Why I’m Grateful To My Anxiety

I think this is the first time I’ve written about mental health on this blog, so its a bit of a tricky post to write. I want to start by saying that by saying I’m ‘grateful’ to my experience with anxiety I’m not diminishing the impact it can have on people’s lives – it can be utterly shit, and people suffer from it in many different ways. Instead, I’m trying to highlight some of the ‘good’ things that have come out of anxiety for me – always look on the bright side and all that!

For a little bit of context, I first remember having anxiety badly when I was in year 7 or 8 – I was suddenly scared to leave my house or parents, struggling to walk to school and function when I wasn’t with my parents. I ended up having counselling for a year or so and then kept it under control until the last couple of years when it got bad enough again for me to see another counsellor at college. In my experience, when you’re struggling with anxiety or depression or anything like that, it can be so hard to motivate yourself to try and get better – it can be difficult to get out of bed, to see a counsellor, to listen to what the counsellor is telling you. One thing I’m incredibly proud of is that I’ve almost always been open to trying to get better – and one time when I was struggling to care I was able to recognise that this was different to how I’d felt before, and that I needed to see somebody.

kynance cove

But onto the title of this post – why I’m grateful to have had an experience of anxiety, especially as young as I was. Granted, it probably would’ve been preferable to go through life with no mental health issues at all, but I’m sceptical that anybody has that experience.

One major thing anxiety and counselling taught me is strategies – for overcoming the voice inside my head, for pushing myself out of my comfort zone and for doing the things that scare me. When I was 11 or 12 and first having counselling I remember saying to my mum that I wish I could just be ‘normal’ and not need to see a counsellor, and to be able to do things without being so scared all the time. My mum responded with something that’s stuck with me ever since – she said that at some point in their life, everybody is going to be faced with something like anxiety, or having to really push themselves past their comfort zone, and I was just learning the strategies to deal with it earlier, while I was lucky enough to still be in the ultra-supportive environment of my family. That helped me to feel more ‘normal’ and to understand the value of learning how to look after your mental health early in life. Similarly, having all my strategies sorted at a young age meant that when I came to some really stressful periods – like in the months preceding my final IB exams a few months ago – I was able to control my stress and nerves pretty successfully. I’m also l going to uni in two weeks and I’m nervous, but I know that I have enough strategies to confident that I can deal with my nerves.

Another reason I’m “grateful” to have anxiety is because it has (in my humble opinion) made me better at helping my friends. I’ve discovered in the last couple of years that actually quite a few of my friends have had mental health issues of their own, and my early experience of it has helped me support them – I can show them that you can learn to live with and overcome it, can suggest strategies and can be a shoulder to cry on that actually kinda understands a bit of how shit they feel. Its also helped me to discover just how many of my friends have also had experiences of anxiety or counselling, because it helps me to understand that its OK not to feel OK. I’m also really glad that I can use my experiences to help my friends, because isn’t that part of a good friendship?

Anxiety has also taught me that I’m an incredibly determined person and I’m capable of so much more than I believe I am. For example, when I was experiencing probably my worst period of anxiety since year 7, in early 2017, I was also due to be going on a week-long college trip to New York without knowing anybody on the trip – and the girl I had made friends with at the pre-trip meetings had to pull out a week before due to illness. Safe to say, I was terrified, but using a combination of my old and new strategies I went on, and enjoyed, the trip. I now use that trip as a reference point whenever I’m feeling anxious about something – if I can go to New York for a week not knowing anybody, I can do X. Similarly, I know I’m strong enough not to let my anxiety hold me back from making difficult decisions – despite all the unknowns and scary things of leaving the familiarity of my school and my friends and the knowledge my family had of A-levels, I chose to push myself and go to college to do the IB, which turned out to be absolutely the right decision. I ignored all the voices saying it would be easier to stay at school where my head of house knew about my anxiety and where I was with people I’d known for years and instead went to college – something I’m incredibly proud of.

So those are the main reasons I’m oddly grateful – or maybe have made peace with the facet – for my experiences with anxiety. Have you had anything positive come from your experiences with mental health?

 

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A Travel Guide: A Weekend In Edinburgh

Last weekend, Edinburgh gained the coveted crown of my new favourite city. First it was London, then New York, then Seville, now Edinburgh (actually, it just seems to go in order of places I’ve visited, but never mind). I was there from Friday to Tuesday morning, staying with my godparents and getting my first experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I figured I’d give you a quick rundown of the shows I saw, for anyone who’s wondering what to see or is just interested, plus more general things we did and my overall impressions of Edinburgh!

