Round Up of 2018 Goals & 19 in 2019

Happy New year Friends! We officially have almost survived month one of 2019, how does it feel? Same old, same old here, tinged with a bit of the January Blues!

Yet again I have fallen below the mark, managing a total of 3 out of 15! Hey, ho, at least it’s better than last years 2 out of 15!

As always here is a little “wash up”/list of excuses for why I haven’t done them or a little bit of context for those that I have….

2018

Career:

  • Apply to join the Royal Navy – Never happened, because I’m a scaredy cat!
  • Achieve some professional qualifications – This is one I have achieved, I am currently studying for a Masters in Naval History so that will keep me busy for the next 18 months.

Fitness:

  • Get back into Fencing – Still not done this one, I do need to get back into it, but have not found the time, plus it is expensive!
  • Get into yoga – this did not happen, I’m not even sure it happened once!
  • Run my mile and a half in under 12 minutes – well this was a lovely idea, but in reality, I sporadically went running, when I felt the urge.

Lifestyle:

  • Have a morning routine – I’m not counting this one, as my morning routine is still wake up 15 mins before I need to leave the house then run around like a mad woman until I will most definitely be late for work!
  • Be more organised – I guess I am more organised, in that I know what I need to do each day, but I spend most of the time procrastinating from doing it, so this one does not count!
  • Be better at keeping in touch with people – This is one I have achieved. I have managed to keep in touch with people more and even brave sending random messages to old acquaintances, to catch up on their lives.
  • Read 15 books – I still did not achieve this, I think I read 3 from cover to cover, but I started about 10…
  • Learn to do crosswords – I have started doing this, but I still struggle and am going to have to get better before this one can count.

Blog:

  • Publish 1 blog post a week – hahahahahaha… this never happened, let’s see if 2019 is any better!
  • Better Twitter Interaction – This didn’t start off very well but it did get better towards the end of the year… long may it continue.
  • Instagram – This is one I would say I did achieve, I fell in love with Instagram and use it regularly now.
  • Bloglovin – This never happened either, for no other reason than I am lazy.
  • Improve my blog photos – I guess they did improve in that I took more, but they still are not where I want them.

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So, seen as my current way of doing things is not working I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and write my 19 for 2019, in the hope that by setting more specific goals, I may actually hit 100%!

VISIT THE GYM 2 X PER WEEK

This is a biggie for me as I desperately want to get fit, but we all know the story it’s much easier to watch Netflix and eat your own body weight in biscuits! This is the year this changes… I’ve signed up to a gym. It’s expensive, but I can go with my boyfriend and even when it was rammed last night it was still a great place to work out, plus it is not as cold as outside! So, twice a week is the aim, then hopefully I might be able to fit back into my wardrobe!

JOIN A FENCING CLUB

I desperately need to get back into my favourite sport, so hopefully, after a few months in the gym, I will have the confidence to don my breaches once more. Oh and a reduction in waist size to make sure I fit in them!

READ 15 BOOKS

Seen as this didn’t work out very well last year I thought I wouldn’t up it, let’s see how I get on this time!

AVERAGE A 2:1 FOR MY MASTERS THIS YEAR

This one might be a long shot, as my first essay was terrible, however, I have partially redeemed myself with my second. So let’s hope I continue this way. Fingers crossed this works out!

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USE MY ORGANISER TO MAXIMUM CAPACITY

Every year I buy myself a planner and every year, around March I bail on the idea. However, with a course, gym and an ever busy social calendar to keep up with, I’m going to need one more than ever!

CLEAR OUT 2000 THINGS FROM MY FLAT

It is confirmed I am very much a maximalist and I am fine with that. However, living in a one bed flat in London does not support that lifestyle very freely. So, a change has got to come, this clear out will more than likely be replaced by 2000 new things, but you’ve got to make space for new things! Wish me luck!

LEARN TO DO CROSSWORDS

I love a good crossword and used to help my granddad with the answers, but the time has come where I want to be able to answer one without having to cheat, so this year I am going to really work on honing this skill.

