August 2017 | Monthly Wrap Up

Wednesday 30 August 2017

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August has been Game of Thrones month. There’s no other way to describe. There are dragons and direwolves everywhere!

Favourite part?

When I initially thought about it, this month has seemed quite uneventful, although in reality, I have actually done quite a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time at home getting my mountain of college work done and I’m proud to say I finished both my History and English coursework. Proud or what?

Aside from that, I’ve spent a lot of time with family. We visited Beaulieu in the New Forest and Stone Henge and nearer the end of the month, we spent some time in Cornwall, relaxing and drinking wine. Pretty good, if you ask me.

One evening, me and two friends saw Mamma Mia! in an outdoor cinema outside our local shopping centre. It was raining, very heavily, but the waterproof I brought with me made sure I wasn't completely soaked through. It was silent, as we had headphones, so we must have looked like complete weirdos singing along to nothing, but it was so much fun. I will never forget dancing and singing along to Waterloo in the rain with good friends and strangers alike.

Best read?

This month I reviewed The Metropolis of Glass by Chloe Lee on this here blog as it was sent to me by the lovely people at Troubador Publishing. You can read it here, although I have to say it did feel quite average. I have also read Doing It! by Hannah Witton, one of my longtime favourite YouTubers. It’s a great information guide which I think should definitely be compulsory in schools across the country. I have also been reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and love it. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series, though I’ll have to do it slowly alongside my A2 year.

Favourite tunes?

The Anastasia soundtrack has been on repeat all month. I love it. I basically know it all off by heart. Dmitri is my love.

Favourite watch?

This month I watched the three series of Broadchurch and oh my god it’s so good. I would recommend it to anyone. So so good!

As I said before, August has been Game of Thrones month. My mum has been watching the series for the past year or so now and I’ve dipped in here and there with brief catch ups, though this month I watched The Story So Far programme and series 7 along with catching up through clips, rewinds and character stories on YouTube so that I’ve basically know everything. I’ve watched so many videos analyzing the symbolism of the different houses and lots of theories for so many different plotlines. I think it’s fair to say I’m obsessed.

I suppose I should have put Mamma Mia! in this section. Never mind...

What did I learn?

Redrafting coursework is hard! You can’t force yourself to do work when you’re not in the right mindset (although sometimes you have to). Doing a little bit of exercise here and there isn’t too difficult at all.

What’s happening next month?

I go back to college part way through the month and the weekend after I go to Newcastle and York for open days at the unis there, which I’m really looking forward to. Apart from that, there’s nothing except A levels to keep my mind busy.

What’s been on my mind?

The state of America (as in the crappy state, not a State). I cried for hours about the events of Charlottesville which made an even deeper impact as I was doing my History coursework at the time, which is all about African American civil rights. I want to help so much but I feel helpless. I feel proud of everyone who’s fought back and hope that fascists won’t win. They didn’t before, so why should they now? Those who have marched against fascism have already had some success, but we can’t stop fighting.

Favourite blogger/vlogger?

I’ve been loving watching Jean Menzies aka BookishThoughts. No matter the subject of her videos, I always find them so interesting. I would particularly recommend her videos if you want a great BookTuber or some good advice for university and studying/productivity in general.

Favourite post?

I’ve written a lot and planned a lot this month, so I’m super proud of myself for that. Out of the posts published this month, however, I think I’d have to say that Why We Need to Stop Making Women-Only Reboots was my favourite. It’s something I feel so strongly about and it had a great reception. I started writing (and planning) a lot more study posts this month and I actually love it. This is the start of a new topic on Another Ranting Reader.

Biggest inspiration?

Deadlines for the beginning of September and panic at the thought of not getting into uni next year. That’s always the driver, right?

Any other favourites?

Cooking. It’s quite a random one but I’ve been cooking loads for my family lately and I love it. I’ve made several lasagnas, curries and have mastered a lunch of fried mushrooms on toast with soy sauce and peppers!

If you liked this post you might like: July 2017 | Monthly Wrap Up

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How To: Wider Reading for A Level

Monday 28 August 2017

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Wider reading is a key part of A Levels and any education level beyond that. Your teachers will hound you about doing extra reading, reading around your subject, and that sounds really daunting at first. We’ve got enough work to do already without doing work that isn’t required, right? At first, I just put wrote wider reading off completely because of that reason, and, to be fair, I know people who have gotten through AS year with great grades and haven’t done any wider reading, but personally a little bit here and there has definitely helped me understand my subjects better. There are ways to do wider reading that doesn't add to your stress and it’s not necessarily just thick academic text books.

1. Documentaries are everything

Who doesn’t love a good documentary? Exactly. You could have it in the background while you get on with something else, even if it’s just something like tidying your room. I watched so many documentaries relating to Russian history before I started my History A Level and it definitely helped me understand the content once I was actually started being taught it. If you watch a documentary in class, then rewatch it again at home to reaffirm the information in your brain, or if you didn’t finish it in class, finish it at home.

2. Make use of podcasts

There are loads of academic (and not-so academic) podcasts out there that you can use to dig deeper into your subject. From the wealth of lectures available on iTunes U to book club podcasts, you can gain so much from podcasts and there are podcasts available for every subject you could possibly study. Seriously. Some podcasts I use for wider reading are What am politics? History Hit, The Guilty Feminist and the Banging Book Club (feminist literature pals, it counts). You just need to have a browse.

3. Use reading for leisure as a tool for learning

Reading books is something I’ll always be a huge advocate for, no matter what it is. If you’re reading for leisure you may as well make sure that what you’re reading in some way connected to your studies. For example, I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley-Wollstonecraft in relation to my English coursework, which was based on The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, which is of the gothic genre. It was short and helped me get some background.

4. Only do as much as you feel possible.

A Levels are stressful as they are without wider reading. Your only priority is your mental wellbeing. Yes, your studies are important but they always come second to your mental health. Never compromise on that. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop doing so much. It’s not always necessary. Only do a little if that’s what’s best for you.

5. Find your own way of doing things

Figure out what’s best for you. If podcasts or documentaries don’t work for you, then find another way of expanding your knowledge that suits you. There are loads of different ways of learning, you just have to figure out what works best for you.

If you liked this post you might like: My Advice to New A Level Students

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Opportunity, Judgement and Self-Growth

Friday 25 August 2017

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Since moving from the edge of Wales to slightly over an hour’s train journey to London, I have noticed a significant difference in the way creativity is judged and perceived from the perspective of young people (I mean, I can’t really have any other perspective at this point in my life), and the opportunities available in different parts of the countries, notably more concentrated in the areas surrounding London.

Now living in a more urban area, on the outskirts of a city, with a noticeably larger population, I had to move on to a sixth form college rather than remain at my secondary school to complete my A Levels. College has allowed myself, as well as many of my peers, to dig deeper into topics that interest us and to discover for ourselves what our passions are and to pursue them. Through college, I’ve never felt more myself. I’ve campaigned for the things I believe in (not just on social media for those of you skeptics who think that I live on Twitter, I do leave the echo chamber sometimes) and I’ve branched out creatively so that I feel like I’ve got more options than ever.

But why is this? Why now?

Some may say that it’s the time in my life where self-discovery is most prominent. I’m 17, going on 18 (yes, I did just sing Rolf’s part in the Sound of Music song of my childhood), so this period is the clichéd ‘coming of age’ period in my life that I’ve seen predicted to me in countless teen movies through my rose-tinted television screen. This is the age of self-discovery, right? Partly true. I do think we develop more at a young age as we come across lots of new things and experiences for the first time, but I think it is also ignorant and unfair to say that as soon as you reach ‘adulthood’ you are now your concrete self. When we reach 18, that’s the person we will be forever, when in fact we are never really the same person from one moment to the next. Lots of people do more developing later on and feel more comfortable in themselves later on, and that’s okay. There’s a lot of pressure on people to ‘find themselves’ and carve out who they want to be when they are barely out in the real world. No one ever finishes developing. Ever. We keep developing until our dying breath and it takes time to accept that.

I think that, if I hadn’t had such a change in my life after my move, I wouldn’t have grown into the person I am now – with all the likes, passions, dislikes and knowledge I have accumulated along the way – due to the opportunities that were made available to me. By merely being in the South of England, with more people and more teachers to teach more subjects that have now carved my future due to the fact that I was vaguely interested and wanted to learn a little more about the world from subjects that seemed exotic to me. My friends, who have been denied the opportunity to study what I have studied, have told me they wished that had been made available to them and I think it should have been.

I am now also closer to London. London, with all its events, museums and experiences waiting to happen. I have to admit that I do still think of London in a kind of romantic light. In my mind, it’s a place of excitement, opportunity, and unknown prospects – think One Short Day from Wicked. I’m aware that’s a naïve way of thinking but I don’t care. It keeps me excited for the future.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunities I have had and I feel so ashamed and sad that the same opportunities aren’t given to others who would benefit from them similarly. We need broaden out events so that they take place across the whole of the UK, not just London. At many events I’ve been to, there’s been a camera live streaming. This is where we need to embrace the digital age truly and get the word out about events we may be able to watch and learn from as if we were there ourselves.

A lot needs to be done within the education system, mostly in rural areas. To me, sixth form colleges, apprenticeships or any other way of moving on after finishing GCSEs is the best way to go about things. When I was in Year 11, I felt like I had outgrown school. It was refreshing to be in an institute that was there specifically for people my age. No 11-year-olds down the corridor making noise or playing tag in the playground. Having moved away from school, I think that myself and my classmates have matured a lot more. As a creative person wanting to pursue a creative career (as are most of my friendship group) and I think that we all feel less judged for our dreams now. This is because there are so many people in college that there is no way you can know everyone and there isn’t the same sort of hierarchy as there is in secondary school. Due to those increased numbers, you can find people who are more akin to yourself – in this case, a massive group of creatives coming together and helping each other push forwards (quick interval: love you guys, you’re the best. Okay, now continue). With less social pressure to not doubt our passions, we have been able to explore them more and advance our skills.

That’s everyone’s aim, right?

So, because I have benefited so much from the experience of college (the actual A levels and studying are not included here, that’s stress city, but it’s the experience I’m more focused on here), I think that they should be introduced in more places across the country and to a higher standard (as well as other post-16 options, although as I haven’t taken those routes I’m not as educated on them so if you have then feel free to tell me your experiences with it).

If you liked this post you might like: Criticising Something You Love

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My Advice to New A Level Students

Monday 21 August 2017

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I am about to go into my second year of A Levels, having struggled my way through the first year. I hope I can help any of you who are starting sixth form this September. Good luck to you all!

Use your frees wisely

At the beginning of the year, even at the end of the year now that I think about it, many people in my year spent their free periods socialising then having to do their work at the last minute. I then watched as they stressed out later on and panicked. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet or anything but I’m quite happy with the way I’ve used my frees this year. I tried to do all the work I had whilst I was in college so I could have the evening to relax. This stopped later on as revision started, but I think it really helped me keep calm at the beginning. Obviously, there’ll be days when you want to go outside and socialise and you should – just make sure you get your work done as well as taking breaks and being mindful of your mental health.

Get a planner

My planner is my lifeline. I honestly don’t know how I would last more than a day without it. I get it out at the beginning of every lesson and I have my life in there. I use it for planning blog posts, homework, coursework, monthly goals, making notes of events in my personal/social life, my D of E (when I did it) as well as paid work and the day to day to-do lists I use to keep myself productive. Time management is a key skill you will learn when you start your A Levels and a planner is something that helped me (and my friends) a lot with keeping on top of everything. It doesn’t have to be expensive or even a physical object, some people prefer to use apps like Reminders or Calendar to help them manage their workload, you just have to figure what suits you.

Speak to your teachers

They’re there to help. Ask the question you think is stupid, it might help in your exam. Give them practice answers you’ve written and make sure you have something to work on. Ask them for help on any areas that you’re stuck on, They’re there to help. They’re literally getting paid to help you. Obviously, don’t go to them constantly. You are meant to be more independent at A Level but your teachers will still help you when you need it.

Do some sort of wider reading

A Level requires a lot more than GCSE did. Read around your subject in any way possible to give your background information which will improve your understanding, your coursework (if you have it in your subject) and your exam answers. For example, in A Level Government & Politics, a lot of examples are required and wider reading provides the examples that are needed. In English, reading lots of texts in relation to the texts you actually study helps you understand those curriculum texts better and develop your interpretations of them.

Wider reading doesn’t have to be daunting or stressful. It could be in the form of documentaries (for politics, documentaries such as Meet the Commons and Meet the Lords), TV shows (e.g. Question Time or the News), the newspapers, apps (for languages etc.), books (both fiction and non-fiction), films, podcasts, YouTube videos. The list is endless. Don’t take on too much at the beginning, you can build it up and change the amount you’re doing to suit your workload. Keep a note of what you’re reading, you could mention it in your personal statement.