(For those who don’t know what the Fringe is – one of my friends asked why I had to go all the way to Scotland to get a fringe when I told him where I was going – the Fringe is an arts and comedy festival that takes place throughout the whole of August)

edinburgh-fringe-prosecco-bar

Before I go into a bit more detail about what I actually did in Edinburgh, I have to say that the Fringe is overwhelmingly amazing. There’s so many incredible shows, both free and paid, plus all the street performers on the Royal Mile, it’s hard to know where to start. The approach we took, which worked pretty well, was to book a couple of shows in advance, see some free Fringe stuff that we got given leaflets for and also go to a paid show that we got a flyer for that turned out to be absolutely brilliant. Also, quick side note – so many bloggers seemed to be there according to Instagram? I don’t know if I was just more aware of it because I was there but every other Insta story and tweet was either someone saying they were there or asking for recommendations because they were going soon!

edinburgh-fringe-fairy-lights

Anyway, onto the actual shows – on Saturday night we saw Nina Conti, a ventriloquist whose primary puppet is a monkey. She also got the audience involved by picking people out and basically doing ventriloquism on them with varying accents – hard to describe but very funny! My godfather and I then went to see Circolombia at the Circus Hub, who were absolutely incredible. They’re a circus group, all from Colombia (hence the name) who combine all sorts of incredible circus acts, often involving aerial stuff, with music and dance. They were unexpectedly brilliant (although mildly terrifying to watch at points) and got a fully deserved standing ovation at the end.

On Sunday we went for a more spontaneous approach, watching a few street performers on the Royal Mile before watching a student comedy sketch show as part of the Free Fringe. As my godfather said, it was a proper ‘Fringe experience‘, in an upstairs room of a bar that sold incredibly strong cocktails (beating Seville to become the strongest mojito I’ve ever had), covered in graffiti and with a slightly odd odour. The show itself was a bit mixed, but it was a really fun experience and I now feel like I’ve properly done the Fringe. We then went to another student show, this time paid, that we got a flyer for earlier in the day. It was an ‘improv musical’, where the audience pick the characters, location and title, and help provide plot suggestions halfway through. Ours ended up with the main characters of Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies and ‘everybody’s grandma’, set in a toilet block, with the title of ‘Tink in the Stink’. It was absolutely hilarious, and ended with Tinky Winky and his grandma (?!) falling in love.

We then moved onto my final show of the Fringe, which was a performance by Exeter University acapella group Semi-Toned, who I then interviewed for local radio (spot the budding journalist!). They were a bit different to most acapella groups in that they interwove the songs with some comedy bits (and some admittedly dodgy acting), which helped to make it feel a bit more like a Fringe show than just a concert.

semi-toned-edinburgh-fringe

The next day we went back into central Edinburgh, though not for the Fringe – we first had lunch at the Boozy Cow (highly recommend – the burgers are amazing and you get kitchen roll and a tray instead of plates and cutlery), before a trip to a chihuahua café!!! There were eight chihuahuas in total, and they were all adorably cuddly, especially when it was time to feed them! There was also some decent watermelon cake too, which is always a bonus…

We then walked back to Waverley Station through Princes Street Gardens, which were beautiful and had a really nice, buzzy atmosphere. I was obviously visiting during the best time, being the height of summer and full of the excitement of the festival, but the whole city had such a nice atmosphere of excitement the whole weekend, even when the weather was cloudy and damp (which, being Scotland, it was quite a lot of the time). Another thing I’d mention as worth a brief visit is the Scotsman Steps – they link the Old and New parts of Edinburgh, and each step is made of a different marble, so they look pretty impressive (although they’re pretty lethal during wet weather!).

Have you visited Edinburgh lately? What are your recommendations? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Blogging in 2018

As some of you may know, I first started blogging in March 2014 (read my first ever blog post here!), with my blog names Books, Tea and a Onesie’, under the alias of ‘An Overthinking Teenager’. Several name changes later, I took an unplanned break from blogging from around summer 2016 until, well, now – GCSEs made me busy, then I never really got back into the flow of it and then I started studying the IB at college, which meant I was seriously limited for time and honestly just wanted to collapse in front of Netflix when I got home.

