Mice

2006: The mega-bus sits in front of us, waiting. I shoulder my bag, my brother, Alistair, at my side. Hours of Alistair’s car sickness, my boredom, and our freedom await us. The road ahead is long, the longest we’ve travelled without our parents. We’re going to visit our sister, Fiona, who lives in a little cottage in Nethy Bridge. With a population of just over 500, it isn’t the biggest of places. It’s a snow-centred, ski-loving, cold, wet village. Fiona works as the head cook at an outdoor centre in the area, and the cottage is part of her salary. Typical of houses that are part of a salary, it’s not in the best condition. It is deceptively small, with high ceilings that hide the lack of room, mouldy areas, draughts that give you frostbite and spiders galore, but Alistair and I are excited to visit because we’re going on our own. There are two things I will learn from this trip: firstly, peppermint creams are difficult to make; and secondly, mice are not allowed indoors.

As I enter the little cottage after our tortuous journey, the smell of peppermint is a wave of powerful scent that renders me unable to smell much else for days. It’s the pleasant, yet strong, result of a peppermint cream recipe gone wrong. It’s the type of smell that’s so evocative of a certain place or time that when smelt in the future I imagine I’ll immediately be lost in a daze of memories. It surrounds the holiday in a Christmas-like feeling of warmth and good will.

Mice are also a feature in this holiday. Like a sort of comical pantomime villain, they lurk in the shadows and only come out when our backs are turned. The only experience I have of them before now is seeing them in a cage at the pet shop, or hiding behind the unused sun bed in the garden. I know very little about them, other than that they are very small, very cute and that I’m not allowed one for a pet. Biologically, mice are an important part of the food chain in that they hunt and are hunted. While pet mice eat mainly seed (and cheese), in the wild they eat insects like worms and snails. They are eaten by snakes, owls, birds of prey. But somewhere in that process of surviving side by side, their lives and ours cross over.

I’m lying on my front on the couch with my legs bent in the air, playing with the frays on the mud-brown carpet below. The cold sinks into the cushions. It’s a constant presence, the chill: the house has a distinctive coldness about it in the way some houses have a distinctive smell. As my siblings attempt a half-hearted game of cards, my eyes focus on the little black dots on the carpet. ‘Fiona,’ I ask with a childhood curiosity that would be considered rude in any self-respecting adult, ‘What are those?’

She explains that they are mouse droppings, and that a result of living in the countryside is that mice are bound to pop up in every household in Nethy Bridge once or twice. The village’s history is centred in the forestry industry.  That is, it was, until other areas brought in more advanced technology and could provide more and better wood. As a result tourism became a more popular aspect of the area: with bridges built in Victorian times of progress, a proximity to the Cairngorms, and the historic steam railway, it became more like a tourist trap during the summer. Forestry remains as a tourist attraction, but of course, with forestry comes lots and lots of trees. And with lots of trees come lots and lots of mice.

I freeze at the realisation of this plague on the house. Fiona smiles as if the matter is of no consequence, and so I pretend I’m perfectly comfortable in the cottage, even though the couch seems lumpy and uncomfortable now. There are mice in the house and although they’ve been in the house for the entirety of the holiday I know they’re here now and that changes everything.

At night, I lie in my bed, unable to sleep. Alistair is on the couch and I’ve been given a blow-up bed, in contact with the floor’s hardness due to the bed’s inability to hold in any air, but also in direct contact with any wandering mice. My eyes are tightly closed against the darkness characteristic of the countryside. With no light pollution, the darkness is so swallowing that I wouldn’t be able to see my hand in front of my face. I also wouldn’t be able to see a mouse if it sat in front of me. I picture them scurrying around me, crawling over me, nibbling at my fingers and toes. I hear scuffles and snuffles and squeaks. Terrified of the now malicious animal, sleep evades me as I lie with a posture so tense I know I’ll ache the next day. And then – SNAP.

I jump, the blow up mattress wobbles, and all is quiet in the oppressive darkness of the cottage. More terrified than ever, I lie still as if to compensate for the sudden movement of before. I listen for the sound of the mice that I can sense surrounding me.

 

‘When the little mouse, which was loved as none other was in the mouse-world, got into a trap one night and with a shrill scream forfeited its life for the sight of the bacon, all the mice in the district, in their holes were overcome by trembling and shaking; with eyes blinking uncontrollably they gazed at each other one by one, while their tails scraped the ground busily and senselessly.’ – Franz Kafka.

