24 Oct 2018

The Season In Pictures

As the days get colder, the leaves begin to fall in troves, and sightings of clusters of pumpkins become increasingly frequent, I find myself remembering the hot, sun-filled, stretched out days through a haze as thick as the mist that obscures my windows these Autumn mornings. Though summer was still lingering on just a month ago, it’s hard to remember the scent of the pollinated air and the feeling of the heated skin when all of a sudden plunged so deeply into the year's third season. So here are some summer memories, perpetualized in photo form, and reminding me that summer '18 really did happen. 

This summer saw me leave Nottingham for good. My university's library was my hardest goodbye, and I made sure to make use of the library's roof terrace on my last ever visit. 

I really enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) exploring and rediscovering London . .

 . . in particular Shoreditch and East London, which were new territories for me . . (photo by Jodie)

. . as well as places closer to home, such as the surrounding areas of Hampstead and Highgate.

I went to see some of my favourite bands and artists this summer, as well as attending smaller gigs and discovering new music. 

And I finally graduated! (photos by Rhys)

Soon after graduation, I secured my first full-time job. This is the view I had on my lunch break on my first day (I now opt for slightly warmer locations).

With work came lots of lazy Sundays. 

A highlight of my summer was attending the AM:ZM exhibition - an immersive exhibition revolving around the making of Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino. I've spoken in the past about how much Arctic Monkeys' space-themed sixth album means to me. And this exhibition gave me the chance to temporarily lived in the world that they had created within the album, in which I had fallen in love with. 

And as the exhibition was in Mayfair, there were some photo ops to be taken advantage of on the way home.

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9 Sept 2018

My Graduation

One month ago I finally adorned myself in cap and cloak and took a stroll up the aisle of my university’s University Hall building in order to pick up my degree certificate. I say 'finally' because - as a result of both the physical and mental health concerns that have followed me around through the breadth of my education - this occasion had been a long time coming. And despite feeling admittedly self-conscious as a 26-year old graduate, I couldn't be happier that I finally made it.

The day before my graduation, my mum, my grandmother and I travelled up to Nottingham from London. Late in the afternoon we checked into our hotel - which we would be spending two nights in - and went into town for a light dinner. Our restaurant of choice for my pre-grad meal was George’s British Kitchen. I had never been there before and was glad I finally had the chance, as the food was great. I had the Chicken Goujons plus The Green as my drink.

The next morning I woke up an hour and a half before our 7.40 am cab was to arrive, in an attempt to make myself look my best for all the inevitable graduation photos. This ended up proving difficult, as the lighting in the hotel clearly wasn’t made for putting on makeup. But despite the slight getting ready fail, I still felt good in my dusty pink dress with cut out sides that I had purchased from ASOS a few weeks prior.

When we arrived at the university there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as I collected all the relevant documents and clothing in order to be all set for the ceremony. My favourite part of the prep was going through what felt like a conveyor belt system, which involved me walking through two corridors and a large room by myself (my mum attempted to come with me for this step of prep, but family weren't allowed in), and then emerging out the other side fully dressed in my graduation gown and cap. (I may have lied slightly at the start of the blog when I said I adorned myself -  graduands were actually swiftly dressed by an array of helpers, who made sure our gowns, hoods and caps were on correctly).

Then - after a bit of relaxing and time-killing in the courtyard - came time for the ceremony. Graduands and family members made their way through the courtyard and across the road to the building where the ceremony was to be held. At the door, I was made to separate from my family once again as I was directed to walk upstairs to the gallery where all the anxious graduates-to-be were waiting, whilst my mum and grandmother made their way to the seating area below us.

Once everyone had settled, I was mildly horrified to learn that I would be amongst the first people to go up to graduate. I had already figured I would be on pretty early, if the ceremony was to be conducted alphabetically. But only when me and a group of others were ushered downstairs and then coordinated by various people who were allocated in different parts of the venue -  hushedly pointing us in the right direction until we were finally in front of the stage - did I realise just how ‘early’ I actually would be.

There were only two people in front of me.

