Bruges on the waves: an insight into the ‘Venice of the North’

As the Belgian city bustles with over three million tourists each year, Talia Jones writes about the heart and soul of the city from the calmer waters of the canal routes.

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“…And whatever you do, don’t fall in, yes?” muffles our tour guide through plastic headphones as we tentatively step into the sun-soaked canal boat. That was exactly the confidence boost we needed to hear. Michel had been explaining Bruges’ history and culture for the last three hours in his broken English, adding ‘yes?’ to every other sentence. It was as though even he was not certain of his facts.

We had spent most of the tour lagging behind the guide; amidst copious photographic opportunities of the idyllic surroundings and only two good ankles between the pair of us, my mother and I had firmly found our place as the tortoises of the group. Dipping in and out of headphone range left a constant static ringing through our ears, but we didn’t care – it was her 50th birthday and we were going to enjoy ourselves.

28The boat appeared derelict at best, with rotting wood and an attempt at covering up the cracks with a translucent-looking lick of white paint, so we were grateful when Vincent offered us a helping hand onto the water. Very grateful indeed. He was a gorgeous specimen of a man – exactly the physique and chiselled jawline you’d expect to grace the London Fashion Week catwalk. This was a welcome distraction from Michel’s constant, incessant mumblings.

Unfortunately, the moment was abruptly ended by my inability to fathom where I was going, having to be saved from face-planting into the canal. Not exactly my finest hour.

Picturesque views were at every sweeping corner in the city they named ‘The Venice of the North’; the 12th century hospital still stands with the original brickwork and has been resurrected as a museum almost rivalling the Louvre. Meandering up the river, you encounter a piece of modern art living in the canal made entirely of white steel pipes standing three storeys high – something Tracy Emin would have been immensely proud of creating. And all this before you get to experience the three tallest buildings within the five-mile city walls.

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“Get your cameras out now,” Vincent says, with a knowing grin on his face, “The Church of Our Lady is straight ahead of us.” And he isn’t wrong about wanting to capture this hugely impressive feat of architecture on film – it is a thing of absolute, man-made beauty. The 13th century, gothic-style cathedral has been modified with a Victorian era twist to give the building a more modern interpretation in the historical centre of the city. “Oh, and one of Michelangelo’s sculptures lives there too. I think it’s called Madonna,” he adds, as if this unintentional comment was just an afterthought and not one of the most widely recognisable pieces of artwork in the world.

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The other two masterpieces of Bruges’ skyline are also cathedrals of varying style and stature, but equally outstanding in the dusky lighting. But these startling structures were to be just three of the many highlights of the canal tour. “If you look to your right, you’ll see Marilyn Monroe in the window,” Vincent nonchalantly declares, as if it is a sight you would see anywhere in the world. Marilyn’s iconic pose resides in one of the shop windows and would send shivers down even the coldest of spines.

People wax lyrically about the unequivocal beauty of the autumnal colours dissipating into the narrow waterways, but observing the reddish-green leaves falling around you under the sunset sends you into some zen-like trance. Until the women at the back of the boat giggle like schoolgirls so much that the boat nearly overturns – magical moment gone.

22We had already been given a warning before we even started covering the sparkling water – Vincent had the audacity to ask one of the larger women on the boat to kindly sit on the other side, attempting to even the balance out. He was obviously one who was unafraid of offending people, but we found him oddly charming in spite of this. In fact, all the middle-aged ladies were hanging on to his every word throughout the tour like pre-teens at a One Direction concert.

It was lucky we were so attentive to his stories – we may have only met him twenty minutes previously, but he clearly had an understanding of the females on board, pointing out the best chocolate shops across the city, in between the historical highlights and majestic museums. But it’s the houses on the river that stand out the most. The pastel-coloured, medieval-style buildings that line the canal front astound me. It is like the adult, real life version of Balamory.

Before we knew it, our journey through the centre of Bruges was over and we would have to go back to the rather dull musings of Michel, suffering once more with headphones too big to fit comfortably in our ears and contend with static that would haunt us for the next three days. But half an hour with a dishy-looking man, husky voice and a sat down tour around a city with undoubtedly rich history: Priceless.

