Thursday, 21 May 2015

Here's To Friends // My School To College Transition

Tomorrow, 22nd May 2015, will be my last ever day at college. Writing this now, I'm getting all emotional, but it's something I wanted to do all along. I guess I just wanted to talk through how I've changed and thank everybody for everything.

At secondary school, I was a bit of an outcast. For years, I was bullied, and absolutely petrified of the girl who did it. Due to this, I developed severe social anxiety and depression. I wouldn't talk to anybody, and the school system did barely anything to help until the girl moved away for her own reasons. My ex-boyfriend was my only consolation at the time. From the end of year eight to the start of year ten, I found that all my old friends changed into people I didn't really like and it wasn't until I came back into contact with an old primary school friend that I found somebody I could hang out with and could talk to (that wasn't him). She massively helped me come out of my shell. We knew we could always come around to each others' houses if we needed a chat, or ring each other when something went wrong. She introduced me to her friends. We started a vlogging channel on YouTube and it was probably because of this that I found my sense of humour around other people again. My ex started to become jealous that I'd become close to somebody else, and that caused problems of its own.

Nonetheless, I continued to grow as a person. When it came to the end of year eleven and we had to start deciding where to go next, I was torn. At the time it was a choice between sixth form in my area and college in the city. For years I'd felt like I needed to escape from where I lived and the problems of my past, and I convinced myself that the next few years of my life would be hell if I didn't. I also felt like I didn't have any friends in my area because, instead of sympathising with the fact that I was bullied, it seemed like some people lost a lot of respect for me instead - years down the line, I still feel this way. It was time for me to spread my wings and try something new, but that meant leaving my boyfriend behind. I decided to take the leap and have faith. Shortly after I started college in the city, we broke up.

By this time I had made some friends in my AS year. The primary school friend I talked about went to the same place, but we took completely different lessons and went as individuals. I was amazed at how easy I found it to talk to people I didn't know! Away from my area, I felt like a new person. For the first time in my teenage life I felt like I was part of the "popular crowd" - no kidding, there were probably around twenty of us. The first year, for the most part, was amazing. At several points I was probably more distracted from my studies, with parties and stuff, than I should have been. My friends and I were always hanging out, but, like my ex and I, we grew apart.

Amazingly though, the people I used to hang out the most with then, are the people I don't speak to at all now. AS level results divided us. More than half of our group failed, decided to drop out, or simply started hanging around with new people. As much as I would have loved to have remained friends with everyone, it became too difficult and too stressful to be pulled in so many different directions. Luckily, I was one of the ones who did make it back to my A-level year (barely). After a year being single, I allowed myself a chance at another relationship (I'm happy to say it's still in progress). I talked more to the people I didn't get much chance to hang around with last year: Emily, Harrison and Manleen. They are the most lovely and supportive people I've ever met. The parties didn't end though - there's always the odd house party. But A-levels have been hard. I seemed to fail every piece of coursework I've done this year, and now I find myself having to make up for it in the exams. My last two are in June.

What I'm really trying to say is, the people I've met have helped me to grow so much, even if they didn't realise it. There are going to be many tears on my last day tomorrow because I don't think I can bear to say goodbye to Manleen, Emily or Dec (I've already had to say goodbye to Harrison when he dropped out to pursue an apprenticeship). Manleen, despite all the drama we've been through together, has shown me the value of true friendship. We have never argued or done anything really to hurt each other - it's just all positive vibes and fun. I'm going to be devastated when she goes to Uni, but hopefully we'll still make time for each other. Emily is one of the loveliest people I've met and one of the only people I trust in the world. She never hesitates to hear me out when I'm stressed or give me compliments when I really need to hear them. I'm not going to be soppy on here about Dec, but he's helped me probably the most.

And to all the people who've walked away, thank you, too; because you've helped me learn something and see who my real friends are. I'm lucky to have friends who accept me as I am and don't judge me, despite my past and my awkwardness. If you haven't been mentioned, please don't think I love you any less. Thank you to everyone who's stood by me even during my shitty decisions - I'm going to miss you so much.

Meaghan x

Monday, 18 May 2015

\\ My Bucket List, So Far! // 2015

I'm still young, and hopefully I have a lot of time to add to my bucket list - so, as it stands, mine is only very small and not particularly exuberant. It probably resembles most of other teenagers' bucket lists, but nevertheless, I wanted to share the grand old life goals I've set for myself.

1. Spend at least one Hogmanay in Scotland. Hogmanay, for those who don't know, is the traditional Scottish celebration of New Year's Eve; meaning last day of the year or new year's gift. Like many Scottish holidays, it has its own traditions: one of which to, of course, sing 'Auld Lang Syne' as the clock strikes (a song that has become common in many other countries). Although it is intended that participants only link arms at the beginning of the final verse - co-ordinating with the lines of the song that contain the lyrics to do so - it is often misperformed anywhere else but Scotland, where it is said the practice began. Nowadays, Hogmanay is a bit like an annual festival in Scotland, and you can even buy tickets to the celebrations in Edinburgh. I want to go because (as those of you who've peeked at my bio will know) I'm Scottish on my Dad's side of the family and have had strong Scottish influences growing up. I see the Hogmanay celebrations as a very close and sentimental thing that I just have to do once in my life, not necessarily with my family, but with people I love.

