Friday, 13 April 2018

what I've been...#6

First of all, it's crazy to think that April is now in full swing and the spring and summer months are fast approaching. The arrival of Spring is a double edged sword; the warmer weather and longer days are ominously overshadowed by the fact that exams are one step closer. I must admit, March was an okay month. Nothing amazing happened but as I look through my camera roll (the one and only way to gage an opinion of a time in your life, apparently) I had some good days.

what i've been doing-
So, the start of March brought my Spanish oral mock which went well. I also submitted my History coursework on the 11th which was like a massive weight being lifted off my shoulders and even though I was shaking and felt sick to my stomach as I finalised my bibliography, typed in my full name and candidate number and clicked send, it was soon washed over with pure relief. It also snowed super heavily at the start of March (and sometime in mid March) which was a little bit of a shock but I made sure I spent every day making the most out of it. This sounds terrible but I don't know if there'll ever be another episode of heavy snow here in London in the new future as global warming and rapid climate change are, indeed, very real. 

On the 14th, I took a 5 hour coach to Exeter for an offer holder day and apart from arriving to the talk super late and it raining heavily throughout the day, it was a really good day. It even opened up more questions in my mind about which course I want to do exactly. A few weeks later, I received an email on my UCAS track telling me that Durham had not offered me a place. I was at Ambra's house and her sister had just asked me if I'd heard back from them when I got the email to say that there had been an update. And whilst Ambra and her sister, Fran, were like "yeaaa you've totally got an offer!!!!!" something inside was like nah. Thankfully the brutal Oxford rejection helped a bit (never thought I'd say that) and I kinda brushed it off as a 'it was not meant to be' thing and it's true. I decided to show Ambra the wonder that is CMBYN and immersing myself in the depths of romance and everlasting Italian summer (and crying at the end scene...again) was more than enough to take my mind off things. Ever since then, the idea of a gap year has been at the forefront of my mind. It has been something I was considering since October/November but now it's all the more enticing and I'm already planning what I might be doing.

At the start of the Easter holidays, we spent a few days away in the countryside which I wrote more on here. Although we had originally planned to go abroad, this short road trip 2 hours away from London was more than enough. I also spent Easter Sunday in Brighton with a few friends (Lexie, Katie and Libby) which was so lovely and reminds me of all the good things that have come out of my blog, like genuine friendships and discovering new places together. I'll save the photos for a full post. I've been spending most days of this holiday in the quiet area of my local library in preparation for my final A-level exams which has been as enjoyable as you can imagine.

I've said it on twitter before but browsing Ryanair and then going onto AirBnB to look for apartments is my favourite pass time and lets me escape a little during those revision breaks. I then found tickets to Venice for £55, texted my mum to tell her that I would be going to Italy from the 2nd till the 6th of July and then booked it which adds another city to my summer! I've already made a Pinterest board for Venice as well as Madrid and Marrakech and it's safe to say that I am very excited to float around the canal ridden city, get lost in winding streets and take in the Italian summer- think gingham, flowy dresses, red lips and big sunglasses. I may also try and go to Milan and stop off at Crema for a few hours too and live my CMBYN dreams to full potential, who knows. A few days ago I went to my friend Aina's art exhibition (wooooo!!!) and roamed around the Brick Lane and Shoreditch area before deciding to make the 20 minute walk home instead of taking the bus. 

On Tuesday, my sister and I spent a whole day in Soho for free, unlimited ice cream at Ben and Jerry's. It was a day very well spent and the weather came through. I'm so excited for the 20+ degree weather next week. 

what i've been reading/watching-
Oh how excited I've been to write this section! I finished Where Angels Fear To Tread by Forster and I mean, there's a reason why he's my favourite novelist. I also read Call Me By Your Name (no, I will not shut up about it) early on in the month and reviewed it here. It's safe to say that it is my all time favourite book. Then, on a Friday afternoon, I decided to go and watch it at the cinema alone. I had wanted to watch the film for months but always told myself that I should read the book before doing so and then by the time I did that, most of my friends had already watched it. I don't know why there's such a massive stigma around going to the cinema on your own because you're essentially alone throughout the film anyway. I adore the film and have watched it once again, ever since.

I also read When Breath Becomes Air after Eleanor recommended it which was an amazing book and so interesting to read as it explores a real story of a highly-esteemed neurosurgeon advancing from being a junior doctor up to the best in his field and then his diagnosis and subsequent conversion from being the physician to the patient. Perhaps what I liked the most about the book was the fact that the author himself had a few detours in terms of his academic path. He studied and graduated with a degree in English Literature and then moved onto route of medicine. As someone who has thought of studying on either side of the spectrum (History and Spanish or Biological Sciences/Medicine) it did offer some form of reassurance that I just because I go down one path, it doesn't mean I can't go down the other later on in life.

