Olympicspiration

Dear Alex,

When we started this blog, I was excited for many reasons. It seemed like a cool idea, a chance to communicate with you when our lives today are so separate and also because I love writing.

Since I’ve been back from Spain – Almost two months ago! How did that happen? My life as a professional job searcher has resumed. I eat, sleep and breathe cover letter writing and CV-tweaking and with it my appetite for writing for fun has been lacking. There is nothing like job hunting to make you feel a little bit like your soul is dying. That will be the first and last dramatic comment, I swear.

But hopefully that partly explains why I have been on an extreme blogging hiatus, and I do apologise for my absence. However, I have returned! Never to be gone for so long again (hopefully).

I fully intended to be back blogging a couple of weeks ago but a certain event that only comes around every four years has proven to be a major distraction. I love the Olympics. For all the debates about whether Rio de Janeiro should be allowed to host the games in the first place, nothing takes away from the sheer excellence that takes place wherever the games may be. I have loved every second of watching Michael Phelps, Adam Peaty, Helen Glover & Heather Stanning, The Brownlee brothers – athletes who are just so far and away the best in their field and worked immeasurably hard  to get there. Needless to say I will be gutted when the games end this weekend.

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My love for the Olympics is probably not a huge surprise to you, given that my love of sport was anything but concealed when we lived together. However, seeing people give everything for the prestige of being the best in the world and a medal around their necks is infinitely inspirational to me at a time when I feel I need a bit of inspiration. Don’t get me wrong; the amount of teenagers winning Olympic Medals before they’ve even finished school is amazing to me, and slightly depressing at the same time. I could barely make a decision for myself at sixteen, and these ones are winning Olympic medals. But the Olympics are proof that working hard pays off, a truth that sometimes feels like a big conspiracy and once, every now and again, it’s nice to be reminded of the fact that its not.

Mostly however, the Olympics have made me miss rowing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really been proud of and the only evidence I have that proves I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Before rowing, I never knew I could. I yearn for the feeling of pushing myself and slowly but surely seeing results, of hard work, of learning something new about the sport and myself.

ekp_file_0__team-gb-logo-600x600_1463414384Not only have the Olympics restored the pride (2nd on the medal leaderboard!)
I had and, given recent events in our country, lost for GB,
but they have also reignited my motivation. So I have made lists, got organised and persisted on with my cover letters and CV’s, because right now a job is my aim. It’s definitely not as exciting as the Olympics, a country load of people won’t be cheering for me and I obviously know that this is not a big deal in comparison to actual Olympians. My point is persistence and anyone can be persistent. So I’ll settle on my persistence in getting a job being my medal for now.

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Under Armour brought out a fantastic addition to their ‘Rule Yourself’ campaign, starring Michael Phelps in the build up to the Olympics. The campaign focused on the struggle that goes into being an athlete – early mornings, weights, workouts and failures; all with the slogan:

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They may have been talking about Olympians, but it made me think that anyone can take this message away. With any luck at some point all our hard work, in whatever we do, will ‘put [us] in the light’.

 

Love T xxx

P.S I never watched Love Island – I’m very sorry.

P.P.S Can’t wait to hear all your news – your Instagram looks like something out of a gorgeous travel brochure – hope you’re having an amazing time 🙂

Love Island

Dear T

The last six months really have flown by. It feels like you were only settling into the Spanish way of life five minutes ago, yet here we are, already midway through June. Looking forward to hearing what’s next in store once your feet are firmly back on the ground in this neck of the (dreary) English woods.

While you’ve been cavorting about in the sun, I’ve been losing myself in Hampstead Heath, disposing of drowned squirrels (I don’t want to talk about it), and preparing for the long awaited Summer Vacation (details TBA).

However, there’s something else I’ve been doing. Something that I’m not particularly keen on admitting. Something that I’ve been devoting myself to for an hour each weeknight (and Sundays) for the last three weeks.

I am a Love Island addict.

The first step is acceptance.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not even ashamed. I love Caroline Flack, Iain the voiceover guy, the ridiculous tasks, the unnecessary drama, and the countless couplings/uncouplings. It’s an hour a day of mind-numbing, wonderful, outrageous filth.

