Friday, 21 November 2014

Adventures everywhere!

This weekend I went on an AdVenTuRe!!!! Me and a couple of my new mates (yeah boy, I made friends, just sayin) went to CORDOBA! We went to CORDOBA to see the old mosque there that has been converted into a Cathedral. Its a very difficult sort of building to describe, but its interesting and weird, so obviously I liked it. Its a massive room filled with pillars in white and red, and there are Arabic mosaics and other features that used to be part of the mosque preserved around the outside. And then in the centre is the most outlandish church you've ever seen (with the exception of Melk). It was trippy. On the one hand it was like a major clash of two opposing cultures, and then on the other they kind of blended together seamlessly and it was beautiful. But weird.

Before we arrived at the Mezquita we visited the ancient Roman bridge and took some touristic snaps. A small man came up to me and asked me to take a picture of him. I said yes because I'm a generous person who likes to give back to society. He asked me my name and told me his, but I immediately forgot it because I find it hard to remember names and I thought, "What's the point of making the effort of learning this guy's name? In a couple of seconds I'll have taken his picture and got on with my life!". HOW WRONG WAS I!? While my real mates, B and F, carried on admiring the view, my new little friend beckoned me down the path away from the bridge. I thought this was weird but followed him anyway as he had a massively expensive camera and I didn't think someone who was about to trust me with their fancy camera would be shady. As we carried on walking away from the bridge though I did start to feel a bit confused and became increasingly aware of my valuables. Luckily B and F decided to follow me so I knew I had back up. The little guy then started explaining to me what photo he wanted. It sounded pretty simple to me, and yet every time I tried to take the camera off him he was like, no, you're doing it wrong! I don't know how long this went on for but it was TOO LONG. Finally he let me take the picture and seemed pleased with it, and he offered to take ours. But by this time I'd decided he was crazy so politely declined and we said our goodbyes and left. Just as we'd got back to the bridge I heard a little voice shouting "Sarah! Sarah!" and he came running up behind us, waving the camera, and said "Will you take another one?" but F flatly refused. In her wise words, we were only in Cordoba for six hours...

You'll be excited to hear I've also made a Spanish friend! (She hasn't actually confirmed that we're friends yet, and we're not Facebook official, but I'm feeling optimistic). On Monday I went with her to her salsa class, which she PROMISED was beginner's standard. But when I got there, there was this stern lady on reception and she eyed me up and down and asked my friend (in a very cynical voice) "but can she actually DANCE?". I was mortified that my friend replied "oh yes!" with great enthusiasm, despite having no proof of this. We climbed the three flights of stairs to the lesson (which incidentally is held in the same place where Seville's Erasmus party happens and is the bar where they played Anaconda twice in one night....aka my favourite venue in Seville). I asked my friend how well exactly I was expected to dance, but she was having none of it and just grinned and said it would be fine. On the top floor a muscular, short man in a polo shirt welcomed me with the same question "But can you dance?". Seeing as I'd walked all the way up the stairs I thought, I may as well back myself, so nonchalantly said "yeah, a bit..." and he replied "a BIT? or a LOT? How long have you been dancing for exactly?" I felt a tinge of dread enter my heart. I told him that I had done a couple of salsa lessons in Cuba, and he scowled and said "that's Cuban salsa, this is LINEAR." I've never thought of myself as a particularly linear person, but I thought it was best to keep that to myself and went to stand at the BACK of the class.

We began the warm up, and within 90 seconds covered my complete knowledge of salsa dancing. Then we did a lot of wiggling and I wanted to giggle while I wiggled but tried to keep professional. When we started learning that week's new salsa step, my mouth hung open in shock. It was most certainly not for beginners. I was so busy watching the teacher with furious concentration that I didn't clock how good any of the other girls were. But we danced in partners and we had to swap partners very frequently, and the look of dread in each boy's eye as they saw me approach made me begin to think that I probably wasn't the best. In the end I think I actually did get the step and I only nearly fell over and had to be caught by my partner TWICE, so it was resounding success. I've signed up for a month!