I then read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine which was slightly anti-climactic given all the hype it's gotten recently but nonetheless a really nice read and it was a great way to just disconnect a bit and read something that wasn't so emotionally demanding. Then I read Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso as a more light-hearted read but motivational nevertheless. I took out Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes as I figured it'd be a nice read and quite relevant to my Spanish studies. I bought two books from a tiny Oxfam in a small town from £2.50 each: Purple Hibiscus by Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie and 100 years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In terms of films, my sister and I had a rota on for last week so we watched Coco which I loved so much, Ferdinand which was equally as good and actually works as a source to cite if I have a question about the cultural heritage in Spain in my oral exam lol and Paddington 2 which was adorable. I cried at all three films, naturally. I also watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E and was pleasantly surprised when I saw Armie Hammer on screen again- I'm not one for spy films but this one was so well done and the actors and soundtrack were perfect. I decided to watch Lady Bird too which I enjoyed but ultimately don't get the hype about. I am, however, obsessed with saying "l'enfance nue" in a terribly American accent and having my mum correct me and then questioning me on why I keep muttering the words naked childhood over and over again. 

what i've been listening to-

There's this Italian song from the late 60s which I have literally been listening to for hours, non-stop since Easter. I discovered it through a random playlist on Spotify and am so thankful I did because it's such a beautiful song and I love being able to see how far my Spanish will stretch and try to mentally translate Italian. You know, just normal things. It's called 'Che Vuole Questa Musica Stasera' and I've inserted a link down here if you'd like to listen to it. I'd also recommend you lookup the translated lyrics! I also love the CMBYN (instead of a drinking game for each time I mention my history coursework like in my last instalment of this post, take a shot each time I mention CMBYN)  soundtrack on spotify and here are a few songs that I really like: Mystery of Love, Une Barque Sur L'ocĂ©an, Futile Devices, Love My Way, Visions of Gideon (if you know, you know), and Plastic. I would 10/10 recommend you listen to said songs, I've linked my spotify playlist here if you'd like to check the songs out. Oh, and the song that the band is playing in Lady Bird is also really good, yet another link if you'd like to listen.

what i want-

I would really like to visit Barcelona for a few days at the end of summer. I don't really want many clothes but I've seen a red long wrap front polka dot dress in Next and a black polka dot dress on Asos which are fab. Do you spot (ha) a trend here? I went to the Brandy Melville sale yesterday as they had reduced everything to £5 and whilst I only came out with a few items (it was chaos in there) I think my spring and summer wardrobe is pretty much sealed. I did see a pair of mules on Zara's website but think I'll pass on them considering the majority of my blogger friends heavily rebuke them and my insta poll showed that 52% of viewers despise them greatly. enemies of progress. 
what i've been anticipating-
My actual, official, real real real Spanish oral at the end of this month. I am simultaneously bricking it and also pressed at the fact that last years cohort didn't have to do theirs till mid/late May.

I've been wanting summer more than ever right now! I finish school for study leave on the 25th of May which is almost a month away, it's crazy to get my head around because it officially marks the end to the rigid structure you follow blindly all the way from primary school. We have a leavers event called 'Strawberries and cream' which is exactly what it says on the tin. You eat strawberries and cream in the courtyard with your whole year group and dress in semi-nice clothes and pretend that you're going to miss everyone dearly. Woo!

I'm going to end this here because this post is hideously long and one more paragraph and I would basically be giving you my whole life story. I've also realised how much I've linked onto here so as if this post wasn't enough the links you click on will lead you to more of my blog posts, my friends' blogs and new music.

What's been going on in your life?

recent blog posts! 
CMBYN book review
The end of an era
Feeling stuck 
A few days in the countryside- photo diary and stories
Cards and stuff

Sunday, 8 April 2018

cards and stuff

So I was in the library trying to get my head around the patterns of inheritance module in my biology textbook (the worst thing ever) and then I got an email. It wasn't quite the animated 'ding' as I would've probably convinced myself that everyone else in the silent study area wanted to kill me. Instead it was a muffled vibration which still somehow sent my adrenaline rushing. Well the adrenaline kept pumping through as I read the email from that told me all about this company that sells independent artists and photographers artwork through greeting cards and how I could pick out something to review and also offer a discount code. With my revision break made up in my mind in a second (so quick to initiate a break, painfully slow to start working) I looked through the site before deciding whether to accept or decline the offer. I never get fun emails from brands, they're usually just ones that ask me to review a prom dress for $8 or curtains. I'm not going to lie and say that as soon as I launched the website I was like "yes, this is what I want to do" because a few of the main designs didn't really appeal to me. But then I browsed a bit and came across a plethora of 'cooler' quotes and designs and there we go, I was sold. I leisurely looked through the selection before picking, confirmed my order and then emailed the PR to tell them that I would be totally cool with reviewing their service.

I have a pen-pal (yes, this stuff still exists) which has kind of evolved into a sisterhood rather than just mere letter writing so I looked through the range with the intention of picking something out for Katie. We're both full fledged worriers and over thinkers so I thought this design would provide some rationality in times of distress. I read it over and over again and it's true, you've survived 100% of your worst days so far. The card came the next day which was a very pleasant surprise and I mentally commended the royal mail staff and then realised that it was sent first class which probably has everything to do with the fast shipping.

