Sunday, 28 December 2014

Bloggers' Secret Santa


Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, but I have to admit, I absolutely hate receiving gifts. I am quite hard to buy for, and unfortunately I don't have many acting skills. Therefore, when someone gives me a rubbish present, I am not very good at convincing them (whether it is true or not) that I am in fact, over the moon with the items that I have just unwrapped. And I hate the charade that we then play out. They know they have got me something rubbish and I know that I will put it in a box, never to use it but we try to persuade each other that this isn't what is about to happen. We are both in denial about that, concentrating instead on the festivities.

One little trick we have thought up to alleviate this stress is to use a Christmas List. Now, I know, this isn't exactly revolutionary. But normally what happens at Christmas, is that you are asked to make a list and it is ignored completely. Because your friends/family either 'find something better' or decide that they couldn't possibly stick to it due to it being too expensive or whatever excuse they come up with. However, my family have learnt to now STICK TO THE LIST. It stresses us all out too much otherwise and it is just easier for everyone. I feel a lot more comfortable, knowing exactly what it is that I am opening and it means that I have not had a proper surprise in years.

Until now that is. Because, as I announced back in November in this article here http://charlottecoster.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/bloggers-gift-swap.html, this year I took part in the #APOVGiftswap organised by @violahelen_ (www.apieceofviola.wordpress.com) I have no idea how she organised us all and paired us all up, but it meant that I got to know 17 year old Mel (from www.whatdoesmelthink.blogspot.co.uk). We got chatting and found that we had so much in common. Not just in our interests, but also she has applied to come to Reading University where I studied. Which Viola couldn't have known because Mel hadn't talked about it on her blog at all. So it was just a massive and really weird coincidence.

After a couple of weeks of getting to know each other and reading each others' blogs, we eventually started thinking about the presents. Mel has put up her own article about what I sent her (which you can view here http://whatdoesmelthink.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/blogger-gift-swap-gifts.html) but you can have a little peek here.

I received my gifts when I returned to my parents' house on the 20th December. I had sent it there, rather than to my own home, to ensure it did arrive before Christmas. Otherwise I would have had to wait until the new year. And it was hard enough to wait anyway - I am thankful it wasn't sitting around that long, or my impatience might have gotten the better of me.

But I absolutely adored my gifts, both of which were so thoughtfully picked out. I can't wait to watch the films. This director is amazing (he is currently directing the West End theatre show starring Tamsin Grieg, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and apparently watching Spanish films will really really help my vocab, accent and fluency. I have heard that from both Mel and from my buddy/Spanish teacher so it must be true. And I have already started the coffee which is so yummy. I love that I don't have to go out to get my Starbucks any longer.


Thank you so much to Mel for my lovely gifts. I really feel like I have made a new friend in her so I hope we keep in touch, especially if she gets into Reading. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Blogmas


They say a poem a day, means creativity will stay...so for my very own advent calendar, I wrote a rhyme every day according to what was in my head at that particular moment about different aspects of Christmas. You can see my excitement building throughout the month.
Alsooooo pay special attention to the beginning of each poem. There is a little sentence that has been hidden within them so see if you can work out what it is.

1st December - written with Black Friday (28 November) and Cyber Monday (1st Dec) in mind
Christmas is right around the corner,
less than a month away
but it still feels like ages
until that special day.
Shops are packed with people
trying to find something nice
to give to their special loved ones
but at a reasonable price.
It's then the world turns vicious
but we should all just chill out
because peace, love and good-will to all men
is what Christmas is all about.

2nd December
How many millions of pounds
does Christmas cost each year?
When we're buying hundreds of presents
and spreading the Christmas cheer.
Decorations, gifts and food,
Alcohol, crackers and cards.
Trying to save all that money
can sometimes be really hard.
Especially for us poor students
who struggle all year round
coz to buy all these presents,
extra money has to be found.
So be careful what you wish for
on your special Christmas day
as someone might be broke
and doesn't want to say.

3rd December
Right now I'm not excited
about the prospect of Christmas Day.
It doesn't seem like it's happening
as it's still so far away.
I'm in a bubble of denial,
shutting it out of my head
so I can worry about it later
and think of other things now instead.
Like 'what shall I blog about next'
and 'what stories shall I start to write?'
'What am I going to wear today?'
and 'what am I going to eat tonight?'
Christmas can take a backseat
for at least another week
Then I really should begin to think
about those prezzies I need to seek.

4th December
It's so cold outside at the moment;
the wind whistles through the trees.
Then rushes across the fields and roads
until it reaches me.
It rustles all the leaves on the hedgerows
causing them to dance.
It makes the animals shiver
and I don't stand a chance
in my thin winter clothes
that never protect me enough,
against that icy stroke
which I feel in its gentle puff.

5th December
Singing carols at Christmas,
is definitely part of the fun.
A chance to truly relax,
once your jobs for the day are done.
Traditional hymns in a church
celebrating that special night
or shouting along to the popsongs
yelling the words with all your might.
They are so upbeat and cheery,
they don't fail to make me smile.
And I forget everything I have to do,
just for a little while.
Whether that's wrapping countless presents
or helping to prepare the food,
the joy of the Christmas songs,
always gets me in the mood.

6th December
Town has become so busy
because of the Christmas rush
as everyone bumps into each other
trying to find the perfect stuff
for all their family and friends
to give on that special day.
They search for the perfect items,
and use them to say
just how much those people
are simply so great.
And how they mean a lot to you
and how meeting them was fate.
How life is perfect with them there
and how you don't want them to change
but to be absolutely honest, I find
all this a little strange.
Why do you need to give them presents
to show them how you feel?
Why don't you simply tell them
how they are a huge deal
and life would be darker without them
and you don't know what you'd do
if they hadn't stayed loyally at your side
consistently loving you.

