30/10/13 - 'Be Prepared' This Hallowe'en

Even though my parents don't approve ("it's just one big Americanism that Britain has adopted, what's even the point of it?"), I love Hallowe'en.  Now, I'm not a big one for the scary things in life; I see no appeal to the idea of horror films or haunted houses, and although I don't really I think I believe in paranormal activity and all that jazz, I still don't fancy tempting fate - the idea of Ouija boards freaks me out way more than it should.  But, of course, Hallowe'en is a big event in my calendar because - let's all say it together - it's a chance for fancy dress.  I must be starting to sound dull with that old chestnut.  If you need a reminder of how much I love Hallowe'en, you can check out last year's post here.

This year, I'm not doing anything on 31st October but on the Saturday, I will be celebrating in Hull with a night out in my favourite club - where better to spend Hallowe'en weekend than in a dark and slightly sticky nightclub where the drinks have alcohol percentages high enough to kill a Russian hitman?  And because I'm heading back to Hull, there is of course a theme for the evening - scary characters from musical theatre.  And I've chosen Scar from 'The Lion King'.  I will admit that when I was younger, I always preferred the evil characters and villains in things; they were generally more interesting to me and I don't know what that says about me as a child.  Scar was always my favourite of the villains, so I'm excited to pay tribute to him.  God, that sounds weird.  For inspiration, I've been blasting 'Be Prepared' and perfecting my snarl.

I was inspired by stumbling across a makeup tutorial on YouTube and once I'd seen it, I couldn't get the idea out of my head.  As my journey to Hull will be a bit rushed (heading straight from the theatre in Manchester), I intend to dress in black and use the makeup as my costume, paired with some back-combing to create a mane of hair.

A combination of Bourjois Healthy Mix (51 Light Vanilla), Revlon Nearly Naked (110 Ivory) and Barry M Foundation Crème (1 White)
MUA Professional Eye Primer
Collection Lasting Perfection concealer (Fair)
Urban Decay Naked palette (specifically Hustle, Toasted and Half-Baked)
Collection Eye Definer (1 Black) doubled as lip liner
Rimmel Scandaleyes Retro Glam
NARS bronzer (Laguna)
Natural Collection eyeshadow (Mocha) for eyebrows
2True Easy Glide Kohl Pencil (16 White) for scar
H&M 'Into The Nights' eyeshadow palette to define scar
Topshop lipstick (Innocent)

I will be adding false lashes to this mix for the actual event, but I'm not sure as yet which ones I'll use...in all honesty, probably just get the thickest ones Primark have on offer.  Don't judge me; they cost £1!

I used a new Barry M matte polish in Espresso and painted, albeit rather messy, tips with a Miss Sporty Quickdry Clubbing Colours polish which doesn't appear to have a name or a number.  This is about as close to lion's claws as I can get, and I really love the contrast of the matte black finish with the gold glitter.  I feel like matte nails might become my new 'thing' for AW'13.

And there it is!  The real question is; will I be able to pull this look together effectively when applying all my makeup on a moving train at night?  The answer is; probably not.  The lash application will probably have to be done on my arrival and I'm not convinced any of it is going to work.  Hence the need for a trial run, which sparked this blog post.

I think I need to work on my scary faces.

What is your Hallowe'en costume of choice?  Let me know in the comments!

27/10/13 - NaNoWriMo 2013

Every year, when November rolls around, my social media feeds become full to the brim with eager writers all gearing up for the month ahead.  Ten days in, they are bemoaning their lack of sleep and the horrible quality of the work they're doing.  By December 1st, some will be elated, some will be a little disappointed and all with be in need of a weekend's hibernation and a big pot of tea.  This is what NaNoWriMo does to people.  The past few years, I've sat at my laptop and watched the carnage November can wreak.  This year, I'm throwing myself into the fray headfirst.

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it is a challenge for anyone who ever thought they might have the capabilities to write a book and for those who have started and never finished hundreds of manuscripts (I am very guilty of the second one).  The aim is to write 50,000 words in a month.  Yes, it's a lot.  But the idea is to get you to actually finish the story you've had three paragraphs of sitting in a Word document for the past year.  It's a struggle and a slog.  It'll make you doubt all your faculties as a writer.  You'll live on caffeine and adrenaline for the whole month.  But by the start of December when you have an, albeit fairly rough, first draft finished...it'll all be worth it.  Even if you don't hit your target, you'll have written a damn sight more than you would have done otherwise.

