Saturday, 31 March 2018

Two Years Of Blogging And Trolls

Two days ago, my two year blogging anniversary slipped quietly by. I didn't mention it on Twitter, Instagram or any of my usual platforms, instead spending the day working and relaxing at home. I considered writing about it, or even doing a giveaway as I did last year, but it didn't feel quite right. I've become somewhat disenchanted with blogging of late, and writing about how long I've spent my free time pouring myself into it for no return seemed a little depressing. Now, a few days later, I'm feeling better about it. No return? I've gained an incredible amount from my blog, but compared to others it seems like nothing. They say comparison is the thief of joy and they're right, whoever they are. 


Talking about two years of blogging

In the last two years I've gone from strength, expanding and honing my skills at writing and photography (just check out my first blog post if you fancy a laugh), learning about SEO and how to take advantage of social platforms, I've engaged with people I'd never have met and I've grown as a person. I've never stuck to anything for two weeks, let alone two years. Having my own little corner of the internet has been immensely rewarding, even if I can't always see it. 

I intend to keep blogging, and this year I really want to work hard at improving Brambling Blog. I've signed up for Sophie's Blog MOT, and I can't wait to hear what suggestions she has to improve my blog. 

I'm a very different person to who I was when I began writing on what was originally called Spare Oom. I started this as a way to escape from the fact that I was in an emotionally controlling and borderline abusive relationship, with no real end in sight. After that imploded a month or so later, I blogged to save myself from facing the reality of my living situation. I was unemployed and living back at my Mum's in the middle of nowhere, and my posts from that time have a hint of desperation underneath the words as I frantically hid how shitty I was feeling and how hopeless my future seemed. 

As un-feminist as it may sound, my boyfriend really did save me. We were old friends, and he recommended me for a job in his office, which I got after an interview in which I cracked jokes and befriended the boss like my life depended on it, because it kind of did. From then, in the space of two weeks I passed my driving test, moved back to Manchester, started my new job, dated a guy, dumped a guy and started dating my current boyfriend. It was a whirlwind time, and I wouldn't change it for the world. This last year has had its ups and down, but compared to the previous five years it was paradise. 

Now, I'm living with the best friend I could ask for, my boyfriend, I've finally started to make new friends and I'm in the process of looking for a flat to buy in the city centre. My mental and physical health are a bit up and down, mostly due to my  hidradenitis suppuritive worsening and my relationship with food, but I finally feel like I have solid platform from which to work on myself. I have a support network like never before and I feel able take the steps I need to look after myself. 

Brambling Blog is my outlet for creativity, it's the place I go to rant about life (look out for some of that on Wednesday), where I write about the things I'm passionate about, and even if I try not to admit it, I'm intensely proud of it and myself. So, to the troll who wrote on a post the other week that I'm a fat bitch, my blog is trash and I should kill myself, you can get fucked.


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Two Years of Blogging and Saying Fuck You To The Trolls

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Monday, 26 March 2018

Monday Medley #30

I've had a lovely week, and picking up two new tiny plant friends on Sunday was the cherry on the cake. It's officially Spring and there was actual sunshine in Manchester, prompting me to leave the house sans coat for the first time in about six months. The week ahead is looking great as well, as I'm meeting up with friends for board games and dinner, and of course it's only a four day work week, and it doesn't get much better than that.




READING

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Starborn by Lucy Hounsom was my book of the week, after I picked it up at the library not long ago. It's a pretty standard YA book in many ways, but I can feel that the story is going to take a darker turn and I'm ready for it. I've already borrowed Heartland and Firestorm and looking forward to seeing where the story goes.


DIGITAL

I absolutely loved Lauren's post about fashion and embracing her flaws; it's a brilliantly written piece as always and I love her outfits and how relaxed her photography is. Although social media is often criticised for imparting negativity and causing insecurity, Lauren talks about how seeing girls of all different shapes and sizes sharing their style has helped her to embrace hers.

Sophie's posts are always great, and her 36 Hours in Brussels post is no exception. The city looks stunning, and has definitely shot up on my list of European cities to visit soon. One of the nicest things about Sophie's travel posts is the fact that she always looks like she's having a great time, rather than moodily posing against a wall staring off into the distance, she's more likely to be pictured tucking into some local cuisine. It's refreshing and means she's one of the bloggers I'll always come back to.

