caked in disgusting amounts of make-up. I actually have been pleasantly surprised, and I mean this sincerely, that the majority of the #nomakeupselfies that I have seen have been really beautiful.

So, I am sorry if girls wearing no make-up offends you . . . maybe you should be more offended by cancer.

Now, to post my #nomakeupselfie . . .

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TV is the New Film

My understanding is that TV used to be the low-grade scoring, average looking, dopehead and all-round distinctly unimpressive sibling of film. It used to be the place where average actors and average directors and average script writers would showcase their skills.  It was the place where the Hollywood hopefuls would begin their careers, still grasping the faint memories of a dream where they would emulate the likes of Marilyn Monroe or James Dean.

That’s my understanding anyway. If we’re being honest that was a slightly hyperbolic and assumptive description and I actually know shit all. But it sounds convincing enough, so let’s go with it.

Things have changed drastically. TV is the New Film. Whilst I am not going to dramatically declare that FILM IS DEAD, I am going to suggest that contrary to a popular opinion dating to a while back, television is not dead.

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Television can offer things that film just can’t.

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-Television can offer mass-viewership

Obviously films have a mass-viewership to a certain extent. However, when a film is released you have to actively make the effort to go to the cinema (which I think we can all agree is entirely extortionate nowadays), or you have to wait until it’s released on DVD or if you’re too stingy to buy the DVD you actually have to wait until it makes an appearance on terrestrial television (or you can illegally download it but as a morally superior human being, I would never engage in such illegal activities). Television series are not only readily available in the comfort of your own home, but they are readily available online with sites like 4od or Sky Go, and they are now easily accessible if you’re willing to pay £5.99 a month for Netflix.

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-The format of a television programme encourages obsession

There are indeed a few films with which I was obsessed at some point, mostly anything starring Tom Hardy, or Orlando Bloom when I was a 13 year old girl. There was also the time when my chick flick watching self managed to watch A Walk to Remember 7 times in 5 days in a school holiday (impressive I know).  There are films I think are amazing, and I can watch over and over and will never get bored of – but I still wouldn’t argue that I am obsessed with them. Television, however, lends itself to obsession. Weekly episodes that end on a cliff hanger leave you counting down the days, hours and minutes until the next episode. Anyone who has ever watched 24 will know that no one does a cliffhanger like Kiefer Sutherland. When you have the box set, as a select few of us found in first year, it’s almost impossible to stop, especially in the middle of exam period. Films can do this to a certain extent – i.e. the Harry Potter film series, you leave one thinking that you absolutely cannot wait until the next one comes out and you may think about it for a few days at most. However, you end up waiting for a year for the next film to come out and by the time the trailers are out you’ve long forgotten about your burning desire to see the next film. Netflix are particularly clever with maximising on the obsessive nature of a television series – they give you 15 seconds to decide whether you are actually going to get up and do something with your life. For most people it takes more than 15 seconds to make such an important life-affecting decision.

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-TV offers long-lasting relationships with characters

The longevity of a TV show succeeds in creating a lasting and stronger relationship with the characters.  I feel it is fairly apt to compare the decision to dedicate yourself to a TV show to that decision of dedicating yourself to another human being in a relationship:-

  • You have to be prepared to make a long-term commitment, a decision that should not be made lightly
  • You are going to have to make time in your life for that special show – this may mean choosing between friends / family and your chosen one
  • There will be a time when you will have to introduce your TV show to your friends, to your siblings and maybe even to your parents if it gets that serious. You want a show that you would be proud to introduce your friends and family to
  • But most of all, you embark on the relationship with a programme knowing that there is every possibility that you might get let down, you might be left heartbroken, and you might have to allow the relationship to come to a natural end

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I am going to use Prison Break as an example. When I began watching Prison Break it was in its fourth series. At about 22 episodes a series and an hour an episode, this wasn’t the longest commitment I would ever make but it was a large commitment for a first year fresher in the middle of their exams. Prison Break was one of the best decisions I have ever made, I was proud to watch it, I was proud to introduce it to my friends and even my family, I pretty much fell in love with Michael Scofield. I mean look at those eyes . . .

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Series 1 was one of the best things I have ever watched. Series 2 was no Series 1, but it was still a fantastic watch. Series 3 is where we hit the rocky patch in our relationship, Series 3 is when I had to allow the relationship to come to its natural end.

