Charlotte's blog

Charlotte is currently a first year student at York St Johns University studying English Literature. 

University: Semester 2, Week 9

Only one more week to go until the Easter break now - time sure does fly quickly! This month has gone by quite quickly, and that is probably because of the sheer amount of things going on. This March so many positive things have happened. From being published in the university prospectus and literary anthology to finding out that I have a place to study at Amsterdam for the first semester of the second year. How can so many amazing things fit into one space of time? And that isn't even everything!

There is so much to look forward to as well, particularly over the next week in the build up to the break. There will be the student show case (when I get to see my work alongside my peers), the Easter concert featuring lots of madrigals and some Whitacre and also submitting my gender and writing reflective commentary. It has been such a challenging piece to put together, which came as a relative surprise. Despite working with them before it didn't make it any easier an experience. But I have learnt a lot from it, so I will try to remember all of those things in the future. Also, because I am talking a lot about the issues of gender construction in the modern wall in comparison/contrast to the past, I have gotten to read a lot of articles which have been really rewarding. For instance, Penguin's current feature on Caitlan Moran and how books made her a feminist.
Daffodils - Copyright CLSS 2017
It has been the little things which kept me going this past 9 weeks. When you are in university for so long, it is easy to lose sight of where you are going with your work and to not be your usual, motivated, well rested self. Seeing the relaxed faces of my third year friends after they submitted their dissertations this week is proof enough of that. But the little things really are enough if you focus in on them and make the most out of them. For instance, right at the beginning of this week I bought some daffodils from the flower market. When I got them on Monday, they were tightly closed buds on long green stems. I thought that it would be impossible for the slender yellow trumpets to burst out. But when I woke up on Tuesday (image on the left) they were already starting to wake up too. And by Wednesday (image on the right) they were awake even earlier than me. A burst of colour from the outside inside my room has made it much easier to smile and concentrate on the tasks at hand. 
Brain erasers, my Wall.E sketch + some letters home (if you look closely enough you can see my new favourite shoes and purple socks!) - Copyright CLSS 2017
In addition to the flowers and keeping positive as I can in terms of my work, I've also tried to push that positivity into all elements of my life. Despite it being a busy time of year with Erasmus modules to be chosen and T. S. Eliot to analyse for Monday, I want to make sure that I am making some time for myself to keep creative. Without that creative space and time I often find myself drained and unable to concentrate which is not the way forward. It makes all of that positivity so much more complicated to maintain. I've written my usual letters home, making sure to put extra thought in so that my family and friends know I am grateful for their patience throughout the past few weeks when things have been particularly hard. 
And also there has been time for sketching which has been great! I've missed sketching a lot. Kitted out with the assistance of some cool new brain erasers, I set out to draw some Disney characters. Perhaps I'll share more of them another day, but one I am particularly proud of is the sketch you can see of Eva and Wall.E above. We studied Wall.E this term in contemporary writing as you know and it has given me an even higher level of admiration for Pixar and that particular animation. Eva isn't as well defined as I would have liked but I am so pleased with how Wall.E took shape (a bit of patience goes a long way!)
Some madrigal practice - Copyright I. Dutch 2017
Whilst I don't have too much to report this week other than how I am keeping motivated (and going on about how wonderful madrigals are - because trust me, they're the best) it has still been a worthwile week. There have been things I have learnt, discovered and practiced as always. Whether that be learning of the existence of Etch-a-sketch notebooks or discussing the role of gender stereotype reinforcement in advertising, I feel better for having this somewhat complex week. Though I do hope that next week I get to learn even more - possibly without as much complexity. Either way, here is to the arrival of week 10! And, hopefully... a good rest! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Mars Bars + Balance

The Mars Bar/Wonka Bar Process - Photos Copyright CLSS 2016
When I was getting really stressed out about my essays before Christmas time (a section of my narratives assignment just wasn't flowing, needed to be cut, and I felt like I was running out of time) my friend Rebecca passed on to me some advice which has stuck in my head and really helped ever since. Of course I do still get stressed, I don't think there is any cure to stress other than starting as early on as possible, but I don't get as stressed. I know now to remember the Mars bar process (which I've decided to re-christen the Wonka bar process after re-reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory earlier this year).

This is basically just a term to remind you that you can't just do everything all at once. It is simply not possible to just write a full length essay that makes complete sense in a day. It takes planning, drafting and patience. But most importantly, it takes time. You need to give yourself as much time as possible to work so that you might have the breaks you need. Finding balance is important, which is what this statement is all about. If someone says that you need to think of it like a mars bar, then it means that you need to take it bit by bit. By splitting things into bite sized chunks it will be much easier to remain focused on the task at hand and to pace yourself. Finding the balance for you is essential to you succeeding. For me that means plenty of breaks with other things to take my mind off of what I have been working on. Engaging with other things means that when I do come back to my work, I often have fresh perspective and a new idea of where to begin. When you do find a balance that works, stick to it as much as you can.