Laura has a knack for explaining complex skincare in such a way that it makes sense to even the most novice users. Her recent post on serums is great and has resulted in me adding several of them to my ever-growing wishlist. It's well worth a read, whether you're new to skincare or just looking for some recommendations.



I can't wait for Spring to really get into the swing of it (please, NO MORE SNOW) and I'm heading to Amsterdam in a few weeks and can't wait for my first holiday of the year! Hope you're all well and enjoying the slight increase in temperature.



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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

New Beauty Buys

Way back when I first started this blog I wrote predominantly about beauty. This has definitely been phased out over time, as I realised that I actually don't know that much about skincare or makeup. This meant that all I was ever really doing was talking through the various beauty boxes I was subscribed to or hauls, and it was neither sustainable or particularly interesting. However, I do love makeup, so there will always be the odd beauty post scattered throughout the usual lifestyle and travel content, and this is one of them. After finally starting to get my eczema under control after it appeared out of nowhere a year ago, I've finally begun taking interest in beauty again. As such, I felt compelled to make a few new purchases and after some of my skincare ran out I've managed to find some new favourites.

Avene Antirougeurs Cleanser

I bought this on a whim after running out of my old favourite Kiehl's cleanser, as I've enjoyed Avene products in the past and this sounded right up my street. Turns out, it's the best cleanser I've ever used. It's designed for sensitive that's prone to redness (tick, tick) and is a lotion texture. You massage it onto a dry face and makeup just melts away, and it's also great as a second cleanse. I don't find it dries out my skin, and it doesn't leave behind any residue. Overall, it's a brilliant cleanser. I can't say whether it works to reduce redness as I haven't been using it for long enough to say for sure.

Avene Antirougeurs Clean Review

Una Brennan Super Facialist Vitamin C+ Serum

I've been after a new serum for a while, and thus far I'm really enjoying this one. Vitamin C serums generally help to brighten and improve skin texture, and this one is also packed with hyaluronic acid to boost moisture and improve the effectiveness of my moisturiser. It's not the most complicated serum out there, but at £16.99 and with a Caroline Hirons seal of approval, I'm all for it.

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Light Moisturiser

There was actually a bit left of my Kiehl's moisturiser with SPF 50, but I've fallen out of love with it of late. It was a massive pot and just seemed a bit gross after using it for so long, and it just didn't seem to be as effective as it used to be. It wasn't out of date so I'm not sure what changed, but I decided it was time for a change. Vichy generally has a pretty good reputation in the skincare world, so I grabbed this one in while in Boots. I chose the lighter formulation simply because they had run out of the heavier version, but despite my dry and dehydrated skin this seems to do the job when I layer it with a serum. It's very lightweight and absorbs almost instantly, and so far, I'm happy with it and would repurchase it.

Una Brennan Super Facialist Vitamin C+ Serum Review, Vichy Aqualia Thermal Light Review


Benefit BADgal BANG! mascara

You've no doubt seen this plastered all over the internet since the very high profile launch a few months ago. While many were initially overwhelmed that the secretive announcment was just for a mascara, it's worth bearing in mind that Benefit's mascaras are their biggest sellers, hence all the hype. However, I'm somewhat unimpressed by this mascara. I always buy the mini versions of mascaras as they go off so quickly and it means I can change things round more often. Badgal BANG! promises volume and separation without weighing down the lashes, and on some of that it does perform. It definitely volumises and separates, but it tends to clump a little bit and I find that the brush, for all that it's supposed to amazing, picks up way too much product and I have to wipe it off before using. If you use too much it tends to flake slightly throughout the day, which I'm really not a fan of. I've pretty much figured out how to make this work for me, which is basically less is more, but I already have quite long and volumised lashes that only need to be darker to stand out. If your eyelashes are different to mine you may not have as much success.


NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer in Chantilly

In pursuit of a concealer that's slightly lighter my skintone I completely failed, but I did finally find one that's about the same colour. Chantilly is a teeny bit too yellow, but it's a full coverage concealer that blends out well and covers my dark circles and redness really well. 