Obviously this won't be for everyone.  Although I know people do manage to complete NaNo whilst in full-time education, I've been putting off for years on the excuse that I'm just too busy.  Since I made the decision to try this year, my November's filling up pretty quickly but I'm going to give it a good shot.  The best thing about this challenge is that it's just that; a challenge.  Not a deadline, not an assignment with a set word-count.  You can change your target, you change the length of time you give yourself to reach it, and even then no one's judging if you fall short.  If you're someone like me, who has always dreamed of being a 'proper writer', this is a great first step on that journey.  People are always saying that they would write a novel if they only had the time.  But like anything worth doing, you have to make the time to write.  So this year, I'm going to make the time...and I'm excited!

If you think NaNoWriMo is something you'd be interested in, don't let anything stop you!  Whip out your notepads, laptops and typewriters and - like Nike say - just do it.  Even if you only get 10,000 words written or 1,000 or just 10, at least you gave it a go.

I wish this was actually my writing tool of choice.
So that's my plan for November but don't worry, I will still be blogging as much as possible - yes, I am certifiably insane and getting ready to run myself into the ground.

Have you done NaNo before?  Will you be trying it this year?  Let me know in the comments, and we can keep each other motivated!

20/10/13 - These Boots Are Made For Winter

I am not a practical person.  Nowhere near it.  I'm always the girl fashioning an umbrella from a handbag or a scarf, the one who gives the most long-winded directions to a place just around the corner, someone who puts things off until the last minute for as long as possible.  My footwear choices are no better.  I won't pretend I don't have a lot of shoes, but very few of them are what you'd call 'practical' or even 'waterproof'.  Also, I have a bad habit of latching onto one pair and wearing them to death until they physically fall off my feet.  My most recent casualty have been my leopard print Topshop Vectras; after losing one of my black ones - don't ask me how because I don't know - I bought these in a sale for £7 (a good twenty quid less than the original price) and although they were mostly definitely not made for wet weather, I was unable to admit it.  They've spent many an hour drying on radiators and now I think I finally have to retire their worn out little soles.  And to replace them?  The buzzwords in this mission were 'sensible', 'black' and above all, 'flat'.  I have an addiction to ankle boots with little heels and while they look fabulous, they're not the most comfortable shoes.  Especially now I have a job which requires me to be on my feet for hours at a time and the weather is turning bleak, appropriate footwear is an absolute must.

With my parents in tow to make sure I didn't stray from my brief, I headed to Cheshire Oaks which is a local outlet village.  I knew that it would be the best place to get decent shoes (i.e. not high street, which are not built to last) with a nice little discount off the RRP.

Skechers, £52.99 (outlet price)
These boots are super comfortable and look almost exactly like a pair I was hanging my nose over in Forever 21.  Although the price is obviously a little higher than in Forever 21, these Skechers boots look so much more substantial and the fit is much better.  I love the quilted detail and the sturdy sole means that I can rely on these to be waterproof...something that can't be said for most of my shoes!

Xti Territory, £14.99 (outlet price)
 I absolutely couldn't resist these black studded shoes when I saw them in Sole Traders. The only differences between these and my beloved Topshop Vectras are the gold studs as opposed to silver, a more substantial sole, and these were at least £10 cheaper than the others.  Also, I fear the Vectras have been discontinued as I've struggled to find them anywhere recently...so these had the upper-hand there!  They're really comfortable and so versatile; I wear them with basically anything.

Hopefully with these two pairs added to my collection, I'll be set for the winter months now - no more soggy socks or aching toes from wearing heeled shoes to walk miles.

What are your autumn fashion must-haves?  A good pair of boots will never see you wrong!

10/10/13 - An Ode to Second-Hand Bookshops

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Of all the places in the world, I probably feel most at home in second-hand bookshops.  It could be because I was essentially raised in them; my parents seem to have a finely tuned radar for tracking them down and they have always made up a large portion of family holidays and day trips.  Second-hand bookshops, stately homes and ruined castles - that's my childhood in a nutshell.

There's something about the smell of well-worn and well-loved books, the teetering piles waiting to be shelved, the adventure of searching for something you didn't even know you wanted until you set eyes on it.  My favourite finds are the ones with hand-written dedications; birthday and Christmas messages with relevant dates, sometimes a cryptic little message or inside joke.  I love the idea that this book had a whole life before you came along and found it, hidden in a dusty corner of a little shop in the middle of nowhere.  I like to imagine who received it as a gift, their relationship to the person who gave it to them.  Does the choice of this particular book as a present say anything about how they felt about each other?  Did the recipient like the book, and was that influenced by the fact that it was a gift from that particular person who bought it with them in mind?  Whenever they saw it on their shelf, whenever they opened it and saw the inscription on the title page, did they smile?  I always end up painting these little pictures in my head with most vintage or second-hand items, but books are always the most personal.

