Monday, 25 May 2020

How to Keep Busy in Lockdown

I probably need to take my own advice if I'm writing this blog post as I have most definitely been guilty of boredom throughout lockdown. Don't get me wrong, I have been trying to amuse myself but after however many weeks we've spent social distancing the momentum and motivation are beginning to dwindle. Here are some suggestions of things to keep you occupied if you find yourself looking for something to do, but also remember, it's okay to do absolutely nothing and take time for yourself.

1. Something Arty
Art has never been my strongest subject, I was never awful but also never brilliant (everyone I know will remember the wonderful tree I painted for my GCSE that was promptly cut out by my art teacher) but lockdown has been a time to whip out those old paints again. I made Easter cards for my boyfriend and nan that turned out rather well and I also bought a paint by numbers which I'm slowly working my way through. Equally, if painting isn't your thing then you could get a colouring book, some engraving or sequin art or just plain old pens and paper. Now is the perfect time to get creative even if it doesn't go particularly well.

2. Read
As an English student I, in theory, read a lot. However, I don't tend to read books that I actually want to so, with university now online I've had plenty of time to read other books! It's been so nice to pick books that have been sat on my shelf for years and finally read them and enjoy them. Lockdown is the perfect time to read something different and Kindle has some great offers for 99p books. Look out for my lockdown book recommendations!

3. Re-Decorate
There's bound to be somewhere in your home that you'd like to redecorate or spruce up a little bit and now there's plenty of time for DIY. At the moment, we've been redecorating my room with old leftover paint and finding prints online to add some pizazz to my bedroom. Whip out some paint, shove on some old clothes and start re-decorating!

4. Baking and Cooking
Everyone seems to be jumping on the baking bandwagon and making banana bread now so clearly, it is the must-do thing during lockdown. Now is the perfect time to try a new recipe and start honing your baking skills for the next series of Bake Off for when this is over.

5. Learn something new
Whether it be calligraphy, coding or language learning quarantine gives you the opportunity to try something a bit different or something you've always wanted to try. I've been attempting to brush up on my Spanish again after A-levels and attempting to learn a bit of German in my spare time whilst also trying to kickstart this blog again. It's been so nice to finally do some of the things I've been meaning to for ages now we have the time.

So those are some ideas for things to do in lockdown if you're feeling bored during lockdown. Let me know what you've been doing to keep yourself entertained during these strange times!


Thursday, 21 May 2020

DIY SOS: Lockdown Edition

Myself and my mum absolutely love anything interior design-esque and we both constantly want to update rooms in our house by painting them again or just adding a few new bits and bobs to spice things up a bit. With lockdown at the moment, this has only made things worse and we've found ourselves browsing the boards of Pinterest for inspiration and this was the result.

We wanted a slightly tropical theme but mainly just lots of splashes of bright colour throughout the room. It isn't perfect yet as we'd like to get different cushion covers and a brighter vase for the bedside table but it's a work in progress in quarantine. As soon as the shops are open again we'll be straight out there hunting down the finishing touches for the room, but, for now, we're fairly happy with it.

Initially, my room was blue, yellow and grey but we changed this slightly with old paint we had leftover and repainted the blue walls in the same grey. After that, it was a case of sourcing prints online. Shoutout to Noi Publishing which is where we got the three big prints from. All of their designs are gorgeous! We bought their wrapping paper and then framed it to make them look like prints. The rest of the images on the wall were sourced via Pinterest and were from various free print websites. I then sent them off to be made into photos and then we painted some existing photo frames we had to create the print wall.

One of the few things we bought was this side cabinet as the old one in my room had been with my parents for over 20 years so was looking a little bit tatty. This particular unit was from B&M and was relatively easy to assemble which was a plus as well. The storage boxes are incredibly useful for keeping excess stuff out of the way without cluttering up the room. Above are some shelves also from B&M and a few more of the free prints dotted either side. The green and orange vase is a product of when we had a power cut during lockdown and we whipped out some paints and decided to use a sponge to decorate an old vase. It's not perfect but it didn't turn out too badly! 

Lastly, we switched the order of my chest of drawers and wardrobe round to create more space and made a little 'last minute getting ready station'. The frame here used to be on a different wall so we just replaced the photos with more postcards and prints we had lying around and an old calendar with lots of flamingoes on! The jewellery sign (originally from Next) was again on a different wall so was moved and the mirror above and orange pineapple were in different rooms but have now been relocated to a new home. 

That's basically everything we did in my mini room makeover during lockdown. It was so much fun to do and kept us busy for a few weeks which is always a plus. We tried to reuse a lot of things around the house as, obviously, it's a lot more tricky to get hold of things at the moment but we think it turned out quite well under the circumstances and the room definitely feels a lot brighter than before!

