Maths, mud, graduation, Rubgy Sevens and everything in between!

Oh my days has it really been that long since I last blogged?! Where has the time gone?! I know I’ve been rather silent in my blogging lately but I’ve barely had a day to myself! I’m going to try to keep this post rather short but seeing as it’s been a while, I may ramble a tad. But then if you’re a regular reader you’ll already know to expect that!

  • First off I have passed both my skills tests and all going well I start my course on the 1st September! I am so excited and relieved that everything is finally pulling together nicely. I passed my first skills test (literacy) the day after my uni results were published and then had the maths test the following week. Both were booked for 8am so I had no time in the morning to worry myself over the tests. Best of luck to everyone else who is either sitting these tests or waiting for exam results! My only honest advice is be realistically positive about it and that things happen for a reason. I honestly believe that I am were I am through a combination of determination, perseverance and fate.
  • I completed the Pretty Muddy 5k event in Gosforth Park with my cousins three days before graduation. I was warned by my mum that I was not allowed to get any visible bruises, in other words ‘don’t spoil the graduation photos with bruises’. I came back incredibly muddy (the bath as soon as I got in the house was heaven) but with no injuries, and the same went for my cousins. We sure did kick cancer’s ass that day.
  • Graduation was fantastic. The sun was shining and everyone had a marvellous day. I stayed at my friend’s house and we had a right laugh celebrating all our hard work. Unfortunately my dad couldn’t be with me that day, but I’m hoping that next year, all going well, he’ll be with me in person, as well as my mum and stepdad who attended with me this year. Bless ’em they travelled to Liverpool and back in one day because of the dogs. It was a long day for me and an even longer one for them! Made worse by a two-hour delay on the M6. All that aside, we had a fantastic day, one that I hope to never forget!
  • Only a couple of days after graduation and I was travelling up to Edinburgh with one of my best friends to attended the Commonwealth Rugby Sevens Finals. We stayed in a lovely hotel in Edinburgh and commuted to Glasgow to save money. We both had a cracking time and I think I’ve found my sporting buddy! The atmosphere was amazing, both teams got cheered on regardless (although the Scotland v England match was tense) and it was one of the greatest evenings yet. I’ve always preferred rugby over most sports and I was so pleased to have gotten tickets, especially once we got in the arena and saw how brilliant the view was from our seats. Right at the top, in between the try posts. We had to race through Glasgow city to catch the last train back to Edinburgh (otherwise we had to buy new tickets) but we  made it and had our evening meal at 1.30am! Chips and curry sauce has never felt so satisfying. I’m currently saving up to visit my aunt in Australia in time for the Commonwealth games over there.

So that’s the big bulk of my summer ‘holidays’ so far. I only get two days off a week so most of the time is spent catching up on paperwork and family. I’m enjoying my summer stint a lot and I can’t wait to attend summer school in two weeks time as a final preparation before my course properly begins. I hope to at least try to post every couple of weeks with updates etc.

The obligatory motor board toss

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An end of an era…

*Warning!* Not only is this post tempting clichés, it is also incredibly likely to be rather long given that I’m updating you on just shy of a months worth of socialising (ha) and general shenanigans. But I think it’s allowed, given I’ve just moved home after finishing three years as an undergraduate at Liverpool Hope University.

After my last post at the start of the month, I had two weeks to revise for six hours of exams. I didn’t think the pressure would be too bad, given that it was a seen paper and I usually manage pretty well with exams. This time round though things got a little bit too stressful for my liking. I think it was because I knew that the exams could have a massive impact on my final grade. I didn’t want to throw it away at the last-minute and let myself down. Regardless, I knuckled down and I think, with hindsight, they actually went ok. Three hours was a long time to sit and write continuously, and my blood pressure acted up during both the exams, but stress can do that. I simply had to bite back the panic and use it to fuel my work. I’d still rather take essays over exams any day!