As one of my favourite sopranos Joyce Didinato said at one of her masterclasses, the best singers are not the ones who lock themselves into practice rooms and never go out. The best singers are the ones who live outside the libretto page - who have read great books, seen great movies, had exciting and moving experiences of a vast variety. Those things are what allow the best musicians to engage with their art, in a way that brings it to life. The best performers are the ones who put life into the melody by bringing out new colours only they can find. It is all in how we interpret things as individuals.

Balance = Books + Study + Fun ( + Cake Squared)
Finding that balance isn't always easy. And sometimes, if we leave things to the last minute especially, it can seem everything has been thrown out of balance and we'll never touch back to the ground again. But that's ok - we're human and we're meant to be learning and processing information as we go. It is only natural to make mistakes sometimes. The point of balance is that you have the right support system to help you catch up again. If this were a marathon, your support system would be all the training up until that moment, and then the people cheering you on. If that is in place, it will always catch up with you somehow and help you back to your feet. You just have to keep working hard and keeping patient until it gets there.
Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

You Got A Friend

Recently I've not been through the best of times. We all have our down days, and in that time is important to remain focused, positive and motivated. Without those things to drive us, it is very difficult to keep up our energy levels in order to get through those difficult moments. At the time especially it can feel like you will never come out of the other side with a smile, but that is simply because you are in the middle of a lot of things at once. After they start to settle down, it will be much easier to focus and to feel better. One of most important things you can do is keep communicating with those around you. Especially your friends.

I'm incredibly lucky to have such a strong support system in the format of my friends and family. Without them, it wouldn't be possible to be the person I am and to achieve everything that I have so far and hope to continue on to do. Everything that makes me who I am comes back in part to them. This is why it is so incredibly important to me that I make the most of those relationships and do not take them for granted.

If you're finding yourself in a difficult time, or if you just want to make sure you are there for your friends through the stress of deadlines and end of term, here are some things to remember:
The best people you will ever meet
1. Keep Talking + Trusting

Your friends are a human sanctuary. These are the people you can trust fully which is important to remember when you do need to talk and don't know where to turn. You could say anything and these are the people who will be able to understand it. Particularly when you get to university, you make friends who live close by or aren't to far away city wise. It is more like having a second family.

Having that foundation on which to place your thoughts and concerns can often mean you feel much lighter. You'll have more space to think and feel in a way which makes sense opposed to being confused about things if you keep communication systems open with your friends. Anything that is said should be between you, which is why you should always be careful who you trust of course. But the most amazing thing with the best of friends is that you know you can trust them to be there for you to talk to when you most need them. Don't close yourself up but instead explain how you think and feel. Chances are it will not only make you feel better but everyone. I know that I tend to bottle things up sometimes and explode information all at once. But I'm getting better at learning to talk about all of these things because of the people I have met here in York.

2. Keep Listening 

Just as you need to keep talking, you also need to keep listening. Your friends will need to get things off their chest, and as they were there for you you need to be there for them. Be there for them because you want to be - it's not a case of owing people your time. It is a case of being their to listen and talk any time because you care about these people and want them to be happy. Particularly when things are difficult, you need to be there best you can as they would be for you. Sometimes a situation is out of out control and there is no way we can help directly. Nothing we can do in particular to fix things. It is awful to be in that situation but we must recognise as individuals that as long as we do our best that is enough. And listening is often enough to help - more so than any of us realise.

3. Think Positive 

Also, when the going gets rough, see it as a challenge to stay positive together. Passing on positive thoughts or comments to one another is the first step to feeling a little better. Those little positive thoughts will then go on to become a much bigger part of your thinking that day and eventually they will make your week seem a bit brighter. Positive thinking as a group of friends in particular does wonders for my brain. It mans that I know those around me aren't feeling the best either and that we are all in that same place trying to get back to where we can feel happier. Group trips or meet ups can be some of the best ways to stay positive outside of class. Even when it is exam season, a good giggle and a movie can make you feel a million times better. Take a breather and do something fun together.

4. Always Be There

All of the previous things link back up to this. Being a friend means always being there, no matter what. It can be hard sometimes when you have things going on in your own life to continue to be the best friend that you can be. But being there is enough - letting who ever it might be know that they have someone they can count on, who is always going to be there, can be enough. It can make you feel so much better to feel supported and cared for. It isn't necessarily something you can do, but it is something which you show in how you listen and just in the act of caring for another person itself.

5. Know Always Is Always

The people who are your closest friends are the ones who never stop being there no matter what. You could be 50 and you'll still be going to concerts together, or sending letters if you are both on opposite sides of the world from one another. It can mean going for a while without seeing or speaking to each other, but knowing that if you need a chat or a catchup the other person will still be there. And when you talk, it will feel as though you were never apart to begin with.