NARS Audacious Lipsticks in Anita and Catherine

After having some real trouble with dry and sensitive lips over winter, mine are finally back in tip-top condition and I can finally wear lipstick again! The occasion clearly called for a new lipstick (or four), and since I was over by the NARS stand anyway, I bought Anita back in September, but I've since added Catherine to my collection, as well as the two Velvet Matte Lip Pencils below. While Anita is a gorgeous and wearable dusky pink, Catherine is a brighter coral-pink and a shade I haven't really worn before. I've been really enjoying pairing this with the green coat I bought recently and it's basically my new favourite combination.

Benefit BADgal BANG!, NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer, NARS Anita, NARS Catherine

NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in Dolce Vita and Red Square

Although I enjoyed the formula of the Audacious lipsticks, it's quite creamy and not very long-lasting, and I thought the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils might have bit more staying power. Dolce Vita is very similar to Anita, and although I like it, it's much sheerer than Red Square. Dolce Vita is more like the Audacious lipsticks in formula, whereas the brilliant orange-red Red Square is much more matte and long-lasting. I really enjoy wearing it with all black as it brightens up an outfit and makes me feel Parisian, which is always a good thing.

NARS Dolce Vita, NARS Red Square


NARS Dolce Vita Swatch, NARS Catherine Swatch, NARS Anita Swatch, NARS Red Square Swatch


That's all for today, and I don't really know when I'll next write another beauty post as I only get inspiration every now and then. However, I really enjoyed writing this one as I truly love all of these products. Hope you're all well and hopefully you'll like some of my picks. TTFN!



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New skincare and makeup products, including Avene, Vichy, Una Brennan, Benefit and NARS.
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Monday, 19 March 2018

Monday Medley #29

Aside from being pretty ill for most of the week, meaning I was either conked out at home and coughing or working from my bed, I've had a good week. The weekend involved hanging out with friends I see only rarely, and since my boyfriend has also been ill we spent some really great quality time together, even if we both felt pretty crappy. The next week is looking good as well, as it's definitely time to start booking a few things for Amsterdam in a few weeks, I just got approved for an agreement in principle for a mortgage and I'm at a comedy night tomorrow (tonight for all you lovely people reading this on the day it goes live). I'm extremely excited by the prospect of buying a flat and painting it every colour under the sun, so Rightmove will be a permanent fixture in my life for the next few months.

Spot tiny Bethany on the bridge

READING

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Rather than books, this week I've been dipping into Oh Comely, an independent magazine which I bought a few weeks ago and have been neglecting. I've really enjoyed reading shorter form articles and fiction, and  the whole aesthetic of it is gorgeous, cohesive and enivable. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more issues.


DIGITAL

I love Tina's blog and its chilled out vibe, and her recent post following along on a walk is just a really beautiful and soothing read. I've really been enjoying Spring, despite the snow that rocked up yesterday smothering all the crocuses and snowdrops, and this was a lovely read that tied in with that.

Sticking with the theme of nature, Natasha's blog is always my first stop for a reminder of the beauty of the countryside. She recently shared the little icicles she's noticed around the Lake District and has said she'll be returning to blogging properly soon, which I can't wait for.

I'm so fed up of feeling like I can't say what I think or feel on the internet, especially social media, and by the sounds of it Rachel feels the same. There's a trend of "calling people out" on social media, and all it seems to do is invite criticism bordering on bullying and very rarely results in reasoned debate or conversation. I'm just bored of it.


That's it for this week, but you should definitely check out the bloggers I've mentioned and Oh Comely as they're all brilliant. Hope you all have a wonderful week!




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Saturday, 17 March 2018

Green Trench Coat | How Clothes Make Me Feel

I wrote a little thing back in October about how clothes make me feel, and after a few new purchases lately I've been thinking about how specific items inspire different emotions. I bought this coat from H&M, and I don't quite know what came over me. It's very long and forest green, doesn't button up and definitely makes a statement. 

Long Green H&M Coat, Manchester Architecture

I'll be honest, on my 5ft4, size 16 body, with all its lumps and bumps, it's not the most flattering fit. That's not the reason I bought it. As soon as I tried it on in the shop, I knew that I loved it. I think it's the swooshiness. When I was three, I absolutely loved a dress made by a family friend that was all purple chiffon, with loops that went round my wrists as if I had wings. I wore it everywhere, this fairy dress, mostly with my favourite red wellies. It was a look for sure. You'd find me climbing trees, playing on the swings and at parties in this dress; I loved it that much.