Within an hour of my last exam I was on route to Lime Street station for a weekend at home. It was a wonderful weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my family without feeling guilty over not working. I spent Saturday acting as a Brownie leader at the North East regional event for the Brownie centenary. This was during the hottest day the North East has experienced so far in 2014. Doesn’t sound too bad as it is the North East of England, but we were melting. The event was outdoor and while we all had a great day, there wasn’t enough sunscreen to stop us burning. That evening I went out for a family meal with Mum’s side of the family as my aunt and uncle were visiting from Australia. We had a lovely meal and it was fab to see them but I was shattered by the end of the meal after a day in the sun as a Brownie leader! I got home only to be requested out by Mum to join them at the local pub where they were celebrating a birthday. I went because it was a chance to relax with Mum and my stepdad after months of uni commitments. We had a lazy day on Sunday, mainly dog walking and spending time at the allotment. On Monday I had an interview for my old summer job. I have since heard back that my interview was successful, but I won’t find out where or when I start until my medical and references are returned. I treated myself to a pamper at my local beauticians, including an eyelash perm, before I met Mum at the train station for a cuppa before my train home. The train was a direct one to Liverpool! About time Transpennine started that service up again, just as I’m leaving! Anyway, I left sunny Newcastle behind and arrived in Liverpool just in time for a huge thunderstorm. Terrifying. Honestly, they’re one of my biggest fears, so being on a bus did not help.

The week that followed my trip home was spent in placement during the day and socialising during the evening. Seriously, I went pretty much the whole of my undergraduate degree being a social hermit, only to spend just about every evening of my final two weeks in Liverpool out celebrating. I should however clarify that by ‘celebrating’, I actually mean going for a meal with friends and enjoying a glass of wine with it. That’s my ideal night out, second only to a cosy pub natter. One of the conditions for my September course is that I gain five days observation of key stage two. I currently have four days (due to the interview) and I am finalising the details of another similar placement back home to make up the missing hours. I was in a lovely primary school (I’m being totally honest here – the staff and majority of the students were gems) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It once again confirmed for me that while my heart is set on teaching, it is most definitely set on teaching secondary school history! I fully admire primary school teachers for the amount of knowledge they need, and I enjoyed acting as another teaching assistant when needed, but I’d want to rotate everything around history!

So the socialising. Well Tuesday night was the HisPol Society Ball. I opted to attend this event rather than the official Hope 2014 Grad Ball because frankly the majority of my classmates were going, it was slightly cheaper and looked far more entertaining. It was a cracking night. I have never enjoyed a night out at uni as much as I did that evening. The Ball had a 1920s theme and it was amusing to see how many stuck to it (about a handful, myself included, but I think every lass curled her hair!). Our ticket included a two course meal at Alma de Cuba (which I highly recommend a visit) and the rest of the evening was spent in a speakeasy! I admit, I squealed when we entered the speakeasy – it was behind a bookcase! How could I not?! The jazz band we had were fantastic and I danced the night away without a care in the world. Well apart from being conscious that I had to get the bus to school the next morning! From the speakeasy we went to one of the lads house for a house party, which admittedly flattened the atmosphere of the evening. I left about 1.15am and could have had a lie in the next morning as my first bus didn’t turn up! I was literally just in time for school, but it sure made me appreciate my car even more.

Over the course of the past two weeks I’ve had various leaving meals to thank everyone I’ve met over the three years. My Oxfam meal was cut short for me as I had to dash off to my final performance with Hope Concert Band (the date was changed for concert over Easter, by which point the meal had been booked) but I had a wonderful night out. I also had several meals out with my housemates before we respectfully moved out. We had a ‘girlie meal’ before we went to see Little Mix at the Echo (no surprise, they were AMAZING!) and we went for a house Mexican meal one lunch. I also attended a band BBQ, which despite the rain, was a hoot. I went for a Greek meal with my fellow guide leaders and later in the week pizza and cocktails, and I was treated by another friend to a two course, home-cooked, vegan meal which I thoroughly enjoyed (especially dessert!).

My grandparents visited me for a couple of days in my final week and we had a fantastic time. I thoroughly enjoyed showing them my adoptive city and sharing the places and knowledge I’ve gained. I’m considering doing a little tourist guide to Liverpool on here (alongside the beauty stuff, it will appear eventually I promise!) which will go more in-depth into my favourite areas of Liverpool.