2. Get involved in a colour powder fight (or take part in the Run or Dye). I might be wrong but I think I've seen some footage of a Festival of Colour in Asia, which just looked amazing. There was also a Sony Xperia Z advert which showed footage of a colour powder 'fight' and I think that's what really inspired me to do it. They look like good fun and it's really unusual. Colour powder fights aren't all that common in England, but I did come across a blog explaining that you can take part in the Run or Dye event in Manchester, to help raise money for a cause, which sounds right up my street. In this post, Hannah explains that each time you pass a checkpoint, the staff throw colour powder over the participants!


3. That leads me nicely onto my next point: Run for a cause I believe in. Obviously if I do the Run or Dye then this point will be fulfilled, but there are other runs I want to do on top of that. I'm thinking of taking part in something similar to the Walk The Walk which is a run for breast cancer, but there are a couple of twists: a) you run at night, and b) you must wear a bra! (Don't worry, it can be over clothing). I think this idea is a lot better than most breast cancer fundraisers because, as this video explains, men and children can actually take part too and I'm all for that. Why do I want to do this? I don't know, really. Thankfully, none of my family members have ever died from breast cancer, although my great grandma did have a mastectomy as a result of her suffering. This wasn't within my living memory, but still, I just think it's a good cause. There is a small problem in that the races only exist in larger cities, but I have heard about a similar run called a 'MoonWalk' which may be closer to me. I also want to run the Race for Life.

4. Eat authentic Italian pizza and gelato. I don't have any Italian heritage, I just feel like I connect with the place on a spiritual level without understanding why. Although I love Italian style restaurant chains in Britain, like Bella Italia and Frankie and Benny's, I bet they don't compare to the real thing.

5. Continue learning Italian. Those of you who read my old blog may know that I started learning the language using the Duolingo app and kept at it for some time before my A-Levels got in the way too much. I'd really like to kick-start that again.

6. Visit the following Italian cities and landmarks: Rome for its perfect blend of old and new buildings. The Colluseum because it's both beautiful and historic. My love of Assisi was brought on by my favourite childhood book, Pretty Face by Mary Hogan, and now I'm left with a yearning desire to climb the mountain there and visit the famous church of St Francis. The Leaning Tower is just somewhere you have to go and take a picture and I'd like to visit Venice (before it floods).

7. See A Day To Remember live. ADTR are without a doubt my favourite band, and probably the holy grail of modern rock gigs for teenagers. I've tried to see them many times before but either I didn't have the money or they sold out before I could get to them. I'm determined not to miss them again!

8. Go to an outdoor festival. (Not really sure why I specified outdoor). So far I've never been to a festival, but the ones that have appealed to me in recent years are: Reading and Leeds, Slamdunk, and 2000 Trees, just based on the music they showcase there.

9. See a performance at the Globe Theatre. I know this is something that most of my friends would be interested in doing with me, and I'd be interested in taking them! A good bunch of us took (can't believe I'm having to start using past tense for college *cry*) English A-levels so we're all familiar with and fans of Shakespeare's work. I saw a great performance of Twelfth Night in Sheffield last year with Declan, but a performance at the Globe would be the best of British!

10. Go on a no-parents-allowed holiday with friends. I don't care where we go, as long as it's hot and has a beach!

11. Go on a roadtrip somewhere in Europe. This is another one to do with friends, because I probably won't be the designated driver. Imagine how fun it would be, though!

12. Take part in a protest. If you've read any of my political posts then you'll probably know this is likely to happen in the next five years. I've grown quite fond of the prospect of activism, although, outwardly, it's probably not the most respectable thing to interested in.

13. Be a bridesmaid (again!) I've been a bridesmaid once, for my cousin, Kim, but I actually can't wait to be one again! The good news is my dad is engaged. Hopefully I'll be allowed to choose my dress, this time! I hope Dad wears a kilt, like he always said he would.

That's all I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure it will change a lot as I get older. I'm thinking of amending it annually, so make sure you come back this time next year for the next installment! Thanks for reading.
Meaghan x

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Birthday Celebrations // My Boyfriend's 18th!

I feel like I start almost every blog with the words "I should be doing revision" but never has it been more true. After all, my Stalin/USSR re-take is in three days. But, after the alcohol-fueled weekend I've had, I'm finding it hard to get my brain into gear. It's now nine o-clock at night in England and I am writing this blog on four hours' sleep - let's hope it's comprehensible.