But now I’m back, and attempting to get back into blogging regularly – partly because I enjoy getting thoughts out of my head and into the internet, partly because after finishing exams in May I’m honestly getting quite bored and also because I like having it as a kind of time capsule of my life right now, to look back on in however many years.

After two years away though, I’ve discovered the blogging world is quite different to how I left it. During my unofficial hiatus, I’ve only really kept up with reading a few ‘big’ blogs – namely Hannah Gale, Vix Meldrew, Sophie Cliff and Chloe Plumstead – and occasionally chatting to some of my OG blogger friends on Twitter. Turns out, a lot has changed without me noticing, especially amongst the ‘smaller’ blogger community that I always felt I was part of.

Some of the bloggers I used to be good friends with or a keen follower of have stopped blogging, either with a stated ‘goodbye’ or just a gradual tailing off of posts and online presence, like me. Instagram is no longer the golden platform for bloggers it used to be – the general consensus (or at least what I can glean from Twitter) is that Instagram is just not friendly to small bloggers, it’s incredibly difficult to see meaningful growth and engagement and, frankly, it’s just not worth the effort. I can relate to this – as much as I like the visual aesthetic of Instagram, it really doesn’t seem worth the effort to build up my following and spend so much time on social media just for aesthetic purposes – I can do that with my personal Instagram account, after all. Twitter has a much nicer, more engaged community in my experience, and is just so much more rewarding for the effort you put in. It also feels a lot more real – Instagram is full of filters and staged photos, compared to Twitter’s unfiltered thoughts and conversations.

Another big difference is the form of the ‘small blogger’ community itself. When I was starting out (*leans on walking stick and peers through glasses* back in my day…), there was a community of blogs with small followings, building them up slowly and almost all with .wordpress.com or Blogger domains. Now, people seem to be starting up blogs and getting thousands of Twitter followers within a month, or going self-hosted right from the start – all at the age of 15+. This is obviously great – who doesn’t want bloggers to be successful, and I ‘ve always secretly dreamed of going self hosted – but I have no idea how people are doing it? I’ve had my Twitter account for around three years, and have just under 500 followers (though admittedly it’s only recently I’ve become really active on there) (PS follow me @mixomuseblog). People are getting hundreds of views a day after just a couple of months of blogging, which is just unimaginable to me. Maybe it’s something to do with the way the internet’s evolved over the last four years, or maybe people are just putting a lot more effort and time into promoting themselves, but it’s definitely something that surprised me.

There’s another difference about my blogging in 2018 versus in 2014 – one related more to me. I still have no idea what my blogging ‘niche’ is, or what I’m doing generally, but I’m a lot more confident in what I’m doing as a person. When I was younger, I was terrified of people finding out about my blog, and although lots of people still don’t know about it – I’ve told a few people over the years but I have no idea if they still read it (hi if you do! Tell me!) – I’m not totally opposed to telling people about it. Depending on whether I actually keep this blog going on a long-term basis, anyway…

Also, does anyone actually use Bloglovin’ or the WordPress reader anymore?

Has anyone else been blogging from 2014ish? Have you noticed much change in the blogging world? If you’re a new blogger, what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, @mixomuseblog!

music of the month: july

June/July was a busy month for me music-wise, with an Ed Sheeran gig and Ocean City Sounds in Plymouth, with Ella Eyre and Bastille. The Mamma Mia 2 soundtrack has also been making regular appearances in my playlist, which you may be able to guess from this list of my top tracks from last month…

U.N.I.// ed sheeran

There are so many Ed Sheeran songs I could’ve put on here, but I’ve gone for U.N.I. because it seems to be so underrated?? It’s quite old but I love it, especially the line “and I don’t get waves of missing you anymore/they’re more like tsunami tides in my eyes” (I’m always a sucker for something a bit poetic/with a geography reference) Also – if you like this, try ‘Cold Coffee’

high hopes//panic at the disco!