7th December
My Christmas hours have been announced
and this month I'm working so much.
Which will mean I miss out on loads of fun:
Christmas meet ups, shopping sessions and such.
But it's all ok because with the money
I can buy my family gifts,
finding out what they truly need
and what they've specified for Santa's list.
But far more important--Christmas week I'm free
so I can travel to my parents' home
and spend some time with them on the special day
to ensure that they are not alone.

8th December
As we creep ever closer to Christmas,
the shopping rush becomes more intense.
People panic although we are two weeks away
and the crowds are far more dense.
I know I have to do my shopping sometime
but with all these people here,
I think my family will be lucky
if they receive their presents next year.

9th December - challenged myself to write a rhyming haiku which I have never managed before
Six months of the year
my excitement mounts. Can't wait
til Christmas is here.

10th December - I was playing with form today. As we are in day 10, I wrote a 10 line poem with the line number indicating how many syllables is going to be in that line. And because I am always always surrounded by a million family members at Christmas, I wanted to imagine what it would be like to have no one at all. And I came up with this:

Days
go by
and I grow
cold. Who will light
my fire? Who will
hold me tight? Christmas is
a time of love and I am
so alone right now. I want to
feel happiness just once this year and
now is perfect to attempt a smile.

11th December
Any day now, I hope
the festive spirit will engulf me,
dressing up like Santa
must be the key.
So I get down a big red coat,
put a black boot on each foot,
fetch a massive sack for presents
and cover my face in soot.
That's when my Mum walks in
and jumps backwards in fright.
I hadn't a chance to look in the mirror
but I really did look a sight.

12th December
Yesssssss Christmas is here.
Oh no, I read the date wrong,
we've still got two weeks to go.
Why does December have to be so long?

13th December - I managed another rhyming Haiku
In under two weeks,
children will be SO hyper
they will not contain their shrieks.

14th December - I decided to write a Shakespearean sonnet for Santa. As you do.
Santa baby, you are the one for me:
the one who, when I close my eyes at night
and am drifting off, I continue to see,
whizzing through my dreams til dark turns to light.

Your huge white beard and ever-smiling face,
your coal-black boots and bright red attire
are enough for you to stand out in any place.
From looking at you I could never tire.

Your selfless attitude makes you the best
as you live purely for giving to the young
This is what makes you better than the rest
and this is why songs about you are sung.

I hope I am worthy of you, my love
as I sing your praises to the heavens above.

15th December - I called this one The Christmas Carols get Confused
Hark the herald angels sing -
we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
So deck the halls with boughs of holly,
(the holly and the ivy)
and come all ye faithful
for once in royal David's city,
the Virgin Mary had a baby boy
while shepherds watched their flocks by night.
In little town of Bethlehem,
amid the winter snow,
Good King Wenceslas looked out
to see three ships come sailing in
with we three kings of Orient
to hear the bells on Christmas Day.
Ding-Dong-Ding!
Ding dong merrily on high
just hear those sleighbells jingling,
and ring, are you listening?
So although the weather outside is frightful,
and in the bleak midwinter the frosty wind made moan,
go tell it on the mountain.
Have a holly jolly Christmas.

16th December - sing these words to the tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Every inch of ground is covered
with a sweet but icy frost.
Makes my nose and fingers frozen
as I cry bout Christmas cost.
All those cards and gifts so dear
that I wish I needn't buy.
But it would seem weird if not.
It's so expensive, I might just cry.
Maybe I should make my gifts
to show they come from my heart instead.

17th December - trying a different rhyme scheme as all my poems are similar
Right around the corner,
I can see the night is near
so embrace that Christmas cheer
and do not stress about the day.

I know it's hard to do this
but relax and have some fun.
Most of the shopping is done
so settle down and enjoy.

Get some alcohol in,
place your family all around you
then raise a glass or two,
for the loved ones who aren't here.

18th December
Eat until you can stuff in no more,
sing festive carols until your throat is sore
and let your voice ring out.
Drink until you are on the floor
spend time with those you should see more,
this is what Christmas is all about.

Not the presents or the fuss
the stress or the rush,
but spending time with your loved ones
for once. Ignoring the stresses of everyday life,
and the people who give you strife
Spend time with your brothers, sisters, parents, daughters, sons...

19th December - 19 syllables for 19 days
Anyone want
Christmas to be here right now?
Not long to go
but I can't wait.

20th December
Turkey eater,
Could wrap neater,
Wine sipper,
Paper ripper,
Board game winner,
Too full for dinner.

What is this lovely time of year,
the one that's filled with all the cheer?
I hope you guessed that it's Christmas Day,
and have a merry one, I truly pray.

21st December
Less than 5 days to go
I really hope it starts to snow
so that we can have a proper Christmas which is white.
Now wouldn't that be a wonderful sight?

Better start holding back on the food I eat
say no to all those extra treats,
because I want to make sure that I still have space
for when I truly start to stuff my face.

22nd December
All at once, I start to think,
what if Jesus had not been born?
What if Mary hadn't become pregnant?
What if he wasn't alive that Christmas morn?
What if the animals went undisturbed?
What if the shepherds continued to watch their sheep?
What if the Angel Gabriel never talked to Mary?
What if the Wise Men's gifts, they decided to keep?
What if there was no star in the sky?
What if there was truly no place to stay?
What would we celebrate on the 25th December
if we didn't have a Christmas Day?

23rd December
So long to this year,
for it's nearly at the close.
Let's celebrate it in style,
ignoring all the lows.
We should focus on the highs
and what has been great,
then bring all that joy
into this very important date.

24th December
TA-DA
Christmas is (almost) here
Drink up
and fill it with loud cheer.
Sing
along to your favourite song
Smile
all day long.
Eat
until you belly is about to pop
Drink
from the morning and just don't stop.

Just enjoy yourself
and celebrate in every way
that you can think of
because this is a special day.

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Saturday, 20 December 2014

When does Christmas truly start?