Saturday marked the beginning of Dec's birthday celebrations... he's finally eighteen! For those who don't know or haven't gathered from my earlier posts, Dec = boyfriend. We woke early, around seven, so Dec could open his presents from his family, and I think it's safe to say he was spoilt. Among other things he got a PS4 (and a game to play on it), a watch, and a bracelet, from various different relatives. Then it was time to set the Playstation up and get us both playing Mortal Kombat (it's actually quite enjoyable). Then when we'd decided we'd had enough of that for now, he opened his presents from me.

He'd mentioned previously that he doesn't own any CDs! And I just thought that was odd. So, as a bit of a sentimental present, I gave him my own Scouting For Girls album. I gave him his first CD! Underneath is a gorgeous illustrated edition of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales that I just wanted to keep to myself. The slider the book comes in is made to look like a section of a forest, which is beautiful in its own right. I still can't even fathom how they made it look so shiny and glittery without using glitter! My favourite detail though are the brothers' signatures which are inscribed on the bottom. The actual book itself smells glorious and the paper was of such good quality. I could genuinely just go on and on about it. I also bought him a Game of Thrones-inspired card from Best Play Ever online which I hoped he'd love. You could choose which family was represented on the front and I knew he'd want Targaryen. I really recommend these cards, they have a really nice sheen to them, and I haven't seen anything like it on the high street!

At dinner, (or lunch if we're using Dec's lingo) we went to Revolucion de Cuba with his dad, his sister, her partner, and his dad's partner's son, where Dec opened more presents. When it came to eating, we were all provided with a menu each, which had been designed to look and feel like a newspaper - that was a nice touch. Dec's decided to keep his as a keepsake in a little 18th memory box. I ordered the Cuban Cheeseburger, which was nice and filling... also a little spicy but nothing to worry about. The fries were to die for though - and that was a unanimous agreement. Dipped in the mango chutney (I think Dec said that's what it was), they were even better. I wasn't a big fan of my Passion Fruit Mojito though; I found that to be rather strong and bitter. The staff were really nice, and at the end of the meal they brought over a chocolate brownie with ice-cream and a fizzy candle for him! Everybody else took photos of that but I don't have any because I wanted to enjoy the moment.

Then it was goodbye to his dad and onto his local pub with his sister and her partner. We only had one drink there courtesy of Hayley, and a few games of cards, before heading back to his mum's for a while. I believe my drink was a VK Icestorm which is effectively just the same as a Smirnoff Ice. Once back at his he played a bit more Playstation (I'm more of an XBox kinda girl) while we waited for his gran to arrive. His mum ordered a huge Chinese takeaway for everybody - I don't usually eat anything that different because I'm such a fussy eater but I tried something. Not that I can tell you what it was, mind! After the meal his mum brought out his surprise cake, Game of Thrones style!

It was then time for me to pop upstairs and get ready, in time for my outing with Dec & Hayley (queue silly selfies with Dec). After that, the PRE-DRINKS began! We didn't get into town til about 10:45, but we were soon drunk. Hayley very kindly paid for entry/drinks the entire night as I am poor at the moment (waiting for apprenticeship interviews) and obviously it was just a nice gesture for Dec. I definitely owe her! 

We started off in Walkabout, which I'd been to before with my friends Emily, Maria and Ellie (I might have mentioned it before). I really like it there. They seem to play the best current music. We eventually made our way to Scream to meet Dec's work friends, but we had a few stops at pubs in between. They seemed like good fun actually. They bought him a lot of shots which I'm grateful for because me and Hayley wouldn't really have pushed him to get mortal. He seemed really happy, though, which made me happy. We stayed out til 3ish and had a really nice night. To say I was drunk I haven't really felt the effects of the alcohol today, except for maybe that I'm a little bit more tired than usual. Dec's been a little bit worse for wear as his tonsils are all a bit swollen from the shouting, but hopefully that'll clear up soon. Earlier on we just napped and again played video games, but I'm at home now, knackered and writing this blog! I'm expected into college at 8.45 tomorrow though so I'd better get myself upstairs! I can't believe it's the last week I'll ever spend there with my friends *sob*.

I know this post isn't my usual sort of thing, I'm not usually so personal on this blog but as it was such a special and enjoyable occasion I wanted to commemorate it in some way! Thanks for reading.
Meaghan x

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

\\ What I Keep By My Bedside! //

Now that I've completed my only exam scheduled for this week, I can finally justify writing another blog (or, two, or three!) I know that I've been writing probably a fair few too many political posts, so I decided to lighten the mood up a bit by taking some pictures of my room! After all, I don't think any of you have seen it since it was done up at the beginning of this year. I won't show you the entire room until I can get my hands on a good quality camera, but for now here is some insight into what I keep by my bedside table. I typically call this "Dec's Corner" simply because it's full of things related to him or our relationship.