Everyone goes through a Panic at the Disco! phase, right? I had mine a year or so again, but it’s been well and truly reignited with the release of his new album, Pray for the Wicked. High Hopes alwayyys gets me awkward-robot-dancing in my desk chair (doing this as I type) and I love the chorus and the little brass bits. Other highlights from the album (aka the only other songs I’ve heard) are Say Amen (Saturday Night) and Dancing’s Not A Crime.

a little more//alessia cara

After not loving the first release from Alessia Cara since 2016 (:(() I’m very glad she then released A Little More, which I’ve listened to a ridiculous amount of times. It’s not the cheeriest song, but it’s chilled and is nice in the evenings.

eastside//benny blanco with Halsey and Khalid

This was co-written by Ed Sheeran, and you can definitely hear his influence, but it also feels fresh. It’s a good walking soundtrack, and I just really like it to be honest. Not got much more to say.

why did it have to be me?, andante andante, when I kissed the teacher & angel eyes//mamma mia 2 soundtrack

Let me start by stating that Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! is a true masterpiece of modern cinema (and I did film at college so I’m 100% qualified to make that statement). I loved it so much I’m going to see it for the second time next week with friends, and I’ve been listening to these songs on repeat, especially when I’m not in the best mood and want to cheer myself up.

medicine//new hope club

I found this either in Spotify’s Discover Weekly or New Releases, and the only other song of theirs I’ve heard is Fixed, but I definitely think I need to keep a closer eye on their music – I like everything I’ve heard so far!

don’t leave me alone//David Guetta ft Anne-Marie

Well this is a summer bop if I ever heard one (blame Elly for getting the word ‘bop’ into my vocabulary), I’ve kinda run out of things to say but I 10/10 recommend (I’m going to spin it and say my lack of description makes it a fun ~mystery song~)


What songs have you been listening to in July? Thoughts on my favourites?

Snapping Myself Out of It

Today started off as a rough day for me. It was one of those days when you just wake up feeling shitty, and you can’t figure out why, and even worse I had the day off. Normally when I feel like this I get over it by being busy, and over the last month or so I’ve been working pretty much nonstop, either on work experience or waitressing or otherwise seeing friends. Today, however, I had no plans, and as most of my friends are on holiday/one of my best friends is living abroad for a year, I really struggled to snap out of it. I didn’t really have anything to do out of the house and I just didn’t know how to sort myself out, as much as I wanted to.

But I managed it, and I’m so proud of myself. I stuck on the Mamma Mia 2 soundtrack, got in a bit of online shopping (the Urban Outfitters sale is currently 10/10 by the way), and I made myself an amazing breakfast. Then, when I still wasn’t really feeling it, I made an updated ‘happy’ playlist (appropriately titled ‘snap out of it’) and whacked on some eyeliner and a bit of dry shampoo, and instantly felt 1000x better. The rest of the day then carried on OK, with a bit of reading, a bit of rewatching Love Island series 3 (because we all know it was infinitely better than this year’s season), and tidying up some of the mess in my room.

So yeah, I guess I just wanted to document how I managed to pull myself out of feeling shit. More interesting posts to come, promise!

Appreciating The Things That Make Me Happy

It sometimes feels like everywhere you turn – and especially every time you complain about something – you see messages and get told to appreciate the things you’re happy about. This can be seriously annoying at times, but whilst I’m sat on the sofa feeling depressed about doing an 11 hour waitressing shift tomorrow, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to put together a bit of a list of the stuff thats making me happy right now – because if so many people say to count your blessings, there must be some logic in it, right??

Enjoying my work

Despite the aforementioned feeling of dread at this week’s three 11 hour shifts – and the 7 hour shifts last week and next week – I’m almost, dare I say it, enjoying work at the moment. I’ve got a casual summer job with my local uni’s catering company and as I’ve already done quite a few shifts this summer, largely the same type, I’ve got to know quite a lot of the people I’m working with (more impressive than it may seem at first, given I have around 400 potential coworkers!), which has made the daunting task of walking into a super long shift where you’re working with 30+ other people significantly easier. I’m not sure I know anyone working tomorrow, but I’m gonna try and keep myself feeling okay about it, seeing as there’s bound to be at least one person I recognise!

Friends

I’ve been finding myself feeling a little down about some of my friendships lately, largely because one of my closest friends left a month ago to spend a year in Denmark, and I’m not seeing her till Christmas. I’ve been a bit surprised about how much I’ve missed her, but I’m trying to stick in the mindset of ‘at least how much I miss her has shown how much I value her as a friend’. Plus, I’m visiting Copenhagen in December to see her, which is bound to be amazing! I’ve also got another best friend spending a month in America, which is a little tough, but I’m getting to spend more time with some people I used to be friends with at school, which I doubt will be as fulfilling and close as my main friendships, but it can never hurt to have more friends, right?! Also, another of my best friends got back from a year abroad in Provence last week so I can’t wait to see her!!

