New Year, Same Me (Again)

Processed with VSCO with a5 presetA female Doctor, a crazed President, pregnant Kardashians, engaged royals and a partridge in a pear tree- 2017 has been, I’m pleased to say, absolutely mad. 9 Greys Anatomy episodes, 5 solo One Direction albums, and one trip to a pig farm later I am pretty content with how this year has rounded off. This year I finished my first year of Uni, moved into a house with my best friends, performed in some of the shows I am most proud of, and had plenty of time to party. 2017 might have been a bit of a dodgy year for mankind in general, but on a personal level (back at it again with some classic millennial narcissism) it’s been pretty brilliant.

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Moving into a new house hasn’t been without it’s quarrels.  I’ve learnt more about football than I ever wanted to (ask me what the offside rule is, we’ll have a chat), I’ve cleaned up more beard trimmings than would be ideal and oh. my. goodness. you would not believe the amount of wee that ends up on the floor. Mostly though, living off campus has been a dream. The 6:3 boy to girl ratio is sometimes a struggle (note the aforementioned wee on the floor), but I still cried at Christmas dinner when I tried to say how much I loved them all. 36 Second Av- you’ve absolutely made 2017 for me. My resolution house-wise is to nag less about the washing up (although I’m hoping my housemates might resolve to actually do their washing up) and to spend as much time as is humanly possible, as much time as they’ll let me, with the boys before we make the split into gals and guys houses next year.

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It’s also been another year of complete and utter airheadedness from me, and while I continue to endeavour to change, I think it’s a part of me that I’m just going to have to accept. 2017 might have begun with a shiny iPhone 7, but it wasn’t long (the first night out of Spring Term- pitiful, I know) before that ended up face down in the James College loos- not even 3 days in rice could bring salvation. iPhone #2 almost met it’s peril during a trip to the good old West Country, where it was stolen from a train station and allegedly sold for 100 quid over a pint before being reluctantly returned by a family (honestly, the whole family) of travellers. It was a pretty wild ride, as you can imagine. A final feat of idiocy came when I left my purse in the back of an Uber, complete with 200 pounds in cash, my debit card and all forms of ID to my name. True to form, an existential crisis ensued as I cancelled my card and reported it to the police. In an utterly miraculous turn of events, a girl visiting family in York got in contact with me on Facebook (the 102nd Megan Williams she’d contacted, or something) and returned the purse just as I left it- people have a funny way of surprising you in the most amazing ways!

IMG_3735.JPG2018 started last night on a beautiful white yacht (could I *be* any more of an expat brat), with some of my best IMG_3733friends. We watched fireworks through the rain, started the year with McNuggets and fell asleep watching New Years Eve. I hope the year that follows is exactly like that- a little bit of extra and a lot of comfort. I will not be giving up avocado’s to save for a house and I probably won’t manage to cut out Coke (a-Cola, thank you), but I do want to keep up the positive vibes, keep loving myself and my friends and GET. STUFF. DONE. When I check back next New Year, it’ll ideally be after a snazzy summer internship (pray for me), a suitable Second Year grade and loads more fun with my beautiful friends and beautiful family. IMG_3732I’m grateful for where I am and excited about where I’m going. Happy New Year everyone!

 

Finding a ‘thing’ at University

At university, most people you meet will have a ‘thing’- from juggling to hockey to rowing to Quidditch, everyone is doing something, and for good reasons.

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CHMS Committee at the UoY Freshers Fair

After spending most of first term back pedalling out of auditions and reinvesting in my netball career (unsuccessfully), I finally found a place in Central Hall Musical Society when I was cast in their Spring Show after my audition in December. Objectively, CHMS is probably the best society in York,  but that aside, finding a ‘thing’ that I loved outside of my course completely transformed my life at Uni.

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The CHMS Committee!

Getting involved in things outside of your degree is absolutely integral to a fulfilling (and fun) university experience. For one thing, I would go absolutely bonkers if all I had to do outside of my contact hours was dive in and out of medieval literature and historical court dissents. Going out is obviously a big part of the culture at Uni, but I don’t think that it’s really enough to constitute  a ‘thing’. If your only extra-curricular activity is strawpedo-ing VK’s you probably aren’t getting everything you can out of being at university.

