Let's Talk About Results Day | Life Update

Monday 27 August 2018

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A lot has happened in the past week and a half. Well, I say a lot. In reality it’s mostly been watching literary documentaries on BBC iPlayer, drinking soya chocolate milk and sneezing almost non-stop for 3 days. 
However, in a more figurative sense, a lot has, in fact happened, and you can probably guess why.

Two Thursdays ago was A Level Results Day – a day when thousands of 17 and 18-year-olds wake up at dawn after hardly any sleep (at least, in my case) in order to find out where their immediate future is taking them.

I am so glad to say that I got into my first choice university, and in less than a month I’ll be packing my bags and heading to Newcastle. It’s a bit surreal to think about to be honest, especially knowing that my friends are going all over the country as well, but I guess it will hit me at some point, probably on my birthday which is 2 weeks into my time at uni. 

Results Day itself was a mixture of emotions for me. The moment itself was slightly underwhelming. I saw my results, I found out I got into uni, and that was that. I was happy but a bit dazed, and, to be honest, I felt kind of disappointed. It was still 7:30am after an awful night’s sleep, so I wasn’t exactly with it. It took me at least 10 minutes to realise what had happened and to feel proud of my achievements. After shouting about how proud I felt on social media, doubt and insecurity then set in. I felt like I should have and could have done better (bearing in mind I worked myself practically sick for these grades) and ended up seriously considering deleting the tweet I’d put up saying my grades.

Later on, I came to a much healthier conclusion about my grades, after having reasoned with myself for a while. For example, I have always known that I am much better at coursework and research projects over exams, and exams never show what I truly know, despite how much effort I might put in. I am fully aware that my knowledge in the subject which had my lowest grade in is at a much higher standard than what my grade portrayed, even though that was still a pretty good grade. Although it wasn’t necessarily what I hoped to get, I’m still trying to focus on the fact that it did what I needed it to do: get me to the next stage in my academic career. 

It can be difficult sometimes to separate yourself from the toxicity of the competitive atmosphere, even if you’re painfully aware of it and want to celebrate your friends’ successes instead of fixating on your own insecurities. Everyone should be proud of what they got, even if it wasn’t what they were expecting or wanted. A Levels are bloody stressful and it’s a huge achievement to have even taken the exams. 

I am looking forward to learning again, hopefully this time more on my own terms, and in a style that I prefer and know works best for me. 

Here’s to what’s to come.

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5 Days in Paris

Friday 24 August 2018

Just under three weeks ago now, I visited Paris with one of my best pals Lizzi. Paris is a place I’ve always wanted to go to (and I know the same for Lizzi too), so we were both absolutely buzzing. Here’s what we got up to:


Waking up at 4am isn’t normally something I like to make a habit of, but on this occasion it didn’t prove too difficult as we had to be somewhere and I think our excitement combined with the surprising amount of daylight also had something to do with it. 

When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, we had a slight issue trying to get out and to meet our taxi, but we managed to make it in the end, and were soon on our way to the centre of Paris. Our taxi dropped us off outside Hank’s Pizza, a vegan pizza place we had found beforehand on Happy Cow. However, we arrived there at 10am, and Hank’s opens at 12, meaning we had some time to kill with our massive rucksacks on our backs. 

Across the street from Hank’s is a juice place, which we stopped off at before finding a park about 2 minutes away. The juice wasn’t the best (I had some weird rose drink and Lizzi had some kind of charcoal-lemonade) and was definitely overpriced, but to be honest, we were past caring at that point.

Once we’d finished our drinks, we went for a bit of an explore around the area and we ended up finding the Pompidou Centre – and what a MONSTROCITY! Perhaps the ugliest building I’d ever seen, but there we are. It’s a landmark we can now say we’ve seen. There happened to be a Metro station right nearby, so we went down and had a look at the prices and the maps so it would make our first journey easier. 

Lunch at Hank’s was just what we needed – absolutely lush. We got 2 quite large slices of pizza with a drink (they had a Fairtrade non-Coca-Cola brand cola drink!) and a dessert for I think it was somewhere around 13 (I can’t remember precisely). Very tasty and useful for us to have in mind whenever we needed somewhere to eat.