 

The fear I felt in the darkness of the night is inexplicable to me in the light of the day. I like mice, I’ve seen them in the pet shop and thought them exceedingly cute. But that was on my terms, while here is an unknown, unseen beast. It is uninvited, unwelcome, and yet it has come in anyway.

The next day, Fiona sends for help in the form of my future brother-in-law to empty the mouse trap.

‘Don’t look, Catherine,’ Fiona tells me, as she too hides from the coffin constructed of a plastic bag. She has killed this unwelcome visitor, this thief in the night.  It has eaten her cereal, gnawed at her cupboard, left droppings on her carpet. So why does she feel so sad? Why do I feel so sad?

 

2009: I’m lying in bed when I hear the scratching. Like the monster under the bed, mice always come out at night. Spooked, I sit up and flick the switch of my lamp. I stand and prod at the roof, determined to give whatever is hiding in the attic above a fright. But it doesn’t stop, if anything it gets louder. I cower back into my duvet, terrified of this creature of the night. In the darkness, it grows and grows to the size of a dragon, merely here to tear the structure of our home down from the inside out.

I tell my parents. It is to be expected, they say, because of the field near our house. The field my siblings and I used to go to sledge, the field I now jog past on my morning run. The field belongs to Flenders farm, a farm housing all kinds of sheep, horses and cows. It’s big, the farmer’s nice, but it appears to have been the cause of our current troubles. The traps are put out, the mice are eradicated and we are safe for a while.

 

2015: I go to the kitchen for a drink. It’s late, and mum’s just picked me up from the station after a late library session. She’s tired, irritable and ready for bed. So am I. I wander into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of milk. Going through the motions, but comfortable in my own home. Safe. Until, in the shadows, a shape darts across the room. I scream.

Mum comes running. I turn red.

‘Mouse!’ I say, my voice resembling the mouse’s own with its high pitched squeaks.

‘You’re joking,’ she says. I shake my head. She sighs. ‘I’ll tell your father.’

 

2005: ‘It’s so cute!’ I screech, pointing (and subsequently terrifying) the little furry creature hiding under the sun bed in the garden. ‘Oh, look at it!’

Mum nods, her nose turned up. She softens at my gaze. ‘I suppose it is quite cute.’ She says, then glances behind her at the open back door. ‘As long as it doesn’t get inside.’

 

2006: The dead mouse isn’t cute. I get a glance of it, despite Fiona telling me not to. Its eyes are wide, blank, staring. Its mouth is gaping, revealing long fangs, un-blunted from the hard work it has done on Fiona’s table leg. It stares and stares and stares and I want to cry.

 

‘”The mice think they are right, but my cat eats them anyways.”

“This is the point, reality is nothing, perception is everything.”’ –Terry Goodkind

 

‘Why did you have to kill it?’ I ask my sister.

She is silent for a minute. ‘It doesn’t belong in the house, does it?’ she says, ‘It eats all our food, it bites my carpet and table legs.’

‘Why couldn’t you just catch it and release it somewhere else?’ I say.

‘Well, it would just come back, wouldn’t it?’ she says.

As I look at the dead creature, I wonder how true that is. Either way, it doesn’t look so scary like this, despite the wide staring eyes and the sharp fangs. It just looks small.

 

2015: I watch my dad fish out forgotten mouse traps from the attic. We’re redoing it as an unofficial guest bedroom so that when the family come to stay they won’t have to sleep on the floor. He picks up the mouse traps and sets them in various places around the house. I want to protest, but I don’t.

‘Why do we kill the mice?’ I ask him, with the curiosity of a ten year old coming from my twenty year old mouth.

He shrugs, spreading peanut butter on the traps. ‘They eat our food, do structural damage. Why do you kill spiders?’

Spiders, I tell him, are a whole different story. But at his unconvinced gaze I back down, because they’re not so different. I hate spiders because I hate them. We hate mice because we hate them. Looking back to my first mouse encounter, I remember the smell of peppermint permeating every inch of the holiday. I remember that warm feeling of protection while we sheltered from the cold outside. The house was warm, and so were we…But the house was cold. In fact, in the height of winter, the house was freezing. While I did feel safe, maybe this was a manufactured feeling. When mice enter our houses, why do we always kill them? Is it because, like my sister and dad both argued, they enter our house maliciously, eating our food and harming our furniture? Is it because we perceive them to be more like monsters than they actually are? Or is it just because they are out of our control, and as a result, we feel unsafe?

