Monday, 1 June 2020

Monthly Musings

The month's March to May have been unusual, to say the least. I feel as though the months have blurred into one and the days have become one long expanse of time. I thought this post would be quite nice to look back on once this crazy time is over and I'd love to know how your months have been during lockdown!

What I've Been Thinking:
Mainly, I've been thinking about how badly I want to go further afield than a walk around my local village. As much as I appreciate where I live and being able to go outside I am very much missing going anywhere other than a field. As I write this post, it's been 10 weeks since I last saw my boyfriend and I am desperate to hop on a train and see him again!

What I've Been Doing:
I've been trying to find anything and everything to do during lockdown. I definitely suffer from not being able to switch off at times or I find myself getting incredibly bored or snappy without anything to do. I've been baking a bit more (unsuccessfully), updated my scrapbook, attempting exercising more, started a paint by numbers and a colouring book, tried to get more serious about blogging, painted my bedroom, read a lot of books and tried to learn German. Although it seems like an incredibly busy schedule I've definitely had time to feel bored and wonder what to do.

What I've Been Watching + Reading:
If you're interested in how else I've been occupying myself then check out my previous posts for more info on my top recommendations for TV and books!

What I've Been Listening To:
Kylie Minogue! I go through such phases with Kylie and at the moment, I am in fully-fledged fan mode! If you're feeling in need of a lift then Kylie's Greatest Hits will have you feeling top again. I've also been listening to The 1975's single If You're Too Shy which I'm a big fan of again. Lastly, I've been flitting between the Rocketman soundtrack and Harry Styles' album (oddly enough for me) too which I recommend.

How have you been finding lockdown and what have you been up to in recent months? 

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. Check out for my lockdown book recommendations here!

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.