IMG_4936 Being in shows with CHMS has, I believe, massively reduced the potential for bad days. If I’m even feeling the whisper of a bad day, a 5 hour rehearsal immediately sets me straight. You’d be surprised how cathartic belting out soprano harmonies that aren’t quite comfortably in your range can be. Singing the feel-good, soul filled soundtrack of Sister Act, our upcoming production, at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning might be some people’s idea of a worst nightmare, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything better. There are very few things in this world that can get me out of bed before 11, and Alan Menken’s score is definitely one of them! Aside from the music itself, being surrounded by people who you love, and who love the same things as you, can lift even the moodiest of moods.

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On another level, finding a ‘thing’ means that, by default, you widen your friendship circle. I was lucky enough to find some of my best friends in my halls, but I know plenty of people who weren’t as fortunate. Your halls are a complete lottery- you don’t get to pick who you live with and if you do have anything in common it’s a nice surprise. The fact that I can’t participate in a conversation with my housemates about football transfers or pipe up about Wenger doesn’t make me love them any less- they can’t offer any input either when I want to chat about the amount of times Andrew Rannells licks his lips in his Tony performance of “I Believe”. The things we care about are just different. For me, joining CHMS meant that I was suddenly spending time with people who had similar interests- who understood when I wanted to talk about Cynthia Erivo for half an hour and who might not know the offside rule either. I’ve met some of my absolute favourite people at Uni through CHMS, and the level of talent I get to be around means that I’m constantly inspired and pushing myself to be better.

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Singin’ In The Rain

At the end of the day, I love my course and I do want the best academic result I can possibly get. Right now, I’m confident in my ability to balance the two, but I know (rightly or wrongly) that if it came down to it I would sacrifice the top grades for a chance to be on the stage any day. Finding a ‘thing’ that you care about and that makes your life at Uni more than just a combination of the library and jagerbombs is as rewarding as it can be exhausting, and something that everyone starting University should endeavor to do. CHMS has been one of my favourite things to be a part of in my LIFE (I know, slow down) and I can’t imagine my experience at Uni without it, or the people I have met through it.

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The cast of Sister Act at our launch party

 

 

 

 

New Year, Same Me

A lot of the talk surrounding the New Year seems to centre around resolution and hopes for the future, but, when I think about going into 2017, I am drawn inevitably back to how last year began for me- waking up in between my parents, in my dress from the night before, covered in mud and dry tears (real classy). 2016 and I got off to a rocky start- both metaphorically and literally, as it turns out, seeing that I spent it in the mountains (ha ha), but somehow it set the tone for an unbelievable year.

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Jan 1st, 2016

The last night of 2015, for me, began with a glass of champagne in my left hand while my right linked with my mum’s for us to shoot tequila. We were skiing in France with some of the most fun family friends we know, and our big party seemed intent on drinking Club Med dry of red wine and vodka cokes, and being the worst and loudest dancers within the whole of Europe- properly ringing in the New Year is serious business and not for the faint of heart. Perhaps inevitably, everyone was having a fantastic evening- so fantastic that I was only mildly embarrassed when my dad started teaching everyone the beyond cringey moves he and his friends used to “get girls” at Uni. Having not long been 18 (and being a lifetime member of the swot club that prevented me from going near a club until I was actually of age), excited doesn’t begin to cover how I felt leaving the hotel after the 2016 fireworks to head to a club.

So, when a French man in a, far too tight, Ralph polo waved a smashed iPhone in my face, it didn’t for a second cross my mind that it might have belonged to me. Of course, it did belong to me. I shouldn’t have been surprised, seeing that I am both a serial phone-smasher and general klutz, but still I felt my heart drop like a stone at the thought of having to tell my parents (on the dawn of a New Year, no less) that I’d once again done one of those “but Dad, I didn’t mean to!” things that constituted a reputation in my family I have never quite been able to shake. Strike 1, 2016. However, I was excited enough about the New Year and the cringey but brilliant music in the French club to not care too much about my smithereen-ed screen. Until, that is, when 2016 threw me another curveball after I’d said goodnight to my friends back at the hotel.