PUBLISH 52 BLOG PHOTOS

I am so useless at this blogging malarky, so rather than committing to one a week or some form of schedule I am just going to post when I get the inspiration and commit to 52 posts.

MAINTAIN INTERACTION ON TWITTER

I’m not sure what happened with Twitter it used to be my go to social media hang out, but somewhere along the lines, I fell out of love with it. This year I’m going to change this and hopefully grow my following along the way.

HIT 200 POSTS ON INSTAGRAM

2018 was the year I fell in love with Instagram, I love taking photos and creating content for this platform and long may it continue. However, my usage is still sporadic so, in an attempt to be better at posting, I want to have hit 200 posts by the end of 2019.

SAVE £1,500

I am terrible at saving, everyday I buy myself a little present and this has to mount up… so this is going to be the year I curtail this down to only buying what I need. I’m a sucker for a sale and there really is no need for it! Hopefully, limiting what is coming in will also help with my clear out. I’m not sure what I will put the money towards yet, but I’m sure I’ll find something I want!

VISIT CAMBRIDGE

This is something I have wanted to do for a while, having spent my uni days at Brookes gazing at the spires of Oxford, I’d love to spend a day exploring the famous “other one”!

VISIT VERSAILLES

I have always wanted to visit Versailles, last time I went to Paris I never had time. I’ve visited plenty of European palaces inspired by it, but never the real deal. I’d love to see the Hall of Mirrors and the Grand Trianon. Plus it’s the place where a treaty was signed to end the war of all wars!

DONATE BLOOD

I’ve never done this and thankfully I’ve never had to use any either, but that most certainly is not the attitude I’d like to take on it. I’d actually for my own self-gratification (as Joey once wisely said “There’s no unselfish good deeds”) in the hope that one day when a family is going through the worst day of their life, I may actually be able to help in some small way.

COOK 1 THING EACH WEEK FROM SCRATCH

As anyone who knows me will tell you I can’t cook, that’s not to say I won’t cook, but more that, everything I do looks like it has been on the BBQ for the last 4 years. As my boyfriend will gleefully tell you I can burn water! So, this year is the year I stop getting distracted when I cook and actually watch what I am doing, once a week.

GO TO AN OPERA

I love musical theatre and the ballet so here’s hoping I love something equally as sophisticated. I’ve always said I’d love to go to the opera. I know I’ll love the glamour, even if I struggle with the storyline!

IF IT TAKES LESS THAN 5 MINUTES DO IT RIGHT AWAY

This is the big one for me, I am forever tied up in single tasking and trying to finish whatever I am working on. That I put off quick and easy tasks as they arrive, then rather than being a quick 5-minute task they end up being a 15-minute task, while I remember what I needed to do!

REACH THE GLORY LAND THAT IS INBOX 0

I want to be the smug bastard who sits there with the smile of an empty inbox, casually spurting out “my inbox is clear”. I know this is not going to happen overnight, but this is definitely something to keep chipping away at.

How did you get on with your 2018 goals? What new ones have you set for 2019?

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How to Enjoy Driving Home For Christmas (as much as possible)

Those 4 words spark ideas of joy my mind, especially when sang in the dreamy voice of Chris Rea!

However, the reality is far from joyous I know the drive from our flat to my nan’s house in Cardiff is going to be hell on earth. As every man and his dog will be trying to leave London, the M25 will be a car park – standard, but frustratingly so will the M4 and the M40. Then when I think the hell is over there will be traffic entering Cardiff. I just know there will be tears!

There is one blessing in that the Severn Bridge will be free by then, though my mum assures me there are nine hundred and one speed cameras on the approach now, so “they’ll still make their money off you!”

