Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I picked this classic up, back when I was in school and sadly, did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to. So, I thought it might be worth letting you know why.

Northanger Abbey is the first and only book of Austen’s I have read to date. I choose it because I wanted to explore more of the literature classics.

Naturally, Jane Austen needs no introduction, as one of England’s best and brightest novelists and if your unsure what she looks like you need only to whip out 10 fine English pounds to find her portrait.

This novel was posthumously published by her brother Henry Austen, in 1817. Henry also took the liberty of renaming it Northanger Abbey, Austen herself originally chose Susan after the heroine, but later changed her name to Catherine and so the title change too.

Austen was, and still is, famous for her criticism of the popular romantic and sentimental authors of her day. Often creating heroines who are demure and naive to which Catherine is no exception. Austen is able to show Catherine is no fool, by making her tomboyish and practical, intimated with young goofiness and juxtaposes against the very feminine and fickle Isabella.

This novel is a satirical romance, mocking both the format of society and its obsession with gothic literature.

Due to the heavy focus on gothic literature, having read The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk before Northanger Abbey, would have proved very useful. As I have not read either, I struggled even with the extensive footnotes and explanations my copy had.

I feel the book itself was a bit “meh” as not all that much happens and so much detail is described. It seemed like so much effort was put into linking the gothic novels of the time that some of the characters and events went a little under developed.

I don’t think I am alone in this view as to date the book has only achieved a 3.81/5 on Goodreads.

An essay written by Joan Aiken published for the Jane Austen Society of North America entitled “How might Jane Austen of revised Northanger Abbey?”, explains how Susan was bought by the publisher Crosby in 1803 and shelved for 13 years. Until her brother Henry Austen re-purchased it. So perhaps even contemporary opinion thought it was mediocre.

We know Austen made some adjustments to the text and in her advertisement for the book she explains her frustration that Crosby had not published the work earlier. She was clearly worried that the gap between writing and publication had rendered the text irrelevant and implored readers, “to bear in mind that 13 years have passed since it was finished, many more since it was began.” (The full advertisement can be found here, along with further information about the novel and author).

Even then Austen delayed publication – so perhaps she never felt it was quite finished or the moment for publication had passed? Unfortunately, we will never know.

When it was finally published in 1817, Henry wrote a touching and heartfelt forward to the book, explaining for the first time that she was the author behind Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. Previously she had only been named as “By a Lady” or her previous work.

Narrated in the 3rd person, Catherine’s plain life is laid bare and our heroine is born along the way. The narrator is quite critical of her simplicity and ordinary nature introducing Catherine in the first line saying:

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

The story then moves to Bath and the adventures of entering high society for the winter season, sometime in the New Year. Catherine makes acquaintance with Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor, whom she becomes very fond of.

As well as, Isabella and John Thorpe, children of Mrs Allen’s old school chum. Catherine seems to enjoy the excitement of Bath, but is overjoyed when Henry and Eleanor invite her to their country pile – Northanger Abbey.

The novel has 4 key themes:

  • Fear of social rejection – in particular the need to select a good spouse
  • Societies gothic obsession
  • Coming of age/maturing
  • The importance of reading

Marriage is the central focus of the story. It is the reason for the season at Bath, the sole aim of Isabella and John Thorpe. Also, the source for General Tilney’s interest in Catherine, followed by his wrath, the cause of Eleanor Tilney’s sadness and most importantly the anticipated link between our hero and heroine.

Marriage is inextricably linked to social rejection, as that would be the result of failure to secure a good match. Henry is often seen mocking the ways of society, by saying things like, “Now I must give one smirk and then we may be rational again.”

The gothic obsession is explored through Catherine’s currently reading list (side note she’d have a fleek Instagram!). Then in greater and more dangerous depth when she is convinced General Tilney murdered his wife. Austen show’s the danger that longing for high drama can bring to society, especially when gossip can lead to ruin at an alarming pace, even in the absence of social media.

This mistake leads to Catherine’s sharp coming of age and fast lesson in the dislocation of fact and fantasy.

The importance of reading is addressed both indirectly through the references to other novels and directly through Henry Tilney when he states, “The person, be it a gentleman or a lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

This English Classic has been adapted in many different ways – be that TV, plays, radio, film and even a Marvel graphic novel!

The only one of these I have seen is the 2007 film by ITV, staring Felicity Jones and Carey Mullingan. I love this film, its is perfect for a rainy day when you fancy watching a period drama.

I found the book hard going and quite frankly a waste of time. I like the story, but the continuous gothic references are a bit too much. They broke the flow of the story up and sadly it never got exciting in the way I had hoped. I was even able to put it down during the supposed high drama scenes!

