Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Rome-A Survival Guide

For the last few days I have been a guest of Italy's lovely capital city and it has been very wonderful to me. (Blog post to follow soon!) However, there are some things that I wish I had known before I left and some things that I'm glad I prepared for, so I thought I would share them all with you in case you are intrepid wanderers looking to visit Rome too someday.

Pack Well. Rome in the summer is HOT. Like 2 showers a day hot, because it is impossible not to get incredibly sticky and sweaty unless you stay in hugging the air conditioning unit, so pack accordingly. If you have the space, bring double the amount of clothes than days you're going. If this isn't possible, at least bring extra undies and T-shirts! You won't need jumpers or jeans either-pack light!* (Did I mention it was HOT?) Suncream and good shoes for walking in are also essential, plus plasters for when your shoes rub in the heat. (even the most reliable of sandals become blister-makers, believe me!) Antibac hand gel and a couple of packs of tissues are also a must have for when the loos aren't quite up to scratch.

Water. It goes without saying that you will need to drink lots of it, but the street vendors will sting you for anything from €2-€4 for a 500ml bottle. My personal solution was to buy a large 1L bottle from the airport (after passing through security, obviously) and then an even bigger bottle from the (wonderful) DeSpar supermarket once we got to Italy (I got a 2L bottle for only €0.24!) and then decant from one into the other. Lots of the bigger attractions have drinking fountains so you can fill up with deliciously cold water throughout the day, so only buy from street vendors when you have to (or when your water is just too unpleasantly warm!) and you'll save a fortune.

Do Your Research. You'll save a lot of time standing in a queue if you buy your attraction tickets beforehand. We got Vatican tickets online before we went and bought Colosseum tickets at an information desk near the main Termini train station. It might cost you a little more but it's worth it to be able to walk straight past the massive lines. We also saved money by getting the bus from the airport to Rome, rather than the train which was our original choice. (€8 for a return vs €14 each way to save about 20 minutes!).
The times that you visit places can make a lot of difference to your experience as well. When we arrived in the Vatican City at about 11am, the queue for St. Peter's Basilica was rather long-I estimate we would have been standing there in the midday sun for at least an hour if not longer. When we returned after our visit to the Vatican Museums at about 4.30, we queued for no more than 15 minutes.
Have a read around on the internet before you go, there's plenty of good advice out there.

Buy a sunshade/hat!
Modelled beautifully by Rara, I think you'll agree
If, like me, you don't like being in the direct sunlight, one of these sun-umbrellas is an ideal purchase just to fend off the worst of the rays. You can get them everywhere-look for guys selling them around all the attractions for about  €5 and they're well worth the investment!

Take Enough Money! Rome has a reputation for being expensive but it probably isn't any more so than any other capital city for the basics. I didn't spend more than  €13 on a meal (not including the gelato which ranged from  €2- €5) and the food was really gooood for that price. Where the expense comes in is the attractions-you have to pay to get into most of the larger ones and each is about  €20. If you're planning on being a proper tourist and doing everything then make sure you budget accordingly. On the other hand, you could definitely do Rome on a shoestring-it's not too big to walk around as long as you don't mind the trek. Also, some of the attractions are free and definitely well worth a visit (eg St. Peter's and the Pantheon-Italy knows how to do spectacular churches!). Also, always make sure that you ask the price of things first before  you do something-there's many a hidden cost! We had some pictures taken outside the Colosseum with some Romans which cost us  €10 each for 2 photos and we didn't know until afterwards when they charged us! There is often a small ( €1) charge to sit at a table at a restaurant, so if you aren't getting a full meal it might be cheaper to take it away and eat as you wander. 

I think they make the red lights bigger to make sure people take notice of them.
No, really!
You know all those stereotypes about Italian driving you've heard? Well they exist for a reason, because they are true! Crossing the road in Italy means taking your life into your hands and it's pretty terrifying. Be very aware of traffic and be prepared to move quickly because they won't slow down for you unless they absolutely have to! Also, here's a heads up: just because there is a green man doesn't mean that all the traffic lights will be on red. Quite often, the turn into the road you are on will also be on green so traffic might still be coming at you even when you have the right to cross.