As the years go by, Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier. The carols start playing in the shops a little earlier, the Christmas displays go up a little earlier and it is forced down our throats for half of the year. No longer is it just a few days at the end of December but a massive corporate machine of events, which stretches out the festivities for as long as possible. Take a look at this post to see the dates for when Christmas can actually be said to begin.

23rd December - Work holidays start
Us working folk have the short end of the stick, having to wait until it's basically Christmas Eve to start our holidays. I always feel like I can't truly relax until I finish my work responsibilities and it's after that, when I can embrace the festivities.

around 19th December - School Holidays start
Kids are a little luckier than us and get a few extra days. But this may not be a truly accurate representation of when they start getting excited about Christmas because teachers have been revving them up for a while. What with all the Christmas themed activities and the concerts/nativities/plays, the kids are buzzing by the time they are free from school.

1st December - Advent Calendars start
Well, at least we are in the right month. A lot of people I know, most ferociously my older brother, refuse to acknowledge Christmas until we are in this month and the countdown begins. He thinks just over three weeks of preparation is more than enough. And it is really. You can easily buy all the presents, food and alcohol you need if you are smart about it.

20th November - Christmas Lights Turn On
Towns suddenly turn into twinkly winter wonderlands, with lights adorning all the buildings, a massive Christmas tree in the centre and many other decorations besides. If this doesn't make you begin to start thinking about Christmas I don't know what will.

around 10th November - Christmas Adverts
In the society we live in today, the media is king and controls us in very weird ways. Which means that TV adverts have now turned into an event. In particular the Coke advert with the famous red truck and the John Lewis Advert, which in recent years has become an integral part of our festivities. I actually find myself looking forward to what they are going to bring out next which is the most ridiculous thing ever.

1st November - the Festive Lattes
The Starbucks and Costa Christmas coffees are actually one of my favourite things about the festive period. They are so yummy and I look forward to them coming out every year, which they do the minute that Halloween is out of the way.

middle of October - Christmas Lights first go up
They may not be turned on for another month or so, but you can see them begin to go up even before Halloween is out of the way. It is a kind of ghostly representation of how Christmas is creeping up on us even then.

July - shops receive their Christmas deliveries
This is not even an exaggeration. We trip over Christmas items in the stockroom for months before we actually put the displays up. And this enables us to sneak in mini Christmas displays before all the craziness hits the shelves sometime in October. Which is still absurdly early to be honest

January - When you buy your first present
They always say preparation is key. So using the January sales to buy gifts and Christmas cards, is sensible really. And it means, you can spread out the joy for the entire year. Hooray.


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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Zoella and the Ghost-writing Debacle


If you didn't know who Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella) was before, you certainly do now. She has been in the news a lot over the past few days: firstly, for breaking literary records and 'writing' one of the fastest selling novels ever; then for admitting that she didn't in fact write it at all. And that latter piece of news has brought her quite a lot of stick.

Before I begin this not completely complimentary discussion, I would just like to point out that I do like her a lot within the YouTube world. I have seen a huge amount of her YouTube videos and despite the fact I think her main channel videos are little more than cogs in a massive marketing machine, I do enjoy her daily vlogs a lot. She is charismatic, entertaining and very good at what she does.

However, she is not a writer. Anyone who has read her blog would be able to tell you this and would instantly guess that she had not written her novel herself. So it didn't take long for the whispers to start. These whispers soon escalated into shouts. And her and her publishers were forced to make the announcement that she had in fact used a ghost-writer, Siobhan Curham who is a bestselling YA fiction novelist in her own right.

What bugged me about this whole thing wasn't that Ms Sugg used a ghost-writer. This is extremely commonplace. All those who are giving Ms Curham sympathy don't need to do that either. She understood that by undertaking the ghost-writing assignment she was going to receive very little or no credit. What bugged me about it, was the lying that was involved and Ms Sugg trying to pass it off as completely her own. The only reason this makes me annoyed is because of her audience. Her YouTube fans (and therefore the directed audience for her book) are young girls aged between 12-16. This is a very impressionable age, where they idolise people like Zoella and trust them completely. These teenagers are now stoutly defending her against the wave of criticism, without actually understanding what has really gone on. And it is this trust (which may or may not be lost in the process), that Zoella should most worry about, not the literary critics.

It is these young girls who she is now punishing in her next mistake that she has made: her 'break from the internet.' She is clearly hiding and to be honest, I don't completely blame her. The criticism must be hard to bear. But interrupting her daily routine of Vlogs is only damaging her reputation with her fans more. The literary critics and adults who she is hiding from, are not the ones who watch the videos or who are missing her. Nor are her fans the ones who are doing the criticising, so why allow them to miss out? I could understand staying off Twitter for a bit, and all the other social media sites which must be an absolute minefield at the moment. But surely, continuing to upload and proving to her fans that she hasn't done anything wrong (which she HASN'T, it's just she handled it so badly) is a far better way to allow this to all be put behind her. In some ways, this break of hers is actually making her look guilty and the fact she hasn't resolved it, is only making the issue drag on longer.

Finally, taking Ms Sugg out of the equation completely, the news surrounding this book has annoyed me most because I have been punched in the face with a realisation of just how impossible it is to get published if you are not well-known already. As a wannabe author myself, who is desperate to have what Zoella has been handed on a plate, it is faintly irritating. The intense popularity of a frankly mediocre novel is a clear indication of what is truly the selling point. And this is Zoella's name. Nothing more. Just her name. If Ms Curham had sold it herself under her own name, it wouldn't have sold nearly as well.

It is sad that this is what the literary industry has become. Do stories and plot lines and depths of characters not matter any more? Why is it ok that Ms Sugg is given the chance to do what thousands of actually talented people can't? And are you all seriously fine with the fact that our literary world is diminishing just so publishers can make huge amounts of money out of people who they know will instantly make sales? As other publishers undoubtedly jump on this treasure-filled bandwagon, good luck to any other wannabe authors out there. Our lives just became ten times more difficult so we are going to need it.