Let me know what you think of the room and if you've been getting busy decorating during quarantine!

Sunday, 17 May 2020

How to Host an Online Quarantine Quiz

I'm a huge fan of any sort of quiz, though I'm not 100% sure why as I don't tend to do all that well on them. Since the UK's lockdown, there has been a huge increase in the number of quizzes, quiz questions and ways to make the best quarantine quiz possible. Naturally, myself and my friends hopped on the bandwagon and I decided to make a quiz for us to keep us amused through the many weeks of lockdown. Here are some of my tips on creating the best quiz possible!

1. Choose a Platform
Obviously, these quizzes cannot be done in person so getting the right platform for your quiz is key. Zoom is a popular choice at the moment, however, when we attempted to use it, the sound quality was awful and we couldn't hear anything. Also, it's worth noting that after 40 minutes your meeting will end unless it's your first use, so depending on whether you want a break or a shorter quiz it could work for you. We made a group chat on Facebook and just used the messenger chat which worked a lot better for us. You could also use Whatsapp, Snapchat or even Microsoft Teams.

2. Pick Interesting Rounds
Quizzes do have the tendency to be repetitive if you're doing a lot of them and sticking to the same rounds over and over again can become tedious. Instead of just the traditional general knowledge, sport, history rounds etc put in something that caters specifically to you or your friend's interests, whether that be dog breeds or Kylie Minogue songs. One of our quizzes included a zoomed-in celebrity or us round and synonyms and antonyms for film titles. Get creative with the rounds you put in and it'll make for an even better quiz night!

3. Be Visual
This is completely optional and up to you to decide whether you have the time (or effort) to make something visual to go on the side. For the quiz I made I used Powerpoint to showcase the questions and the more visual rounds. As we had a 'is this a celebrity or someone in our friendship group-round', it was necessary to have some form of visuals to go with this. I included random transitions and effects, puns and pictures across the quiz to make it a little bit more exciting (and to showcase just how much time I'd had on my hands that particular day)!

4. Make it Personal
This, again, is a completely personal choice but making a quiz specifically tailored to your friends can be fun. Like I say, we had the celebrity or us round which provided some laughs due to how close-up the chosen photos were. You could even ask your friends to submit questions about themselves to answer as a round or trawl through their social media to find old embarrassing status' and ask who said what. It's all about having fun and playing around with it.

Those are my top tips for hosting a Quarantine Quiz at the moment! They really can be a great way to catch up and have a bit of a laugh at the same time. It provides some social interaction so you don't feel quite so isolated and, if I'm honest, I had the time of my life creating our quiz! Let me know if you take part in any online quizzes or if you make one!

Monday, 11 May 2020

Students Amidst a Pandemic

Amongst this global crisis, it's clear to me that one group in society seem to have been forgotten and left to deal with the consequences of the virus both academically and financially alone. The government have, so far, failed to address any of the issues that university students face at the moment with the policies across universities also varying greatly.

Life as a student at the moment is confusing and frustrating, to say the least. Some universities have continued to work to regular deadlines, others have chosen to extend, others have scrapped exams and assignments entirely, some have decided to adopt 'no detriment' policies and others have made assignments compulsory but they do not count.

Academia, Online Learning, Fees:

At my university, a university-wide 'no detriment' policy has supposedly been applied. However, my course has decided that you only need to do one assignment but it doesn't count towards your degree. Whilst good in some ways as it removes the pressure to perform well in these uncertain times, it also removes any incentive to do well. There is no chance of improving on previous grades or improving your average for the year so therefore my motivation to produce an assignment of a high standard is dwindling rapidly due to this adopted policy. Other departments have scrapped assignments entirely meaning that the year is practically done. Some have decided to make exams open book which, to me, seems to defeat the point of exams to test your ability and removes the incentive to revise at all.

Online learning has also taken a huge shift in the way university courses are run. Lectures are uploaded online with the occasional online class and forum to contribute to. This is not worth £9250! If I wanted online learning then I would've applied to the Open University. And universities are still asking for the full fee despite receiving a limited amount of teaching and assignments that don't even count! Not to mention the numerous weeks of strikes that have been held this year. In total, I've missed 53 hours worth of teaching and content due to strikes, equating to nearly £2000 worth of tuition fees. Yet, despite filing complaints students have simply been told that their university has dealt with the consequences of the strikes and will not be reducing or compensating students. Couple that with the disruption and online learning transition of Coronavirus and the last time I had fully-fledged lectures was the middle of February - nearly 3 months ago!