Be Assertive. Italians may come across as rather pushy to us un-confrontational British fok, and will try to sweep you into every restaurant you pass or sell you their goods when you walk past/(in most cases) around them. Don't be afraid to assert yourself a little and firmly say no before carrying on your merry way. They won't mind, and if they do then you're never going to see them again, so don't feel too guilty!

Finally, have lots of fun! Rome really is a beautiful city and there's lots to see and do there so just explore and see for yourself. Eat lots of gelato and throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to guarantee your return. Say hello for me, too!


P.S Sorry Brits. No-one in Italy seems to understand how to queue or the definition of 'personal space'. You're just going to have to grit your teeth, stiffen that upper lip and tut your way through it I'm afraid!

*NB Some of the churches, esp St. Peter's have a strict dress code and will turn you away if you are dressed inappropriately. Make sure you can cover your shoulders and knees (men and ladies alike!) either with what you wear or with scarves etc. Also ladies, make sure you're not too revealing cleavage-wise!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A Rather Nice Idea...

I'm calling this an 'Experiment in Social Media' because I don't know if I have enough followers/people reading my blog to make it work. We shall have to wait and see...

The internet has become a very useful tool in helping people keep in touch with one another nowadays-you can fire off an email to someone or poke them on Facebook without even having to put down your sandwich. Long gone are the days where communication was a tedious business involving weeks of waiting before you got a reply to your letter, now we can send a text message and get the response within the same minute. And it's all rather marvellous. Except. Except for the fact that getting a text or an email isn't quite the same as having a letter land on your doorstep, full of excitement and possibility. And let's face it, everyone loves getting post that isn't just another bill or an ad campaign by a company trying to sell you broadband (irony, anyone?), and it's a sad fact that this age-old form of communication is dying out. SO. Here's what I propose: Inspired by the wonderful Jen Campbell, an author who recently sent out postcards to some of her fans to celebrate her new poetry collection*, the other day I went to a Paperchase and picked up some lovely postcards.
Look, there they are, in all their lovely postcardyness
Here's where you come in. If you are reading this, and like getting in real life letters and you want me to send you a lovely postcard, then I WILL. Send me your name and address to circlethinker@gmail.com and I will post them out-anywhere in the world! (NB-I have 10 postcards, so obviously they will only go to the first 10 people. If there are more than 10 then I will definitely consider doing this again, and if not the postcards will go into my collection instead!) I can't promise you what I will write on them yet, but it will probably be some of my favourite quotes or song lyrics, or if you're really lucky, some waffle from me. Whether I know you (hello!) or whether I don't (Hello!) if you fancy getting something nice in the post then you know what you have to do. Who knows, maybe this might inspire you to post out some love to people too?

Now to sit back and see if this works...


P.S 2 of the cards are a smidge on the naughty side so if you would prefer not to get one of these, just mention it somewhere!

*I got one of them, and it was really rather lovely!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Feeling Ugly? There's An Op For That!