For some reason, humans feel more comfortable when mice are not in the house. Under our control, they’re fine, but out with it they must be killed. My dad’s currently setting traps for the winter when they’ll undoubtedly seek shelter from the cold. Their home has been attacked by cold and wind and snow and ours is safe and warm… But they don’t belong here. Humans, like me when I was ten years old, lying on a blow up bed terrified to sleep, need a sense of safety and ownership in our homes. And so, as a result, we take control, and mice are not under that control. So we kill them all until we feel safe again.

***

2015: We’re watching the news. Scenes of refugees desperate to enter our country cover the screen. We watch with straight faces, desensitised to these images.

‘Do you think we should allow refugees into the country?’ the journalist asks a passerby on the streets of Glasgow.

‘Definitely not,’ he says, ‘I just wouldn’t feel safe with them here.’

What I Learnt/Relearnt In 2015

Being that it’s nearing the end of 2015, I, along with the rest of the world, have begun to feel inexplicably sentimental. I love being sentimental and I love looking back on things, but I often look back and forget what I’ve learnt (which is silly) so I’ve decided to put everything I’ve learnt in one blog post, so that if I forget I can come back here and relearn it all. So this is really just for me, but I hope you enjoy it anyway:

What I Learnt/Relearnt in 2015

1) If somebody asks if you want a ‘store card’ they do not mean a loyalty card – say no otherwise you’ll end up crying in Starbucks.

2) You definitely do not want to be a journalist.

3) (Although you still aren’t 100% sure what you want to do yet. But that’s okay.)

4) You love spinach.

5) You panic too easily and you need to sort that out.

6) Turns out third year is hard. Who knew.

7) You’re not as bad at making friends as you’ve convinced yourself you are.

8) You like running once you get past the start of it.

9) (You also really like cake, so keep on running.)

10) Rely on God and you won’t be so stressed all the time.

11) Rely on yourself and you’ll be super stressed all of the time.

12) Seen exams are a waste of time.

13) You love writing poetry.

14) (You need to get permission before writing poetry in public places.)

15) You’re so grateful for your job.

16) It’s okay to ask God for what you want.

17) It’s okay for Him to say no.

18) (The answer is sometimes just not yet.)

19) You can make a  top notch stir fry.

20) You need to persevere.

21) Organising transport is not your forte.

22) Writing is.

23) Don’t live for the moments.

24) Your perspective isn’t necessarily the right one.

25) You can be far too emotional about situations that require calm, level thinking.

26) Be organised, but not everything falls into place when you are organised.

27) You should idealise less.

28) You say ‘chill out’ way too much.

29) If you end up living a single life when you’re older, you would still be happy.

30) Your knees are dodgy.

31) You can get a writing blog of 900 followers if you try.

32) You need to be patient. Things don’t happen on your time schedule.

33) There’s so much more for you to learn. 

Right, Wrong and Poetry

This semester in my creative writing class we’ve been doing a lot of work on poetry and place writing – ie, the effect setting has on place and what happens when you physically put poetry into setting. For example, for an assignment I’ve been writing a group of poems about the sea, so on Thursday afternoon I went to the beach and wrote some of it in the sand. It’s interesting because the writing will all be washed away, and so it says something about the subject of the poem. (If you want to know more about this just ask me, but that’s all I’m going to say about it in this post so I don’t bore you all!)

So Thursday morning (Thursday was a busy day) was our last class, and our tutor thought it would be good to go out and actually write some poetry in a place using chalk. This way we’re not actually doing any real graffiti as it’s non-permanent, but still has the effect of putting poetry somewhere. I just wanted to clarify that because a lot of people seem to think I used paint. I did not. It’s blue chalk. But she thought it would be interesting to take photos, put them on social media and see what happened.

Me and my partner Beth set out into Rottenrow Gardens, chatting about what to write about. With writing often an idea comes to mind and you stick with it, and on both our minds was Syria. The government had just decided to go ahead with the air strikes, which neither of us were happy about, and we were both agreed that we wanted to write something about that. We both liked the hashtag #NotInMyName and thought it would be a really interesting, minimalistic way to show what we were thinking.

I don’t know about Beth, but as we trekked up the hill my main thought wasn’t to make some big point, more that this would be a cool way to do the task and express my thoughts in the only way I know how really. I’m not very vocal with political opinions because I’m really not a big fan of conflict…as you’ll see further on. But this, for me, wasn’t me making a big political stand, it was more me just doing some work for class on the subject of something I care about. There might not seem to be a difference to you, but to me there is.