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Sunday, 30 November 2014

I've been nominated


Amongst all the other excitement going on with the UK Blog Awards, I have also been nominated for what is known as a Liebster Award. Yay.

This type of award is ever so slightly different so let me explain.

The Liebster Award has been around for a little while now and the basic idea of it is to encourage bloggers to interact with each other. As well as enabling readers to swiftly flit from blog to blog, finding out more about us bloggers as they go. When you are nominated, you answer the 10 questions which that blogger has been desperate to find out about you. And then you nominate 10 more bloggers to answer 10 questions of your choosing.

I was nominated by Madeline over at Madeline's Mosaics and you can read her Liebster nomination post here http://www.madelinesmosaics.com/2014/11/ive-been-nominated-liebster-award.html

She asked me the following questions so here goes...I'm excited...

1. When did you start your blog and what is one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I have actually already kind of answered that here in my previous blogpost http://charlottecoster.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/what-blogging-means-to-me.html. I started blogging around the Olympics in the summer of 2012 and I don't think I would have done anything different actually. I like the way it has progressed over the past couple of years and I love the way it looks now. So I think I would have kept it exactly the same.

2. What's your favourite childhood memory?
 
My childhood was quite idyllic growing up in a little village by the sea in the south of England. I have amazing parents, four great siblings who I adore and then my family stretched even further when I started boarding school aged 11. I was so lucky to have so many different experiences and just a nutty childhood, where I grew up with my friends constantly around me, all night and all day. That school in general, was probably my favourite childhood memory and little moments absolutely made it unforgettable (eg having a genuine punch up with my now-best friend of 11 years through a curtain, and desperately trying to stay awake for a midnight feast but failing; telling ghost stories on our founder's day night and freaking ourselves out; pillow fights (or dorm raids as we liked to call them)...and so many more...I should do a blogpost on that.)
 
3. Who inspires you the most? For your blog or in general
 
This is a tough one...I don't really have anyone who inspired me. There are definitely people who I look up to and sometimes wish I could be like (nearly all my family members and friends; a smattering of celebrities and the Queen). But they don't exactly inspire me. I don't sit down and write because of them. And I don't act the way I do because of them. I write because I want to and because I have something to say. So in that way...I inspire me (and I don't mean that as arrogantly as it sounds). I also have this nagging self esteem issue which is that I have to try and impress everyone and make them proud of me....so in that way it's my family and friends who inspire me. Because they are the ones who I want to impress so they inadvertently make me the best that I can be.  
 
4. Favourite candy?
 
I am not a huge fan of sweets but Maoms are good and toffee crisp chocolate bars are yummy. And fudge...so sickly but so good all the same.
 
5. Post the link to your favourite post to date
 
I have already done this recently too...you can read my top 10 favourite blogposts here http://charlottecoster.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/top-10-articles-i-have-written.html. Sorry I know it's kind of cheating but I couldn't possibly choose one. That's like trying to choose your favourite child.
 
6. Favourite types of blog posts to read and write? (DIY, fashion, lists, personal, etc)
 
I love it when I have been away and can do a travel blogpost. Somehow I just get into the craziest entertaining scrapes with my friends when I go travelling and I always feel like my writing is at its best because I am so passionate about it. Plus the posts look lovely, because all the pictures are beautiful. Check out my travel tab for those posts.
 
7. If I gave you $100 right now, what would you buy?
 
Theatre tickets. Without a doubt. I LOVE the theatre but am quite snobby about it so I only really go to the West End in London or to see West End casts on tour. Therefore, of course, it's all very expensive but there is so much I want to see. With over £100 I could see three or four shows yay.
 
8. What do you binge? (Netflix, books, buy camera gear, etc.)
 
I buy a lot of books. And I mean A LOT. There is a great second hand bookshop in my town and I buy roughly one a week from there, which is crazy because I definitely can't read that many. But I just can't help myself. I also buy stationary all the time as well. I love pretty notebooks and writing by hand is the best.
 
9. If you could have a superpower, what could it be? 
 
To fly, so I could go wherever I wanted in the world and see extraordinary views.
 
10. What does your workspace look like for writing blog posts? 
 
I hate to admit it, but I write in bed. I tried for a while to write at my desk but it is opposite the window, which allows far too much scope for daydreaming (plus there is a rabbit who seems to escape it's owners every day and affords me far too much amusement.) On top of that, it is so SO cold in my house. Which means it's completely necessary to write in bed for my own wellbeing. And actually it does work pretty well for me. I have a V-shaped pillow that I snuggle into and then can spread out across the bed. It's important to be comfortable when you are writing.
 
Now it's my turn to call the shots...
 
 
I nominate you all to do the same. Make sure you:
 
1, Link back to the blog who nominated you (me)
2. Answer the questions I set out below
3. Nominate ten more blogs to answer 10 different questions
4. Comment on this post when you are done to continue the trail
 
What I want to know is this...
 
1. If you could have an interview with anyone for your blog who would it be and what would you ask (give at least 1 example question)?
2. What is your favourite place on earth and where's the place you would most like to visit?
3. In 150 years time how would you like to be remembered?
4. Why do you blog?
5. Which Hogwarts house would you be sorted into?  
6. What was your favourite subject at school?
7.If you could live anyone's life for just one day, whose would it be?
8. Who or what would you not be able to live without?
9. Paperback or Kindle? And why?
10. What do you want to achieve by Christmas 2015?
 
Let's keep this ball rolling.
 
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Friday, 28 November 2014

What Blogging Means to Me


Recently, while promoting my blog for the UK Blog Awards 2015, I have been saying things like 'Vote for me - I deserve it' and 'Blogging means so much to me, please vote.' But what I haven't really explained is exactly why I have been saying these things and what prompted me to start blogging in the first place.