Always is always. You'll realise this as time goes on and your memory collection builds up. Once you have a true friend, no matter what life throws at you, they never truly go away. And for me right now, it's helping so much to see and remember that in my own friend group.

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

National Poetry Day + Through The Mist

The other day when I was re-watching Funny Face all I could think was that Hollywood is not quite what it used to be. There is so much talent now that it isn't kept to a select few stars, especially with cultural movies taking such a strong place in the media. There is no single Hollywood any more, which is both wonderful and sad. La La Land really captured that nostalgia for the great movies and artwork of the past style which is perhaps why it has been so successful. Thinking about this made me want to write on this. And considering the role of capitalism within literature and how we see characters/how they develop throughout an actors performance, I thought it might be interesting to write about it. Seems as it is national poetry day today, here is that little poem:

There will never be another Audrey Hepburn.
In this world of many people
With their many many dreams
And all those glossy silver screens
Waiting to be filled

How can another Hepburn be when
There isn't room to see
And all the crowds file round to get
A better view

But dreaming too, at the same time
That they'll pursue what they believe
Achieve and achieve and achieve,
All of those things which have gone undone

As long as there are rules
To go out and earn fast cars
There will be no trips to Mars,
But they'll deceive that they might know.
They will be famous.

But if we dream and if we dare
Maybe we'll find another fare
That will provide another side
To this sad story

For as there are dreamers who will be
And ocean far as we can breathe
There can never be, you surely see,
Another Audrey Hepburn
I also mentioned previously that I had been published in the student anthology here at York St. John which has been such a pleasant surprise. The student show case is next week and I will get a copy of the anthology then. But until then, I thought I would share with you the piece that I wrote for show case which is called Through the Mist. The anthology is titled Beyond the York Walls and as a project it aims to feature works capturing or inspired by the York walls (one of Yorks' defining attributes) The piece I wrote was part of a trio of short stories me and my friends produced as a collection. Mine is written in the style of Lemony Snicket (can you tell?) It's also a murder mystery sort of story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below:
Through the Mist
The rain was thick that January day. And bleak. As the morning set in, fog spread its talons across York, blanketing the empty streets and confusing the geese. Everything was still. At half seven when the alarm clock went off, Thomas Loax dragged himself from his bed, into his suit and out to the car. Out came the ice scraper to clear the windscreen. Fog lights on. Key slotted into the ignition. A low hum followed by nothing. “Oh, for goodness… eurgh!” After 15 minutes of trying to get the car going, the mission was definitely proving a fruitless one. I would love to tell you that Thomas stayed in his car, called the mechanic and drove to work a few minutes late. But Thomas is an impatient, anxious man and this is not a cheerful story. It is instead an honest one.
Locking the car behind him, Thomas flinched at the cold biting his nose as he shrugged on the blue windbreaker. The world was even now white and silent. York was a ghost town as he headed up the street towards the city wall entrance. The air was still hanging low over the river, lurking in hope of a lick at an uncovered tail. There were no boats and no joggers. It would have been peaceful had the hovering clouds not been so opaque. So… ominous.
Ducking his chin further into his collar, he reached the gate. It didn’t open at first when he pushed. “Come on, come on!” he muttered. This is the point we would hope giving up would tempt him, or that he might take the hint. But alas, the gate groaned heavily and on he went. The grey slabs were uneven and slippery. Often, he would lurch and cling to the stone next to him. Half an hour of walking passed and with it lifted the fog. Just enough it rose to show a slumped figure emerging in front of the rogue businessman. Oh great, though Thomas, another drunken slob. His hand clutched his wallet, simultaneously grasping for the wall.
As he approached further, it became evident that this man was not going to move. Pushing prejudiced thoughts from his head and inhaling from his nose, Thomas attempted to stay patient. Even though by now he was 12 minutes late for work, cold and slightly damp. Sighing, he waited till the last moment. “Excuse me sir”. Nothing. “Excuse me?”
The air was still thick and the earth still. An impatient breath, a hand on the shoulder. A moment of disbelief. Then fear. For staring back at him with glassy eyes was a man. Middle aged, clean shaven, smartly dressed. Could’ve been his brother in life. But evidently, at this point, very much dead.

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

How To: Reflective Commentary

For my Gender and Writing module I had to create a formative group presentation focusing on one of the selected texts provided for us to choose from. As you may know from my previous blog posts, my group worked on producing a presentation which spoke about the relevance of Virginia Woolf's text A Room of One's Own and how this text remains relevant in the modern day. Our next assignment due before Easter is a reflective commentary on this group collaboration process to see what has been achieved and how these skills will be useful + can be applied in our further class work.
Brain erasers to help me think! 
When I was studying at Leeds College of Music last year I often encountered the reflective commentary. We often had special projects which we would work on for the period of a week and then produce an evaluation of. However, this was quite a different structure and system from that used here. Here the evaluative process is much more like an essay in format. We must use prose in order to keep things as academic as possible. It can be complicated to avoid colloquialisms at times, which is why it has been useful to edit, proof read and get external opinion via tutorials.