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-TV allows for a detailed development of characters and plot

Just as the longevity of  a TV show allows for the development of a relationship between the viewer and the characters, it allows for a thorough development of characters and plot which the medium of film just cannot emulate. I say this with only one TV show in mind. Come on, everyone’s thinking it. Instead of telling you, let me show you through the use of photographic evidence . . .

(I have tried not to make this a spoiler but be careful)

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They say a picture paints a thousand words, and I think that just said everything I needed to say.

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TV is the new film and everyone is realising it. It is no longer that people begin their career in TV, hoping to advance to film. It is that those who have succeeded in film are now turning to TV. More and more, reputed actors, directors and script writers are showcasing their skills in the medium of television. I choose to believe that this is due to the artistic benefits of television and not simply the shed load of money that is to be made in the endurance of a TV programme and then the sales of its box sets.

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David Fincher, the man who brought us this . . .

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. . . is the executive producer of this . . .

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And the man who plays the brilliant lead in that is a 2 times academy award winner who also portrayed the renowned Lester Burnham in American Beauty, the infamous ‘Verbal’ Kint in The Usual Suspects.

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Without intending to hype it up too much; House of Cards is an amazing mix of an incredible script with fantastic direction and amazing acting. There was one particular scene in the season finale that really impressed me. Frank Underwood i.e. Kevin Spacey has a habit of talking directly to the audience and sharing little knowing looks with the camera that don’t come across as cringey but successfully create a connection between audience and character. In the final episode of Series 1, the morally ambiguous Frank Underwood makes a trip to church. He stands at the altar and looks up towards the heavens . . .

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. . . and he says ‘every time I’ve spoken to you, you’ve never spoken back. Although, given our mutual disdain, I can’t blame you for the silent treatment’, and then he looks directly at the camera and says, ‘perhaps I’m speaking to the wrong audience‘.

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The brilliant British director, Danny Boyle, who brought us the likes of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire . . .

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. . . tried his hand at TV with Babylon, a one-time show aired on Channel 4 a couple of weeks ago. It is still on 4od and I urge everyone to go and watch it. If you ever saw and enjoyed Black Mirror go and watch it. It is a dark comedy which offers a very plausible view on the Metropolitan Police, PR and social media. It’s not even a big commitment – do it.

The fantastic Woody Harrelson (my favourite role of his was in No Country For Old Men) and the underrated Matthew McConaughey (who has made the step that few have done before him from RomCom heartthrob to Oscar nominee) have both transferred to TV playing the lead roles in a new programme called True Detective . . .

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Finally, the last example I will give as I don’t want to exhaust you – Ridley Scott the man who brought us these iconic moments in film . . .

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. . . well he is now the executive producer of hit TV show The Good Wife.

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Okay, I’m sorry this actually is the last one. One of  my all time favourite directors. The man who directed Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Departed, Shutter Island and Wolf of Wall Street. That man (Martin Scorsese) directed the first episode of Boardwalk Empire and has been the executive producer of the rest.

I feel as though my point is proven.

TV is not dead.

Just as Orange is the New Black, TV is the New Film.

The things that are not acceptable outside of uni

I kicked off this week as a successful working woman with no phone, no oyster card, no railcard, no drivers license, no debit card and pretty much no money.

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Basically, the results of a standard night out at uni . . .

But I’m not at uni anymore, and I am slowly starting to realise that the things which don’t even invite a second glance on campus are considered entirely unacceptable and, in some cases, despicable in the real world.

These are some of the things that make the list of shit that is unacceptable outside the university bubble:-

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1. Chanting

WE LOVE HIM, WE HATE HIM, WE LOVE TO MASTERBATE HIM . . .

Nope. Not okay to walk down a street in London singing that song.

DRINK MOTHERFUCKER.

DRINK MOTHERFUCKER.

DRINK.

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Nope. Not okay to be shouting this at a randomer in a bar who you think should be chugging their drink since they aren’t holding it with their left hand and called their friend by their first name.

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2. Fancy Dress

There are two exceptions where it is okay to wear fancy dress when you’re not on a sports night out at uni – stag nights and hen dos, and bespoke fancy dress parties that take place in the privacy and comfort of one’s own home.

It is not okay to walk through the streets of the city looking like this . . .