Once upon a time, many years ago (well, 2 and a half years ago) a teenage writer was debating her post university options. At the time, whilst she was in the middle of a Primary Education degree, she was coming to terms with the fact that she didn't actually want to be a teacher so began exploring other avenues instead. Therefore she applied to write for the online publication, Planet Ivy. Despite being accepted and given a log on, they did not seem all that keen to publish any of her articles. So, after being rejected by them to write a weekly column called 'The Secret Diary of a Student', she decided that actually she could do a very similar thing...but in her own space.

And that's the story of how The World According to Charlotte Coster came into being.

Simply this blog was going to be used as a portfolio of written work that I could take to journalism interviews and show how dedicated I was to writing. I wanted it to be all my own work, so all of the photos were to be taken by me, all of the articles coming from the heart and very few guest posts. This was MY area.

And in that way, The World According to Charlotte Coster has barely changed. It is still me inside out. It is still my take on the world. It is still my experiences which I describe and set out for your entertainment. But it is no longer just a means to an end. This blog has become an integral part of my life and I am not sure I will ever be able to give it up. There is too much of ME here. It would be like abandoning a pet on the side of the road and leaving it to wither away. You wouldn't be able to do that and neither could I.

In the beginning, (and in my quest to act like a journalist), I wanted to keep the personal side of my life out of it completely. But I realised you can't be a blogger and do that. It just isn't possible and frankly, it's not that interesting either. Anyone can form opinions on the world but virtually no one knows what's going on in a little student house in Reading. That's what makes your blog unique. Those little moments which contribute into making you the person you are now. And what I have learnt is that, just occasionally they can really help people. People who think they are alone because no one has dared speak up.

I have been through a lot since I started this blog in the summer of 2012. I have battled and semi-successfully defeated anorexia, I have visited beautiful places, I have abandoned my chosen career path, I have attended amazing events, I have had confidence crises, I have been heart broken, I have laughed and I have made it through university. All these things are here, laid out for you. And by portraying them in this way, not only can I confront my issues but remember the fun and the amazing experiences that have been constantly alongside that.

I have a feeling that this blog is now going to always be here and as my life adapts, it will adapt too. At least, I hope it will. I don't really want to still be writing about the problems of student living when I am 56. But I think this is one of the most important lessons that I have learnt while blogging -my blog can literally be anything that I want it to be. It is my space to do with what I will. It would be a good idea to remember that - not only within this blog but within my life as a whole.

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Monday, 24 November 2014

Bloggers Gift Swap


It's exactly a month until Christmas Eve and it's safe to say that I AM EXCITED. I love Christmas and everything about it - the food, being surrounded by family, the decorations, the songs, the communal stress of buying presents. It's all such good fun.

This year I am even more excited than usual because I am taking part in my first ever, bloggers' gift swap event. Run by @ViolaHelen_ who writes over at A Piece of Viola, the idea is simple. We send in our details, she pairs us up and then we get to know our partner...after which we send off a little box of goodies. And receive one in return. I can not wait and I will update you on every step that I take in the lead up to the event. So stay tuned =]

If you are a UK Blogger and want to get involved, there are still a few days left to sign up. But hurry, you have to send in your details by the 28th November. Click here to find some detailed instructions from Viola herself -  https://apieceofviola.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/get-involved-christmas-blogger-gift-swap/

And if you are taking part do give me a shout. You never know, we may be paired up =]

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Dos and Don'ts of Tinder - An essential guide for men


Continuing along the dating theme that I seem to have going on here, I thought I would spend a little time talking about Tinder. This online dating app has been around for a couple of years but really took off at the end of last year. It has now been rumoured to have over 10 million active users. That's a lot of singletons, I had no idea there were so many.

Lots of my friends turn their nose up at it: those in relationships see it as online dating which still has a huge 'YOU ARE A LOSER' stamp attached to it. While those who are single, see it as just a last resort, where all the rejects accumulate to have some kind of massive orgy. I however think it is absolutely hilarious. And, if nothing else, it is the best ego boost in the world. Seriously, give it a try. When you are down, it is a great way of seeing that someone, somewhere finds you attractive.

I have had Tinder since the end of January, although I have only used it for about 6 of those 10 months (I stopped while I was dating people, like the good girl I am). During that time, I have noticed some patterns starting to emerge in the quality of individuals' profiles and the likeliehood of me swiping right. So all you single guys out there, take a look at these little tips I have compiled to ensure that a girl might actually consider you.

Do choose your pictures carefully
Tinder is linked to your Faceebook and therefore you have hundreds of photos at your disposal yet sometimes people really do not think their pictures through. If you put a picture of the back of your head, how the hell do we know what you look like? Or of the side of your face? Or if a stupid mask is obscuring your face? Be sensible about it.

Don't include a picture of a tiger
You might think you are being unique. You are not. And sitting with your arm around a sedated tiger does not mean we automatically assume you are well travelled and quirky.

Do include a picture with a baby/child
Men who are good with children are hot. It's wired into our basic DNA. If you don't have a child to hand, puppies also work.

Don't include selfies
Especially ones where you are holding up your T shirt. Yes you may have nice abs but you just seem vain. It is a good idea to have one picture alone though. If all of them, have massive groups of people in, I am not going to bother playing spot the difference between them to attempt to work out who you actually are.

Do have more than one picture
We like to know you are a real human being and haven't just lifted your singular picture from the internet. At least make the effort to lift a few.

Don't have a picture with another girl
We are jealous, slightly territorial and competitive. Even if she is your sister, we will assume the worst so it's safer not to have any other females in your pictures. Because we will automatically deduce that you are still clearly in love with her and she is far prettier than us anyway so there is no point in liking you at all.

Do pay attention to the bio
Don't ask us questions that we have already bothered to type out once. God, you can at least read can't you?

