Sunday, 20 April 2014

Surviving Lent - Or Was It Too Easy?

As a storm splashes onto the lawn and dampens all hopes of gaining a daily dose of vitamin D outside, I, on the other hand, couldn't care less about the extreme lack of sunshine which has so far failed to make an uplifting appearance on this Easter Sunday. Sure, I may have almost dropped my boiling hot bowl of porridge onto the kittens' heads earlier due to being unable to see anything in the oh-so-dim light (unfortunately one of the perils of being blessed with the eye condition myopia, which I like to believe is most associated with intellectuals and glamourous bookworms), but I'm generally in a soft-as-a-marshmallow mood.

In case you are curious as to why I'm comparing my genial temperament to a squidgy, vanilla-flavoured gelatine sweet, it needn't take the likes of a Nobel Prize-winning genius to figure out the reason behind my curved smile: after six weeks of self-restraining, self-inflicting and self-destructing agony (in other words, you're piling the whole planet and perhaps a few galaxies which is bound to create an advanced form of backache), Lent is finally over. Gone are the days of walking down the confectionary aisle at the supermarket and sighing with deep sadness at being forced against your own will to give up a beloved, hip-expanding (unless celery sticks are included as one of your must-have vices) treat - for the next ten months and a half, the world is literally your oyster! If I'm being told that putting my hand into a bag of wine gums will not leave a permanent mark on my conscience, there is no reason for which a My Sweet 16-inspired celebration shouldn't go ahead; for all that I care, being granted access to the sweet jar is the loveliest news which my treat-obsessed self is likely to ever hear!

But before we finish gobbling down our sticky-as-glue hot cross buns and quickly slip into something less embarrassing than your secretly worn Aristocats pyjamas (there goes my aim to keep this now well-known fact on the quiet), I'm starting to wonder whether I even ought to be celebrating the arrival of Easter - and obviously the end of the frightful six weeks recognized as nerve-destroying Lent - because, whether I wish to embrace the truth or not, I might have not followed my original intentions as I had previously hoped before Ash Wednesday rolled around over a month ago. 

Once again embracing my self-obsessed roots, I couldn't bear the thought of giving up richer-than-an-heiress dark chocolate - if I hadn't caught wind of a recent survey which praised the health benefits of consuming cocoa in its less sweet form (always the one to discover a half-acceptable excuse), perhaps I would have been getting my first taste of chocolate in six weeks today - so I quickly decided to toss all gelatine-based sweets and milk chocolate which, unlike a mere year ago, I rarely consume. Although Lent often revolves around abstaining from the treats which captivate your attention as equally as the intriguing mystery surrounding Twin Peaks, I chose to follow my self-created beliefs that even a delicacy which only passes through my lips once every blue moon still counts as acceptable, which made the process of surviving Lent easier than I could have hoped. Or so it seemed to be as easy as cake for the first few days until a Freddo landed on my lap, or I added it to the trolley whilst my mum did the shopping at the supermarket. 

On the off-chance that you aren't particularly familiar with British confectionary, I will not only amaze you with my outstanding knowledge of Asda's most popular brands but leave you a desire which will lead to the exciting path of what I classify as the world's greatest sweets producer: from cola bottles (without the slightest hint of coke) to strawberry bonbons, my native country sells whatever could be the culprit of rotting your teeth. Luckily, my mum and dad made keeping my teeth in a sparkling condition their MI5-style mission from a young age, due to getting filings from consuming too many sweets - and inevitably failing to maintain a healthy cleaning schedule - so I've never had any problems with my dental care which, after having re-occurring nightmares from the classic 80s horror musical Little Shops of Horrors, is a major relief. 

Anyway, Freddo is a small milk chocolate bar which is produced by the British confectionary brand, Cadbury's, and it is a chocolate which I fondly remember eating as a young child; once upon a time at a primary school in Cornwall, I used to have play dates with a boy called Harry (who, if my memory has any recollections, didn't share a resemblance to the partying prince) after school. His mum would often offer me a Freddo bar whilst sitting in the car on the way home, which is how I have come to associate the chocolate bar within my old friend. Although the sugary, not particularly chocolatey flavour doesn't remind me of Cornish pasties, rainy weather or indeed the higher-than-Mount-Kilimanjaro water bills, each bite of a Freddo brings me back to my childhood, which I occasionally crave to revisit. 

But, as you have probably already worked out, a Freddo is milk chocolate, so within a couple of days after making a pact to steer clear of sweets and of course milk chocolate, I broke my promise after giving into a short-lived moment of temptation. And, unlike how plenty of people would have reacted, I hardly cared about my red-handed act, of which I would have been found guilty if I was ever tried in a criminal (and Lent-themed) court. As my guilt-escaping self embarks on the journey of unleashing another excuse upon yourself, I'm hopeful that the then-upcoming move to a village over one hundred miles away from my previous residence might be deemed as an acceptable reason for which breaking my promise to give up milk chocolate barely made a dent on my conscience, especially because the matter of indulging on a tiny-as-Benny-the-Hissy-Kitty bar of chocolate was of a lower priority in comparison to packing my possessions and preparing for the most stressful day of the year. 

Apart from keeping my copy of The Vampire Diaries Season 2 left out until the last possible minute, I was swept into a wave of madness which was purer than my congested complexion, which therefore highlighted a massive problem in relation to keeping my end of the deal with Lent. I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of people tried their hardest to resist having a takeaway during this six week period because, despite being proclaimed as one of the many unhealthy foods to ever be consumed on this planet, plenty of us always enjoy a meal which doesn't involve lifting a finger nor switching the oven on, but I feel like a water balloon which is struggling to deflate due to having more than my fair share of takeaways in recent weeks. 

From crispy chicken at KFC (and McDonald's, which was the highlight of my ever-busy day yesterday) to soggy chips from the local madman's fish and chips shops, the list of my indulgences continue to rise at an astounding rate. even though I didn't make the slightest mention of deep-fried french fries or battered fish whilst composing my list of banned treats before the beginning of Lent took place last month. And, to add to my issues, I felt compelled to steal one of my little brother's wine gums which, unless you are unfamiliar with the ingredients used to create the fruity and undeniably irresistible treats, contain gelatine and spot-creating sugar! Perhaps it ought to be no massive wonder why my face has a tendency to flare the colour of a can of Italian tomatoes if my sweet-devouring habit plays a role in causing more blemish-related misery; it truly saddens me that a second of pure pleasure quickly transforms into an hour dedicated to absolute agony over the condition of my face and, as you would expect, breaking my promise to fulfill my end of the deal for Lent.