So we started working, and this was the result:


(You don’t/choose/birth/family/school/war/#notinmyname)

We were just going over our work when a security guard appeared. He asked us if we had permission to do this, to which we explained that it was for a class, we didn’t know if our tutor got permission and asked if they wanted us to rub it off.

Plot twist: They didn’t.

I left feeling like I’d handled the conversation pretty well, walking back to our classroom. As I walked further away from our wee bit of street poetry I immediately began to feel really anxious.

The blue chalk on my hands freaked me out, so in a Lady Macbeth-esque routine, I went to wash my hands of chalk (and, I hoped, this weird anxious feeling in my stomach). The chalk washed off, the feeling did not.

We had a long chat with our tutor about public space and whether it’s actually public, silenced voices and the purpose of poetry. On the way to the train station we peered into Rottenrow to see if anyone was looking at it (they were) and then I went to do some more poetry in the sand.

If you spoke to me at all on Thursday then you’ll know that this anxiety did not disappear. I had this horrible feeling in my stomach, I felt really warm, my hands were shaking, and I was little bit snappy because of how worried I was.

When I voiced these concerns to various people they told me not to worry, because it wasn’t like I was going to get kicked out of uni, I probably wouldn’t even get into trouble about it. That’s not what I was concerned about though, so this didn’t ease my concerns.

What I was concerned about, in hindsight, was this horrible clash of one authority figure telling me to do something and then another telling me not to. In a weird sort of moral dilemma, I suddenly didn’t know whether what I’d done was right or not. Was I in the wrong? Had I done something bad? But I’d been told to do it, so was it bad? But I’d been told not to do it, so it must be wrong?

I’m a bit of a goody-two-shoes (if you hadn’t already analysed that) and so this horrible moral dilemma put me in a sort of turmoil. I was worried what people would think and I kind of blew it out of proportion.  I’m feeling a bit more rational now that I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t really do anything wrong (other than not getting permission, but that wasn’t really up to me). I can appreciate now how interesting it is that in a piece about our voices being silenced, we were quite literally silenced by security. Or that in university, a place where we’re supposed to be expanding our opinions, we were told we’re not supposed to have them.

But what this really showed to me, something which I already sort of knew, is that right and wrong are not always obvious black and white ideas. There’s a grey area, but when you put me in that grey area, I don’t cope very well. I think that’s something I’m going to need to work on, because in my life I’m not always going to be doing everything the way people want me to – I don’t want to just be a people pleaser. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be making a habit of writing political poetry in the street (IN CHALK). And I’m not exactly going to be picking fights everywhere I go. But I like to think now that I’m aware, next time I need to do something that is a more difficult moral grey area, I’ll be able to do it without feeling like I’ve just committed some sort of horrific crime.

Trying to eat well at uni

One of my biggest struggles over the past couple of years is eating healthy foods when I’m in uni all day.

It’s so easy to just buy a greggs everyday, especially when all you’ve got is a shrivelly sandwich squashed at the bottom of your bag. It’s not very appetising, and even if you do eat it, it’s not exactly filling, so the temptation to snack is still there.

So over the last year I’ve been trying desperately to find ways to eat healthily on days I’m in uni, that don’t make me want to nip over to greggs…My main strategies have been trying to keep myself full, with semi healthy foods that stop me from buying things in town. And also, trying to be sort of organised, but that’s super hard. So here are some of my attempts!

Smoooooothies

In terms of breakfast, something I’ve read is that you should always have your breakfast within an hour of waking up, so on an ideal day I would be having fruit, greek yogurt and granola BUT ideal days don’t happen very often, and this is my second best option for a quick dash to uni situation.

So we got a blend active this year, and let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can easily just whizz up a smoothie if I’m running late in the morning, head into uni with it and I’ve got a nice breakfast on the go. Hooray!

Today I decided to throw in some spinach because why not? to make it a bit more of a green smoothie.

So first thing’s first I put in the orange juice (hand squeezed, so posh). I would say definitely to just buy already squeezed orange juice though because I used two oranges and got about a millitres worth because it turns out squeezing juice out of oranges is harder than you’d think.

I then chopped up an apple, two kiwis, grapes, frozen mango, spinach and then some ice to top it all off. It looked very aesthetically pleasing before I whizzed it up so I took a lot of photos of it.