Before the mayhem of packing occurred, I spent Saturday with my Scouse unit at the Big Gig at the Echo Arena. Big Gig is an amazing concert for members of GirlGuiding UK and I’ve been to a fair few over the years. The majority have been in London, and it just seemed like fate for my final Big Gig with 136th to be in Liverpool. It offers a variety of performers, some big names such as Pixie Lott, Lawson and Tinie Tempah (we’ve also had Sophie Ellis-Bexter, McFly, The Saturdays and Rizzle Kicks to name a few in previous years) and some new up-coming artists, including Loveable Rogues who were finalists in Britain’s Got Talent and Leah McFall from The Voice. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I treated it as a rehearsal for Isle of Wight festival (not long now!) and was raving away to Tinie Tempah and Kimberly Wyatt (much to the unit’s amusement!).

I’m typing this back at home as I moved back today. It took me just over a day to pack two years at Newcastle Road away. Even after filling the wheelie bin from empty, and taking a taxi to Oxfam with donations, it was still a close fit getting everything in, but we managed it. A huge thanks to my stepdad who left home at 4.20am to move me out. I was expecting him to arrive just before 8am, and I’m pleased I was up early and everything was sorted because 7.15am he knocked on my door! In less than fifteen minutes he’d played Tetris with my stuff and we were heading for home. By noon we’d arrived (after an incredibly posh service stop to stretch our legs) and I’ve done everything but unpack. Oops. I’ll get round to it tonight and tomorrow. So that’s you all up to speed, here’s some photos of some of the stuff I’ve mentioned and I pinky promise I’ll be better with the blogging for the near future!

A brief emergence back into reality…

Hello and apologies for my lack of blogging recently. It’s not looking to improve over the next couple of weeks either as I have entered into the challenging process of writing my dissertation. So far I’m over half way through it, with just over 7,000 words written into an introduction and two chapters. All that’s left is the final chapter which I’m currently researching and then the conclusion. I’ve actually really enjoyed researching it and the writing up bit hasn’t been that much of a chore. Without my family and friends there’s no way I’d be feeling as happy with it as they’ve been incredibly supportive and don’t complain when I send off a chapter for them to read over. In fact, so far the feedback has been positive and they appear to find it interesting to read, which is always a bonus!

I’ll give you a quick little update of what’s happened over the past few weeks in between writing my last undergraduate essay and this dissertation.

  • I went to the National Archives in London with uni the week before we broke up. It was a fascinating trip and I loved being able to handle the original government papers. I found it really useful for my dissertation research, although some documents I couldn’t access because someone else was using them. The only negative about the trip was the length of time spent on the mini bus. I’ve managed 48 hours on a coach to Croatia but 9 hours cramped into what was essentially a glorified school mini bus was not comfy. It took us longer than expected to get to London due to traffic and given that I’d been up since just before 6am, having only had a few hours sleep the night before as I was finishing off my final essay, I was a tad grumpy. Also I get really travel sick and there was no windows to open for fresh air. I wasn’t sick, just felt nauseous which I think is far worse, but I did see some wonderful wildlife when I was gazing out the window – several Red Kites and some Muntjac Deer – I thought that was pretty neat and I live in a fairly rural area.
  • I spent the last two weekends of term in the caravan with my parents. The first weekend I travelled to Chirk to visit them before my Mother’s Day concert at the Palmhouse, Sefton Park. We stayed at Lady Margaret’s Park  which was beautiful. Very peaceful and the walks were fantastic. We must have walked well over ten miles on Saturday as we walked the dogs along the canal and then we left them in the car to sleep whilst we walked over Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Llangollen. I’ll admit it was pretty terrifying but I got some fab photos. The concert went really well on Sunday but it was boiling in the Palmhouse. It is essentially a massive greenhouse and when it’s slightly sunny outside, the temperature just soars inside. Mam and Alan loved the concert though.
  • The second weekend I moved out for Easter and travelled to Bury, Manchester to meet them. The site was again wonderful – a very good dog walk and there was a steam train which went passed the site a few times a day. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy their fortnight holiday, especially the dogs. Honestly Mabel and Marvin were on their best behaviour! Then we came back and they’ve turned into disobedient doggies again. I blame the rabbit season. Being Lurchers, it is in their nature to hunt, and Mabel was trained before we adopted them to hunt rabbits. It’s difficult but we are making progress with them.
  • Anyway the two weekends out from Liverpool were just what I needed. I feel like I haven’t stopped working since the start of March on essays etc but the hard work does appear to be paying off. My Capital Punishment essay received a first, which I’m absolutely ecstatic over. I just really hope the final essay and my dissertation also do well. I’d hate to fall at the final hurdle. When I get back to uni at the end of the month, I have two days between my dissertation deadline and the exams being released (history are lovely and give us seen papers), so I fully intend to chill between those days – catch up on my tv and blogs, spend some time with my friends without going for a library visit… Just to reset my brain as I’ll then only have two weeks before my exams and then it’s all over! Three years of hard graft and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • When I returned home, I’ve had the joy of insuring my car. That’s right nearly two years after I passed my test, I’m finally driving again. There was no point in paying over a grand to be insured on Mam’s car while I was at uni because I’d hardly get the chance to drive it, but because I’ll hopefully be driving to Peterlee for the majority of the next academic year, I needed a car. My grandparents bought a new car last month and they’d promised me their old one once I’d passed my test. It’s a lovely red Suzuki (called Susie) and I’ve driven quite a few times over the past week and a bit. Mostly with Mam as a comforting passenger, but I did my first solo drive on Saturday evening and I’m going out again on my own tonight. Everything’s going well but my goodness car insurance is ridiculously expensive – the cheapest I managed to get (including breakdown cover) will cost just over £1,100 overall as I’m paying it in monthly installments. Some wanted to charge me nearly £3,000!! The joys of owning a car.
  • This week is the start of my social life again. I’m out tonight to finalise the Queen’s Guide Award trip I’m doing with three others from my Senior Section unit here. We’re going to London on Sunday so we just want to get all the details clarified and deal with paperwork etc. Tomorrow I get to spend some time with Mam and then in the evening I’m out with my best friends for a much-needed catch up. I’m also heading out for lunch today after I visited the Lit & Phil to get some more books for my chapter with one of my best friends from primary school. I’ve had a wonderful time since coming home fitting in seeing my family, including my cousin who was over briefly from Ireland, between working hard on my dissertation. On Good Friday after mass I’m going to my Auntie’s for a big family meal. I’ll get to see my Aunt and Uncle who live in Alnwick and my cousins with their 9-month daughter. I honestly can’t wait!