I’m not going to pretend that I watch it for any other reason than for pure, uncomplicated enjoyment. (I have two Whatsapp groups with two different sets of friends dedicated solely to the discussion of Love Island.) However, surprisingly, it has given me a lot to think about. I know. Who’d have thought.

As you may be aware, one of the Love Island contestants this year, 20 year old Zara Holland, is the current Miss Great Britain. Or should I say was, because her naughty antics in the villa (she had sex. Just like everyone in the villa) have cost her the crown.

The big cheeses at Miss Great Britain announced this to the entire nation (before they told Zara, which I thought was a particularly cute move). Their statement said:

We pride ourselves on promoting the positivity of pageants in modern society and this includes the promotion of a strong, positive female role model in our winners.

The feedback we have received from pageant insiders and members of the general public is such that we cannot promote Zara as a positive role model moving forward.

So there we go. The pageant, which has no qualms in judging who looks sexiest in a bikini, have washed their hands of their winner because she had sex. Is it just me, or is this totally damaging a century of progress? It’s basically implying that it’s ok to objectify women for the male gaze, but it isn’t ok for her to do what she wants with her own body.

A hundred and fifty years ago, this kind of ‘misbehaviour’ would have resulted in electroshock therapy, brain surgery, a life sentence in a mental institution.

Now, I’m not saying the consequences today are at that same horrifying level. However, Miss GB’s reaction does promote a more subtle handling of the same message: a female taking control of her own body is shameful and punishable. Zara Holland was punished and humiliated, not just by those close to her but by Great Britain. One of the saddest parts about Zara’s dismissal is that actually, it was completely apparent that the Miss GB crown was Zara’s whole world. It’s more or less all she talked about. It was her identity.

Well, not anymore.

And why? Because she’s not a ‘strong, positive role model.’

A positive role model wouldn’t have sex because she knows better than to deviate from cultural expectation. A woman who doesn’t just have agency, but uses it for her own wants and desires is not a positive role model. If being a positive role model means living by oppressive rules to fit into some Victorian notion of femininity, then I’m glad not to be one. And I hope, now that she’s had time to process it all, Zara feels the same way.

Because of course, she is not a slag. She was not the only person in that villa to have sex. She is not the only woman in the world who has ever, and will ever have a one night stand. Why should she be showered with judgement while Alex (the man who she had sex with) gets a high five, a pat on the back, a ‘how was she, bro?’ Why did Zara’s friends in the villa shake their heads and tell her she ‘shouldn’t have done that’? Why isn’t Alex ‘slut shamed’ for doing exactly the same thing? Why are there numerous derogatory terms for a female who has sex – slag, whore, etc.- yet not a single male equivalent. (All I can come up with is ‘player’, which, for the boys in my sixth form was a tremendous compliment.) I think we all know the answer to those questions. Hint: inequality still exists.

Maybe I’m asking too much from society.

But I’m not. In fact, I can’t understand why I’m having to ask it at all.

Now I bet you didn’t think a blog entitled ‘Love Island’ would be so heavy! Looking forward to catching up soon. Enjoy Glastonbury, too!

Lots of love

Alex xoxo

ps. watch Love Island

Hello again.

Dear Alex,

I’m back. Please don’t take my blogging absence as anything to do with your last blog; I thought it was absolutely fantastic:

“Who runs the world? Not girls, but the media and gender frameworks”

What a line. JUST FAB.

In fact, it got me thinking quite a lot. Enough to write two blogs myself, promptly decide I didn’t like them, and resume my social media silence. The truth is I’ve wanted to comment on quite a lot of what’s going on in the world, internationally, politically, interesting marketing and communications news at the moment. I mean, where do you even start? Over the last few weeks, ideas for blogs have come thick and fast – Taylor Swift’s latest addition to her campaign for Apple Music (wrote this one, may tweak it and post it in due course) the American presidential race, Hostelworld’s new campaign (again written, may post it later), Brexit issues and my internal rage over my own student loan and the state of them for future generations of students.