19This overwhelmingly stunning city has hidden treasures encompassed within the five-mile radius of handmade bricked wall; from chocolatiers that share melt-in-the-mouth milk chocolate with tourists for free (which, incidentally, we exploited as much as we could) to the obliging natives who direct the clueless among us without a moment’s consideration. Bruges is not just a medieval city; it is a land of unwavering possibilities.

The daily struggles of a twenty-something

images2XE68VO1So our twenties are supposed to be the time in our lives where we get our shit together, find the job we’ve been working towards since we started school aged 4, find the man of our dreams and settle down. But truthfully, this is the decade where we drink until we hit the floor, weep over endless amounts of exams that none of us have revised for and generally screw ourselves up just in time for our thirties.

imagesHAKNWPEMThe relationship thing just seems to be a nightmare for everyone, no matter what age. Whether it’s going to town three nights a week to find ‘Mr Right’ or signing up for online dating, (because everyone you’ve met in town turns out to be a creep and you’ve given up) the wait to find the one is a bitch. There are so many stories of people finding their childhood sweethearts, and then there’s us; the people who are busier falling in love with Mr Grey (whips and paddles and fictional characters and all) than actually going out to find, in Pinocchio’s words, a real boy.

Then we start scrolling through Facebook, – a daily ritual – and spot another couple we went to school with who are now engaged and flaunting a very sparkly and flashy ring, making our egos shrink to the size of Yoda again. If everyone else can manage it, what are we doing untitled (18)wrong?! None of us were ever warned in school how difficult it is to find someone, let alone hold down a relationship without killing our partners, surely it’s time to add commitment struggles to the curriculum?

But on the days where no engagements are fully documented with soppy statuses and no end of generous well-wishers, we go downstairs to open the post only to find a wedding invitation tucked in between your latest bank statement and yet another phone book. It’s like we’re being mocked at every opportunity that we’re alone. This is the moment when we realise that Bridget Jones is no longer just fiction; it’s now our life.

The next thing our families expect in our twenties are kids. Endless amounts of kids. Every family party you go to, there’s always that one aunt who comes up to you at the buffet table with that knowing smile that her remark could go one of two ways. “Are you pregnant? You’re starting to show.” No, that would be from last night after eating half my body weight in ice-cream, knowing I was coming to this party. I shall name the food baby Ben. Or Jerry.

untitled (20)Of course we’re broody. Every friend we’ve had since the age of seven is pregnant or a housewife with two kids already. The amount of baby showers we’re expected to buy gifts for leaves us more broke than when we were 16 and jobless, but the second someone mentions the word baby, we’re like putty in their hands. The only joy of not yet being a parent is being able to act like the fun pretend aunt when babysitting but still have the option of giving them back.

untitled (21)Unfortunately, we don’t the same option of giving university modules a few attempts to get better results, even though it’s no secret how useful it would be. It’s obvious to tell which year we’re in by what we’re doing;

  • First year, we get stupidly drunk at least twice a week, turn up to more lectures hungover than sober and barely scrape through with the required 40%.
  • Second year, the social life still exists but we’ve had to cut our drinking sessions to once a week now we’re paying for the house and bills, and results actually count towards our degree so slightly more effort is put into revising for exams
  • Third year, no social life whatsoever, many alcoholic drinks just live in the fridge so we don’t have to leave the house, and our dissertations leave us confused as to whether we need to punch someone, have a hug or do six tequila shots without taking a breath.

imagesRIVEURO0 (2)And then to top it off, there’s the annual nightmare of sorting out student finance. Between trying to work out which tax year they are after this time round, and getting our parents to actually remember their memorable information before the Alzheimer’s sets in, we end up wanting to pull our hair out before we even start the new term. The best screw up with student finance though, is when the parents don’t follow the procedures properly and find themselves applying for their own student finance instead of enhancing ours. There’s nothing funnier or more bewildering than seeing your mum apply to do Sports Coaching at university when she struggles to make it up the stairs without losing her breath.