My advice from the past few weeks working on this particular reflective commentary is best expressed through the next few points. Give yourself at least 2 weeks to really work on drafting it. At first it might seem easier to work on than an essay, but at times it can prove more complicated due to the sheer amount of detail you are required to go into in relation to how often you were meeting with your group, things you discussed and why you focused in on your particular areas of research. Giving yourself time will allow you to remain de-stressed and comfortable with working at your own pace. It is important, as with any essay (particularly a tricky one), to give yourself the time and space to work in that you need. Everyone works at different rates which is perfectly ok, just be patient with yourself.

In terms of structure, it is alway useful to create a simple plan as a guideline opposed to just jumping straight into writing. When crafting this, make sure you make note of the things on the mark scheme which you need to demonstrate. Though these should be placed as important, they also shouldn't be forced at the risk of your work not flowing or sounding confident. Sometimes it can be useful to write it section by section before piecing it together. Make note of links when you are putting together your guide line. You should also research well before you begin writing. With my piece essay, this was a relatively easy process to complete as I already had a fair amount of research done from the presentation itself. Through using sections of evidence it has been possible to really shape my statements and maintain that clear confident flow of the essay itself as previously mentioned.

Whilst tricky to write, reflective commentary can be a useful time to do what it says on the can and reflect. You'll find that you have often times achieved a great deal more than you previously realised. And that should be your focus - to emphasise those things you have achieved, those things you think you can achieve and also those things which you would change/do differently next time in order to be further successful. For example, whilst the group discussions were really useful next time it would be better for us to have met on a more regular basis and kept a detailed log of our meeting notes in order to remember where we were up to. Whilst also giving indication of where to move to next. I'm quite happy with how this one is shaping up after finding it difficult to settle into, and I'm looking forward to seeing if there is any place for improvement in my next tutorial before the deadline. Only this one to finish before Easter now! That came around quickly, huh? Odd to see all of my third year friends handing in their dissertations too.

And if you're stressing out about your essays a bit too much and need something to cheer you up, this little song has just been added on to my spring playlist - hope it makes you smile:
Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

How To: Construct A Thesis

When I first began university, it suddenly seemed a million times harder than usual to construct a thesis. I think this was largely in the period before and just after my first three assignments. Even though I was doing well, I have a habit of approaching new things and complicating them when they are actually much easier than I realise. This is the case with a lot of students who approach thesis statements for the first time when they aren't referred to as the more widely known 'main point' of A level and GCSE.
Research well!
Settling into constructing a thesis is not as scary as it seems. If anything, it is actually quite liberating because it means you get to decide on what it is you want to write about, research and think on for the next however long until your course work is written. A thesis statement is just a piece of jargon which is code for 'tell me what you are really interested in talking about here' or 'what is your main point throughout this argument?' Once you have that broken down a little further in your mind, designing a thesis is much easier. Don't be afraid of the thing which is designed to help you express yourself. All of those brilliant ideas of yours may as well be stored at the back of a dusty shelf in jars and bottles if you aren't going to put them to use through clear language, evidence and analysis.

It will be hard work, but you don't have to get there straight away. Arguing and maintaining the thesis is the complicated part, but deciding can be almost fun if you allow yourself to approach it this way. To begin planning your thesis statement, first mind map a range of ideas which you could argue throughout your essay/dissertation. Use lots of coloured pens (running with the fun theme) and really go all out. Write down every idea that comes into your head best you can, even if some of them aren't fully formed yet. If things spring to mind and sound interesting, then those are all potential starting points which you could use as a spring board.

After doing this, look over your range of ideas and begin editing down to just a few which you think could be really useful or work well together. This is the section of planning where I begin (way before deciding on my thesis) linking ideas together in triplets. For instance, discussing class, wealth and power together would be in keeping with these themes because I would be able to draw links between. E.g. in Victorian literature, wealth permitted education, success and comfort. Because of this, the wealthy tended to be at the top of the hierarchial chain causing class divisions. It was up to those in power to create positive change in relation to this, but this could be complex as though in positions of power wouldn't want to lose money or status that they already had as a result. Can you see how those ideas link well together in this context? Those links are what allow you to maintain a clear thesis statement throughout.

Once you have selected three key points for your question and planned out what you would like to comment on, then is the time to begin on a thesis statement. And once you have written it out a few times to see what works best, make sure you write it down in big bold letters on a post it note somewhere where you can always see it. If it is always in your mind whilst you are writing, it will be much easier to maintain it in a strong argument with plenty of links. Refer back to this thesis in relation to the question throughout. A thesis itself is just a strong statement which rounds everything up. For instance, if the question was 'To what extent was Victorian literature a reflection of the class division?' you might want to argue with a thesis statement which is clarified in your conclusion as, 'Victorian literature reflected the wide divides between class, as writers usually came from wealthy families who were able to support their ambition'.