I am my mothers daughter, which means I CRY. At happy movies, at sad books, at particularly emotional songs and, as it would happen, when I am locked out of my room, still feeling the effects of the aforementioned tequila, at 4am in Val D’Isere. The inherent hopelessness I seem to possess stretches from breaking phones to picking up the wrong keys, apparently. Standing outside my door, fumbling with a key that was not even close to fitting in the lock, I realised quite quickly that I’d managed to take a key to my parents room (who had retired from the celebrations hours before) rather than to my own. Strike 2, 2016. And so came the waterworks. I really can only imagine how pathetic I looked, sat in that (sort of grimy) corridor with my red dress and muddy converse, mulling over my doom. I was sure I’d be in new depths of trouble should I use my parents key and wake them from their prosecco induced dreams, but as it would seem, I had little choice in the matter if I didn’t want to spend the night curled up on the, questionably maroon, Club Med carpets.

Strike 3 was the simultaneous high and low point of the evening, which was when I kicked off my converse (effectively leaving them for dead at this point, the mud and snow had claimed them as an innocent victim) and climbed into bed in between my stirring parents. If you looked past my, probably too short, red dress and mascara I may as well have been 5 years old again as they sleepily wiped away my tears and offered some mumbly words of comfort. In any case, that is how I ended up waking up for my New Years Day ski school with glitter stains across my cheeks, a smashed phone in my hand, very muddy legs (which remain unexplained) and some pretty confused parents.

True to it’s humble beginnings, 2016 followed in a year of my hopelessness (we won’t bring up the amount of missed trains, it’s still hard for my Dad to hear about), some serious cold weather (the snowy, sunny cold of the French Alps doesn’t quite compare to the drizzly chill of York though) and definitely a fair few tears. Without a doubt though, I would say that 2016 has been one of the best years of my life, despite even the fact that One Direction broke up (still hanging on for a reunion). From the moment I graduated, it has been a whirlwind of the most consecutive great times I have ever experienced, and I can only hope that will continue into 2017, although I intend to drink slightly less Coke and watch slightly less TV.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that 2017 is a great year for you all. Thank you for reading.

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Pre-disaster, NYE 2015

A Term at York

So, just as everyone warned, my first term at university has gone by in a too-quick whirlwind of essays and tequila. Reflecting on the past few months puts me in the eye of the storm, looking back on deadlines and chilly toes and rainy Monday lectures, and I feel now is as good a time as any to write it all down. I definitely, arrogantly, feel far older, wiser and more independent than I was 10 weeks ago- not least because I pierced my cartilage- and have learnt a lot living away from home, as everyone in the same position is forced to do. Most importantly, perhaps, I have learned that England is cold. It wasn’t far into October before I realised I couldn’t text after being outside- my fingers frozen into redundancy. So, aside from the ridiculous Northern temperatures,  what follows is a round-up of my first term at York.

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Sleep vs. Sesh

Anyone who knew me in Singapore will know that I am weak in the face of micoplasma- a strain of pneumonia/glorified flu virus that tends to strike me down for weeks at a time, at multiple points in the year. With this general pathetic-ness in terms of health in mind, I know that getting enough sleep is, as I guess it is for everyone, essential.

BUT, when Wednesday night is social night and you have a 9am seminar the next day, some sacrifices have got to be made. And I have chosen, probably too often, to sacrifice a fully awake mind in my Thursday morning “Making Histories” class. Luckily, my embarrassingly tame drinking habits have saved me from horrific hangovers, and I can’t say I regret the nights I’ve spent at Flares dancing to One Direction (probably the only place I’ve ever been that willingly accepts my 1D requests) instead of lying in bed wishing I was doing just that.

The elusive concept of ‘The Budget’

My parents have tried, apparently to no avail, to instil within me the concept of having a budget. It seemed a pretty simple notion and I was quite sure, when I set off for uni, that I would be swimming in the money I would save every month. I’m not a massive drinker (although will never say no to a glass of Red Menace- our flat’s disgusting speciality concoction of New Amsterdam Vodka and fruit twist Fanta), and I have most of my meals catered for on campus. My mum funded my yearly bus pass AND bought me the winter neccessities my life in Singapore had not required. Probably, any half competent human would be able to budget their money in a situation like mine. I’ve quickly come to realise, however, that spending  £12.75 on eyebrow threading every 3 weeks, throwing another £60 at Trainline after sleeping through your departure time and booking a return ticket for a trip to Scotland going in the wrong direction does not allow much to be saved. I also bought my visiting mum a bottle of champagne with gold flakes in it. Too much? This term, I’m content to put it down to the general chaos that aligns itself with settling into a new place, and hopefully next term I can rise above the mess (a happy mess, at that) this chaos has made me.