  1.  is my Mason Jar from Home Bargains. I bought it, at first, because I thought it would make a good (and different) container for all my loose change that I'm supposed to be saving up - but it just looks too pretty and summery, so I'm going to use it for its intended purpose! I don't really know what kind of drink to put in it though, so if any of you reading are super healthy and have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments! It was really cheap, too - I'm talking pence.
  2.  is my Yankee Candle in Mandarin Cranberry, which is the most glorious scent ever. I really can't recommend it enough. I typically use it when I'm having a nice bubblebath, but I keep it by my bedside so noone else can steal it haha.
  3.  is a bit of an unusual one; it's a Penguin toy from McDonald's. I keep it because this particular penguin opens up, and Dec left me a note hidden inside.
  4. is a little souvenir Dec brought me back from his trip to Egypt. It's a little scarab with enscribed hieroglyphs. He gave it to me wrapped in Egyptian newspaper, which I thought was really cool, so I keep that in the drawer below.
  5. is, again, Dec-related. For my 18th birthday he ordered me this... 'A Little Letter' which he had personalised especially. When you take the ribbons off and open it up, there's a magnifying glass which a tiny letter, so no-one else can read it but me!
  6. is the Christmas card Dec bought me, which came with my present - a 'film' kit filled with DVDs, movie food, my favourite teabags and other lovely things (hence why it has a cup of tea on the front).
  7. the little '18' block that his mum bought for my 18th birthday. It doesn't really have a purpose, it just looks nice and I thought it was really sweet.
  8. is a picture I had printed of us both on our first date, ice-skating. Obviously it's nice to be reminded he's there and it has a bit of sentimental importance.
  9. is my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 that I hardly ever separate from (though you can't really see it in its case). My dad bought it for me after I passed my AS levels.
  10. is my boyfriend's old dream-catcher, that he gave to me in that 'film kit' I talked about earlier.
  11. is a cushion for my bed. It usually lives on the floor, though! My room is travel-themed. It looks a bit Paris-esque thanks to my sister's influence; so my dad bought me this Leaning Tower of Piza cushion to make it feel a little bit more like my dream travel destination, Italy.
Underneath it all is my British Heart Foundation volunteer magazine which they send me for free every now and again, to thank me for volunteering. I've been volunteering there for almost a year - my, where has the time gone!

I haven't given out too much information, but if you'd like to know where anything was from or how much it cost I'll do my best to find out for you! Thanks for reading.

Meaghan x

Monday, 11 May 2015

London Protests // Has The Point Gone Unnoticed?

On Saturday night, hundreds protested the election of the Conservatives as Britain's governing power, in what the media referred to (briefly) as an 'anti-austerity" protest - although many of the signs I saw said "get the Tories out!" and had nothing to do with austerity. Either way, it soon turned sour, with teargas being sprayed over the rioters, and a war memorial being defaced. It probably wasn't the best day for it either - on the commemoration of VE-Day, for God's sake! It did nothing for their cause, and invalidated the message of the peaceful because of the actions of a select few. Obviously vandalising a war memorial is shocking, abhorrent, and not to be condoned; but so is burning £50 in front of a homeless man, in my view.

On the other hand, what rattled people at home was the alleged media blackout. As the protest was an unorganised one, the BBC said they refused to cover it because the police did not want more people turning up. But was that really the case? After all, the event was trending on Twitter, along with the hashtag #ToriesOutNow. If you were on social media that night, you heard about it. People would be turning up anyway. And it's not as if we can all afford just to pop down on a train to London! If that was possible, I'd more than likely have been there myself. The media need to understand that if people are suffering, they need to cover it, whatever their responsibilities are to the Establishment.

To many, the protest has been perceived as "the losing side throwing their toys out of the pram" because their party wasn't elected. Really, these people weren't angry about the fact that they'd "lost". Some of them might be annoyed (though 'annoyed' probably isn't a strong enough word) that 63% voted for parties other than Conservative, yet the Conservatives got into power. Some of them might even be scared for their futures, with the prospect of more public service cuts, mental health cuts for children, and the bedroom tax continuing (ironically, the police probably didn't even want to be stopping the protest - they face cuts, too). To me, it seems that people recognise their health, and their way of life, isn't safe in the hands of the Tories. Yes, Labour might have done some damage to the economy, admittedly, but the Conservatives will not look after ordinary people or the NHS. Privatisation will literally mean they can profit from our illness. That's the kind of thing they're protesting against. And if you're still in any doubt about their intentions, remember that Ed Miliband's first act as Prime Minister was going to be abolishing the cruel Bedroom Tax, whereas Cameron is already in talks to bring back fox-hunting! (there's a petition against that, too.) WHO DOES THAT HELP? Oh yeah, the 1% at the top! What an abuse of power. Sadly, I think they've started as they mean to go on and I can see why people are concerned.

I've seen a lot of tweets (the majority were obviously from Tory supporters) suggesting that the protesters should just "respect democracy," but, I'm sorry, they're missing the point. 1) Protests are a vital part of a democracy, they should not be denied the right and 2) people don't feel as if their vote has mattered, to the point where they feel this isn't a democracy anymore - think of all the millions of UKIP and Green voters, who saw their parties only get one seat! (My last post explained the unfair nature of our First Past The Post system, so I won't really be covering that again in too much detail - although I will leave the link to the Proportional Representation petition here.) Plus, the freedom of thought, belief, religion, and expression is one of the many things protected by the Human Rights Act, which the Conservatives will have Michael Gove scrap. So, they'd better get their voices heard now, then!