We’d rather be skiing down a black slope with a blindfold on and going backwards rather than the thought of holding down one job in our twenties, and yet we find ourselves with three part time jobs just to make ends meet after uni. This wasn’t how we planned it. Our plan at graduation was to meet a famous footballer in town that night, fall in love, never have the need to work and reach the ultimate goal of a closet of shoes. Instead, we spend our daytime attempting to catch up on sleep and creating a never-ending list of CVs, the evening are spent stacking shelves at the local supermarket, and the nights as a bartender at the local club. No, it wasn’t meant to be like this.

untitled (22)But the jobs are essential to pay for our shopping addictions and numerous first (and only) dates, it’s just a shame we now have to shop online because we no longer have the energy to make it into town. We can’t get away with wearing the same outfit you wore on the last date, despite being a completely different person. They might not know, but we would, and that’s just unacceptable. Starting to feel like a vicious circle, no?

And as if this wasn’t enough to deal with every day, then you also have the family to contend with on a daily basis. After all, we’re fed up of Dad’s sexist and no-so-funny jokes that he keeps bringing home from the lads at work, as well as his tendency to humiliate you out in public at every given opportunity. Then there’s mum; clearly the menopause has started and the HRT hasn’t completely kicked in yet. Obviously, it would explain the mile a minute mood swings and the memory loss, but does she have to take it out on us?

imagesJ17G8FGUThere’s nothing and no-one who is willing to warn us how rough our twenties are going to be, not least the people who have already survived this horrific decade – they want to see us suffer! Wouldn’t you just love to be four years old again, without a care in the world, and marrying a different boy each week with Haribo rings for your wedding? No bills or student loans to pay for, or going days on end without any sleep, just having sleepovers and chasing boys in the playground. But then again, you’re able to drink many many cocktails in your twenties; maybe it isn’t so bad after all…

Bournemouth Falcons Cheer Squad celebrate a great season with awesome showcase

BU Falcons' opening number at the Showcase

BU Falcons’ opening number at the Showcase

Bournemouth Falcons Cheerleading Squad capped off an impressive season with a brilliant showcase of their talents in Southampton.

The event at Redbridge School was to raise money for next season’s team, going towards entry fees for competitions, costumes and cheer uniforms and travelling costs, and built up a total of £400 just from Sunday’s showcase.

Bow and Arrow in extension

Bow and Arrow in extension

Cheerleading routines involve a number of areas of gymnastics, dance, jumps and acrobatics, which the Falcons showed to family and friends, as well as moments of audience participation, where they were taught stunts and competed in dance-offs.

Georgia Daniel, a second year student and club treasurer, saw the event as a way to show family and friends how the sport can bring people together:

“Showing off the result of all our hard work to the people we love was a great way to finish off a great year. I’ve been lucky enough to be on the team for two years now and I’ll definitely be trying out again next year.

“We are all such good friends and it’s amazing to be able to spend so much time together training, at events and competing. We’re like a family!”

This isn’t the first fundraising event they have attended this year; they have also helped out at the children’s charity, Hadland Foundation and raised money for the British Heart Foundation amongst many others throughout the academic year.

IMG_0007Their first competitive meet in Exeter in March came with great success, coming second in their category for the cheer routine and placing third in both the level three stunt team and small pom – the first time they have attempted a dance routine.

This continued at the National championships in Telford just a month later, with the biggest surprise produced by the pom team, coming third again, but this time, out of 15 teams from across the country’s universities.

Since Anna Busby (an ex Bournemouth University student) formed the cheerleading team three years ago, the squad have gone from strength to strength, with tryouts at the beginning of each season attracting over 200 students from all academic and sporting backgrounds.

Stunt teams showing off their heel stretches

Stunt teams showing off their heel stretches

Busby still remains as the Head Coach of the Falcons, with support from Lucy Darrall, who has been captain of the squad for the 2014/15 season.

If you are starting or are doing a course at Bournemouth University in September and are interested in joining the team, follow the Falcons on Instagram and Twitter (@BUFalcons) or click on the link below for more details:

http://bufalcons.com/index.php

It’s my anniversary!

untitled (17)For most people, today is just another crappy Monday morning where they’re stuck at their desks until at least 5pm trying to catch up on the weekend’s work and deal with the mother of all hangovers from Saturday night. But for me, it’s a little different. For me, today’s an anniversary. Of sorts…

Six months ago today, I was surrounded by sick people, doctors still trying to wake up and a ward-full of elderly women’s asses on show. Yes, I was stuck in a hospital bed. I think I would have preferred gauging my eyes out with forks than being there (and after some of the sights I saw, that actually became a viable option!).