It wasn’t quite so aesthetically pleasing once it was blended, I’m not going to lie.

I was slightly put off by the colour (so green) but it tasted really really good! Only takes 5-10 minutes and then you can take it on the go into uni. (Just don’t leave it anywhere once you’ve finished it without washing it because that’s minging. Speaking from experience.)

But look how happy I am with my smoothie. Aw. What a great day.

Another option I’ve been considering for a breakfast on the go would be granola bars, however finding recipes that don’t contain a tonne of sugar has been proving difficult…I’ll have to come back with that one.

Lunch
The first thing I did to get a nice lunch was to purchase a sistema cube lunchbox. It sounds so lame, but this box is honestly just so cool. It’s got three compartments, so if some foods are a bit sticky you can separate them. It’s also quite lightweight which is good when you’re trying to take in 500 books as well as your lunch and anything else you might need.

I think the main thing about eating well at uni for me was all in trying to stop snacking, or when I was snacking to make sure it was on healthy things.

My number one tactic for doing this is making lunches which are interesting and fill me up.

My go to for the “main” food in my lunch is generally a wrap, because they’re 500x more exciting than a sandwich. We have whole grain in the house, which is better for you and fills you up that wee bit more. I quite like to fill it up with tuna mixed with lemon and tomato – tastes super nice and definitely isn’t dry!

Another thing I’ll go for is a simple salad or maybe some cold homemade pizza. (homemade pizza can be semi healthy – it’s all depending on how you make it!)

Something I discovered a few days ago was the “mini frittata”. Basically to make this you sautee (fancy) some onions and peppers, and then chuck some spinach in there as well. Then you whisk eggs, egg whites, milk and cheese and salt and pepper and put them in greased muffin tins to make them. (Proper recipe at the bottom of the post.)

Please don’t ignore the greasing instruction though…do it properly to save you three days of scrubbing. Absolute nightmare.

I pretty much skipped the cheese and salt & pepper because I didn’t understand how to whisk cheese and I didn’t really see the need for salt and pepper…for some people it might have been too bland though, but for me it was just right!

These were so fab as a brunch, an extra at lunch or just as a snack throughout the day!

In the other compartments of my lunchbox I generally put some sliced up cucumber, carrots and tomato. I also made some apple crisps, which I’m going to talk about later.

Look how excited I am with my lunchbox. Seriously, the lunchbox makes all the difference for the lunch making excitement.

Snacking
As I said before, my main tactic to stop the snacking would be to try and fill myself up at lunch, but that’s not always possible, unfortunately. So doing things like bringing a tub of apple crisps really helps those cravings.

Apple crisps are super easy to make – just chopping up an apple and putting it into the oven, but I’m linking another example of this at the bottom of the post. They taste really sweet, which is good for me, because I like that in my snacks, but are also relatively healthy (despite the sugar part of that…)

Obviously this is all in moderation – too much of anything is bad, so eating a barrel of apple crisps probably isn’t a good idea, but a handful in the middle of the day really hits the spot.

Other things you could go for are some mini frittatas (love those things), oatcakes with peanut butter on them (not for me though, the smell makes me feel sick) or just some fruit to be honest. Fruit’s great.

Dinner

So normally dinner isn’t so much of an issue for me, as I live in the restaurant of mum and dad – but last week I had the joy of cooking for myself. I had to be inventive to get away from the typical microwavable meals. My actual cooking skills are pretty limited, but my main tactic for eating healthily this week has been attempting to pack as many healthy things into a dinner as possible.
Tonight I made a creamy tomato pasta. (I know, that’s not even exciting or interesting in the slightest but I tried, okay!) To start this off I did some more sauteeing, so I put some onion and garlic in there and sauteed them. Then I added a tin of tomatoes, some chopped up pepper and some mixed herbs. Here comes the less healthy bit now…I saw online that too make your sauce a bit less tangy and a bit creamier to add some soft cheese. I was silly and forgot to buy the light stuff, but it made the sauce so much more tasty and smooth than normal. Obviously go for light soft cheese to make it a bit healthier…yeah, this could be a moment of me failing to eat healthier at uni, but most of it’s not too bad!

I then added a wee bit of pepper (no salt though) and lots of spinach! Can you tell I’d bought too much spinach this week, which is why I’ve been using it in every recipe?

I added my pasta to the sauce (culinary genius) put it in a cute bowl and there we go!

Other things I have made and are considering making are homemade pizza (so much tastier and cheaper than bought pizza, and pretty healthy depending on the toppings), omelettes, and soups (I’m particularly partial to pea and mint soup.)