At seven, my grandparents brought back a dress for me from Spain. It was mostly white with floral details, and was very voluminous. I wore it to all the school parties and would spin around, and no one ever mentioned that you could totally see my knickers.


Long Green H&M Coat, Manchester Architecture, Lowry Hotel Bridge

When I was about thirteen, I owned a circular peasant skirt, with panels of paisley interspersed with panels of burgundy. It came to my mid-calf, and I loved how I could run downstairs and it would billow around me. I wore it constantly in summer, with sandals or barefoot and a vest top, and I bloody loved it.

As I got older, I felt like longer skirts and billowing fabrics just made me look bigger, and I started wearing things like mini-skirts, jeans and fitted jackets. I still love these things, but they don't quite have the joy of those earlier outfits. This coat brings it back.


Long Green H&M Coat, Manchester Architecture

There's no denying that it makes me look a bit bigger than I am, but I honestly don't care. Walking around in an all black outfit with this thrown over the top makes me feel like a complete badass. I love it unfastened, billowing and flapping around in all its glory. I love it belted shut, creating a bit of a waist, with it flying open around my legs as I walk. 

Long Green H&M Coat, Manchester Architecture

I feel like a cross between a wizard in robes, the wicked witch of the west, someone from the Matrix and a fairy. I feel like a child again, running and playing in the garden, spinning around at those parties, thundering down the stairs just to watch my skirt swirl around me. I think I just love voluminous skirts, lots of material and long coats. I feel like a badass and feminine at the same time, and so what if it doesn't 'suit' me? I think I look great, and I feel amazing.


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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

"When in doubt, go to the library"

Long before JK Rowling wrote those words, this little bookworm was haunting her local library, having exhausted the child-appropriate books in my own home. I had yet to take an interest in my Dad's extensive Discworld collection, instead steadily working my way through my Mum's ancient Enid Blyton books. When they ran out, I ventured into the nursery's library, followed by my primary school. Just after Reception, we moved to a new town, and I quickly fell in love with the local library. It was one of the many Carnegie libraries, built in 1906 and is now Grade II listed. I spent a great deal of my childhood raiding those shelves, and it holds a lot of my happy memories from the age of five to eighteen. 

Manchester Central Library Reading Room

It's a mysterious building, placed smack-bang in the centre of our small town surrounded by busy roads on all sides. It's a red brick building typical of the area, with a large main hall packed to the brim with books. Three towers top the building which I never gained access to, the staircases presumably hidden behind staff doors. I always imagined that a witch or wizard lived in the highest tower, and before I understood electricity, I thought that perhaps they practised their spells during storms, which was why the library always got hit by lightning. 

I have fond memories of my late grandad taking me to the library after school at least once a week. He'd sit at a table and read the paper for half an hour while I wandered around, armed with three library cards so I could take out as many books as I wanted. I remember when they were actually made of card and you could only take out three books at a time. I used to go with mine, my brother's and my grandad's cards, enabling me to take out nine books, which I'd return in two weeks or so. After they digitised the process, the lovely lady who ran the library managed to up the limit from the standard seven books per card to fourteen for me, simply because I'd known her since I was tiny. I remember being delighted, as the new system enabled me to keep track of the books I'd read online and they would now finally all be under my own name. I remember logging in once and reading that I'd taken out over a thousand books in three years. 

Manchester Central Library Reading Room

I didn't always finish the books I took out, constantly experimenting with genres and age ranges, but in the last five years or so I've been in a real reading rut. As a teenager I would grab Dickens, Garth Nix, Cecelia Ahern and Herman Melville in the same week (although I very quickly decided that women's romance novels were not my thing), these days I tend to always pick the same kind of book. I've been trying to branch out a bit lately, reading my usual fantasy but also a bit of sci-fi, crime, historical and non-fiction. I've had mixed results, but I'm enjoying reading different things.

The photos in this post were taken in Manchester Central Library, which I didn't exactly discover recently since I walk past it every day, but I only started actually taking out books this month. Considering how much I can (and do) spend on books, I thought perhaps it was time to return to my old habit of haunting the stacks, searching for something new. It doesn't really feel the same. I haven't been back to my old library since my Grandad died. I just had a little cry after realising that; we spent so much time there together, and it was really our place. He died several years ago, but that's the way with grief: you think you've stopped being sad and then every now and then it hits you like a wave. My boyfriend and I just made plans to go back so I can see the place which holds so many magical memories for me. It was the place I discovered Narnia, The Old Kingdom and Discworld. It was where my love of books was really cemented, where I hid from the world of school where I didn't fit in. It was safe and warm, a place where I was welcome and knew my way. It was my turf. 