After eating and having a bit of a rest from the weight of our backpacks and the heat, we headed towards our flat in Clichy. 

Our little flat was so cute and exactly what we needed. We popped round to the supermarket about 2 minute walk away and after having some food and some of the cheapest rosé we could find, headed out to find a bar nearby – we eventually found a busy bar on a corner of a square and had cocktails. After heading back we danced to the Ratatouille soundtrack and lots of other random songs that are even vaguely associated with Paris. A great start to our trip. 


The next morning, we left the house in the late morning, and headed towards the area of Canal St. Martin, where we planned on having lunch. We looked for a vegan café called Sol Semilla, but when we got there saw how overly priced it was, especially considering as the menu mostly consisted of salads, so decided to go to another café we had passed earlier for some hummus toast. The food was so tasty and it turned out to be a lovely place to stop and take a look at the canal. After food we had a bit of a wander around, taking a look in various different shops on the side of the canal, particularly a graphics and magazine shop which had practically anything and everything. 

We then headed to the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Not everyone would find something like that interesting, and it was certainly much quieter than some other destinations we’d visited, despite the small crowd which helped us find Oscar Wilde’s tomb (we couldn’t find Jim Morrison no matter how hard we tried. Soz Jim, mate). However, I would certainly recommend it as a place to visit as we found it fascinating. I know I can speak for both myself and Lizzi when I say that we find cemeteries in general interesting, for so many reasons. This one is slightly different. Père-Lachaise is genuinely beautiful, and not simply because of the lavish tombs and graves of obviously rich families. The cobbled roads and overhanging trees in combination with the quiet created quite a peaceful atmosphere. I could just imagine coming there to sit with a book on a sunny or crisp autumn day.

Once we’d given up on finding Jim Morrison, we headed over to Sacre-Coeur. I think it goes without saying that the atmosphere there was very different to Père-Lachaise – we went from quiet, peaceful and slighty more obscure to our first properly touristy visit of the trip. It was worth it though. The Sacre-Coer is absolutely beautiful and the view from every level the steps go to is cool to look out from, especially to try and spot the different places you’ve been and famous landmarks (it took us about 2 seconds to find the Pompidou Centre, it looked so out of place with the rest of the city it felt quite jarring). 

After making our way back to our flat for a shower, a new pair of clothes and some food, we headed back into the centre for a night out. Lizzi had seen a ‘secret’ bar in a YouTube video so we decided to give it a try. We weren’t sure we were actually in the right place, but once we saw a bouncer outside a laundromat we knew it was the place we were looking for. Lavomatic was amazing – it was so cool walking through the machine and up the stairs. It was quite small and felt quite intimate. The whole aesthetic of the bar was so cute and, well, let’s just say Parisians have strong drinks – I would definitely recommend and will go back there if I ever go to Paris again.

We then made our way to the Point Zero, where we first saw the River Seine and Notre Dame, which looked absolutely beautiful in the warm hue of the sun setting under the skyline. Just around the corner from Notre Dame is Paris’ oldest nightclub, Caveau de la Huchette. On arrival and seeing the entrance fee of Euros 10 euros, we took a while to decide whether or not we would go in, choosing to get drinks in the bar directly opposite – what is almost definitely the shittiest bar in Paris, George’s Cafè. There, we each had a shot of some ridiculously strong concoction of alcohol which took several goes for us to get completely down. 

Going to Caveau’s was perhaps one of the best experiences of my life. When we arrived the dancefloor was empty, and Lizzi took a few minutes to persuade me to dance up there with her. I don’t know whether it was the alcohol (it was almost definitely the alcohol) but I somehow agreed to being dragged onto the floor and soon was dancing like no one was watching. I was so outside of my comfort zone and I have honestly never felt more alive. It was one of those experiences that reminded me that I should stop giving a f*ck or caring what people think and just do what makes me happy.

We spent about 4 hours in Caveau’s, dancing on and off from gulping down water, cooling ourselves down by a draft in the corner, persuading other people to dance with us and making new friends. I honestly can’t imagine a better night. If you want a great night out, head to Paris. It’ll do you well.


It shouldn’t really be a surprise that we slept in late on Wednesday. We got up very late and made lunch at the flat before heading into the main city. Initially, we were set on visiting the catacombs, but when we arrived the queue was up to 3 hours long, so we thought we would use our time better elsewhere. Instead, we swapped the catacombs for the Musée d’Orsay, which we had planned on going to the next day.

The Musèe d’Orsay is wonderful, and, in fact, I much prefer it to the Louvre, but more on that later. The museum is housed in the old Gare d’Orsay (railway station of Orsay), and is absolutely stunning. The building itself becomes an exhibit in its own right.

The Musèe d’Orsay have some incredible exhibits, most notably a collection of Van Gogh paintings, as he lived in Montmartre. Liz had seen a few Van Goghs, but I had never seen any in person before and, honestly, my mind was blown. There is such a difference between seeing paintings in pictures online, or on TV or on a print and seeing them in person. I was entranced by so many of them. I hope to see more of his work at some point.

From the Musèe d’Orsay, we went to the Louvre, which I had to say, felt a little underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, we still had a great time looking at the exhibits and it’s a stunningly beautiful building, but I think that the Musèe d’Orsay was more suited to both mine and Liz’s tastes. I am still so glad we went to the Louvre as it’s one of those places that’s a must when visiting Paris and I’m sure if you’re a person who absolutely loves medieval art, I’m sure you could probably spend days looking at everything there.

(Also, if you’re an EU citizen under 26 you can get into most museums for free, so if you go make sure you make use of that!)

Later that evening, we went to Shakespeare and Company, the English language bookshop in the Quartier Latin and which has been a place of pilgrimage for writers and readers for decades. The shop is practically in the shadow of Notre Dame and is gorgeous in its own right even without the views from the windows. This place was one of my top priorities for our trip and I was in awe the whole time we were there. I bought myself an F. Scott Fitzgerald book I’d been interested in for a while and a little postcard as a small memento. 


After seeing the ridiculous queue for the Catacombs on Wednesday, we made sure we were up and out relatively early, so that we’d get to the entrance at least half an hour before it opened. However, there was still a significant line. The heat was intense and we made sure we were properly sun creamed and hydrated. We got talking to a lovely American family who were in the queue behind us, one of whom had lived in Paris for many years and said that she went to parties in the catacombs in the 1980s, which we couldn’t believe actually happened! 

Initially, we thought we’d get in reasonably quickly, but the queue moved very slowly and we ended up waiting for nearly 3 hours to get in. Waiting out in the heat was exhausting, but the catacombs themselves were pretty cool. The audio guides were really useful and I couldn’t believe that people actually run out into the underbelly of Paris and got lost for days on end. I loved the catacombs – they were fascinating – but was it worth the 3 hour wait? It’s definitely worth seeing, though maybe see if you can go in a less tourist-heavy time…

From there, we went to Cloud Cakes, a vegan coffee shop near Les Halles. We both ordered a grilled cheese and mushroom sandwich and, ugh, it was delicious – simply melting in our mouths. They also had a wide range of cakes and drinks, so we tried different ice teas and cakes (I had an amazing chocolate cake and I think Lizzi had a brownie). 

We spent the last few minutes of our lunch watching a waiter in the seafood restaurant opposite who was dancing and singing to disco tunes and power ballads alike, and he waved to us as we danced our way down the street to ‘I’m so excited’. A beautiful moment.

We hopped back onto the metro and (after several checks of Google Maps and wrong-turnings), found ourselves looking at the Eiffel Tower and on the bridge crossing the Seine. It was odd seeing it so close up and in person, as the Tower is something I’ve either only seen in films or in pictures or from a distance once or twice (from the Musèe d’Orsay and from flying over Paris once), so the experience was kind of surreal. 

By this time the 37-degree heat had got to us and we virtually collapsed in the dead grass at the foot of the Tower as we had already decided not to try to climb it. For a while we simply sat and observed the scene, drinking water and pointing out the people slowly working their way up the metal steps. 