So that’s all that’s not been reported recently. I do intend to get back into regular blogging once my work load reduces, as I have quite a few ideas currently on the back-burner. Mind, the site does still get a handful of views each day, which always brings a smile to my face knowing that somebody, somewhere in the world, has stumbled across GeordieGiraffe and is having a gander. So thank you for that.

 

What’s occurring

  • It’s been a fairly hectic week and I apologise for how late this post is! Admittedly, I don’t think there is that much to report – the majority of my week has been a mix of uni, research and work – not that different to usual really, but I’ve done a fair amount of research recently.
  • The Senior Section trip to Newcastle went really well! Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy it and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that food and markets were the main features of the weekend, accompanying the gorgeous historical backdrop of Newcastle and North Tyneside. It was a busy weekend, but we did everything on the itinerary! I’ll be planning the next two overnight trips over the next couple of months.
  • My class on Monday was a tour around St George’s Hall, Liverpool, with a local historian. It was really interesting. He knew pretty much every little detail about anything and everything to do with capital punishment in the UK – including match details on the day of the trial. It certainly made for a memorable day trip and I’m still loving all my modules this semester. Let’s hope this continues seeing as I have two essays to write this month!
  • I will be getting back to doing a couple of other posts over the next week or so (other than my usual ones I mean). For a start I received my first set of freebies in the post on Wednesday from the lovely people over at Fair Squared as a thank you for this review. I will review them all in due time! I’ve got a few reviews in mind of some of my current lifesavers and I’m cranking up my beauty regime after being told that I have early signs of aging. I’m 21! Although I had to laugh as my recommended skin care regime was: wash, tone and then moisturise. Essentially exactly what I’ve been doing for the past eight or so years, I just have to remember to do it twice daily…
  • I’m another step closer to getting onto my course next year. I’ve got to call Occupational Health on Monday to finalise that paperwork and I popped into the primary school I’ll be doing my KS2 observation in May. I had to finalise the dates for that and I wanted to see the school/meet the staff etc, just to get a feel of the place. I honestly could not be happier with it! I was very lucky to get it as I struggled to find anywhere back home, but one of the girls in Oxfam has a friend in the school and it went from there. It’s all about connections really. That and sheer determination.
  • I went out on Thursday night – first with the HisPol society and then met my housemate for cocktails in Aloha. It was a cracking night and I’m really happy that my housemate and I met up – it’s been ages since our last night out and we had a hoot! This week I’ve felt very comfortable with my outfit choices. I know that probably sounds weird, but after a couple of weeks being poorly and thinking predominantly about warmth, it’s been fun to just dress for my mood. I’m particularly loving thin scarves snuggled around my neck, especially when I manage to pin my new Alice in Wonderland brooch artfully into the tangle.
  • My running is improving! I know it’s been a bit hit-and-miss what with being ill and/or super busy, but I was really chuffed with my run yesterday and I’m out again with Hannah for our run in the park tomorrow. Any recommendations for comfortable necessities for my 10k would be greatly appreciated.
  • I didn’t completely bomb my gobbet practice from last week. I got a 2.1 which is amazing given I had very little background/additional information to put to the document other than what we’ve learnt in class. It was definitely the confidence boost I needed. Now to just keep improving and absorbing as much information as possible!