Now that I have aired the truth over my sweet-as-pie binges (a dessert of which has not been served since Lent began, though a school-sized dish of apple crumble lasted almost the whole of this week), the uplifting happiness which was the reason behind my smile has been dented if not a bit by my recent admission. On Easter Sunday last year, getting through six weeks of torture and declining desserts which featured chocolate was literally the one thing which stirred a hint of happiness within me two days after my cat Tom passed away, and as I come to terms with the fact that I failed my mission to stay on the straight and narrow within days of Lent commencing, my experience with guilt becomes more and more profound because I knew that I was capable of making it out to the other side like I did last year.

Yet I realize that putting all of this chocolate-riddled guilt (pardon the pun, that chocolate Lindt Bunny is all but preying on my mind) may not be warranted after all because, despite my failure in resisting a bar as cheaply flavoured as my childhood favourite Freddo, I have surpassed my expectations in things much more important than going cold turkey from the confectionary aisle in the local shop. During this past six week period, I achieved one of my wildest, most heartfelt dreams by moving to a place which truly makes my heart sing with pride and elation, whilst somehow keeping my head screwed on as I prepared for the most stressful move which I will probably ever witness and be a part of. I also mastered the art of letting go of past habits and living for the moment, a feat which I once feared would be impossible to hone as a fine skill, along with adjusting to a startlingly new way of life - even three weeks after moving in, I still can't believe my ears when I hear birds tweeting joyfully in the morning - and being happy.

Suddenly, my bad-natured deeds relating to stuffing myself with one too many marshmallow biscuits (the ones which my deceased cat Tom used to devour happily) no longer seem as important nor terribly horrendous because I have grown as a person - though sadly not in height, as I continue to hope - within the space of six long, yet fulfilling weeks. Today will be a day of reflection as I take a look back to the person I used to be a mere year ago - a girl whose heart had never felt more broken and would weep at the slightest mention of her beloved cat, sparing no thought for Easter at all - and then I will focus my attention on the upcoming Easter Dinner which, like Christmas Lunch, always guarantees an ecstatic round of applause and especially crunchy pork crackling.

Although a bar of dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids, mind you) was relished with delight yesterday evening, I will savour the flavour - and indeed meaning - of my Easter egg later today because it represents a message of hope like I've never known it before. Happy Easter and, in case you are down in the dumps over breaking your Lent-related promises, remember that you are not the only one - I'm sure that there are many others who are trying to keep a straight face today!

Let the chocolate madness begin!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Good Friday = Easter, Bunnies and Chocolate

When Good Friday was celebrated across the world towards the end of March last year, I didn't feel remotely interested in even thinking about it, let alone embrace what is likely to be the most busiest day on the jam-packed motorways of the year. That cloudy Friday morning represented a soul-destroying tragedy which only time has been able to heal over the space of a long, exhausting year: the loss of my beloved cat, Tom. From the moment that I lost Tom, my interests in anything unrelated to him all but died out because there wasn't any spare room in my mind to focus my thoughts upon a lighter, if not less devastating subject, so I hardly paid any attention to Easter Sunday two days later as my mind had travelled elsewhere - even giving up my cherished bars of creamy chocolate for Lent didn't stir any emotions of pride for avoiding the preying clutches of temptation over a tiresome six week period.

However, I cannot possibly feel prouder over the fact that the once pitch black cloud of misery which shrouded me after Tom passed away on Good Friday last year has since shifted into a dazzling light of happiness, mostly thanks to my recent move to a quaint village situated in the delightful heart of the picturesque countryside. As I have long believed since my unforgettable furry pal flew to Kitty Heaven over a year ago - an adorable picture of whom has just become my new screensaver - I'm beyond glad that Good Friday and Easter Sunday change dates every year because I would have definitely hated to have associated the most religious dates in the calender with Tom's death for the rest of eternity. Of course, I may wrack my brains a little more strenuously in order to remember the date when my heavenly chocolate egg can be consumed, but it is a small price to pay because there was no possible way that I could celebrate Easter once again with death preying on my thoughts which, last March, provoked me to break down in a mascara-streaked stream of tears at any possible moment.

Anyway, with my newfound elation, I only wish to share my positive mood with you because it would be staying true to the meaning of Good Friday after all; as a long-held tradition, my family and I always make an effort to consume sticky, yet delightfully fruity hot cross buns on the morning of Good Friday as a sign that Easter is rapidly nearing us. Although I couldn't be bothered to read the instructions on the pack of spiced buns (my inner Miss Know-It-All struck once again) which unfortunately resulted in two slices of half-burnt bread, my on-top-of-the-world mood has nonetheless remained intact as I'm in one of those moods where hardly anything can put a damper on my new-found optimism.

Maybe the nearing prospect of getting my hands upon a decadent dark chocolate egg has lifted me beyond the typical realms of happiness or I'm finally beginning to feel like my new house is my home, but there is something wafting around in the atmosphere which I can't quite put my finger on, yet it feels absolutely wonderful and is probably one of the many reasons why I'm writing this with a massive smile curving on my lips. My 'dangerous' cold which was my main talking point several days ago is taking its first step towards recovery, so not only will yourselves be flooded with heartfelt relief at the news of no longer being obliged to read about my intake of blackcurrant-flavoured Calpol or look at pictures of throat-soothing lozenges, but I cannot wait to get rid of my blocked nose and occasionally dry throat - another cause for celebration, so I think! And, unlike yesterday which constantly provoked me to ask out loud whether a rainstorm was on its way, the sun is dazzling like a jewellery box filled with precious jewels in my bedroom, a pleasant sight of which is always welcome on a day like this.

Surely you must be wondering whether I've rolled out of bed on the wrong side or a tiny, egg-sized bump has been inflicted on my head, which could potentially be the cause of my out-of-the-blue sunny prospect of life? Being a teenager, I've become accustomed to putting my moaning duties before engaging in spirit-lifting activities because giving into my grumpy tendencies sometimes seems easier than trying harder at being happy, but there are occasions - such as today, for example - when I needn't lift a finger as to putting a wider-as-a-plasma-television grin on my face as it couldn't possibly be more natural. Living in such a peaceful area is constantly taking me surprise by its relentless stream of perks, so it is bound to take a while until I adjust to leading a life where I'm unaware as to what may be lurking around the corner. Like being strapped on the edge of your seat on a roller coaster, excitement races through my veins whenever I come across something new, which creates an unignorable itch to embark on a fresh adventure.

Now that I only have to wait two more days until Easter Sunday arrives - along with my chocolate-flavoured goodies which could possibly fill several aisles at the local supermarket - it is becoming increasingly harder to prevent myself from thinking about anything unassociated with the day, which holds a high importance for many people around the world. Instead of picking up yet another factory-made clone like the year before, I chose a luxury dark chocolate egg by British chocolatier Thorntons a few weeks ago, which thankfully brought a time of desperate frustration and pointless searches on Google to an abrupt end. Even my cocoa-loving self was struggling to understand why finding a decent chocolate egg seemed such an important task, which came a huge worry!