And as the two others were making their way across stage I was already being propelled forward, giving me no chance to compose myself or take note of what the other two were actually doing when onstage, but giving me just enough time to realise how underprepared I actually was. This lack of preparation ended up showed itself when a. As I went up I looked confused as to why my qualifications weren’t read out loud, as they were for the two before me (I realized shortly afterwards that this was only done before groups rather than individuals). And b. I had no idea where the camera was. In fact, I’m not sure I knew there was one. That is, until I noted that after the chancellor shook my hand he paused in frame, turned and smiled into seeming oblivion. This resulted in an official graduation photo where I’m smiling into the vague distance whilst the chancellor smiles directly into the camera.

What came afterwards was a bit of a blur. I can’t even remember who handed me my certificate, but I do remember many congratulations as I went up to my seat again. The last part of the ceremony involved all the new graduates exiting the venue by walking through the crowd downstairs as they applauded. Outside the building there was also a recessional to walk through, as well as a band playing whilst we made our way back to the main building. These elements were a nice surprise. And I say surprise, as I had thought the ceremony was over once I had received my certificate. Ans so I had discarded my hat right away, only to find myself holding it on my head awkwardly whilst walking out and through the recessional, as I couldn’t figure out how to put it back on at such short notice.

After the recessional I reunited with my family. And then came the celebrations. This included prosecco, canapes and live music (and of course lots of picture taking).

And with one last goodbye to the campus (and most notably to the library, which I took my mum on a quick tour of) it was back to the hotel to get ready for our celebratory meal of the day; an early dinner at The Calcutta Club, where I indulged in the Classic Tandoori Chicken.

Then to close the night - despite being full of great Indian food - we made our final return to the hotel to feast on the red velvet graduation cake my mum had thoughtfully surprised me with (which she had bought from West Bridgeford’s Strawberry Cupcakes). And then finally the next morning, after a relaxed brunch at the hotel, we said our goodbyes to Nottingham, before heading back to London by train.

Despite some preconceived anxieties regarding the event, I really enjoyed my graduation. It was great to spend some time basking in the reminder that -  in spite of many pitfalls -  my hard work and perseverance had paid off.

I also loved being able to spend the occasion with my closest family members, whom it also felt great to indulge in somewhat of a mini trip out of London with (this was especially momentous as my grandmother hadn’t left the city for decades).

The ceremony itself also had been very lovely and well organized, and it was great to share the experience with my former course mates as well as university lecturers and staff. Thank you Nottingham Trent University.

Thanks so much to Rhys The Photographer for the amazing photos!

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9 Jul 2018

What an Existential Crisis REALLY Feels Like

In the last couple of years, there has been an abundance of ‘existential crisis’ memes across the internet. And whilst I like the fact that this mental health condition is being talked about more openly, I can’t help but feel that the true horror of existential anxiety/depression is being diminished in the casual representations of it. And that many brands are disingenuously using the trope to appear hashtag relatable. To counteract this, I thought I would provide an in-depth description of a dreadful existential crisis that I experienced, which lasted the best part of six months. So if you would like a window into what an existential crisis is really like, then keep reading. Warning; it gets dark. 

At the age of 20, I was going through a lot of changes. My first (toxic) 'relationship' had ended, I had just travelled through another country by myself for a month, and I was about to relocate to a new city and start university. Only in hindsight was I able to link the subsequent downfall of my mental health to the extreme changes that were happening alongside it. 

It started with the odd panic here and there regarding my mortality, where sudden realisations that one day I would no longer be here would incite palpitations and mental panic. Soon these thoughts diluted themselves and seeped their way into my day-to-day life. The best way I find to describe my daily experience during this period is this; it was as if I was watching my life play out on videotape. Rather than feeling connected to my surroundings, I felt like I was viewing the reality around me from behind an unclear screen - this conception informed by a solemn awareness that the videotape (my life) was continuously coming closer towards an inevitable end.

"I may as well have been on my death bed for how final and out of reach present experience felt." 

Even though I experienced this 'videotape' version of reality in every moment, my days began to act as a welcome reprieve from the horrors that came each night. During the day, existential depression blanketed around me, morphing how I felt about the world and reality. But at night existential anxiety screamed at me, pulling me into its swirling oblivion kicking and screaming.

