Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Musings From The Seaside

     The air is ripe with the rich scent of sea salt, infused with candy floss and hot, greasy chips. The icy cold waves gently caress the shore, and the vast steely grey expanse of the ocean stretches back as far as the eye can see. The beach is a jumble of sand, dirt, pebbles and shells, made wet and sticky by the touch of the sea. Beyond the empty plain, a line of postcard-perfect houses lines its edge, while towering cliffs stand as guardians at either end of the scene. Overhead, the sun strains to break through the dark, angry clouds which dominate the sky, but occasionally a few persistent rays of warmth succeed in slipping past.


     Seagulls swoop low over the water, calling out loudly to each other. The joyful music of the arcade drifts through the air, mingling with the shouts of the children it entertains. The less-than-perfect weather means that the beach is not busy, but a few determined souls are out to enjoy themselves. A dirty, well-used ball bounces along the gritty sand, chased by a team of gangly youths. The barking of dogs rings through the air, as they frolic along the shore, splashing in the waves and dirtying their coats in the sand. The deep blue sail of a windsurfer scuds across the horizon, barely distinguishable against the dark sky. Ice-cream drips down the chins of children, as mothers tut and attempt to wipe away the sticky mess. An elderly couple strolls arm in arm, nibbling on their newspaper-wrapped chips and reminiscing about many other days spent blissfully on these shores. A yellow umbrella twirls in the wind, as the bare legs below it paddle in the icy shallows.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Outfit of the Day - Meadow Fresh

     I love the bright, freshness of the colour of this dress and it feels just perfect for summer. It's light and comfortable, and the lace detailing adds a little bit of interest. I'm a massive fan of boots, and it's too warm for many of mine during the summer, but these cute brown ankle boots are still wearable in warmer weather and go great with my lighter coloured clothes, like the dress. The earrings are small and cute to offset the larger necklace (on a short chain, more unusual for me), which I absolutely adore - a Harry Potter inspired time-turner from Camden market.







Dress - H&M, Boots - Ziga (Zalando), Earrings - Gift, Ring - Unknown
Necklace - Market, Wristband - Help for Heroes, Nail Polish - 'Blueberry' by BarryM

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Tell Me A Story

    How are you? What have you been up to? Anything exciting going on? How was your week? These are questions that we all get asked on a regular basis (although please leave me answers in the comments, I’d love to hear them!). And why? Why are we all so curious about other people’s lives?

     Humans are social beings. While some of us do like to have alone time every now and then, we thrive on interaction and attention from others. Knowing that someone else takes a genuine interest in your life is a confidence booster and lets you know that there are people who care about you and your wellbeing. And we take interest in the lives of others because of all the ways in which they differ from our own. The world is such a diverse place, and anything that we cannot experience firsthand, we want to hear about from others. Be it an epic adrenaline fuelled adventure from travelling abroad, or a silly tale about a child’s mishap, we live vicariously through others, or are inspired to go out and do these things ourselves.

(Source)
     Because what humans really need are stories. We are a species of storytellers, finding inspiration around us and embellishing on it to create tales that bring people joy or sadness, laughter, excitement or tears. Theatre and literature have been around for hundreds of years, and have expanded into all the various forms of media we have today, and these things wouldn’t have survived for so long if we didn’t enjoy and appreciate them as we do. Stories can reflect the world around us or allow us to escape it for a time, making the impossible seem possible. They can present us with new ideas and ways of thinking, or inspire to go out and do something daring. Stories can be anything we want them to be, because they are just that – stories. Not fact or truth necessarily, just tales that we wish to tell or hear.

     So whether you write it down as an epic novel, or whisper a brief anecdote to a friend, tell your stories.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review - The Giver (Lois Lowry)

     The Giver may well be my favourite dystopian novel that I’ve read. It’s a genre that, in my opinion, can be fascinating at times, but can also be a bit formulaic and predictable. I enjoyed The Giver because the way in which society is controlled is so carefully orchestrated that they don’t realise what is happening. In many other dystopian novels, the ruler’s actions are obvious and the people are unhappy, but too afraid to act. In The Giver, they believe they are happy (and living in a utopia) and therefore have no reason to rebel.