However,  if I was reading it as a contemporary at the time, I probably would have understood it better and even loved it – in fact as I was coming of age at the time it may have even resonated with me.

So, I would not recommend reading the book, but I would however implore you to seek out the story in whatever other medium takes your fancy. As it is a good tale, but not worth the time and prep work it takes to read it in its original format.

Have you read Northanger Abbey – what did you think? What Jane Austen book would you recommend I read next?

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Gig Review: Maren Morris – Hero

I can’t remember exactly when I found out that Maren Morris was doing a Hero UK tour, but what I can tell you was I was beside myself with excitement.

I fell in love with Hero and Morris, from the first time I heard My Church, and even wrote a post reviewing it in September 2017.

My boyfriend and I went to see her at the O2 Shepard’s Bush Empire, back on 15th November 2017 and I have been meaning to write a review ever since, but never got around to it.

But seen as Morris is coming back to London later this year, I thought I’d finally write one, for those of you who are on the fence about seeing her (not sure who would be with talent like hers)!

Support Act – Ryan Hurd

Work commitments meant we arrived at the venue a little late and just managed to get in  before Ryan Hurd took to the stage to warm us up with his earthy-gritty voice (I’m making that an adjective)!

We grabbed a beer and then settled down at the back of the venue. We had bought unreserved standing tickets which were on the ground floor, they cost us £20.50 plus a £2.50 booking fee.

Thankfully as we are both quite tall being right at the back was not an issue and the part we were standing on was also slightly raised – which helped plus it had a convenient beer shelf.

Anyway, Ryan took to the stage at 8pm, he was dressed casually in a checked shirt and jeans – oozing effortless cool.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found out he was going to be supporting his fiancée in such a literal manner.

He kicked the night off with the mellow and delicate Chasing After You, before bringing the party to the Wednesday night with We Do Us and Half Hoping.

Hurd showed off the country-rock edge that he is well known for with City Girl and I Found Love in a Bar, and hinted that this was written about how he and Morris met.

He also displayed his writing talents finishing off with You Look Good, which he co-wrote with Hilary Lindsey and Busbee.

Venue – O2 Shepard’s Bush Empire

Even though the venue was unjustifiably small when compared to the talent this Texan fire-cracker packs. It is still one of my favourite London venues especially for country music. I’ve been here a few times over the years and find it is easy to get to, just a 5 minute walk from the Tube Station and a 10 minute walk from the Oxford Tube coach stop.

Also, the loos on the ground floor are in the auditorium, so you don’t have to miss the show if you need to freshen up. Plus the beer is reasonably priced – for London and the bars are conveniently placed and the staff are faultless.

Twitter was bursting with joy as The Shires very own Ben Earle was spotted in the crowd, sadly I did not see him myself, but it proved a hot topic in the loos!

Main Event – Maren Morris

When the lights dimmed, out popped our very own hero (or heroine for those of you that don’t appreciate cheap jokes)! Dressed in a playsuit, thigh high boots – purchased for Harrods earlier that day – as she went on to share with us, and a trench coat (possibly Burberry). She looked every part the sass-pot she is.

With just her band and a neon Hero sign behind her, the party started. Kicking off with Sugar, then moving into Just Another Thing after say she said hello to the crowd.

How It’s Done came next and then we were treated to an amazing rendition of Bonnie Raitt and John Prine’s – Angel of Montgomery. I’d never heard this song before, but am now obsessed, though I do wish she had brought Hurd out for a duet on this one.

Morris also candidly addressed the issues she faced when trying to release I Could Use a Love Song and the frustration she felt when people remarked it was too slow. To which she remarked “Fuck you” stating that “Sometimes you need your heart ripped out to check it is still beating”.

After the emotional rollercoaster Morris had just taken the crowd on she treated us to a new song – Flavor (I still think it should have a ‘u’ in it)! This one is all about being unapologetically individual and being true to yourself, something which comes across throughout the album, as well as, her presence.

Moments before she played the song Morris had commented on that she loved how UK audiences “just care so much about the songs,” which was proved right when she started singing the song and the crowd just soaked it up.

Next she brought her leading man back, to share the stage and they duetted I Wish I Was, which was super cute, seen as they had co-written the song together with Hemby.

Morris went on to tell the crowd that Hero – the album and the tour name were derived from a line from this song – “I’m not the hero in the story”!

The Company You Keep sounded noticably rougher than on the album and clearly everyone had the same idea as me, as the ladies loos were full. It was not rubbish, by any stretch of the imagination, I think people were just keen to make sure they did not miss one of her big songs.