Advent and apologies

First off, I apologise for my silence – third year has well and truly struck! I was away last week on a fieldtrip to Berlin and have spent the remaining time on both my dictators essay and PGCE application. I handed in my essay this morning, collected some textbooks for my next one and I’m going to tackle my application again tonight. I had it already to send off last week before I went away, only for UCAS to decide to make the box for my personal statement tiny. While my characters were under the limit and I was on 47 lines, that box claims that it’s 7 lines too long. After spending a week culling it, I’m going to tackle it a fresh once more and see what I can do with it. I’ll be happier once it’s all handed in. Instead I’m taking a breather from all things academic to do a little blogging and I intend to have a full on pamper session tonight.

I’ll start with the weekend before I went to Berlin as it was a bit of a mixed two days. I was pulling my hair out in tears at UCAS in the morning (pathetic I know but I felt like I’d put my heart and soul into it for nothing) before participating in the fashion event at my Oxfam shop. We’d been planning the event for a couple of months and I’m really pleased with how the public responded. Several of the volunteers and I stood in the window for two hours in various party outfits chosen from the shop and we all had great fun waving at the public. Despite the let down from the local newspaper, we still received a fantastic response from the public and the shop was pretty busy for most of the day once the Darby match had finished.

My hair and make up for the window – I am wearing a lovely dress but I wasn’t 100% certain with the hair

The following day involved a trip into Liverpool centre to get some last-minute items for Berlin. Seeing as the washing machine was still out of action, I had to buy a towel and I ended up treating myself to a new outfit – high-waisted jeans that actually fit and a cosy jumper. I’d gone into town with one of my friends from my course as we had half price tickets to see Ed Byrne. After our shopping we had tea at Wagamama’s, which was a pleasant change, and then we went to the Empire for the show. It was well worth the money and we had an excellent time.

From Monday to Friday last week I was in Berlin with the history, politics and media departments from uni. I went to Madrid with them last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for this trip. I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Thankfully the majority of the trip was completely different to my last visit to the city, although it did help knowing where things were in the centre and how to use the public transport. So far Berlin is my favourite place in the EU that I’ve been to, and I’d happily visit it again, especially when the Advent markets are there. We went to several and had a fabulous time. I started on my Christmas shopping and sampled lots of yummy food. There was plenty of free time available alongside optional and mandatory trips during our stay and I definitely got what I wanted out of the trip. For me it was all about the history, seeing as that’s what I paid the money for, and I feel like I could go back and still learn more about the rich history Berlin is steeped with. I could go on and on about the trip, but that would probably take too long. Instead I’ll give you a couple of snap shots of my favourite parts of the trip.

As much as I would have liked to take the weekend off to fully recover from the trip, I had several promises to keep. The first was to attend panto with my guide unit on the Friday evening. I literally landed and jumped on the first bus into town. I adore pantomimes, have done ever since I was a kid, and every year my Scouse guide unit go to see the rock and roll panto. I couldn’t let a little thing like a flight stop me from seeing my final panto with them. It was very entertaining, especially as I still had to get some of the local phrases explained to me. I probably would have appreciated it more, had I not been shattered and a little travel sick, but beggars can’t be choosers. When I eventually got home, it was straight to bed and a well-earned kip!

