Monday, 25 May 2020

How to Beat Boredom in Lockdown

Post Updated November 2020 

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 and beat boredom if you find yourself looking for something to do, but also remember, it's okay to do absolutely nothing and take time for yourself.

Boredom Buster 1: Do 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.

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.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

How to Host the Best Online Quiz

Post Updated November 2020

I'm a huge fan of any sort of quiz, though I'm not 100% sure why as I don't tend to do particularly well at them but, it's the taking part that counts as they always say! Since the UK went into lockdown there has been a huge increase in the number of quizzes, quiz questions and ways to make the best quarantine quiz possible. Naturally, I 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 and hosting the best online quiz!

Quiz Tip 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 so maybe have a test call before embarking on a full-blown quiz. It's also 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.

Quiz Tip 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 one of 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!

Quiz Tip 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)!

Quiz Tip 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.

Lockdown quizzes have become the norm recently and they can be really fun! Remember to shake it up a little bit and try to do something different so the calls don't feel repetitive. They can be such a great way to provide some form of social interaction so you don't feel quite so isolated and, if I'm honest, I absolutely loved making the quiz!

Have you taken part in any quizzes recently? Have you hosted an online quiz? 

If you're looking for more things to do during lockdown then you might like to take a look at the best Netflix series to binge or the must-read books of 2020!

Monday, 11 May 2020

Students In a Pandemic

Post Updated November 2020

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. 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.

woman sitting on bed surrounded by books and laptop
Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Online Learning and Fees: 

At my university, a university-wide 'no detriment' policy has been applied. My course has decided that you only need to do one assignment but it doesn't count towards your degree. Whilst this is good in some ways it removes the incentive to work hard on the assignment as ultimately it shouldn't count (they've said if you're close to a boundary in third year to move up a classification then they'll take into account this assignment too). However, my final grade for second year cannot be improved upon and my average cannot be increased, the no detriment policy only means that it won't go down but it also won't go up. Therefore, my motivation to produce an assignment of a high standard is dwindling rapidly due to this policy (update: I actually got a first on this assignment so at least I have that to maybe fall back on if third year doesn't quite go to plan). 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!

Rent + 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. Thankfully, after a few emails, it was agreed that we would have reduced rent for 3 months before going back up to normal rent. It was an appreciated compromise but it did take quite a few attempts and back and forth before the matter was settled. There seems to be 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 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 is 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.

How has your university dealt with the pandemic? 

Friday, 8 May 2020

5 Netflix Series to Binge-Watch

Post Updated November 2020

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 recently and I love sharing recommendations and getting people's thoughts on shows so I thought it would be nice to share some top picks of things I've watched. Without further ado, here are my top recommendations for Netflix series you can binge-watch!

person using laptop to watch netflix
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Netflix Series 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 short, 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.

Netflix Series 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, and the dog is his only reason to stay 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.

Netflix Series 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.

Netflix Series 4: Money Heist

Money Heist is one of the best series I've ever watched and 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.

Netflix Series 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 Netflix shows you can binge-watch this lockdown. I've managed to watch some fab shows recently and they've really helped to get me through lockdown! I'd love to know if you watch any of them and what you think - I'm always up for a chat on my social media (in the sidebar) if you'd like to discuss a show!

What you been watching recently? Are there any shows you've binged?

Monday, 4 May 2020

5 Must-Read Books in 2020

Note: Affiliate links are used on this page where I may earn money for products mentioned in this post. However, I will only recommend products that I wholeheartedly recommend and believe are of value.
Post Updated November 2020

During the current lockdown in the UK, I've been finding myself reading a lot more - which is quite the achievement considering I'm an English student and should be reading a lot anyway! It's been so nice to have more time to read novels for pleasure rather than for a module and I've been well and truly taking advantage of this and have found myself reading some books I've thoroughly enjoyed. For that reason, I thought I'd share my absolute must-reads books so far in 2020! I'm sure they'll be plenty more by the time we come out of lockdown! 

book near glasses and coffee mug
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Must-Read 1: The Flatshare - Beth O'Leary

The Flatshare focuses on the lives of Leon and Tiffy as they navigate being flatmates who have never actually met each other (at least to start with). They're also not flatmates in the traditional sense as they also share a bed, though not at the same time. The Flatshare has been a book that I have found myself devouring, willing the characters to meet and get on. The notes they leave around the flat for each other are my favourite part of the novel and I loved watching the relationship between them blossom. If you're after a book to get you feeling more positive during quarantine then give this one a go!