Manchester Central Library Reading Room

For all that my trip to Manchester Library wasn't the same as my old as my memories of childhood, it was never going to be. However, it was inspiring, with the Reading Room my favourite place. It's a huge domed room that's filled with that soft hush you only find in libraries. The slightest sounds echo and fade in a comforting way, and there are always people absorbed in books or tapping away quietly on laptops. It's a place of focus and dreams and is big enough for all the minds within to wander and think freely. I always feel like I think better in a larger space. Some of my best work at university was done when I regularly broke into the Senate Room where the vice-chancellor held important meetings with important people. It was a huge domed room that looked up to the sky, hidden away up unobtrusive staircases. You could press a button and the blinds would open or close, and I used to sit in the huge mahogany and leather chairs and spread my work across the giant circular desk. The Reading Room is just like that; no minds bumping into each other as they swirl around.

I love libraries for the way they offer the opportunity to be alone while being surrounded by people, and they hold thousands upon thousands of worlds in which you can inhabit for a brief time. They're places of magic and realism, often beautiful buildings with magnificent architecture. Even libraries that are little more than a box have the power to offer refuge and escape, so filled are they with stories. I don't think I'll ever stop loving them.



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Monday, 12 March 2018

Monday Medley #28

Okay so I've been a bit behind with my blogging game lately, but you got an extra post in which I rambled about the wonder that is my Mum yesterday so I'm sure you're fine with it. If not, keep an eye out because I'm finally catching up on my workload as I now work from home two days a week, which is the best thing ever and I'm super grateful to my boss for letting me.


READING

PRINT

I'm just over halfway through Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and it's bloody great. It travels through time and down a family tree that begins with two sisters raised apart in the Asante and Fante tribes. One sister is sold into slavery and the other marries a white slave trader; their respective lives are very different, and the paths of their descendants varies greatly. I know only a little about the slave trade from my school history lessons, and my knowledge of pre-colonial Africa is patchy at best, but so far I've found this book an absolutely beautiful read, frequently moved by the depth of its characters, some of whom we only know for a few pages before moving onto another. 


DIGITAL

There were two blog posts I absolutely fell for this week, and Hayley's post on her love of bread really summed up how I feel about the carby miracle that is all things baked. Bread is actually magical, and for anyone (everyone) who's ever bitten into a fresh roll slathered with butter, or simply hummed with joy after stuffing their mouth full of a garlic naan while eating a hot curry, this is the blog post for you.

Chloe's blog features a lot in these posts, but she's just that good. She can turn a phrase better than pretty much anyone in the industry, and I'm pretty sure she could write about grass growing and I'd love it. Her recent post about the financial aspects of the blogging industry is excellent, combining her usual frankness and insight brilliantly, and basically asking people that if you can make money with your blog, why the hell wouldn't you? People are still uncomfortable with the female-dominated and content-driven nature of blogging, meaning I often see posts saying that blogging should be more of a hobby than a business. For me it definitely is, but if you want to make your money this way, then you have absolutely every right to do so and I'll support you all the way.

WATCHING

I had never watched Married At First Sight before this season and I was outraged to learn that it was only four episodes long. I became extremely invested in everyone involved and cried on multiple occasions, and I now need to go back and watch all previous series if they're as emotional as this one.

Masterchef is back. I hope you read that in India Fisher's voice because, let's be real, her voice is so damn sultry. I am living for Masterchef this year and am very much enjoying people screw up fondants (both chocolate and potato) and am always just as blown away as the judges whenever a contestant pulls it out of the bag. I always forget how many evenings every week it takes up though, as I'm only realising just how much time I spend watching it now that I'm living with my boyfriend and want to spend time with him. 


That's all for this week, I'll see you next Monday for my faves from the week ahead!