Interestingly, if the 'non-voters' had been a political party, they would have won the election. 40% of all adults chose not to put a cross on the ballot paper - that's more than the 37% of Conservative votes. Not voting is just as much a protest as a protest itself, although activism probably does a little bit more good, in most cases. If the London protests have shown anything, it's that the Tory government is already segregating us, with more of a divide between the rich and the poor.

Meaghan x

Saturday, 9 May 2015

My Political Philosophy // What The General Election Results Mean for Britain

If you're not from the UK, you may know that our two main political parties are Labour and Conservative. One is a voice for the working class, while the other works for the privileged few; big businesses and powerful elites; that make up around 1% of this country's population. You might ask, "Well, how did the Conservatives get into power if they really are so elitist and disconnected from the working class?" but, in truth, there are many reasons why this happened.

One of the main problems under the Conservatives' last term was homelessness and poverty. In 2013 and 2014 alone, over 58,000 people (26,000+ each year) officially filled out the homelessness application. And that's just officially - hundreds or thousands more people sleeping rough might not have been able to. Many of the homelessness applications were rejected, with thousands being classified as either: intentionally homeless, not in priority need or not homeless at all, but that's beside the point. My point is, that whilst homelessness is fast becoming a major issue in the UK (and believe me, I've seen a huge increase in the city during my two short years in college), HOMELESS PEOPLE CANNOT REGISTER TO VOTE BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE ANY ADDRESS. In other words, the people who are suffering most under the Conservatives cannot vote for change! And they're not alone - 400,000 CHILDREN are currently using food banks, but cannot change their situation. I've actually seen young Tory voters on Twitter saying "they don't care" about this issue because it doesn't affect them, and a vote should be for yourself and your own beliefs, but to those people I'd just like to ask: when did money become more important than people?

Another problem with the electoral system has been that YOUNG PEOPLE UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN ALSO CANNOT VOTE. The main argument against them being allowed to vote is that they are not technically adults in this country, but remember that for fifteen, sixteen and seventeen year olds especially, the outcome of this general election has directly affected them. I spent quite a lot of time on Twitter during the release of the exit polls and the election results, and all I could see was young people (younger than me) despairing that they probably won't be able to afford Uni tuition fees under a Conservative majority Government. During their coalition with the Lib Dems, tuition fees famously rose to £9,000 a year; despite the Lib Dems' insistence that they wouldn't allow it to happen. Instead, the Lib Dems voted for higher tuition fees, and as a result, lost a lot of respect from the British public. After their miserable defeat yesterday, Nick Clegg leader of the Lib Dems was forced to resign, but the media suggests "history will be kinder to him" when we see what the Conservatives are capable of outside of a joint leadership. There has already been talk of the figure raising to £11,200 PER YEAR. Not only does this directly affect people under the voting age who may have been planning to go to University in the next few years, it also probably ruins any chance of me going, too (I wasn't planning on going while I'm young anyway, but hopefully the price will change in the future). Although students will probably be able to pay it off in installments when they are earning above a certain amount, it is likely that they will never pay it back. Consequently, they're in debt for most of their working life, and the Government loses money. Why do they preach about "skilled work", but make it so unaffordable? There's also the morality of the situation. If you think about it logically, it seems absurd. Sixteen year olds are legal to have sex - literally allowed to create life - before they have a say in how the country is run. Youngsters can die on battlefields and risk their lives on the roads before they are allowed a vote. The elderly have their right to vote - there is no cap on how old you have to be to vote, so why put a cap on the youth? In my view, sixteen year olds can make their own informed decisions.

Of those who COULD vote, and did, 63% of them DID NOT VOTE CONSERVATIVE. These votes were mainly distributed between Labour, the UK Independence Party, and the Scottish National Party. Arguably, this happened because our First Past The Post system is outdated, and leads to an unrepresentative Government. For example, UKIP received around THREE MILLION votes, but gained only ONE seat in Parliament. Not that I would have enjoyed the prospect of a UKIP coalition - it's probably the only blessing to come out of this election - but still, for a party which came third in the polls, this is not accurate representation. The main opposition, Labour received only 7% less of the vote than the Conservatives; but this, to the Government, does not constitute a re-vote. So, 63% of people have to deal with being governed by people they do not want to be governed by... for another five years. And this is why we need a different, more equal system.
"Capitalism has defeated communism. It is now well on its way to defeating democracy." - David Korten, Agenda for a New Economy.
Generally, the Conservatives aren't trusted with the NHS, while Labour aren't trusted with the economy. What we can count on under the Conservatives is the continued privatisation of the NHS, which no ordinary, rational person would want.  And, although the effects of privatisation are still unclear and possibly yet to be revealed, you can bet one of Labour's promises in the next election will be re-nationalisation of the NHS (seeing as they founded it). Then, when Labour, or another party, have to find the money to re-nationalise it, they will almost certainly be blamed for the bad economy again! This is almost inevitable.