Things picked up again, with a run of her top hits – Once, 80s Mercedes and Rich. Followed by a surprisingly popular rendition of Kesha’s – Hymn.

Morris went on to further display her vocal talents as she mashed her single Second Wind with Beyoncé’s – Halo, much to the crowds delight. It has been a firm favourite of her live performances since Country 2 Country 2017.

The set wrapped up with My Church, which went down a storm, I think the Hallelujah’s even raised the roof!

The night finished with sobering encore, Morris had decided to sing her popular song Dear Hate – which she recorded and released after hearing of the events that took place at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas.

Overall Thoughts

Throughout the gig I was on an adrenaline high – I had waited so long for this tour and Hero had been such a firm favourite of mine, since I first heard it.

It was incredible to seen Maren up-close and doing her thing, I love that UK country music gigs are still small enough that they have an unrivalled level of intimacy.

My only disappointment was that Morris and Hurd did not duet Blake Shelton and Ashlee Monroe’s – Lonely Tonight, which was written by Hurd and Brent Anderson.

Morris never fails to amaze me with her confidence, sense of moral purpose and pure vocal talent, she is simply outstanding. Between songs she chatted with the audience effortlessly, as if she truly appreciated everyone in the audience. Morris even remarked how grateful she was to sell out a London venue on a week day!

I’d definitely go and see Morris’ next concert if you get the chance on November 26th 2018. Currently she’s only doing one date in the UK and sadly it’s already sold out, fingers crossed she sneaks in an extra London date! If not there is always Paris on the 28th November!

I implore you to go an see her if you can, as when you leave one of this Texan sass-pots concerts you’ll feel like you’ve caught your second wind (sorry, I couldn’t resist)!

Are you planning on seeing Maren Morris, Ryan Hurd or any other country music artists any time soon?

An Introduction to Historiography

I thought it was high time I changed up the type of content on here and have decided to add in another topic I am passionate about – History.

As you may know I studied History at university and loved every minute of it, so I’m going to try and impart some of the knowledge I gained during my degree, in a brief and easy to understand manner. Plus it will give my friends and family a break from me bleeting on!

I’m not sure what topics I will cover or how often these posts will appear on here, I’m going to see what comes to mind, but feel free to let me know if there’s anything in particular you want to read.

I’ll try to cover some of the key periods in History, different types/areas of History, top facts, biographies of people and maybe review some places I visit.

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For today I thought I would focus on a key word in all Historians Vocabulary – Historiography.

**Advance warning** – This post will be the dullest of the whole series, however  historiography a fundamental building block to understanding History in general and getting the most out of the posts that will follow in the future.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines historiography as:

The writing of history, especially the writing of History based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particular details from the authentic materials in those sources, and the synthesis of those details into a narrative that stands the test of critical examination. The Term historiography also refers to the theory and History of historical writing.

One of the many reasons this term is so important to Historians is that it defines the understanding of History, as well as substantiating that knowledge of History. Validating the Historian as an expert in their field!

Historiography acts as an umbrella for the two types of sources that make up our understanding of History – Primary and Secondary sources. The way I define the two are:

Primary – documented at the time, it is first hand evidence.

Secondary – is analysis and evaluation of a primary source and is most often written after the fact.

 

So, these posts are secondary sources, but they may use primary sources to form their conclusion.

Primary sources can take a multitude of forms, such as diary entries, written documents, artefacts, videos and many more.

It is important to critique and analyse sources, as they are often bias and in some cases incomplete. It is this ambiguity that makes History open to interpretation, thus substantiating your opinion using other sources is imperative.

Another key term often used when referring to the historiography of a source is “schools of thought” this refers to the different ways of thinking within History.

There are many different schools of thought:

  • Marxist – focuses on social class
  • Social History – often focuses on a “bottom-up” approach – looking at everyday life and people
  • Cultural
  • Intellectual – the history of ideas
  • And many more

Often when interpreting a source keeping these schools of thought in mind, can speed up uncovering biases and explain the influences of the author.

Another thing to keep in mind when analysing the bias of a source is whether it was intentional?

When analysing a historical object of a particular event or era of History it is important to use a variety of sources from across a variety of schools of thought.

Another key vein of historiography is the development over time… History changes when new sources or ideas about what happen emerge. At the end o the Second World War History books said Hitler was to blame (orthodox view), fast forward to 1961 AJP Taylor argued that the constraints of the Treaty of Versailles were to blame (revisionist view).