This is just one example, and a rather colloquially worded one. There are all manner of thesis statements you could argue. That is the fun of it! Welcome to being a literary critic - have fun constructing your first thesis!

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Spring Playlist

The beginning of spring is one of the best times of the year, full stop! Everything is fresh with promise, there are so many new opportunities and yet unlike the beginning of the academic year we are so much closer to the freedom that summer beckons with. It is a good place to be in because it feels so open and fresh.

My soundtracks for Autumn and Spring tend to be the ones which last for the rest of the year. By this, I mean my favourites prevail from the music I find through constructing these playlists. Sometimes I find them just by clicking on a random song that sounds good on Spotify, or other times I simply overhear it by mistake. Either way, music has a huge impact on my life despite studying English. Music is a big part of the week in that it helps concentrate when I am studying and hence impacts hugely on how well I do throughout the year. So you might find a few of my playlists scattered throughout past blog posts, especially when they have featured some of those favourites I mentioned earlier.

Whilst I enjoy writing about music I always find it incredibly difficult to construct words explaining what and how it makes me feel, or why it does. Some of the best music to listen to is that from movies - soundtracks and classical pieces without vocals or lyrics can often be so much more expressive. There are not many things I enjoy more than the moment where the raised seventh is used to create dissonance in a madrigal or a Whitacre piece (Speaking of which, Sleep isn't on this months playlist due to featuring in the past but if you haven't heard it I hugely recommend it!) These playlist posts provide the opportunity for me to capture and share with you all of these things I am thinking and feeling throughout the 2017 season. Plus, it can mean further sharing some of the great music I've stumbled upon with you.

What have you been listening to this month? I'd love to hear your favourites. Feel free to leave them in the comments below. Here are some of the tracks I have been listening to on repeat:

1. Gossip Girl - Grace Vanderwaal

Vanderwaal's sound is something I have been hugely impressed by and really enjoyed listening to the in the past months since her America's Got Talent debut. The sound is fresh, quirky and original. Plus, it features the ukulele which adds to that overall sound and image I previously mentioned. The ukulele is one of my favourite instruments and it is good to hear it getting further recognition in the music industry. 
This particular song is my current choice to have on loop. Largely because it possesses the light acoustic of her other pieces whilst also containing some complicated rhythms, quick poetic lyricism and (whilst uplifting) has quite a gritty tone. The subject dealt with is of people gossiping - something which everyone can relate to I think, because we all gossip or have been the subject of it. Particularly for those of Grace Vanderwaal's generation, I think she is a really important, influential role model. It is amazing to hear such skill at such a young age, but also to hear it being used for good in this form of advice sharing. Taking something bad and turning it into something positive which can make others take confidence and dance instead of feeling sad.
2. Yesterday - Karmin

A connection the previous song in that again, these are new, up and coming singer/songwriters who produce such an original sound that is hard to find anything to dislike about it. When I first clicked on this song, I thought it was going to be a cover of the old classic by the Beatles. But ended up being pleasantly surprised with this strongly sung song, which is so well written in fact that it feels orchestrated. Much as with Pentatonix, you can tell that these individuals really care about the different musical lines going on. This is pop music to the highest degree.
In addition to their original songs, they also do some fantastic covers. If there is a pop song that you have heard on the radio or the charts which you didn't previously like, Karmin can change that for you. Their covers/arrangements rethink the whole style. Again, largely through this element of re-orchestration. There was a song they re-made in the style of a Queen music video which is a perfect example of this. But be sure to check out their original songs first! There is so much to explore within their particular sound that you're not going to be able to stop listening for a while. 
3. Norman's Walk - Paranorman

Ok, so I know this one has been on my playlist before... Largely because it is one of the best things to listen to in the Autumn in my opinion. It fits so perfectly with the changing leaves and crispness of everything. 
Norman's Walk is one of the earliest melodies in the movie soundtrack. In the original stop motion animation picture, this piece is played as Norman is walking down the street to school. He can see things that others don't really understand or think about, and the melody incorporates this beautifully. Beginning quite gently, the light woodwind gives the effect of early morning with the sun just starting to come up (in my mind, it is still dark) But then suddenly the tone becomes nostalgic and melancholic - it is still uplifting, but also possesses a poignancy and a sadness. Whenever I'm not quite sure what to think or feel, it is this small portion of music which helps the most. It's some of the best film writing I've heard in a long time. 
4. Cheap Thrills - Sia
The original song is great but, as with Karmin, I always seem to end up a bigger fan of the covers of songs which attempt to re-orchestrate or re-arrange the songs to transform the genre entirely. This string trio has me excited for some of my own work at the moment, and I'd really like to look into arranging something of a similar style. It possesses all the qualities which make the original so fun to listen to, whilst also providing new qualities which only playing a string instrument could add. Particularly in regards to the phrasing. I really enjoyed the cello balance the most out of this - two cellos against one violin seems a really suitable match which adds a whole new level to the feel of dynamic and range throughout.
5. Lucie Horsch - Vivaldi