Source HERE
Cosmetic surgery, as far as I am concerned, shouldn't really be allowed. I mean Doctors should actually be banned from performing it, and certainly shouldn't be allowed to make a fuck-tonne of money from essentially exploiting people's insecurities. To clarify, I don't think plastic surgery as a whole is an evil business, I completely recognise the need for it to exist to allow people to have re-constructive surgeries, corrective surgeries and a whole spectrum of other, completely valid reasons requiring a plastic surgeon. The (MASSIVE) part that I have a problem with is the large proportion of operations to "fix a problem" that doesn't need fixing. People who have plastic surgery for the sake of having plastic surgery; doctors who willingly pump poisons into their clients' foreheads, women who want to have the biggest boobs in the world.
 I think that there is far too much weight placed on surgery as being a "quick-fix" and as being the solution to all your insecurities. Too fat? Gastric band. Lost the weight too quickly? We'll slice off all that unsightly flabby skin. Don't like the shape of your nose? Let me just take a chisel to it, and you'll be right as rain in 6 weeks time. Surgery is a HUGE undertaking, it's not something to flippantly decide on whilst sitting in the hairdressers one day. It's not a quick fix and it is certainly not the solution to all your unhappiness. There's a growing trend in today's society that says if there is something you aren't happy with, you simply change the thing. I personally think that if there's something you aren't happy with you should first try to change the way you think about the thing. (For example, see my post about feeling beautiful in yourself). I think if someone wants to drastically change their body by undergoing cosmetic surgery then they should have to undergo a rigorous course of counselling and therapy beforehand. Like each procedure should come with a mandatory 6-12 month course of trying to make people feel better about themselves before they have it done, with the aim of them not getting it done at all.*
All cosmetic surgery leads to is a desire for a perfection that can never be achieved. How many people stop at just one procedure? How many in actual fact go home and go "OK, great, now my boobs are perfect but the rest of me just doesn't add up. I think it'll be a tummy tuck next." People make cosmetic surgery shopping lists and then spend a fortune getting them all done because they think it will make them feel beautiful. Feeling beautiful does not come from being surgically crafted into societies' idea of perfect, it comes from being comfortable in your own skin and loving yourself. No amount of silicone and surgery can give you that, it has to come from you-by looking in the mirror and learning to love yourself exactly as you are-wobbly bits, imperfections, crows feet and all.
You know what I say? Sod growing old gracefully. Grow old ungracefully and let every line on your face show that you had a bloody good time doing it. Let your boobs sag and your wobbly bits wobble and stop striving so hard to be all the things that you're not. Because you don't need a surgeon to make you beautiful because you already are.


*I realise, sadly, this will never happen due to the fact that it would not make anyone any money except some very happy psychiatrists. The surgeons would revolt!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Shit Just Got Real

Yeah, check me out, I have a degree, innit.
Yesterday I (as far as I am concerned) became a "proper adult"* because I graduated from my wonderful University of Sheffield. This means I unequivocally cannot claim to be a student and more, and really should start pretending to be being a responsible adult. As I have no real idea what I want to do with my life any more,** I don't really have a plan or purpose at the moment that is any more detailed than: 1. Get a full time job in Sheffield. 2. Move back to Sheffield. I am also acutely aware that the small amount of money in my bank account has to last me an indefinite amount of time. I'm normally quite good at budgeting-until-I-get-my-next-loan, but it's dawning on me that there won't be any more loans (at least not any time soon), and that I'm going to have to do something about this sharpish. It's all a bit brown-pants worthy to be honest. All of a sudden I'm having to try to work out what I want to do with my life, when I would much rather still be napping in the middle of the afternoon and exploiting my student discount to its fullest.
And although graduating means I have an actual degree and prospects and all that sort of stuff, I'm also quite sad because it means I have no real reason to visit my favourite city aside from social visits. Don't get me wrong, I fully intend to visit often for purely social reasons, but I don't like the feeling of displacement I get from knowing that I don't have a house there any more, knowing that sooner or later I will catch a train out of there back to my parent's house, which doesn't quite feel like home any more. Just...ugh. I can't help feeling disheartened after the awesome day yesterday that now is where the uphill struggle to be a normal functioning adult has to start, and I can't even find my walking shoes. (Yes, I like taking the analogies too far.)

And yet. I've got so much to look forward to, and so much to be grateful for. Without the help and support of my parents, I wouldn't even have got this degree, because I wouldn't have been able to afford to stay in university. I wouldn't have so many good things happening to me this summer because they are (as my birthday presents) paying for me to go and be in the Edinburgh Festival, a once in a lifetime opportunity,  and part-paying for my holiday to Rome (because my mum wants me to travel the world for her). I'm going to travel to various parts of the country to see friends, and have been offered so many floors to kip on in Sheffield that I can be well kept in happiness for a while. I've applied for a part time job in Nottingham and am waiting to hear back, which might stave off the money demons for a while yet. So yeah, it's definitely not all doom and gloom and terrifyingness. I'm just standing on the edge of the unknown wondering what happens when I jump. But I'll take my hat off to that:

This was fun.
P10, BMS Class of 2012

I'll let you know how it goes,
Jenni Thompson, BSc (Now that's cool!)