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Sunday, 11 March 2018

On Mothers' Day

Word of warning for the stone-hearted or eye-rolling types: ~emotions~ lie ahead. My Mum and brother are my best friends, but my Mum is also my hero. My Mum, younger brother and me are a very tight-knit trio, having been through a lot together. I won't go into details here, but my Mum has made sacrifices on an unimaginable scale for my brother and I, protecting us from the entire world and raising us on her own. We've turned out to be pretty stable and well-adapted people (perhaps all equally bonkers but in a friendly kind of way), and if I do even 10% as well as my Mum when I'm one day a mother I'll consider it a job well done. Since it's Mothers' Day, I thought I'd share ten amazing things about my Mum, and explain a little bit about why I have so much respect, love and gratitude for her. 

This extremely grainy photo is courtesy of a holiday in 2009, when my Mum had a serious tan and I had a serious bangle addiction.


UN: She's a complete crazy cat lady, and if our cat wasn't such a grumpy bugger who hates other cats she'd have a house full by now. Despite this, she does NOT want any more cat-themed presents because we've been giving her them for years, and now only do it for the exasperated expression when she unwraps ANOTHER cat print tea towel.

DEUX: She's got the most amazing olive skin and is going to look so badass when she goes properly grey. She's currently growing out several years of dying it brown and I can't wait for her to be completely grey. Also, no, she will not be cutting her hair short no matter how old she gets. She was made to have short hair for way too long and it looks fab long.

TROIS: One of her favourite things to do is ironing (are we even related?), except for bed sheets even though they're the easiest thing to do.

QUATRE: I may be into my fantasy and sci-fi like my Dad, but my Mum is all about the crime novel. I don't really get the fascination when there isn't at least a historical or fantastical twist; what do you mean he isn't secretly a vampire and it's just set in modern day? 

CINQ: She went back to working full time before I was four months old to support our family through difficult times. She worked ridiculously hard for us and changed all of her plans for the sake of others. Apparently, the nursery used to pop me under the Christmas tree and I'd just stare at the baubles and lights for hours.

SIX: She somehow survived my insane teenage moodswings. I'm especially thinking of the times when the pill sent me absolute off-the-scale bonkers during lower sixth, and I screamed at her when she suggested I wasn't ready for uni, or when I got it into my head the Grudge was real (despite never having even seen the film) and I was refusing to have a shower because I thought it would show up. She locked me in the bathroom until I had a shower while in absolute hysterics, and I remember her just stifling laughter at the absurdity (for real though, I was pretty much delusional and this is why I do not touch hormonal meds). She put up with my absolute insanity and helped me figure out what was wrong with patience, understanding and minimal giggling.

SEPT: She taught me French so well that I still dream in it on occasion, and can slip back into the basics so easily. I'm a long way from fluent, but I can definitely get around France and navigate a menu without really thinking about it.

HUIT: She instilled a great love of reading in me from a very young age. It started with her ancient Enid Blyton books which have both of our childhood scrawls in, thirty years apart. She bought me my first fantasy book, Tamora Pierce's Alanna: The First Adventure, which changed everything for me. 

NEUF: She gave my brother and I incredibly privileged lives, with amazing holidays at least once a year, everything we wanted (within reason), and above all, a happy and welcoming home.

DIX: She always saves me. Whether it was supporting me financially so I could pay rent on two flats at once to escape a toxic and dangerous flatmate, picking me up and taking me in after a devastating breakup, driving me home despite just having had a knee operation or countless other scenarios, I know that if I need her, she's there. She refuses to downsize her house until my brother and I both own property, so that we always have a place to go back to. No matter where I am in the world, and I really mean anywhere, I know that if I really need her she'll come and get me. She's picked me up in the middle of the night from my flat in Birmingham when I was running a fever and was alone, she's ferried me all over the country to see friends and family, she's paid for holidays to the other side of the world and waved me off with tears in her eyes. No matter where I go she's always there, waving goodbye or welcoming me home. 


I'm a little bit in awe of her, even though I'm now grown up and see her as a person rather than an all-knowing deity; in fact, I think I'm even more in awe now that I actually understand who she is and how she got there. She gave up everything for my brother and I. I almost can't believe she's real. I know she's not superhuman, although I did kind of think this as a child. Now I know she's a very real, very hardworking and astonishingly kind woman. I love her more than I can say and I'm more grateful than I ever will be to anyone. She's an incredible woman and I know how lucky I am to have her as my mother. Her name is Dawn, and she's my hero.