Don't ask us 'how are you?'
Errrr fine...thanks for asking. You however are boring. Ask us something interesting. I once had someone give me a test to see whether they would ask me out for a drink. A little weird, but actually quite fun and it is a very effective way to see whether we had anything in common. Apparently, we didn't.

Do message first
Females only ever message you if they drunk or being egged on by their friends. Or both. If you fancy her, tell her.

Don't spend months messaging us
Contrary to popular belief of older generations, we do actually like proper communication. And we also like to know you are real. And we slightly enjoy being wine and dined. Take us out. If you are nice enough, we will probably sleep with you.

Don't be creepy
This includes asking us where we live, if we have any fit friends, or making lurid sexual comments.

Don't ask us if we have whatsapp
We are not stupid. We know the only way you can have our whatsapp is if we give you our number. Just be upfront about it and ask us for our number.

Don't take it too seriously
We are fully aware that Tinder is for just one thing. Yet we are still here. You don't need to tiptoe around us.


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Monday, 17 November 2014

Speed Dating with Originaldating.com


I have talked about being single a lot on this blog. I don't mind being single at all, but that isn't to say that I want to be single forever. And once you are out of university, suddenly meeting new people becomes a hell of a lot harder.

One thing I have never tried and always seemed like fun was speed dating. So when I was invited to join the originaldating.com speed dating event in London this weekend, I jumped at the chance to give it a go. And I was very excited about taking part.

That is, right up until the point where I entered the bar. I became absolutely terrified. The prospect of meeting about 15 strangers in quick succession made me almost turn around and walk out again. But I am so glad I stuck with it because I actually had a really great night.

The way it works is pretty simple and is exactly how you might expect speed dating to work. The females sit one to a table and then the males move around them spending four minutes with each. Which is an ideal amount of time. Surprisingly, I actually found with most of them, that it wasn't enough and just as it becomes interesting you are being told to move on by a aggressively high-pitched whistle. Alongside this, you are told to download an app called Mixeo and this is how you enter your matches. You each have a number and once you have entered this, you can access their profile and therefore make your choice of 'yes' 'no' or 'friend.'

So this event is pretty perfect whatever you are looking for. If you just want a fun night out, you can drink and giggle you way through it as I did. If you have just moved to London and want to meet people, it is a great way to make a bunch of new friends. Or if you are genuinely searching for The One there is the chance of finding it here as well. It is such a chilled out event, and suitable for absolutely any type of person. As we were in central London, I also expected all the people to be quite similar - the businessy type people who turned up in suits and complained how their job didn't allow them to have a social life. However, there weren't any of them (and no one in suits unfortunately - I love a good suit) and instead, there was such a varied bunch of people who were all entertaining in their own way.

I would definitely recommend this well organised and fun event. So check out www.originaldating.com for more info and to see the dates of the events that are coming up in the next few weeks. I guarantee you will have an entertaining evening and even make a friend or two.

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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Top 10 Articles I have Written


Over the past few weeks, I have been doing nothing but blogging. And writing my novel. And then blogging a bit more. The aim of giving my blog so much attention was trying to make it simply fantastic for all you lovely people, to tempt you into voting for me in the UK Blog Awards (I'm up for the Lifestyle and Young Person Recognition categories. Just saying...again.) So I have been trying to revisit the majority of my posts (all 135 of them) to check they are shipshape before everything kicks off tomorrow.

And it has made me realise, there are just so many great ones that I have forgotten about. Ones which I really loved writing and which meant a lot to me. So here is a list of my favourites (in no particular order). I hope you like them too and if I missed any that you particularly loved, let me know =]


It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times
I wrote this article the night before I graduated, reflecting all about my time at uni. It was actually one of the easiest articles I had ever written, just flowing straight out of me, completely unplanned and fairly straightforwardly. Which hardly ever happens. It was great.

Dear Me
This was actually part of a poetry challenge which I didn't spend very long doing because I didn't want my blog to become overwhelmed by my mediocre poetic skills. But this poem, all about what advice I would give to my teenage self, was quite good. Though I do say so myself. It was quite readable, and it rhymed. Win.

Write 30 Interesting Facts about yourself
This, again, was part of a different challenge. One that I succeeded in doing, where I had to blog every day for a month on certain topics. Day 06 was to write 30 interesting facts about myself which is very self indulgent but was quite fun. So if you want to learn a little more about me, check this out.


Life without a mobile phone
I wrote this just after experiencing the emotional trauma of my iphone being stolen while I was in Spain. It is a comment on how mobile communications have taken over our lives and how that's not always a good thing.

Spain
My new year's trip to Madrid wasn't the best trip I have ever been on but a lot of hilarious stuff happened. So definitely check this one out.

Single Life at university
This is only a short article but I came up with this analogy myself and I was quite proud of it.


Boarding Schools
Whenever I meet someone new, they are always intrigued by the fact that I went to boarding school and surprised that I actually enjoyed. And here I briefly go into why it is fun. Boarding school was my home for the majority of my childhood, and is why I became the person I am today, so I really enjoyed sharing some of my experiences with you.

Things which your parents provide that no one else can
Parents are important...and here's why.


The Avengers vs the New Avengers
This article is definitely geeky. But if you are a fantasy film fanatic, check this out.

Is the Olympics making us less British? and How to be British - a guide for those who are not
These two are quite similar so I thought I would stick them both into my final slot. All about being British and what makes up our culture. I wrote this while the Olympics were going on, so my national identity was clearly on my mind.

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Saturday, 8 November 2014

I don't know what to do with my life


Having happened just under 4 months ago, graduation seems to be a distant memory. In fact, university is fast becoming a slightly mythical place. Did I really only have 6 hours of lectures a week? Did I actually complain about having to get up at 9am once or twice a term? Did I seriously think it was a good idea to stay in bed all day just because I had been a little hungover first thing when I woke up? Somehow adult life has swallowed me up and my fun-loving, studenty self has been replaced by a slightly grumpier, busier version. I didn't think it would happen this quickly.