Secure work experience early

Believe me, you’ll need some sort of work experience before you finish sixth form. Get as much as you can (obviously within reason, don’t spend your whole time doing work experience and manage your A Level work, that’s your priority) in the relevant field. You can use it, and what you’ve learned from it in your personal statement if you want to go to university. If you don’t want to go to university, it will still be useful as experience when applying for jobs or apprenticeships. Any experience in the right area will do you a lot of good in the long run. Get it organized early on then you won’t have the extra stress of finding a position late along with everyone else who didn’t think about it earlier.

Take your learning into your own hands

You are given a lot less support by your teachers at A Level – it’s a fact no matter what school or college you attend. You become a lot more independent and whilst your teachers should provide you help when you need it, you shouldn’t be relying on them. Look up the mark schemes and extra details for yourself. Look ahead at what you’re going to be studying. Revise the content without being prompted by your teacher in homework. Once you take proper control of your studies and learning, you will benefit most from your own individualized approach.

I wish you the best of luck if you are starting A Levels – they’re going to be very hard, stressful and you’ll probably have a few breakdowns at the least, but you can pull through it still. Support your friends, help your classmates and talk to your family.  Remember: your mental health is priority – it’s okay to take the odd day off here and there to help you cope with the stress you’re under.

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Why We Need to Stop Making Women-Only Reboots

Friday 18 August 2017

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Women in film has been a huge discussion lately, particularly in the last few years. Films such as Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Eleven (not yet released) having reboots with all-female casts, with a pressures for a future female James Bond being applied from lots different areas (including actors who want to take on the iconic role), has put the issue into the spotlight and have been named as huge steps forward for feminism. Really?

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I personally am not a big fan of the idea of women-only reboots, particularly that of films that are already iconic and adored by millions of loyal fans – women most definitely included within that fan base! The characters that these women are taking on are already well established, setting them up for failure in the audiences’ mind as they have pre-built expectations of what the character should be, leaving the actor little room to interpret a character they may want to experiment with. There will inevitably be some disappointment. And fingers will point at the fact that that character is now a woman, not the way she is written or the plot of the actual film or the direction. If there’s a woman involved, that’s seen as the only problem.

I enjoy the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters. I find it fun to watch, have seen it a few times and no doubt that I’ll see it many more times in the future. It’s a family favourite now. My dad, a huge fan of the original, even said to me that he likes it as much as the original. You can imagine how much I was impressed by that statement. But I enjoy the original as well. And I don’t necessarily feel like the reboot really brought anything to the story overall. For a discussion on this film, in particular, I would definitely recommend watching Hazel Hayes’ video on it.

I’m fed up with all-female casted reboots of films that don’t need it. For some reason that is viewed by a lot of the media as a breakthrough in the name of feminism, when it really isn’t. We need to first ask ourselves how diverse these apparently progressive films are, and the way they present women of all backgrounds as well as the reception they receive. Suddenly switching male characters to female ones doesn’t do much in reality – in fact, it seems lazy. Why implant femininity on characters that have been pre-made in a more masculine way when you could just make a brand new, well developed and interesting female character? An original that has no pre-conceived perceptions attached to her.

I just want people to stop recycling male characters and start creating believable, representative and interesting fictional women that audiences can get invested in. That’s all I want. Plleeasssee...

If you liked this post you might like: 'Women's Fiction'
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The Metropolis of Glass by Chloe Lee | Review | #Gifted

Monday 14 August 2017

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A while ago, I was sent The Metropolis of Glass by Chloe Lee from the lovely people at Troubador Publishing. I have to admit that I only actually read it last week as my reading for A Levels kind of got in the way. The life of a student blogger, right?

The Metropolis of Glass is a poetry book written by Chloe Lee, a young poet I’d never heard of before. It was an easy read, there’s no doubt about that. I read it in about 3 days, although in actual time it was more like less than two hours. If you’re just getting into poetry, this may be a good place to start; it’s someone unknown (relatively, obviously now you know her name) with easy messages and relatively short (I mean, in comparison to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for example). I personally found Lee’s poetry a bit frustrating due to those reasons, however.