*She says as she eats a cream egg and is mildly excited about winning some glittery nailvarnish...
**After having my dreams placed firmly out of my reach (Thank you David Cameron!) and subsequently not actually achieving the right grades to get them anyway...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

On The Flip Side

It occurred to me the other day just how often I say the phrase "it makes me want to punch them in the face". I don't think I am a horrible person, I just get annoyed really really easily, at all the little things that probably shouldn't matter. And really, everyone does from time to time, don't they? When you're having one of those days when it feels like the whole world is against you, it's really easy to get annoyed at those little things. Once a month or so, I do a list of some of the awesome things in my life, the little things that really make your day when they happen to you, but I was thinking about the other side, the things that just get on your nerves and make you grit your teeth, roll your eyes and grumble under your breath. A friend of mine joked that she was going to buy me the web-domain of Ihateeverything.com for my birthday, because I could easily fill a site like that with slightly ranty things. But instead, I'm going to do a similar post to my Awesome Things ones, only full of all those little things that are too annoying to warrant a full blog post of their own. Nothing important, nothing major, nothing life changing, just the tiny little, but still really annoying things.

Number 1: Two different types of music playing at the same time.
Drives me maaad. I can't focus on either one of them, but instead they mash together and just become awful awful noise. Aaaaaah!

Number 2: The limited number of adverts online TV providers have.
I realise that you see less adverts online than you do on the actual tele, and I'm not complaining about that. What I don't like is the fact that you can watch a show with 3 ad breaks, and watch the same four adverts in each one. It's not like you have long enough to get up and go to the loo in the break, so you have to suffer through them each time. It'd be so much better if you could have a little bit more variety, if only so I don't have to watch the same actress be amazed at the effects of her toothpaste*, or hear this guy say "yes some lovely sandwiches" again...

Number 3: People who cough/sneeze on public transport without covering their mouths.
Bler. You make me feel ill, and I can't physically hold my breath long enough to not get your germs. STOP IT, IT'S GROSS, STOP IT NOW.

Number 4: Small children's toys EVERYWHERE.
Seriously, I tread on at least one thing a day. And the whole of my house from about waist-down-height is sticky! It's HORRID. Eugh, children. No-one will ever be able to convince me that I would enjoying having some of my own.

Number 5: THIS.

Image source here
I mean WHAT? Why? Who the hell decided to make a fictional, computer generated meerkat an advertising point? Why are they STILL DOING THIS? At first, it was (And I totally agree) innovative and different and a bit fun. Now it's just annoying and ridiculous. They are selling adults insurance by offering them a free cuddly toy. It's madness. C'mon Compare the Market, Go Compare got the message that everyone hated their ads, time you do too. 

Ahhhh, that feels better. Time to stop stressing now and relaaaax.

*NB Don't get me started on toothpaste adverts, they're full of pretend science and REALLY annoying. Does it clean my teeth? Yes. Does it taste of mint? Yes. That's all you need to know.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Guest Postings

Occasionally, my dearest blog, I do have to admit to the occasional dalliance on other sites. I'm sorry, I still love you. But for my dear readers, in case you want to find me in other corners of the internet, you can do so here:

Awesome Women of Twitter is frankly the best blog community to belong to, as far as I am concerned. It's written by kick-arse females (and the occasional fella too) who want to get things off their chests and talk about all the things that are wrong with the world. Plus they're a lovely bunch of people too, which is excellent. My contribution, thus far, to their efforts is here: http://www.teamawot.com/2012/06/22/reflections-from-aunt-irma/

British Style Bloggers is a blogzine/community of fashion/style bloggers who regularly blog on issues surrounding fashion, lifestyle and blogging. I don't really fit in, if I am honest, but as one of my besties is the Editor-in-Chief, and she asked me to do a "No-nonsense post on fashion" in my usual ranty style, I couldn't wait to join in. So here is my post from earlier in the week: http://britishstylebloggers.org.uk/2012/07/10/who-hates-short-shorts-we-hate-short-shorts/

And for now that's all I've done, but I am sure there will be more in the future. If you want me to write ranty things about something for you then all you have to do is ask, I'll (probably) be happy to oblige. And I'll try and do an actual proper post tomorrow or something.