1233978_10205143372366231_5360710867537749568_nBut it was for a good cause; I wasn’t just there because I was bored and had escaped from the Priory. That gloomy Tuesday in November was the day I would finally get my shoulder fixed after three and a half years of constant agony. Admittedly, I thought the pain would dissipate straight away, maybe a week or two of no driving?

How wrong was I?!

It became pretty obvious I had set the bar way higher than I should have done, but I was about to be brought back down to earth faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100 metres. My estimations were a little out – the pain wouldn’t disappear for a good eight weeks, I wouldn’t drive for nearly three months (well, I may have attempted to a little before that date, but the doctors don’t need to know that) and wouldn’t be able to do strenuous fitness for a whole year.

Well this post is to show that these dates are just guidelines. I’m aware that my shoulder will still keep improving until November and I will only get stronger from here on in, but I am finally back doing what I love the most; cheerleading.

It may be 6 months earlier than the doctors predicted, and I’m still gently easing myself back into it – like the good little girl I have to be – but after over four years of pain and stressing of making the reoccurring injury worse, I can actually relax and enjoy my passion again. I have to tell you, it’s the best feeling in the world.

imagesWNHZV8A7And to top It all off, Saturday was the first time in about two years that I was able to tumble properly. I’m fully aware I’m nowhere near being able to call myself a gymnast, I’m not sure I was ever able to call myself that, and I’m certain a sprung floor was working wonders, but I was doing handsprings and pushing off my shoulder without it even hurting. I’m back!!

Despite these last few months probably being the toughest of my life and feeling so degraded the whole time, (the worst by far was not being able to wash my hair without assistance, and the physical impossibility of cutting up food. I felt like a two year old) untitled (12)there is light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s the main message in this – if there’s anyone reading this post and is going through something similar, it will get better. Your confidence may get shattered, but the people around you will help to build it up again, until you hit that stage where you’re smiling more than you were before the pain. Those long days of agony, popping pills like they’re candy and not being able to sleep on one side will improve. There is hope!

Just keep smiling through the pain until you’re just smiling. Honestly, it is worth al the suffering.

Chapter Two – Sleep must be the best medicine

untitled (12)Honestly? There’s not much to remember after the operation; it became pretty clear that I was buzzing off my tits thanks to codeine and morphine (among other things), and my whole life revolved around having my eyes closed and napping. Apart from the prescription drugs, I was acting like a baby – sleeping for most of the day and couldn’t stand up on my own.

I don’t know who this whole situation has affected more;

imagesNYRRDBSK* Me – who no longer has any freedom for social interaction and is constantly popping pills to avoid any excruciating pain

* My boyfriend – who has become a permanent Taxi for the next three months (whether he knows that or not) OR…

* My mum who blames me for having to change her nocturnal work hours to daytime In order to make proper meals for me!

Between the pair of them, I was starting to feel as if they were my carers and looking after me in case I set the house on fire, or if I decide to go a little crazy with a pair of scissors and cut my hair off. Sweet that they are keeping an eye on me, but also a little nutty…

imagesUJBOF07IAlthough to be fair, the early-onset Alzheimers felt as though it was kicking in. Sleeping 16 hours out of 24 was beginning to screw with my mind and my short term memories. Probably doesn’t help when mum starts every other sentence with “do you know where…?” or “do you remember the time when…?”

On the plus side, this week was the perfect opportunity to catch up on 7 weeks’ worth of sleep, thanks to 9am starts every day at university. I’m more than happy to admit, I’m not missing hearing the alarm going off at 6.30, and then subsequently chucking it against the wall to get it to shut up.

Truthfully, it’s been a long week. Not for me though, (it’s not as if I can remember most of it!) for the people stuck with lugging my bags around and having to chop up my food small enough for a toddler to shove it up their nose.

