Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Top 10 items to pack for university

This time last year I wrote an article about what all first year students should make the effort to do in their Fresher's week (which you can read here http://charlottecoster.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/top-10-things-to-do-in-freshers-week.html). So this year I thought I would be a good Samaritan once again and very helpfully tell you what to pack. In reverse order, here are the top 10 items that you just can't live without at university during your Fresher's year.

Number 10: Toothbrush
Pretty self explanatory really - no one will like you or talk to you if you have stinky breath. Honestly, as if you have to ask...

Number 9: Ipod
Hugely useful for a number of different reasons. It can be a good ice breaker at the beginning, to start discussions about different music that you like...it can be great if you join certain sports and are training or running for them. And finally it can be used in an academic sense as well. Some people like to record their lectures and this can then be uploaded to ipod and listened back. A good way of revising later in the year.

Number 8: Alarm Clock
There's no way you lazy first years will get out of bed without one. Especially now there are no parents to kick you out of it first thing. If you want to make those horrendous 9am lectures, you might have to invest in one.

Number 7: Diary/Calendar
Again, this is completely necessary to make sure you turn up to all your commitments at the right time, in the right place. And this is not just for academic ones either but social and society get togethers. There is a huge amount going on at uni and if you want to keep track of everything, this is a necessity.

Number 6:  A pair of trackie bottoms and a hoodie
Although during the first few weeks, Freshers tend to dress up in their best clothes for lectures, this urge doesn't last long. Believe me, older years look and laugh and you can always spot who the first years are. When you are bogged down with work and had no sleep for three nights straight because you are trying to finish an essay (or just have great stamina for going out) it will be a marvel if you manage to pull jeans on. These two items of clothing are a must for those slobby days when you can't be bothered to move. Or those stressful ones, where you can't leave your desk. Or, the worst of the lot, those hungover ones where you can't move without puking.

Number 5: Photographs
Leaving home can be a bit strange and discomforting. Make sure you have plenty of keepsakes to remind you of everything. And gradually over the year you will add to them with all your great Fresher's memories. Lots of halls don't like blue tac so make sure you bring white tac, frames and pins as well.

Number 4: A formal dress/suit
Most universities will have a Freshers' ball or formal of some kind. And will definitely have certain events throughout the year. So make sure you have a suitably stunning dress or suit to wow your fellow students with.

Number 3: Bottle opener
In an effort to get away from the stereotype of nobody actually being able to remember their freshers week at all, universities definitely won't supply this, even if they are kind enough to supply other cutlery. It's an absolutely must.

Number 2: Notebook
Fresher's is a once in a lifetime occurrence that won't be repeated so many people like to keep a diary or scrap book during their time to remember everything that goes on. I did and it's a lovely keepsake that I will hang on to for the rest of my life.

Number 1: ID (eg passport or driver's licence)
These days you can't get in anywhere without it. So if you don't want to feel left out when everyone else is off enjoying themselves, I suggest you remember it. And then try your best not to drunkenly lose it.

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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Top shows I have seen

Today is a landmark day...exactly a year ago I went to my first ever West End show - the Wizard of Oz. Which was clearly the start of a slight addiction. Like with smoking, once I had the slight taste of it, I longed for more and over the past twelve months, I have ended up going 14 times. So this is where all my money has gone...but why not? So long as you are enjoying yourself does it actually really matter?

Far and away the best is Hairspray - so upbeat, colourful and fun. love every minute of it. Billy Elliot is my next favourite - slightly less colourful as it is set in the grim north in a grim period during the 70s but it remains to be the only musical that has moved me to tears. Believe me - that never happens. Had some truly stunning dancing in it. Next up, I love Jersey Boys. Entertaining throughout, it was very skilfully done and there was A LOT of singing. Not quite as much as Les Mis though - a happy medium. Number 4 in my rankings, I only saw the other day but I simply adored Top Hat. It is a really simple plot, has a cute romantic story and is really very funny. Loved all the tap dancing as well...definitely my favourite kind. And then next up is Wicked - one of the most famous musicals of our age. Such a captivating story and I love all the progression of the characters and how it fits into the Wizard of Oz.

So there you have it - a brief run down of my absolutely favourites out of the many I have seen and they are definitely my highest recommendations. I will have to see how these rankings change in the next year or so and how many other joyous productions I see. Let me know what your favourites are or if you view any of mine in a slightly different order.

