Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Musings From Above The City

view of edinburgh including castle, royal mile, scott monument and balmoral, taken from calton hill

view of edinburgh city from calton hill

view of edinburgh city taken from calton hill

     The city thrums with life, like a careful oiled machine. The streets criss-cross and intersect in a complex maze stretching almost to the horizon, full of hidden alleys and curves leading to dead ends, all too easy to get lost within. The traffic traces routes through it all, cars shuffling slowly in queues through traffic lights, bikes nimbly slipping through the gaps, long buses snaking their way around corners. The people are like ants, hurrying on their way to work, to school, to home, barley distinguishable from up here.

     The level network of streets in the New Town is overshadowed by the Old, rising above them on the hilltop. Spires and towers dominate the skyline, proudly jutting above the lower buildings. The clock tower stands like a sentinel, carefully keeping time, while higher still, the castle rules above all others. The steep slopes of the hilltop make it impenetrable, a fortress of power and defence. The skyline tells an ancient story, of knowledge, of history, of nation. It holds secrets and legends about a city rife with heritage.

     Beyond this still, lies the sea. Calm and grey beneath the steely, overcast sky, the salty scent drifting back over the city, propelled by the fierce, biting wind. Bridges, marvels of engineering and ingenuity span across the stretch of water, to the proud hills standing tall on the other side. More towns and civilisations are scattered across there, as the human population has discovered every nook of the natural world. Urban life has spread, filling the land with energy and life.

     But up here, it is quiet. Here, the sounds of the people and the traffic are silenced, and only the wind stirs the air. A few tourists are posing and snapping photos of the city below, or attempting to scale the proud, Athenian monument that stands watch over it all, but for the most part, it is peaceful. The grassy turf is firm and well-trodden underfoot, simple and natural, devoid of flowers or landscaping. Here, nature reigns supreme in the centre of an urban, civilised space. Here, the city is within reach, yet still so far off, down below. Here, one can take a step back and survey the world from above. Here, one can pause, think, reflect. Here, it is quiet.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Outfit of the Day - Dainty Dress

     I love that this dress allows me to look a little fancier and more dressed up, with minimal effort involved. It's a nice, thick, warm material, making it perfect for winter months, and pairs well with boots. The dress itself is black and white, so the blue cardigan adds a splash of colour, without being too bright or garish. I went for simple, elegant jewellery, to try to match the more sophisticated style of the dress. Overall, I think it's a really dainty, girly outfit, that can be worn day-to-day or for a slightly nicer occasion.

Dainty black & white dress with blue cardigans & brown ankle boots winter outfit

Dainty black & white dress with blue cardigans & brown ankle boots winter outfit

Dainty black & white dress with brown ankle boots winter outfit

Silver drop earrings & Venetian mask necklace

Silver bracelet and ring, with black & white dress and purple nails

Brown suede ankle boots

Dress - TopShop, Cardigan - LaRedoute, Boots - Ziga
Tights - M&S, Earrings & Ring - Unknown, Necklace - Market
Bracelet - Forever21, Nail Polish - 'Vant To Bite My Neck?' by Opi

Saturday, 25 October 2014

48 Hours in Edinburgh

     So my sister came to stay with me for the weekend, the first time she’s done so since I moved out to go to university. She hasn’t seen much of Edinburgh beyond Princes Street, so my challenge was to take her to as many things as possible in a weekend, which weren’t too expensive and would appeal to a teenager. Luckily, summers spent taking teenagers on excursions at work left me well-informed on the subject!

48 Hours in Edinburgh view of meadows, church & castle

Arthur's Seat
     We were working within a budget, so first up was Arthur’s Seat. Not many cities can boast an extinct volcano in their centre, and it’s became a favourite of tourists and residents alike. The climb itself is manageable for most people - I’m pretty unfit and I can do it! - though it’s quite rocky at the top, and can be tricky in the wind and rain. We got decent weather as we set off, but it was blowing a gale by the time we reached the top. Unfortunately, this limited our view, which can be spectacular on a good day, but we did get to witness some rainbows on the way back down.

Edinburgh Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park

View of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

View of Edinburgh Holyrood Palace & rainbow from Arthur's Seat

The Royal Mile
     We’d bought a picnic lunch, which we ended up eating outside Parliament, due to the rain. The building makes for an… interesting view (i.e. I hate it). It’s impossible to visit Edinburgh without taking a gander along the Royal Mile, the high street stretching from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and littered with the most Scottish-themed shops and pubs under the sun. We walked it uphill and I regaled my sister with the facts I could remember from doing walking tours here at work; I’m not great with dates, but I know all the stories!