These different view points in historiography lead to continuous debates in the subject over popular topics, as both view points can be used to argue the reasons for the out break of war. Thus it is important to consult variety of both primary and secondary sources before forming your own opinion on either side of the debate.

If historiography is such a bore, why bother?

Despite being quite a dull part of learning about the past, analysing the historiography of sources makes sure you are using the best possible examples and forming a balanced argument.

History can be a valuable tool for the future, allowing analysis at the reasoning behind similar past events and why a particular course of action was taken.  This understanding of context can explain the importance of a particular event within the bigger picture, it also allows us to place and evaluate historical significance.

If historiography was lost, we could never look at past mistakes to help us make better decisions for the future. History may not necessary repeat itself but it does play a crucial part in shaping the future.

How do I know which historians to believe?

This is a very difficult question, as there is no real answer. There is no definitive list of who to believe and who to disregard as History is an ongoing discussion and because everyone will approach a source with a slightly different perspective. So, every time a new source is uncovered or re-examined the overall picture changes.

Conclusion

I think the most beautiful thing about History is that it will always be incomplete. The gaps left by the unfinished nature of History create the need for historiography to plug them and validate the accuracy of the information we do have.

Have you ever come across historiography before? What is your interpretation of the roll historiography plays in understanding the past?

Further Reading

I’m going to aim to give you some pointers for further reading on the subject or to develop your understanding of the historiography of a particular subject here:

  • This IB essay briefly explains the major view points held on each side of the historiographical debate for the causes of WWII.
  • L.S. Kramer and S.C. Maza, A Companion to Western Historical ThoughtBlackwell Publishers, 2013 – this book is a great overview of the major theories held over they key events and people in Western History.
  • E.H. Carr, What is History?, University of Cambridge Press, 1961 – this book is the core reading text for most university modules on historiography.
  • The Past Cannot Die Podcast, Episode 5: An Introduction to Historiography – this podcast explains the roll of historiography with to both researching and the overall understanding of a particular historical event.

 

Two Days in Frankfurt

This was a very last minute trip, in fact I didn’t even know this was on the cards until four days before we went. Without meaning to sound ungrateful it also didn’t come at the best time for me, as I had a night out planned on the Friday night!

Transport

Still a little drunk from the night before and when I say night I mean 4 hours earlier. We caught the first Lufthansa flight out of Heathrow on Saturday morning. This was my first Lufthansa flight and I was incredibly pleased with the aircraft and the quality of the service.

Due to the last minute nature of the trip my flight was very expensive at around £200, unsurprisingly at that price the plane as it was almost empty. This really helped my emerging hangover as I could lounge across three seats!

My return flight was a different story, as to be expected when on the last flight back to Heathrow on Sunday evening, it was rammed.

Both airports were super easy to navigate on the way out, probably helped by the fact Jonny was traveling with me. It was a different story on the way back, I got so lost in Frankfurt Airport trying to find the right place to go through security I almost cried. I finally admitted defeat and was very brashly told I was in the wrong place, which left me rather flustered and my internal panic alarms whirring.

Jonny and I got local taxi’s to and from the airport, although this service was great it did cost EUR 30 each way, so was in no way cost effective! Jonny and I mainly navigated Frankfurt on foot, however we did also take the S-Bhan and U-Bhan when needed.

Accommodation

We stayed in the Maritim Hotel Frankfurt, which was perfectly fine however on arrival it was obvious that this particular hotel was designed with the business traveller in mind and was attached to a massive conference centre. I would recommend this hotel if you are travelling to Frankfurt for business, but as tourists the 45 minute walk into the city centre was not desirable.

One of the down sides to this hotel was the lack of milk in the room – there was only creamer, so we paid EUR 2.50 for half a coffee cup of milk. That said the hotel did have a superb bar with a great vibe and a couple of restaurants too – but we opted to eat closer to the town centre.

Food & Drink

After arrival into the town centre settled we settle on a coffee and a cheese croissant, which was just the pick me up I needed while in the throes of self-pity.

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We decided to spend some time on TripAdvisor finding somewhere for dinner, our first choice was Thai and Turf which was rated number 5 in Frankfurt. Unfortunately it was fully booked so we settled on a lovely local Italian, sadly I don’t remember where it was.

However I had the most amazing food and the price was pretty reasonable too. We both drank a local German beer which was very satisfying!

The next day we headed over towards the zoo and found the most wonderful breakfast place it was all you can eat for €4.99. We had croissants to start, followed by omelette and fried breakfast and finished it off with pancakes. Washed down with 2 coffees which we not included, but they were not expensive. Needless to say we were full for the rest of the day.