Recently, I went for a lovely Saturday afternoon walk with my parents in order to make the most of the unseasonably gorgeous weather we've been having recently.  As part of this walk, we ended up in a local second-hand bookshop where I picked up four of a five volume Penguin set of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories.  I've read many of them before in various collections, but when I saw them with their matching, if rather dated, sixties covers I had to have them!  They worked out at less than £2 each, and when I got home I went straight online to try and find the final copy to complete the set.  They're not in the world's best condition, but that's part of the appeal.

Particularly if you're an English student, second-hand bookshops are an utter godsend.  You can pick up a whole year's reading list for basically nothing and sometimes they even have handy notes written in the margins - take all the help you can get, kids!

So get yourself down to your nearest second-hand bookshop and embark upon the journey of a lifetime.  Give an old book a new lease of life.  Consider it your good deed for the day.

Do you frequent second-hand bookshops?  Tell me about your best purchase in the comments!

07/10/13 - 'The Rocky Horror Show' at Hull New Theatre

"When a man is bored of transvestite alien sex, he is bored of life itself" - truer words were never spoken, yet this is a phrase I didn't expected to hear in my life.  But a lot of things that you don't expect happen when you go to see cult classic The Rocky Horror Show.  Especially considering the fact that a lot of the people I went with had little knowledge of the show before setting foot in the Hull New Theatre - they really had no idea what they were letting themselves in for.  

And of course you have to get dressed up.

For those who don't know, the plot follows the saccharine all-American sweethearts Brad and Janet as their lives are turned upside down when they stumble upon the bizarre home of 'sweet transvestite' Frank-N-Furter on the eve that he brings to life his (much sexier) version of Frankenstein's monster.  With well-known musical numbers and equally famous heckles from the audience, this touring production celebrating forty years of camp kinkiness has been a hit with die-hard fans and Rocky Horror virgins alike.

The star-studded cast didn't disappoint; Dani Harmer far exceeded my expectations as the straight-laced Janet Weiss.  Her comic timing was spot-on, her vocals definitely impressed and her sultry performance earned many exclamations of "my childhood is ruined...I saw Tracy Beaker's tits!" as we left the theatre.  Rhydian 'off of the X-Factor' was perfectly at home in Rocky's gold shorts and Philip Franks' narration was brilliant - he had everyone in fits of mirth as he wittily rebuffed the customary shouts from the audience.


Of course the real star of the show is the stunning Oliver Thornton, giving Tim Curry's seminal performance as Frank-N-Furter a run for its money.  He struts around the stage, working the iconic suspenders and basque with such conviction that he could send the overexcited audience into paroxysms of delight with a mere flick of an ankle or quirk of an eyebrow.  I defy anyone to come away from that performance without feeling even a flicker of doubt in their previous sexuality - men and women alike will find themselves squealing with joy as Thornton milks every line and movement to best possible effect.


And the party didn't stop when we left the theatre - of course it didn't, who do you think we are?  Fuelled by £1 shots and the kind of confidence one can only gain from wearing fishnets and sequins, we made our way to Hull's only gay club to dance the night away.  And obviously it was only polite to invite the evening's leading man to have a boogie with us.  Unfortunately (but probably sensibly for him), he was unable to but we were happy to receive such a gracious tweet in response, even if it was turning down our offer.

What a gent.

If you get a chance, I would seriously recommend getting your hands on tickets (details can be found on the official website).  It was an utterly fabulous evening; the outrageous costumes all over the theatre and risque audience participation don't detract at all from the stellar performances of everyone involved in the production.  You'll come away not only humming the Time Warp and wishing the performance could have been longer - trust me, it's over in a flash - but also with a new sense of resolve to heed Frank's inspirational words: "Don't dream it, be it".

Are you a Rocky fan, or is it all new to you?  Let me know in the comments!

As ever, pictures marked with '*' are not mine.

05/10/13 - Graduate Musings

Warning: this might be a little less upbeat than my blog tends to be.  It's been a while since I've done a chatty, update-y post on here and I need to get a few things off my chest.  Writing stuff down really helps me get them out of my head, so just bear with me. If you don't want to read my ramblings, I will entirely understand and you should get out now before it all gets a bit personal and self-indulgent.  This is your last chance...three, two, one...