15170961_1624806570878671_4081213201918280901_nThe actual work

Though my dad will tell you I am partying too much (he likes to check when I was last online on Whatsapp- classic), the actual work side of uni has been surprisingly great. One of the luxuries of my degree- English and History- is that there are relatively few contact hours, meaning a lot of my time is spent in with a book (a new text for English every week) or historical journal on my lap, or typing up my own ideas rather than in a lecture hall, which suits me perfectly. My academic week culminates in a high with my English seminar, a two hour discussion between our group of 12 and our tutor. As cringe as it sounds (I do cringe quite well) it has completely revived my love for English to be in an environment when everyone around me is just as excited by literature, and all have so many interesting and unique things to say about it. The grade on my first essay was underwhelming, but (especially since first year doesn’t count, thank god) I was not overly disappointed, as I can already feel my level of analysis and the things I see in the texts becoming more perceptive and more original, thanks to the things I am learning at York.

History hasn’t provided me with the same excitement- the only module this term being ‘Making Histories’, a class about how History is written and received rather than actual past events and periods. It’s been a slug of journals and critical reviews and a lot of things I did not expect my degree to entail, but has hopefully served it’s purpose of leaving me more prepared to write my own History in the following months and years of my course. With English, though, I find myself the keenest of keen beans in lectures and seminars, and to not feel this level of interest in the other half of my degree is somewhat disheartening. Thankfully, the real history starts next term.

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Prison Block

Two lovely and well meaning 2nd years came to help me move my luggage from car to college when I arrived on my first day, lightyears ago. They nearly  dropped the bags they were kindly lugging across the carpark when I naively told them I was going to be living in N Block. They tried to suppress their slightly smug looks of sympathy, but it wasn’t long before I was greeted with the tin cupboards, dingy corridors and un-plastered breeze block that characterises my home, affectionately known amongst students ‘Prison Block’.

But it didn’t take long to  realise that by being branded ‘prisoners’ of N Block, we have banded closer together. It was a conversation starter during fresher’s week- everyone wants to know what it is like to live in such squalor- and it has become a label associated with some really fun and friendly people. Over in the sparkling accommodation blocks on the Hes East campus, I cannot imagine any group gelling to the level that sharing 3 toilets and about minus 10 square metres forces you to reach. We’ve cried over Grey’s Anatomy together, we’ve seen each other participate in some aggressive drunk face licking,  we’ve unclogged each other’s vomit from the kitchen sink (I did the unclogging, which I will never let go, it’s quality material), and I think I speak for all of us when I say we have had some of the most fun 10 weeks ever. And although I doubt  my flatmates will have made it to the bottom of this post (I can’t help myself with the verbal diarrhea), I genuinely am grateful for their friendship and fun and continued bad influence when vodka is involved.

Feminism, body image and the line between personal and political

“Body image is the new, self-involved frontier of feminist expression” wrote Lizzie Crocker in an article on The Daily Beast. Modern day feminist media on social platforms has focused a lot of positive attention to ‘the girl who doesn’t care what she looks like’. Growing out armpit hair or wearing no makeup is seen as a huge feminist statement and, rightly so, an expression of self confidence. The message behind this movement is exciting, empowering and mostly positive- your body is your body and you can do whatever you want with it. However, an unsettling trend has come from this, and the shaming of girls who do the opposite- who groom themselves and spend more time on their appearance- has risen as a consequence. Where did the idea come from that girls are somehow better if they opt for a more natural look?