These have all remained ideas in my head or written in notes on my phone, and not appeared in the blogger sphere for several reasons. However, the main reason is that I have just been having too much fun exploring the place I have called home for six months.

The gorgeous Northern Spanish coast

It seems a cliché to say ‘time flies’ but for me this couldn’t be closer to the truth. How it is already June is beyond me. So this blog is an ode to everything I have discovered and done in Asturias and Northern Spain over the last month or so: a semi tourist guide of ‘musts’ to do if you ever come here. Whilst I am acutely aware of all that is happening in our world today, for the next two weeks at least, this is my world and I couldn’t feel any luckier that it is.

A true highlight of living in Northern Spain is the food. They champion the long lunch here and I’ve never paid more than 16 euros for a three-course meal with drinks and bread. I feel like I’m going to be in for such a shock when I get back to the U.K and have to pay £7 for a churro at Glastonbury. Plus as a general rule here, the grimier the place looks, the more incredible the food is – a rule that typically cannot be applied to places in the U.K.

A few weekends ago I went hiking with some friends along a trail called ‘Ruta de las Xanas’ (Xanas being the merpeople that supposedly live in the lakes in Asturias).

But at the end of the trail was an incredible view and a run-down restaurant where a little grandma asked us what we wanted to eat from the daily menu options, shuffled away and came back bearing giant cauldrons of food that was the best I’ve tasted. My friend’s Spanish boyfriend validated this by saying if the waitress is an old grandma, the food will be incredible. Evidently he wasn’t wrong.

In addition to the hiking I’ve had a pretty activity packed couple of months. I’ve been paddle boarding in the Pico de Europas (a mountain range) and kayaking and cycling in the most gorgeous scenery. I didn’t fall in once paddle boarding but did fall off my bike in spectacular fashion – classic me.


Plus my parents finally came for a visit last week and we spent every minute that they were here visiting the parts of this beautiful region that I’ve not been able to easily without a car.

The weekend before the last, we went to Bilbao and San Sebastian, stopping in little villages on the way and the way back, all along the Northern Spanish coast.
 It was beautiful.

Turns out, after having to persuade my Mum that we should stop in Bilbao before San Sebastian, that it was actually the preferred city of us both. The Guggenheim, ‘pastel de arroz’, the old buildings and the general feeling of life you get from a city, were all well worth the trip.

San Sebastian was a tourist haven, and this fact let it down for me. It’s saving graces were the beach, the view from the mountains that bookend the city and the incredible and imaginative ‘pinchos’ it boasts. Thank goodness I was with my parents because the ‘take your plate and help yourself’ attitude that most of the pincho bars have is dangerous for my waistline and my wallet.

Pincho highlights including croquetas and a chorizo cupcake 🙂

Now I’m down to my final 10 days here I can say that my bucket list of things to do is shrinking and my collection of unforgettable experiences mounting, with every one my spectrum of feelings about leaving point moving closer towards gutted.

Stay tuned for appearances of the written yet never seen blogs and most likely an emotional ‘Don’t make me leave Spain’ one too.

Lots of love as always, and can’t wait to hear about all your news too 🙂

T xxx

Lemonade

 

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Screenshot from Lemonade Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB5zLq1zcdo

Dear T

Let’s talk about Beyonce for a second. Her name is everywhere right now. Why? Because when life gave her lemons, Beyonce made Lemonade (and made a real song and dance about it too).

Before I carry on I need to say something. I imagine I’m going to make myself a few enemies here. I will be banished from the Beyhive for eternity to infinity and beyond. But alas I will say it anyway.

I don’t love Beyonce.