I do regret not trying any of the Apfel wine which is supposed to be a local favourite, however I never came across any to try.

Activities & Culture:

On arrival Jonny and I decided to go for a walk to see the Römer and get a lay of the land. This was lovely, sadly the Christmas Market was just being set up when we were there, but none the less it was pleasant. The town centre was busy, but in a charming way as opposed to a frustrating and overwhelming way.

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Next we hit the shops, on the hunt for a woolly hat for Jonny! However as usual I managed to find some presents for myself. On the whole the shopping was good and the stereotypical German efficiency made navigating the sale section really easy. I

was also on the lookout for something to wear to work on Monday as drunk Katie had barely managed to pack for the trip. I was horrified when I opened my carryon case to find a pair of pants, a top and jumper for the next day as well as a selection of old magazines. None of which would help me on Monday!

We nipped over the Eisner Steg Bridge to view the other side of the city, which was a lot quieter and less touristy. The bridge was covered in love padlocks, which was very sweet (though these always make me worry for the structural integrity of the bridge!).

We took the U-Bhan back to our hotel, which was pleasant and easy to navigate.

The next day we went to the zoo (one of my favourite attractions in any city!), we took the S-Bhan from our hotel after a brief argument with the ticket machine. We got a little lost coming off the train and Jonny took me on an accidental tour of the local area, we saw the European Central Bank and these lovely community library boxes.

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After Breakfast we headed into the zoo, there was no queue at the booking office and tickets are a bargain at €10 each.

I was gutted that the Penguin enclosure was closed and the tiger was most definitely a myth! This was made up for by the seals who were spooning and chasing one another. As well as the Hippopotamus who would hide underwater then suddenly pop up as soon as I turned my camera off!

But my favourite part was the petting zoo where I got to play with a goat!

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After the zoo we headed into the town centre for one last look around, on the way we passed the famous bull and bear statue outside the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

I loved our time in Frankfurt and feel we managed to strike the perfect balance of touristy and relaxing. The only think I wish we had done was take a boat trip down the river, which is supposed to be a great way to see the city.

Overall:

To conclude, I would not recommend going to Frankfurt for a city break, as there is simply not enough to do and it is not all that touristy, but if you ever find yourself there and you have the time to explore I would definitely give it a go!

This was a very last minute trip and definitely a great end of year travel bonus, however I feel if we had planned to go there in advance I would have been disappointed by it.

Due to the last minute nature of the trip the travel and hotel were expensive, however the food and activities were reasonably priced and had we got more of a bargain on the room an flights it would have been a cheap trip!

It was bitterly cold when we were there so my other piece of advice would be pack layers and woollens. Also when it rains in Frankfurt it pours so an umbrella would have been a welcomed addition to our trip!

I was really impressed with Lufthansa and would definitely want to travel with them again. I would use the train to get to and from the airport to save some money and I would book a hotel in the centre as oppose to the business district.

The food and drink was great, though I wish I had tried the famous Apfel Wine, but my biggest wish for the trip was that I had not still been drunk when I packed!

This trip definitely reminded me how much I like Germany and has persuaded me to consider it for some other trips, I’d really like to visit Cologne and maybe try Dusseldorf. Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any suggestions or reviews for me to check out.

Have you been to Frankfurt before? How did you find it? Would you go back?

Round Up 2017 Goals & 2018 Goals

So it’s safe to say I bummed out in terms of achieving my goals in 2017! I managed a grand total of 2 out of 15!

So I guess I need to do a little “wash up” as to why I haven’t achieved them.

2017

Career:

  • Apply to join the Royal Navy – because I’m a scary cat! That and I am way too unfit! I’ve said I’m going to join the Navy since I was 7 so in someways I think I’ve put too much pressure on myself here.
  • Find a permanent job in London in the mean time – this is one I have achieved, I’d been temping at a company in the city for ages and finally in November they offered me a permenant position!

Fitness:

  • Get back into Fencing – I guess this one is also down to fear… The fear that I will be rubbish, but probably also laziness!
  • Get into yoga – this one never really left the starting blocks… I watched a few you tube videos on a few random mornings!
  • Run my mile and a half in under 12 minutes – laziness was the issue here… I didn’t make time for it and I was petrified of the hard work!