I am currently curled on my sofa, sipping hot honey and lemon and feeling sorry for myself.  It's nearly two o'clock and I'm still in my pyjamas.  I have no intention of leaving the house today.  And I don't even have the excuse of being ill...my only problems are a rather scratchy throat and a total lack of motivation.  Since I finished working about six weeks ago, I've diligently filled my days.  I get up at nine every day, I go for at least a half hour walk to get out of the house, I plan and write blog posts, and I spend so much time applying for jobs.  I am aware that the chance of me skipping straight out of uni and into a decent job is slim-to-none, but rejection after rejection can be a little disheartening...but I haven't let it get me down.  Until now.

Having spent a couple of days in Hull, coming home was a bit of a shock to my system.  I think going back really reinforced the sad truth of it all; that I am, in fact, not going back.  I knew that I'd miss the student life - lazy days and crazy nights suit me so much better than a nine-to-five routine.  I knew that I'd miss the freedom and independence that comes with flying the parental nest.  I knew that I'd miss my friends - so many of my favourite people live in Hull at the moment that it feels like I'm really going to miss out by not being there.  But I never imagined for a split second that I would miss Hull as a place as much I do.  When I got off the train and stepped outside the station, I felt a strange sense of coming home.  I haven't felt that way since I set foot back into Liverpool after my first year away.  Following that, the journey back and forth became second nature so that for the next three years, being in either place didn't seem to be such a big deal any more - they were both my home.  But being away from Hull and knowing that I won't properly be going back really affected the way I felt when I returned.

It was amazing to see my gorgeous friends again and really let my hair down in the way only we can.  Leaving them again and knowing that they would all be together for the next year while I'm on the other side of the country was a bit of a blow not only to me, but for them as well.  Maybe I shouldn't have gone back during Freshers Week; coming to visit at the same time as they all moved back for the next academic year kind of made it feel as though I was going to be there long-term as well.  Over the course of the two days I was there, the subject of me moving back to Hull was raised many times.  At first, it was joking, a 'wouldn't-it-be-great-if' kind of thing.  By the time I was leaving, it was beginning to be considered as a genuine plan.  In some ways, it makes sense.  Living in Hull is so much cheaper than living...basically anywhere else in the country.  It's maybe not the big adventure I always had planned for myself after graduation, but it's more adventurous than staying here.

I am in genuine quandry right now.  I don't want to stay in my parents' house for too long - it would be so easy to slip back into the routine of being at home and not having to take responsibility for things like bills and laundry.  I never dreamed that moving back to Hull would be a viable option for my post-graduation life, as most of the jobs for the fields I want to work in are in London.  However, that's not working out for me thus far and at least in Hull I'd have a support network, I'd be used to the surroundings and there's no commitment to stay for too long, as it would be as much as stop-gap as living at home is now.  While it seems like an ideal situation in some ways, there is a part of me that is scared that going back even for a year is a sign that I can't let go of my university life.  Is it a pathetic attempt to hang onto it for as long as possible?  Is it a sign of defeat, a refusal to join the 'real world' just yet?  Would being surrounded by students make being the only one with a degree and (hopefully) a job more difficult?  And part of me worries that moving to anywhere, let alone Hull, won't alleviate the sense of aimlessness I've been experiencing lately.  I like to be busy, I like to have challenges and goals, I thrive under pressure.  Having any job is preferable to no job, but ideally I want to be taking the first steps on the journey to some kind of actual career.

I wish I had the temperament (and the funds) to
live my life this way.
I realise I am lucky.  Lucky to have parents who are willing to have me back after graduation, lucky to have amazing friends all over the country who can put me up for a few nights should I need an escape, lucky in all sorts of ways.  I know a lot of people are currently in my position and not all of them are as lucky as I am.  I'm not the only person struggling with graduation blues, I'm sure.  There must be hundreds of people feeling as lost and confused as I am.

So what do you think?  Would you, my loyal readers, judge me if I upped sticks and retreated back into a strange half-student limbo for a year?  Should I stick it out at home for a little longer as way of saving up some money?  Or should I just jack it all in and move to an ashram in India or a bohemian commune in Prague?  (Both unlikely, but it's a nice idea).  Either way, no matter what I decide and what I end up doing in the near year, I'm making a resolution now to do something.  I am determined to stop wallowing in self-pity and to stop waiting for things to happen to me.  And I hope you'll be along for the ride.

Normal service will resume shortly; I have a few posts lined up which are much more fun this one was!