I spent the majority of the weekend finishing my research and writing my dictators essay. Boy am I pleased to be able to forget about that for a while! It’s been a real struggle as I’ve not enjoyed the topic as much as I usually do when writing an essay, but I’ve done the best that I could on it. On Saturday evening I performed with my university concert band at the Creative Campus and it was such a fantastic concert. I enjoyed it so much and look forward to our next two performances – Christmas staff service and then the Mother’s Day concert at the Palm House. I spent Sunday morning out with several members of the Amnesty Society participating in the 10th Santa Dash around Liverpool. Despite having to get up ridiculously early in the morning, it was such an uplifting and hilarious morning. There were literally thousands of Santas jogging around Liverpool and I hope everyone else who participated enjoyed it as much as we did. For some more information/photos from our outing, have a nose here and you can still donate if you wish here. Many thanks for everyone who has already donated and for all the support we’ve received.

After the Santa Dash

Now the final thing I’d like to mention in this post is my happiness that advent has arrived, although how quickly the year has gone! Not surprisingly after spending the morning in a Santa suit, I was feeling incredibly festive yesterday. I love everything to do with Christmas, although not so much the time and hassle it takes to get gifts etc. Part of the homily yesterday was about it being the time of patience and calm as we wait for the birth of Christ, so I am going to try to relax as much as I can and just enjoy the festive season. There’s so much to enjoy over the next few weeks as Mum is coming to visit for an extended weekend on Friday, Christmas camp is the following week once my final essay of this term has been handed in, and then I have a week to chill and pack before I go back home. And every day I get to open another door on my Ciate advent calendar! Tis the season!

Two of my favourite things – Advent and nail varnish!

Galaxy Defenders take over the RAH

Last weekend was the much awaited trip down to London to see McFly at the Royal Albert Hall with my best friend. I classed this as another birthday treat as my friend had very kindly given me the ticket for free. For weeks now I’d been getting more and more excited as the date loomed ever nearer. I’d even go so far as to say I was more excited for this than my birthday – after all we get older every year, but it’s a rare treat indeed to go see McFly’s 10th anniversary show at the RAH! I got the morning train down to London Kings Cross from Newcastle. I much prefer getting an East Coast train when I travel because their customer service is excellent. Needless to say it was a quick, relaxing trip down. It’s amazing what a good playlist and brilliant book can do to pass the time.

Now I’ve been to London a handful of times, but it’s always been as part of a group such as guides or school. Trying to navigate around lunchtime London traffic on your own is not easy. There was construction work going on at Kings Cross when we pulled in, so I ended up following the wrong set of directions to the tube. After ten minutes of walking in the wrong direction, I eventually managed to locate the correct tube station for those of us travelling without an Oyster card. My friend had already texted me the instructions on which ticket to buy from the man in the booth and how to get to Victoria station. I clearly had ‘tourist’ stamped on my forehead because I was both awed and disgusted by the attitude of the locals I witnessed. Whenever I travel, I always try to blend in as much as possible, but my goodness how loud, abrupt and crowded does London want to be?! It probably didn’t help that I got slightly lost again when I got off the tube at Victoria, as I’d misread my text and went looking for a Costa in the bus station, rather than staying in Victoria train station. Nevertheless, I did find my friend and from there it was a quite stop at M&S for lunch whilst we decided where to wander.

In the end we opted to be typical tourists and check out Buckingham Palace because it was within walking distance and I’d never been before. We decided to just admire the outside of it though as it would have been £17 each to go inside. That was the student price as well! Again I felt like a right tourist, but this time in a good way as it looked lovely in the sunlight and the water fountain was pretty. Shame they were busy draining the water away when we were there. We took a couple of photos, including one of the patrolling guard. From there it was another short walk to Hyde Park. It’s a good job we didn’t rely on our phone sat navs to get us there as the route we walked took about half the projected mobile route. The wonders of technology eh?

We thought we went past the Marble Arch, but that wasn’t until later on that we saw it. Instead we took some pictures of a prettier arch which was also made of marble. I was really looking forward to wandering around Hyde Park, especially along the Serpentine, as it features a fair bit in certain historical romance series that I read. Yes I’m that sad, but it lived up the imagination. We decided to pay £12 each to use a pedalo out on the Serpentine for an hour. Something a little bit different, but definitely worth the money as we had such a laugh. It got us in such a good mood for the concert. When we were back on dry land, we bought proper ’99s’ (for £2.10!) with monkey’s blood (strawberry sauce for you weird folk) because it was too sunny not to really. As we were walking back, a squirrel came right up to us and sniffed my hand! I’m use to wild red squirrels that hide from people rather than this bold little critter. We were so startled that we were a little late in getting a photo. From Hyde Park we walked to Oxford Street because what trip to London would be complete without a bit of window shopping? We past the proper Marble Arch and then absorbed the fashions and passions of Oxford Street. We went to Hamley’s as well – it’s the one place were everyone is a kid! The toys were just… wow. Although the singing alarm cloud was a bit out of tune when it was programmed for my name. I’m sure my housemates would have greatly appreciated that in the mornings.