Overall, my shoulder doesn’t seem to be doing too badly. Unless I sleep on it. Or take it out of the sling. Or move it in general. Clearly my social life is going to be non-existent for a while…

Anti-social doesn’t even cover it!

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Every relationship, no matter what age you are, hits that stage where social media and technology overtake love. All of us just get to live the dream, don’t we…? It just depends on how far into the relationship you can get before your other half starts twitter stalking over spending time with you.

Some girls are lucky; their boyfriends will lavish them with perfume, flowers and sparkly gifts – which guys can never go wrong with. All girls are like magpies; anything shiny and we’ll dig our claws into it. – But these guys are like finding a pen at work; ridiculously hard to find, very unpredictable when you do have them and you never quite know when the nib is going to break.

And then there are the majority of girls who walk in their man’s bedroom to find him glued to his PS4 controller, and being thrashed on FIFA 15 by a ‘friend’ you’ve never even heard him mention.

Humiliating doesn’t even begin to describe it when they are losing 9-1 and have to write a Facebook apology, explaining how they never had the right to play them in the first place and will always bow down to them in future. As a girl, I don’t think we’ll ever fully understand this concept of ineptitude, but it’s easier to go along with it, rather than have someone explain it to us.

But whilst all shreds of sanity are disappearing watching your other half scream at a TV screen, us girls decide to enter our own world of social media. Whether it is seeing yet another ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ video, or finding out yet another person we went to school with is pregnant, nothing ever surprises us anymore.

If our boyfriends have really pissed us off, that’s when we get our revenge though. We’d dust off the one book out that all guys despise – 50 Shades of Grey. It’s just a shame that they’re so entranced in their football game that they’re completely oblivious to the irony of the situation.

Obviously, there are some girls that can be just as bad, I can’t blame it all on guys. I’d say most girls would fit into one of these three categories:-

  1. The ones who spend their whole day with their phone glued to their hand and constantly pressing the refresh button on Facebook if an argument is breaking out – I’d say that’s pretty standard.
  2. The girls that take it one step further and send texts to people in the same house as them; what happened to conversations with family? Am I the only person who actually talks to their parents?! (Admittedly, the language in our house could rival the gangs in The Wire…. But we don’t have a normal household and I’m happy to admit to that!)
  3. Then there are people that take it to the extreme. I’m talking about examples like picking the phone up during sex to organise a girls night out! There have been cases like this, but surely that’s just taking multi-tasking to the max?! Although, would guys be able to do it? It is a skill in itself….

I suppose the main thing about all this is that people in relationships don’t actually spend time with each other anymore. I genuinely don’t get that concept though. A couple of friends have just started dating and can’t keep their hands off each other, whereas if I spend too much time with my boyfriend, we want to kill each other. But at least we’re going out and seeing fresh air!

Yes, there is love in most relationships, I just think we’ve all got a different way of showing it; some through expensive gifts, (and if you have the money and you want to, go for it!) some express love by cooking a romantic meal – or in my case, a meal. There’s nothing romantic, or remotely nice about my cooking – and then some share their true feelings by killing someone on Call of Duty.

Maybe it’s just a generational thing, but somehow I doubt it! The games may change over the years, but the bickering always remains the same!

Stressy Bessies ‘r’ us!

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Exam season is right around the corner, and everyone knows what that means: teenagers and young adults ready to kill anything in sight that may distract them, and parents nudging their kids with a stick to be out of punching range.

Oh yes, exams have never been so fun…

Between the teachers telling you that you’ve not been taught half of the course with three weeks to go to your exams, and finding that the books you chucked across your bedroom last night were the ones you loaned out from the library, it’s no wonder we all turn into some hot-headed mess.

There are three types of people when it comes to revising though:

  1. The ones who stress to the point of no return (the real version of them won’t be returning until alcohol is going through their system once the final exam has finally been forgotten about)
  2. The ones who manage to find a balance between revising and having some form of social life that rivals Lindsay Lohan in her youth – these are a rare few who manage this feat, and they seem to be the people who float through life…
  3. The ones who couldn’t care less about exams, revising or anything relating to school.