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Twitter: @Alicia Keys

One of the most recent and high profile examples of a woman’s body image and personal expression being politically interpreted was Alicia Keys and her outspoken renouncement of makeup. She wrote in the Lenny Letter, an online feminist newsletter, about how she was tired of feeding her insecurities and being trapped by an obsessive need to look good for other people. She spoke about the fear she felt when she left the house without makeup,”What if someone wanted a picture?? What if they POSTED it???”, and decided that her way of liberating herself would be to give up wearing makeup entirely. I know, pretty badass.Obviously, the response was varied. Some people praised her as a feminist icon for rejecting makeup, because obviously the makeup business is run by evil corporations profiting on female insecurity. Others slammed her for being condescending to women who did enjoy makeup and suggesting she was superior to those who didn’t have as flawless a complexion- and of course, she must have spent a fortune on procedures in the past to be able to achieve such a look, right? Basically, for some reason, a lot of people found her confidence to be offensive. What does that say about how today’s society judge women? It at least proves that the women have stupidly unattainable standards to live up to- evidently, you can’t please everyone.

In any case, to me it would seem that Keys wasn’t making a statement about the evils of makeup, but instead about doing what makes YOU happy, and not changing yourself for other people. Yes, she is proving that you don’t need to alter your physical appearance to be confident and beautiful, but she is also celebrating that if you feel confident and beautiful with makeup- that’s great too! As Keys said herself under a photo on twitter, “Y’all, me choosing to be makeup free doesn’t mean I’m anti-makeup. Do you!”

But this picking apart of the female appearance and what it reveals about the person underneath is not just happening to celebrities. We’ve probably all seen girls be criticised, especially at school or uni, by male and female peers alike, for being vain when they change their outfit 8 times before a night out, for being self-obsessed when they spend hours on their hair and makeup, or for being fake when they show up to school with a face covered in Anastasia Beverly Hills and Mac. Although the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ should be pretty much a universal value by now, it’s unfortunate that, a lot of the time, the beautiful dyed-blonde girl with a lot of makeup on is automatically looked down on as being vapid, unintelligent and superficial.  As women, we could afford to spend a lot less time judging girls and labelling them as ‘fake’ or ‘slutty’ to fit our preconceived perceptions of them and focus a lot more energy into empowering each other and supporting the choices we make. It is simply unfair to judge a girl on her body image, and harmful to promote the idea that the way a girl might express herself reveals her entire personality.

cut-dre-3439-shark-attack-costume-700Halloween this weekend was, and always seems to be, a great opportunity for completely misunderstanding,  but mostly innocent, people to have a moan about girls and their choices. By some, girls who opt for a ‘funny’ or ‘scary’ costume are praised for not going for the cliche skimpy outfits. I told a group of friends about a time I wore a shark attack costume (like the one on the right) to a party and was surprised by how many of the boys agreed that they “respect that”. While obviously I was glad that they found it funny, I immediately worried about the hideously cliche costume I had planned for this Halloween- a cheeky pair of leopard print leggings, a tail and some ears. And yeah, I chose the costume because I thought I looked nice in it- the leggings made my bum look pretty much as good as it gets and I wanted to paint cute leopard spots around my forehead and perfect my eyeliner wings. And I felt great. The point is, wearing what I want to wear shouldn’t make people respect me any less or more; it does not make me superficial to want to look and feel ‘pretty’, and it does not make me more ‘respectable’ if I’m wearing a shark.

Shockingly, neither does it make you a slave to the patriarchy if you opt for shaved legs, like to put on a pair of false lashes or dress up in a barely-there Harley Quinn get up on Halloween. You are not any less of a feminist, or any less credible, if you like to put makeup on to go to dinner, or prefer to go to lectures in jeans and boots over trackies and trainers. By the same token, you are equally  deserving of being taken just as seriously if you’d rather go bra-less, razor-less and makeup-less. In fact, although this may come as a surprise, most of the time these personal choices have very little impact on a woman’s personality whatsoever.

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Ultimately, feminism and female empowerment should be about allowing girls to express themselves in whichever way they please- isn’t the whole concept of equality about giving people a choice? Although perhaps it should be obvious, the body image choices a woman might make can’t and shouldn’t always be analysed with a political mind, because most of the time it will just come down to what she likes (what a shocker!!). Wear make-up, don’t wear make-up. Shave your pits, let them grow. Feminism means that the choice is yours to make. It doesn’t make you a badass feminist if you shame women who don’t make the same choices as you and it doesn’t make you a ‘cool guy’ if you put ‘natural’ women on a pedestal and discredit those who aren’t. Learn to respect girls for whatever choices they make.