I intend to drive over night in an feeble attempt to avoid as much traffic as possible. So, in anticipation of the delays I intend to make my solo journey as pleasurable as possible, while I was writing down my plans I had a quick google and could not find all that much.  The key is being prepared! So here’s a few tips and tricks I have learnt over the years that have helped me:

Week Before

  • Check the front and back lights work
  • Check my windscreen wipers
  • Write my packing list
  • Begin packing my presents and other things that I won’t need in the interim

Day before

Car

  • Remove anything I don’t need to take with me
  • Full up my fuel tank
  • Check my tire pressure
  • Check my water
  • Check my anti-freeze
  • Check my lights work again
  • Check my windscreen wipers again

Me

  • Make sure I’m well rested – early to bed for me!
  • Make sure I have packed plenty of layers in the car and they are accessible
  • Make sure I have a range of in car snacks
  • Make sure there is lots of water in the car

On the Day

Car

  • Pack the car – making sure I am happy that it is safe, also try to make sure as little as possible is on show

Me

  • Make sure I have a flask of coffee at the ready
  • Make sure my snacks are open and easy to access
  • Apply my favourite face oil so it can be doing its magic while I travel
  • Wear comfy clothing

Journey

  • Check the route I intend to take is as clear as possible
  • Make sure I have turned on TA radio traffic updates
  • Make sure I have my AA card with me
  • Download an audio book before I go
  • Download a back up playlist incase I finish the book
  • Make sure my favourite radio stations are selected before I go
  • Take regular breaks – as if I needed an extra excuse to cram in a Gingerbread Latte!

Another important thing to remember is not to stress too much, so what if your late for Grandma’s Christmas Cocktail Hour, as long as you get there safely!

When you get there, make sure you empty the car before you hit the bottle – as tempting as it is – because you don’t want to have gone through the stress of driving all that way only to have you sleigh emptied on your doorstep!

Once the car is sorted then it is time to crack open the bubbly in your honour!

What do you do to prep for a long drive? Any tips on how to make my journey more enjoyable?

My Favourite Time of Year in London

London is pretty clinical most of the year, it’s unlikely you’ll crack a smile out of a commuter, or even more unlikely stop one in their tracks and force them too look up. These are the hard and fast rules of London, but come the 1st December every year it is as if the annual supply of de-icer has been found and everyone is embracing the festivities.

There’s your standard trips to Winter Wonderland, ice skating at Somerset House or the Natural History Museum, Christmas lights on Oxford and Regent Street, viewing the decorations at Covent Garden, etc.

So here’s a list of the things you can go and do/see that are a little bit further away from the crowds and hopefully just as enjoyable:

Visit the Christmas Tree at Trafalgar Square

This is something I have done every year I’ve found myself in London around Christmas. The tree has been gifted to London by Norway every year for the last 72 years, as a token of appreciation for Britain’s support during World War II. It really is a sight to behold, dressed solely in lights. There will be carol singing at it’s base every day from 4pm – 7pm on week days and 2pm – 5pm on weekends, a full programme of those singing can be found here.

Sip Mulled Wine/Cider at the Broadgate Winter Forest

I have to pass this amazing enchanted forest on my way home each night and I have to tell you it takes every fibre of my being not to enter it! I have on many occasion so far this winter slipped in for one and ended up leaving at closing, after a pizza at Franco Manca’s and a testing the each bar in the Circle. It’s the perfect place for winter drinking al fresco. Don’t even attempt it on a Thursday or Friday as it is rammed. I’d head there on a Monday for their weekly quiz night.

Annabel’s Christmas Tree

Okay so this one isn’t so odd the beaten track, but I have been in awe of this Christmas tree display since it started popping up all over my instagram, I can’t wait to go visit this festive paradise in the flesh, Gingerbread latte in hand for ultimate basic gal points!

The Greatest Snowman

This is an immersive theatre experience run from Pedley Street Station near to Bethnal Green Overground Station which looks amazing. The food is created by the MasterChef: The Professionals Finalist 2017 – Louisa Ellis. While you wait for your food the story unfolds around you. I went on The Murdér Express, earlier this summer and absolutely loved it! This is a must do and the perfect alternative gift!

Pop Up Screens Festive Film Festival

Pop Up Screens are hosting a vast array of film showings in Hackney over the course of December, from Love Actually to The Holiday, Home Alone to Its a Wonderful Life. To get to your seats in a snowy wonderland you have to hot foot it like Lucy, Susan, Peter and Edmund, through the wardrobe into Narnia.