As I said, my cooking skills are limited. Basically I just put as many veggies as I possibly can in there and hope it sort of tastes nice.

So this wasn’t really an advice post, but more of me stumbling my way through attempting to be healthy, but it’s hard and I’ve been trying my best! I think what I take it from it is more just focusing more on trying to get good things into food rather than calorie counting or anything like that – this feels like quite a positive way to eat well. The things are either fun or easy to make and I look forward to it, which is my normal problem with food.

And here are the promised links:

Frittatatata: http://www.rachelcooks.com/2013/09/25/mini-frittatas-spinach-red-pepper/

Apple crisps: http://missioncompetition.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/challenge-apple-crisps.html

 

Oxford Street Lush Product Reviews

So recently I’ve been getting a bit bored with this blog and have wanted to write about some things which are different from the typical reflective style I’ve been going for – I just wanted to blog about things I enjoy occasionally rather than getting into a deep philosophical discussion in every post…So I’m mixing it up a bit, and this post is basically about some things I bought from Lush this summer…it was so fun to write casually about this sort of stuff, so hopefully if you read it you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

This summer I was fortunate enough to visit London, and I was even more fortunate in that I was able to visit the Oxford Street Lush store. I really love Lush and all things bath bomb, so this was something I had been looking forward to for a really long time.

Just in case you’re unaware, the Lush store in Oxford Street is like it’s “flagship” store: it’s three stories high, and has a lot of limited edition products that you can’t get anywhere else in Britain.

As you can imagine, I was pretty excited to go there, and I saved up my pay for a couple of months so that I could buy a lot of bath bombs without feeling guilty.

Needless to say, that even though the amount of smells in there was a little bit overwhelming, I managed to leave with a bagful of things without too much of a scary dent in my bank account.

Guardians of the Forest
The first product to enter my bath was the Guardians of the Forest bath bomb, which I picked up because I liked the name, if I’m honest. The reason I used this one first was because it was my least favourite in terms of the smell, I didn’t think it would be that interesting, and honestly I wanted to leave the best till last.

I was so wrong.

The bath bomb, basically, is meant to smell like pine, I think, or trees at least, and is all about that leafy goodness.

So, Guardians of the Forest looked quite cool, because it looked like a tree, obviously. But the smell was quite strong and I wasn’t really sure I was up for that amount of tree smell in my bath, you know?

As soon as I put it in, however, the smell calmed down and it started fizzing beautifully.

It smelt like I was in a forest (a clean one) and also reminded me of winter, which is one of my favourite times of year, so naturally I really loved it.

The colours looked amazing as well, with lots of different shades of green fizzing out of the bath bomb.
Basically, it was super fun and exciting and pretty. It was also incredibly glittery, and you can never have enough glitter in a bath bomb if you ask me.

It was amazing, and left me feeling refreshed, glittery and happy. Basically, everything I look for in a bath bomb. Definitely would recommend.

Earth Eye Powder

So the next product I want to talk about isn’t actually a bathbomb but an eye shadow. These come in super cute bottles but are loose powders, which means they are a teeny bit messy, but they’re so gorgeous I can’t not mention it.

The shade I got it in was a nice shimmery blue colour which I think looks fab paired with some silvery eye shadows.The shades I was using today with it were some Barry M ones from the natural palette and the summer love palette. 

(On a side note, taking close ups of eyes is a super intense and stressful process. Just so you know.)

I made it quite light because I was just going into uni so wasn’t feeling like being super dramatic, but the good thing about this particular one is that you can use as much or as little as you like to make it as dramatic or subtle as you like.

It was also a lot more blue and silver in real life, I just want to point out, but I couldn’t quite get the camera to pick it up!

So I’d really recommend them because they have a lot of pretty shades and they’re just really nice. Only downside is that they’re really expensive, but as I said earlier, I’d been saving up for a while for this trip so wasn’t that bothered!

I really love it so I wanted to give it a shout out because I know I’m not alone in being a little bit skeptical about Lush make up.

Intergalactic
Finally, the intergalactic bath bomb. My first reaction was that there were no words, but luckily for you (or unluckily depending on whether you care about this stuff or not) I’ve managed to come up with some since.

So intergalactic had this amazing minty smell which I absolutely adored from the minute I picked it up.

This bathbomb was so good that I think it’s surpassed the dragon’s egg, twilight and even guardian’s of the forest in my list of favourite bath bombs. That’s really saying something.

