Lifestyle . Fashion . Beauty . Culture

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Relaxation Edit

I don’t know about you but I’m craving a little me time (and definitely not feeling 22).

Relaxation. It’s something we all need in our crazy, hectic lives. The ‘slasher’ generation, as millennials are sometimes referred to, not in reference to a fondness for 90s horror films but instead due to the multifaceted way in which young people often approach work, could really do with a little R&R.

Even those who aren’t so busy could benefit from a little me time. It’s so crucial for refreshing, recharging and feeling much more energised the following day.

As you can probably tell, I’m a big advocate for taking time out daily to do what makes you feel calm and help to forget the perpetual worries that are a nasty side-effect of adulthood. I realise switching off can be more difficult for some than others, and poor mental health won’t be solved by simply lighting a candle, but the act of taking care of oneself and prioritising needs and wants is something that has certainly helped me during challenging, stressful times.

The wonderful thing about relaxation is that it’s so personal. Years ago, writing my dissertation I found glimmers of light in stepping out of the house – and the prison that was my bedroom/study room/personal hell – and going for breakfast or coffee with a friend. For another housemate, she found solace in losing herself in a world of video games. It’s each to their own and I find that so charming.

Growing up watching romcoms, my image of relaxation was always centred around the fabulously glamourous heroine, surrounded by thirty candles in a bath that never seems to lose its bubbles, while sipping elegantly on a glass on fizz. I’ve tried to recreate it and it doesn’t quite work that way. Well, not unless you’re willing to use an entire bottle of bubble bath. And don’t even get me started on the fire hazard from that many candles, which is frankly stress-inducing and enough to extinguish any feelings of bliss.

There is something romantic about the idea of relaxation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to romanticised into a perfect image, such as the one above. It’s about a feeling, and not about trying to attain what you think it should look like. 

It also doesn’t mean that money needs to be thrown at the problem. I realise that may come across as a tad hypocritical, given this is an edit, and therefore essentially a buying guide. For me though, buying lotions and potions and using them is a relaxing act of self-care and I’m aware that other beauty bloggers feel the same.

This is my personal pick of relaxing buys, but remember to do what makes you happy – and more importantly, relaxed. 

I love coffee, that much I know. Wear your heart on your sleeve, or, erm, PJs with this Topshop nightie, £16. It’s wonderfully oversized – as the best PJs are – meaning maximum comfort. It seems that a new ‘revolutionary’ type of gin is released each week (salted caramel flavoured gin, no thanks), but pink gin is the one that has outlasted the hype and earned a place on our spirit shelf. This Gin Lane 1751 gin, £24.85, has a medium-sweet taste, as perfect in cocktails as it is with tonic.

Speaking of booze, have you tried an alcohol-scented candle? Me, neither, but make a start with this lush Next Home Prosecco Jar Candle, £8. Other than that, is there a scent more relaxing (and sleep-inducing) than lavender? With complimentary mint, this John Lewis candle, £10, has a burn time of 40 hours. 

Let's talk skincare. Admittedly out of my price range, I couldn't not include the Glamglow Glitter Face Mask, £44, because, well, look at it. At the lower end of the price scale, while they may evoke memories of teenage sleepovers, I've always loved face mask sachets. This Montagne Jeunesse Dead Sea Mud Mask, £1, is a delight – and a bargain. Win win. Also a winner? Soap and Glory's Face Soap and Clarity, £8. It leaves skin feeling soft, refreshed and has a delicious citrus scent.

I find nothing more relaxing than sitting back and enjoying a book in the evening, and Dolly Alderton's memoir Everything I Know About Love, £10.99, is at the top of my wishlist. For healthy hair, L'Oreal Botanicals Geranium Hair Mask, £9.99, restores dull, lacklustre hair back to excellent condition, thanks to its infusion of geranium, coconut oils and soya. And finally, no relaxation edit would be complete without socks. Let's not fight it: socks are cool, and yes, I have reached the stage where I hope I receive them for Christmas. These Monki ones, £6 are so fluffy and cosy. 