My brother, on the other hand, promptly decided against buying an Easter egg for himself as he much preferred to receive several Kinder eggs - the milk/white chocolate egg which contains a small toy that, in my opinion, is destined to be broken within minutes of playing with it - because he is determined to obtain all of these miniature Marvel figurines, which brings our years of devouring sugary, larger-than-ourselves cheap chocolate eggs to a halt. In many ways, I'm rather pleased that I've put my days of relishing bags upon bags of sugar-coated eggs behind me because it only meant extra care for my teeth which, as I celebrate my fifteenth year of stable dental health, are worthy of receiving proper care from myself, whose determination to steer clear of nasty fillings will hopefully never waver. And, as I get older, Easter means so much more than numerous Twirl bars - unlike what I used to live and breathe for as a young, sweet-craving child!

This Easter, my intention is to spend a pleasant day with my family and cherish the precious moments which we have spent together, reviewing the life-changing happenings of the past year and appreciating how far we have come since Easter last landed on our doorstep. More than a year on, my family and I have two new kittens - seven month year olds Bart 'Barticles' and Benny 'Bear' (when he stalks around in a volatile mood, Benny truly growls like an angered bear!) - and have just moved to our new home in the most beautiful county to have ever existed. I'm happy to have achieved so much in both my personal and academic life - running this blog counts as one of my most appreciated educational achievements, in case you didn't know - since I last ripped open my chocolate egg last Easter, but this year I will appreciate the rich flavour of the chocolate like never before because heartfelt elation will be the main ingredient behind it.

Tell me how I will be able to wait another two days until the chocolate bonanza - and an appearance from the Easter Bunny, whose wobbly stomach doesn't particularly advocate healthy eating - begins!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Living With The Plague (a.k.a. Common Cold)

Unless you happened to spare a thought or two for me as I failed to make an appearance on my blog yesterday, I will be as proud as punch to fill you in on what has recently occurred in my life since I promoted my text speak-loathing beliefs two days ago. Despite my world hardly being turned upside down - or indeed taken on a trip down under, for that matter - I have nonetheless been struggling to grasp the simplest of all things which, as you will discover in a moment, is easily understandable. Or so I like to believe.

  • On Monday afternoon, the life-threatening plague - otherwise referred to as a common cold by doctors, in case your heart plummeted at the possibility of my being dangerously ill - took me by surprise, draining me of any reserved energy to write on my blog or even do the easiest things in life. Not only have I grown accustomed to blowing my nose at fifteen minute or so intervals which, in turn, has irritated the sensitive skin to a painfully raw state, but my throat is drier than the traditionally dry British sense of humour and indulging in my passion of talking until the moment I go to bed has all but been abandoned since I began raiding half of the medicine cabinet. 
  • Although I used to preserve a secret love for the throat-soothing lozenges called Strepsils because of the sweet and, in a sense, hunger-satisfying orange/blackcurrant flavour, I've officially broken off my passion for the medicine as, like many things, it merely reminds me of the reason for which I suck one every few hours. Yes, Little Miss Unwell just doesn't want to face up to the well-known fact that she is under the weather, though this needn't disrupt her from creating a thousand and one excuses for which she deserves an extra large scoop of vanilla ice cream. Seriously, it frightens me what I'm capable of doing whenever throat-cooling ice cream is on the agenda - especially if I get my hands onto the scooper. 
  • Gaining a decent night's sleep has all but been a beloved luxury which has been ripped away from my hands since I developed a runny nose and aching throat two days ago, leaving me prone to lashing out thanks to my easy-to-snap temper and noticeable exhaustion. Right now, I'm tired of hearing about Google Glass supposedly being a 'revolutionary' moment in the technology moment because, unless a £1,000 or so appeared in the bank account overnight, it will be of absolutely no use to me; finding out a comfortable way of getting to sleep without my nose dripping onto the covers would be automatically heralded as a miracle. And a very pocket-friendly one, too.
  • As school holidays traditionally signify that a week or two of boring TV programmes and terrible weather (in my opinion, it's as terrible as the so-called April Showers if a swarm of buzzing flies appear on a brighter-than-jewels Spring day) lie in wait, I have never known boredom like ever before because, not only do I feel incapable of doing anything, I have no idea about what I probably can do, which therefore leads to a five minute sulk dedicated to frustration. In general, life throws plenty of problems which, unless job agencies begin to recruit official problem solvers, only you can sort out, but reaching a solution for the most basic matters in everyday living suddenly becomes ten times harder when a painful ache throbs in your temples and an itch-like desire to scramble into bed is too difficult to ignore. Sadly, falling prey to one of the world's most common - and least dangerous, though my inner sulker would prefer to turn a blind eye towards it - illnesses has created an unanimous struggle relating to my making what are typically deemed as easy-peasy decisions. Choosing which bear to sleep with in the warm comfort of my bed - either a pink Care Bear or elegant meerkat will gain the prestigious title of being my bedroom buddy for a night - hasn't never been more difficult.
So, it is rather fair to say that I am indeed feeling pretty unwell thanks to catching a bout of the annual flu several days ago, and it has significantly reflected on my mood because, after going through tons and tons of toilet rolls as a means of blowing my nose (who knows what the bill for Kleenex tissues would be if I used them instead), I'm both physically and emotionally tired of being unwell. Also, what irritates me above everything else is that my symptoms suddenly appeared out of nowhere, which came as a dreadfully unpleasant surprise after lunchtime on Monday, so my struggle against getting my head around the fact that Miss Pillpopper - since being inspired to increase my uptake of body-strengthening pills last year, I've been taking a daily multivitamin and zinc supplement every morning which, despite letting me down on one unfortunate occasion such like this, has overall protected me from system-affecting illnesses - has lost a bit of her energetic spark continues. 

Like 99.9% of people on this planet, I have never enjoyed being ill because it evokes a childlike person hidden in the deepest parts of myself to reach the surface, forcing my typically mature persona to take a back seat until all of my infected germs are destroyed and I return to appreciating fine health for hopefully a long, illness-free time. Within the space of several hours, I transform into a whiny, unhappy monster whose demands for her sore throat 'to be taken away' cannot be fulfilled, which embarrasses me deeply once I reach beyond the initial stages of being unwell. 

Unless my wishes of receiving a new book or a slice of my favourite comfort food (at the moment, a square of dark chocolate seems to do the hard-to-perfect trick) come true, hardly anything lifts me from the despair and anger which places a firm grip upon me, and it is only once I clear my body and mind of the nasty virus preying on the infected areas that I'm able to take my first steps towards freeing myself of a temporary, yet seemingly endless sickness. In other words, placing my nose at risk of bursting several blood vessels by blowing out the yucky-looking germs is mandatory towards my beating a virus which has no right to invade my body, regardless of however much pain I may go through to achieve my goals of kicking out the unwanted visitor. 

As you would expect, the first day of being unwell is typically one filled with struggle, tiredness and inevitably annoyance because you just don't want to be sick, but now that I've gotten past that day (which, despite beginning to go downhill on Monday, was actually yesterday) dealing with my runny nose and sore throat becomes a sort of second nature to me. Yeah, I may sometimes feel like thrusting my hands into the air as my nose drips like a water fountain minutes after being blowed as ferociously as The Big Bad Wolf destructing several houses, but unfortunately that's part of being unwell - and indulging in self-pity does not guarantee an escape from it, though I would be over the moon if that was ever the case. 

Anyway, I doubt that I will bother to go beyond this cold-themed discussion because my thoughts have hardly strayed from my on-going malady, but I hope that if you are feeling as bad as I do (or happen to feel this way in the future), you don't feel quite so alone in your terror of battling an ordinary virus. Unlike yesterday, I've made more of an effort to keep myself occupied by baking a batch of oat crunchies (thanks to the feature of demerara sugar, they have a toffee-like flavour) and, of course, mentioning my ill perils here which, in many ways, has acted as a better medicine in comparison to the countless spoonfuls of Calpol and fruity lozenges I've recently consumed. 

Being victimized by catching a common cold has ignited a new-found desire to break away from tradition and do what I want - whilst abiding by the Law, bien sûr - so today I'm not bothered in the slightest about writing a long-as-Les-Misérables essay. Instead, I've uploaded several pictures of the things which have been most relevant in my life over the past few days, albeit I received one or two confused looks from my father and little brother when I took several snaps of blackcurrant-flavoured (or rather blood-coloured) cough medicine. One like me should always be supervised whilst being influenced by medicine of any sort - especially if I'm taking pictures of it! And little Barticles has discovered the joys of watching TV on the comfy sofa à la Homer Simpson...

As a way of cheering myself up (and increasing my calorie intake, albeit unintentionally), I decided to give these oat crunchies - as featured in Delia Smith's fantastic Cakes book - a go earlier today, and I can proudly tell you that they taste like a buttery, oh-so-sweet dream! In case you were wondering why a piece of the tin has mysteriously disappeared, I couldn't resist waiting until the entire batch had cooled down, so I had to taste one of them. Like always.

Since my throat began to feel like an overcooked roast potato on Monday, these lozenges have been my go-to saviour and have thankfully decreased the swelling in my mouth, whilst giving me a five minute-long burst of blackcurrant sweetness. Nice.

Despite being classified as a health-conscious young adult/stroppy teenager, this fact hasn't prevented me from consuming an E number-riddled, sugary cough syrup which is indeed aimed towards young children. Like the lozenges above, this medicine is blackcurrant-flavoured which, as I have long guessed, contributes to soothing a painful throat, but looks like blood once I pour a drop onto the plastic spoon which comes with the box. Another reason why my mess-prone self should avoid the colour white at all costs. 

Although he may not come with a burst of paracetamol or guarantee to take away my painfully cold foes, little Bart never fails to cheer me up when I cannot imagine gaining the slightest sense of happiness - in this picture, he was having a decent snooze on the sofa in our living room, which set me into a contagious fit (hopefully one without nasty germs) of giggles! Yesterday, Bart landed himself into trouble when he was caught taking a bite from my mum's plant which is on the verge of flowering, but I couldn't bring myself to be angered by his wild antics because he was literally the only thing who raised a smile on my lips. Hail the potato couch Barticles!

Simply by having a classic old rant about my hassles (and sneezing tendencies), I'm already beginning to feel better because giving myself something both fulfilling and fun to do - as you probably know off heart, writing is my joie de vivre - offers me the opportunity to escape the perils of illness, albeit a fairly harmless one. 

Now, when will my plague go away? 

Monday, 14 April 2014

My Failure in Learning Text Speak

If the title of this blog is supposed to remind you of a certain aspect, my journalist wannabe self ought to embrace all things relating to modern teenage life because I am an adolescent after all, so staying true to long-respected traditions such as getting the blues, breaking away from the shadow of adults and creating my own (legal) identity should be as easy as sticking my head into a tub of Ben and Jerry's cookie dough ice cream, right? Um, not exactly, if you can even bring yourself to believe my words.

Although I hardly ever let anybody forget the world-famous fact that I am indeed going through 'the hardest time in my life' (ditto yet another overused cliché), there are several things about modern day teenagers which my brain-training self struggles to grasp. For example, I've never quite gotten my head around the reason for which the 'idols' of British boy band One Direction have gained an enormous amount of popularity and a loyal legion of screaming fans across the world - especially as they are often targeted towards girls my own age - but the sight of Harry Styles singing a love ballad doesn't stir the slightest twinge of excitement within me and confirms my once-hidden beliefs that I am immune to any singers who earn more money than a selfless carer or unpaid volunteer at a donation-reliant charity. 

If I had the time (and the remarkable ability to sit at my desk for the rest of the day without getting a paralyzing cramp), I could probably discuss my noticeable differences from what many would deem as an 'average' teenager, but I'm mostly proud about standing out from the crowd because following one's self-made path is often ignored by teens who are more vulnerable to failing prey to peer pressure which, in my opinion, ought to be banished from future generations. Anyway, I'm not seeking to start a hotter-than-a-chilli rant over the perils of copying others blinded by stupidity and an extreme lack of intelligence because there is one particular subject which, like the great (hotel-staying) explorer Bear Grylls, I'm dancing like a drunken fool on an empty dancefloor at the prospect of looking into one well-known aspect of teenage life which many have either grown to love and hate with a fierce passion: text speak. 

Ah, where would we busy-bees have ended up if text speak hadn't been created? Like a ready meal, text speak only promotes the intriguing, yet lazy message of convenience to those whose priorities lie beyond using standard grammar and, as the years have passed by and more people have bought mobile phones, it seems that text speak is unlikely to disappear into the shadows as plenty of language-appreciating people - and myself noless - have hoped for a very long time. 

When I got my first mobile at the age of twelve, I was greatly excited about being able to contact my friends via sending a short, yet sweet-as-sugar text message because, by then, writing a long and often unread email had lost its grip upon me, and texting struck me as a more convenient way of staying touch with the people I knew. But, unlike others who may have immediately been sucked into the popularized trends surrounding text messaging and anything holding the slightest association to the internet, I steered clear of abbreviating my words or certain expressions as I just didn't like the sight of it. In my eyes, saying brb (a.k.a. be right back) instead of writing it properly looked as messy as an unmade bed - and you wouldn't want to witness my nerves spiralling out of control if I fail to make my bed as soon as I get up! And, unless you have never thought about it, text speak signals a level of immaturity which is often my greatest source of irritation; in other words, if you know how to assert your words in the English language, I doubt that making an effort with expressing yourself properly will hardly rob you of your 'precious' time! 

Thankfully, that's enough on my heated opinion because, regardless of whatever spills out of my lips, text speak will inevitably continue to be used by millions of teenagers - and trend-following adults, whose pretence at speaking like youths is heralded as the greatest form of embarrassment - so getting myself into a Homer Simpsons-inspired rage will unfortunately be of no use. However, my study-loving self - who has been starved of all learning sources due to this week's Easter holidays - would enjoy nothing more than to indulge in a new form of learning by getting to grips with commonly used text expressions, so I hopefully will avoid being made to feel embarrassed once I enroll in a nearby secondary school. But, despite my intention to read up on this modern day culture, there is no possible way that I will ever be tempted to use it in my own text messages - besides, my parents would never allow me to throw away all of my life-long efforts to maintain good (and easily understood) communication!

Down below is a small list of various expressions and symbols which form an extremely large part of text speak, some of which may even be unused nowadays. How am I - a self-confessed grammar lover - supposed to realize that, like the themes at each Dolce & Gabbana collection, text expressions vary at various times? And, as always, I can never quite resist keeping my mouth shut when it comes to expressing myself (minus a symbol whose meaning I'm unlikely to ever understand)...

Gerd/Ermahgerd - Oh My God
When I stumbled across this one on a list of popular text expressions for 2014, my eyebrows nearly rose towards the back of my head as I struggled with great difficulty to understand the meaning of this expression. For all I knew, it probably could have been a foreign word (apparently, gerd relates to a gastroesophageal reflux disease), but never in a million years would I have ever guessed it as 'oh my god'!
Anyway, what is the point of this word if the shorter OMG would save a letter whilst writing a speedy text? In certain ways, gerd sounds like an insult for a reason which I can't quite place my finger upon, and I have a gut instinct that this word won't be around in ten or so years' time. Fingers crossed.

Wut - What 
As soon as I saw this, it took me all my might to avoid screaming with agony at this expression which, unless you haven't already realized, completely breaks all the grammatical rules in our beloved dictionary! Really, would it kill you to spell such as an easily remembered word like what whilst sending a text message or would I be required to wave a £10 note in front of your face? Everything about wut - even typing it sends waves of terror down my spine - is wrong and as nasty as a sickly sweet cup of honey and lemon. If I thought that gerd was the very worst word to have ever been created, I truly have my work cut out with banishing wut from text messaging. Lord help me!

Sup - What's Up?
Unlike the expressions mentioned above, I believe to have already been familiar with this popular greeting, which updates the famed informal expression what's up for the WhatsApp generation, so at least I don't feel like I'm out of my league on this one.
However hard I try to banish the thought from my mind, sup automatically reminds me of the fizzy drink 7Up because I cannot think of another word which shares such a close resemblance, so I seriously doubt that I'd be able to get away with using it minus a reminder of my favourite lemon and lime drink.
And, once again, sup represents more immaturity because it is viewed as a convenient way of asking about somebody's well-being. If you really do care about how your friend or family member is getting on, making a phone call or even seeing them - shock, horror! - surely couldn't be deemed as a waste of time, could it? Only the young may stand a chance of getting away with using sup, though it needs to be said that there are better ways of greeting somebody. Only saying, you know.

LOL - Laugh Out Loud
Okay, I truly know where I stand with LOL because, whether we are young or old, it commonly represents text speak as it is rather easy to drop into an informal message, which can lighten the atmosphere and inject your obviously amused opinion within three letters.
Even the Prime Minister, David Cameron, is alleged to have used LOL in his text messages, though he has since claimed that he believed that the expression translated as lots of love instead. Well, even it appears that the most well-known man in Britain is failing to put his knowledge - as taught at the elite boys' school, Eton College - of the English language whilst communicating with his contacts, so all hopes of maintaining a decent conversation in less than 160 characters have been crushed, don't you believe?
Although I have since begrudged my actions, there was a time when my ten year old self wouldn't have thought twice about injecting lol into a message, particularly as many people were semi-fluent in text speaking, but I quickly progressed beyond that point by forming my own views and, as you would expect, develop a loathing for incorrect grammar.
However, I have no desire to return to my lol-ing ways because, despite what the meaning suggests, I have never laughed out loud whilst reading a text message, so tagging lol seems rather pointless if I'm not staying true to my word.
Just tell me one thing because it really has been preying on my mind recently: has the so-called 'creator' of lol earned any money from his or her expression which has had them laughing all the way to the bank, or are their lives the same as before? Long ago, I faced up to the fact that I will probably never invent a revolutionary item or gadget, but God help me if adding yet another grammar-offending word to the long list of texting expressions were ever my claim to fame.

As you have now read, my hatred towards text speak will continue to burn like a slow, yet heated flame for as long as I live because I don't think that I will ever bring myself to accept it, let alone embrace it with outstretched arms. Along with making a once-in-a-lifetime purchase on a Louis Vuitton bag, all that I want is for proper English grammar to remain intact for the duration of eternity; it would be a massive shame if text speak and informal slang destroyed it one day, though I already fear that the damage has already been done.

And btw - you can work this one yourself - I'm not lol-ing right now!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sunday Debate: Why Women Are Still Underrepresented

As I put my feet up in front of the TV before switching the channel, my eyes darted towards the screen in wonder of what was currently being aired. Having vaguely heard about The Masters - one of the most prestigious golfing competitions in America, so I've been led to believe - taking place this weekend, I was interested to see a little bit of the popular sport which, if the stunning sight of immaculately cut grass and well-dressed players hadn't reminded you, is mainly geared towards the richer-than-imaginable wealthy people and, as I quickly noticed, men; apart from a female sports presenter standing in the distance, hardly a woman was in sight. 

Perhaps my ever-growing hatred for Sky Sports has reached an inevitable head after years of being forced to watch footballers - male, of course - kick a ball as their overwhelmingly well-paid job, but now this pretence which I tried so hard to turn a blind eye to has all but died because it is no longer as ignorable as it once was: even in this modern day and age, women are still underrepresented in many aspects of life, with an extreme lack of female golfers to say the least. Until now, I don't think that I have ever been swept into such a poisonous wave of misery relating to the underrepresentation of my gender which, despite being 'supposedly' given equal rights to their male counterparts decades ago, still continue to be mistreated and abused in so many ways which I cannot even explain properly - and, as I get older and I near towards the time when I enter womanhood, it concerns me that I could be counted as one of the countless victims of unfair behaviour or prejudice from almost every single part of life. 

In case you assume that I have gone off the bandwagon - despite recently moving to a rather remote village in the glorious countryside, I have not yet laid eyes upon a bandwagon or a rumbling quad bike for that matter - let me clear things for you: in 1928, after decades of campaigning and leading sometimes frightful protests, women were given the right to vote which was hailed as a life-changing and historical event. Indeed, women have never forgotten this moment as the years have passed by because our lives would probably have continued to be determined and controlled by men, the thought of which makes my blood boil so angrily because these women who fought for our generation - some of whom may even be your ancestor, for all I know - should never have been pushed into such a discriminating position in the first place. Oh well, a moaning and spot-covered teenager like myself doesn't have the necessary powers to rewrite history in order to make it a better place for everybody, but perhaps being blessed with such an enviable gift could have prevented women from receiving unjustly levels of prejudice in the 21st century. And, as I will tell you now, you will never doubt for a single moment that inequality was destroyed when The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 was drawn up almost ninety years ago. 

From lower wages to offensive harassment, women of all ages haven't been entirely able to escape the discrimination which suffragettes (women who sought the right to vote via organized protest) fought with all their might to enable for future generations which, despite closing the gender gap by a significant level throughout the years, has failed to disappear completely. Unless reading the newspapers isn't listed as one of your must-do hobbies (unlike my Daily Mail-devouring self), more and more articles have been discussing the unfair treatment of women in the work office who, even if they have the same job as a man, are missing out on receiving equal payment - whether you believe in gender inequality continuing to exist in 2014, surely it must strike you as extremely wrong and even offensive to yourself? Although I still have a couple more years of gaining an education at school (a topic of which I'll bring up another time), I nonetheless worry about facing a similar ordeal once I get my hands upon my first job because it seems that nobody - regardless of their age, ability and obviously sex - is immune to being victimized. 

What baffles me the most is the yet-to-be-told reason why women haven't been able to wave a final goodbye to the chauvinism which plagued our country and our lives nearly a century ago, but sometimes I get the impression that whilst we make an honest effort to move on and lead our lives, certain people are unwilling to let go of the power which can determine our places in society. Before you get the wrong idea, there are plenty of men for whom I have the greatest appreciation because many have contributed to our world by expressing their wisdom - whether you are young or old, intelligence can only been deemed as invaluable - but it doesn't change the fact that there continues to exist a legion of people who get their hands onto power, which in turn could create an animosity for plenty of us. Why else would the gender gap still be going strong without offering a sign as to it disappearing for good?

Without going over-the-top with frank and perhaps unneeded detail, life itself throws numerous things at you during its course, inevitably strengthening yourself as a person and teaching you lessons which are only taught to those affected by life-changing events. But if a future filled with sexism rife amongst our society is on the cards, life for a woman therefore becomes a hundred times more difficult because our plates - already piled high with the pressures of living up to the preferable image of supermodel-like perfection, steering clear of esteem-destroying failure and one day keeping up with appearances by running a family - are too much to juggle, which leads to this: something has to give. None of this sexism, ageism (how I'm becoming accustomed to words ending with 'ism' remains a mystery) and unfair treatment gains happiness for anybody, except a hefty lawsuit and bad publicity for the bullies involved, but it appears that the message has not yet gotten through - and if it ever does, when will that moment be?

Thanks to the topic of feminism and sexism being mellowed and more digestible to the majority of the public in recent years, I'm hopeful that together - both men and women united - we will finally banish these sexist demons for good by promoting equality wherever we go, from the workplace to sports to even schools, if the idea hadn't occurred to yourself. I'm not calling for a full-on law against all types of banter because some of it is always enjoyed by both sexes and, as British people are renowned for their brilliant sense of humour (so much for avoiding an obviously biased opinion), the last thing I want is to lose sight of such a celebrated part of our heritage and also ourselves at heart. At the end of the day, I find it deeply saddening when a joke is taken too far or is mentioned in a highly upsetting manner because most of it is uncalled for, which should count as a reminder that everybody should be able to distinguish the difference between informal, yet amical banter to a sexist remark - in other words, don't say what you wouldn't want to hear about yourself!

In ten years' or so time, I would love to see more women represented in what are typically classified as 'masculine' sports on TV - though I wouldn't be putting any bets on many receiving a £300,000 weekly cheque like footballer Wayne Rooney because nobody deserves such money - along with womens' rights being rolled out across the world because, despite the great progress we have made and will continue to do in this country, many nations are thousands of miles away from treating women with the dignity and represent which we are entitled to. I'm a teenage girl who wishes for the best for everybody, and nothing angers me more than these basic, yet invaluable rights are violated - only the evilest criminals are worthy of having their rights stripped away within the click of a finger, not law-abiding and honest women. 

Beneath the inch-thick layer of make-up and a smile which would light up the whole of Hollywood, we women possess a strength which, despite not making a regular appearance, runs through our veins like a thoroughbred galloping in what I hope is an animal-friendly horse race. Regardless of often being dismissed as the 'weaker' gender - just why would the majority of us yearn for veiny biceps? - these unfair words couldn't be further away from the truth which only we know deep inside: our emotional strength is priceless and is the source to our finding happiness. Otherwise, how else would suffragettes have survived years of torment in protest for what too many of us take for granted? I'll let you decide on that one. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Modern Teen Debate: Is Our Generation Under Threat?

Every so often, there comes a time - or rather a life-changing epiphany, which sparkles as brightly as my Tiffany-lookalike jewelled necklace - when my blood boils with a heart-pounding rage after catching wind of something which brings home a profound, unignorable meaning to me, which continues to persist in my thoughts until I can no longer bear to hold my beliefs inside for a moment longer. Call it a burning desire of some sort (when will I break my instilled habit of making references to Lana Del Rey's songs) because, like a fireplace warming one's knuckles during the midst of a cold-as-Ben-and-Jerry's-ice-cream winter, my heart burns with the anger of having something which I hold very dear under threat which, no matter how hard I attempt to focus my attention on a stress-free object, eventually needs to be addressed. And, as you will learn in a moment, the current subject of my blood pressure-rising fury will probably strike you like a bullet piercing the skin, draining you of all your faith in what controls the most meaningful thing which we humans cling to for dear life: our futures.

Thinking about life in five, ten or even a quarter of a century's time is a fair funny thing, I haste to add because I continue to find it an immense struggle to imagine myself - this teenage girl who has spiralled herself into a mess whilst trying to figure out a way to live a happy, yet not entirely spot-free existence - passing beyond the seemingly relentless realms of adolescence and morphing into an adult which, despite the fact that it will eventually occur in a mere few years' time, strikes me as one of the many daydreams which my imaginative self is prone to doing on a dull summer day. Although I haven't entirely embraced the soon-to-be-a-reality truth that adulthood will overtake my ongoing stint in puberty, I nonetheless enjoy zooming a decade or so into the future to catch a glimpse of the person - or rather woman, as the term 'teenager' will no longer apply to my oh-so-grown-up self - whom I aspire to be, as I'm sure that you cannot resist doing whenever the moment takes you.

But, at the end of the day, what I must bear in mind is that I am the one who is choosing to see a beautiful, Hollywood-perfect shot of myself in a ten years' time, which needn't count as an accurate indicator of what is likely to occur within that time period. Instead of facing up to the more probable possibility of squeezing every penny out of monthly wages - or, if the unemployment levels suddenly rocket sky high, receiving a salary which would cover all of the money-draining bills would be out of question - and waiting until middle age or even later to take my first baby steps onto the property later, I'm still at an age where indulging in the satisfying fantasy of marrying a royal prince or becoming the first woman to eradicate the poor nations of hunger counts as a potential possibility, though these dreams are slipping further and further away as I get older. The reason why? Our generation - the ones whom will certainly take control of the government and our parents' job one day in the distant future - is under terrible threat and, despite making countless attempts to get our voices heard, nobody will listen to our cries.

Before you immediately assume that I've gotten the wrong end of a pointy witch's broomstick, let me refresh your mind with the recent figures on youth unemployment in the United Kingdom (a.k.a. my native country): according to statistics released on the Parliament website last month, 912,000 youths (aged 16 to 24) are unemployed, which counts as a fifth of youths able to work in the entire country. This means that every one in five of youths don't have a job which, considering that the economy is 'supposedly' returning to normal and life's basic necessities - such as housing, bills, food, to name a few - are continuing to rise at a rapid pace, is crushing news. I was almost lost for words when I stumbled across the figures a while ago because, despite realizing the unemployment is still a massive problem in my country - and throughout the world nonetheless - I hadn't realized how badly it is affecting younger people who, if given an opportunity to hone their skills and fulfill their ambitions, could give so much to society, yet I'm always given the impression that youths are immediately shunned by their elders which breaks my heart so tragically.

Since thousands of young people participated in the London Riots across the country in the summer of 2011, I feel that people have lost faith in our generation because the very worst of us ruined the honest, hard-working reputation which we have relentlessly worked on achieving for years, which has all but destroyed most of my faith in the political system. If the government had cut short their traditional summer holidays in order to sort out the riots which plagued many parts of the country into a heated, criminal madness, perhaps part of our image could have been salvaged from the flames which burnt years' of hard work and an honest living for the poor victims of the riots, whose shops and lives were deeply affected by several yobs' vile actions. But, even if the riots had never taken place, I don't think that it would have made much of an influence on what is threatening our generation like a deadly bout of the Spanish plague: the lack of a good education.

Unless you come from a wealthy background and are in a much-envied position to afford all costs on obtaining the most elite education, this paragraph needn't apply to you, but to those youths whose education solely relies upon the government - otherwise known as a state education. From the first day we attend playgroup or nursery to the moment we wave farewell to our last shift at work before retiring, our lives always include education as a main and vital feature in whatever we do, whether it involves dozing off in Mrs Parker's dull-as-wall-paint maths class or conjuring ideas which could land you a hefty promotion in the office. But what happens if the basic foundation of education is not nurtured like a budding flower in the early years of life - when we reach an age where learning becomes an important focus - which could take us down a path of hardship, struggle and disappointment?

Achievement becomes harder than ever to obtain if we are never exposed to such an uplifting joy at a young age, and it leaves a trail of failure from which we may not entirely avoid throughout our lives. Staying true to our nature, we humans have a tendency to point the finger of blame towards ourselves if something terrible - for example, failing to pass a vital exam heavily affects our self-esteem - occurs, but sometimes we must remind ourselves that we are not always the ones at fault. If our place of education isn't up to the ideal standard, what kind of chance do we stand in fulfilling our ambitions?

Upon searching for local secondary schools since moving to my new home, I have been inundated with numerous results for schools which could potentially offer me a place, yet I have often felt disheartened at the poor selection because of one single detail: the ratings. In England, there is an education authority known as Ofsted who are in charge of rating all of the schools in the country and indeed have the power to shut any underperforming schools down, or convert them into independently-run academies, and it is because of their four-grade ratings - '1 - excellent' is the best you could achieve, whilst '4 - inadequate' immediately signals alarm bells - that I have almost spat my sip of 7Up onto the laptop in pure shock at the results staring in front of me.

Although I'm rather fortunate to reside near several popular and well-graded schools, the rest on offer are ones which I would never dream of attending in a million years', yet there is often a lack of choice for certain people who must make do with what is offered to them. How fair is it to send your child to a school which could significantly affect their learning and rob them of their chances of succeeding in working life? It angers me that these inadequate schools are allowed to carry on teaching hundreds - or, in a few urban areas, thousands - of students because every pupil is entitled to fair and highly satisfactory education, which could give them the perfect start to pursuing whatever they wish to do once their education finishes. Education is priceless, and I wish that the government and the education authorities would stop draining our country and youth of an opportunity which needs to be fulfilled.

If you believed that my rant on school education had reached an end, I'm sorry to prove you wrong because there is yet another dangerous threat hot on our heels, which has already unleashed its poison upon thousands of students in recent years: university fees. As I intend to pursue a career in journalism, attending university doesn't stand out as a massive must because one's skills doesn't necessarily have to be proved by a diploma - newspapers can automatically sense one's writing ability by what they write, so I'm not entirely bothered about going through the once-in-a-life-time university experience.

However, it concerns me that, during a time where the economy is still trying to find its feet and the majority of the population are experiencing money-related issues, students in England are being cornered into having to splash out at least £9,000 per year at most universities. Since when should we have to pay such a ridiculously high amount in order to gain an education? I recognize that taxpayers needn't be burdened by excessive fees, but universities shouldn't raise their eyebrows in surprise if students fail to pay back the interest on their loans, let alone the fees themselves. And, as the current figures of youth unemployment prove, obtaining a good degree at university doesn't necessarily guarantee at a job afterwards, which not only leaves yet another person out of work, but with massive debts which they will struggle to pay off.

At a time where education could be the only shining light in younger people's eyes, the government leave us with no other choice than to turn away from our last glimmer of hope because too few of us are blessed with hundreds of thousand pounds in our back accounts. There are many other things which could cause more damage for generation which I won't even go into, but I think that I have made my point crystal clear: without hope, younger people are left with the remains of the faith we used to place into the powers above us, who fail to treat us with the dignity and respect we rightfully deserve. A part of myself still clings to the hope of a miracle occurring, but that hope diminishes day by day as it becomes apparent that there is no visible way out of the doom which is closing in on our generation.

Will life settle itself in time before the prospect of looking for a job and entering the 16-24 sector becomes a reality, or is it a fantasy taken too far? Like yourself, I hope that I don't join the list of unemployed any time in the future. Let's pray that unemployment becomes a thing of the past for everybody.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Tuesday's Anthems

Thanks to the funniest thing occurring several hours ago - how I prevented my nose from snorting like a camel when Bart the Kitten embarked on a curious search inside the shower remains a Midsomer Murders-inspired mystery - my day has started the very best way possible, switching on the brighter-than-Las-Vegas green light to curve my lips into a wide, if not slightly scary grin. Considering that I was all but sleep-deprived because of tossing and turning like a pancake being flipped in a pan last night, it rather surprises me that I've forgotten all about the bags underneath my sea-blue eyes becoming more profound and bruise-like overnight which, whenever an unfortunate incident like this has occurred in the past, is usually on my mind 24/7 until Dreamland reinforces my nightly access once again.

Perhaps this move has provoked me to give up all things childish and finally grow up into a wiser, albeit a tad exhausted teenager because, after wasting precious moments on suffering from mini panic attacks over the state of my hair - which, at the oh-so-irritating time of the month, looks like it has been dunked into a deep fat fryer (hopefully not the Tefal model which appears to be the main attraction on the Ideal World shopping channel) - and generally giving into my self-obsessed tendencies, there is much more to life than clipping my Eiffel Tower-long toenails or being stuck in my own little bubble the whole time.

Since becoming the proud new tenants of a beautiful house in an even more pleasant village almost a fortnight ago, my list of positives about getting out of the labyrinth which was my former residence has grown quicker than the kittens' themselves, who are currently undergoing one of their many tiresome growth spurts. For example:
  • Getting my very own en-suite has rapidly proved to be the most wonderful gift which money - or indeed the monthly rent - can buy, simply judging by the plastic cabinet which somehow stores all of my skincare/spot-fighting products. For ages, I was unable to reach into my aged beauty bag in search of my rarely used, yet essential bottle of dry shampoo, but now it gloriously resides next to my £60 hairbrush (the one of which has just begun the long, agonizing process of falling apart) and beloved heat-protectant spray, which is one of my most cherished childhood smells. And - just when you don't expect it to get better, I literally keep you on the edge of your seat - I no longer receive a telling off from The Parents if I dare to yell at the top of my lungs whenever LB half-heartedly threatens to 'mask his territory' in my en-suite which, before anyone gets a word in, is my territory. So, I have all but waved farewell to causing a commotion by gazing at the eye-blinding shininess of my locks in the main bathroom, but I now have a new problem on the agenda: the terrible two, Bart and Benny, have recently developed a habit of visiting the room whenever they wish, which has posed as a problem. Boys - regardless of their species or feline tendencies - always annoy you... just my luck!
  • Talking of kittens, there has definitely been a dramatic improvement in Benny's temperament - and indeed his ever-growing confidence - since moving over a week ago which, bearing in mind that cats are typically creatures of habit (should I hang my head in shame for following a similar way of thinking?), has particularly taken me by surprise. But nonetheless I'm over the moon that Benny has gradually given up his timid ways in order to become confident and actually enjoy our company - whilst struggling to fall asleep last night, Benny entered my bedroom and leapt onto my duvet twice, which counts as proof of his endless progress towards letting go of his once-strong shyness! Benny appreciates the larger bedrooms and kitchen, where he usually spends most of his time sleeping or having a fishy bite to eat, and none of us bat an eyelid when we catch him in the middle of performing a mischievous act with his partner in crime, Bart (otherwise known as Barticles, as I prefer to call him). Now seven months old and a stature not far off from a fully-grown cat, Benny has walked miles away from his tough start in life - originally, he and Bart were classified as semi-feral due to being born outdoors, despite their mother supposedly being domesticated - which makes me burst with pride because it seemed impossible to sit next to him when we brought him home on a cold December day last year. Alas, Benny's journey towards unleashing his soft-as-butter side is reaching a point where we will hopefully be able to stroke him and cuddle him as often as we do with Bart, who laps attention like it's a full-time occupation! I'll know that all of our efforts will be worth it when Benny purrs for the first time, the glorious day of which ought to be coming soon.
  • Unlike the nearby park in my former home, the play area within the heart of the village has not enforced the rather pathetic ban on teenagers sitting on the swings or going down the oh-so-slippery slide, which has given me something remotely entertaining to do whenever my brother kicks his football (undoubtedly purchased from his beloved Sports Direct store) in the main field. And, whether any other teenager has ever felt this way or not, I experience a lighter-than-air feeling of freedom when I sit on a swing which, within a kick of my feet, automatically takes me back to the care-free times of my childhood. Regardless of whether the local council looks down upon younger people by creating such stupid rules - many of which, if they choose to acknowledge it, are always broken behind their backs - nothing will ever stand in my way of embarking a ride to a place which can never be taken away from me: my inner child. 
  • For the fifth consecutive day in a row, not a single fat-coated chip or ready-prepared meal passed through my lips, which is a definite indicator of my life returning to normal. Sorry, but my days of appreciating fast-food as an occasional treat have all but died a significant death, and I've never felt happier about being freed from the tempting clutches of a McDonald's milkshake - let the nutrient-rich times carry on!
If my half-asleep mind could be bothered to awaken from a pre-lunchtime nap in order to supply more positives for my list, I would have added roughly another fifty or so reasons for my happiness here in the heart of the country. But, as today's title suggests, there is more to life than discussing council rules or indeed my battle against McCain chips - in recent weeks (whenever I've had an internet connection or a few decent CDs to play), music has become my refuge from battling stress, moving-related dilemmas and, at the worst of times, myself. Although the tracks featured below are not exactly the lullabies which you would play to sleeping babies, in my opinion I've been listening to more heavenly-sweet lullabies than usual because anything unrelated to my attention-consuming hassles were like the piece of heaven I struggled to find on this planet. 

Random my choices may be - from classic soul to modern EDM, my musical tastes could be put on a par to an iPod shuffle at times - but I associate them with euphoria and the opportunity to break away from modern teenage life for a short while. Enjoy!

1. The Shapeshifters - Lola's Theme

2. Mantronix - Got to Have Your Love

3. Nirvana - Come As You Are

4. Lady Gaga - Alejandro