(Source)

     I found it fascinating to explore these ideas of control – in some ways they are better, as people are happy, but they are also worse, as the control exerted on them extends all the way into their psyche and emotions. Having everything decided for you, from your job to your spouse, creates a harmonious, functioning society, but also removes all freedom of choice from people. To most readers, living in the world we have, this level of control is appalling and unjust, but to the characters it is the only world they have ever known. They lead lives sheltered from both the world’s most amazing and most terrible things, which forces the reader to question if having the good counterbalances having the bad as well.

     Jonas and the Giver are the only ones who know differently. Watching Jonas slowly learn about how the world was through the memories given to him is both wonderful and very sad. He is exposed to the awful things that happened in the past, but must also come to terms with the beautiful parts of the world that have been taken away from them. Placing this burden on a child only highlights it more, as his innocence and naivety is stripped away. However, his reaction to his new knowledge is what is vital here – while the Giver has had this information for a long time, and has done nothing with it, he encourages Jonas to act and be the one to spark change in their society. This part is interesting, as it makes the reader question whether or not we would do the same – we all recognise the unfairness of the control exercised on them, but being the one to stand up and do something about it is taking a big risk.

     I was a little unsure about the book’s ending, as it seemed a little anti-climactic. I expected something more dramatic, which would affect the entire community, but perhaps I expect that as a result of reading other dystopian novels. In many ways, the ending of The Giver is more realistic, as such dramatic changes are not straight-forward tasks by any means.

     Overall, I enjoyed the book, primarily because it made me think. It has the reader asking questions about how society functions, our priorities in life, the ideas surrounding freedom and control and whether or not we would act as Jonas does. Jonas is also a strong and likeable protagonist, and I always enjoy a book more when I actually like the main character. It’s definitely a book that I will read again, and I’m intrigued to see how the upcoming film adaptation turns out.


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Monday, 21 July 2014

Outfit of the Day - Festival Fashion

     I've never been to a music festival , nor do I have any great desire to do so (for various reasons), but I do quite like the fashion styles that they seem to have inspired. This sort of modern-boho-summery style appeals to me a lot, and I think this long open cardigan embodies it well. The top and shorts underneath are quite simple and comfortable, and I love these ankle boots, which I'll wear throughout the summer. This style would not be complete without an armful of bangles, and I picked up this cute pendant while on my European trip last month.







Cardigan - Forever 21, Top - Forever 21, Shorts - H&M
Boots - Ziga (Zalando), Necklace - Market, Bangles - Forever 21
Ring - Unknown, Nail Polish - 'Blueberry' by BarryM

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Instagramming in England

     So I'm not sure if I actually made this clear at any point, but this summer I'm working at an international kids' summer camp, based near Edinburgh. However, this week I was asked to go to one of their other sites, in Oxfordshire for the week. This threw up a bit of hassle naturally, but the best part about it was getting to visit some new parts of the country. I think people rarely go to see the sights in their own country, and I've seen very little of the rest of the U.K. I also do the same trips over and over again at the Edinburgh camp, so a change was quite welcome!

Cambridge
Stratford-Upon-Avon
     I didn't take my camera out with me, as I did when travelling Europe, but I made sure to capture a few snapshots for Instagram - my user name is justmuddlingthroughlife by the way! I really like Instagram, as I use it to upload the best photos I take, rather than overloading people with absolutely all of them (as I'm prone to doing on Facebook), so you just get the highlights of my life. I also follow a lot of really great photographers and artists on it.

Oxford
Hyde Park - London
      I didn't get to properly experience the places I visited, as I was working every time, with between 40-70 kids in tow. However, I got to see the university campus at Cambridge, which was very pretty, although the university itself is far too middle class for me; Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which got the English student part of me very excited; and Christ Church in Oxford, which was again, very pretty, and has connections to Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland that I found really interesting. I've been to London before, but on this trip we went to the Science and Natural History museums, which were excellent, although I only got to see a tiny part of each in the time we had. It's been nice to see some new places, but I'm ready to get back to my camp in Edinburgh now!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Those Times When Real Life Gets In The Way

     Why does life have to get in the way? There are so many people stuck in ruts because our reality doesn’t always make it easy to do what we want.