One poster I saw floating around during the Election Campaign said: "Vote Labour: for the slightly more humane management of the terminal decline of late capitalism". I think that very succinctly sums up what Labour are about. The economy might not always be brilliant, but people still need to be treated decently in the eventuality that it begins to fail. Under the Conservatives, the poorest get poorer for the better of the economy - I am of the view that this does not need to happen. There must be some way of making everything work well for the country without the incessant suffering of ordinary working people. For a start, minimum wage should be higher than the cost of living - not decreasing! Given its unpopularity, the bedroom tax on some of our most vulnerable people should not be allowed to continue! Someone for the love of God, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, "save Britain from herself".

When politics is this predictable, it shows you just how intelligent the electorate is. Politicians do not need to pretend. Labour's Ed Miliband seemed like a genuine guy, but he has had to step down after his defeat. His villainisation at the hands of the right-wing media (which is controlled largely by Rupert Murdoch, who benefits massively from a Tory Government) contributed to his downfall - but the media is a conversation for another day. So who will be chosen to defend tuition fees, the NHS, tax evasion, human rights, to address the gap between the the rich and poor, not to mention the new divide between Scottish and English politics, when there is no clear leader?
"The media is the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent." - Malcolm X.

Sorry, for the length of this, I realise it's more like an article - but I feel very strongly about it! Peace! Meaghan x

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

\\ The Four Things Tag //

After being forced to abandon my old blog due to problems with my old e-mail address and the associated Google account, I set up this new blog pretty quickly - and it's come to my attention that I've never really done a personal post just about me! I saw "The Four Things Meme" on Nishita's Rants and Raves - and since she said it was cool for anyone to have a go - I decided to have an attempt!

Four things people call me, other than my real name:
(With my name being so uncommon in the UK, you can probably fathom how many times throughout my life it's been misspelt.)
  • I currently volunteer for the British Heart Foundation, where the name on my lanyard says - you guessed it - "Megan".
  • My dad, sister (and some close friends) call me "Meg". The nickname isn't that unusual, obviously, but I do prefer to be called my full name, generally.
  • My mum calls me "Meggy-May" despite the amount of times I've told her I'm an adult and that she shouldn't do this anymore. Bless her. I've never really understood why she calls me that, because my middle name isn't May - it's Bethany (hence my blog URL).
  • My grandma used to call me "Silky," but, again, I don't know why. Thankfully, she's stopped now. I think it was a character's name or something.

Four places I have been:
I'm going to try and use mostly my own photography for this part!
  • Banff in Scotland! This is where my maternal grandma was originally from, and one of my favourite places in the world. It's a little fishing town in Aberdeenshire, and one of the longest drives my family has ever taken together. It's kind of sentimental for me as my grandparents got married here. On a good day you can see the dolphins jumping around and it's really cute! Sadly, this is not my photo.

  • The picture below is taken in Perranporth, Cornwall overlooking the beach. My family love it here and we're visiting again this summer. I'll have to keep my dad away from the cliffs this time, though! (He almost fell off last time whilst attempting a slide). Cornwall doesn't seem that far away, but living in the Midlands, it's still quite a trek!

  • I also love St. Ives in Cornwall. When we first got there I was amazed by how tiny the streets were. It really does live up to its reputation as a "painter's town". I took this photo myself, and also it's really grainy (taken on my old Nokia, I think, wow) I love how I captured the motorcycle and the boats and all the little houses. It looks cosy.

  • You might have gathered from the flag and the clear water in this photo that this isn't Britain. It's Kusadasi in Turkey - which I believe means "Bird Island" in English. It is still the furthest away I have ever been from home, and the most beautiful place I've ever seen with my own eyes.

Four things I don't eat:
This one should be easy, I'm such a fussy eater!
  • Mashed potatoes (any other type of potato is fine)
  • Beans, ew
  • Mince
  • Anything blue

Four things I'm always saying:
  • "Where are we going?" - forever not knowing what to do
  • I always get my best friends' name mixed up with her online profile names. I always end up calling her "Manleenium" or "Manleeny-bum".
  • "Y'alright?" - my go-to phrase when someone looks bored or upset. Not kidding, I probably say it 3-5 times a day. Usually to the same person.
  • "What?" - forever confused

Four places I have lived:
I haven't really moved around that much! I used to stay in Nottingham a bit, but other than that I've always been in Derbyshire. I have lived in four different places, but they're all in the same small area and I'm not really going to divulge exactly where I live.

Four things I am looking forward to next year:
  • Maybe another holiday abroad? Haven't had one since I was thirteen!
  • Being in a new apprenticeship or job
  • Visiting my best friend at her Uni!