I know, I know, all I ever talk about these days is Amsterdam! Whilst I have no doubt there will soon be an Amsterdam playlist in your lives courtesy of moi, for now my main Amsterdam based musical interest is the most recent album released by the recorder player Lucie Horsch with the Concert Gebouw of Amsterdam. In the clip above, you can get a taste of some of the Vivaldi she has recorded with the beautiful setting of the Amsterdam canals in the background.
Of course, it is fitting that this should be a part of the spring playlist because it features Vivaldi's piece of the same name: Spring. The four seasons are some of the most well known of his works, being selected as ring tones and advertisement soundtrack in places all over the world. But you can only truly appreciate them I think when you sit down and listen to a full feature recording of them. Hearing them together is amazing because you can hear what a masterful recorder he was - there are themes being developed throughout which come back again and again in different formats until they sound completely new. It would be impossible to recognise that they were the original themes unless when going back to listen to them again you listen out for specific melodies and rhythms. The reason Horsch's performance of some of these pieces by Vivaldi is on my spring playlist is because, as with all of the pieces mentioned on this list, she brings something completely new and refreshing to something I previously thought old hat or conventional. Always have I been a fan of Vivaldi, but never have I heard it quite like this.
Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Inspiration: The Brontes

This series is one I have created with the aim of recording where my interests go throughout my degree. Which authors and creative individuals jump out from their work and really manage to catch my attention in a way so as to inspire me. There are so far too many to list here on my list of role models, which I opened with Virginia Woolf. Next on the list would have to be the Bronte sisters. They have been a huge literary inspiration for me as a young writer. Particularly as my namesake is something I share with one of the most well known of the three sisters.
The Bronte Sisters
The Bronte sisters originally published their most well known novels together under masculine pseudonyms. In my recent research, Charlotte Bronte on discussing this in her private notes described them as 'positively masculine', which I found quite comical. In a world where women were not yet largely welcomed into the world of writing unless they were an exception such as Jane Austen (who published anonymously also) we are incredibly fortunate to have the richness of the Bronte voice still very much alive in the present day. 

Living in West Yorkshire (not all that far from where I study) the Bronte family was made up of active creatives who took in the 19th Century world around them and channeled it into their art and painting. With a good education encouraged by their father, the girls had opportunities which wouldn't necessarily have been widely available for other young working class women. Their father was of Irish descent. I find this quite interesting for one particular reason - upon earning a scholarship to Oxford he changed the last name to the Bronte we know now from something which was closer to Brunty. Even he had to use a veil of sorts to hide his roots and class which might not have been as welcomed had they been more obvious to his fellow students. He worked in a parsonage, his house being practically next door. I visited this time last year when things were much snowier and frostier than they have been in 2017. Things seem frozen in time there - stranded half way between here and there, on the moors made most famous through Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. 

The first of the three whom I read was Charlotte Bronte. As with most, I read and loved the pages which brought to life Jane Eyre. Whilst there were sections of the book I wasn't crazy about (sometimes the coincidences are too deus ex machina for my tastes) the whole style of writing, the suspense, and the main characters I enjoyed reading. Much as with Anne, there is a very personal touch to this style of writing. I re-read this classic last year in celebration of her bicentenary (next year is Emily Bronte, with this year marking the anniversary of their brother Branwell) It was her who stood out as someone who had been very present in the parsonage. Her feet and hands were so small, as can be seen from the doll like displays in the lower section of the house. She even produced very small books, again almost doll like, with writing so small I am not sure any of us could read it. Some of them are still yet to be 'translated' and published. She was clearly an individual who cared greatly for her siblings in an almost motherly fashion. It was she who so encouraged her sisters to publish also. 

Despite hearing much on Wuthering Heights I didn't first encounter the text properly until I was in my second year at sixth form. Upon reading it, my first impression was not a good one. It was not something I particularly enjoyed and I just didn't understand the fuss at all! It all seemed so confusing, with practically everyone being called Cathy or something beginning with a H... But upon re-reading it, I found it to be quite an engaging novel due to its complexity. Albeit it, it is not the easiest of reads but it is definitely fun to keep up with. There are so many elements of satire, of dark humour and of grief. It speaks a lot about what it is to be human and why we conform to societal pressure the way we sometimes do when we shouldn't. But it is the poetry of Emily Bronte which I love the most.  A personal favourite being this short passage: 

    Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away; Lengthen night and shorten day; Every leaf speaks bliss to me Fluttering from the autumn tree. I shall smile when wreaths of snow Blossom where the rose should grow; I shall sing when night’s decay Ushers in a drearier day.