Independence

I recently passed my driving test (so recently I’m having to use my passport as ID until my licence arrives…) and the ability to just up sticks and go out for the day without relying on buses or train times is so refreshing. It’s let me go and do fun stuff with my friends in more places than I normally can, and it’s great just not to have to rely on anyone.

The weather

Because I am British through and through, the amazing weather we’ve got at the moment had to feature in here. It’s a seriously weird feeling being able to go out without a jumper or a jacket, wearing my bikini three times already this summer (!!) and being able to wear my ‘foreign holiday’ clothes about ten times more than normal!

University

Finally, ever since I got my IB results  I’m so excited to get to uni. I knew where I was going anyway (Birmingham, in case anyone’s interested) because of the nature of my offer, but something about getting my results made a switch flick in my head and I’ve gone from being predominantly nervous to insanely excited. It helps that I’ve recently been able to officially register for uni and I’m finding out about my accommodation in the next two weeks, so I guess it’s all becoming a bit more real. I’m also proud of myself that I’m feeling this way, because I’ve previously been so anxious about going to uni – it feels like a real breakthrough for me, and even if I turn into a wobbly mound of butterflies nearer the time, I’m proud of how I’m feeling now.

What things are making you happy at the moment?

Surviving the IB

I mentioned in my first post in nearly two years that I’d been studying the IB, and at some point wanted to write a post about it. Though I’m not really sure I have any special wisdom to offer, I have now totally completely utterly finished the IB, having got my results today, and it feels wrong to have barely written about something that my life has basically revolved around for the last two years.

I started the IB in September 2016, after leaving it to the last minute to decide whether to do A-Levels at my old school sixth form or swap to the local college for IB. For those (read: 80% of the global population) who don’t have a clue what the IB is – here’s the basic rundown:

  • IB stands for International Baccalaureate
  • It’s equivalent to UK A-levels
  • You take 6 subjects (3 standard, which is kinda like an AS level, and 3 higher which are closer to full A levels)
  • You also study Theory of Knowledge and that’s examined by a presentation and essay, the grades of which are combined with the grade for a 4000-word essay on a topic of your choice to produce a score out of 3
  • Each subject is out of 7 points (7=A*, 6=A etc) and adds up to 45 points
  • You also have to do 50 hours each of sport, service and creative activities and a project based on these three strands which don’t have any points attached but are required to gain the diploma

So yeah, that’s what I’ve spent the last couple of years doing. IB generally has a reputation for being quite challenging (aka bloody difficult), but I remember thinking in the first term that it really wasn’t very hard?? I think I actually asked my tutor if I had missed some massive chunk of work or something? Turns out, they just make the first term easy and then start piling on the work after Christmas, and don’t really stop – the summer holidays were basically an extra term, because exams are really early on in May.

Second year was especially hard – it seemed like there was coursework after coursework, then mocks, then oral exams, and it just never ended – if anything, reaching the final exams was a relief because all we had to be doing was revising! It was especially tough at some points too when there were issues with my coursework due to various teachers, and it felt like I was working myself to the bone only for everything to go wrong. That was one of the reasons I actually burst into tears when I opened my results – I was so scared all the work I put in would be for nothing, like with some of my coursework, that it was such a shock for it to actually be reflected in my results. Even thinking about my score now I’m starting to happy cry!!

IB was an amazing experience though. Yes, it was hard and felt like it was never going to end, but the feeling of achievement at finishing it – and with a score above my predicted grades and way above what I even dreamt of achieving – is the best feeling I’ve ever had, and possibly the proudest I’ve ever been of myself. I’ve formed some amazing friendships – what can I say, there’s nothing to bond a group of 40 teenagers like two years of academic hell – and would do it again (only slightly ironic given I spent two years mocking a poster which quoted someone saying they would absolutely choose to do IB again). It was a crazy couple of years, and I’m honestly not sure I know how to relax anymore, but it taught me how much stronger I am than I thought, and how I can do so much more than I think I can.