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3. Kebabs

Last weekend there were two things that I did non-uni style (ignoring the fact that they were through the influence of friends who have far more sense than I).  The King’s Cup in Ring of Fire was placed on a coaster and food was cooked before we went out so that we wouldn’t stop by Clapham’s chicken shop. I was, and still am, slightly disappointed about this because I think it would be fucking hilarious to watch the Channel 4 show ‘The Chicken Shop’ and see myself as the star of the episode. However, I would highly recommend this pre-cooked drunk food method for those working men and women who have graduated and know that it is just not considered ‘the done thing’ to eat a kebab on your way home anymore . . . even though you know in your heart that it’s the right thing to do. You don’t want to be this person . . .

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If I’m being honest, I don’t actually remember eating my red thai curry, but I didn’t doubt the girls when they told me that I spent the whole time talking about how much I love thai curry and how it’s my favourite thing ever and how I couldn’t be happier.

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4. Puking in a public space

Don’t get me wrong, being sick is totally still okay on a night out. But there are now strict requirements – it must be in the toilet, it must be clean, it must be silent and you must have gum. Even those polite pukers, the ones that do their best not to make a mess – they do it in a public bin on a walk to the club,  their glass on the dancefloor or in their kebab box on the walk home – even they do not meet the requirements of acceptability of public puking.  When I was on a night bus a while ago (a night which deserves an entire blog to itself) a girl in fancy dress came on and sat down next to me. She lent her head on my shoulder and hiccupped and burped. I shot a look at her friend that said if you don’t get this girl off my brand new beige coat right now I will . . . be very unhappy. He moved her to a seat at the front of the bus and apologised and excused his friend because she was a fresher. She was sick on the bus. The whole service had to be shut down, every single person had to get off the bus. It took me 2 and a half hours to get home.  But I felt more animosity to the bus driver for closing the service than to the girl for vomiting – she was a fresher after all!

[Don't worry, I am not going to put a photo of sick up]

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5. Urinating in a public space

I feel the last point leads nicely into this one. At university it was a standard procedure to relieve your bladder in a (fairly) quiet public space. No longer is that considered a force of nature. Nowadays that’s a police warning for indecent exposure. In fact there are actually urination detectors to enable quick arrests for public peeing (no word of a lie)

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I would like to take this instance to point out that I am not guilty of everything I am mentioning – for example points 4 and 5 – I am far too elegant and ladylike to engage in these indiscretions.

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6. Losing important possessions

Losing your shit because you’re just too intoxicated to know what’s going on, or too drunk to care. This I am guilty of, but then I am also guilty of this when I’m stone cold sober. As previously mentioned, this week started off for me with a lot fewer things in my pockets than normal. Thankfully, only the oyster card and the railcard are lost in the depths of an inferno – an Inferno in Clapham that is. Why it’s called Infernos becomes clear to anyone who has ever read Dante’s Divine Comedy, the first book of which is Inferno. You can see the similarities . . .

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The phone, debit card and drivers license were carelessly left behind at my carer for the evening, Liana’s house when I made the sudden decision that I needed bed asap and drove home with  nothing but my car keys. Liana I’d like to give a shout out to you – in my time of need you fed me sushi, when I needed you most you had crisps and herbal tea, when I was cold, when I was hungry – you were there, you were there. (Happy Telv?)

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7. Fighting with the cab driver

Are you fucking kidding me? 2 pounds?! That’s fucking extortionate!

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£20 each? Okay great, thank you. Would you possibly mind please stopping at a cash point as long as it’s not too much trouble please? Thank you.

The best cab drivers not to fight with are the ones who tell you about how they used to drink a bottle of whiskey a day, and smoke two spliffs a day, and have a bit of a temper, and punched their wife in the face and made her nose bleed, and smashed her face to the floor, and whose second wife pulled a knife on them and they grabbed the knife and shouted ‘DO IT’. It’s best not to question these cab drivers’ costs as I discovered with a friend the other day.