But some things have not changed. And I really hoped they would have by now.

When I left university, I was feeling unbelievably lost. All my friends seemed to be walking straight into various jobs while I still had no idea which path I wanted to continue down. I spent most of the summer, (alongside applying for a few jobs in EVERYTHING: marketing, charities, publishers, various writing jobs, you name it, I tried to get a job in it) putting off a career decision, month by month. First I was having a rest, then I went to Malta and Paris, and then I realised that I didn't actually need a job yet as I wasn't leaving my current job until the end of September. And then I wasn't being paid for my September work until the end of October. So it wasn't pressing that I made this decision about which type of job to apply for, until November...right? But I wasn't stupid. I knew I needed something, so I kept an eye out and applied for a few. And then panicked because I wasn't even getting to interviews for anything.

Eventually I decided to add retail to my list of potential jobs ideas, applying for a handful of jobs in my local shopping centre. And was really happy to be accepted by Mamas & Papas at the beginning of October.

It's absolutely perfect there. The work is faintly interesting, but doesn't take huge amounts of brain power (plus when I leave work, I can forget about it completely which you just can't do with teaching). The people, both the customers and my fellow colleagues, are absolutely lovely. And finally it's really flexible so I have a few days off a week. Which I use to either research other job ideas, blog or write my novel and I teach piano alongside everything else. Therefore it really is great for me.

But since accepting the job, I have had to explain to various friends, relatives and strangers why, despite having a degree, I've decided to return to shopwork. Which to be honest, I am a little bit sick of. It is not really anyone's business and I shouldn't have to explain my decisions (which, believe me, are in my best interests) to anyone.

All my friends seem to have their lives under control...the majority of them are teaching or are in some other form of fulltime employment with a stable yearly wage. They know what they want to do next and I am so envious of that. I sometimes think I am the only one who is going slightly nuts and have no clue what is happening. But you know what, I am not alone. And if you are reading this and thinking, 'this sounds familiar' I want to assure you that you are not alone either. It is perfectly normal for us to be a bit overwhelmed. Suddenly we have a choice in what we want to do next and how we live our lives (I KNOW - unheard of). Suddenly there aren't any parents or teachers or lecturers bossing us around, telling us what we have to do and when we have to do it. Suddenly we can actually make our own decisions. Which is why my brain has gone 'eek I don't want to, don't make me.' It has had no practice in this area at all.

So go ahead. Try new things, go see a new country, make mistakes, date ridiculous people, join a club, juggle several jobs at once, go out for a few too many cocktails, dream of impossible careers and riches...go out and live your life. It's a big world out there. And it's time we experienced some of it.

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Saturday, 1 November 2014

#Blogtober roundup

So at the beginning of the month I let you know that I was taking part within the #Blogtober fun that happens every October. I joined @tinkerbelljayne (from www.allabouttink.co.uk) in taking a photo every day throughout the month and I am really proud to announce that I managed it. I remembered to photograph something (not always a big thing, but some thing) every single day, without missing one. And through those, I can offer a little glimpse into my totally enthralling life.

You can check out the photos on Twitter and Instagram (links below) or have a read of this roundup to see what I got up to =]

Day 1 I headed over to Bristol today to see my best friend from uni, Jon. The day didn't start well...I missed my train by 5 minutes and bought the wrong ticket so I spent about £10 more than I should have. But apart from that it was a really lovely day. I hadn't seen him in ages so we had a good catch up, did a little shopping in Cabot circus, went to the cinema (Lucy has to be the worst film in history. And it had so much potential doh) and finally went to see Clifton Suspension Bridge (see my blogpost about it here http://charlottecoster.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/clifton-suspension-bridge.html)

Day 2 Today is National Poetry Day so I thought I would dedicate the photo to my favourite poem. Which is Stop all the clocks by W. H. Auden. It is a little depressing and I am not a massive fan of Auden's usually (Philip Larkin is my poetry hero) but this is just beautiful. It's so simple but effectively captures the intense despair of grief in such an accessible way. He doesn't use any big words, or synonyms, he just tells us how he feels. I love the way it doesn't have a title either. It doesn't need one. And it represents how the (dead) subject of the poem has now gone forever, never to return.

Day 3 Nothing pleases me more than to curl up with a cup of coffee and a good book. I often go to Starbucks by myself to either read or write but I normally end up people watching. I love it.

Day 4 I had reunion cocktails with this lovely lady (who is a fellow blogger who runs http://expatabroadlondon.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://expatdiariesafrica.blogspot.co.uk/). Normally we would have had these cocktails; followed by 6 more and then danced the night away. But after these, we became absolutely knackered so headed home and watched telly in bed. Since when did we turn into old women??

Day 5 My housemate was in Canada at the beginning of the month, and I was intensely jealous. So, when I went out for breakfast, I decided to bring a little bit of Canada into my life despite the fact I had only gone down to the end of my road. I had never had this before and I wasn't sure if I would like the mixture of sweet and savoury. But it was amazing. This definitely has to be a permanent fixture in my life.

Day 6 After a few weeks unemployment, I started my new job at Mamas and Papas, an upmarket babyshop in the UK. I feel like a lot of my friends, who have waltzed into highpaid fulltime jobs immediately on leaving uni, look down on me for returning to retail. But they shouldn't and I don't care. I like retail, it suits me and (speaking after being there a month) Mamas and Papas is great. The staff are all fab, we have such a laugh and it is really entertaining. I meet some lovely people, have learnt a great deal about becoming a mother and about prams and cots and clothes (which is all good for the future) and it is training me in sales. Which again, is very valuable as most jobs consist of selling a product or service.