Today was the last day of secondary school for most 15 and 16 year olds, and all anyone has seen is photos of old teachers from years gone by, and kids crying about saying goodbye, prompting most of us who have had to grow up since leaving school to skim through our leavers yearbooks.

We all decide to bring back the glory days, but unfortunately, personal issues have become more confusing, and exams for A Levels and Degrees see us staring at a blank page, with no clue whatsoever on what to write.

From GCSE’s to people finishing their final year of their Masters, everyone from the age of 15 is panicking about everything from sex cells to horticultural societies. We’re all clearly living the high life, waiting for the day that we have a full four months off!

For now though, the anal among us spend hours with multi-coloured biros and sheets of A3 paper (enough to destroy about half the Amazon rainforest) creating mind map after mind map, and slowly descending into a frenzy of rainbow-coloured hell.

Some struggle with pretty spider diagrams, so others attack Tesco for notebooks, a pack of 10 gel pens – because every pen that entered their bedroom disappeared faster than their sanity when revising for Geography – and a bottle of tequila for the ones who are legal.

The ones who didn’t think they were suffering enough also got suckered into taking a language; not as if they will remember anything from their French exams except “Bonjour,” “Je m’appelle Talia” and “Voulez vous coucher avec moi, c’est soir.”

Weeks and weeks of memorising paragraphs of writing resembling some form of amateur French, comes down to an oral exam where most crumble under the pressure, (certainly can’t blame them…) resulting in eating your bodyweight in Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream when you finally get home.

The ones who can recover from the nightmare of foreign languages, get to suffer yet again with Maths, English and Science exams among the options they had to take.

Whereas, people at college and university have already narrowed down their options, but still maintain a sense of “What the hell am I doing with my life?” The questions are harder and supposedly we’re meant to understand what they’re asking – truthfully, all they do is throw some massive words together to form some sentence and hope we make some sense out of it.

Of course, watching everyone tear their hair out, have cram sessions up to the last possible minute, and gain about two stone in weight because of the takeaway food we all order to survive (no-one has time cook meals… Or the ability to cook meals…) is brilliant, but we’ve all somehow survived the stress.

A note to parents – just give in to any demands your son/daughter may have until the final day of testing, otherwise you may have children holding the household pets as leverage, forcing you to pay the ransom. Never underestimate the power of sheer desperation.

Stressy Bessies, it will improve, and as soon as the last exam is completed, you will be skipping out of the exam hall with a Cheshire Cat grin on your face. Enjoy the break whilst it last because next year, the torture of revising, pulling all-nighters and drinking energy drinks will return, and this time, it’ll be even more soul-destroying.

Doesn’t everyone just love exams? Just avoid these hilarious answers in your exams and you’ll be fine 😉

 

http://www.viralnova.com/awesome-kid-answers/#rmrHMiMh1jU7lPtz.01

Queen of the procrastinators…

Teenagers on phones

I’m missing out the obvious; my phone and my girls are my world!

As a trainee journalist, I know I should be actively writing about anything and everything. I should be regularly posting articles on here about cultural issues and worldwide events; instead, you guys get posts about my (normally) tragic sham of a love life, incessant sarcasm and a few attempts at humour. I’ll apologise to you all now!

I’m sure I would be able to do more blogging – however pointless the subject may seem – if I actually got on with typing. As, I’m sure, most teenagers do, I get distracted by the littlest of things:

1.) What the breaking news is on the yellow ticker tape of Sky Sports News (yes, I am one of those people who has it on 24/7 – I can’t even blame it on anyone. No-one else likes sport in my family!)

2.) Social media sites. A pretty obvious one. One minute I’ll be referencing essays for my bibliography, the next I’m on the floor in tears looking at people’s hilarious pictures on Facebook from the night before. They clearly had no recollection of those photos being taken… or if they did, they were hoping to send them into ‘You’ve been framed’ and get a tidy little sum of money out of their stupidity.

3.) Losing a train of thought. It’s a regular occurrence for me. Truthfully, there are some days where I barely remember my own name, let alone what we talked about in last week’s lectures, especially at 9am. To top it all off, it’s also a family trait; I’ve seen how badly my mum’s memory has deteriorated. I don’t stand a chance. I’ve already got to the stage of walking into a room and not remembering why I even got up!