Until then, then,


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Feeling Empowered With Not Much To Say

I am spending my Saturday morning rather uncharacteristically being awake and watching awesome things on the Internets. I have just finished watching Cherry Healey's How To Get a Life programme on looks, Can Your Looks Change Your Life? (found here until 18/7*). I then watched about half a dozen of the latest videos by one of the groups featured in the programme, Those Pesky Dames who vlog on Youtube daily about issues affecting women today and are quite frankly amazing and inspirational women. So now I feel really empowered and great but don't really have much to actually talk about myself. I think the issues raised in the programme as well as in the Dames' videos are awesome, because more people need to challenge society's "normalised" ideas of beauty and start to love the way their bodies look and accept the fact that everyone is beautiful in a million different ways. Yet it seems like more and more women in today's society feel pressured to look a certain way, slap on make-up as a barrier against the world and choke down diet pills in a bid to remove every last inch of wobbliness on their bodies. It saddens me that the image of perfection women strive to achieve is so unobtainable that all that happens with each generation is increasing levels of women who are not happy with their looks, and feel helpless to do anything about it. Sometimes I feel incredibly lucky about how I grew up because it's landed me in a place that means I don't have too many hang ups about my body. For most of my life I was a bit of a tomboy which means that I have never really learned how to apply make-up properly or do anything more to my hair than put it in a ponytail. This means I have never bothered to spend a large amount of time doing my hair and perfecting my make-up unless it's for a special occasion. Certainly, I don't do it every day because I just can't be bothered, which means I've never relied upon it to make me feel like myself. I know who I am, and 90% of the time you will meet that person without any make up on because she didn't even remember to think about it that morning. I'm also a big girl-I'm a size 18 (20 in dresses) and I am happy with that. Sure, not 100% happy 100% percent of the time, but for the most part I am comfortable in my skin and generally love myself. As a lot of the Dames say in their videos, you can't rely on someone else to make you feel beautiful but I know that a large part of my confidence in myself has come from a grounding in that. Once you know someone doesn't care about the bit you're stressing over, it's a lot easier to stop caring yourself and just get on with life. Yeah I've got a big belly, and yeah it's covered in stretch marks and a little bit pregnant looking, but I've also got fantastic boobs and legs (as far as I am concerned) to balance it out.
So if this is the start of the beauty revolution, of women claiming back the word 'beauty' from the glossy mags and the make-up companies then you can count me in. I just want more people to be happy with what they look like, and happy with what other people look like too, so that there is less of a focus on what you look like and more on how amazing you are.
Let me finish with a particularly wonderful quote from one of Those Pesky Dames' vlogs:
"It is easy to be beautiful. In fact, you're doing it right now, even if you don't believe me."

and also with this. If you're still feeling bad about yourself, or, like me, you feel rather good about your looks, remember that you have to be able to laugh at the bad times. So, for your enjoyment, here is a rather fetching photograph of myself:
Yep, I'm a fitty.

Until next time,

*Foreign readers might not be able to access Iplayer, but this site should help you see it

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Even More Awesome Things

It's July, it's a new month and there will be sunshine. There has to be, it's the law. So here's this months awesome things of awesomeness.

1: Counting down to your birthday.
I know that this will be a contentious point as I know I have annoyed my friends with this my whole life. Maybe it's because my birthday is in summer, so much later than all my other friends', but I still get ever so slightly excited about it even though I am nearly 2-little-ducks years old.* I've always enjoyed seeing the number of days until my day decrease in number until it's tomorrow and then it's time for Bucks Fizz at midnight. (Family tradition. On my 18th Birthday my Dad gave me 3/4 pint of the stuff. Ooer.) In fairness I like counting down to all exciting things because the excitement can only build as it gets closer and closer.

2. Singing very loudly in an empty house.

3. That SMELL when people are cutting their grass.
Plague of people with hay fever (not hey fever as was previously written. I am an idiot.), I'm sure, but to me it's the smell of summer! You know when people start mowing their lawns again that soon it must be time to put a barbeque on it and cook many parts of many animals for me to put in my face with gusto and glee. Plus it smells amazing in its own right. Win.