We ended up at ASK Italian near the RAH for tea as I had a voucher from VoucherCodes – a website/app that I highly recommend for restaurant deals. The voucher was for two course for £10.95 each. Now given that my main alone was that price, it was a very good deal. We shared a bottle of rose with our meal and the whole thing was delicious. I’ll definitely go back to an ASK branch. While we were waiting for our bill, we got chatting to the ladies on the table next to us as they were also going to see McFly. We walked from the restaurant to the RAH – it was certainly a day of leg work!

Now I have always wanted to visit the RAH and I especially wish to see the Doctor Who Prom there. However getting to see McFly there was pretty spectacular. The building is absolutely stunning. We arrived early to buy some merchandise – we both bought tour t-shirts and I bought the poster for my uni room while my friend bought the programme. It was then to find out just how close to the front we were. Oh my days we were eight rows from the stage! Given that we were in the stalls, I was expecting the view to be a bit limited but they were the best seats I’ve ever been in! We could’ve walked on the stage we were that close! I honestly don’t think I can convey just how excited we were. McFly were amazing. They did a great mix of their usual numbers as well as the ones on the albums. Dougie even did Transylvania on the organ! Ahh it was just superb. The boys were then joined on stage by the members of Busted that matter (Matt and James) which was like my childhood on stage. I love Busted and to hear them with McFly was just amazing. Tom played a hilarious song he’d composed called ‘McFly the Musical’ summing up the past ten years. It needs to be on the next album! Galaxy Defenders (McFly fans) are by far the best behaved fans because they respect the boys and are genuinely happy when one of them gets engaged/married, and you got that atmosphere at the event. Yes we screamed/sang/danced etc but nobody attempted to storm the stage and everyone was just very happy to be there and taking part in the event. It was such a fantastic evening, by fat the best concert I’ve ever been to, and well worth the trip down the country. Some fans had travelled from around the world, just to see McFly. Now that is true dedication.

After all the excitement, it was time to travel to Oxford to crash at our best friends uni place. We had to get the tube to Victoria then wait a bit for the Oxford Tube. The Oxford Tube is in fact a bus, and from what I’ve gathered, has always been a bus. That is just crazy Southern logic really. It’s quite a swish bus mind – plush seats, free WiFi and sockets to charge your stuff while you travel. That’s better facilities than most train services! It took us nearly two hours, but eventually we arrived at our friends accommodation. It was literally a case of ‘Hello, lovely to see you, thanks for letting us crash here and for putting our bedding out’ then sleep. It was nearly two am by that point so I think it was allowed.

I eventually woke up around 11.20, which was rather late for me, but I was shattered. We had brunch at Costa – pulled pork wrap, chocolate orange window and hot chocolate – such a healthy way to start the day! We spent the day wandering Oxford, mainly window shopping, although I did buy a giraffe scarf. Oxford is a lovely historic town, like a more expensive version of York, with even more tourists and weirdly loads of kids wandering about in their uniforms. On a Saturday. Apparently they were from a local private school, but we never quite got to the bottom of why they were doing it. We ended up heading back to our friends as we were still fairly tired. Our friend met us just after five as she had been in training for her uni job. After a little chit chat, she took us on a guided tour of her collage and then Oxford as we walked to the train station.