Renting + Accommodation:

The next biggest gripe for students is having to still pay for rent and bills for a house/flat/halls that are no longer occupied. I currently live in a student house where we also pay for the bills ourselves so the landlords have no outgoing costings for the house, so to speak. However, I asked my landlords for a reduction in rent as we've all moved out but, in short, the answer was no due to the fact we have entered into a contract. I understand this is the case but there is considerably more support for landlords than there are students and paying for rent and bills for a house that is empty with no job is difficult for many. The argument that students still receive their maintenance loans and therefore still have the support to help pay for rent etc is true but for me, and many others, the loan barely covers a few months rent meaning it's down to external sources to make up the rest of the rent that will be due for the coming months. My university has let those living in halls out of their contracts early so no rent payments are required yet these students also still receive their maintenance loans, therefore it doesn't seem fair to expect some students to continue paying whilst others do not?

It seems the question of rent is entirely up to each individual landlords or companies discretion which I understand, to an extent. For some, these houses are their sole source of income and therefore a significant loss of rent would be catastrophic. However, on the other hand, there are landlords with multiple properties who, presumably, live quite comfortably and the generosity of reducing rent by even the smallest amount would go a long way. The assumption that parents will support their child cannot be universally applied to all students and even if they do receive support many families incomes have been reduced substantially or even reduced to no income at all due to job losses as a result of the virus. Some students support themselves entirely independently and may not be able to work at the moment yet there seems to be little to no support for them.

Being a student amidst this pandemic is unsettling, bizarre and disruptive. There are a lack of clear policies from universities and the government regarding academic studies, tuition fees and rent. Whilst these are unprecedented and uncertain times, it is clear that students have been forgotten amidst this pandemic. They have been left to deal with these issues entirely by themselves with a lack of support and understanding from those in positions of power and authority.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Best Lockdown TV Shows

Lockdown has been a time where its been even more acceptable to binge-watch shows more than usual. I've watched some great tv shows in recent weeks so I thought it would be nice to share some top picks of things I've watched and thought were amazing! Without further ado, here are my top recommendations.

1. Happy Valley - *TW*
Everyone seemed to watch Happy Valley when it came out originally on the BBC but somehow I missed it. Thankfully, it's been added to Netflix and myself and my family well and truly binge-watched it - we couldn't get enough of it. In a very loose sense, the story follows policewoman Catherine, who is still coming to terms with the death of her daughter who was raped by Tommy Lee Royce. Catherine learns that he is due to be released from prison after serving time for drugs and becomes fixated on avenging him somehow. However, she is unaware of his dealings with the kidnapping of Ann Gallagher. It's a series deals with some tough subjects throughout so that's something to be aware of. However, if you decide to give it a watch I can guarantee that it will have you gripped from start to end.

2. After Life
I'm a huge fan of Ricky Gervais and believe everything he has ever done is fantastic (plus he used to manage one of my favourite bands - Suede - back in the day so that also makes him a winner in my book). After Life, like many of Gervais' comedies, is full of dark humour. It's a humour that in one moment has you laughing and in the next, you're close to tears. It follows the story of Tony who has recently lost his beloved wife Lisa, he believes there is no reason to live anymore but the dog causes him to remain alive. He then decides to live his life by saying and doing whatever he likes, not caring about anything or anyone. However, this ends up being a lot more tricky than he imagines as he comes to terms with living a life without the woman he loves. It is both a heart-warming and heart-breaking series that is definitely worth a watch if you fancy a laugh and a cry.

3. Lovesick
If you fancy something more light-hearted and comedic then Lovesick is the one for you. Essentially, the plot follows Dylan after he has been diagnosed with chlamydia and he now needs to tell all of his ex-lovers. It traces all the interactions between Dylan and these women across the years with the help of his best friends Evie (who both have feelings for each other) and Luke. Dylan is a hopeless romantic, Evie completely loveable and Luke a wannabe lothario with a big heart deep down. It's a light-hearted and warm series that is perfect to watch throughout lockdown.

4. Money Heist
Money Heist is one of the best series I've ever watched, pretty much everyone I know is obsessed with it! It's set in Spain and follows The Professor and his band of thieves as they attempt to pull off the biggest heist in history. Needless to say, there are a variety of ups and downs across the series that will have you completely and utterly hooked throughout. There are shock deaths, love affairs, rookie mistakes, new friendships and, crucially, a load of money to steal from Spain's Royal Mint. It is a series that will have you completely gripped throughout with so many twists and turns that it's always full of new surprises regardless of the episode or series you're on.

5. Seven Worlds, One Planet
If you're more into documentary and real-life then David Attenburgh's Seven Worlds is perfect. It highlights the extremities and differences between the continents and its inhabitant's requirements to survive. It shares some incredible wildlife stories and the footage is a complete marvel to watch. You will find yourself wholly absorbed in the series and find yourself itching to delve into the next world and discover more of the wonders of the earth!

Those are some of my top picks for TV shows to watch during this lockdown, let me know if you watch any and what you think of them! Any recommendations are welcome and feel free to tweet me any thoughts!