I found this poetry collection to be, I hate to say it, average at best. Nothing shocked me, no lines struck me at my core, made me think about something I’d never thought to think about before or brought me back to a certain point in my life. I found it annoying that the meanings were so blatant and didn’t initially spark much further thought. The meanings of the poems I found quite annoying as well, I mean there’s nothing necessarily better about a non-digitalised world, just saying. Many of the poems had a similar tone. This becomes increasingly obvious with each listed triad of either nouns, adjectives, verbs or adverbs (only one type of word at a time) in practically every poem. This just gets boring after a while. I can cope with that kind of listing in one poem but when it becomes the poet’s trademark I just start rolling my eyes each time I see one list.

Okay, rant over.

It was a fairly easy read so I would recommend it if you’re looking for some easy to understand poetry. If you’re looking for something more advanced and well crafted, then maybe look somewhere else. I will continue to look out for Lee’s work, probably more in the hope that I can read something that is an improvement on this (sorry Chloe Lee if you’re reading this).

If you liked this post you might like: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote | Review

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5 Tips for When Your Flight is Cancelled

Friday 11 August 2017

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A few weeks ago, after a lovely holiday in Berlin, my flight back was cancelled and rescheduled to the next day. I think it’s fair to say I learned from that experience. If you’re reading this you may be in the same situation, so here are some tips that should be useful - they helped me at least.

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1. Know what you’re entitled to

My mum sent me this link almost as soon as I told her I was stranded for 24 hours. Citizens’ Advice sets out everything you’re legally entitled to varying by how long your delay is. It’s so useful, especially when you're badgering the airport staff to ensure you get everything you should. That includes food, drink, a hotel for the night and taxis to get there and back.

2. Do something you know calms you down

This is such a personal thing. One of my friends had a breakdown, yelled some Bible verses and was okay after a few minutes. Another one read us her favourite poem, which seemed oddly fitting to the situation. I’m not quite sure what I did. I probably made some jokes that weren’t funny, let’s be honest. The first thing I did was FaceTime my family, to let them know what was going on. Do whatever suits you but make sure you keep an eye on what others may be feeling, particularly people you may know to have mental health problems. Do something that will make it easier for them.

3. Keep all your receipts

You shouldn’t have to be buying the things you are. Make sure you keep any receipts so that you can claim the money back afterwards. Obviously, this doesn’t count for luxury items like alcohol or electronics, despite how much we may want it to. Keep track of everything, no matter how big or small.

4. Eat something

Particularly if you have a long delay. Make sure you eat like you normally would and don’t let the sudden change affect your physical health. In fact, eating will help you stay calm, meaning you can handle the situation in a much better way.

5. Make the most of your hotel!

You’re there for free, make use of everything you can. You’ll probably need to check out by their normal time, but that shouldn’t stop you. Have as big a breakfast as possible and stock up. When I was stuck in Berlin I took everything I could, right down to the box of tissues I the bathroom (which I have next to me on my desk) and a box of shoe cleaner which I’ll probably never use.

If you liked this post you might like: 5 (1/2) Days in Berlin
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Is There Such Thing as a Perfect Feminist?

Friday 4 August 2017

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I feel like there’s a lot of pressure among activists to be the perfect activist – the perfect feminist, the perfect vegan, the perfect campaigner etc., who never puts a step wrong, only furthering their causes constantly. In reality, as much as everyone would love to be perfect at what they do, this isn’t always realistic and can be damaging to expect that of people.

I have seen many people being ripped apart on social media (Twitter, I’m looking at you) for tiny mistakes that could easily have been a slip of the tongue, a spontaneous thought, or something that may not even have come across their mind. And to me, that doesn’t seem so healthy. What’s the point in yelling (figuratively) at someone when they’ve done something wrong – the offending person will just get defensive, and then they won’t learn and no one will be better off, only perhaps worse as that person may now be put off from listening to the reasoning of anyone who calls them out. This is why we need to have a more relaxed, less shouty approach to calling people out. Through a calm debate and discussion, we can get people to understand why their comments or action were so insensitive to others, which they can then let other people know and apologise properly, rather than being forced into an apology they don’t understand. Surely that’s more beneficial to an overall cause.

My god, I would love to meet the perfect feminist. How incredible would that be? But as flawed humans, everyone will naturally be a flawed feminist. That, I think, is why the Guilty Feminist podcast is so popular. It recognises that, while we strive forwards in the name of feminism, we can’t always do everything in the way we would like to. And that’s okay – as long as we accept it when we get called out, learn from it and move on so that one day we could 

It’s okay not to be perfect, as long as you’re doing the best you can.

If you liked this post you might like: 5 Feminist Bloggers You Should Be Reading

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