I don’t hate her either, by the way. I just wouldn’t tweet a ‘What would Beyonce do?’ meme or *crown emoji**bee emoji*. I’ve never got the Queen B buzz (lol) and I don’t have time to try. I’m wary of the craze. But first…

The reason the world is so obsessed with Lemonade right now seems to be what it’s not so subtly saying about Beyonce’s marriage to Jay Z. One song – I didn’t (want to) listen to them all – titled ‘Sorry’ accuses Jay Z of an affair with ‘Becky with the good hair’. As soon as Lemonade was splashed all over the industry carpet the finger was pointed, and not even particularly at Mr Queen B, Jay Z. The first of the accused was fashion designer, Rachel Roy. Then everyone was up in Rita Ora’s face. As I’m typing this the media is claiming that ‘Becky’ is a composite of women Jay Z has cheated with. By the time this has posted we’ll probably be suspecting Mary Kate Olsen or Sarah Lou off of Coronation Street or Fiona Bruce. Who runs the world? Not girls, but the media and gender frameworks. *Blame the woman!!!*. Hey B maybe you should be careful about what you sing before some innocent lady gets their house egged or their face plastered all over the Daily Mail. (Obviously I don’t think this is Beyonce’s fault. She is just the face of a much larger problem.)

Speaking of the Daily Mail, Piers Morgan wrote a truly hilarious article about how Beyonce was ‘playing the race card’ in her new visual album. Morgan cleverly writes how he preferred Beyonce when she didn’t have a political voice and pretended to be white. “The New Beyoncé wants to be seen as a black woman” part was my favourite. She wants to be seen as a black woman. A black woman wanting to be seen as black. How ludicrous!! You’re right Piers, all black women should go back to wanting to be white again!!!! We should definitely wipe out the entirety of the world’s racial progress and Beyonce should get back in the kitchen and make Jay Z a sandwich. That guy is so funny.

Oh apart from this was a genuinely serious article; Morgan wasn’t trying to be funny and no-one is laughing. Everyone’s worst Loose Women panelist, Jamelia, certainly wasn’t laughing when she wrote this. She basically makes Morgan look like a prize racist idiot (who knew?):

You are a middle aged, British white man. You have no idea, I repeat: NO IDEA what it is like to be a black woman, and furthermore the sacrificial, struggle-filled, tongue-biting, mask-wearing fight it is to become a successful one.

Right on Jamelia, you’ve bumped yourself up into the top quartile of my Loose Women panelist rankings.

So now Lemonade isn’t B’s voice or artistry. Lemonade is about Becky with the good hair and the QueenB prototype of woman and whether or not Beyonce wants to be seen as black(?!). It questions why Jay Z decided to internationally expose himself as a love rat, whether he knew what he was signing up for or whether he’s using it as some form of career tactic. Despite all of this, for all the wrong reasons Lemonade puts Beyonce on an ever ascending pedestal that no amount of adultery or publicity can knock down. And I don’t mean Beyonce the person, I mean ‘Beyonce’ the brand.

My feelings about B aren’t informed by her music. Her songs are fine. I would sing my heart out to them in a club (although I would do the same to the Pokemon theme tune so that isn’t saying much.) My issue is with ‘Beyonce’. She isn’t a real person. She’s a creation of many minds, an image, a project, a worldwide symbol of what a woman should be. And I don’t buy it. However real Lemonade may be, Beyonce isn’t; she’s an ideal. She’s married with a child, she’s gorgeous, she donates millions to charity. But don’t forget she’s also Sasha Fierce: ‘sassy’ and strong and feisty. She seemingly never has a bad day; even when her sister punched her husband, ‘Beyonce’ was left virtually unscathed. The media constantly pushes her brand of femininity as a goal for all women. But hi, femininity isn’t real. It’s a totally made up thing that men projected onto women of olden times to make them behave subordinately. It’s scary that the person so many call ‘Queen’ isn’t a person at all, but a brand, a puppet. Beyonce shouldn’t be ‘goals’. You don’t have to be Beyonce. Even Beyonce isn’t Beyonce. Do what you want. Be who you want. You’ll never be Beyonce. I don’t blame Beyonce or her lemony fizzy goodness. After all, she’s just the face of a brand, the commodity used to sell the brand.

I blame her puppet master.

(Hope this wasn’t too intense and I hope I still have friends! Like I said, my issue isn’t with the lady herself, it’s the dishonesty/danger/delusion of mainstream media.)