On the lead up to my 21st birthday I remember finding myself paralyzed in front of a friend in a restaurant, as they asked me if they should call my mum to pick me up. I remember those words being spoken as if behind a veil, whilst I was falling through the oblivion of my brain, against a backdrop of terror relating to the constant over-awareness of death. But the terror was coloured even more by the knowledge that the only way out of the horrifying reality I found myself in was the thing itself; that of which I was most afraid of. I remember later that same night collapsing in a doorway on the street, feeling defeated and plagued with the burden of inhabiting a hostile, inescapable reality. I remember observing the atmosphere of the night around me, feeling as if I may as well have been on another planet for how alien the world was to me. And that I may as well have been on my death bed for how final and out of reach present experience felt. 

"I remember looking at select people around me . . . and then automatically picturing their graves"

Then I went to uni. And even though I managed to have a great time during Freshers Week, it was as if I was watching myself having a great time, rather than really engaging with the experience. Watching from the standpoint of someone who was too aware of mortality and the futility of life to truly enjoy what I perceived as inevitably fleeting moments of happiness. On one particular night out I remember looking at select people around me who were having a lot of fun, and then automatically picturing their graves. This was an intense manifestation of my brain's belief of the pointlessness of happiness, and in turn, life.

Luckily, as I eased into my new life changes - and with some external help - I started to become progressively better. If you feel similarly to how I felt at this time, it is important to speak to a professional about it. When you experience existential depression or anxiety you often believe that you've uncovered the truth to life, and that there's no going back to the 'brainwashed' feelings of carefreeness that came before. But that's not the case. There's so much joy to be found in life and it can be experienced once again, whilst your previous existential crisis becomes a mere memory you can no longer relate to. 

To find out about the importance of psychiatry click here

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Disclaimer: The above post contains a paid link insertion, but all content is my own.

5 Jun 2018

Pizza Academy at Oscar & Rosie's

Despite recently cutting out dairy (for the most part), pizza is one constant that regularly inhabits my weekly cheat day. And for this reason, I was ultra keen to attend a pizza-making event courtesy of Jess Who - who organizes fun and unique events in Nottingham for Bumble - amidst the craziness of my recent final-year deadline season.

The event was to be held at popular Nottingham pizza joint Oscar & Rosie's, who host a Pizza Academy on their top floor. Which me and a few other local bloggers were about to be lucky enough to take part in. Upon entering Oscar & Rosie's I found it to be aesthetically rustic, lightly retro, and with effortless attention to detail, allowing for great vibes and energy to circulate within its walls. After being led up a magazine page adorned staircase I spent some time mingling with fellow bloggers, until we were instructed to sort ourselves into teams, as there was to be a dose of competition inserted into the pizza-making experience.

Before starting we first observed closely as owner Olly took us through a step-by-step demonstration of how to make a pizza, Oscar & Rosie's style. Turns out I could have been paying better attention. As when it came time for us to have a go ourselves I felt unable to correctly manipulate my dough to the perfect consistency (the 'throwing it into the air' step didn't save it).

When it came to toppings, I kept things simple by only adding sauce, cheese (a lot of it), and pepperoni. I figured that this was the perfect opportunity to make pizza exactly how I would like it. And I'm someone who doesn't like the mix of too many different ingredients and textures in one dish. Despite my choices, we were provided with an array of topping options, even including vegan cheese.

Soon came the moment of truth; seeing how our pizzas would fair after surviving the oven. I was slightly disappointed to see that my pizza turned out more 'oval' than circular. But I was reassured by Olly that this was okay; a pizza that's not a perfect circle can simply be passed off as 'rustic.'

After close inspection by the professionals, it was then time for the results of the competition. Unfortunately, we came third (also known as second to last). But I was just happy we didn't come in last place as a result of my non-circular, slightly lumpy pizza.

But as far as the taste test went, my pizza actually turned out to be amazing. And I can only imagine how good Oscar & Rosie's pizzas would taste when actually crafted by a professional. I finished the whole pizza happily, bar a couple of slices which I saved more for my subsequent library session. From this experience I can definitely understand why Oscar and Rosie's is crowned as the 'best pizza in Nottingham'.

A big thanks to both Jess and Oscar & Rosie's for arranging this extremely fun event. You can find Oscar & Rosie's both in Nottingham and in Leicester. I definitely recommend giving them a visit, and especially having a go at their Pizza Academy!

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