Okay so I don't know how I can describe a card without it sounding mundane but the actual card itself is really good quality. oh gosh are you hearing reading this? the card is good quality It's super sturdy and just feels so smooth and is definitely miles away from your regular supermarket bought card. What I love the most about the site is that there's a section dedicated to "just because" as well as the rest of the more conventional occasions you'd need a card for. I think we associate cards as simply a birthday or wedding or christmas thing and brand its exclusivity to special occasions but they can be so useful in helping express appreciation. I typed a message into it that said "you're doing amazing sweetie" for some reassurance (and to quote momager, Kris Kardashian) and added a rainbow emoji just because. The whole process was a happy one, I don't know how else to explain it, the process of picking a nice card, writing a message and confirming your order with the idea that you'll soon be bringing some happiness to another person just makes you feel good. So now the adrenaline was replaced with dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins instead!

The artist I picked from was Veronica Dearly and oh my god her designs are the loveliest things ever. They're like Pinterest on a card. Her artwork includes puns, reassuring quotes and cards directed towards LGBTQ+ people who've come out as well which I found really lovely as you don't really see such niche cards. I really like that when you buy a card, you're essentially investing in a person's work. Again, with general cards from the high street the connection with the actual artist is very much stifled but shopping through thortful actually does reinforce that connection to the person who created the card and it does feel a little more personal. I genuinely adore all of Veronica's prints and designs and I think you guys will too.

This section from the sites about us page sums it up perfectly

Not so long ago we found ourselves let down by the lack of creativity, diversity and poor quality of the online greeting card offering. The high street wasn't much better, and we could see people settling for cards that would 'just do' rather than thinking 'this is a beautiful card that sums up my feelings for the recipient'. Enter thortful! We're striving to offer the best card shopping experience with the ability to find the perfect greeting card quickly (and not one that'll just do!).
thortful is a creative card marketplace supporting a community of designers, illustrators and photographers who create beautiful, unique greeting cards (most of which you won't find on the high street!). We believe that our creators should be appropriately rewarded for their creative talents, so we pay them an industry-leading royalty rate too - they deserve nothing less!
I should probably also mention that the cards can be directly sent to the person you want them to go to which is what I would've done but I needed to actually see and photograph the card. You can select an option for the card to be sent to you with an extra envelope that you can use to send it on which I thought was such a thoughtful option to add in because I'm pretty sure a plain manila envelope would've definitely ruined the allure.

Whew, that was slightly stressful to write as I really wanted to cover all the ground on the service and encapsulate all my opinions within. I'm so grateful to have been able to collaborate with this company as it honestly did feel like the best match for me as a lover of affirmative quotes and nice stationary and cards (and an avid post-card hoarder) I was kindly given a discount code for 20% off which makes the cards £2.60- the discount code is DALALTAHIRA* so cool to have a discount code with my name on and it's valid until May!

I hope you enjoyed reading and are having a great Sunday!

*postage price is not included and it is one time use. I don't make any money off it, I just wanted to share in case you were interested.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

a few days in the country

Whenever there's a bank holiday or school holiday, we embark on a 2 hour drive to a small village just outside of Reading to spend a few days in a cottage where civilisation is scarce. It has been something we have been doing as a family ever since I was born. When my dad first arrived to the UK from Morocco in the late 80s, his first job was as a butler for a wealthy family. Now almost 30 years later, we still have access to the huge plot of land and it has become a sacred trip away for me. It's a place to strip back the way we live and just enjoy the bare minimum.

The house is essentially a massive library with walls lined with books. It has been a goal of mine to read every book available in the cottage. The TV doesn't work nor does reliable service operate there either. The views from all the rooms are rolling hills and vast expanses of greenery and whilst it was grey and most of the foliage was a bit bare after the unbelievably long winter we've had, it was still the best sight to see first thing in the morning. When you're in such an environment, one where even if you squinted as hard as you possible could and still remain unsuccessful in finding someone else around, it does give you an eerie sense of (weirdly) satisfying isolation. That it's just you in a field of green. No one else. If anything happened to you, no one would know.

In the summer, when I last visited, the heated pool was open, the hammock was set up between two blossom trees and the apple orchards were in full bloom and the tennis court was in action. To describe it as bliss would be an understatement. Strolling through the beaten path to the pool, the late August sun beating on your back whilst clutching three or four books and a disposable camera was a morning pleasure that I eagerly looked forward to and serves as a record of better days in my mind.

Walking around the property is more than enough but just outside of the gates, there's a variety of paths to go through. We ended up hiking around 8km one morning, going along the pathways whilst my dad told stories about how he used any downtime as a way to hike and clear his mind before getting back to busy shifts serving expensive foods and alcohol to very posh dinner guests. I always find my mind wandering and thinking what I would be like if I had grown up in such an environment. The nearest town is a 30 minute drive and the main demographic of the area is middle-aged white people. I would definitely be a very different person if I had grown up in a small town in the middle of nowhere as opposed to London. 100%.

I had such a calming time there and am already thinking about the next time I visit, ideally in the late summer time. I hope these photos brought you the same calmness and tranquility they bring me.