As with Anne, I often wish that Emily had written more than she did. Whilst I am glad to have so much content from Charlotte Bronte, Emily writes with a quality which is almost earth like. There is no shred of fairytale, only the presence of the gothic and the earth. There is also an element of isolation which acts as a thread throughout. Whilst believable, it also happens far out on the moors, far away from the realm of society. 

Anne Bronte is the least known of the sisters. Yet critics say if she had lived longer she could have turned out to have been the most successful of her sisters. She wrote poetry like Emily, but is better known currently for her two novels. Most people who have read Anne's work, at least from any conversation I have had with them, have read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. But the first of her works which I read was Agnes Grey. It was occasionally dry as a novel, but it definitely possessed so many striking qualities for such a young writer. They reflect, as with her sisters, personal experience but in a fictional realm which added hind sight and some imaginary elements. I read it the summer before coming to university and it really made me value my education and my motivation to be successful because these are qualities which Anne often puts to the forefront of her writing. 

And from these few scattered thoughts collected together, you can see why it is that I find these three women so inspiring to read and to write about. I hope if you haven't been hugely interested in their work before this has proved a partial gate way. And if you are thinking of studying literature at university and want to get a chance to possibly study/write on the Brontes, don't worry - Here at York St. John there is an C.18th module where you will have the opportunity to do so. 
That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it! 

Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Update: Firsts, Cake + Beauty and the Beast

You might remember that a few weeks ago I submitted my 'beginning' (so to speak) assignment of semester two. Well, I'm quite happy to announce that I achieved a first in this! My highest one yet too it is always a huge relief to hear good news back and with such positive feedback. It feels like evidence that in spite of everything, I've managed to apply the work and technique necessary to showcase all that has been learnt. It was a particular relief in the case of this essay as it's been one I've been most proud of due to my interest in Baldwins comments on the urban environment and atmosphere in the 1960s. Additionally, for some reason I was stressed about being not being stressed. So it appears that starting twice as early as early is the way forward for me. It saves time but it also saves a lot of energy in terms of catching up on sleep after a busy few weeks or being up a little earlier I want to get some extra reading done. 
All of the Beauty and the Beast excitement!
That was Friday afternoon. I spent the morning watching the original Beauty and the Beast with my friend Izzie to refresh my memory and check I was well versed before attending the new life action remake in the evening. Upon arriving back in Manchester after my contemporary writing seminar, the place to be was the print works. With it being St. Patrick's day, there were flags strung up and folk music played everywhere. It was a jolly environment befitting of a new Disney film! And the movie was amazing (plus the perfect occasion for popcorn) No spoilers but my favourite elements have to be some of the music involved (especially new tracks composed by Alan Menken) and also the costumes/setting. Particularly the design of Cogsworth (Ian Mckellen was perfect in the role) and Belle's library (which is definitely going to feature in my future house) Definitely a 4 star review from me - largely because whilst beautifully done and including a lot of the literary references from varying versions of the story, nothing can ever quite beat the original cartoon animation.  
Baking (Under Rolo's watchful gaze)
I'm struggling a little with the difference in structure of my next assignment due just before Easter. It is a reflective commentary on the presentation I gave a while ago. It was important to me that I get some work done and reward myself for it (it's an effective system when it comes to deadlines) My reward this week was experimenting with new cupcakes. The decorating was particularly fun, as I found some cases decorated in dinosaurs as well as daisy wafers (Nut free, of course) Baking is very therapeutic, because you have control over all of the ingredients you put in and, with use of a recipe, it is easy to time everything: everything has its place. If only everything assignment wise could be as simple as baking! Sometimes I think it would be better if it was because, just think, drafting a cake makes no sense. Each attempt at baking something does make it better in the long run, but cake always tastes good and you can't revise the same one. Instead you have to start again.
Daisy cupcakes - Yum!