4. Drying your washing outside.
For me this has always been one of life's simplest pleasures. It's good for your wallet, it's good for your environment and it's good for your clothes. But more than that, it's a household job that I actually enjoy doing-hanging out my washing and letting the sun and the slight breeze do the difficult task of drying it, then collecting it a couple of hours later all sun warmed and smelling lovely. Just hope it doesn't rain.

5. Stretching.
I just did an awesome one. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. You know it's good.

There. 5 more of life's littlest things that make you smile. Can you beat these? Let me know


*It's on Sunday 8th by the way. 5 days!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Ed Fringe Adventures Part I

In August of this year, I am going to be in the Edinburgh Fringe with Two Shades of Blue, a lightly entertaining company which I know about because of USLES. This weekend was my first rehearsal weekend with the cast of 'Back to the Future, the Pantomime!' and it went a little like this:

It's 8AM on a Saturday morning and I have braved Nottingham's torrential downpour to make it to my train, after a nervous car journey where I wasn't sure that I would. But I did, hooray, all is well. In 2 hours time I will be arriving in Cambridge (if all goes to plan) where I hope they are having a little less weather otherwise my walk will be wet and my feet very squelchy in their canvas shoes. Looking forward to getting there and meeting everyone, and getting started, woo!

Just left Ely for Cambridge, not long to go now. And it's not raining, yay!

Arrived safe and sound and the sun is shining, huzzah!

Left the station (eventually!) after having to queue for a ridiculously long time for the loo (Perils of being a girl!). It's also chucking it down. Bollocks.

Shoes are decidedly soggy, have bought some cheap flip flops to stop them getting ruined completely. Sun comes out as I leave the shop; bloody typical.

Closer to 11am than it should really be, onwards
Arrived at the rehearsal (at King's College, lovely) fiiinally. Met the assembled cast fiiinally and they seem like a lovely bunch thus far. Onto warm ups and singing through the songs in the show, which I still have stuck in my head a day later! A rather sophisticated lunch (2 types of hummus. I'm not sure I've ever even been to a lunch with hummus ever before!) and my terrible attempt at an American accent later, we landed at the end of the day. It was long, but really good fun! (That's what she said ;p ) We worked hard but got a lot done for it, and it was really enjoyable to boot. However, whether we can still remember any of it tomorrow is another story!

5:30ish onwards
Back to the HoLE (House of Light Entertainers) for dinner, chatting and (for me at least) falling asleep on the ridiculously comfortable sofas. Twice. Everyone else played Mao* whilst I dozed until gradually airbeds, sofas and cushions were claimed for sleeping places around 1am, as we were somewhat exhausted. Ready to do it all again tomorrow!!

Sunday, 22:39
Currently twenty minutes from being back in Nottingham station, after some slight train confusion left me getting the indirect route via Leicester rather than the direct train from Ely. No matter, I am only half an hour or so behind where I would have been anyway, and I haven't been charged any extra, phew! I'm terribly sleepy but I've enjoyed this weekend immensely so I have a light heart. Today was complicated warm ups and stage fighting and tryingnottoactuallypunchpeopleintheface and remembering the stuff we did yesterday. To say this is only the 2nd rehearsal weekend we've had, both with people missing, everything seems to be running smoothly-everyone has a wonderful grasp of their various characters and it's lovely to see them coming to life as flesh and blood rather than just words on a page. More than just the general fun of the show though, I've enjoyed meeting all the people that I am going to be in it with-these are my kinda people, who instantly understand me without me having to explain anything because they're exactly the same. They're the kind of people that I want to fill my life up with because it's so easy and enjoyable to exist in their company. They're my "theatre" peeps and they get it.
It's been a good weekend =)

  • Learn lines/songs
  • Perfect an American accent that doesn't sound Australian
  • Learn to fall over without injuring myself or overbalancing.
But for now, my bed is calling me into its soft embrace, and who am I to resist?

Book now to avoid disappointment, as it looks set to sell out!
Also why not come see the other Two Shades shows while you're there?

*I don't think I could ever explain this to you. It's basically a game where no-one knows what's going on and the rules change constantly throughout. Russian accents optional.