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Friday, 23 August 2013

When the world ends...by JJ Marshall

Recently I was asked by brand new novelist JJ Marshall to be the official reviewer for his debut novel and to let him know what I thought of it. I was honoured, especially as I had enjoyed the book so much...here is what I said. Check it out and then buy the novel - it's really enjoyable =]

When the World Ends... is the debut novel from exciting new author, J. J Marshall. Set 100 years in the future, the 21st century earth as we know it now is slowly being burned up by the sun and the story follows 17 year old Alec Corbett’s struggle to prosper in the new harsh environment of space. Not only that, but there are more sinister forces at work beneath the surface, who pose a threat to all of humanity. And somehow Alec gets right in the middle of trying to stop it.
 
Being drawn into this futuristic world is quite an experience. The twisty-turny plot will keep you captivated from beginning to end and Marshall will completely absorb you into this make believe world that he has created. Through detailed description, he leaves no stone unturned and it is a credit to the depth of his imagination that translates every aspect of this new version of earth on to the page.
 
The main protagonist, Alec is likeable and well explored. His character sees the biggest progression as the novel continues and he has been given a sufficient amount of emotional depth to allow the reader to care about what happens to him. His dialogues with other characters are well thought out and help to continuously move the plot forward in a gripping way. The introduction of a main character reasonably late in the novel was an unexpected and exciting occurrence and I look forward to seeing her develop further in the remaining two books of the trilogy.
 
This book is a well written, gripping, plot-driven adventure and Marshall’s easily readable style makes it effortless to read. Within its pages there is something for everyone – from action to romance and everything in between. The author skilfully keeps you enthralled with shock revelations and a fast pace that makes it addictively entertaining. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how the story continues so make sure you don’t miss out on this thrilling new summer read.
 
 
 
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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Happy birthday

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to The World According to Charlotte Costerrrrrr
Happy birthday to you.

This blog is exactly a year old today. It's been a good year - 47 posts consisting of a mixture of discussions, silliness, reviews and personal articles. And just over 4,000 views from all over the world. Next year I am aiming to reach 10,000 views and 100 articles so keep checking out this site for more awesomeness!

Thanks to anyone and everyone who has ever read my articles. Please keep doing so. =]

Love Charlotte x

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It's ok to be weird

The title of this blog post is actually a quote from one of my friends, which she said to me quite a few weeks ago now. But I have been saving up this controversial sentence as I thought it would make an interesting discussion. Because is it actually ok to be weird? Or are we actually living in a seemingly all-accepting society that is completely different just below the surface.

The society we live in now, appears to be (and is advertised as) the most free society of our modern era and us western women in particular can enjoy many more freedoms than we have done in the past 100 years or so. Now I am not about to get into an equality debate or a race debate or anything like that. Believe me, I have a lot to say on these issues so it's not probably not the best idea to encourage me. What I really want to talk about is the general acceptance of people.

I have found, that the older I get the less I care what people think of me and I think this is a part of growing up. When I was a child and more so when I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was please people. That led to people thinking I was two faced etc etc but it is much more complicated than that. It was that I didn't think myself to be good enough so I hid who I actually was and became what people wanted me to be.

However, as I hit university and became surrounded by quite a few others who were just as crazy as I am, the real me started to emerge. Which, quite frankly, is bordering on insane (although I do still say that it is training to be a teacher which has driven me to be this way). And we all agree that life would be a lot more dull if we were normal. But even if it wasn't, we shouldn't have to live to other people's expectations. For once, I think we should all be completely in charge of our personalities and not be drive to act in a way that society expects from us. Or by copying people who we expect to be the norm (such as on television or in magazines). It is our life and we should live it exactly the way that we want. So go on and have a go - do something whacky, behave inappropriately in public, have a laugh with your friends...generally it makes life far more enjoyable.

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Saturday, 3 August 2013

Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge

It's not every day that a birth of a baby makes front page news of every newspaper, national or local, in the country. Shock horror: woman who has been pregnant for 9 months, gives birth. But then this was no ordinary baby.

This was the baby of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who was born at 4.24 on 22nd July 2013. Within minutes of the announcement of his birth (around 8.30pm on the same day), Twitter and Facebook had gone crazy and he had his own Wikipedia page. Not many four-hour-olds can boast that distinction. So why is the country so infatuated by this undeniably cute little thing?

I think for a lot of people, the royal baby proved to be a wonderful distraction from our own everyday stresses and worries. Here was this little beautiful child and we could all share in their celebrations and joy. Brits love to feel patriotic and, similar to the Jubilee and Olympics last year and the royal wedding the year before, we just love to show off our love. Throughout the days we live in our news tends to dwell on the hardships and depressing things going on in our world. So it's no wonder we Brits love to jump up and celebrate anything that we can. And what a thing to celebrate. Birth and life instead of death...it makes such a change! No wonder we grasped it so strongly. London went crazy with flags everywhere and announcements all over the place. I won't be surprised if the 22nd becomes a national holiday...anything to cheer us up.

What I do find rather depressing though, is that this little creature is more important than I will ever be. Isn't it insane, that this tiny baby will one day rule us? It is the first time that my generation have experienced these feelings and it will be so interesting for us youngsters to watch him grow in the same way our parents watched William progress into the heir he is today. It was definitely a historical moment and one that I am really happy that I got to be a part of.

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Interrailing around Italy!!!!

It is safe to say that I have wanted to go to Italy for a very long time. Ever since I can remember, in fact. And I am not even sure why because until fairly recently, I have not even known what there is to see in Italy. But since my teenage years, I have become obsessed with the idea of going. And finally this dream of mine has come true - what a total dream it was.

We went literally everywhere starting in Venice - such a beautiful town. Full of the most beautiful views and canals. I loved the lack of vehicles on the roads, due to the fact that most people travelled by boat which left the pavements and roads completely free. Plus, I was in my little piece of heaven because Venice is full of the most beautiful architecture. I am a sucker for beautiful buildings, squares and bridges, so I was in my element here.

Next up we travelled to the nearby town of Verona and the 24 hours we spent here was definitely not enough. It is an undeniably cute town, filled to the brim with culture, music and literature. I was able to visit Juliet's square and house (although she was a fictional character, Shakespeare based both his main characters on real people) which delighted my literary nerdiness. Plus we were able to get tickets to watch the opera in the Roman arena for that evening - with the beautiful backdrop and the amazingness of watching a Verdi opera in Italy, it made for a pretty perfect evening.

Bologna ended up being a complete joke. Our instructions told us to get the no. 25 bus from the station and it would stop right outside our hotel. So we got on to the correct bus but ended up going the wrong way out of town. So we got off it, swapped to the other side of the road, and travelled back through the centre of Bologna, this time getting off at the right stop. But what a local had told us would be a 20 minute walk turned into an hour and half's walk to our hotel (part of it following the motorway). Needless to say we were extremely grumpy by the time we had checked in and eager to get out of that silly town. So all we saw were the brief glimpses from the bus window but I did see some of the many porticoes that my guide book had described to me.

So we headed on swiftly to Florence. This was one of the places that I was most looking forward to and I saw an incredible amount of beautiful art this weekend including some excellent Botticellis. I climbed a million steps to the roof of the bell tower which hurt a lot but was so worth it for the views of the town. Another highlight was the Pitti Palazzo, the stunning home of the Medici family. Elaborately decorated and accompanied by huge stunning gardens, we spent hours there. Was totally gorgeous. We spent our final night there up at Michelangelo's square watching the sun go down over the city. It was truly lovely and made even more special because I spent it with my American friend Laney who I hadn't seen since March while she'd been rushing around Europe. She returns to America in two weeks time so I am glad I got to see her before she runs back across the pond.

Next we headed down (on a double decker train) to Naples. But actually we didn't spend a lot of time in the city itself. The evening we arrived, we went for a wander and finally I felt that I was in real Italy (rather than being in a touristy equivalent). We had the best pizza ever that first night, not overly surprising considering that it is the Home of Pizza. The next day we had a day of historical education, visiting Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Vesuvius. I climbed a volcano. Was an incredible experience, lending us some beautiful views. And it is the only active volcano on mainland Europe. Walking around Pompeii was one of my favourite experiences as well. It was so huge with so many well preserved buildings. It is incredible to think that once upon a time, this was a busy living town, and then in mere hours everything was wiped out. Weird. After an extremely active day soaking up history, the following one we decided to soak up some rays on the island of Capri. Not far off the coast of Naples, it was an excellent respite from the general craziness of the holiday with lots of sunbathing and swimming involved. It was the first time I had set foot into the Mediterranean and was just what we needed.

That evening, trying to seat ourselves so we avoided our worst areas of sunburn, we set off for our final stop - Rome. This was actually very like London in it's buzzing nature and I could actually see myself living there. It was wonderful, had the best ice cream ever and was just buzzing with famous sites and general busy-ness. We had our one and only proper meal with dessert and everything so we got a taste of Italian tiramisu (which is so much nicer than the English one btw). And my favourite place had to be the Trevi fountain. It was quite stunning and watching all the tourists pose around it was very amusing. The colosseum was also, obviously, quite exciting to see and when we were up on one of the top levels, we were (un) lucky enough to be caught in a thunderstorm which was quite a spectacular backdrop to something that is very beautiful in itself.

As you can probably tell, I adored every second I was in Italy. I had so many incredible experiences and saw so many things, that I will never ever forget. I have built it up in my mind, so much for so long and it would have been very easy for me to be disappointed. But I wasn't - it was a perfect, hilarious, crazy holiday. I couldn't have asked for a better one.


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