I think the best way to describe IB would be in the words of an ex-student who came in to talk to us at the start of second year – prior to this we’d just had visits from students who scored 45 and made a career out of giving study advice to IB students, so this guy who scored around 32 was a breath of fresh air. He told us honestly that second year was going to be shit – that we would be so stressed we’d burst into tears at knocking a cup of tea over (though this is indeed a very sad occasion) and that it would be hideously difficult at times, but he also said that the feeling of putting your pen down after the final exam and knowing you’d survived the IB – even if you didn’t pass it – would make it all worth it. That advice really kept me going in the last few months, and is so, so true. There’s probably some deep analogy for the struggles of life in there, but I’ll leave that as a mystery, seeing as my brain has now officially signed out for summer!

I have no idea if this post was interesting or not, but it was fun for me to write down a bit of the rollercoaster that was IB – and if you’ve got any questions about it obviously just ask!

 

music of the month – june

I’ve only recently curated my April-and-May-and-June playlist into one that just has the stuff I’m enjoying in June, so I figured I’d set myself the challenge of narrowing it down even further, from 168 songs to my top ten. I’m also going to predict there’s a 98% chance there’ll be more than 10 songs on this list by the end of it, but a girl can try and be decisive.

1 – A Large Amount of Ed Sheeran

Going straight in there and breaking my own self-created rules, I’m gonna just say 75% of Ed Sheeran’s discography – I saw him live in Cardiff last week and ever since I’ve been stuck in that phase of rediscovering every song he’s ever released and how much I love the all. Current favourites are definitely You Need Me I Don’t Need You, UNI and New Manthough.

2 – Quarter Past Midnight, Bastille

omg. this song. is one that I very much like and I’ve not had enough chance to talk about with other people, so if you’re also a Bastille nerd then hello please can we discuss how good this song is.

3 – Shotgun, George Ezra

I’ve almost definitely put this in a playlist on here before but in the last few weeks especially, it’s become my go-to song to make me feel summery.

4 – Torn on the Platform, Jack Penate

I found this song while listening to Radio 2 (I feel old, just to clarify it was not my choice of radio station), and thanks to the wonders of Shazam now being built into Snapchat, a Spotify-streaming-love-affair began.

5 – Spiritual Dark Age, To Kill A King

I went through a bit of a TKAK phase a few years ago but I haven’t really liked/heard much of their stuff since then. Spiritual Dark Age has been the first thing to really catch my ear and earn its place onto my monthly playlist (which is highly selective, as you can tell by the approx. 170 song length…), and I definitely recommend it for something a bit more chilled but happy.

6 – Carolina, Harry Styles

Yes, I did write a whole post about how much I love Harry Styles’ album, but I think Carolina is my ultimate fave. It’s very much ~a bop~, and I don’t say that lightly…

7 – Lost in Japan, Shawn Mendes

I’ve never really considered myself a Shawn Mendes fan, but Lost in Japan plus owning up to how many of his other songs has made me reconsider, even though I still get him, Charlie Puth and Troye Sivan mixed up…

8 – Trigger, Anne Marie

I don’t know what it is about this song over others on her album, but this has become such an earworm for me, and also regularly makes me dance (and as people who know me can testify, I do not dance when sober, so that’s quite a feat).

9 – Smoke and Mirrors, Paloma Faith

Not gonna lie, I first found this song when my best friend was spamming me with ~girl power anthems~ after a breakup, but this is the main one that’s transferred from the ‘yasss you can do this’ pep talk playlist to my everyday one. It’s sassy and brilliant, though that may be more just because it’s Paloma Faith.

10 – Delicate, Taylor Swift

So I know reputation came out approximately forever ago, and I listened to it then and then just kinda forgot about it, but Delicate has suddenly popped up again and become a solid favourite.

11 (told you it wasn’t going to be 10!!!) – If You’re Over Me, Years & Years

This is another post-breakup banger and it’s also something that makes me sing out loud, and a bit like sober dancing, that never happens.

12 – Too Much Fun, Sea Girls

Another Radio 2 find (oh no), this is another summery fun song that just puts me in a great mood.

13 – Barbed Wire, Tom Grennan

I know someone who saw Tom Grennan live a few months ago, and I am very jealous because this is now one of my favourite songs ever. And yes, I’m all too aware I’ve said that about at least 50% of this playlist so far.

14 – Born To Be Yours, Kygo ft. Imagine Dragons

Another classic Kygo banger, don’t think any more description is needed really.

15 – Rise, Jonas Blue, Jack & Jack

Jonas Blue’s always been very take-it-or-leave-it for me, but something about this track has really caught my attention. Again it’s just a song that makes me happy, which is good enough for me.