I'm now sitting in the kitchen waiting for my chilli to cook, as I'm hosting the English group tonight (and we're eating chilli). I would like to end this post with a shout out to my dearly beloved sister who is hired by an actual school to teach children music. She sure educated me about music, here's a snippet from her music collection that really came in handy on Friday night when we were all watching amateur grime videos on youtube.

Peace xxxxxxx

Monday, 10 November 2014

Week three in Seville

Hello dear readers,

I have now spent three weeks in Seville and after bragging and lolling about how sunny it was here the temperatures have PLUMMETED and no clothes that I've brought here are warm enough!!

I didn't write a blog post last week. The truth is, I was suffering terribly and I didn't want to worry you. I wanted to be brave, and pretend that I was okay and write a happy blog post, but I wasn't strong enough. At times we didn't know if I'd be able to last until the end of the work programme, and there were at least three days when I woke up in  the morning and I thought to myself, "Oh dear I do NOT feel well!". It begun with a sore throat and rumbled along into a runny nose and some real GROGGINESS, you know what I mean? But you'll be relieved to hear that somehow I have managed to struggle through. I still have a lot of phlegm in my nostrils though, and so I've spent the last few days really surprising people at how loudly I blow my nose. Nobody in the office has mentioned it which is very awkward as sometimes I blow my nose so loudly that the pen pot rattles, so I'm sure they've noticed it.

This weekend I went on an exciting adventure to Madrid to visit a Dear Friend. Madrid is in Spain, and so is Seville, but let me tell you Spain is much bigger than you think it is! I've just looked it up and as a point of comparison Edinburgh is closer to Birmingham than Madrid is to Seville - its over 500km. They have one of those super fast space age trains that only takes 2.5 hours but it costs more than I could sell my kidney for. The next quickest option is car! So I decided to take a Blablacar, which in the words of my Oldest Sister is "like hitch hiking, but worse." Its a website where people who are driving places offer up any spare seats in their car for a fee - you pay them to get in their car. Its sounds super creepy to me because I'm English and I'm scared of strangers, confined spaces with strangers and strangers on the internet. But in Spain its really normal. They seem to really like confined spaces with strangers. In the tiny lift in my office building, for example, everybody says hello when they get in AND "see you later" when they get out. Which is surprising when you think the normal thing to do in a lift is stare at the ground so you avoid eye contact and really sneakily check yourself out in the mirror. (BTW Spain is arguably less weird than Austria where in train cabins they used to say "greetings to God!" and "you're welcome").

So anyway Blablacar is normal here and it was also really fun. It was also great to practice Spanish and it was fun to meet some, like, real life Spanish people who are just going about their business and are surprised to see a little English girl waddling along being all confused and cute (that's me btw. Nobody's described me as cute yet but its how I'm trying to project myself).

Last time I went to Madrid with another Dear Friend we were basically hijaked by the Dear Pope who had decided to pop over from the Vatican along with millions of Young Catholics. (I really do mean millions). We both agreed that it was literally the worst thing ever. But this time it was so fun, and Madrid was very pretty and fancy.

There are so many other things I can write about!! But we're all getting tired so I will leave you with an interesting question. 'Blah blah' in English obviously refers to chatting, which is where I assumed the name BlaBlaCar came from. But in Spanish, to talk is 'hablar', and 'he talks' is 'habla', which sounds a bit like 'bla bla' and looks a bit like 'blah', and I'm like, is that related? Is that why we say Blah Blah? Please send your answers on a blank postcard with a self addressed envelope to PO Box CUTE.GIRL.IN.SEVILLE., best answer wins a Kinder Egg and a gold Blue Peter Badge.


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Week One Romeo Done

The Alcazar keeping it classy

As the days go by I am becoming increasingly aware of how thin the walls in my accommodation are, and therefore how intimate this whole living situation is. We are in a traditional Spanish style house, built around a very pretty central patio, that has been divided into flats. About six flats all face onto the small patio. As I type I am being serenaded by the sound of a toddler WAILING 'MAMAAAAA MAMAAAA'. He's been doing this for about fifteen minutes to no avail, so god knows where Mama is but my guess is she ain't coming any time soon. When I first moved in I was creeping around trying not to disturb anyone, but I know the point of living in Spain is to fit in and adapt to their style of life, so I've been tap dancing up and down the stairs in my flip flops and dropping lots of heavy objects wherever possible. That's the type of behaviour that seems to be en vogue.