As it was our last evening, we went out for drinks in the bar directly opposite our flat where we had had our first drinks on Tuesday night. Vendredi had been a lively destination all week (except for Monday, when it had been closed – I don’t blame them for not wanting to work on a Monday to be honest).  There, I probably had the strongest cocktail I’ve ever had, their signature named after the bar.


On Friday morning, we got up slightly earlier in order to make sure we were properly packed and could leave the flat in time. By 10:30, we were lugging our rucksacks back onto the metro and towards Cloud Cakes for pancakes!

The pancakes were lush – there were loads of berries, vegan cream and maple syrup. It was the best. 

At this point, the heat was kind of overbearing and we ended staying in Cloud Cakes for a couple of hours, but after Lizzi had another grilled cheese, we decided we should find somewhere different to set up camp rather than staying in the same place the whole day.

We wandered around for a while, and ended up in the first place we could find with air conditioning. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was kind of like a French Pret a Manger, just a tad more expensive. We just sat in there and read for a while until it was time for us to start heading to the airport. 

Honest to god, we were not prepared for the sweatbox which was the Gare du Nord trains. The metro carriages had been bad enough, but we were sweltering in the bright yellow train carriages. The heat was pressing against us and the smell of sweat was coming from everywhere, seemingly out of the chairs themselves.

Eventually, we got to the airport and managed to figure out our way to the gate. However, once we got to there, the problems just unfurled. Long story short, after waiting an extra hour and half in the gate, we waited nearly another three hours on the plane.  Not ideal and very frustrating, but we got home in the end. 

We had a lovely time in Paris, and I totally fell in love with the city. If I could speak French, I could actually see myself living there.

And if you’re searching for a great night out in Europe – Paris will do you proud.

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7 Books I've Bought This Summer (So Far)

Monday 13 August 2018

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During the past few weeks, I’ve bought a few books – which I haven’t properly done so in a while, and I’ve having the feeling of buying new books back again. I’ve bought these in a variety of different places, from an independent bookshop in West Cork, Ireland (The Time Traveller) to Foyles, London, Waterstones and Shakespeare & Company in Paris. 

1. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell is a classic author I have been meaning to read for a while now. The political elements of the novel really interest me, especially as I find Dickens’ narratives so engaging. 

2. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton is another writing who’s been on my to-read list for a while, since one of her novels was mentioned during an English Extension class. I loved the way she presented her characters and their depth, so I can’t wait to get stuck into this one!

3. Politics and Social Science by W. J. M. Mackenzie

I picked this one up with the first two I mentioned. The subject matter is kind of what you can guess from the title, so I thought it would be useful as something which could be potentially a chill read before I start studying politics at uni. This book was published in 1967, so it may not be up to date with current political thought, but I’m always looking for more perspectives. 

4. Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier

One of my biggest interests in in the refugee crisis and one area I want to spend a lot of time and effort in my life doing is trying to improve refugee welfare and government policy in this area. I want to improve my knowledge around this subject area as it means my activism can be more efficient and focused.

5. Jane Austen at home by Lucy Worsley

I love Jane Austen – most people that I’m acquaintances with or even if you’ve read my blog you’ll probably know that. She is one of my favourite writers and I love her books so much, so I love getting to know more details about her as a person and her life. I am also a fan of Lucy Worsley – I really enjoy watching her documentaries and the perspectives she brings.

6. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows

Like many, the film adaptation of this novel mace me aware of the book. The title immediately grabbed my eye (and, of course, if Lily James is in it, I’m already inclined to think it’s going to be good), and I’m not going to lie I’m still a little confused about what it’s actually about but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see!

7. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is an American modern classic – perhaps even the ‘Great American Novel’ – and I think it’s absolutely beautifully written. Whilst researching Fitzgerald’s life as a means of procrastination for my exam on Gatsby (I was kidding myself that any of it would be helpful to be honest), I read a lot about the other books he had written during the different stages of life, and this one in particular caught my eye. So, when in Paris at the end of July and I saw a copy in the bookshop Shakespeare & Company (where Fitzgerald was a regular), I had to pick it up.

I can’t wait to read these books! Have you read any of them? Let me know what you thought.

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