When you think the cabbie is overcharging you just think back to the time you watched Taxi Driver and think twice about what you say

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8. Eating shit and watching TV all day

The hardest part of graduating is realising that, not only is it not okay to, but you simply don’t have the time to watch TV all day. When I was at uni I got through so many TV shows that I am now an avid watcher of Breaking Bad (RIP you are sorely missed), Game of Thrones (you are eagerly anticipated) The Walking Dead, Prison Break, The Sopranos, Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, Grey’s Anatomy and Downton Abbey. Now I can barely fit in an episode of House of Cards a week. When I get into work and ask what everyone did at the weekend, everyone is so busy looking after their kids or fixing their house or visiting their family that I realised that in the real world you don’t sit in front of the TV eating crisps and dip and drinking chocolate milk to cure your hangover.

In fact, my world has changed so much that, as I am writing this, so far today I have put on three washes, emptied the bins and recycling, checked the oil and water fluid in my car, and hoovered the car. God I am so productive and grown up.

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When I was a student, I had the habit of referring to life outside of the uni bubble as the ‘real world’ and the people who lived in that world as ‘real, actual people’. This was something quite a few people would comment on, coming out with something predictable like ‘are you saying students aren’t real people?’

Yes.

Yes that is exactly what I am saying. Students are not real people.

The life in which you are given money to ball so hard motherfuckers wanna fine you, the life in which you spend the time that you’re not ‘balling so hard’ napping . . . this is not a real life.

It’s a fucking fantastic dream that’s over in a few years.

After 3 years, or 4 for the lucky few, it no longer becomes acceptable to puke on a dancefloor or have a wee in the road, or even to lose loads of your shit on a night out and spend £100 buying alcoholic beverages.

That’s not to say that graduates don’t or shouldn’t engage in a little uni lifestyle every now and then. Just because it’s unacceptable and pretty  much atrocious behaviour, doesn’t mean you can’t dabble.

11 Books That Changed My Life

My favourite ever book has been turned into a film, a moment I longed for and dreaded in equal measures. With the release fast approaching I thought it might make a nice to change to write about something I love instead of declaring my hatred for various every day things that piss me off. I feel I have reached the stage in my blog writing career where I can become self-indulgent in what I write about, almost like Samuel L. Jackson when he made Snakes On A Plane.

And when I say ’11 Books That Changed My Life’, I mean ’11 Books That Were Seriously Amazing and Left a Deep Impression On Me / Affected Me in Some Way’

It seemed a little too cumbersome for a title.

In no way am I suggesting that these books had such a strong influence on my life as other events like my birth, my near death experience (that’s another blog in itself) and the day when I got an iPhone 5s and could unlock my phone with my thumbprint.

You might be querying the significance of the number 11? It could be because there are only 11 books that changed my life. It might be because 11 is half of 22 and I’m turning 22 this year. Or it could be because I wrote about 11 and thought people might be getting bored and I couldn’t bring myself to delete any of the 11 books I’d already written about to make a nice round 10.

So here are the 11 amazing books  with 11 amazing quotes that affected me in some way or left a deep impression . . .

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  1. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

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At over 1000 pages long one might suggest that The Count of Monte Cristo changed my life because it took up so much of my time. This is a plausible argument. However, it changed my life because I think it is one of the greatest stories ever written. There is pretty much nothing that this book doesn’t contain – love- platonic and romantic, hate, revenge, pain, politics, religion, history, philosophy, psychology. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest novels of all time; Dumas creates characters that you feel entirely invested in. The Count of Monte Cristo is a hugely interesting discussion on human nature dominated by a protagonist who simultaneously repels and irresistibly attracts you.

“Just like there is a gulf between me and the past, so there is a gulf between you and other men, and my most painful torture, I can tell you, is to make comparisons. There is no one in the world your equal; there is nothing that resembles you.”

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.2. Paradise Lost – John Milton

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Not a novel but an epic poem you could probably make the same argument as with Monte Cristo that, at 12 books longs, Paradise Lost changed my life because it took up far too much of my time. Admittedly, it is not an easy read and it is highly unlikely that anyone without an educational or professional interest in the epic poem will ever read it. I will confess that when I was forced to read books 1 and 2 for my AS Levels I was not best pleased at the prospect. However, Paradise Lost caught my imagination more than any other text I have studied. At 12 books long, unsurprisingly, it is rich with so many varying dimensions – politics, religion and misogyny all playing huge roles. Yet the most fascinating aspect for me is that John Milton takes a figure that should be hated, somebody that should disgust us and puts us into his mind. Of course this is something that is done regularly nowadays, one thing that springs to mind is the awesome TV show Dexter, which took a sick psychopath and managed to make me fancy him (but then maybe that’s just my taste in men). However, John Milton did it before it got cool – he took the Devil and made him eloquent and attractive, he led us to feel some sort of empathy with him and an inevitable admiration towards him. I was inspired so much that my dissertation was a modernisation of Paradise Lost in prose form.