Fresh Faced to Fresher’s Flu: The first few weeks of Uni

With a car full of Amazon-ordered kitchen essentials, warm clothes and various bits of cleaning equipment I was yet to fully understand, I left home. People talk about ‘leaving home’ all the time, be it in a passing anecdote about their own experience or in a lecture about newfound responsibilities, but when you’re sat in the front seat of your mums hired Volvo with all of your possessions behind you, it starts to sink in. Luckily for me, I had a 4 hour, traffic infused journey in that seat for the idea of leaving to play on my mind. The static brain noises of anxiety and excitement are not ones that can be dulled by a One Direction song.

If you have a mum like mine, you are not only very lucky, but also probably very used to trying to calm her down.

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Myself, the girls, and the many, many boys of flat N2

She’s a fusser. With a heart as big as she thinks her waist is (and incidentally, is not), and the very best of intentions, she will worry about absolutely anything and everything that could go wrong for you. Are you going to be warm enough? Will your bed be comfy enough? Will the people in your hall be nice to you? Will you be safe? The trip up to Uni was broken up by these interjectional qualms that definitely took my focus away from my own nerves. My dad on the other hand, is not a worrier. At least, he emits this external calmness that only falters when you question his “because I said so”. Classic Dad behaviour, he only had one piece of advice for me, “beware of boys”. Needless to say, he was less than excited when I told him that 80% of my flatmates were, in fact, of the male gender.

I think I’ve been pretty lucky with my life up to today- and Uni so far has mercifully followed the same trend. I think for most people that is how it goes. You show up to your room on the first day knowing nothing and no one and OF COURSE you’re scared out of your mind. But by the end of the first evening- for us, what was advertised as ‘an awkward school disco, but with booze’ in the College canteen- I had completely forgotten what I had ever been worried about. The fact that my flatmates saw me in my 1D pyjamas on the second night (I quickly broke the promise to myself that I wouldn’t mention boybands until at LEAST Term 2) and didn’t kick me out on the spot definitely gave me fast reassurance that I had landed myself with some great people. A few quick rounds of ‘Never Have I Ever’ swiftly brought the room on familiar terms (perhaps even too familiar) and we were sorted.

And before I could even tell it was happening, Fresher’s Week was in full swing. You’ve all heard the rumours, a week of drunken sex and vomit and the best nights you will never remember. For some, I’m sure this is what Fresher’s Week actually consists of. For most (myself included), it is a happy middle ground that might not leave you with alcohol poisoning or an STD, but certainly with memories (if a little blurry) that will never leave you. It involved a lot of Ring Of Fire around our tiny kitchen table, a lot of more than questionable dance moves, a lot of gross cheap vodka (as if vodka can be anything but gross) and SUCH. A LOT. OF. FUN. I think you can truly call someone your friend when you’ve heard them chunder through the (very) thin walls of Uni accommodation. Even if you are one of the people who ends up with zero coherent memories of the week, you’ll definitely be left with at least one lasting Fresher’s reminder- Fresher’s Flu. I’m a month into Uni now, and still I have to strain to hear the lecturer over coughing (often my own). If you make it to Thursday without a sniffle and start getting cocky, don’t. You can rest assured that it’ll get you eventually, no one escapes the Flu. Thankfully, I was armed with plenty of cough mixture and DayNurse, which fast became a necessary crutch to my uni survival.

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Pre Viking Raid pub crawl

BUT OF COURSE (hello parents) it has not just been about drinking and partying and staying up all night. It is amazing how quickly work starts coming through, thick and fast, and it waits for no one. Some are lucky enough to have their lectures recorded, which allows for some leniency when you are tired or hungover or simply can’t be bothered to rock up to the lecture hall and endure what is likely to be (but not always!!) another boring, possibly wasted, hour of your life. Others end up fighting the fatigue, whether through choice or necessity, and try to keep their eyes open listening to a professor who almost never deviates from a soporific monotone.

It has genuinely been, however, despite the spluttering cough and constant tiredness, some of the best few weeks of my life, and I can already feel like the term will end before I’m ready.