Lots of love

Alex xoxo

 

Unchartered Territory

Dear Alex,

We are in unchartered territory. Today I have written a cover letter with a difference for a job application. This blog is the only copy and I hope you enjoy it, for whilst a cover letter is not something I would usually write to you, the content is, and has been, something I would write about. So in addition to this being to you and perhaps something you may find interesting, it is also for the eyes of a well-known publisher’s careers team.

SO. Dear All,

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I have been reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ to all of my classes of 3-5 year old Spanish children this week. Teaching this age has been my biggest challenge during my time as an English assistant. The inevitable barrier of teaching those who find their own language difficult, let alone another, has at times been a hurdle I have had to retreat from in order to find another way around. However, this week has restored my faith in my ability to remain clam and collected when faced with a problem, and be an organised, patient and capable leader.

I have gained a certainty in the universality of stories, and the power of this particular story. From the moment I pulled out ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ my usually loud and feisty infant classes were as captivated by the story, and the intensely magical illustrations, as I have been since their age.

I have always loved the drawings and story of this book, even related to its ‘eyes bigger than its stomach’ attitude and even at the age of twenty-two I am still finding new ways to love it.

It is is the best teaching tool. Cries of ‘Oruga’ and ‘Mariposa’ (my all time favourite Spanish word) turned to ‘Caterpillar’ and ‘Butterfly’. Children were calling out numbers; fruit and colours in English with such delight it made pride and happiness bubble inside me. All because of one gloriously colourful story that surpassed different languages and childish impatience. Its greatness exceeded my expectations.

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I have re-found a love for children’s books now that I have to read them on a frequent basis and this love promises to continue through my adulthood with the rebranding of the Ladybird books featuring ‘The Ladybird book of…’ for adults. A take on the classic children’s book for adults and titles including ‘The Ladybird book of the hipster’ which has got to be my favourite.

The publication of these books is what made me stand up and take notice of Ladybird now that I am to all intents and purposes an adult. It was ingenious. The publication of ‘The Ladybird book of…’ books combines a symbiosis of adult humour and content with a nostalgic reference to childhood and tradition. In an uncertain digital age, people are seemingly craving a simpler time of paperback copies and classic stories and Penguin Random House seized upon this in a spur of brilliance that has sold over a million copies.

What a joy it would be to work on these kinds of ideas and help launch a rebrand trademark as captivating as Ladybird for the modern day.

 

I hope everything is going well with you and you have recovered from your idyllic trip to Italy.

Love T xxx

 

 

 

An Italian adventure and some big lemons

Dear T

Your Easter break sounded so fun – I hope you’ve had time to recover. We’ve both been lucky enough to enjoy a nice European holiday this Easter. I spent ten days in Italy, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go but never had the opportunity. Until now.

Where better to start the Italian tour than Rome. It felt to me like a city of a different era. In a good way. What I mean is that it didn’t particularly have the same modern, major, industrial city feels like say London or New York. I can’t recall a single time in those four days where a piece of Roman ruin or ancient architecture wasn’t rearing its old head just meters away from me. SO much to see so little time. We got as much in as physically possible without staying up all night. I’m talking the Colosseum, Forum, Jewish Ghetto, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s, Santa Priscilla catacombs, Villa d’Este, Hadrian’s villa, and what felt like 20,000 churches. And of course, I ate as much as I could stomach without exploding (when in Rome).

Here’s a nice photo montage so you get the idea.

From Rome we drove through Naples and onto the winding mountain roads of the Amalfi Coast. Our first stop was Positano where we stayed in the most magical surreal amazing dreamy place in the entire universe. Villa Treville, all I have done since the plane landed is dream about you. My life will never be the same again.

Villa Treville is made up of a number of little villas, all with stunning views of stunning things. You told someone what you wanted to eat and they made it for you. One of the showers was literally a huge room with water pouring from the ceiling. There were tunnels to the lobby that made me feel like I was in a James Bond movie. The sea changed colour every time you looked at it. There were chickens. I’m weeping a bit because I think maybe that this was the peak of my life.