(Source)
     I’m talking on a personal level right now, as I’m working like crazy at summer camp right now, which is a lot of fun, but doesn’t always leave room for everything else. My to-do list is ridiculous, I haven’t finished my coursework due in September, there are friends I haven’t seen in months and I’ve had to set aside some days off for family commitments. But somehow, between all of this, I’m desperate to keep writing. My usual blog schedule has already been disrupted – this is going up a day late – as I don’t want to forsake the quality of my posts just to get something up on time, but without a regular schedule I get lazy about it.

     I’ve also been struggling for inspiration, as my life has taken on a very predictable routine. I know life can’t be an amazing adventure every single day, but I can usually find somehow to spark my imagination often enough. But lately, while reality isn’t boring – how can it be when working with kids? – but whenever I try to write, or even just plan some blog posts, I struggle for ideas. This was how my “Musically Inspired” series came about, but I want to keep things fresh and not use that too often.

     It’s a shame that real life constricts us in this way. I think I’m pretty lucky in a lot of ways, but life can still be frustrating at times. We have to prioritise, and more often than not, the things we enjoy fall by the wayside, as we need to work in order to survive. Deadline and late shifts fill up all our time, or leave us so exhausted that we can’t bring ourselves to do anything afterwards. This is why the people who make a living doing what they love are the luckiest, as they get the best of both worlds. University usually leaves me with plenty of free time for things like blogging, but I dread to think about what I’ll do after graduation next year. I only have vague notions about the areas I’d like to work in, but the job market here is so difficult that I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. And then there’s the strong possibility of whatever I do eating up all the spare time I currently have.

     It would be wonderful if everyone could do what they love, without the rest of the world getting in the way. Sadly, life doesn’t work like that, which is harsh but true. We simply have to make the best out of what we have and find pleasure in whatever we can. Occasionally, like right now, inspiration hits me at unusual hours, but I always make the most of it while it lasts. I thought I’d be a blog post short this week, but I’ve ended up writing about my frustration at this very possibility, therefore avoiding it! I hope this wasn’t too scatter-brained or rambling for anyone though, as I’m exhausted right now!

     Any suggestions for how to keep up with the things you love when life tries to get in the way? Or suggestions for future blog posts, or ways for me to get inspired?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Outfit of the Day - Summer Simplicity

     Some days you just want to put in the minimal effort possible. I've forsaken all jewellery and accessories today, apart from the ring and Help for Heroes wristband I always wear, and gone for a very simple outfit, great for a day in the sun. This top is light and loose, and the bat-wing sleeves give it a little more interest, and denim shorts will go with just about anything. Converse or flip flops would finish this outfit off, but if I don't have to be anywhere I'll walk around barefoot all day.




Top - Forever 21, Shorts - H&M
Wristband - Help for Heroes, Ring - Unknown

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Defining Success

     What does it mean to be successful? A high-powered job? Bags of money? A fancy house and expensive sports car? Living up to the expectations others have for you?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Puffin Postcards

     I purchased this recently from Waterstone's, a collection of postcards featuring designs from the covers of children's books published by Puffin. Someone pointed them out to me in the store, and being an English student and self-confessed bookworm, I couldn't resist.



     Being covers from children's books, these bring a strong sense of nostalgia with them. I still sometimes go back and read the books I loved as a child, but they are mostly associated with years gone by. I view my childhood in a way I imagine a lot of other people do too - a time when life was simple and innocent and carefree, before growing up and the real world got in the way. It's nice to be reminded of that feeling every now and then, and I'll take any excuse presented to me to act like a child again. I've always been an avid reader, so these postcards embody much of my childhood.