 

 

How I feel about Hamilton

How I feel about Hamilton, the musical, could fill a book. (You may have noticed that the title this blog itself is stolen from a Hamilton song.) Of course, anyone with half an interest in Broadway (or anyone who can read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch TV) has heard of Hamilton- it took the Tonys by storm with a record breaking 16 nominations, and it took the people of the world by storm with it’s innovative and truthful reflection of love, loss, triumph and tribulation. Not only are the music and lyrics so cleverly composed that they kind of hurt your head when you think about the weight of them, but they continue to inspire a generation of open minded, forward thinking individuals, who value integrity and determination.

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The characters are expertly crafted and conveyed to provide a glimpse into the human emotion behind real people that are often forgotten as 2D pictures in a history book. Although factual historical texts are undeniably vital to our understanding and research, I’ve always felt it a great injustice that we have to see people as mere sums of their actions. History is usually told in a way that relays the facts of someone’s life, and it is so easy to forget that they FELT things just as you or I might do. Maybe because, as the character George Washington sings, “you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” It is, in a very literal sense, awesome that Lin-Manuel Miranda has succeeded in making such an important part of world history so accessible to the people of today. It is even more amazing that he is using this amazing platform he now has to make the story of Alexander Hamilton relevant to the modern context in which it is received, paying particular attention to social and racial injustices and fighting them with his extremely talented and diverse casting.

So, what about the music itself? Songs are important in any musical, but in Hamilton, where there is almost no unaccompanied dialogue, they are an especially integral part of the story. As such, there are musical highs and lows, the soundtrack mirroring the events of time as the show progresses through the decade or so it depicts. The numbers go from fast paced, riotous rap in songs like ‘Guns and Ships’ and “Cabinet Battle”‘s #1 and #2 (the cabinet meetings are in the form of rap battles- come on.) to the smarmy, petulant but adorable waltzing sounds of King George in ‘You’ll Be Back’ and the subsequent reprises. An emotional climax comes in the form of ‘Burn’, sung by Hamilton’s spurned wife, Eliza. Again, the raw pain and hurt that you feel when you hear Eliza sing brings to life a pain that the real Eliza must have felt- one that doesn’t come across in the formulaic history books she usually features in. It’s not an easy song to sing either (anyone who’s shared a car with me for longer than 5 minutes can probably testify to that), and the Eliza’s who have graced the stage at the Richard Rogers Theatre have blown it so far out of the park that every time I hear someone else’s version I am sure it can’t possibly get better.

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Alongside all the pain and heartache come blissful relapses of humour as well. Hamilton’s boyish banter with Aaron Burr (obviously, pre-murder), when Burr muses “If you can marry a [Schuyler] sister, you’re rich, son” and Hamilton quips “Is it a question if, Burr, or which one?” always earns a laugh from me. The funniest character is undoubtedly King George, who is played as a bit of an idiot, sining lines like “I will kill your friends and family to remind me you of my love” with a giant, slappable smile on his face.

The lyrics are also brimming with poignant life lessons that hit you right in the gut. “Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints, it takes and it takes and it takes, and we keep living anyway”. I mean, wow. Lin-Manuel does not mess around. He also likes to show two metaphorical fingers to any racist listener or audience member with one of my favourite lyrics, “Immigrants. We get the job done”. Finally, there is the running motif, “I am not throwing away my shot.” to remind you not to throw away yours.

 

 

 

A Summer in Europe: Amsterdam

If anyone ever has the chance to go interrailing- don’t let yourself be asked twice, DO IT. I feel as though when I set off at the beginning of July, with high hopes and a heavy backpack, I was almost a different person to the one that returned a month later, and not only because I managed to come back with half of the socks I left with.

Our 21 days of trains, planes and misbehaviour began in Amsterdam. As a first time visitor to Holland, I was instantly obsessed with the fairytale setup. The crooked houses and whistling canals look like they’ve been magic-ed straight out of a storybook with delicate watercolour illustrations. Admittedly, we were there during a perfect summer, where the sun won out over the breathy wind and the only rain was a few drops barely worth mentioning. I’d gone with the expectation that Amsterdam was all ‘sex, drugs and Dutch rap’, and although I don’t doubt that does happen, my experience was of a quaint, beautiful city, absolutely bursting at the seams with character and stories.