City point Christmas Igloo Screenings

This is another pop up cinema, this time in the City, Moorgate to be specific. I really want to go to this one, especially as it is all in the name of a good cause, with all of the ticket revenue going to charity. For as little as £13.50 you can watch a film on a bean bag in a PVC igloo and do some good, what more could you want.

Pop in for a Pint at The Churchill Arms

Another one that is slowly popping up everywhere on instagram is the magnificent display of Christmas trees at this pub. So pop in and support their electricity bill, being a stone’s throw away from Kensington Palace, you never know who will drop in, seen as Princess Charlotte had to down emergency loo stop at a local pub in Stockwell the other week!

Keeping it Local

I also love keeping it local at Christmas, as London can sometimes feel like a commercialised minefield with everyone jumping on the band wagon in an effort to get you to part with your cash!

Explore these quirky and little known places for unique things to do, I took a walk down out local hughstreet in Loughton and found the most wonderful Christmas Prayer Tree inspired by Dickins’ A Christmas Carol.

Look out for festive carol service and theatre productions and when it comes to mulled wine and mince pies follow your nose, you never know what hidden gems you could find. Just around the corner.

Let me know in the comments, what you go and visit, as well as any local gems you find.

Why I Will Alway Mark a Christmas Drinks Invite as Tentative

Like many of you I find Christmas a bit of a minefield, dofn’t get me wrong I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Christmas, the visiting friends, the impromptu nights out that turn out to be the best ever and of course the spirit of giving.

However, said season can be a minefield. From the bombardment of emails for drinks, to the thinking of what to get aunt Mildred who criticises everything and only ever gets me socks!

I’m 2 weeks into the festivities already, I’ve visited a Christmas Market, drank some mulled wine, visited a winter grotto, attended a Christmas Party and my first Faux Christmas Dinner.

None of which have gone off without a hitch, including the zip breaking on my dress at my boyfriend Christmas Dinner. And there is no let up in my calendar next week either!

So the pressure continues, with some of the biggest events happening next week:

Work Christmas Party

Firstly, it’s the annual work’s Christmas Party this Wednesday, which I’m approaching with mixed emotions. The dread that comes with the potential for judgment, should I get too drunk or something disastrous happen to my dress, again! But equally the joy of a night of jubilant celebration with my colleagues and a good old boogie!

The same emotions come to mind when I think about all of the casual after works drinks invites that are in my inbox, also currently marked tentative. 

Luckily for me I am in no way involved in any of the organising of the formal party, so at lease I am fully available to enjoy the night. 

However, I do have an intense amount of work politics to navigate through and that is before ensuring the dreaded BREXIT it not brought up in conversation!

Starting with: what to wear?

Every year I have this dilemma and every time I change my mind on the day! Luckily with my boyfriend’s Christmas party a dress code of “Black Tie” was given. Fortunately for me, this is a dress code I often face so I have an extensive choice of ASOS Outlet and other sale pieces to choose from. So that was safe, or so I naively thought!

However for my work’s party no dress code has been provided, which lead to a number of furious IM’s to my colleagues of:

Katie: Are you going to the Christmas Party?

Pal: Yes, not sure what I am going to wear though…

Katie: I know, there isn’t a dress code! 

Pal: No, I mean do I choose between this Jumpsuit or this dress?

Which left me even more bamboozled as to what that means the dress code is – “Smart” or lI forgot to change after work casual”… Also how much are you getting paid that you have the disposable income for a £150 dress!

In the end, I’ve gone with this dress I bought last year, but haven’t gotten around to wearing yet, with my trusty Next snakeskin espadrilles (to be tagged out by my red trainers by drink number 4!), my black velvet bag and most likely my leather jacket. All of which were already in my wardrobe – so who’s winning here! 

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I know its not that dressy, but it will do and I may add a gold belt and likely my favourite rings. For some extra glamour.

Next, there’s the dread that you could get stuck with someone you have nothing in common with/ worse still don’t like! This is my worst nightmare, as I am the terrible at exiting a conversation.