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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Five Things I Wish I'd Done in Japan

You're probably sick of me banging on about it by now, but in case you missed it, I spent just shy of two weeks in Japan in September last year. It was a complete whirlwind of a trip, as my brother and I bounced around the Kansai area preparing for his year abroad. We figured out the initially mind-boggling public transport system, ate some questionable pizza and excellent ramen, and generally had a brilliant time depsite both of us having colds. 


As much as I enjoyed that trip, there's no denying that ten days is far too little time in a country as diverse and sprawling as Japan. We spent our time exclusively in Kansai, with only short hops outside of Osaka to visit Kobe and Kyoto. However, my brother has now been living in Japan for almost seven months and I am intensely jealous. He's spent a great deal of time travelling around Japan, having just got back from Hokkaido last week. The spectacularly diverse architecture, landscapes and culture he's described to me are really drawing me back in. When we visited Japan I liked it but I wasn't blown away, but looking back I think it's because I didn't really give myself time to fall in love with it. The one place I've ever truly loved is New Zealand, and I spent almost a month there getting a feel for the place and the people. I think Japan deserves a second chance.

From listening to my brother's stories and constantly swiping through his photos, plus a little research of my own, I'm pretty sure that I know what I want to do when I finally head back to Japan, whenever that may be.

Nara

I know, you're probably screaming at me, asking how on earth I didn't manage to visit Nara while I was in Osaka. It's about an hour's train journey out of the city and very easy to get to, and the main attraction is the giant temple complex which is populated by the adorable Nara deer. If they weren't cute enough already, the deer have picked up Japanese manners, bowing politely when they want food. It's easily one of the most popular sights in Japan, and the only reason my brother and I didn't go was we were pressed for time and horribly ill on the day we were supposed to go. I'm pretty gutted we didn't get the chance but I will definitely go one day!

Hokkaido

Japan's climate varies massively, from the tropical islands in the South to the freezing North, and I really want to experience both ends of the spectrum. Hokkaido in Winter is a snow-covered paradise, and the photos my brother sent of him thigh deep in snow (for context he's 6 foot 3) make we want to go even more. I've only ever experienced really deep snow while skiing in Northern Italy, and I really want to experience it in a non-European setting. Maybe not for a while though, as I'm truly sick of snow after this Winter. Hokkaido is very different from the rest of Japan, conquered several hundred years after the rest of Japan had been settled, and it still retains a hint of it's former Ainu culture. The food is slightly different, focusing more on warm, filling food for those harsh winters, which frankly sounds right up my street.

Kyoto - properly

I spent three days in Kyoto on my own, and was pretty ill with a combination of a cold and sunstroke for two of those days. I did manage to squeeze in most of the sights I really wanted to see, but I'm conscious of just how much I missed out on. I successfully (sort of, it was a traumatic journey involving me being very lost) made it to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which was amazing, as well as the Fushimi Inari shrine, but I definitely need to go back and see Kinkaku-ji and take in more of Kyoto in general. I ate very little of the local food, and saw very little of the city itself, something I deeply regret.

Tokyo

I was in Japan for ten days and never made it to Tokyo. It didn't make sense for that trip, as we were there primarily to get to grips with the language and the city of Osaka where my brother is based, which we definitely succeeded in doing. However, by not visiting Tokyo and not really seeing that much of central Osaka, I feel like I missed out on experiencing much of modern Japan. I saw lots of temples and really tried to immerse myself in old Japan, but on such a short schedule modern Japan sort of fell by the wayside. I did stay in a capsule hotel, which was hilarious, but I feel like I didn't really get chance to experience life in Japan today.

Okinawa

Okinawa is the largest island in the Okinawan and Ryukyu chains that lie far to the South of mainland Japan. The islands are home to some of the longest-lived people in the world, and the tropical climate and unique diet is supposed to be something to do with that. Okinawan culture is greatly removed from many aspects of Japan in many ways, with a great deal in common with other Pacific Island cultures. It's a completely different way of life and has a lot of history, especially with respect to WWII as it was strategically important for the US, and there remains a US military presence on the islands to this day. To me, it sounds like the perfect way to round off a holiday in Japan, soaking up the tropical sun and relaxing on the beaches and absorbing a completely different way of Japanese life.

I'm determined to eventually go back to Japan, whether alone or with someone else, but there are so many places out there I'd like to see that I don't think it's top of my list at the moment. Maybe next year!


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