Yesterday we had our last Spanish lesson. The Spanish lessons have been fun because the teacher is a sweetie pie, but they have been gloriously uninformative. Over the past 16 hours of lessons I have learnt one new swear word and how to say 'what's up, man?' in Andalucian slang (Que pasa illo?). They are basic beginner's lessons so I already know the other stuff, which in one way is great because this is the first time I've been top of the class since I won the 100m race in my PE group in 2007. Its the first time I've been top of a Spanish class ever! Everyone thinks I'm really good at Spanish here, its nice because so far there's been nobody to compare me too so I've been lapping up the compliments as I've been necking my sangria. Unfortunately we are now starting to make friends with other Leonardo students who studied Spanish at university as well. I'm very wary of this, soon it will become glaringly apparent that the only vocab I can remember is the words that sound like English words and I don't actually know how to use the past subjunctive and it will be like totally #awks!!!

Anyway I've heard its pretty cold and miserable in the UK and in Austria its SNOWING!!! I'm sure everybody at home is worried about the welfare of myself and the rest of the group so you'll be relieved to know its still hitting 30 degrees most days. Spanish architecture is designed to block out the sun with narrow streets and shutters on the windows. This obviously goes against everything British people believe, so we've been searching for somewhere where we can sunbathe, and thankfully we came up trumps with a cute little hostel that has a 'pool' (read: bathtub) on the top and sells iced tea and hot dogs. We've spent the last couple of days up there sunbathing and strutting around feeling fabulous. I wouldn't say I'm a bronze goddess quite yet but I do think I have twice the amount of freckled than I did two days ago so I suppose that's an achievement of sorts.

Yesterday, after our lesson, we went to visit the Alcazar which is free after 4pm on Mondays. We casually rocked up at 3.30 and joined the queue without realising this, and after about 15 minutes looked back to see the queue had extended about 100m behind us. This made us smug so we bought ice creams. The Alcazar is incredible, its a moorish palace and its absolutely mad! Its a great place to pretend to be a princess. Its the oldest palace in Europe that's still in use, because when the Spanish royal family visit Seville they stay upstairs. Not only that, but there is a corral there where the playwright Lope de Vega and his contemporaries used to have their plays performed!!! He's who I wrote my dissertation on, so when I found I just about died with excitement and jumped up and down.

That's all for now folks.

Tune in some time soon to find out.... wtf is my work placement? AS WELL AS MORE FUN COMMENTARY!!!!!!!! Xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

I'm doing Leornardo in Seville

Figaro's Balcony, next to the park where they're filming Games of Throne is Sevilla

After a year of twiddling my thumbs and complaining about the rain in Manchester/Wolverhampton I've made a break for it. Now I'm in Sevillaaaa so I thought I'd write about it. Do you like my new blog banner? Well you're not the only one, only this afternoon I was complimented on my handiwork by and actual, professional GrApHic DeSignEr!!!  He thought it was made on Photoshop. #justsaying

I'm excited to be in Seville as after university I basically moved straight back home. This obviously has advantages like a dishwasher, a really relaxed attitude to central heating and my parents own an almost obscene amount of cutlery. But after a couple of months at home, me and the cat were skating on thin ice. He's a skinny little animal now, ageing ungracefully and breaking all house rules in an almost obnoxious manner. I do like him really but he has a CATTITUDE problem and its a nightmare.

Anyway, I'm now like 1500 miles away from all that so I can take a deep breath and move on! I'm here doing a cheeky internship. It was a bit awkward before I left because people kept asking me what the internship was, but I didn't actually know what it was so I had to say 'I don't really know', and then they furrowed their brows with concern. The truth is we arrived on Sunday night and didn't find out the full details until yesterday afternoon. HOWEVER, I can now declareee that apparently I'll be working for a company that does something like manage educational cultural events and tours. Its all a bit confusing because I was told all the info in Spanish. Anyway I don't start til next week so I guess I'll know more then. The best thing about finding out where we were working is that the woman pronounced the 'p' in receipts, and she said receipts a LOT.