Lifestyle 

  • Have a morning routine – non-existent as I’m barely in bed before 1am!
  • Be more organised – I’m terrible, I’m probably more disorganised now because I got lazy and now I’m just overwhelmed by it all!
  • Be better at keeping in touch with people – every year I say this, every year I fail miserably, with no exception this year. Again because I’m lazy… There’s a big pattern emerging here!
  • Read 3 books a month – I think I totalled 10 or under for the whole year, so this didn’t go well. It s bad when you take in to consideration I bought about 50 and had £40 worth of library fines! Again I never make the time.
  • Read the news every day – this is the other goal I managed and boy am I glad I did in fact I cannot understand how I never previously saw it as important. Since reading it I have noticed a dramatic improvement in my ability to hold difficult conversations.

Blog:

  • Publish 1-2 posts per week – another miserable fail… I was lazy and I never made time for it. I will write loads for about 4 weeks and then I will fizzle out, it’s stupid as I really enjoy writing posts and having my own corner of the internet.
  • Twitter 2,000 – interact more, host a twitter chat – I’ve really fallen out of  love with twitter since I left uni, I struggle to know what to say and because of that my engagement has fallen and I just don’t know really where to start!
  • Instagram – 250, 2-3 photos per week – at the start of 2017 I was so lazy Instagram was lucky if I even opened the app month on month, but out of the blue in August I fell in love with it and was posting regularly and loving it.
  • Bloglovin – 250 – I think I logged in to Bloglovin’ once last year!
  • Improve my blog photos – I have a DSLR and for the life of me I cannot understand why I have not used it when I take my blog photos!


2018

Career:

  • Apply to join the Royal Navy – the application is ready to go I just have to stop being a big baby!
  • Achieve some professional qualifications – I’m not sure which ones yet, as I keep deciding and then changing my mind. Any recommendations welcome.

Fitness:

  • Get back into Fencing – I’ve got to face this fear now, I want to have joined a club by June. I’m going to use the time between now and then to work on building up my fitness and footwork skills so that my main focus on my return can be blade work and distance.
  • Get into yoga – this year I want to try and do it before work at least once a week, starting at home and then moving to a class once I’ve got a bit better!
  • Run my mile and a half in under 12 minutes – this year I’m going to make more of an effort to don my running shoes and try to make this a habit. I’m also going to aim to be in bed befor 10:30 for 2 nights a week, so I’m too tired can no longer be an excuse!

Lifestyle:

  • Have a morning routine – so let’s see how the being in bed before 10:30 for 2 nights a week goes first. Another part of this is leaving the house earlier, as I’m always 5 minutes late for work!
  • Be more organised – this year I’m going to make smaller goals to change the most important and drastically out of control areas of my life. I’m not going to plan it as I often get stuck in this stage of a project I’m just going to organise things as they appear to me in the way they feel right. In the hope that this leads to an overall improvement by 2019.
  • Be better at keeping in touch with people – in 2018 I’m going to make a more conscious effort to spend time with my family and friends. Including planning to meet up with them more and hopefully reconnect with a few others. Let me know if you have nay top tips on this one?
  • Read 15 books – I know not many, but this year I’m going to give myself the freedom to pick what I want and finish it whenever because my structured planning clearly was not working!
  • Learn to do crosswords – it’s a skill I have always admired people for so this year I’m going to learn how to do it myself.

Blog:

  • Publish 1 blog post a week – we’ll this has not gone too well so far… Here we are in March and this is my second post! So I’ve set myself the task of posting once a week for 3 months… Let’s see how that works out.
  • Better Twitter Interaction – this year I’m going to spend more time interacting with people and forget the numbers. So by 2019 I want to be using it daily to communicate and connect with people. I’ve always been more of a words than numbers girl!
  • Instagram – I’m going to try and keep up my use of this app publishing posts, interacting and just generally enjoying this platform.
  • Bloglovin – I’m going to actually install the plug in on this site, publicise my Bloglovin’ and use it to read more blogs and connect with bloggers.
  • Improve my blog photos – so in 2018 I’m going to break out the DSLR and start using my ALevel photography skills.

So there you have it these are my goals for the remainder of 2018, many of them are the same as last years, I’ve just tried to release some of the pressure that I’ve been placing on myself in the hope that it encourages me to achieve more of them.

As well as having these overarching goals I have set myself the tasks of changing some small but important habits in my life, as little easy win tasks each month! In January this was to thoroughly was my hands with soap and warm water using the NHS recomendations everytime I went to wash them, February mine was to floss everyday, for March I want to get up as soon as my alarm goes off.

Hopefully these small and simple steps will help me build a healthier lifestyle as painlessly as possible.

What are your goals for 2018? How are they coming along?

A Letter to 2017

Dear 2017,

You were a bit meh… But nonetheless a welcomed break after the roller coaster that was 2016.