 

Andddd that’s it, with only five extra songs (pretty good for me and my indecisiveness…). What are your thoughts on my picks, and what have you been listening to lately?

 

The One Thing Love Island 2018 Is Missing

As per last year’s surprise smash-hit of a series, Love Island 2018 seems to have all the perfect ingredients for a cultural phenomenon – sunny Spanish weather, check. Enviable villa, check. Free clothes courtesy of Missguided, check. Witty Scottish voiceover, check. Major drama, check (looking at you, Adam/Eyal!). The one thing it’s missing is inclusivity, and sadly this is, in the increasingly body positive era that is 2018, a pretty vital ingredient to be missing.

All of the contestants are beautiful, thin, clearly spend a lot of time at the gym and quite possibly spend a chunk of money on beauty-related enhancements that us ‘normal’ viewers would rather spend on clothes and food. None of them are ‘plus size’ and they could all be models – as I’m sure a lot of them will become when their time on the island comes to an end – which just seems outdated and, at least to me, a real shame. 2018 has become a year of major social change and increasing inclusivity – from Me Too and Time’s Up to brand after brand – including Missguided – showcasing more ‘real world’ models and giving up airbrushing their websites. So, in the face of this growing wave of change in the fashion and beauty industries, I struggle to understand why ITV haven’t included a more diverse range of body shapes in their contestants – judging from the number of negative comments on Twitter regarding the lack of inclusivity and inability to see your own body shape on Love Island, it seems the audience wouldn’t have complained.

I believe one reason Love Island has been so successful because its the best form of escapism there is – it involves sun, Spain and the prospect of falling in love, a pretty much universal experience and therefore one that helps the audience relate to the cast. But as long as the contestants remain entirely stick thin and impossibly attractive, its relatability will be limited and so will the show’s lifespan. Hopefully, in time ITV will see the public wish for a more diverse cast, and will accommodate this with latecomers to the island – after all, the 85,000 applicants for the show can’t all look the same! Judging from the preview on last night’s episode of the new entrants to the villa though, I don’t hold out much hope…

What are your thoughts on Love Island 2018?

 

the album I never thought I’d be writing a blog post about

I’ve had a few ideas for blog posts tumbling around in my head lately, and although this wasn’t the first one I came up with – that was some top tips for doing the IB, but given my current stress level it may be best to leave that until after my exams – this album has been on repeat in my head for the last few days and is a completely unexpected new favourite of mine. Partly unexpected because its very, very rare for me to listen to a full album (even more so for me to like everything on it) and partly because…well, it’s Harry Styles, of One Direction fame. I never loved One Direction – though equally I didn’t understand the depths with which some people hated them – and didn’t pay much attention to any of their debut stuff when it first came up. A couple of their solo singles made it onto my Spotify playlists, but I made no effort to go and listen to full albums or anything.

This began to change the other week, when I rewatched Dunkirk with some friends and remembered Harry Styles’ existence. In true procrastinating student fashion I then ended up watching his Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, which is pretty great (highlights include their rendition of Hey Ya! and recreation of Titanic). After watching that I ended up listening to all of his album and, completely unexpectedly, I loved it. It’s been in my head so much the last few days that I figured I’d write a blog post about it, breaking it down into each track and my thoughts, in the hope it’ll finally get it out of my head…

Meet Me in the Hallway

This is quite a chilled, laidback start to the album and wasn’t a track I particularly paid attention to start with but, though it’s not one of my favourites, has grown on me a lot. It’s easy to listen to and relaxing and I love the chorus – I think it does a really good job of livening the track up a bit without losing the dreamy feeling of the rest of it. It also opens up the album immediately showing that this is not going to be a One Direction clone, which is nice.

Sign of the Times

This song is probably what actually stopped me from bothering to look into his music before because I was profoundly unbothered by it when it first came out as his debut single. It was OK, a bit different from One Direction but nothing drastic. Listening to it now I definitely like it more than I did then but it’s probably one of my least favourites on the album. The dramatic strings from 1:33 onwards get a shoutout though, and I discovered that it is actually him being suspended from a helicopter in the music video, not a stunt double, which is pretty incredible.