4.) Singing. I know I shouldn’t. I’m fully aware that I sound like a cat going round and round in the washing machine… I feel as if I should maybe pre-warn my neighbours in advance if I’m about to belt out a Whitney Houston classic.

5.) Clothes shopping. Yes, I may be taking SPORTS journalism at university, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t like being a girl! Although online shopping may be best for me – people start to annoy me very quickly when I look round shops.

6.) Football matches being shown on TV. Actually, I take that back, TV in general. If I want to do any work at all, I have to put it on silent or listen to music through headphones. Otherwise I’m sat there in a trance.

7.) Animals. So, we have cats at home. If one is sat on me, it’s seems a perfectly reasonable excuse to me, to not do anything for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, mum doesn’t really see it like that when there’s housework or cooking to be done… (Tip to kids though, give it a go, you never know. If you and your animal are cute, you could pretty much get away with anything!)

8.) YouTube. Always a bad idea. Hours of people’s lives wasted watching a cat jump up onto a windowsill and go head first into a plant pot.

9.) Plan what you would do for an alien invasion. Personally, I haven’t, but I know of a lot of people that have. I don’t know who that says more about: me or them.

10.) Shiny objects and pretty things. I suppose I’m a little bit like a magpie in that respect!

11.) Nap time. I realise I’m not a three year old having a nap at pre-school, it’s just an essential part of the day.

12.) I like making lists about things I know I should be doing. I think that’s pretty evident from this article…

In my defence though, I’m a full time student at University, hold down a job – admittedly checkouts aren’t exactly me living the dream, but it pays the bills for now – taking driving lessons (a couple of years later than everyone else!) and I’m an international cheerleader. What free time I do have is normally spent sleeping!

Maybe I’m not quite a procrastinator, but by spending half my life travelling back and forth on buses doing nothing, I’m starting to feel like it!

If you are the same as me (or if you know someone who is!) leave a comment about what you do 😄

Love isn’t in the air… it’s just stressful!

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So Valentine’s Day has come around way too quick – I’m still trying to recover from a very eventful New Year’s Eve – and suddenly I’ve found myself in the position of (possibly) dating someone. Problem: do I need to get a card/present/carrier pigeon dropping rose petals for them?!

Okay, so the carrier pigeon is a little far-fetched, but there is a genuine issue that I am surely not alone in. When you start dating again (after a very long spell away from relationships and guys in general) everything is new and shiny; we’re like magpies. But around this time of year, all hell breaks loose.

Watching guys sprinting around Tesco on February 14th every year is like an episode of Supermarket Sweep: the joys of being sat on a checkout at work, I’m half expecting to see Dale Winton appear from behind the cat food! Seeing a group of men have a fight to the death for the last box of Thornton’s chocolates, it’s like a re-enactment of Braveheart!

Not only that, but everywhere you turn, another guy is walking around with a dozen red roses and struggling to take the price tag off (they shouldn’t have been so cheap as to buy the reduced bunch of flowers, should they! All women have a sixth sense about these things, just confess!) hoping to scatter the petals over the bedroom floor.

Then there are the men who make a mad dash to the alcohol aisle – it’s not for their partners, the booze is theirs to drown their sorrows as they missed out on the last CD of Greatest love songs!

I’ll be the first to admit, whilst the majority of people walking through the shop doors may be men, the fairer sex are also doing something very similar. Mostly it’s to pick up another Valentine’s card because they misplaced the one they bought before Christmas. Being organised doesn’t always have its perks…

…And then there are the teenagers and the parents with young children who are buying their first Valentine’s presents. There’s nothing better than a 12 year old boy opening a gift-wrapped box (that her mother clearly wrapped) at school to find inside some pink playdoh and a packet of jelly babies.

Back to the age-old question though. If you’ve only been dating a few weeks/months, how extravagant do you need to be? Me and my friend are both in this unenviable situation, and the panicked phone call I received from her yesterday was priceless!

It turns out her new partner has arranged something for today, leaving her clutching at straws as to what it could be, and her breathing into a paper bag after hyperventilating.