I put it in the bath thinking it was going to be nice because I loved the smell, but it was more than just the smell.

The colours were amazing, and it was, dare I say it, even glittier than the previous one.

It meant my bath was pretty much stained with glitter for a while, but that doesn’t matter when you’ve got the beauty and the smell of the intergalactic bath bomb in your bath.

See that? That’s all glitter. All of it. From one bath bomb. AMAZING.

I need to stop gushing.

Thankfully, the intergalactic bath bomb isn’t just available from Oxford Street, it’s been recently brought into the Glasgow stores – thank goodness because it means I don’t have to wait until my next trip to London to use it!

And that’s all I wanted to talk about today (because I’ve not used anymore of my Oxford Street things) but I hope this was mildly interesting, even though it was completely different to what I normally post! :)x

Fight or Flight

I think I did a good deal of staying in my comfort zone while growing up.
                It was quite a wide comfort zone, however. I had a fair amount of friends because I didn’t just have school – I had church friends and SU friends as well, so I didn’t feel like I needed to go elsewhere for that. I had lots of things to do at church and a couple of hobbies that I had started when I was young (piano from p4, drama from p5, guides from p6) and so I didn’t have too much spare time. With the spare time I did have I was quite content reading as much as I could and writing as much as I could.
                I never really had to stray out of the comfort zone I was in, because I had everything I needed and wanted in it. I guess that’s why it’s called a comfort zone.
                However, the time came for me, as it does for everybody, when you have to get out of your comfort zone. It started with going to weekends away or camps on my own, and eventually built up to going to university.
                Meeting people has always been my big issue. I really hate feeling like I’m on show, although I’m definitely not alone in my dislike of that. When I meet new people, I can feel very conscious of everything I’m doing and saying. That comment when I was trying to be too funny, whether I was too loud, too quiet, too annoying. There’s a stage before the comfort of friendship where I don’t feel like I’m being myself.
                So putting myself out there, and meeting new people, was thoroughly out of my comfort zone as I began to try new things.  
                Uni was one of the biggest steps I’ve ever taken in terms of getting out of my comfort zone. It might not seem like it, because I stayed at home, but for me it was a massive thing. I had to meet a lot of new people, try and get good grades, and work out if I had chosen a good course all at once. It was absolutely terrifying and I wasn’t sure at the time if it was the right thing to do or not.
                (In hindsight, it totally was.)
                Recently, I’ve had to go further and take some different, but important, steps out of my comfort zone in terms of trying to find out what I want to do after uni.  
                And what I want to talk about in this post, is that part of me that tries to stop me taking these steps.     
                This part of me loves the comfort zone. It’s in the name – it’s comfy and warm and happy and content.
                You see, and I hope I’m not alone in this, whenever I do something different, there’s a voice in my head that says:
             
   ‘You don’t have to do this. You could easily just not do this and be completely fine.’
             
              The phrase ‘you don’t actually need to’ is the one that sticks in my mind the most. Because it’s true, if I didn’t go for that internship, or send my story into that magazine, or make that phone call, then I would be fine. I would be happy, I would still have uni, my friends, my hobbies, my family. All the things that make me happy would still be there. I wouldn’t lose anything by not doing them.
                But the way I see it, this is my brain putting up that well known ‘fight or flight’ mechanism – and it wants me to run away.
                The issue is, the things I’m trying to do, which are outside my comfort zone, are things which would be good.
                They would be good for getting me a job in the future, or for increasing my confidence and experience. I would enjoy them in a way that’s very different from the things I do now.
                I don’t have to do them.
                But I do want to.
                And you don’t get a career by sitting in your comfort zone. You don’t get published or meet new people or grow up.
                You have to fight for things like that, rather than run away from them. And even though I would be perfectly fine if I just chilled out in that comfortable place I’m in, I would never get to do anything that I dream about doing.  

                In the past couple of months particularly I’ve learnt that even if I have doubts about something, I need to learn how to fight my way through them. I need to replace that voice in my head telling me that I can easily just give up before I even begin, by saying that these things that I want are worth it. And if I fail – I’ll still be as fine as I would have been if I hadn’t tried. 