“Which way I flie is Hell; my self am Hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threatning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n.”

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3. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

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In my hierarchy of literary favourites this is at number 2. People often express surprise at the fact that I have a hierarchy of literary favourites, but if you know me you will know that I have a tendency to rank everything by favourites –  films, food, friends, family. Oscar Wilde writes with an undeniable beauty and wit that can make any aspiring writer read his work and wish they could sell their soul to the Devil to write like him. The Picture of Dorian Gray is the most interesting depiction of beauty I have ever read. Wilde shows how powerfully alluring and attractive beauty is; he demonstrates that beauty is a thing to be celebrated and yet he shows how appalling and destructive it can be. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a depiction of how everything is not as it seems and the beautiful may also be the damned (yes, that is an elegant phrase stolen from Fitzgerald but it seemed fairly appropriate). However, the best thing about Dorian Gray is that Wilde doesn’t depict the destruction of beauty in a ‘it’s what is on the inside that counts’ kind of way:  there is a very little sense of judgement or dictation at the end of the novel. We are never explicitly told what is right and what is wrong and we are left to make our own judgements. If you have seen the film, please do not judge the novel by that. The film is fucking awful, it is physically painful to watch.

“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

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4. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

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It seems there are few people left unchanged by The Great Gatsby. It is a novel widely considered one of the masterpieces of modern history; a beautifully written story that leaves you feeling slightly unsatisfied at the end. The Great Gatsby has no one singular meaning, it means so many different things to different people. I guess you could say that about any book, but it seems particularly so with The Great Gatsby. To some, its importance is in the disparity between the wealthy and the poor in 1920s America, to others it is in the hedonistic state of a post-war society, or the unique depiction of love or the very interesting portrayal of women. There is so much to be taken from such a small book. One of the most interesting things about The Great Gatsby and one of the most widely debated topics in literary criticism is not its protagonist but its narrator. Studying The Great Gatsby brought to my mind a concept I had never considered – how much of the story can be trusted as truth when narrated by an imperfect human individual.

“I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” 

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5. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

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If there is one way in which this book changed my life it was to give me the understanding that Hollywood movies like The Notebook and Titanic are imperfect in their portrayal of love. The Remains of the Day is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read and I’m not going to lie . .  . pretty much nothing happens. It is an entirely modest portrayal of love and yet it is more true to human nature than any love story I have read, or film I have ever seen. It is more tragic than Allie’s alzeihemers (ardent Notebook fans will know what I’m talking about), it is  more heartbreaking than Rose refusing to budge on that stupid cupboard door (everyone should know what I’m talking about). Ishiguro is a master at creating tragic and entirely depressing literature which, in my sadistic view, is the best kind.

 “Indeed — why should I not admit it? — in that moment, my heart was breaking.” 

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6. Never Let Me Go –Kazuo Ishiguro

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As previously stated Ishiguro is a master of the understated tragedy, a genius in his ability to capture the true misery and beauty of human nature. I’ve just finished a book of his called The Unconsoled, with some moments that genuinely wrenched my heart, and others that frustrated my optimism so much that I almost threw the book across the room and stopped reading halfway through (that is no exaggeration). Never Let Me Go is one of these. I want to do the book justice, but I don’t want to give anything away for those who would like to read it. In this novel Ishiguro does something which I haven’t seen done in the same way (but then again I haven’t read every book in the world) – he deals with the soul in an understanding completely devoid of religion. Ishiguro’s book affected me so much because I found myself feeling that the events within the novel, which are more than slightly immoral, could easily take place within our society.

“Poor creatures. What did we do to you? With all our schemes and plans?” 