View from my window. Nice, innit?
There's six of us here from the UK but we're all living separately. We've been meeting in the days though and exploring the city, as well as sharing stories about our accommodation. Regular fans will remember my interesting places I've stayed when I've tried to escape Wolverhampton before (Little Old Landlady's 80's micro-flat in Austria, glass and metal war bunker in Cuba....). Well, things have taken a turn for the GREAT. I'm living in the historic centre of Seville in a totally traditional Spanish building, in a top floor room that looks out onto the tiled courtyard. From what I can tell, my (SINGLE) bed is made of ROCKS. It is firmer than J Lo's abs. But you know what, its all about the vista, and the VISTA is BUENA. My street is so narrow there are no cars, its all cobbled stone and iron gated doors. Without exaggerating, I think I've got lost maybe 1 million times so far? I've all unpacked now so the next step is to find a good supermarket nearby, as we've been eating out since we got here at all these tapas bars and stuff...basically the point I'm making is that I'm living the Sevillian dream!

Right I'm gonna toddle off now to buy a Spanish phone and eat some tapas. cya innit xxx

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Top Ten Things to do in Wolverhampton

I'm moving away from Manchester next week, and have been making a 'bucket list' to do all those things I never got round to doing in the city. This led me to think about my own hometown and what at the Must DO activities there. Wolverhampton can get a really bad wrap, but I love it! Of course its close to places like Birmingham, Walsall, Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon which all have great arts and cultural hubs and things to do, but I thought I'd restrict this list to the 10 best things to do in Wolverhampton itself. Perhaps you have somebody visiting you, or maybe you're coming to university in Wolverhampton. These are the things not to be missed....

1.Go to an event at West Park

West Park in the Winter (taken by Mummy Blollings)
West Park is massive, beautiful and central. It comes first as one of my absolute favourite places in the city. On a normal day you can go into the authentic Victorian greenhouse and look at tropical plants and fish, or take a boat onto the lake and row around for a bit. Its resplendent on a summer's day, and full of families and groups of people playing football on its large-ish fields. Even on cold winter days, when its usually quite empty, the park has an enchanting feel to it that makes you feel you're somewhere very different from the city. The park puts on large-scale, outdoor family events, I highly recommend Bonfire Night in November and the City Show in Summer (ALWAYS includes a car show and a horse and carriage race).

2. Explore vintage and retro finds at Wolverhampton Market

If you've never been inside Wolverhampton Market you might be surprised to discover the antiques section, round the corner from the fish stalls , where you can buy vintage clothes, toys, antique furniture and all sorts of weird and wonderful memorabilia. It's a fun place to go for presents or unusual objects. The market is great for any international foods and much cheaper fruit and veg than the supermarkets. If you are looking for fancy dress outfits or theatre costumes try Actor's Wardrobe, also based at the market, where I used to work. It has an amazingly extensive range of professional quality theatre costumes. For good quality, second-hand furniture I love to browse the Compton Hospice shop, round the corner from the market and opposite Beatties car park.

3. Go to an event or join a class at The Newhampton Arts Centre

The Newhampton Arts Centra puts on top quality music shows and performances for really accessible prices. Its a hidden gem in Wolverhampton and was one of the first venues to host revival 'Northern Soul' nights that are now spreading around the Midlands and Manchester. There are also regular band nights and burlesque events and vintage markets. It also runs weekly classes, clubs, has a café and displays local artwork.