Anyway, enough gushing about long lost loves hotels and back to the whirlwind tour. We spent a day exploring the buried city of Pompeii, as well as Herculaneum and Oplontis. I still cannot understand how well these remains have been preserved seeing as they were buried by Vesuvius in 79AD… The world really blows my mind sometimes.

I also spent two days lying on a yacht. I know. It. was. the best. I sang the Lonely Island all day long. We explored little caves and nooks and docked at Amalfi for some pizza and gelato on our first day, and sailed off to Capri on our second. A highlight was definitely the blue grotto. The entrance is so tiny you have to go in via a little rowing boat and lie down. I was terrified but once inside… there are no words. It’s totally worth cramming yourself in/giving oneself a mild heart attack. Google it!

I spent the last two nights in Ravello which is further up the mountain than Positano with, as you’d imagine, rather impressive views. There was an infinity pool at the hotel. Enough said really.

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So that’s it! I’m exhausted after writing that. And craving carbonara.

So after we’ve spent the last two blog posts exploring the world I’m a little reluctant to see what our next letters have to offer. Hopefully they won’t be too anticlimactic now reality has ensued with an almighty, harsh bang.

Here’s a picture of some big Italian lemons to kickstart us back into normality.

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Love from Alex xoxo

Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home

Dear Alex,

All it seems I do is apologise for the delay of my blogs. At first my delay was because I had very little to write about apart from my burning desire for it to hurry up and be the Easter holidays. Then just before said Easter holidays I found myself with a million blog ideas and no time at all. What with frantically trying to finish all my work and achieve everything I wanted before the holidays.

Which to be honest was a bit of a shame because I have re-found my love of TED talks and one of my blogs was about this. I downloaded lots for the many long journeys I took over Easter and loved every one of them. I feel instantly more knowledgeable, intelligent and reinvigorated with how fascinating the world is. TED satisfies my innate curiosity that sometimes lays slightly neglected and dormant when life gets rushed. The good news is that this curiosity is being placated far more recently thanks to the TED app – on the go genius at my fingertips.

This is just as well because I have been very ‘on the go’ lately. A jam-packed holiday seemed exciting when I was last minute planning it before the break. A little bit less so now that I am back at work feeling pretty exhausted. Although I do have some fantastic memories and for that reason I wouldn’t change it.

So it all began with a fleeting visit back to the U.K. Just enough time for eat all of my favourite foods and spend time with one of my favourite people (shout out to my Mum there). Then it was back on plane to Spain, this time joined by Helen – think you’ve met her before, she is at Cardiff, one of my ‘rowing friends’ as I remember you and Meg always called them :).


We started in Valencia where one of the first things we did was go on a walking tour around the city. I love walking tours – the guide could be telling you pretty inaccurate information but I like to believe the majority is the truth and they are always good showmen, so if nothing else it is always an entertaining experience.

We also went to the beach for a couple of hours every day. There is almost nothing better than staring out to sea, I kind of wish I lived a bit closer to a beach, they make me really happy. We also got bikes and cycled along once of Valencia’s main features – there used to be river, now dried up and an amazing park, ate paella and ‘fartons’ and drank ‘Horchata’ and ‘Agua de Valencia’.



Then onto Madrid, which is almost colossal status. According to my good friend Google it in fact has a smaller population density than London, but it doesn’t feel like it. Cue three days of the coolest hostel I’ve ever stayed in (loads of cool messages on the walls) museums, churros and tapas eating, a lot of walking on another highly entertaining walking tour, a couple of sunsets, more churros, a picnic in the park and a general good time in what according to our hostel is the sunniest capital in Europe.


Then all that was left yesterday was to part with one of my besties and get on over a 5-hour bus back to Asturias in preparation for work today feeling like I’ve doubled my body weight in amazing Spanish food, and a bit dejected to go back to reality after a pretty great Easter holidays. But then the old woman next to me insisted on sharing her sandwich with me as if she knew that all I needed was some Jamón Ibérico and I would feel better. To tell the truth, she wasn’t wrong.


Can’t wait to hear about your Easter in Italy.

Love T xxx