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7. Harry Potter . . . all of them

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I felt that after the complete melancholy of Ishiguro I’d bring a little bit of light into the blog. Harry Potter. I find it difficult to respect anyone my age whose life was not changed by Harry Potter. Indeed, I have no respect for the appalling wretches who have only seen the films. Those seven books epitomise my childhood. My Mum used to read The Philosopher’s Stone to us and put on all the voices . . . she did a fantastic Hagrid. The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire were acquired on story tape when my Dad and Stepmum realised it was the best way to appease us for a long car journey. Every time we drove to France on holiday, every time we drove to Norfolk or Leeds or Wales – Harry Potter story tape. At the start, My Mum would buy the latest release, read it in a day and then give it to me or my brother to fight over, but by the time of The Deathly Hallows we were in France and she’d pre-ordered three in advance, because there was no way we could possibly wait. Not after Dumbledore died in The Half Blood Prince. That is no spoiler, everyone knows that Dumbledore dies . . . I remember exactly where I was when I read that chapter. I remember hoping against all hopes that there would be a spell that would bring him back to life. And the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I carried on reading and Dumbledore was still not resurrected. Harry Potter for me is one of the best parts of my childhood, and I am happy to be of the HP generation.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”” 

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 8. Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

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Admittedly, I saw the film before I ventured onto the book, as I’m pretty sure is the general case. And yes, the film is brilliant – not least because of the storyline, but the acting and the cinematography is brilliant. The novel uses an anonymous narrator which is one of my preferred devices in writing (actually I think in my 3 years of studying creative writing I never once named a narrator . . . although this is probably because I hate choosing names). The novel is surprisingly different to the film, to name but one insignificant change the narrator meets Tyler Durden not on an airplane but on a nudist beach. The ending is hugely different and to be honest, as I’m writing it’s late and I can’t be bothered to hold back any spoilers . . . the narrator wakes up in a mental hospital and not only has a debate with God, but is approached by employees who turn out to be Project members telling him that the project is still going ahead as planned. This book knows how to do a twist, a twist that no one saw coming . . . until everyone saw the film. For me it brought to the forefront of my mind, the monotony of life, psychology and the role of capitalism and advertising.

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” 

9. Life of Pi – Yann Martel

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So everyone told me this book was amazing, that it was brilliant and I had to read it. I got ¾ of the way through the book and thought I was missing out on something, it was good but it wasn’t incredible. I started to think that perhaps people had built it up too much. However, it is not until the final chapter when the book reveals itself and it’s true worth. I have never known a book to entirely change in the final chapter, and make you reassess everything you have read previously. It’s fantastic. The book is pretty religious which people might find off putting. Something that fascinated me was that the protagonist devoutly follows three religions; he is Christian, Jewish and Muslim. This is a notion I had never previously considered and I thought it a fascinating concept.

“The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity; it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.” 

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10. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

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There seems to be few who can do romance like the female novelists writing in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The Brontë sisters included under this broad statement, and Emily Brontë in particular. I can’t say that this novel changed my life in anyway other than perhaps setting the precedent of an eternal passion like that of Cathy and Heathcliffe’s. In fact, I don’t think literature has really helped in setting a supremely elevated precedent for my understanding of love and passion.

“May she wake in torment!” he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. “Why, she’s a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there—not in heaven—not perished—where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

11. The Book Thief  – Marcus Zusak 

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This is the only book I have willingly read more than once – in fact that I have read four times. This is the only book that has ever made me cry. This is only the book to make me cry four times, for every time I read it. It isn’t a classic, it isn’t particularly hard to read (although the opening is quite confusing, you’ve got to power through), it is just a lovely book. It’s set in Nazi Germany but it’s less a depiction of Fascism and more a representation of human nature with a Fascist backdrop. I have never felt so entirely invested in characters, to me, they are so human. Even though everyone spends most of their time calling each other ‘Arshloch’ a.k.a ‘Asshole’,  it is not only a lovely depiction of human relationships but it is a true one – I spend most of my time calling my friends things like asshole but probably with more profanity. Since I have never felt so invested in characters, I have never felt so heartbroken when they die. The book is truly beautiful; it made me laugh out loud, and it made me cry. I mean, it is narrated by death . . . that’s pretty damn brilliant. It is a book that, within it, portrays the special role books can play in a person’s life and the power of words. And the best thing about it (and this is how I judge a good book): as I was reading it I wanted so much to finish it so that I could find out what happened in the end, and yet when I finished I felt sad and slightly empty that it was over.

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant. . . I am haunted by humans.”