 

I found myself in the role of ‘Trip Organiser’ which seemed to entail a lot of bossing around and ordering about my unsuspecting and undeserving friends, telling them where to go and what to do (sorry friends). In all my fuss, I almost (but not quite) forgot the value of just walking around a new city, in comparison to steaming through a checklist of “Top 10 Things To See in Amsterdam”. In Amsterdam, a walk down a different street or across a different bridge can lead you to all kinds of weird and wonderful things- from coffee shops to comic stores, I think we saw it all.

Speaking of seeing it all- a visit to the Red Light District is not for the faint of heart. It was kind of hard to believe that although we were there (almost embarrassingly so) as tourists, for a bit of a shameless gawk and “oh my god I can’t believe this is real”, some people actually frequented the area to…use the facilities, if you will. I found it unbearably sad to see beautiful women, many of whom couldn’t have been much older than me, sat in windows as, quite literally, products to rent out. Of course, there is a larger feminist debate about whether or not these women are empowered for exercising their right to chose such a profession , and who am I, indeed, to say that it’s wrong, especially when the law in Amsterdam dictates otherwise. However, you could almost smell the sense of entitlement as business men in tailored suits did their predatory march alongside the canal, all the while women were perched on the edge of leather stools waving waning cigarettes beside their scantily clad figures, teasing the occasional wink.

As a History student, and human being, there was no way I could miss the Anne Frank museum- and if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, nor should you. Reading the excerpts on the wall brought me to tears, and I think will easily move most anyone. It’s near impossible to put yourself in the shoes of a teenager forced to live in fear and hiding – no amount of literature and research on the time in which Anne Frank lived can emulate how she actually must have felt. Standing where the Frank family once stood is enough to blow anyones mind, and I imagine those with minority backgrounds must feel particularly moved and grateful that they are so much safer today than the Franks were back then. In a time where men like Donald Trump could actually become the leader of a country, I think Anne Franks experience is even more poignant and important to remember.

 

Coming from small and sheltered Singapore, Amsterdam was certainly a jump. Having quietly rolled my eyes at the rife rumours that you could “smell weed everywhere bro!!!!” I was amazed to find that this was actually quite close to the truth. Credit to the Dutch- it doesn’t seem to me like there could be a safer place to indulge in a cheeky smoke, but that’s a whole new debate. Without claiming to know anything concrete about the drug culture in Amsterdam, from what we heard and experienced, having a legal way to obtain and smoke weed seemed to eliminate a lot (obviously not all, but a lot) of the possible associated danger. I shouldn’t say that though, my Dad wouldn’t approve. (Hi Dad!)

Another thing that my Dad definitely didn’t approve of, was the infamous Amsterdam Sex Museum. Entry is only 4 euros, and it may just be the most interesting and wonderfully weird 4 euros you ever spend. I wouldn’t say the educational value is especially high,  but you do get value for money in awkward laughs and slightly bashful awe. SPOILER ALERT: There is a moving model, complete with creepy moustache and trench coat, that flashes you with his (amazingly detailed) phallus upon the simple click of a button. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, there are also more historical parts to the museum, such as a pictorial history of Pornography, complete with some of the most unexpectedly strange sexual imagery I have ever seen (not that I’m particularly well versed in strange porn).

If you want to watch a video of our entire Europe experience, 7 countries in 21 days, you can do so here!

 

A Virtual Handshake

In my experience, a real-life handshake is, at best, well meaning and a little sweaty, so at least the online nature of this introduction means that we can (hopefully) bypass the sweat. I’m Megan- an aspiring writer currently surviving Uni with a frightening lack of natural common sense and incredible talents for procrastinating and talking too much.

It didn’t take me long to realise that the misadventures of a Uni student are well worth writing down, at the very least for myself to look back on when I’m old and (more) boring and no longer like tequila. I hope that some of you closer to my age will find solace in the fact that I, as apparently a university level student, actually spend most of the time with no idea what is going on and, although legally an adult, still await the lightbulb moment that grants me with the knowledge I have so long, and so wrongly, believed would accompany being a grown-up.

So, welcome to where I will be sharing my very loud opinions and hopefully some advice, as I learn more about myself and the world and everything and everyone in between!