As I write this, I am headed back to York on the train after an eventful day of packing and rehearsing with the Halle Youth Choir. We are back to work with some Sea Shanties for our ensembles concert next week, which I'm quite looking forward to. Getting back into work so soon is fun because you can really hear the Elgar coming through from the last project. Speaking of which, if you'd like to hear our performance of the Dream of Gerontius from last Sunday, it is being broadcast to BBC radio 3 tomorrow I believe so be on the lookout for that. Yet I digress - at the end of the rehearsal I received a certificate as a sort of thankyou for being a member these pay three years as did my fellow choir members who are also leaving this year. It was rather touching, particularly as we had no idea about it. It made me realise how quickly time has come around yet again. A concert next week, a rehearsal the following week and then one more concert. Not counting tour, that is all that remains of my final year as a member of the Halle Youth Choir. It is overwhelmingly sad to realise that. It makes me wish rehearsals could go on forever, which isn't something any musician really tends to say for the record. We've also started work on one of the very first pieces I ever sight read at Halle - in my first audition in fact, when I believed I wasn't going to get in! The best thing to do though is to stay optimistic and to focus on the positives (this goes for the fast approaching end of my time as a 'year one' at York St. John) Only though positivity will it be possible to make the most of these experiences. And with how fast they are passing by, all I can do is make the most of them. 
The long way home + an emotional rehearsal 
That's a rather sad note to end on, so lets find something a little brighter shall we? This week is going to be the quiet before the storm. It is the second to last week before Easter! There is much to be done in terms of finishing this gender and writing assignment before moving on to my final three assignments of the semester (all of which add up to make 5,500 words - half a dissertations worth) With much also to be done Erasmus wise, it is quite exciting to be looking forward to these things. Always something new to do, not a second to waste and this makes me extremely happy. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next. Or as Belle would say, I'm looking or the next element which is so much more than this 'provincial life'. 

P.S. - Why are Penguin publishing so many good books at the moment? I'm really excited for pretty much everything, especially Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls! What books are you looking forward to reading that have been recently released?
Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

How To: Mother's Day + Budgets

Mother's day is wonderful because it means celebrating the person you care about most. But it can be difficult on a student budget, especially if you don't know where to begin or if you find something you think would be the perfect gift but it is too expensive. The key to letting your mum know you care and creating the best mother's day present + celebration is remembering that it is the thought that counts. The more thought you put into everything, the more it will mean. Making something special doesn't mean spending hundreds of pounds, it simply means thinking of the person you care about and thinking of something which will make them happy.
If you are still struggling for ideas due to a budget, then think small and work your way up. I've compiled some tips for how to go about thinking up the perfect gift for your mum, to make sure she has the best and most relaxing day possible:
Make it something special - Copyright CLSS 2016/17
1. Mind Map Interests
The best place to begin is by gathering interests together in one place so that you can have an idea of where to begin when you do go shopping. Set aside time to do this, so that you have a good hour to work through this and create a reasonable list. It can be interesting too, to think about your mum and all of those little things which make her who she is. From her favourite colour to what her favourite movie might be. 
When you think of those interests and have them in mind, it is much easier to think about where you can start in terms of creating a gift or a celebration. The personal touches are what really add to the detail of whatever it is you choose. Perhaps you might be able to guess from knowing her favourite food what type of meal she would like to be treated to, or you could design a scarf in her favourite colour. These things become more apparent as you go.
2. Window Shopping 
Once you have those interests noted, you can go on to start shopping. Go out into the nearest town centre and begin looking around for your options. If you got to a clothes shop and find something too expensive, perhaps you could look in craft stores to see if you can make something which would allow you to make a similar thing for a cheaper price. Plus it would mean even more if you put time and effort into making something opposed to just buying it. Window shopping will allow you to list your options, just as with previously when you were mind mapping her interests. It allows the next stage of the starting point to commence, because you are able to assess your options and begin focusing in on which ones would work best. 
3. Get Creative 
As mentioned previously, being creative can be the fun alternative to buying things. Especially because of the personal touch it adds. You can be creative in a myriad of ways. Maybe you could sketch or draw something, then frame it. One year I worked on drawing a favourite family photograph so that there could be two copies in the house. You could also be creative in the essence of thinking outside of the box. Look for or make something slightly quirky that is unlike the normal. For instance, instead of just sketching the photograph, perhaps you could put it at the centre of a collage of real photographs and frame it. That way it possesses two different elements and would have a pleasant contrast if it were to be hung up in the house. 
4. Make Something 
Go one step further from the sketching and be craftier - make something! For instance, you could knit something in her favourite colour or make a meal. In previous years, I've really enjoyed getting ingredients together and baking or cooking a meal. After a long week at work, it can be just the thing your mum needs to come home and have a nice dinner waiting. Especially in the present when work and study are constantly at the top of the list, it can be a wonderful way to slow things down, to pause and to just spend some time together. Plus, cupcakes can never go wrong (try experimenting with an original flavour using different icings and toppings)
5. Time Together!

Most importantly, remember that time is the most precious of all the gifts you can give. Seperating some time from the madness of the week can be complicated throughout the whole year, but just for this one day make an exception to pause, catch up and spend time with your lovely mum. Time together, you might say, doesn't cost anything. But that is precisely why it is so priceless. You can't buy time but you can choose who you spend it with. Saying that you want to take some of your own time and share it with someone else is the best way of all to say that you care.

Hopefully this helped - but just remember, be yourself and be grateful to have the family you have. It's not about budgets afterall, it's about showing that you appreciate your mum in a small and simply thoughtful way.
Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!