     My intention is to use some of them to decorate the walls in my new flat, where I'll be living for my final year of university. I love getting to decorate a new room each year, and while some things will stay the same - photos of family and friends for example - I like to find new things each year as well. I generally get nervous about big changes in my life, but small things like this keep things fresh and new, so I don't get tired of the same things all the time. I especially like these book covers, as they are small works of art in their own right, that talented illustrators have created.



    The only mildly disappointing thing about this set of postcards, is that out of the one hundred included in the box, I have only read a small minority of them. Some I have never even heard of before! I'll start by using the ones I know to decorate my room, but many of the others still have nice designs that I'll use too. There was another box in the shop, of Penguin classic book covers; while deciding which to get I was weighing up the nicer designs on the Puffin set, against the fact that I've read far more of the Penguin set. While I obviously opted for the Puffin, it's very likely that I'll be returning to get the Penguin set as well, since it contains some of my favourite novels!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Outfit of the Day - Aztec Inspiration

      I've never been one for following fashion trends and wearing what's in style, but every now and then what I like and what's in style overlap - in this case, Aztec prints. I love the pattern and the colours in this dress, and it's a very lightweight, summery garment. Scottish summers are notoriously fickle though, so the leggings make this a slightly more practical option, as do the boots. As usual, much of my jewellery comes from markets and tiny boutiques - here, I like the contrast between the purple earrings and the green dress, and the black ring is Venetian glass, a purchase from my recent European trip.






Dress - Forever 21, Leggings - H&M, Boots - Even & Odd (Zalando)
Necklace - Accessorize, Earrings & Ring - Markets
Nail Polish - 'Ultraviolet' by Rimmel

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Flying Halfway Around The World For What?

     The world is a huge place, full of diverse people, places and cultures, and I for one, want to see as much of it as possible. I’ve written about travel in the past, and why I think that it’s important that people see beyond their own front doors. However, people travel for many different reasons, and therefore have very different experiences when travelling, so I want to explore a few of these.

(Source)
     First of all, there are trips that centre on a certain type of experience or atmosphere, rather than the specific place. For example, people going on relaxing beach holidays or winter ski trips, as these are things that they cannot experience at home. These are also typically ‘getaway’ trips, short breaks from reality to allow oneself to de-stress and have some fun for a little while. I think it’s important for everyone’s mental health to have time like this, and often getting out the country is the only way to ensure that you really feel like you’re on holiday. I personally wouldn’t go too far afield for a trip like this – Europe is sufficient for Brits – but I’ve been on plenty of relaxing beach holidays myself growing up.

     Other trips are about the location, and this is the main reason which motivates me to travel. I want to see famous sights, try local cuisines and experience cultures different to my own. There’s so much diversity in the world, so I feel that if I’m going to spend a lot of money going to another part of it, I want to find out what makes that country unique, to understand their history and customs.  These trips tend to be busier and more tiring, but I think it’s worth pushing yourself onwards to make the most of whatever time you have abroad and see and do as much as possible. This is especially true when travelling to faraway places – such as America or Australia for me – where so much time and money are involved in just getting there, it seems silly to not experience as much as you can.

     The travellers I have the least in common with are those who go abroad and end up doing things they could just as easily do at home, in particular, shopping and partying. I do enjoy both these things, in moderation; for example, I like going to more unique shops, not the brand names you get everywhere, and some other parts of the world do have fantastic nightlife, but these are certainly not my priorities when travelling. For others though, that seems to be their only interest – which is fair enough, I’d never tell someone not to do what they enjoy  - but I personally would never spend all that money to travel somewhere new, just to do things I can do at home.

     Everyone is an individual however, and we all make our own choices in life. I think travelling is a fantastic thing to do, whatever your reasons or expectations may be. One of the great things about travel is getting to meet new people, and there’s nearly always going to be someone with similar interests to oneself. Comparing my recent travels – my Easter break in the south of France and my Contiki through Europe – I saw more of each place in France while on my own, but I enjoyed the Contiki more overall because I met so many great people to share my adventures with. I don’t know what style my future travels will be in, but there’s still a lot more of this world I’ve yet to see.
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