4. Watch a blockbuster film with only five other people at The Lighthouse Cinema

Built in the old Chubbs Lock factory, the Lighthouse is famous for its tiny audiences! This is a unique experience of cinema-going. The prices are cheaper than nearby cineworld, and like many independent cinemas you can take a glass of wine into the auditorium. For something truly unique the Lighthouse also offers events such as themed days, classic black-and-white movies with a live soundtrack and they also show performances from the West End. If you've never seen a silent movie its such a great experience to watch one with live music, my dad's dragged me along before and I loved it. This is a fantastic venue in Wolverhampton anda great place to try something new. They also have art exhibitions, cafés, open mic nights and all sorts. (Review of the cinema here)

5. Sneak behind the railway station for one of the best pies in the city at The Great Western Pub.

The old railway station in Wolverhampton is beautiful, and was designed by Brunel. Next door is The Great Western, a top pub in Wolverhampton with delicious food and lots of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sunbeam memorabilia. Other good traditional pubs are the Newhampton in Whitmore Reans (think bowling green in the summer and open fires in the winter) and the Posada in town (a small pub with beautiful tiles and stain glass). There are loads more, just ask around! If you've come from anywhere in the country be prepare to be astounded at the prices: great value. And, of course, they all serve Banks'.

Other good places to eat that I've been to recently are The Crown on the Wergs Road (gastropub), The Hamilton Restaurant overlooking West Park (fancy restuarant) and Latuske's in Finchfield (yummy mummys). Also you can try the perpetually empty Made in Thai which has incredible decor and really nice fish.

6. Explore Wolverhampton's history at Bantock House and the surrounding gardens (this is good for kids)

Bantock House, Wolverhampton

I have so many happy memories of wandering around Bantock House and colouring in art sheets they provide. Its a restored museum that tells of some of the city's heritage. Wolverhampton is a city with a wealth of history and its definitely worth finding out more. The small gardens and café at Bantock are also nice when its sunny, and they do some fun family events like 1940's days. Bantock House is at risk at the moment from cuts and it needs local support to continue.

7. Discover one of the countries largest pop art collections at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

One of the Pop Art Rooms at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

The Pop Art gallery is a great place to take people visiting Wolverhampton. Its central and its pretty impressive. They also sometimes have some great touring exhibitions, like the recent much acclaimed Ron Mueck exhibition. Perhaps more importantly, the Wolverhampton Art Gallery Café does some really exceptional cakes. Its a nice place to meet for coffee, with pretty views of St Peter's Church. The gallery runs classes and events too.

8. Enjoy the sun and walk along the canals, the disused railway or through the bluebell wood

Bluebell wood, Wolverhampton

Another one of my absolute favourite parts of Wolverhampton is how close it is to the country side. When you get on the canal, you walk underneath the city into a world full of nature! Not everywhere has such nice canals, nor a bluebell wood. If you're feeling adventurous you can hire a barge which is an absolute HOOT, you can also just have a chilled stroll and try to find some blackberries in the bushes. The bluebell wood is fantastic and almost always empty, head there in late spring to see a carpet of bluebells as far as the eye can see.

EDIT: we're not sure what the real name for the bluebell wood we visit is. Its not called 'bluebell wood'! Its by Colton Hills School and from google maps might be 'Park Coppice' which is near there. The bluebells come out in spring.

9. Enjoy top-name comedians and musicians at the Civic Hall or up-and-coming artists at other venues around the city.

The Civic Hall always gets good names and big music acts. If that's beyond your budget try the Slade Rooms for smaller, more intimate events. The Civic Hall is big and connected to the Wulfrun Hall by some confusing passages. They get a good variety of shows that attract audiences from across the black country. Also look at the Grand Theatre which puts often has big musicals (Joseph, Blood Brothers, Sister Act, Fame etc and even some RSC productions).

10. Get involved in local spirit and watch a football match at the Molineux.

This is one thing on my bucket list I've never done but I want to. Wolves have a strong fan base and the stadium is massive, you should probs go there.

BONUS I know I've already done 10 things, but the god honest truth is when somebody asks me "What is the best thing about Wolverhampton?" my answer is always immedately 'PORK JOINT!!!'. The best Pork Baps I've ever tasted - gravy, apple stuffing, salt and pepper and tender pork. The best £2.50 you'll ever spend.