So I always make sure I have a few handy cues at hand: 

  • “I’m going to get another drink?”
  • “Do you know where the loo is?”
  • “I just need to go an check on X.”

They’re not the best in the world but 9 times out of 10 they work or at least introduce (trap) someone else in the conversation! If these don’t work and I haven’t gotten away, I often just resign myself to my fate.

Finally, there’s the dreaded “Christmas Party Drunk” I’m the worst for this, because I think I am the world’s biggest heavy weight, when in reality 3 pints and I’m gone! For this reason I do always try (when I remember) to have a glass of water between each drink. I often forget, especially the more drunk I get.

Just remember the golden rule, if you start to feel drunk get a cab home! It’s always better to be labelled a flake and still have a job the next day, than stay to the end – telling people some home truths and being unemployed the next day.

Another tip is to make sure your next day is easy, our dos are always in the week so the next day is a bit of a survivors parade. I try to make sure I’ve drafted a few emails to send the day before, so I appear to be more alive than I am, as well as using the day for an admin clear up.

Casual After-Work Drinks

Secondly, there’s the casual work drinks, which, I always mark as tentative. Mainly because I never know how I am going to be feeling that night. Whether I’ll still be hungover, just fancy a night watching Home Alone or will need to do some last minute christmas shopping!

So, tentative is the way to go, this way you’re not saying no and the organiser cancels the night due to poor response, but are not 100% committed to go and have to flake after 1 drink.

As with the formal Christmas Party the dilemma’s remains the same, what to wear, who to chat to and drinking too much…

My outfit choice is dependent on a number of things, the venue, how sure I am that I will go and how hungover I am from the night before.

For a night down the pub I’m likely to stay in what I wore to work or maybe even dress-down further, for a fancy venue I am likely to wear something a bit more glamorous to work and wear it all day, maybe dressing it up slightly with accessories, if I’m uber keen. If I’m hungover I will be in a jersey swing dress and possibly even a grandma cardigan!

Seen as these events are more casual, but often mean more chatting I do tend to make sure I’ve looked at the news that day and maybe have one or two other interesting topic up my sleeve, to fill up those empty voids of conversation and make the night more fun.

I apply the same drinking rules here as at the formal party, but allow for a few shots to sneak in later in the night!

Formal Dinner with Friends

Finally, the formal dinner with friends, I always have at least one of these type of events in the festive season. Whether it is a ball, dinner or cocktail party, this is where the finery is dragged out and all levels of pretension are let loose!

This year it is a White Tie Dinner in Clubland, which I just know will be exquisite in every way, from the food to the company, the wine to the venue, this is the host who always pulls out all of the stops. 

However the same 3 dilemma’s pop up…

Thankfully, again this is a dress code I have covered in my wardrobe from previous events. So I will be wearing this dress, which I’ve worn once before and cost me £48. So, all things considered it was a bargain. With my trusty Topshop silver Mary Jane shoes, which are the non-glider version of these. Accessorised with some of my favourite pieces of family jewellery. 

However, I am currently facing the dilema of whether or not to buy Opera gloves for the occasion, as tradition states that they are worn, but then there is the whole etiquette of gloves to be learnt! Aggghhhh… First world problems, right!

Here I’m not worried about being stuck with someone I don’t like, as everyone is wonderful. Although, I am sacred of feeling inferior, as everyone there is so wonderful and hugely brainy. However, in a positive way, this fear forces me to learn more and in the preceding weeks to attending one of these parties I find myself reading more and absorbing everything around me.

Again, this is another event where I am plagued by my love of alcohol. Here I need to remember to pace myself as last time I was somewhat of a mess, especially when I was shouting at a doorman – for not letting me into the Ritz hotel at 4am! So the water rule will have to be implicated here and I may even have to up the rations.

So, there you have it, the reasons I always put tentative to attending an event are due to the other stresses and strains involved. From the pre-event prep, whether that be in the form of what to wear, what to say or what to drink! All of it adds up and takes its strain. 

Let me know in the comments what you find stressful about attending festive events? Or if you have nay tips and tricks to help me?

 

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?

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.