I’m seriously excited and seriously anxious about seeing the film because I have a feeling that, though it might be a good film, no film will ever be able to do the book the justice that it deserves. To be honest, I think that’s the case with all literature. The film may be good by itself, but in comparison to the book it can never surpass. The most recent Baz Luhrmann rendering of The Great Gatsby was great, but there is so much in the book itself that can never be transferred to film. The Remains of The Day starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, nominated for eight academy awards, was a wonderful film but not nearly as subtly beautiful as the book. And like I’ve already insinuated, The Picture of Dorian Gray film was pretty damn horrendous.

So there we have it. 11 of the best books that I have ever read.

I realise that anyone who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of literature may not have found this particularly interesting. If you a) actually carried on reading or if you b) actually like my cynical and sarcastic blog posts . . . well not to worry, I’ll be back soon, cynical and sarcastic as ever.

For anyone who does appreciate the beauty of literature  . . .  you are better people than that other lot. And if you actually read physical books, as opposed to kindles or their lesser known equivalents, you are even better and you will go straight to heaven when the kindlers will be stuck in purgatory.

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New Year, New Me

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The ill-fated new year’s resolution has become a sort of societal ritual.

In my personal opinion, it was popularised by pop-culture (the clue is in the name). In particular, I think for many of the female clan, it was a certain Bridget Jones who brought the New Year’s Resolution to the forefront of our psyche.

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Whether she is the Queen of all fuck-ups, or just a normal human being, is debatable. But she certainly highlights at least three of the most common new year’s resolutions:-

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1. Stop Smoking

2. Lose Weight

3. Get Fit

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And to be fair to her, the girl did try

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but, inevitably, she fails.

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However, in her case, this becomes inconsequential because the guy who wore tacky Christmas jumpers before they got cool likes her very much. Just as she is.

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This is very rarely the case because, at the end of the day, it is a fictional girly rom com. I certainly  haven’t had a sweet Christmas jumper wearing gentleman saying this to me. Although, I’m not entirely certain that any Mark Darcys actually exist in reality.

For a number of years, post Bridget Jones, I made New Year’s Resolutions without any real conviction or desire to follow-through, simply because I felt I should.

However, with the close of 2012, I made a New Year”s Resolution that I actually believed in, and that I genuinely wanted to commit myself to.

I was looking forward to 2013, but I also knew that it was going to be a tough year. I knew that final year would be a challenge with the pressure to achieve. I knew that I would really struggle with graduation, that I would miss university life, and miss living with and around my best friends. I didn’t know, but I thought that looking for a job might be depressing, even though I clung to a vain hope that I would be successful almost immediately. To say the least, I was rather apprehensive about 2013.

My New Year’s Resolution was to be more positive.

Some snooty skeptics might turn their noses up at such a resolution because it cannot be physically measured like losing weight or getting fit.

Other skeptics might turn their noses up at it because they may think it’s almost impossible to change your psychological and emotional outlook.

To the skeptics, I say, perhaps your resolution should be to stop being so fucking skeptical.

I decided to be more positive and not to dwell on the bad things when they happened but, in a quintessentially British style, to just keep moving.

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I understand that my slightly cynical and sarcastic, okay, highly cynical and sarcastic, blog posts may not support my claim that in 2013 I became a more positive and happier person.

But to me, being more positive was taking the shit things and laughing about them. Writing posts and telling stories about the shit things in life that (hopefully) made other people laugh. Especially people that were in the same situation.

To be more positive was, undoubtedly, the best and most successful resolution, I’ve ever made. I haven’t thought of a 2014 New Year’s Resolution but it is going to have to be very good to compete. I certainly know that it’s not going to simply be ‘to lose weight’ or ‘to get fit’. The majority of people who make resolutions like that, and ‘to stop smoking’ will fail because if they really wanted to lose weight, stop smoking, or get fit they wouldn’t need the New Year as an excuse to do it, they’d just do it. I decided to be more positive because I knew that to get through 2013 happily, I would need to be. January 1st was the perfect time to do this.

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2013 proved to be one of the hardest years I’ve had yet to tackle in my long 21 years of life.

2013 also proved to be one of the best years I’ve ever had.

Anyone reading this, is probably someone who made it so, because I don’t believe, that anyone other than my obliging friends or family reads these posts.

Good Luck in 2014. Prove me wrong.