Carolina

Carolina’s the third track on the album and from its opening notes its showing a different side to ‘solo Harry’ – a bit funkier, a bit livelier, a bit less restrained. The opening riff’s the kinda thing you can’t listen to without letting your head bop along (bop is a fantastic verb and this song is very deserving of its use) and as the layers start to build it just gets funkier (I especially love the little ‘oh yeah’s). The vocals start off pretty laidback but quickly ramp up at the chorus, giving it more of a rock-y vibe than the first few tracks. Then the brilliant ‘la la las’ start up, giving the song a really fun vibe – Harry said in an interview that this was the last song written for the album and gave it a kinda missing piece of fun, which is definitely how it feels. The layers keep building up and, in my entirely objective opinion, the song just gets better and better – it definitely cheers me up in the middle of revision, anyway! Also, love the guitar on this.

Two Ghosts

If you’ve heard of this song, you likely know it as ‘the one about Taylor Swift’. This is another one I really like, and I can personally really relate to the lyrics. Musically, the little guitar riff throughout is beautiful, and the return to the more laidback vibe provides a really nice contrast to Carolina. I’d definitely say it’s more pop-y, more along the lines of some of One Direction’s stuff, but that’s absolutely not a bad thing.

Sweet Creature

Sweet Creature‘s another more chilled one, but a little more folk-y? (I’m not very good at identifying musical genres so feel free to tell me there is absolutely nothing folk-like about it at all haha) It’s similar-ish to Two Ghosts and just a really nice, laidback song for a Sunday evening, and I especially like all the backing vocal bits around 2:30.

Only Angel

So the opening to this track is pretty misleading about the overall vibe of it, as it quickly changes into being much more rock-like. This is one that kinda escaped my notice at first, but now I absolutely love it – it’s great for yelling along to in the kitchen while baking cookies (absolutely not that I was doing that ten minutes ago…). It’s veryyyy different to One Direction and more along the lines of Carolina, once again with great backing vocals and clapping bits, and the little instrumental bit around 3:15 is one of my favourite things in the world right now.

Kiwi

This is one of my absolute favourite songs at the moment, and it’s the most non-One-Direction like one on the album – Harry said himself that it started out as a joke but ended up as one of his favourite songs, which kinda explains the lyrics a bit! Similarly to Only Angel it’s great for just yelling along to (very handy stress reliever for a currently very stressed student with exams in three days) and has kinda become my personal hype song? I don’t know how either, but I’m not disappointed. For the optimum first listening experience, I recommend playing it as loud as you can. Side note – I really love the bridge.

Ever Since New York

I wouldn’t say this is one of the stand-out memorable tracks on the album, but its got a lot of good stuff going on (even if the very opening does remind me of the music they use at the start of lots of programmes about schools on TV – just me?!) It’s apparently thought to be about his stepdad’s cancer diagnosis which adds a whole different level of poignancy to the lyrics – my favourite is probably ‘There’s no water in this swimming pool’ (I always love a good water metaphor). It’s obviously quite a sad song, but in a way that feels chilled out rather than full-on make-you-cry, which is nice.

Woman

Woman perks the album up a bit again, going back to the heavier sound of Only Angel and Kiwi, but a bit more chilled out. It starts with a nice bit of piano and guitar, soon followed by some duck-style sound effects (don’t sound as bad as you think they would). Yeah, not sure what else to say except I like it…

From The Dining Table

First things first – I LOVE the opening guitar motif. I know I’ve said that about basically every track on the album but its all true, okay?!? This is definitely one of my favourites, and like Two Ghosts, I can really relate to the theme of the song. This is definitely not one to cheer you up, but its the kinda song that makes me really think and gets me in the feels, as the ~youth~ say. I also love the change in melody around ‘maybe one day you’ll call me and tell me that you’re sorry too’ – there’s just something about it that I really love, as well as the poignancy with ‘but you, you never do’. I just think the whole song does a really good job of capturing heartbreak without trivialising it or being clichéd.

A Few Final Notes (Musical Pun Absolutely Intended, sorrynotsorry)

I feel like you can split this album fairly easily into ‘chilled out, a bit sad’ and ‘jump around and sing along’, though somehow it still manages to feel pretty cohesive. I just really like it to be honest, hence the fact its got a whole blog post to itself, especially as I never thought I’d be such a Harry Styles fan. I’m also impressed by how true to thestudio versions all his live versions sound – I never realised he could actually sing so well. I also now firmly believe pretty much everything he sings ends up golden – see his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, Rihanna’s Wild Thoughts (which I don’t even like the original of) and One Direction’s Stockholm Syndrome for proof…

What are your thoughts on Harry Styles’ solo music?