Edinburgh Royal Mile: The Hub

Camera Obscura
     At the top of the Mile, we went into Camera Obscura, which my sister really enjoyed. It’s full of exhibits of optical illusions and holograms and such like; we went through a mirror maze and vortex tunnel, played with light beams, distorted our faces, spied on the Castle esplanade and left our shadows behind on the wall. There’s so many things to see and play with inside, so it’s great for younger people her age, as well as mine! At the top you get a bird’s eye tour of Edinburgh in the camera obscura itself, and get to do some more spying on the surrounding areas.

Mirror maze in Camera Obscura, Edinburgh

Shadows on the wall in Camera Obscura, Edinburgh

View of The Hub & Royal Mile from Camera Obscura, Edinburgh

National Museum of Scotland
     We stayed in and ordered pizza on Saturday night, then started Sunday bright and early with a trip to the National Museum of Scotland. I’ve been enough times to know the place upside-down, but I do think it’s a great museum, as well as being free! Well laid out, with heaps of interactive features, and housed in a beautiful old building. Unfortunately, several parts are being renovated just now, so we had limited options, but we got through all the natural history and world culture sections, which was probably enough for my sister for one day. We then had lunch in a cute cafe called Lucano’s Kitchen on George VI Bridge, which was rustic and quaint and good value, if a little cramped.

Main hall of National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Natural History hall in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Dungeon
     Next up was the Edinburgh Dungeons, one of our pricier choices, but well worth it. Having done it before, I know about all the surprises and spooks, but I’ve still never tired of it. One room had changed though, which caught me a little off guard! It’s both scary and funny, with great actors and gruesome stories that visitors are thrown right into the middle of. My sister loved it, and I’d still go back again. We then headed to Princes Street for a little early Christmas shopping, though not for too long as you can shop pretty much anywhere; our focus was the things unique to Edinburgh.

Exterior of the Edinburgh Dungeon

The Real Mary King's Close
     We had dinner at Prezzo on North Bridge, as my sister loves Italian food and I get a good deal there with my Tastecard (a new acquisition which I highly recommend for eating out!). The meal was fairly simple, but enjoyable, and we got a great view of the Balmoral Hotel lit up at night. We then headed to The Real Mary King’s Close, the only attraction I hadn’t been to before. It’s a tour of Edinburgh’s underground streets, a little spooky, but very interesting. It’s more factual and historical than the Dungeons, which favour scariness and humour, but I got to see a hidden part of the city and heard a few stories I hadn’t before.

The Real Mary King's Close sign in Edinburgh

     All in all, we had a great weekend. I’m always about making the most of your time in any given place, even if you don’t have long there, so I’m glad I got to show her so much in one weekend. We were pretty tired by the end of it, but it was definitely worth it!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Musically Inspired - Keeping Connections

     Some people come into our lives and leave it again, leaving no lasting impression behind. Others leave footprints on our hearts. Some people are more important to us than others, so when you find the ones that are, hold on to them.

     The world’s population is massive, and hundreds, if not thousands, of people flit in and out of our lives. Finding the good ones may not always be easy; it may take tears and disappointments and heartbreaks to weed out those who we want to keep around. And of course, don’t bother with those who aren’t worth it. If someone isn’t making you happy or enhancing your life in any way, cut them out. Life’s too short to waste on the people who don’t matter. But, this makes it even more important that we hang on to those who do.

     The world is a big place, and it’s all too easy to lose touch with people as lives diverge down different paths. Social networking makes it far easier to know what’s going on in everyone’s lives now, but it’s not a replacement for actually spending time with them. Real, in person conversations are the times when we talk about the big ideas, trade secrets and discuss our dreams and futures, in a way that can’t be replicated by technology.

     When you find someone special though, someone who you want to talk about these big things with, someone who makes you smile; don’t lose them. We need the support of others to survive in this world. It can be a scary place, where things go wrong all the time, and can get very lonely without friends and family who are there for you. It’s impossible to keep in touch with everyone you once knew, but if they really matter to you, then try to not let that go.

     There’s a common saying that says we’ll regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did. And I think this can be applied to people too; you’re more likely to regret not making the effort to get to know someone or spend time with them, than if you do. So make the effort. Spend time with these people. Let them know how important they are to you. Don’t lose them.

Song: Brothers & Sisters - Twin Atlantic

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Monday, 20 October 2014

Outfit of the Day - Reflections

     The order of the day is simple, but fun. A t-shirt and shorts combo couldn't be simpler, but I like to try to make my outfits a little more unusual than just that. I think this top is really cool, as it's an image of a river, with the trees reflected upside down, but from far away can look pretty abstract and unusual. Leggings allow me to carry on wearing shorts into autumn, to make a change from regular jeans, and as I have mentioned in the past, I utterly adore these boots; fun and quirky and incredibly comfortable. And I don't know about your part of the world, but Scotland is getting damn cold, so I'm cracking out the winter hats again!