Day 7 Exactly four years ago today I caught Fresher's Flu at the beginning of my university career. I know because Timehop told me. Today, it was like I was having a flashback and have caught a stinking cold (I blame my new colleagues who all seem to have one.) Was feeling very poorly and sorry for myself so I hid in bed all day, watching films. Which I think is allowed.

Day 8 The moon was so bright this evening as I was walking home from work. It was weird, I mistook it for a streetlamp, genuinely.

Day 9 I was in London this evening attending a First Look Book Club (which you can read about here http://charlottecoster.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/london-literary-festival-first-look-at.html). I love London, it is so lush especially when it is all lit up at night. So I am absolutely determined to live there soon, maybe when this house's contract runs out next summer.

Day 10 It was my Dad's birthday today (aren't I a cute baby). I owe him and my Mum so much. They drive me nuts but they are always there for me and ultimately want what's best for me. I have relied so so heavily on their constant love and support throughout every decision I have made. I don't know where I would be if it weren't for them and my four siblings.

Day 11 I clearly didn't do very much today because here is quite a generic one about the weather...it has been pretty nuts this month though. Mostly it has been so summery. That sky could definitely be from a summer's day.

Day 12 My housemate returned from Canada today - hooray. I missed him so much. He brought me back this which apparently he saw in a shop and just had to buy for me. I think this just about sums up our friendship/mutual alcoholism.

Day 13 After visiting Madrid in the New Year, I decided that I really wanted to learn Spanish. And for once, I actually achieved something that I aimed to do. Well, it's a working progress anyway. I use Duolingo which is a great app for learning languages and am now in the habit in doing it every day. So I have improved vastly. I am determined to reach a whole year.


Day 14 I was invited to the West End this evening to review Urinetown the Musical. You can read my review of it here http://charlottecoster.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/urinetown-musical.html but to sum up - it was unexpectedly great.

Day 15 I didn't get a break at work on Monday so they gave me an hour today. Which considering I was only doing a 6 hour shift was pretty amazing. So I chilled in Starbucks with my book and a pumpkin spiced latte. They are definitely my favourite thing about the autumn.

Day 16 My favourite perfume. It smells so good, but it is about to run out so I bought myself a new one today. I love the bottle too, it's so quirky.

Day 17 The way my blog looks now, is not the way it has always looked. Up until recently it was very different indeed but I fancied a change so I had a little play with the font, background and profile principally. Then today, I made a brand new header. Which I really like. Hope you do as well.


Day 18 In honour of Halloween, Krispy Kreme have introduced a Trick or Treat doughnut. Where you don't know whether you are going to get a doughnut with a lime fizz filling or a chocolate truffle filling. Such a good idea but suddenly doughnut buying has become really dangerous. Luckily I got a chocolate one though.

Day 19 Today's entertainment was watching my housemate try to fix his bed with nothing but sellotape, a lighter and his wardrobe doors. What a DIY goddess he is.

Day 20 When people become intoxicated normally they leave stupid facebook status, order a load of Dominos or text their exes. I, apparently, go on Amazon and order books. Which arrived today in a big-ish box. It was like Christmas and I don't think I have ever been happier.

Day 21 Tuesday is mine and my housemate's day off so it has become a bit of a tradition to go for a burrito and a few cocktails every week. I genuinely think the staff in Mission Burrito and Las Iguanas are starting to recognise us. They are the same every week.

Day 22 I normally teach a little girl, piano lessons on Thursday afternoons which is slap bang in the middle of my two days off (I see it as my weekend as I have to work Saturdays and Sundays). But this week she was away in France for half term so tonight (Wednesday) after work I headed back down south to see my parents. I thought I would take advantage of the fact I had two completely free days and I hadn't seen my family for three months so it was time I paid them a visit really.

Day 23 I went to see this movie with my siblings. I was actually really disappointed with it. I loved the book a lot and I understand it had to be changed to make it viable as a film, but the changes were rubbish. It just didn't flow very well. But I still cried at the end so I clearly was slightly emotionally invested in the characters. I loved chilling with my two little siblings today and then afterwards, I went and saw my older brother in his new house which was really exciting. It looks very stylish.

Day 24 Whenever I visit the parents, I always make sure I go for a stroll along the seafront. Reading is quite landlocked for me and I just love the open space of the sea. It is so hypnotic, I could watch the waves for hours and hours.

Day 25 It's now been just over 4 months since I graduated from Reading University. And while I haven't done all that much with my time, my bezzie has managed to make it through her first half a term as a teacher. I am so proud of her and all that she has achieved. So we went out to celebrate this evening.

Day 26 This was a very late birthday present from my sister which I watched today. I love this film and can quote most of it. It is so gently humorous, it is great.

Day 27 I can't believe how quickly time is going. Blogtober is nearly over which means it's nearly November. And that means it's nearly Christmas, which signals the end of 2014. I have loved this year, so many exciting things were happening like my graduation. But I feel like there is still so much I want to do. I will make sure I don't waste the end of the year but some of it is going to have to wait until next year.

Day 28 I spent a lot of time writing today. There are a lot of ideas for novels, that I have started to scribble down in various notepads. So my job recently has been to type each one of them up. And this one was longer than I thought. I am going to be taking part in the National-Write-A-Novel month which begins on the 1st November. Let's see how far I get.

Day 29 The hour change has really been messing with my head. I have been feeling all over the place. And it has now made my walks back home from work very dingey. It doesn't help that it has been pissing it down either.

Day 30 Kids and Grown Ups love it so, the happy world of haribo. Love these. You know it's truly Halloween when these come out.

Day 31 Happy Halloween everyone. It has finally arrived. Which means I have successfully made it through the whole of Blogtober. Feeling faintly proud of myself. I hope you are all having a fabulous night of festivities and aren't scaring too many old ladies/children with your costumes.


I hope you have all enjoyed my photographs and what I have been up to this month. If you took part in it too, leave me links below, I would love to see what everyone got up to.

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