My Thoughts on ‘Go Set A Watchman’

Before I start, I just want to warn that there are mild spoilers in this – no big ones, but if you want to avoid everything before you read the book, then probably don’t read this until you’re finished!
Atticus Finch.
                Saint. Hero. Fictional father.
Yesterday, I ran out of the house at 10am to get my copy of Go Set A Watchman. I had a long discussion with the lovely lady on the checkout in Waterstones (sorry for holding you up by the way!) about my nerves about the book. I didn’t want the book that perfectly envisaged a simple, uncomplicated way of understanding the world and how you should see it to become tainted and spoiled by these new, grown up, complicated characters.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
This is just one of the quotes that has stuck with me since fourth year of high school, when I first picked up a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. A lesson which I had already been taught by own parents. Maybe that’s why it struck a chord with me, and why Atticus became so much of role model to me, and probably to so many other people. Atticus was patient, understanding, loving, and he taught his children lessons in an all-knowing way. He always seemed to know what his children were up to before they did it, and they idolised him because he always knew exactly what they needed to hear.
When I was young, that’s what my parents were to me. They knew when I was going to jump on the bed. They knew when I was upset without me needing to say anything. They knew when I’d taken haribo from the sweet box when I wasn’t supposed to. And Atticus is exactly the same as that, the perfect parent.
Scout loves her dad, and idolises him in the way we all do if we have parents like Atticus growing up. They are perfect, they are loving, they are amazing in every way. It’s when you begin to grow up that you realise they’re not perfect, no matter how amazing they still are. You understand that a lot of what they do is guess work. You begin to question the things they tell you because that’s just part of growing up.
I opened Go Set A Watchman, after having read reviews hailing Atticus as a ‘racist old man’. There was so much anxiety in my stomach I didn’t know if I could bear starting it. (Especially with that Jem bombshell in chapter one!) Every page I turned I was absolutely terrified because I was waiting for racist Atticus to appear and start yelling obscenities at me.
However, halfway through the book, Atticus was still the same. The sensible man, older now, but still wise, still thoughtful, still clever.
And then the court scene came.
I cried, I’m not going to lie. Something in my head was screaming: ‘This isn’t you, Atticus! What are you doing! You don’t belong here!’
But then I realised – that is precisely what Scout (aka Jean Louise) was screaming in her own head. She was horrified, physically sick, because that’s what she was seeing as well. Her perfect father was not so perfect anymore.
I started to feel a bit better because I suddenly realised how clever this book had been. By revealing this part of Atticus to us in this way, we understood exactly what Scout was going through. We became Scout. I’ve honestly never felt so much a part of a book before.
When the confrontation between Scout and Atticus came, I felt such a deep sense of relief, even though Scout didn’t.
Because we are reading the scene from a biased point of view. Scout assumed the worst. She saw her father in a situation which was such a shock, she assumed the worst.
To understand what was happening, I had to google a lot about American politics – but I understood eventually. Atticus didn’t think that equality was wrong…he just thought that the way they were going about it was wrong. Which was what Scout, and ultimately the reader, was disagreeing with.
The press describing Atticus as an old racist is the perfect example of the way we feel while reading the book. Atticus, for us, is our father, and everyone, while reading this book, assumed the worst of him because of our preconceived notions of him as the perfect character.
Growing up is about questioning things. But it is also about realising that there are opinions which oppose your own. And that is exactly what Atticus teaches Scout in this book.
Surely, then, this is the same Atticus who taught Scout that everyone deserves their point of view to be seen? That everyone deserves a fair trial? That everyone is equal? He is doing the same thing he has done again and again because that is who he is. The lessons are more complex now because Scout is older now – she is Jean Louise, no longer a young girl obsessed with the scary man across the road.
For us, too, the lesson becomes more complex. We learn that people are complex, and that just because we don’t agree with something, Atticus’ views on this Supreme Court ruling in this case, it doesn’t mean that he is a bad person. It seems almost humorous that the majority of the press coverage is so shocked about the apparent change in Atticus that they completely avoid what we are supposed to be learning.
To Kill A Mockingbird was a book from a young child’s perspective, with a simple lesson fit for a child. Sometimes the simplicity of a child is exactly what we need to understand parts of life.  
Go Set A Watchman, however, teaches a much more complicated lesson of understanding the complexity of life and being your own person. And, for me, again I saw the threads of what Atticus told Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird – if we had only stepped into Atticus’ skin, or Hank’s, then we might have been more understanding, even if we had not agreed.

I’m not sure that this completely sums up what I felt about the book, but I wanted to combat the idea that this book was bad because Atticus had changed – I disagree wholeheartedly, and can’t wait to read the book again…more slowly this time!