Reflections top, denim shorts & purple boots outfit

Reflections top, denim shorts & purple boots outfit

Feather necklace

Grey beanie, feather necklace & teardrop earrings

Purple combat boots

Top - LaRedoute, Shorts - H&M, Leggings - New Look
Boots - Steve Madden, Hat - H&M
Necklace - Forever 21, Earrings - Gift

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Review - The Maze Runner

the maze runner film movie poster
     Having already read the novel by James Dashner, (my review can be found here), and being familiar with many of the cast members from other things, I had fairly high expectations for the film adaptation of The Maze Runner (click for Amazon link). Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

     As with any novel-to-film adaptation, there will be changes made. The film will never match its source material exactly, so it’s important to stop expecting that from the get-go. I used to constantly list off changes made in adaptations, but with time I’ve come to accept this. What’s more important is how well the film translates the novel’s overall style and themes, which I think this adaptation does very well. Thrown straight into the midst of the action, the audience slowly learns more about the strange Glade and Maze that these teenage boys have found themselves trapped in. Just as Thomas has no access to his prior memories, we have no knowledge of the world beyond the Maze, which makes for the unravelling of an exciting and mysterious story.

     The majority of changes from the book were small enough, or done well enough cinematically, that I could forgive them, however one thing I would have like to have seen (novel spoiler!) was the telepathic link between Thomas and Teresa. Removing this meant that, for me, the closeness of their relationship, as depicted in the book, was not translated as fully to the film. However, the cast is excellent, each actor embodying and portraying the characters just as I would have expected in the book. Dylan O’Brien in particular, is a force to be reckoned with, an excellent young actor who I believe has the potential to do extremely well in the future. Having seen both his comedic and villainous sides in Teen Wolf, it was nice to see him in yet another role, as a brave, dramatic hero.

     The direction and special effects were also stunning. Visually, the film is beautiful to look at, the almost idyllic, rustic Glade contrasted heavily with the darkness and fear found in the Maze. The Grievers were brought to life and became even more terrifying than I’d found them before, vast gruesome creatures I’d never want to encounter myself. The action sequences were thrilling and heart-pounding, and even though I knew the outcomes from the novel, I was still on edge and desperately rooting for the characters, which is definitely a sign of a great film. The ending also remained true to the book, which I was very pleased about. Without giving it away, I will merely say that I did not see it coming in the book, and it sets up well for the sequel.

     Overall, it’s a great film, a close enough adaptation for fans of the book to enjoy, and still easily accessible and enjoyable for those who haven’t read it before. Dramatic, thrilling and emotional; my only problem now is how long do I have to wait for the sequel, The Scorch Trials?

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Country Life - Visiting Home

     For the past three years I’ve lived in cities, in Scotland and France, in order to attend university. But of course, from time to time I visit home, at weekends and during holidays, as I did so this week. My main priority is to see my family, of course, but I grew up on a farm in the country, and this has various other charms for me too. The contrasts between home and the city are vast as well, as I’ve noticed when travelling between the two.

country farm landscape with hills and trees in summer in scotland

country landscape with hills, river/ stream and bridge in summer in scotland

country landscape with hills and river/ stream in summer in scotland

country farm landscape with hills and path in summer in scotland

country garden with trees, lawn and playhouse in summer

     I took it for granted growing up I think, but going home now makes me realise how lucky I was to live in such a place. I’ve shared plenty of photos here, of places around the house and out in the fields, at various times of year. I spent my childhood paddling in rivers, play-acting in our playhouse, feeding lambs, walking dogs, sledging down hills and adventuring in the forest. Not every child is as lucky as I was, and I now appreciate where I live. I find it incredibly peaceful, a far cry and pleasant break from the city.

     We also have a strong community, between the farmers and various others who live in our valley. Our homes are rather spread out, but we do all come together regularly, especially for events like the agricultural village show, the summer barbecue and the Christmas church service. This is certainly something the city lacks, where people are just anonymous faces lost in the crowds.

country farm landscape in winter with trees and wall in snow in scotland

country farm landscape with trees, hills and snow in winter in scotland

country farm wall with curling stones and snow in winter in scotland

country farm landscape with trees, hills, river, bridge and snow in winter in scotland

     City life does have its merits of course - it’s far easier having everything close by, rather than driving into town all the time. And the cities has so many amenities that I never had access to, or was very far from, while living at home. An example that springs to mind was having to stop ballet lessons when I was young because the teacher moved away and there was no one else in our small town who taught it. We also had to travel far to go shopping or to the cinema, things I now take for granted in the city, and of course, there was next to no night life to speak of. And of course, it was necessary to move here for university, which I’m lucky enough to be able to attend.