Valentine’s Day 1 – 0 Friend

There are also the people who don’t get a Valentine (I normally fit into this category – to be fair, this year may be no different yet!) For me, I usually have more chance of pigs flying through my letterbox than a soppy card. But someone pointed out to me that if pigs did come through, that would be bacon sandwiches, or breakfast, at the front door. That’s only one step away from breakfast in bed!

Then again, February 14th is considered the most romantic day of the year, and most live up to the tradition. I overheard a man in his 20s talking to the wines and spirits manager asking which sparkling wine would be best for today. He wanted the nicest one possible but didn’t know much about wine because they only drank on Valentine’s day. How adorable!

The stupid thing is, relationships shouldn’t be entirely based on treating your other half on only one special day, surely it should be that you treat them equally well every day of the year?

But we all know that in 12 months’ time, we’ll all be dragging ourselves down the shops again to invest in the most romantic film going, a bottle of sparkling wine and another dozen red roses.

Unless the plastic carrier bag breaks before you get to the car. Maybe you will get those rose petals scattered after all…

Parents = Party-planning superheroes! (Part 2)

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These 2 gorgeous girls to the right of me, I have loved for the last 11 years. The blonde bombshell in the middle is the new 19 year old that we did all this for.

 

Before the event:-

At the start of the day, tensions were running high and question marks as to whether we could pull off the surprise. I got a message five minutes before my shift at work, saying that we had no speakers for the music, we still had to pick up the helium-filled balloons and the specially-made cakes hadn’t arrived. Oh joy.

Struggling to understand how parents didn’t end up throttling each other when organising parties, the stress was beginning to get to me. Losing my voice at work and even being given the option to go home was a first, but I powered through, thinking I was superwoman for still being upright on a till.

Having a duck-themed event ended up being a blessing in disguise: I’d forgotten weights for the balloons (but somehow remembered to bring scissors for the ribbon…) so the original duck table decorations resorted to ribbons being tied round their necks. Surprisingly inventive!

Believing we were done, a couple of us left the venue to cake our faces in make-up, have another fight with a pair of tights too small for us (the tights always win – circulation to the bottom half of my body was cut off!) and pick up some of the guests. All of this within an hour.

But before arriving back at the venue, 20 minutes later than scheduled, our attention was focused on a pair of black boots that the driver left on the roof of her car, and drove off unbeknownst to her. We found them half a mile away in the middle of the road, soggy and drenched due to the appalling weather conditions. She decided against wearing them last night!

 

The aftermath:-

After weeks of hushed whispering, sneaking around the Waterside and blatant lies to my best mate, the party we wanted had finally happened. No more panicking!

So it may not have been the biggest event in the world, or filled with huge amounts of drama, but it was the party that managed to make my best friend grin like the Cheshire cat; I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Admittedly, it had its moments – her soon-to-be stepdad ended up leaving a smacker on one of the guys’ lips after a few drinks (only a 25 year age gap!), her mum expressed her undying love to me and Louise and a mosh pit started on the dance floor. I’d say that’s a fairly standard night involving intoxicated people…

Shots were in order for most who weren’t planning on driving home. The baby Guinness (Tia Maria and Baileys – it’s nicer than it sounds) I had was the only form of alcohol I consumed due to the strong antibiotics I’ve been on. Overall though, it appeared to be a successful night.

However, I succumbed to my illness in the end, with half a dozen mates forcing me to return home early. Problem was that I was leaving a party that I’d partly organised myself and not even due to a drop of alcohol; for an 18 year old, that’s just depressing.

The love for the people we throw these parties for (whether we are doting parents or adorable friends) is the reason why we manage to pull off the unexpected. Maybe it’s more determination and wanting to achieve something we thought we couldn’t do, or knowing that it will all be worth it in the end, everyone is different, but they deserve huge amounts of credit.

Parents ARE superheroes: I’ve organised one party in my life, some parents throw them once a year just for one child, let alone a family full of children. They are the ones who should be congratulated.

I doubt I’ll offer my services to organise another one for a long time though! Time to pass on the baton to someone else I think!