Must-Read 2: Black-Eyed Susans - Julia Heaberlin

Tessa, dubbed a 'Black-Eyed Susan' by the media, is the only survivor of a serial killer. Years later, the black-eyed Susans so-called killer is about to be executed but Tessa knows that this isn't the right man. Someone has been leaving her flowers in various places in the years after the trial and the novel slowly reveals the real killer as more evidence and forensics come to light. I did not expect the ending at all with this book so that's always a plus and I found myself guessing (incorrectly) right until the very end. If you're a psychological thriller fan then definitely check this novel out!

Must-Read 3: Where Angels Fear to Tread - E.M Forster

If classics are more your thing, or you fancy trying something a little less contemporary then any novel by Forster is fantastic (his A Room with a View is the inspiration behind the blog name). The story is set in Italy and follows Lilia as she falls in love with Gino but it is not all smooth sailing. She soon marries him and becomes pregnant, but Lilia's English family disagree with the marriage and believe that the child would be better off brought up in England so they embark to retrieve the child from Gino's care. It's a novel concerned with societal expectation, family and love. Despite being a 'classic' it's very easy to read and digest and it's also an incredibly short book with a twist that I didn't see coming.

Must-Read 4: Queenie - Candice Carty-Williams

If you're looking for a bold and vivacious character then look no further than Queenie. The story follows Queenie as she navigates life in London as a Brit of Caribbean descent. She's just split up with her boyfriend, Tom, she's struggling to be noticed in her job and her family don't seem to listen to her. If that isn't enough, she's trying to fit into a world that doesn't seem to understand her. Queenie is a novel that examines life in both a comic and dark way, exploring issues of race, sex, love and family all in a deeply gripping and highly enjoyable way - I would definitely recommend!

Must-Read 5: The Tattooist of Austwitzch - Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Austwitzch is a remarkable novel, based on the true story of Lale Sokolov who worked as the tattooist in the most formidable of concentration camps during Nazi rule. The book follows his encounters and story through the many gruelling years of camp life and the desperate need to survive. It is a novel that reminds you never to give up despite the adversities you face and prompts a reader to never lose hope. It's such a touching and unforgettable story which everyone must-read!

Those are some of my must-read books so far in 2020! Throughout lockdown, I've been reading so much more and I've been absolutely loving it! It's been so nice to have the time to start reading all the books on my to-read list instead of them just being sat on my shelf!

Those are my must-reads at the moment for books! What have you been reading?

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Losing Friends in Your 20s and Why it's Okay

Post Updated November 2020

Female friendships, in my experience, are never plain sailing. Primarily throughout sixth form, there were, to put it lightly, difficulties in my friendship group. These so-called 'difficulties' resulted in a meeting between the said group and someone from our school (a meeting I am still salty about because there was no need for it to happen and for school to be involved as we were all adults but that's another story...). But that is beside the point. Since going to university these friendships have drifted quite considerably and stopped as I've reached my twenties and I've realised that's okay.

For some context, there were 9 of us in this group and we had all been best friends since we met in reception. So we're talking about 15 years of friendship here. But as we grew up we began to split apart into 2 sub-groups. It just so happened that the majority of one sub-group went off to uni this year and the other did not, perhaps cementing the split?

University started and everything was fine, or just papered over the cracks fine. We'd all vowed to keep in touch and for a while we did. For my birthday in October friends from home came to visit me and made my birthday such a lovely day. We spoke occasionally and when I came home there were meet-ups if others were back as well.

girl group of friends laughing in summer
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

But as the year progressed, the conversations stopped, the meet-ups were arranged and uni people who were back were often not there or invited and things changed. It became much more of an effort to talk and make conversation. I felt like things became one-sided, it became down to me to start up a conversation, to check up on someone, just to ask how life was going or to make the effort to actually keep in touch and suggest meeting up rather than it being a two-way thing. It came to a point where I decided to just cut people out, whether that's right or wrong, it's what I did. I became fed up of constantly being the person maintaining things and now that I had new flatmates, course-mates and a boyfriend, I didn't want to feel like a nuisance. Plus I had so many new people to juggle that we stopped messaging.

Don't get me wrong I still have friends from back home. Those of us that went to university made such an effort to keep in touch and we saw each other regularly whilst being away and when back at home. These were the types of friendships that I wanted; it didn't feel totally one-sided and that we were friends for the sake of history. We both genuinely wanted to keep in contact so we did and things still work between us and we're all very good friends.

So reaching my twenties resulted in me gaining and losing friends and that's okay. People move in and out of your life constantly and whilst we had so many good years as friends and fond memories, I know that now, whilst we will always be friendly and civil, we will never be as we used to be. As we've all gotten older we've drifted in and out of friendship with the starting of university being the final nail in the coffin. Losing friends and drifting apart doesn't make either of you bad people. Sometimes it's better to lose those where things just weren't quite working in order to make time for those where it does. But most importantly, it's okay to lose friends. It happens.

If you liked this post you might also enjoy students amongst a pandemic!


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