It had all been going really well and we’d had a lovely trip, until our train pulled in at Birmingham New Street and all the drunken football fans piled into our carriage. The seat reservation signs were off so they got a little arsey with some customers who had reserved their seat, but the rest of the carriage told them to pack it in. We were then subjected to their singing/chanting, swearing, shouting… it was just obscene. They had no respect for the rest of the carriage and instead seemed to think it was their right to behave in such a manner. It was 7.30pm and there were children in our carriage! I don’t care what other people think, there is no need or excuse for such disgusting behaviour. I even said so to one of the women who seemed to think the fact that they were football fans was acceptable. The police got on the train to sort them out as someone complained to the conductor about them. One fan in particular became aggressive towards them and we had to wait another hour for them to be escorted off the train, even though we had two stops between the police boarding and leaving. The woman I spoke to started to make her voice heard after the aggressive fan was tackled at the platform for trying to attack a policeman. Again there’s no excuse for behaving so ridiculous and if he’s going to try to harm a policeman, he deserved his treatment. That woman then got into a heated debate with the elderly gentleman who made a formal complaint/statement to the police. After a few minutes it died down and we thought everything was back to normality. Unfortunately we weren’t destined for a quiet five hours. A woman at the back, again rather drunk, began singing Disney songs full belt. At least it was child friendly, but still. We just wanted her shut up and to get home. Then the two girls opposite us began a rather deep philosophical conversation about languages and religion. They’d only just met as well! I focused on my book and playlists instead. Then at Durham we were greeted by some drunk students making their way to Town for night out. Needless to say they weren’t particular quiet either, our nerves were rather frayed and we simply wanted our beds. When we did arrived, we were greeted by our respective parents and taken home to recover from the whole experience. It was such a fantastic trip and despite the train home from hell, it was a cracking weekend away. Shame I had to go back to work for my last ever shift the next day.

Another food related post, seasoned with a pinch of culture

There are several things I love about Sundays when at home – a lie in followed by a cooked breakfast – and today was no exception! Throw in a bit of sunshine (especially after the horrible weather of the past few days) on a day off and it’s guaranteed to be a success. Seeing as my mum and stepdad were going off to see a classic car show at Belsay on the motorbike, I decided I couldn’t waste a glorious day, even though my friends were all busy. I got the metro into town and went to see the EAT! festival behind the central station. I’m pleased it was free entry because I wasn’t overly impressed with the selection. The food and drink available looked and smelt incredible, but the prices weren’t quite what I was hoping for. You had to pay three pounds per token to get any of the food and most of the queues were huge. Factor in as well the fact that I was still pretty full from breakfast, it wasn’t really the best time for me to have gone down. I stupidly assumed every vendor would offer at least one item for one token, but the only place I spotted was the hot dog stand, which wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. Instead I bought a cherry wine and gin cocktail for five pounds. It was an absolute rip for what I received. Far too much green stuff floating around in my drink for my liking!

I felt it would have been a huge shame to have just left after that, so I walked down to the Sunday market held on the Quayside. The Quayside is by far one of my favourite places in Newcastle to visit and I would recommend it on a Sunday. The market is brilliant if you like food, accessories and art and it’s just such a colourful event. I wandered through the stalls, chatting to some of the vendors, and snapping some pictures. Then, to really absorb some local culture, I crossed over the Millenium Bridge and went into the Baltic. It’s been ages since I last went in as I’m not a huge arty person. My level of art simply reaches to ‘that’s pretty’ and ‘what’s it meant to be?’. However it was a really peaceful trip and just made the day that little more worthwhile. I went up to the viewing platforms and took some more pictures of the famous Tyne. Aye I’m proud to be a geordie!

On the way back to the metro, I had another wander through the market. I had hoped to get a few food goodies to take as bait tomorrow, but the stalls I wanted were no longer there. I did get a nicer and cheaper drink though on my way home. It was a berry orange cold tea drink with green apple bubbles in from Afternoon Tea on the Quayside. The bubbles reminded me of the soluble bath things my Grandma would use that I once tried to eat as a kid and they contained a rich, gooey flavour of apple sours, minus the alcohol. Safe to say I loved it.

When I eventually got home, my stepsister, stepbrother and niece were all visiting so it was lovely to see them for a bit. Mum made a fantastic dinner later on, which went down a treat as I was famished from all my walking without eating anything in town. Homemade toad-in-the-hole with bubble and squeak, homegrown onions in the gravy and homegrown broccoli. Oh it was just the perfect conclusion to a relaxing day and I think I may even try to make my own yorkshire puds when I get back to uni. The broccoli was probably my favourite bit of the meal, it was so tasty! We hope to grow even more of it next year. I could have eaten the whole meal twice and still have wanted more, it was that yummy!

So here’s some snaps from today’s little adventure: