My photo for me, art and photography.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Revision/Exam tips.

EXAM TIME rolls around again: Just a few exam/revision tips from this old academic here which some of you young’uns might find helpful in this time of need.


1. BREAK IT DOWN. Your memory is a pretty good thing - it's just the bit where you have to train it to recall the relevant information that a lot of people struggle with it's fine getting it in there, it's the getting it back out that is the problem - you need to familiarise yourself with the text as much as you can and take your notes and keep breaking them down into key themes and motifs.

2. CONDENSE Break these into smaller and smaller chunks and then to single words, it trains your brain to work like a spider diagram. The info will be in there and the key word will automatically trigger the rest of the info you need to fire off in your head.


1. SLEEP. Good night's sleep works wonders.

2. HYDRATE. Brain is mostly water, so if it's dried out it won't work properly. Don't drink so much you spend the entire exam hopping up and down bursting for the loo though. Caffeine may be good for the initial burst, but it also dehydrates you, so water is best.

3. BRAINSTORM: You're allowed to scribble on the exam papers. When you've chosen your question, quickly bulletpoint everything you can remember - with your key words. With English, the first thing I always did was write down the names of the characters because knowing what i'm like I'd be making a really good point and then have a complete brainfart when it came to remembering the name of the person who said it. it's also good because the one-word triggers you've got from condensing all that info and scribbled down can really help when you're a little stuck because you've been focussing so much on what you're saying that you've forgotten what else to say.

4.PLAN: your teacher has probably already drilled this into your head, but when you get in, look at the time you have, look at how many words roughly are expected of you / the percentage, and allocate time accordingly, AND STICK TO IT. Doing this also makes you much stricter with yourself about what you have to say, because it's easy to waffle on for ages about something you know, but while waffling means you're getting a lot of words done, it doesn't necessarily mean you're answering the question. So basically just:

  • Keep it timed
  • Keep it relevent
  • Keep it concise

  (I just had to teach my ex's mum all this because she's doing a course at uni now and didn't know ANY of this stuff, so just thought I'd cover my bases here)

5.  QUOTES: The thing most people at school panicked most about when it came to our English exams was remembering the quotes. The thing is, it doesn't matter if you can't remember the exact quote. You don't have to write it - in fact, if you know you can't remember it, don't even bother trying to write it down.. AS a quote. You can work around it. Instead of:

Austen introduces Pride and Prejudice by saying 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in the possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife'

you can say

Austen introduces Pride and Prejudice by putting forth the assumption that all single men with good fortunes are looking for wives.

It's always a good idea to have at least a couple of quotes memorised, but often, providing you remember the general gist of the quote you can usually get around it by rephrasing your sentence a little bit like I did above so you're saying what you want to say but without having to use the precise quote. it just takes some of the stress out of pressuring yourself to remember everything.

6. ENJOY. I know it sounds insane, but have fun with it. I know exams are important, but the more you stress about it, the more pressure you put on yourself and the more likely you are to stuff up and forget things. You don't HAVE to agree with the question - if the question is 'to what extent do you agree that..' you CAN say 'I DON'T agree..' as long as you can make your argument and back up your points, you'll be fine.

In school, I'll never forget one of my a-level exam questions:

"To what extent do you agree that Brian Friel's 'Translations' is a direct attack on the British Colonialisation of Ireland?'

I was like ...w...t...f. Instead of going 'oh my god!?!?' I just thought screw it - I'll write what I want! I basically wrote:

I don't agree that 'Translations' is an attack the colonialisation of Ireland - the entire  play is about the destruction of language and the loss of identity with Ireland serving as a backdrop. It's not such an attack on the colonialisation itself (although there are references to violence between the Irish and English), but rather a reflection of the power which language has to unite or destroy a nation, and 'Translations' demonstrates how rapidly a nation can disintegrate when its language is taken away.

I finished half an hour early, only wrote about 3 sides of A4 whereas everyone else had written 9 and I came out thinking 'well... better put the money aside for the retake of that when I get home'. Turns out I was one of only 3 people to get full marks. Guess I argued my case pretty well.

Hopefully some of this stuff helped and you can apply it to some of your  exams :)



Primark Rant: BOOBS.

Primark is really irritating me lately. They have some lovely clothes, but nothing fits me. I thought being skinny would mean that shopping for clothes would be infinitely easier, as most things seem to be designed for people you can post through letter boxes. No more worrying about muffin tops, no more feeling mildly depressed when the size 12 jeans don’t even meet in the middle.. no finding nice 1930s style puffy short sleeved shirts where the sleeves are tight round the top of my arms…  Now I am one of those people you can pretty much post, it is no easier at all.

Primark does not seem to realise that not all women who are thin are totally flat chested. In fact, I really don’t see very many flat-chested women these days full stop.  This problem is easily resolved by buying a top and a bottom. But what if I want to buy a dress? A size 6-8 fits perfectly round the waist, but I can’t breathe in it as my boobs are squashed to make me look AGE 8, or I can’t get the zipper up past my ribs. If I try on a size 10-12, it fits perfectly round the boobs but the rest of it hangs like an old potato sack.

This brings me to the second gripe… have the people who design these dresses ever SEEN boobs? Because if they have, surely they should realise that the things are globular. If you look at any halterneck style dress that has two triangles for boobs, you will note that they’ve got a seam at the bottom so the thing will curve around the boob. They’re not literally JUST triangles of fabric which a) going with the gripe I’ve already had; cover next to nothing nothing and b) don’t fit around –you have the fabric stretched up around the middle part of the boob but it flaps madly in the breeze on either side. Which is a real shame, because the material on some of those dresses is really pretty.

Gripe number three: Why is it that I cannot buy an underwear set from Primark that fits both top and bottom? The people who put the two together seem to think that if you have biggish boobs, you must also be in possession of an absolutely MASSIVE arse. The size bra I need means that I end up with pants in a size 16-18. I’m a size 6-8, and I don’t think my boobs are even particularly big. Admittedly, I don’t really buy underwear from there very often – But really… come on Primark, lets have some sets for slim busty people too. Why does ‘cheap’ have to equate to ‘fits badly’ ?



Tuesday, 22 June 2010

My Summer Essentials for 2010



Makeup: I tend not to wear makeup in summer, unless it’s just a little bit of concealer under my eyes and some spf lipbalm I got from CVS in America– maybe a TINY bit of eye shadow if I’m going out somewhere.. which is why there’s nothing here about it.

imageBarry M Nail Paint in Lemon Yellow (I think.. I’ll check the name on the bottle when I find it)

It’s a really nice colour, although my parents both hate it and say it makes my hands look ‘fungal’

Bought it in Boots where they were having a 3 for 2 thing going on last month. Needs about 3 coats before it looks as opaque as it does in this person’s picture.






Boots Soltan for Kids, SPF 30



I love this sun cream. It comes out green so I can see if I’ve missed any bits. It’s a little on the greasy side, but to be honest, that doesn’t really bother me as I only stick this on when I sunbathe, and I’d rather be a little greasy for a few hours than have patches of brown and pale from where I’ve missed. I don’t really tend to burn anywhere apart from my nose, but I have a lot of moles so I do need to cover them up – I use a cotton bud dipped in Soltan factor 50 to cover the main offenders with the  highest protection I can without having to have the rest of me remain pasty.



In my house, we’ve always used Soltan lotion and aftersun, which is made only for Boots. I LOVE the smell of the aftersun and it makes my skin feel ridiculously soft :) The one I’m using now is left over from last year which WAS called aftersun with tan maximiser, but I think this ‘Tan Prolonger’ one is pretty much the same thing.. it says this has tan enhancing agents in whereas mine says on the bottle that it contains a low level of self tan.. so.. hmm.. not entirely sure but I think it’s this years equivalent. £5.49.

image If you’re in America, and you have a propensity to burn, then I highly recommend Solarcaine which contains Lidocaine, or the CVS own brand stuff  for $6.99 which is just as good and again, It makes my skin feel absolutely amazing. I wish I bought another can of this when I was over in the states, because I would actually just use it as a moisturiser – it is so light and cooling and it soaks into the skin completely and isn’t at all greasy. However, It has some form of pain reliever in it which is why it’s so good for burns.. but if they had the aloe vera stuff on its own in a spray I’d bring back a bag full of it! Bought this because for the first time in my life I actually got burned ( I don’t go abroad much and in England our ‘summers’ are pitiful) I just checked on Ebay ( and you can buy Solarcaine, but it’s like £13 + £7 p&p… when you think it’s sold for only $7.99 in the store, it’s a total rip-off (as most things seem to be in the UK…) you’d be better off just asking any friends you have in America to send you some. It really is brilliant stuff and to be honest, I’ve never seen anything like this sold in the UK for sunburn. On the CVS website it says their own brand one is not suitable to be transported by air, but I took mine home with me on the plane and it’s absolutely fine.


For everyday summer sun protector, I use image Palmer’s cocoa butter body lotion SPF15 (£4.99 from Boots). I’m not overly keen on the smell, because I’m a citrus fan rather than sweet/musky scents, but it works wonders on my skin. If I’m not going out I’ll use the olive version of this instead. For my face, I use Olay Complete care with SPF15 (£8.99 from Boots)  image

Again, I really don’t like the smell – mum used to put Olay on my nose when I was little and going through the ‘dry skin’ stage of a cold and it stung like a bitch, but it does make my skin look really hydrated and protects which is very important in summer as it’ll make it less likely to get sun damage – wrinkles and sun spots.



A variety of sunglasses. Primark have some great ones that look like Ray Bans in various colours for only £1!



A big white linen shirt to slop around in and throw over a bikini. My current fave is a balloon sleeve one I got from Primark about 3 years ago for about £7




Red retro style halterneck bikini (minus the terrifying model)

I want a straw cowboy hat, but I can’t seem to find one I like anywhere.  3 years on the hunt for one now.


Blue and white striped shirt like this ‘Bethel’ shirt from CREW Clothing co. £55.00




G ood old Fashioned pair of denim cutoffs & grey/white/cream vest top

  imageFlip Flops or white gym shoes.









£1.65 from Sainsburys. Delicious and refreshing. Best served with ice! (doesn’t go too badly with a dash of gin either)


Summertime = PIMMS!!!!

chuck in a jug 1 part Pimm’s to 2 parts lemonade

Add in cut up strawberries and apple, a sprig of mint and plenty of ice and you’re sorted for the next few hours.

Don’t put in cucumber though – loads of people do that and it tastes HORRID.




MOST IMPORTANTLY: LOTS AND LOTS OF THIS!!!! (no, it isn’t vodka) It’s really important to stay hydrated, especially if you decide to crack out the Pimms or gin and lime – as alcohol dehydrates you, you’ll need to drink even more water.








When it’s hot outside, I never feel like eating. I am a sun worshipper – I LOVE the sun, but the accompanying heat is not something I deal with too well. I feel too sluggish to eat proper food. However, Tzatziki with some pitta bread  is really refreshing, healthy, always goes down a treat and takes a couple of minutes to make. I had this for lunch today actually. This is how I make it:

Take a cucumber. With a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin of as much of the cucumber as you think you want. Use a (I dunno what the official term is, but I call it a) guillotine slicer to cut it very thin. Put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Leave for about 3 mins for the salt to draw the moisture out of the cucumber.  While you’re waiting, cut up half a clove of garlic or a whole clove if it’s really small (this is for one person btw)

Hold the bowl above the sink and drain it by squeezing the cucumber up against one side of the bowl and letting the juices run out.

Stick a pitta bread in the toaster for about a minute.

Add a tablespoon of Greek style yoghurt, the garlic, a dash of white pepper and some black pepper to the cucumber.

Remove pitta bread from toaster. !!!!!WARNING!!!! it’s really advisable to use an oven glove or something to pull the bread out of the toaster! because they’re kinda hollow, pitta breads build up a vat of steam inside which is ridiculously hot and if you squeeze it a tiny bit, will come shooting out of the bread and burn your hand. I have done this SO many times and it really really does hurt.

Finally – ENJOY!

Monday, 21 June 2010

World Cup Flag Ban: Anti-English? or plain old stupid?

I’ve spent the past week in Sussex. There’s a pub in there I go to quite a lot – full of locals and everyone knows everyone; and in a little village, news travels fast. The landlady had got a delivery of beermats promoting the world cup and the woman who delivered that said that the taxi drivers in Hastings had been banned from sporting the England flags on their cabs. Also, cabbies and bin-men (oh, sorry, ‘refuse collectors’.. we must be politically correct nowadays mustn’t we? pffffft) in Canterbury and London.

There are two versions of the story why: The first, is that flying the England flag is offensive to all the foreigners in this country. Which I have to say is utter bollocks (pardon my French). For a start, we should be allowed to demonstrate our patriotism if we want, and if foreigners have an aversion to the country they’re in flying its own damn flag, they know where Heathrow is – they can get on a plane and go home. Secondly, the people who moved into the house next to mine about 3 months ago are from Pakistan. They barely speak any English, yet they’ve got the England bunting hanging from their windows. So who are the councils to think they can dictate the views of all the foreign/ethnic people in their constituencies? I somehow very much doubt they’ve got the ‘I’m offended’ hotline rammed with Bulgarians or Poles or Asians complaining about someone driving a car with a little flag stuck on it for a few weeks. I think it’s more a case of they have far too much time on their hands and instead of coming up with ideas to improve the quality of the area they’re representing/governing, which would require some initiative and creativity, they choose instead to nitpick at completley unimportant things which only serve to irritate a few people and give one girl in the London Suburbs yet another thing to write a ranting blog about.

The second version is something to do with health and safety. Apparently they’re very dangerous… though I fail to see how having a flag on the roof of your car is anything other than patriotism and a waste of money coupled with an overly healthy dose of tackiness. It’s not like people spend a huge amount of time looking OVER a car. Looking around the sides, yes, but over?……

Potty. That’s the only word for either version really.



As for myself, I couldn’t care less about the football. I don’t know one end of the pitch from the other. This world cup season will find me lying on a rug in a bikini in my garden working on my tan, slurping lime cordial and reading a book.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

This is so cute, I just had to share it.

I got sent this in an email from one of my friends today. I’ve always had a massive soft spot for hedgehogs, but this one is so unbelievably cute that I just had to share him with my readers :)


Don’t you just want to put him in your pocket and take him home!!!

Banging My Head Against A Brick Wall.

The abuse of the English language is increasingly making my brain hurt. I’m sure I’ve had this rant before. If I haven’t had it here, then certainly I’ve had it elsewhere. Using completely inappropriate/out of context words is one thing which makes me cry inwardly; but the flagrant disregard for the correct usage of the apostrophe and the inability of some people to use a basic spell check is something that almost causes me physical pain. Yes, I know I’m a little bit of a grammar Nazi, I should chillax– it’s just a bottle of shampoo, or it’s just a sign above a shop in a town which I’ll probably never find myself in again…

But that is not the point!

If you’re unsure if you should use to or too, or their, there, or they’re- then for the love of Samuel Johnson get a dictionary or something and look it up!! The guy didn’t spend nine years of his life writing it so you can use it as a paperweight.

The apostrophe: You’ve doubtless heard of the word – have a vague idea of what it looks like… you know, that little comma type thing floating in the air… but do you know what it’s actually for? It seems that a vast majority of people don’t.

Even some copywriters, apparently.

I raided the cleaning cupboard at home because my mug had left a coffee stain on my windowsill. I pulled out a bottle of stain remover and checked the back to make sure it would be safe to use on that surface. This is what I was confronted with:

“DIRECTIONS: Can be diluted 1 parts to 20 of water. Use neat on stubborn stain’s, safe to use on any type of surface. Spray on wipe off after a few second’s, leave stubborn stains to soak for a short time. Test an inconspicuous area for colour fastness before use ”

How, how, HOW can someone who makes that many mistakes in one paragraph consisting of only 47 words, (numbers don’t count as words) be employed to do that job? I don’t pretend to be perfect, I know I still make some mistakes with my own grammar, but these are mistakes my classmates would have noticed and pointed out when we were in primary school at the age of seven. Do people no longer teach grammar in schools? It is one of the most basic things – grammar is like the hangar which the English language hangs from like a coat. Without it, it is a crumpled mess on the floor.