All of these places only survive by the support of the locals, and many of them are at dire risk of being lost because the council is cutting funding dramatically. I love Wolverhampton but it'll be a bit shit if everything gets shut down to make sure to support your local venues and events! If you value the arts in Wolverhampton you can contact your MPs and councillors to let them know they need to really protect funding for these great places - but perhaps the best way to protect the future of Wolverhampton's assets is to go to them, attend the events and be a part of its cultural scene.

There are loads of things I missed off the list because I wanted to keep it to ten! What are you top tips for Wolverhampton?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Veet 'Don't Risk Dudeness' ad, body hair and sexism

Is the Veet 'don't risk dudeness' ad sexist?

(I don't like jumping on bandwagons, but I guess I just really like thinking about body hair???)

Everybody knows that hair-removal ads usually place themselves in luscious tropical waterfalls with hairless, bronzed models dragging sharp razors over their hairless, bronzed legs and armpits. They're silky, pink, feminine and gorgeous and they are the epitome of the feminine ideal.

Veet: Don't risk dudeness

Veet has decided to take a different approach. They are excited because 'this is the first time the brand has taken a comedic approach to address women's hair removal'I like comedy and I know you shouldn't take it too seriously, but I think this ad is awful. I suppose Veet decided most women don't spend that long at tropical waterfalls, and so instead of showing the product in an aspirational, dream-like location they instead have focused on women's normal life. And in doing so attempted to persuade us to buy Veet products by encouraging us to feel shame and disgrace in our everyday lives.

The situations are absurd: lying in bed trying to cuddle your boyfriend, absent-mindedly hailing and taxi and going to to the pedicurists. That's what women spend their days doing, right?! Unable to drive, we catch a cabs to get between the bedroom and the beauty parlour. And with all the extra time that leaves us in the day, while our menfolk are out working and being productive, its no wonder they greet us with complete repulsion because we haven't managed to at least shave today, I mean for god's sake.

The stupid problem with the ad is that this brand, that is aimed at women (that presumably employs women? Right?), is so wholly and completely out of touch with women's reality. The most startling reality check for them might be that if you don't shave for a day, literally nobody cares. Literally nobody notices. Your boyfriend, your housemates, your taxi-driver, your pedicurist....they don't care.

The problem with hair removal ads in general is that they perpetuate the cruel and damaging myth that women's bodies (especially women's natural bodies) are repulsive. It shouldn't be okay for people to say they are disgusted by female body hair. But it is okay for people to say that, because in our society female body hair is such an abomination that it incites repulsion and shame. If we're shameful of the very nature of our bodies, how will we react in relationships with others - especially with men, whose bodies (we are taught) are more important than our own?

I don't care if people shave or not, I quite like it when they don't because its nice to see somebody valuing their own desires about how to spend their time and treat their body above the ridiculous expectations imposed on them by society. I understand some people find a hairless leg sexier than a hairy one, maybe for most people it does look better. But hairless leg doesn't look that much better. Its the same body. And hopefully the purpose of existence is more than just looking sexy to everyone all the time.

All that anger and I haven't even mentioned the homophobic and transphobic problems with this campaign!

I like this article about body hair:
Vagenda: Hair

cya later gonna go shave

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Submissions for a translation Zine

I'm looking for submissions for a new translation-based Zine.
Brief: a translation of a text of up to approx. 200 words from any language into English. We are looking for texts in other languages that are exceptional - that you find particularly enticing, interesting, funny, meaningful or beautiful. It can be just one word, a whole poem, song, an extract from a novel/speech/play.
We then ask you to submit your own translation/interpretation of this text (into English). We encourage freedom in the translation, whether you think a word-for-word translation submitted through Google translate is how you want to present it, or whether you want to do a very free and loose translation to end up with your final product.
Our aim is to make a Zine which is interesting for people who speak English but will have a different reading experience for different people who may speak more than one language.
Deadline for submissions: Monday 10th March
Deadline for final translations: Wednesday 12th March (Friday 14th at the very latest)

If you would like to submit a translation for Zine, fill in this info and email it to

Your name:
Title of original text and brief summary:
Any info you'd like you give about your proposed translation:

And we'll get back to you quickly!