Four movies I have watched more than once:
  • American Beauty. I love symbols and themes within films, and you can barely escape all the roses in this one. I also love the message that even 'perfect-looking' things (or people) have flaws and can be led astray from what really matters by their desires.
  • (500) Days of Summer. Not gonna talk too much about this because I probably prattle on about it too much. I enjoy the unchronological filmic style and how it's realistic about love.
  • Tangled. My favourite modern Disney film - in my opinion much better than Frozen
  • The Great Gatsby. Leonardo DiCaprio. Money. Parties. I could probably have used The Wolf of Wall Street to make the same point, but Gatsby is both one of my favourite books and films.

Four places I would rather be right now:
  • In bed. I don't like to be separated.
  • Dubai but I don't think I could handle the heat and no PDA
  • Probably with my boyfriend. Aw, gay. (Hi, Dec)

Four books I recommend:
Oh Goddd it's been so long since I finished a book...
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini for anyone who has suffered with depression
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald because I've already mentioned it
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker because it's f*cking great (Dracula just scuttles about everywhere, what's not to like)
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter for feminists or anyone who's into adult fairytales. The Courtship of Mr. Lyon is my favourite short story.

Four TV series I watch:
  • Made In Chelsea. (Please don't judge me!)
  • Game of Thrones
  • Catfish: The TV Show
  • Once Upon A Time. It doesn't take much concentration and it wastes time pretty well.

Four jobs I've had:
Ugghhh I haven't had that many yet!
  • I've been a shop assistant in a fancy dress shop (which also managed parties and events so that was quite interesting)
  • I've been a fundraiser with the NCS before
  • I've volunteered in a charity shop
  • Being a full time legend (I miss 2010 Facebook)

I hope you learned a little bit more about my interests and whatnot! You can find the link to the original tag here if you'd like to give it a go. 

Meaghan x

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Thoughts on Russell Brand and the Upcoming Election // My Voting Stance

Everybody knows my opinion on Russell Brand - I think he's great, and I probably agree with about 95% of what he says, where politics is concerned. I've always admired his anti-vote stance, as one of the only influential public figures I've seen to stand up to our (arguably) unrepresentative electoral system/government, which many of us (especially young people) feel disillusioned by. This week, I, and other viewers of his online show The Trews, were shocked to hear him now explicitly endorsing the Labour government. At first I didn't believe it! Then, of course, I watched his latest video. As I stated in my last political post, 'Capitalism and Voting,' which I wrote exactly two weeks before election day, I was closer to voting for Labour at that point than any other party. I just didn't think they would implement their policies. So why did Russell Brand suddenly decide they are worth his (and your) vote?

What probably started this chain of events was Ed Miliband's wise decision to meet Russell Brand for an online interview (see here) - wise because Russell has millions of followers, thousands of subscribers, and a wider audience to express his opinion to than any politician. He always expresses his disdain for Rupert Murdoch - who controls a large portion of British media - but ironically I think his influence over the area he controls (largely, public opinion) is similar. Russell speaks for working class people rather than the rich, and discusses problems that exist in our country with what appears to be honesty. People listen to him. Many have begged him to stand for Parliament before, but he refused, saying he's a "narcissist" and that he worries he "would turn into one of them [a corrupt, money-grabbing politician]." Everyone knows about Russell's struggle with addiction, and I really do understand where he's coming from when he says he thinks the power would overcome him. Something powerful that Ed Miliband said during the interview was that "[he's] not looking for euphoria", which I think many people respected him for. But, where I gained respect for Miliband, I found I was losing a bit (but only a tiny sliver) of respect for Russell for abandoning his no-vote stance; in doing so, changing his mind about his life-long passion to resist the traditional means of voting.

But after I thought about it a bit more, I realised why it had to be done... and I think the Conservatives saw it, too. In one of Cameron's pre-election speeches, he called Russell "a joke," resorting to simple derogatory statements to convince the population that everything the man says is invalid. You know what's horrible about this? David Cameron is our Prime Minister! Yet he is insulting anyone who has a different opinion to him. He should be setting an example. I know that being called "a joke" isn't the worst thing in the world, but still, Cameron is the leader of our country and surely he should be treating the people within it with respect? Call me crazy.

Perhaps to retaliate to Mr. Cameron's catty comment, Russell then posted his final video of the 'Politics Week,' in which he urged his entire online community, with the exception of the residents of Brighton, to vote for Labour. Not so much of a joke now, eh? I'd be lying if I said I thought the only reason Russell did this was to get back at Cameron for a bitchy comment in a speech, though. He has always expressed a dislike for the Conservatives due to their ties with big business. He doesn't believe that the Tories will ever persecute powerful corporations for their wrongdoing. He believes they will continue to allow the rich to tax evade, while homelessness is ever increasing. And I think, like a lot of us, he sees something quite human in Ed Miliband. And maybe we do just have to take a chance on him. According to this post on The Guardian, 700,000 young people under the age of 24 have registered to vote this year. Who do you think they're more likely to listen to? A tired old red-faced Cameron declaring someone "a joke" or Russell, with a massive social media following? And with numbers like that, we young people actually have the power to change something.