Directions: Can be diluted 1 PART to 20 PARTS of water. Use neat on stubborn STAINS **WITH NO APOSTROPHE** **FULL STOP** Safe to use on any type of surface **FULL STOP** Spray on AND wipe off after a few SECONDS **WITH NO APOSTROPHE** **FULL STOP OR SEMICOLON**  **CAPITAL L->** Leave stubborn stains to soak for a LITTLE LONGER. Test ON an inconspicuous area for COLOURFASTNESS  **WHICH, F.Y.I, IS ONE WORD** before use **FULL STOP**

The apostrophe has been around for hundreds years. Some academics even suggest that it was around when the Saxons were.  It is not like it’s something new that has just been introduced to the English language that we are having to get to grips with. It should be so ingrained into us that it comes naturally. So how come so many people manage to get it SO WRONG?! It is not rocket science!



The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar

English Grammar for the Utterly Confused

Eats, Shoots and Leaves 

Wikipedia  article on the apostrophe

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Making Your Own Cards

I like making cards for my friends. I seem to make rather a lot because we all use any excuse we can to celebrate something. This year was a double, because Chinese New Year coincided with Valentines day.

I worked in a card shop for Xmas, Valentines and Mothers day, and I have to confess I detested every second of it; and the only thing that tortured my soul more than the job itself was the cards. They are all so putrid; with stupid twee little poems inside, cliché pictures of cute wikkle kitties and teddy bears (urgh), insipid inscriptions..  and the ones that try to be ‘dirty’ or ‘cool’.. the ‘happy birfday m8’ type things that make my hackles rise.  On top of that they are all ludicrously overpriced for what they are: pieces of paper folded in half. The average price of a card from that place being £3.00 - £5.00. We even sold some absolutely absurd things that were 3ft high, lit up and played music and belly-danced (ok belly-dancing was an exaggeration)..but lets not forget the novelty of the fact that it came in a BOX ( everyone say ‘oooh’)…

At a price of £25 per card.

This is something I really don’t understand. You get a card, you read it, it sits on the shelf for maybe a week and, unless it really means something special to you- like if you’ve been having a rough time and someone’s sent you a card to say ‘hang in there’ and offer extended words of encouragement of their own- lets face it, it’s going to go in the bin. So that’s £3-£25  just thrown away. What could possibly be more special than having  a 21st birthday card with a poem saying

‘Congratulations to a special daughter for today is just for you

Hoping you have a wonderful time and enjoy everything you do’.

I mean…. Wow. That would absolutely knock your socks off wouldn’t it. Totally bring a lump to your throat and a tear of joy to your eye. You’d treasure those words for the rest of your life, especially because they were penned by an anonymous underpaid stranger you’ll never know and printed by the million.

It’s the laziness of some people that beats me. For example, Christmas cards: To Nan, Nanna, Nana, Nanny, Nannie, Grandma, Granny, Gran, Grandmother… There are umpteen variations of the same design cards for the same person. How about you take one with a nice picture and get off your lazy arse and write 'Dear [Gran/Grandma/etc] in it? I mean, surely 99% of the population can’t be so illiterate that they only know how to write their own names at the bottom of a card.

In my parents desk, there is a drawer full of random crap – paper and envelopes and general stationary paraphernalia, and every card I’ve ever made for them. Yet not one single card I bought for them. I think that says everything.

‘But I’m not artistic’ I hear you say. So what? You don’t need to be Gainsborough to make a card. You can do something utterly unique with a sheet of printer paper, some glue, a pair of scissors, an old newspaper or magazine, and a little tiny bit of imagination.

For example, this is a card I made for one of my friends, combining Valentines Day with Chinese new year, and focussing on Paris- the true love of her life. Inside, I wrote down a list of ‘10 things that make you awesome’. It took all of 15 minutes to do (excluding 5 minutes of Googling how to write a Chinese New Year greeting in Chinese), and she’s still got it standing on her desk  5 months later.

 Suzy's Card


So I guess the moral of the story is to take a little time to be original. If you can’t even be bothered to write the name of the person you’re sending it to, and opt for a pre-printed ‘coolest Gran’ card, it, in my opinion, shows how little you can be bothered with  that person.  If you don’t make your own, at least get something blank inside and take 5 minutes out of your life to write your own message. You don’t have to be Shakespeare – just the fact that you bothered to write more than your name at the bottom will mean the recipient will appreciate, value and treasure it far more than any mass-produced, overpriced, highly disposable piece of pre-printed tat.