     At the age I am in life, city living is certainly what suits me the most, and what I will continue to need for some time, as I graduate and begin job hunting - opportunities are scarce back home, and non-existent in the sectors I’m hoping to be in. However, I do feel very privileged to be able to enjoy both worlds, through my visits home, which I look forward to each time.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Outfit of the Day - Layer Up

     It's no secret that checked shirts are everywhere at the moment, but I thought I'd try to style mine a little differently. Rather than wearing it with jeans, I've layered it over the top of this dress, for a slightly different look. It also makes this dress, which I consider quite summery, last through into autumn. The shirt combined with my trusty old boots also make this a slightly tougher, edgier outfit, but maintains girly-ness with the dress and jewellery - I particularly like this necklace, as I'm a fan of feathers.

grey dress green checked plaid shirt outfit layer up text

grey dress green checked plaid shirt black boots outfit

silver feather pendant necklace

blue nail polish black glass twist ring silver knot ring

black boots and tights

Dress - Forever 21, Shirt - Primark, Boots - Even & Odd
Tights - Marks & Spencer, Necklace - New Look
Ring - Market, Nail Polish - 'Blueberry' by BarryM

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Oktoberfest in Edinburgh

     For anyone unfamiliar with Oktoberfest, it’s a beer festival held every year in Germany (in October funnily enough!). However, it’s growing popularity has led to cities all over the world putting on their own versions of Oktoberfest, so when I discovered that Edinburgh was having one this year, my friends and I couldn’t resist!

edinburgh oktoberfest beer tent interior

2pt beer stein at edinburgh oktoberfest
Is there such a thing as too much beer?
german sausage fries and beer at edinburgh oktoberfest

     Much of the festival imitated what you’d expect to find at the German version - held in a huge tent, sat at long benches, German music blaring and beer steins almost too large to lift! All the staff were also clad in German outfits, of lederhosen and dirndls, and two of my friends own dirndls, so of course, couldn’t turn down an opportunity to wear them again. There were also various souvenirs available, so it was very funny to see others there wearing feathered Tyrolean hats and blonde pigtail wigs!

     Our tickets included food and beer, so what else would you eat at a German festival besides sausages? And then, naturally, we drank copious amounts of beer. Oktoberfest had never appealed to much in the past, as I was never much of a fan of beer, but I’ve recently developed liking for it, which was put to good use that night! The standard size available was 1.5 pt, but we opted to go for the full 2 pt, because why not? As the night wore on and the tent’s occupants got boozier, dancing on the benches commenced, which seems to be compulsory at all Oktoberfests. There was a mix of German and contemporary music, and there’s nothing quite like a tent full of people dancing the YMCA atop the benches.

german dirndls traditional dress at edinburgh oktoberfest
My dirndl girls
edinburgh oktoberfest beer tent interior

edinburgh oktoberfest 2pt beer stein cheers
Cheers! - or as the Germans say, Prost!
     Overall, it was a good night, and we all enjoyed ourselves. However, I would be ready to bet that the real Oktoberfest celebrations in Germany would be even better, being the original and authentic version. This gave me a taster of the festival, but now I think I’ll have to experience the real thing one day!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

642 Things - The Cleaning Lady

"The cleaning lady"

cleaning lady with vacuum in office building
     Every day you pass her in the hall. Every day she wears the same uniform, the blue apron, so practical and nondescript. Every day she empties the bins, vacuums the floors, cleans the bathrooms and wipes down the surfaces. Every day she smiles and nods to you, and everyone else as they pass by. Every day she follows the same routine, never shirking her duties or bemoaning their repetitiveness. And every day you walk by her, without giving her a second thought.

     But what if you did? She is another human being, just like you, trying to lead her life. Why shouldn’t you take an interest in her one day?

     What if each night she changes out the uniform and into something small and sexy, in attempt to win back her drifting husband? What if she snoops through your personal notes as she empties the bins, scans through your files as she vacuums, eavesdrops on gossip and phone calls as she cleans the bathrooms and surfaces? What if behind the smile and nod lies dark and twisted thoughts about your demise? What if the routine only exists inside this building, and beyond it lies a life of untold drama and adventure?

     She could be a charity worker, a stripper, a mother, a serial killer, a counsellor, a psychopath, a hospital volunteer, a former convict. She could have lost loved ones, travelled the world, suffer from cancer, once been mere inches from fame. Her history and her life outside these walls could involve anything and everything; if only you stopped to ask her.

     But you don’t. You wonder for a few minutes from time to time, before you mind is distracted by the more pressing issues in your own life; that parents’ evening tomorrow, visiting your in-laws next week, the heating bill, the stack of papers awaiting you on your desk. And, in your mind at least, she remains the cleaning lady. Every day, doing the same chores and cleaning up your messes, no gratitude or praise expected. Every day, the same mundane routine, in a life that has no implication on your own.

    Or so you think…

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