People often wonder why everyone pays so much attention to Russell's opinion but I think that Owen Jones puts it perfectly, in that: "Brand is sometimes bizarrely portrayed as the cause of voter disengagement ... but actually he is a symptom." Many people feel the same way - if they didn't, why would they subscribe? Take this picture I found on Twitter for example, which really swayed me into following my heart and not worrying too much about my vote. Is it only one vote after all, and it can't make that much difference unless lots of other people agree with me. Therefore I cannot and will not feel wholly responsible for the consequences, as I feared I would do before.

To be perfectly honest, I don't think I would even be engaged in politics right now if it weren't for Russell Brand's videos. And, to me, it's a joke that someone can dismiss the power and influence he has. I'll certainly be taking a stroll up to the polling station before college on Thursday. If you want to watch me respond to political 'happenings' as they occur, you can follow me @meaghanbethany; where I've been tweeting about the Brand vs. Cameron sit-yee-ation all week.

G'bye for now, and thanks for taking a read.

Meaghan x

Friday, 1 May 2015

Fate or Coincidence? // Being in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Fate is a concept widely endorsed that teaches us to believe what happens to us has happened for a reason; usually through a series of unforeseen and unpredictable coincidences. People believe the events in our lives teach us something - i.e. 'if it isn't a blessing, it's a lesson' - but they can be quite shocking and stressful in the moment. As some of my regular readers will know, I've recently been recommended for an apprenticeship, which was amazingly unexpected and a great stroke of luck! But what some of you may not know is that I've also had a few coincidental not-so-nice things happen to me (or occur around me), which have made me question whether I'm generally lucky or unlucky, or whether the world balances the bad things out with the good as a sort of karmic recompense. I'm going to share them with you to make myself feel a little better. How selfish of me.

The first notable bad thing which happened directly to me was the electrical fire in my home, that occurred supposedly for no reason. I'd just come back from my boyfriend's house after a spur of the moment decision to go home and do some editing of my history coursework. I was sat at the computer when suddenly there was a bang and a flash of white as the monitor blew. I was understandably quite startled by this, especially as the fire alarm started to go off. The first thing I did was call upstairs and ask whether my sister was okay, as I wasn't sure at first what had caused the bang. I told her about the monitor and she came down to assist me, which is when we saw a flickering orange light and smoke coming from the tower. After a few fairly unnerving crackly noises, I began to panic that it was about to explode. In a frenzy I grabbed my phone and called my dad, asking him what to do, as my first instinct was to get my sister out of the house. He said, if it was safe, to turn the mains off and call the fire service while he would drive home from work. I did so (banging my head and breaking the cupboard door off in the process) and then got outside with my sister and called 999 from the back garden. Their response time was amazing and I really can't thank them enough for that. It was so surreal, having firemen taking my name and address. When they went into the living room with masks on, requesting another engine, I had visions of me never being allowed to use a computer again, but before too long they had obviously done what needed to be done and the computer was kicked out, burnt, into the front garden. It was raining at the time and my sister was too upset to watch so a friendly neighbour took us in for tea while we waited for our dad and his partner to arrive. When they did, my dad was almost in tears to see we were safe and I could tell that the computer wasn't going to be an issue at all. Soon enough we were allowed back in to see the damage. The cable to the computer was absolutely fried! There was a bit of black char on the wall, and a burn mark on the desk where the fire had almost gone through the wood. The firemen all commended me and said if I had waited a couple more minutes then the sofa would have caught fire and, most likely, we would have lost the entire front room. The stress of it all didn't really catch up with me until I was settled in at my dad's partner's house (the smell of burnt plastic at ours eventually got the better of us and we were told we couldn't use the electrics there until they had been properly tested) and I started to think about what could have happened. Since the cable was probably faulty and could have caught at any time, what would have happened if I hadn't have come back from my boyfriend's house so early? Would my sister have been okay on her own? It was probably the first time I've had a real panic attack. I just remember wanting to cry and not being able to. But everyone was lovely, okay, and alive, which is all that really matters.

Today, I had an equally bad experience. I had been out for tea with my friend Steve and had just boarded a bus home when a couple of guys came on and assaulted a couple of passengers on the back of the bus. It got fairly brutal, and although I didn't turn around to see (who wants to see someone getting beaten up?) I heard someone exclaim that they had knives. Obviously, what was going on was personal between those two groups of people as they seemed to know each other but I won't go into too much detail as the police will probably be contacting me soon for a witness statement. My point is that it was a horrible thing to witness, and an even worse feeling to not be able to help! I convinced myself that all 5'0 of me wouldn't be able to do anything, so I didn't get involved. Luckily though the victims of the assault seemed to be moderately okay by the time we got to my stop. I still feel shit about my decision not to act, though, which is mainly why I'm writing. Could I have done something more than just put myself down as a witness?

Pick-me-up suggestions welcome!

Meaghan x