NG <3

Thursday, 25 January 2018

5 Things That Got Me Through January

The 25th marks not only Burns’ Night (I shall belatedly raise a glass of whiskey with friends this weekend) but also that exactly one month has passed since Christmas. Wow. How did that happen?

As January comes to a close next week, it’s a fitting time for reflection on the past month. In truth, I don’t think the clichéd language we apply to the beginning of the year – January Blues, Blue Monday, etc – is necessarily helpful. It can often seem daunting and I wish there was a drive for more positive connotations for what is often a challenging month.

No, I am not suggesting we shrug off the difficulties the month brings and laud it as ‘Happy January’ (an alternative phrase for the 31st December, perhaps) but it is hard to feel optimistic about a month when it is so often associated with unhappiness.

January is a difficult month. Lack of daylight, bitterly cold, early mornings and persistent guilt that you haven’t quite realised your ‘New Year, new me’ self, not to mention a financial hangover from the gluttonous spoils and excess of Christmas are all contributing factors. But – breathe – the month is almost over. You made it.

Feeling low, and that I’d ‘wasted’ the month, I sat down to write a list of all the things that have made January great so far. On reflection, seeing memories I had made or seemingly inconsequential things that had made me smile on paper offered some perspective. I have laughed a lot this month, more than I realised, something that can quite often be overshadowed with the enormity of the ‘bigger picture’ of a daunting month.

Let’s focus on the positives as the month comes to an end. Make a list and celebrate your personal triumphs, no matter how insignificant they may seem. If something put a smile on your face I’d say that’s a win.

Here are the five things that have got me through January. What are yours?

Conversations with friends
Nothing beats the surprise of hearing your phone buzzing, glancing down, expecting to see an incoming sales call, but instead being greeted by your friend’s ugliest Snapchat to date (which you promised you wouldn’t screenshot and set as their contact photo) and spending the next hour having a spontaneous catch-up. So much of our communication now is done behind a screen and there’s something charming about picking up the phone and asking someone close what’s going on with their life.

Throwback playlists
Perusing my Spotify account recently, the sheer volume of playlists left untouched since my undergraduate days intrigued me – as did their names: Power Hour/GraduOcean Pres/Cocktail Night Partayyy, to name but a few. They provided the soundtrack to that day, an eclectic mix of tropical house, 00s indie and unapologetically cheesy hits. Revisiting old playlists was a welcome dose of nostalgia and may have prompted me to book a ticket back to the city I called home for three years for a reUNIon…

Wearing a silly hat for the day
I couldn’t possibly post the five things that made me smile in January and not include the delightful weekend of my MA graduation. It was a wonderful day to celebrate (with lots of fizz and food, of course) the achievement that some of my closest friends and I have worked so hard towards.

I was apprehensive. Spending half an hour reverting to my childhood and scribbling on a page was not at the top of my to-do list. I will eat my words and say I was wrong (my boyfriend will attest that is not a phrase I use often). I have been pleasantly surprised by the therapeutic calmness that comes from spending time focused on something creative in the name of self-care.

Solo missions
One lazy day, I was sat about to hit the ‘yes’ button when Netflix asked if I was still there. Uncharacteristically, I shut down my laptop and set off to enjoy a solo day of culture. I started off with Somerset House’s ‘North: Fashioning Identity’ exhibition, followed by a brisk walk along the South Bank to explore the Tate Modern and National Theatre. There’s something wonderfully liberating about a spontaneous day exploring alone, and it’s something I’ll definitely endeavor to do more of in 2018. 

Do let me know what has put a smile on your face so far this year!

NG <3


Thursday, 14 December 2017

Literary Rebounds

As I turned the last page of my book and came to the end of Pi Patel’s story, I was slightly disheartened to realise that it had taken me seven weeks to finish the novel. At 348 pages, Life of Pi’s length does not rival War and Peace – imagine how long that would take me! As much as I’d love to spend every morning in bed, sipping an endless supply of coffee whilst devouring a wonderful novel, life gets in the way and such simple pleasures become Sunday’s prerogative instead.

In truth though, I’m no speed reader when it comes to fiction. I like to take my time, to re-read passages if necessary to understand and slightly overanalyse every detail that may conceal hidden emotions or motives. I suspect it’s due in part to a literature degree hangover. Having to read up to four plays and novels a week, there is something so delightful about reading at a leisurely pace with no time constraints.

Still, seven weeks is a long time to follow a character’s story. It wouldn’t have mattered if it had taken me seven days or seven weeks to finish Life of Pi, however, because I had spent a far more extensive period of time with Pi and his sole companion, a 450 pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

In total I had spent an agonising 227 days following the unlikely pair as, stranded at sea, they made their way across the Pacific Ocean in a small lifeboat. I had been on their journey; a safe bystander, but a witness nonetheless. That’s what great writing does: it transports us, geographically and temporally.

It’s a sentiment that my friend Rachel described brilliantly: “When you remember any book you've read, you don't remember being sat looking at words on a page. You remember scenes, you remember images; characters, locations, bright and vibrant as though you actually experienced them.”

It’s this immersive experience that I believe lends to the literary rebound effect, in which I just can’t seem to start a book the day I finish my previous one. It’s the equivalent of breaking up with a boyfriend at breakfast and finding a rebound by dinner. Hyperbolic, yes, but what can I say – I bloody love books.

The perfect Sunday, no?

I’m not equating the heartbreak of a relationship suddenly ending to the experience of finishing a book. But there are some undeniable similarities there: investing time getting to know someone and their world, and then not being part of it or following their journey anymore. Much like a breakup, I need time to process the closing of a chapter, before starting one in a new novel.

A great book is one that you simultaneously want to finish to learn the fate of the protagonists, yet don’t want to leave the characters and their quirks behind. The most poignant personal example that I can recall is finishing Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower quite a few years ago on holiday. It’s a beautiful, emotional story that I believe goes way beyond the confines of the ‘young adult’ genre.

As I read the epilogue, I wept on the beach, – my tears disguised by sunglasses, of course – deeply sad to close the book on the narrator Charlie’s life but also ecstatic to have reached the cathartic finale. As I dried my salty tears and stared out towards the sea’s rolling waves I did consider reaching for another book that was tucked away in my bag but thought better of it. Jumping into another world that same day oddly felt like I was being unfaithful to Chbosky’s characters. And so, instead, I laid down for a nap in the warm afternoon breeze, the book in my bag laid untouched for another day. 

NG <3

Photos via Shutterstock.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

November Beauty Wishlist

We’re in the penultimate month of 2017. I’ll just give you a minute to let that sink in.

I can’t quite believe that I’m already compiling a list of November’s most covetable beauty buys. It got me wondering, what is ‘November’ synonymous with in the beauty industry? What glamorous party makeup is to December and pastel hues are to April, November is that tricky in-between month, wedged between Halloween and Christmas.

With the emergence of winter weather and a plethora of ‘miracle’ products on the market, it’s arguably a ‘beauty self-care’ month – in other words time to tackle annoying issues such as frizz and dry skin. As useful as such products are, however, I can’t quite imagine that an excellent face cream has quite the same impact as the instant gratification of a bold lipstick. With this in mind here is my November beauty wishlist. Who says December has a monopoly on all the fun? 

From left to right:

Following suit with the glamourous mood of A/W17 (ballgowns at Balenciaga, embellishment at Dolce and Gabbana and those bedazzled Saint Laurent boots), Fenty Beauty has gone all out with this dazzling palette. Rihanna described the Galaxy range as "glitter on glitter on glitter" and this shimmery collection of 14 shades does not disappoint with everything you need to create out-of-this-world looks (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Second only to my desire to finally own Naked Heat, this is surely one of the prettiest palettes to drop for quite some time.

Winter is here and, right on cue, my usually oily skin is a victim of the chill and has become noticeably drier. Enter this tissue mask from Garnier that claims to "diffuse the equivalent level of hydrating serum as per one week's use of day care." It’s a super hit of hydration, with pomegranate extract, hyaluronic acid and plant serum, that works its magic in just 15 minutes. I’m yet to try a sheet or tissue mask (late to the pamper party, I know) but I’m so intrigued by the recent shift from gloopy peel-off masks to more convenient, targeted ones. 

Netflix. Spotify. Apple Music. Subscription services are big business – and not just in entertainment. Brands such as Beauty Pie, which offers members discounted products at factory cost, and beauty box services are slowly becoming the new norm. Monthly service Birchbox has collaborated with Vogue for its November box resulting in packaging as stylish as you’d expect and five personalised products to match from the likes of Benefit and Bumble and Bumble. And speaking of Vogue, I’m eagerly awaiting November 10th so I can get my hands on a copy of Edward Enninful’s inaugural issue at the head of the glossy. 

When L’Oreal collaborated with Balmain, the result was likely to reflect Parisian elegance. Sleek and luxurious, while it may be more costly than a standard L’Oreal lipstick, this collection of 12 bold shades promises rich colour with a moisturising matte finish. The standout shade for A/W is definitely ‘Domination’, a deep red with an attitude that certainly matches its name. 

The best things come in small packages, right? Well so is the case with this compact kit of six popular Benefit favourites. While they might be miniature in size, the variety of products is the real winner here – from Gimme Brow to POREfessional primer: face, lips, brows, eyes and cheeks are all catered to in this set. Even better? The reduced price means that the cost equates to just under £4.20 per product. In the words of Tom Haverford: Treat. Yo. Self. 

‘Pre-shampoo’ seems to be the new beauty buzzword. Who wants the basic routine of shampoo followed by conditioner when you can add a touch of luxury and some hardworking products into the mix? Admittedly, part of me does wonder why, if a brand’s shampoo is as good as it claims, we need to add yet another costly product into our routine, but having said that I am a sucker for novelty new products, especially ones that promise to regenerate strands from root to tip and leave hair softer, smoother and thicker. 

What beauty buys are you coveting this month? 

NG <3


Monday, 16 October 2017

A Winter's Tale

I am currently a basic b*tch. And I'm not even sorry about it. The minute autumn is in sight I turn into a pumpkin-spice latté drinking, cinnamon-Yankee-candle smelling, scarf lover who can't help but tweet/instagram/pinterest my love of picturesque woodland walks.

I exaggerate of course (I'm more of a full-fat caramel girl myself) but my point is that I FREAKING love this time of year in a horrendously clichéd way. I can't help it that I approach a childish level of giddiness at the sight of an untouched pile of crisp, golden leaves, nor that my obsession with winter knits sees me bankrupt before I even begin thinking about Christmas shopping.

As much as I’ve tried to become an outdoorsy person I’m ultimately hardwired (as I suspect most of us are) to detest early rises and leaving my bed for the harsh winter weather. But isn’t that so much easier to do when you can snuggle into a woolly, oversized coat and soft, tartan scarf? Well, maybe not so much easier, but it certainly helps.

Nights in during the summer months can feel a little tedious. It seems that as the days get shorter and cooler there’s less regret in favouring an indulgent night in rather than braving icy nights on the town. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Christmas nights out and all the glamour associated, but sometimes passing on sequins and sangrias for cosy, button down pyjamas and a deliciously good book can be just as, if not more, rewarding. There’s a pile of books on my bedside table threatening to topple from ever increasing height and I can’t wait to make the most of winter nights and get stuck in. Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar are at the top of my reading list. After that? I'm tempted to re-read The Picture of Dorian Gray; there's something more atmospheric about reading a chilling, beautifully written horror at this time of year.

It’s not just nights of literary enlightenment that have got me excited about staying in though. No matter what time of year it is, I love nothing more than a highly unproductive day lost to a Netflix series, preferably accompanied by my duvet and a mountain of Galaxy Caramel, but this season is particularly excellent for TV shows. I’m loving the new episodes of Crazy Ex- Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin and the glossy reboot of Dynasty - a sumptuous cocktail of Gossip Girl, The OC and well, every other bad but seriously addictive show about beautiful, rich people. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage which is a very good thing, especially when lazy Sundays roll around. That should keep me covered at least until the 27th October when racing through season 2 of Stranger Things will inevitably become my priority.

Winter is a tale of two contradictions: the busy and the quiet. The weather may be bitterly cold and the grass may seem greener on the other side (i.e those long, hazy summer days) but there is something magical about the period, something that all too often gets lost in the frantic run up to Christmas. Winter should also be about relaxation and taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year…

NG <3

Photo Credits: Kristin Vogt and Pixabay via Pexels. 


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Sentimentality of Fashion

I have a confession: I’m a hoarder. I hold onto everything from the perfume box a Christmas gift came in to my ‘homework club’ certificate I received when I was 9 (I was a cool kid). And don’t even get me started on makeup. The palette with hues so extreme it’s named ‘Acid’ and has only been used once when I spontaneously thought I could rock a hot pink eye (I couldn’t)? I definitely need to hang onto that just in case I need it someday. Basically, I’m crap at throwing things out.

I’ve always attached sentimentality to inanimate objects. There are just some things in life that we don’t want to bid farewell to because of the emotional connection they have to past memories. But then there are the more trivial relics that are just as hard to let go of; the tacky glitter globes I bought myself when I was 10 or the beautifully designed hat box that my younger, naïve self planned to store love letters in (I clearly didn’t predict the rise of technology/ just how awkward looking a teenager I would be).

My wardrobe’s the worst culprit and I’m not alone; it’s predicted that on average a woman only wears 20% of the clothes she owns on a regular basis. It’s a staggering estimate, especially when you consider the cost of the extra 80% left hanging.

And so, long overdue a clear out, I became inspired by Carrie Bradshaw and invited my three closest friends over, popped open the Moët and made them watch me parade around in every single piece I owned while they faked enthusiasm and held up ‘take’ or ‘toss’ cards. Only joking, I can’t think of anything more boring or self-involved to make my friends do (instead I’ll just write about it and make you all read it).

I'm with Miranda
I don’t know why I’m such a hoarder but I suspect in part it’s due to some subconscious romanticism of what things were in the past or could be in the future. Take, for example, the royal purple, silk dress that I just can’t throw out. It is literally too painful to wear, no thanks to the awkward placement of sequins that scratch your arms. For this reason I’ve only worn it once. I’ll never wear it again but I still can’t throw it away. Why? Because it’s too pretty to throw in a monotonous heap of unloved clothes, I bought it on my 16th birthday and, for me, it represents the person I want to be when I rarely leave the house after 10pm: fun, sparkly and joyous.

“Clothes are much more than just cloth. It’s giving the wearer something more than a garment. It’s transferring emotion,” fashion designer Jessica Ogden once said and it’s a sentiment I fully understand. There’s a reason why our tastes and preferred pieces change over the years; we change as people and this is reflected in our lifestyle choices, particularly what we choose to wear.

Some clothes are easy to throw out because of the memories they hold: that ‘night out only’ bodycon dress that I hung on to for a little too long despite it not fitting for the best part of four years? Gone. The try-hard plaid skirt I bought on a whim when I first became editor of my student magazine after another The Devil Wears Prada re-run? So long. But, despite my impressively ruthless clear out there are some clothes that will stay in my wardrobe indefinitely.

Fashion is simultaneously obsessed with the past and the future. Every season we see a version of a ‘classic reinvented’ or the trend pages of magazines refer specifically to a decade’s archetypal style. That’s what’s so wonderful about fashion: it’s constantly innovative, challenges conventions but is also significantly influenced by the past. It looks back and moves forward: something that I believe is reflected in our own collection of clothes too.

I will never stop pining over minimalist Scandi-style interior design on Pinterest, nor will I ever stop admiring the meticulously organised wardrobe spaces in Elle’s 'Closet Confidential' pages. But sometimes the most eclectic wardrobes featured were the most fascinating to read about because of the dazzling stories behind the pieces. By contrast, I can’t claim that I wore my purple, sparkly dress to the MET gala, or that it gifted to me from my dear friend Karl Lagerfeld, but it makes me happy, and isn’t that what personal style is about after all?

Still in need of a serious declutter? Image consultant and wardrobe organiser, Lis-Marie Liden shares her tips:
Fashion is a way to identify yourself and find your own branding but it is important to know your limits. Try on a piece and ask realistically will I wear it again? Why is it still in my wardrobe? Am I saving it for a special occasion that may not come? It’s important to be ruthless if you’re wanting a clear-out. Does the piece represent who you are now? Compare it to other clothes in your wardrobe. Can they be worn together? And importantly: does it fit? It's important to invest and if you have that one piece you can't let go of due to memories and sentimental value, maybe store it in a safe place away from daily outfits.”

NG <3

Photo Credit: Emily May via Flickr.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Spring Beauty Wishlist

Spring has officially sprung. I never pay attention to equinox dates, ‘the first day of spring or summer etc…’, because let’s face it, the weather hardly matches. It was only a few years ago that I remember the start of spring was marked accordingly with a sprinkling of snow. 

But now it really feels like spring; it’s noticeably warmer (hello denim jacket- I’ve missed you) and there’s a fresh sense of energy in the air, probably resulting from leaving the newsroom after working on a computer all day and being greeted by daylight. The countdown to lazy summer afternoons spent in the beer garden has begun; I’ve even had my first glass of Pimms of 2017.

Before I ramble on about the weather for a whole post, (it’s possible, I am British after all) I will get to my point, after all Oscar Wilde once said “conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative”. Guilty as charged. 

Spring for me signifies change. Time for a refresh. As we move from A/W 2016 into S/S 2017 and welcome tulle, fuchsia and the 80s revival, it’s a chance to update your beauty routine and invest in some spring buys. Here’s my beauty wishlist for the next few months (all donations kindly accepted): 
Left to right:

Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lip Colour, £8.99

I’ve been recommended this lip colour by the beauty pages of just about every magazine going. The promise is velvety, matte lips without the drying effect that many similar products have and there’s a variety of vivid shades available. Top of my list are ‘Flirtation’, a summery coral shade, and ‘Love’, for a more dramatic red lip.

Makeup Revolution 'Beyond Flawless' Palette, £8

I’m a recent convert to Makeup Revolution products after becoming obsessed with their blush palette and finding that their products are just as appealing as their price point. I’ve been lusting over Urban Decay’s Naked Smoky palette since I bought Naked 2 (treat yo self) but now that my student status has been reactivated I’m all about quality bargain buys. The ‘Beyond Flawless’ palette features 32 shades, ranging from dusky pinks to shimmery bronzes to jet black. All you need for the perfect smoky eye. Oh, and it works out 25p per shade. Like more incentive was needed…

A shift has happened over the past few years in my make-up collection and highlighter has become as much a staple in my routine as mascara. I always find myself complimenting my friend Rachel (check out her blog here) on her highlight and she is an avid fan of this Sleek palette. I’ve got a lot of time for Sleek products. I always find they have amazing staying power and I’m so tempted with this palette due to it featuring a mix of cream, matte and shimmery textures. 

I don’t use the term ‘the one’ lightly but when it comes to this moisturiser there was no hesitation. It’s lightweight, oil free, boosts hydration levels and smells incredible. The problem? The price point. Eeeek. Like l said, all donations kindly welcomed. 

Benefit, you’ve done it again. Just when I thought Bad Gal could not be topped I tried Rollerlash. I’ve never got on board with They’re Real, finding it a little too clumpy for my liking, but Rollerlash creates natural, curled lashes that are perfect for daytime. Plus the packaging is soooo pretty. 

Despite the smell I’ve always been a fan of Elnett and I’m so excited to try out the brand’s new release that promises to ‘magnify all types of waves’. I have naturally wavy hair and I can’t resist amplifying it with my Babyliss hair wand and using at least half a can of hairspray to preserve volume so I can’t wait to use this. 

Summer is the time of year when I desperately try to emulate Gisele’s sun kissed beach waves. Sadly I never reach the desired effect but if I start to practice in spring surely I’ll get there by June? Or maybe July? Probably not but regardless, I have faith in John Frieda. 

What's on your spring beauty wishlist? 

NG <3

Photo credit: Camdiluv ♥ via Flickr

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Growing Pains

Something surprising has happened over the past few months; I think I’m finally growing up. At the start of the year I turned 23, hardly geriatric, but truth be told if my younger self looked a year ahead and saw me now I feel that she’d describe me as that word I once dreaded the most: boring. And I’m perfectly happy with that.

 A friend recently asked me on a night out in my hometown and I politely declined. The idea of spending a good hour layering on make-up and agonising over which black dress to wear (I swear they’re all so different) to spend an eye-watering sum of money on radioactive looking shots (drinks should not be acid green), only to wake up next to a greasy, potentially food poisoning inducing kebab did just not appeal to me.

I’m being hyperbolic of course, I’ve had some fantastic nights out in my hometown but of late I just can’t seem to fathom the idea of spending my night sticking to a club floor when I could be in bed indulging in a novel or my latest Netflix find. Bacardi and coke? I’ll stick to a peppermint tea and my book on the Brontës, thanks.

I recently took a walk down memory lane and returned to Nottingham, the city where I spent three years living as a student. It didn’t quite feel the same. During my gap year working I would escape to Nottingham any chance I got to visit my friends there. I suspect a secondary reason to my frequent visits was partial denial at the fact that I had graduated and wasn’t quite where I expected to be in life. I clung onto how walking through Lenton, my former stomping ground, made me feel like a student again, the future still full of possibility while the luxury of not having a definite plan was just part of the package.

I can’t pinpoint the change in my attitude, although I suspect it probably shifted when I began studying at Sheffield. Rather than view my MA as retreating back into a security of student life, I approached it knowing that it would pass quickly and that I would have to consider the future from the minute I stepped foot on campus. It’s daunting but I’ve embraced it. During my gap year I felt stilted; despite having a full time job I was hovering about and didn’t feel quite like an actual adult while I was so fresh out of uni. Ironically, returning to university has made me feel more grown up than ever.

We reached peak Ocean in 2013
During my recent trip to Nottingham I returned to a student club where I spent many boozy nights as an undergrad. I swore I’d never grow tired of the place, from its overpriced VK chasers to the eclectic playlist that jumped from the Arctic Monkeys to Paul Simon to S Club 7 within an hour. “I’m too old for this shit,” I told my friend, barely audible over ‘Lady Marmalade’ (told you the music was brilliant).

The real sour cherry on top of the cake was when the only member of the opposite sex outside the group I was with spoke to me: “So are you a first year then? What hall are you in?” he asked. “No, I’m 23,” I replied. I then gave this very fresh-faced fresher a pearl of wisdom that I certainly didn’t take on board when I was 18: “you’re going to have the best three years of your life. Enjoy every minute. It’ll be over before you know it.”

I felt like I’d moved on from my days in Nottingham, being there felt like I was replaying a happy memory in my mind, in a ‘been there, done that’ sense. And so my friend and I left before midnight, got in our cosiest PJs, had a cup of tea and played a game of monopoly. This ‘boring’ life isn’t so bad after all…

NG <3

Cat photo credit: David O'Hare via Flickr

Saturday, 4 February 2017

February Reads

Ahh, February. You crept up so quickly. January was an intense month full of media law revision and enjoying the subsequent week of freedom that followed said exams. During that week I finally got stuck into a pile of books that have been gathering dust on my shelf since last year and am looking forward to whizzing through these this month (although admittedly they will probably see me well into March).

Q&A a day

Although it's not a novel or a 'February read' as such, this 5 year journal is a perfect way to briefly chronicle your thoughts and feelings each day. Every page has a new, simple question, ranging from trivial topics to more serious matters, with space to write an answer on that same day for 5 years. It's a fantastic way to chart how you evolve through the years while indulging in nostalgia and self-reflection.

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

I sped through this novel in 2 days. It's about a young girl whose life is turned upside down after a video showing her performing sex acts at a club in Magaluf goes viral. The book follows the toxic chain reaction of events after the video becomes infamous and raises serious questions about misogyny and identity. It's a gripping thriller which had me hooked from the provocative first line.

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

I can't wait to start this novel after I finish Invincible Summer. It's a true story based on Constance Kopp, one of America's first female deputy sheriffs. The novel follows the life of Kopp and her sisters and their struggle against a ruthless factory owner in the early 20th century.

The Establishment by Owen Jones

I've been dipping in and out of this book for about a year now but now, more than ever, seems like a poignant time to read it. The Guardian columnist writes about the UK government and the privileged few who are really pulling the strings in this powerful bestseller.

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

The novel follows four friends, Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien, as they navigate their lives after meeting and graduating university. Is their bond really as strong as they first thought when they go down different paths in life? As I'm finishing my MA course later this year, the story of friends finding their place in the world after graduating is very appealing.

What are you planning to read in February? Do you have any recommendations?

NG <3


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Tale of Two Cities

"We need a break. We need a break desperately," my friends and I thought as 2016 came to a close. Determined to make the start to 2017 unforgettable, (and eat as many local delicacies as we could before our New Years resolutions started) we headed off on a whirlwind 3 day city break across two countries.

The first stop was Cologne in Germany, a beautiful city with spectacular views of the Rhine (the  picture above was taken on a chilly morning walk). An early rise at 4am to catch our flight made for a tiring start to the trip so as soon as we left the tram we headed for a very strong coffee before consulting the guidebook and planning our day and a half in Germany.

Megan on the Rhine bank

We went to the main square so we could explore the city centre and cathedral. 'Impressive' would be an understatement when describing the cathedral. Feeling a bit daring (and in my case overestimating my fitness) we climbed 100m to the viewing platform of the tower, which offered stunning views spanning the city.

Post climb we enjoyed a well deserved Kölsch, the local beer, in one of Cologne's beer halls (an absolute must) and tucked into a traditional schnitzel. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon the Christmas market on our way back and couldn't resist enjoying a gluhwein (mulled wine) while watching people ice skate round the rink at the market. It doesn't get more festive than that...

Cologne Christmas market
Apparently chocolate is a BIG deal in Cologne (not complaining tbh) and so naturally the chocolate museum was on our to do list. If I could recommend any culinary delight from the trip it would be the Baileys hot chocolate we sampled at the museum café. I took one sip and was in heaven, although a word of warning, it's so rich it's a meal in itself.

Next stop, Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. The first thing we did was make our way to the Atomium. It was an impressive structure but sadly it was an extremely foggy day and the queue was huge so we decided against actually going inside. Instead, we explored Brussels city centre, took in the sights of the Grand Place and spent a few hours in the square's museum.

The Grand Place

Group shot...I look like a giant here

Night time soon crept up on us so we stopped off for a carbonnade flamande (a Belgium beef stew) and a local beer before heading to the city's Christmas market to try a delicious waffle for dessert. When in Belgium...With a few hours to go before 2017 we headed back to the hotel to get ready and found ourselves in an Irish bar just in time for the countdown to midnight.

To put it simply, we ate a lot, we drank a bit and saw some beautiful sites. I can't think of a better way to have ended the year...

Hope you had a fantastic New Year!

NG <3

© NG

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