You’ve still been bumpy, but in general the ride has been a lot smoother.

Again on your journey I’ve made mistakes and have learnt and grown a lot. However, the  lessons have been easier and the growth less painful as 2016.

The New Year was fabulous, spent in my beloved Oxford drinking too much alcohol and having oodles of fun, with my nearest and dearest friends.

  
Again January and February passed in a haze of alcohol and an all but brief flirtation with fitness.

March saw a welcomed break to Milan with Jonny, my mum and a family friend. I love Italy, as always the food was out of this world, but I won’t rush back to this city.

  
April saw me at work on my birthday, which was an interesting first for me. Jonny and I went out for dinner in the evening at the Buddha Bar which was sublime.

This was also the month my uni friends and I really reunited. None of us are that good at making an effort to keep in contact with one another. However, something always forces us back together in the end and when it does we’re back to being thick as thieves, as if no time has passed in between.

First it was the Oxford V Cambridge Boat Race, which saw us don outrageous boating blazers and sneak in to two boat clubs before retiring to our native ‘spoons for a night cap.

The end of April was topped off by one my favourite events in my social calendar, the Oxford University Tri-Service May Day Ball. This was the first time I’d been and not organised it myself, which meant for once I could get as pissed as I liked and not have to worry about any of the clearing up the next day.

May saw a family holiday to one of my favourite places in the world – The Azores. As always the food was exquisite, the wine in abundance and the scenery unrivalled. It was fantastic to relax and enjoy myself with my parents.

  
On my return there was a pub crawl to attend dressed as a flamingo no less. As always there was a twist to the night, we decided to take my friend’s sofa along for the trip. of course we added wheels first, which fell off at the first pub, so it had to be carried for the rest of the night. Sadly the sofa did not make it to Purple Turtle, but it did make it to the Radcliffe Camera, which believe me for any local to Oxford is a sight to behold! Frank the Flamingo did however make it to Purple Turtle, but his life was short lived as someone bit him minutes after entry.

  
In June Jonny and I went to Royal Ascot for the first time, which was an absolute hoot. I can’t wait to go again this year!

  
In July I celebrated one year of being in the working world. There was a trip to BRNC Dartmouth to see my bestie being confirmed. I also found out I was going to break my “American virginity” and go to NYC… What a gift.

August saw my friends and I reunited again, this time for a raucous party in Somerset, featuring potato canons, whirlpools and tipis. It was fabulous to escape the city and spend some real quality time with everyone. For the bank holiday Jonny and I went to Lowestoft, which was lovely. In true British style we both got very sun burnt on the beach! I am definetly on the look our for some more staycation destinations for 2018.

The main highlight of September was visiting America for the first time! Jonny and I had a wonderful time in New York and can definetly see why people go back year on year. We both love the idea of living there one day… So who knows, maybe we will some day.

  
October was a shock to the system especially after the wonderful heat of New York. Jonny cheered me up massively by buying us tickets to see Eric Paslay, Temecula Road and Jillian Jacqueline at the show they did for Country Music Week.

Another highlight of October was the appearance of Jonny’s first grey hair!

October was all topped off by a get together with my closest friends to celebrate Trafalgar Night. It was wonderful to see them all again and fabulous to catch up, but there was a slight tinge of sadness that we were all now grown up and starting to leave Oxford and that part of our lives behind.

November was a surprisingly good month, my job got made perminant, no more silly one month extensions on my contract. I also headed down to my home town of Plymouth twice, my dad came to London to raise money for the Poppy Appeal and I was bursting with pride when I saw him lay a wreath on the Civilian Cenotaph in Plymouth. I also got to spend a day messing about in the archives at my mums new work, which was amazing for a history junkie like myself.

Jonny and I also got to go and see the wonderful Maren Morris perform supported by her fiancé Ryan Hurd, which was insane as I am such a big fan of hers. As well as, a last minute trip to Frankfurt for a weekend. I also discovered a Yorkshire Pudding Steak Wrap in my local pub… This has changed quiz nights forever.

  
December brought with it all the promise of glamour and parties, but unfortunately I got tonsilitus in the first week so I was on water at my work Christmas Party and had to miss a ball. Once I had recovered I got into the swing of it. I spent the rest of the weekends darting round the south of England & Wales to visit family and attend various social events. I even got to go to a cocktail party and a ball, spending much needed quality time with my friends and family. After all that I feel fully recharged and ready for a wonderful and prosperous 2018.

2017 you may have been a bit more beige than 2016 but you were still a blast and I would not have had you any other way!

You’ve shown me that if you ride out the storm the horizon can be much clearer on the otherside.

You were everything I hoped you would be in last years letter

Here’s to 2017 being full of fun, learning, growth, adventure, success and lifelong friendships, but hopefully not quite as bigger rollercoaster as 2016.

So let’s hope 2018 will continue on the steady course you’ve plotted out for it and remain to be happy, full of adventure, growth success and fantastic people!

Thanks 2017 you were an absolute blast.

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

This book was recommended to me by a friend. It’s unusual for me to read a book in the same year its published, as I normally wait until they’ve been out for a while before investing my time.

Good Me, Bad Me is a psychological thriller another unusual choice for me as I can’t stand horror. When it comes to crime I usually stay well within the safety net of Agatha Christie or James Patterson.


Written by Ali Land a Child and adolescent Mental Health Nurse who has worked in both the UK and Australia. The book has gone on to be an international bestseller, translated into over 20 languages.

This book deals with two of societies greatest fears a female serial killer who prays on children nonetheless. It is the choice to deal with  socirties biggesr taboos, which makes this book stand apart from other thrillers and keeps the pages turning.

Not only is the serial killer female, but her primary witness is her daughter – Annie. It is pure twisted genius to have Annie as the narrator, who explains the daily struggle between being Annie (Bad Me) and Milly (Good Me). Milly is the name she assumes in witness protection to help ease her in to her new life.

The reader and Annie/Milly form a bond early on and you suddenly find yourself rooting for her to find the strength to overcome the possessive maternal attachment that remains. Annie had me hooked by the end of the third chapter. The reader quickly forgets that she has had 15 years worth of training in manipulation and confidence tricks from her mother.

The book briefly outlines the day Annie decided to hand her mother over to the police. However the primary focus is on the time in which Annie is preparing to testify against her mother and Milly is learning to lead a normal family life – well normal if you can count the Newmont family as normal, I wouldn’t! Finally it touches on her life after the case and where she will ultimately reside once she has finished being useful to her foster father.

Land throws out snippets of the abuse and brutal murders intermittently throughout the book, which begin to paint the background that Annie remains very protective of. As she fights to keep the life they shared together from being clinically turned into evidence against her mother’s henious crimes.

Annie describes the conflict of emotion, knowing the terrible crimes that have been committed and that justice is necessary, but to her it comes at a high price – never seeing her mother again. Here again the feelings of Milly and Annie come in to conflict, when she states what if the “The person I want to run from is also the person I want to run too.”

The book covers a wide range of sub-themes, most prominently the age old nature-v-nurture debate. One of the things that takes this book from great to mind blowing, is that Land not only explains how Annie has been brought up to understand relationships as being about power and to gain power you need to be able to manipulate the other person, which is done by obtaining their trust.

As seen when Ruth (Annie’s mother) says “You’ll always want to play, my little Annie, I made you that way.” In the end you realise that not only has Land explained this she has also demonstrated how easy it is to manipulate people!

Land cleverly places Milly into a family that are themselves dysfunctional, there is a severe fracture in the mother daughter relationship between Saskia and Phoebe. This allows Land to touch on the issues that result from poor parental attachment and hints at whether this can also be counted as neglect?

By placing Milly in with the dysfunctional Neumont’s, Land further emphasises the point that appearances can be deceptive and how things can easily be hidden from outsiders in the domestic sphere, or people’s heads for that matter. There is also a touch on bullying and the ever growing and evolving cyberbullying, towards Milly headed up by her step-sister Phoebe.

However, my one complaint is Land’s continued use of short sentences, which did begin to loose their suspense and impact towards the end.

Richard and Judy made this book one of their Book Club reads for Autumn 2017. They interviewed Land about the book and where her inspiration came from: Land said it was from a personal desire to “know if like me, other people could forgive a child like Milly” and “it’s important that there are no boundaries in the realms of fiction.”

Interestingly, in the same interview, Land stated she did not “believe a child can be born evil, but I do believe certain traits are inherited.” She goes on to explain that although it seems shocking to the reader, as a mental health nurse she often, “ witnessed psychological violence existing between mothers and daughters.”

Who knows where this book will go in the future, but I think it would make a great film or better still theatre play.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, so if you are looking for a psychological thriller you can power through in one sitting then this book is perfect and it will certainly stay with you for time to come. As I mentioned earlier I was hooked from chapter three and could not stop reading from there, which is good going for me, so I would definitely recommend you check it out!

Have you read Good Me, Bad Me? Can you recommend any good psychological thrillers? Let me know in the comments.